A Doll’s House – Part 2

Doll's House 2

For years I have been compelled to perform Ibsen’s A Doll’s House on a high school stage. The message, a premise of marriage along with inevitable and familiar failings speaks incredibly well to a society a century later still struggling with the concept of a union between two people. In my own interpretation of Ibsen and motive, I felt that Nora was no longer intrigued by Torvald Helmer’s rule of thumb, and as  a crusader herself for a ‘woman’ well before a time of authenticity in judgment, she made a choice that shook the family, if not certainly that auspicious society of marriage at the time.

In the original play, Nora Helmers walks out on Torvald and her children and there the story ends, the audience is left only to speculate her demise or future. What Ibsen does with this beautiful piece is speak clearly to a concept of marriage and unity, pitfalls and survival, that exist still in today’s modern society.

In Lucas Hnath’s contemporary revision, A Doll’s House – Part 2, the next chapter to a classic story, Nora returns to the home she departed from 15 years later, now a successful woman with a dilemma placed upon her identity. Under the direction of Joanie Schultz, the characters demonstrate an exercise in futility that remains a running theme from the moment Nora’s shocking return upsets the house nanny – Anne Marie. The encounter of the two both stark with worry of the other’s reaction is a comical way to dive into a work of serious consequence. Why has Nora returned after 15 years is Anne Marie’s most pressing concern.

The story unfolds to discover the legal documentation of Nora & Torvald’s divorce was never filed. Torvald refused to file the papers. Nora is now left with a successful writing career yet the possibility of being exposed and character destroyed because of this seeming ‘oversight.’ In the midst of this literal jigsaw puzzle several scenarios are part of an excruciating dialogue where every character including the now adult daughter of Nora begins a diatribe of blaming one another for the failure to come to terms with  marriage dissolution. What happens in the process of Nora & Torvald coming to terms with a difficult decision is exactly what our society today still nurses with a walking on eggshells fear of communication. The inability to be genuine and real with one another no matter the consequence.

The Jungle Theatre does an exceptional job bringing this consequential story to the mind of everyone in the audience. For me the play was exceedingly relevant in its ability to show everyone that despite the struggle, no matter the disparity, there is an outstretched hand of love that cannot possibly ever go away.

The only constant is Nora’s ability to again, depart.

© Thom Amundsen 2/2020

A Suitable Legacy

For pomp we would the guest list.

Our long candle lit nights

produce the finest in her mind.


For I was always, would be

wish to

might be the assurance

she could

seek to

come to count upon

to rely upon

to know.


Over the years then

they do travel

in the minds

occurrence of two lives.


For having understood childbearing

the endurance and sacrifice

such as a beauty

must merit miracle,

he, in attentive eye,

wept with tear.


While she will travel

this world again

setting to include girl with boy

sister with brother

so that lives would embrace

sweet horizon in hands.


The stage

now a constant reminder

how the illusion

of our lives does play out

in magical terms

painful turns

in time we can discover

peace inside

the mystery of

a sweet surrender.


For lives do matter if ever a legacy imagine.

©️ Thom Amundsen 2/2020

Always An Urgency

We talked about the human condition,

how certain tendency

would remain years later,

the same,

decades of programmed imagination,

falling into the same pattern

some unforgotten imprinting of our soul.


Yet tonight as I stand here

on the same ledge of forty years ago,

I wonder what really has changed,

oh there is the picture that I once did create

together not alone,

altered forever now

with only speculate conclusion.


Tonight I wonder of deception,

the loss of meaning,

the further resounding defeat of purpose,

when two people no matter

still become lost in their own travel,

having let go of the other

until just a glance inside the wake

of every cresting wave,

when then they do disappear

no longer seeing …

© Thom Amundsen 2/2020

Critical Circumstance

We do measure

our lives

our accomplishments

a steadfast ability to compete with


If might our lives not be

so easily swept by the tides of societal


what then might be our

end game.

Would we survive if we came

to realize

nothing else really mattered

beyond the satisfaction of, inevitably,



Oh so we are told,

or perhaps

in the manner of a scold,

to look to ourselves,

yes, us,

not beyond the measure of our soul,

only to recognize

the deeper commitment of our own

personal salvation,

must always be in the realm

of some

internalized realization.


Our lives,

who we are,

the world in which we have lived,

is based upon action,


not philosophy,

more aptly

in the end,

it is truly the strides

we have taken in our own

efforts to not compromise what we believe,

instead we do try

to emulate

the beauty around us,

the simple freedom of appreciation,

rather than that criticism

of who we are,

what we might have been,

where we shall travel in our

long extended remaining

steps along some


path in our lives.


We live to see tomorrow,

therefore is it presumptuous to believe

a next day matters less

than what has promised itself to be

the beauty of our past.


Forge ahead with a passion

this is the matter of such is wise.

