Since it came on the scene in 2010, the Portland-based theater company Lorem Ipsum has involved artists in its productions who are not necessarily associated with theater.

For the Henrik Isben play “Ghosts,” opening tonight at Space Gallery, Lorem Ipsum teams with local filmmakers Derek Kimball and Dave Meiklejohn. The play, which explores themes of sexual repression, marital duty, religion and disease, will include projections during the performance and a silent filmed sequence, which will be shown at intermission.

“We presented Derek and Dave with the script, and asked them to develop something that fit with the play,” said producer Deirdre Fulton. “One of Lorem Ipsum’s goals all along has been to reach theater-goers who may be atypical theater-goers. We want to reach the people who may be more interested in musical shows or may be more interested in going to see films.”

The inclusion of film in Isben’s “Ghosts” offers a particularly unique opportunity to stretch the bounds of the theater experience. Isben wrote the play in 1881, and it was first staged in 1882.

Lorem Ipsum will offer a fairly faithful rendition, with costumes and props befitting the 1880s. The use of film will bring it up to speed with modern times.

Fulton and co-director Nick Schroeder and Ian Carlsen have designed a set that includes a window-like scrim directly in front the stage. The audience will see projections on that scrim, and other film elements will be seen on the side walls of the gallery.

The five-member cast includes some of Portland’s more accomplished actors: Karen Ball, James Hoban, Tess Van Horn, Michael Dix Thomas and Corey Gagne.

The term “lorem ipsum” is commonly associated with graphic design. It refers to placeholder text, often indicating where a graphic or some other visual element will be placed in a layout. The theater group defines itself as a collective of theater artists who are devoted to creating innovative and accessible productions of rare and new works.

“Ghosts” focuses on Helen Alving, her son Oswald and the maid, Regina Engstrand. Oswald, who is suffering from syphilis, has fallen in love with Regina. We also learn that Regina is the illegitimate daughter of Alving’s deceased and philandering husband. Rounding out the cast is Pastor Manders, to whom Helen has turned for spiritual advice.

Isben wrote “Ghosts” soon after he wrote one of his best-known works, “A Doll’s House.” In the latter, the woman leaves. In “Ghosts,” she stays in her marriage because she fears being shunned by her community.

Fulton said she read somewhere that Isben wrote “Ghosts” to explore what would happen if she stayed.

The play explores notions of familial duty and moral rights and wrongs. It’s an uneasy and uncomfortable play at times, Schroeder said.

“I was drawn to it because it depicts a really messy family,” he said. “That is something a lot of people understand without knowing how to talk about their own personal situation. Everyone has a really unusual, messy family one way or another.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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