MFA Student Pálína Jónsdóttir Directs Babette's Feast
March 1, 2017
Current student, Pálína Jónsdóttir directs her adaptation of Babette’s Feast, this March at The Connelly Theater for her theatre directing thesis. Based on the eponymous anecdote by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Babette’s Feast tells the story of Babette, a great artist and culinary genius who seeks asylum in a small Protestant community in Norway. The story received greater exposure when it was adapted into afilm in 1987, which won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
“It was playing in a cinema in Reykjavik, where I went with my mother to see it. I loved the movie and it stuck with me for a long time,” wrote Jónsdóttirr, when asked about the production. “Initially, what resonated most deeply with me was the transformative power of art that a great artist can have on her community.
For her adaptation, Jónsdóttir is working directly from the original story, seeking to translate it’s captivating qualities directly to the stage. In addition to her interest in new and classical plays, she comes to the project with a love of opera and visual art and with an extensive background in acting and dance.
“This production is a conglomeration of my master directing studies for the last three years at Columbia University. It features a culmination of my directing characteristics and qualities that signifies my work at this time and place in my career,” Jónsdóttir wrote. “Theater is a very complex art form because it uses all the other arts as its means to convey life on stage. So the director’s job is very challenging. It is really an intense excavation into the chosen material, digging into its soil, looking for the golden bits that must be illuminated to reveal its hidden secrets. In effect, theatre is really a journey into the unknown guided by a strong intuitive hunch of what the core of the material really inhabits.”
While the theatrical choices for how to bring the story to the stage have provided an exciting challenge, recent political events have created new resonances with the story itself. Babette is a revolutionary who has lost everything—her husband, her son, and her career—in the aftermath of the Paris Commune in 1871. She comes as a refugee to Norway and is saved by two sisters whose fervent religious beliefs are at odds with her own. While their differences don’t lead to explicit fighting, the story’s journey investigates how Babette’s passion and artistry is capable of reshaping this austere community.
“I’ve never felt that I understand better than in these turbulent times why I do the work that I do and the necessity of it,” Jónsdóttir continued. “Theatre must be about us and about our place in the world, here and now. It is also one of these very few places left where we come together as a community to experience human actions on a broad scale. The root of all great art is political and I am deeply committed to making radical theatre work that addresses our times and contributes to discovery and understanding of the human existence and its complexity with the hope it may inspire actions towards uniting our divided world.”
Tickets for Babette’s Feast are free with any CUID, $15 for General Admission, and $5 for Seniors; they can be purchased here. Performances are at the Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th Street, at 8 pm on March 8-10 and at 2 pm and 8 pm on March 11.