UCCS students take on Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ in Colorado Springs

Original story at http://gazette.com/article/1623694

By: Jen Mulson April 4, 2018

Staci Mize-Leve stars as Peer Gynt in “Peer Gynt,” by University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Theatre Company and TheatreWorks. The show opens Thursday at Ent Center for the Arts. Photo credit: Isaiah Downing

Peer Gynt might be a scamp and a cad, but people can’t help loving him.

The character is at the heart of playwright Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 drama “Peer Gynt,” a tale loosely based on a Norwegian fairy tale. Ibsen chronicles the life of a man who goes from wayward youth traveling the globe after being banished from his hometown for female troubles, to facing down a troll king, a creature called the Bøyg and a talking Sphinx in Egypt, before returning home an old and broken man.

“Everyone loves Peer even though everything he does in life is conniving,” said Kevin Landis, associate professor of theater in the UCCS Department of Visual and Performing Arts. “He’s the punk kid who we always like, even though at the end of the day you think he didn’t live life like he should have,”

The show is a collaboration of the UCCS Theatre Company and TheatreWorks, and it opens Thursday in Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater at Ent Center for the Arts. It runs through April 15.

The annual UCCS student show will feature actors, dancers, musicians, puppets and original music by the school’s music department inspired by Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite.” An actor from the community is often cast in the yearly production, a nod to the collaboration between the student theater company and the professional regional theater company. It’s also a chance for students to work with an experienced actor. In this case, that cast member is Amy Brooks, a longtime performer who’s worked with TheatreWorks, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College and the Springs Ensemble Theatre. She’ll star as Gynt’s long-suffering mother.

Landis, a staunch Ibsen fan, has read the epic poem-turned-play many times but has never directed it. For him, “Peer Gynt” is one of those works that will always speak to the time in which it’s staged.

“It’s about a human being trying to figure out who he is and how to make an impact on the world and not realizing the impact he’s making is happening constantly,” said Landis. “We spend too much time thinking about who we want to be versus who we are. We lose a lot of time that’s not focused in the present.”