Peer Gynt: The Man, The Journey

Theatre Simpson has been traveling this semester (figuratively speaking) with Henrik Ibsen’s epic character Peer Gynt.  When Ibsen wrote Peer Gynt he wasn’t necessarily thinking about it for production–as written it would probably be a seven hour theatrical experience.  Tom Woldt, theatre department chair, undertook the challenge to adapt and direct this play.  Woldt has shortened the play and modernized it.  The finishing touches are being put on in the final technical rehearsals preparing for the first audience on March 16.  Yes, indeed, the trolls are coming. Image

Peer Gynt is the story of one man’s journey to find ‘self.’ Along the way he finds trolls and Egyptian dancers, crashes a couple boats, gains riches and loses them again, and finds true love. The process for making this show has been much like Peer’s journey as the production team and performers search for the best and most interesting ways to tell this story to the audience.

And interesting it will be (we can’t tell you exactly what will happen because that will spoil the surprises) but the audience is guaranteed to be amazed as Peer is as he enters new lands.  Tom Woldt, mentioned that he  “really enjoyed staging some of the interesting and unusual scenes that the people will see, now if you’re going to ask what the hardest part of the process was I will say the same thing [chuckle] hardest but also most fun.”  The costume designer, Laura Perkins, said, “My favorite part of the show is the wicked big dress, if you don’t know what that is come see the show and you will. It was fun figuring out with the set designer, Amber Miller, her assistant, Shelby Burgus, and the scene shop supervisor, Rick Goetz,  how we would make it and how to use it on stage.” A student, Ali Simpson, said, “One of my favorite things is how much Tom brought out each actors special talents, we have live music, some dancers, acrobatics, and so much more.”

So come join us at Theatre Simpson this weekend, where you will be reminded that life is a journey. March 16-17 at 7:30 p.m. and March 18 at 1:00 p.m.

Order tickets at


Guest Scenic Designer Amber Miller Returns to Theatre Simpson


Guest designer, Amber Miller (front) and her student assistant, Shelby Burgus, adding texture to the set for Peer Gynt.

Guest artists are key component of the success of the Theatre Simpson program.  This year we invited scenic designer Amber Miller to return to design the set for Peer Gynt, Audiences may remember her sweeping design for the 2010 production of The Learned Ladies.   Amber graduated from the University of Iowa in 2002 and since then has worked professionally in the Chicago and Minneapolis/St Paul areas as a graphic and project designer for Ravenswood Studio, Starbucks Coffee Co and the Jungle Theater.  Her theatrical designs have been seen at many notable theaters in the Twin Cities, including Park Square (Rock-N-Roll, Painting Churches), Theatre-in-the-Round (The Burial at Thebes, Bus Stop), The Playwrights Center (800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K Dick, Glyph, The Sense of What Should Be) and the Southern Theater (Hedda Gabler).

While Theatre Simpson has four full-time faculty and two full-time design staff, guest artists help bring a new perspective to the work.  We are able to assign students to serve as assistants to the guest designers.  This gives the student an opportunity to look deeper into the area of expertise of the guest artist. Last year Amber’s assistant was Cassie Ring and this year it is Shelby Burgus. “Amber is a wonderful role model to those who have an interest in design,” Cassie said in one interview, “after working with Amber I was energized and inspired.”

Cassie explained her role as the assistant set designer:  “Some of the jobs that I did while working with her included picking out colors, picking out fabrics, searching for furniture and set dressing, cartooned and painted drops, calculate and make the hanging books, as well as act as a communication tool between her and the director when she was not staying in the area.” With Peer Gynt Shelby is helping out with special effects, including designing some over-sized antlers.


The Peer Gynt set earlier in the process.

When asked what the most important thing was to remember while being an assistant designer was the students both responded with a resounding, “communication.” No matter what area you are working in whether it’s set, props, directing, stage managing, you always have to remember communication is key.

Peer Gynt runs this weekend.  March 16-17 at 7:30 p.m. and March 18 at 1:00 p.m.

Tickets are still available.  You can reserve online at or contact the box office at 515.961.1601.