© Thom Amundsen 1/2020

A Walk Outside

Step on the concrete now

feel the motion of your legs

taking a stroll

somewhere a familiar


finding the same


something might be different

between you and me.


We walked here together

many years ago

felt the beauty of a moment

holding hands …

and then it stopped

the dream

the soft familiar surroundings

became just a vapid stream

taking us away

along some

forgotten trail.


The irony of my words

being splayed upon the page

is a safety valve

I’ve incurred

knowing my words will stay alone

without your eyes

even I forget

how many hours it would hurt

to realize these words

would never be heard.


For whom

we want to know

must start inside

rather than unknown

hope he might ever decide

to venture in alone.


For then he might’ve known.


©️ Thom Amundsen 1/2020

An Observation In Absence


Martin Luther King Jr.

The other night I attended ‘Just Mercy’ at our local theater complex. It was a late showing, but still I was struck with wonder about the emptiness of the room. I was actually the only person in the theater, it was a rather surreal experience. Now I’ve been to shows with limited audience in the past, shows of little consequence, a comedy that has run its course, the latest version of Die Hard or Transformers after a several week run at the theater house. However, the lack of eyes on this show about Brian Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative upset me on many levels.

In theaters nearby, people poured into the late night showings of Star Wars, and 1917. I wondered to myself, as I gazed around the empty space on a Saturday night, is this really due to the content of the film? ‘Just Mercy’ is receiving rave reviews, and it opened ten days ago on the 10th of January. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day and I have thought about this movie’s impact on me all weekend long.

Brian Stevenson began the Equal Justice Initiative in the late ’80’s to defend the false imprisonment of the incarcerated on death row. He has dedicated his life to this cause as executive director and founder of EJI. “Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned” (eji.org). His central focus is to give a voice to those whose lives are marginalized by bigotry and social injustice. Do not for a minute believe he is wanting to release a criminal to the streets, that would be the short answer to defend injustice. His voice is meant to defend the innocence inside a legal mindset bent upon maintaining systemic atrocity in our society.

The movie is focused upon his commitment to releasing several prisoners, namely Walter McMillan, a falsely accused black man who was sent to death row a year before his eventual trial and conviction. Stevenson managed to get the case reopened through avenues only he could challenge as a young black attorney walking directly in the fire of a racist prosecution in Alabama. His case eventually won the attention of a 60 Minutes expose that revealed the truths of McMillan’s plight in a closed door, self protective, small-minded community filled with hatred and denial.

‘Just Mercy’ focused on the familiar haves and have nots, a poignant moment being when at the start of a heated hearing, the sheriff and his deputies refuse to allow McMillan’s family and friends to enter the courtroom until the room is filled with white community members leaving little space for additional seating. The scene that follows is compelling. While all the seats are taken the room is filled with a community who stands together in strength and courage despite living their lives in fear and injustice.

The poignant message in this movie speaks to a familiar issue in our society today. The color of your skin will have a demonstrable impact upon the treatment and respect received in a confused and racist society. Today, in social justice there is a new mantra being heard that would suggest we practice being anti-racist. The idea of being non-racist no longer being enough. I believe that was the central argument in ‘Just Mercy’ not only creating another intriguing and frightening appraisal of the horrific treatment of blacks in a white dominated region of our country. More important is the implication of not stepping forward, not feeling a need to speak, not recognizing our responsibility to be human beings rather than misguided classes of distinction.

Today on MLK day, I try to celebrate the truth, and the timing and message in ‘Just Mercy’ cannot be denied. For years I have had to work on this day, and always struggled with not being able to focus upon the spirited and remarkable nature of Martin Luther King Jr’s amazing legacy. In the background I’m listening to an MLK celebration at the Apollo Theater with responsible and outstanding voices, including moments ago, Brian Stevenson, speaking not to a movie made about his life, more specifically about his continued journey with EJI. I miss Maya Angelou today.

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the message of MLK Jr.



© Thom Amundsen 1/20/2020

Moments in a Blizzard

Windswept sky designs landmark,

the world is being blanketed by that force

greater than our own,

a magical parade of Nature’s wrath,

in the simplest manner of beauty.


Oh her strength apparent

inside the wonder of it all,

the winter storm,

a blizzard upon our discontent,

perhaps we might fly away.


Lost inside this forever cycle

our lives are equally drawn

by a static probability

of scant survival in the throes

of a woeful condition.


Step inside the winds,

that bury this frozen memory,

covering up our sorrows

so there might be a new desire,

a passion to understand.


A realization,

recognizing there is an after-life

to the sparkle – once

no longer remains

inside a youthful dream.


There inside the wealth of our


exists a welcome change,

that ever resilient testimony,

suggests we are all ready,


already walking again,

this might provocative winds allow.


© Thom Amundsen 1/2020