Laura Wallace Theatre Studies Hedda Gabler What advice would you give to the actors in Act 1 in the scene that you performed? The main objective of the first scene in act 1 is to present to the audience Hedda Gabler's personality before she is actually present on stage. Other main objectives of the scene are to show what an atmosphere Hedda creates and how Aunt Julle and Berte, the maid, are quite comfortable with each other and are friends more than anything else. The piece is an ensemble piece and each part is entirely necessary to portray to the audience that Hedda creates awkwardness between different characters.
In the beginning of the very first scene we see Aunt Julle and Berte talking, they are talking very casually which is the first sign of friendship between the two and they give out a relaxed atmosphere. The actors playing these parts should take this into consideration before performing the piece, they would need to be close physically on stage to show that they are relaxed around each other and the tones in their voices should be friendly and sincere.
As an audience we know that they are close when Aunt Julle says, "Well now, Berte my dear, you've got a new mistress. Heaven knows it was dreadfully hard for me to part with you!"ÃÂ When the actress says this line I would recommend that maybe she would take her hands in hers and lower her tone of voice to show that she is upset a little. In the stage directions Berte is supposed to be "nearly crying"ÃÂ so I would tell the actress to pull her hands away and start to rearrange some flowers partly to show that Berte does not want her old mistress to see that she is upset and partly to show the audience that she is not happy with her new job. The audience should begin to get the hint that Berte does not like Hedda. The actress playing Berte could show the audience this by looking down every time Hedda is mentioned and lowering her tone of voice or maybe fussing about the house to make sure everything is perfect so as not to upset her new mistress, this would show that Berte is nervous of her new job, especially as she is working for Hedda Gabler. "Yes, but there's another thing, Miss. I'm really afraid I'll never manage to suit the young mistress."ÃÂ The two actresses playing these parts have known each other for a long time, to make the audience realize this they could do a number of things to show they have a good friendly relationship and one that goes back a long time too. The actress playing Aunt Julle could stand close to Berte when she is talking and smile as if to reassure her that everything will be alright, this would show the audience that Aunt Julle realizes how distressed Berte is about her new mistress and how she actually cares. When she says lines like, "on, come now! Just at first, perhaps, there may be one or two things"ÃÂ¦"ÃÂ she could take her by the shoulder and sit her down and face her, this would seem very reassuring and caring. The actress could also look her in the eyes as she is speaking to her to show that they treat each other equally and that Aunt Julle does not see Berte as just a maid and the actress playing Berte could do the same to show that she does not feel insignificant. For the actress playing Berte I would advise her to show the audience that she is not happy with her new job and her new mistress and that she feels slightly intimidated by Hedda, she could do this by lowering her tone of voice when Hedda is mentioned and slowly lowering her head almost to a point where she is shaking it. The actress could also speak much more quietly when Hedda is mentioned also and stand up from the sofa and pace around the room making sure everything was how the mistress wanted it, this would show that Berte is worried and intimidated by Hedda and that she much preferred her old job working for Aunt Julle.
The relationship between Berte and Aunt Julle would be made clear by the way they speak to each other, the distance they stand from each other during conversation, the tone of their voices and the contrast of all of these things with the reaction they both give when they talk about Hedda. The actors must both agree on this in order for the characters and the scene to become three dimensional and realistic, they must also agree that the main objective is to show the contrast between Hedda and the other characters and their reactions to her in contrast to their reactions with one another. When this is agreed the scene will most definitely come alive.
When the two women mention Hedda, because the audience has not yet met her, their reactions become very important because they must show the audience that there is a difference in backgrounds and upbringing between themselves and Hedda. I would advise the actress playing Berte to act slightly scared and intimidated by Hedda by hanging her head and lowering her tone of voice whenever the subject is mentioned, she could also fidget a lot. For the actress playing Aunt Julle I would tell her to act proud when she mentions Hedda to show that Jorgen couldn't have done better in her eyes, she could do this by smiling and staring into space or standing up very straight with her hands clasped together firmly. I would want the actress playing Aunt Julle to act proud because Jorgen and Hedda are from such different backgrounds and are such an unlikely couple that it was a surprise to everyone when they got married, Aunt Julle simply loves Jorgen and would therefore be proud that he has married one of the finest women in town. She could do this when saying lines such as, "You can understand that, can't you, with General Gabler's daughter? Think what she was accustomed to in the general's day. Do you remember her riding along the road with her father? In that long black habit? And feathers in her hat?"ÃÂ and "Just think of it Berte, they made him a doctor abroad!"ÃÂ.
The facial expressions of both characters are extremely important when Hedda is mentioned because it shows their different views of her before the audience has even met her. The actors would need to show a contrast in opinions using just their facial expressions as the text does not actually cover it yet the scene presents an atmosphere of nervousness from one character and anxiousness from the other. The actress playing Berte must show that although she absolutely adores Jorgen, she is scared of the fact that she has a new job and that her mistress is very particular. The actress could show this by trying to force a smile while talking about Hedda to show that she doesn't really like Hedda but she is trying hard to please her, she could look at the floor when Hedda is being spoken about during the scene, this would show that Hedda treats her as a servant and nothing more and that Berte feels diminutive. The actress could also create a small nervous twitch that only appears when Hedda is mentioned; this could be anything like fiddling with her apron or hair to show that she is nervous. The actress playing Aunt Julle could show that she is anxious about Hedda being pleased with her new home and her new maid by constantly looking around the room to check that everything is in order and every now and again going over to the same thing, for example a vase of flowers, and rearranging them time and time again. Aunt Julle could also straighten her posture every time Hedda is mentioned to show the audience that she wants to improve herself for Hedda's sake and make her proud.
The main objective of this scene is to show the contrast between the relationship of Berte and Aunt Julle to the relationship they have with Hedda, this will be portrayed to the audience very clearly if my advise to the actors is used and the audience will begin to see Hedda before she is actually present.