Theater to cast controversial 'Miss Julie' in positive light

It has taken director Paul Stephen Lim two years to bring "Miss Julie" to the stage with English Alternative Theatre.

"In all my years at KU -- and I've been here over 30 years -- I don't recall having seen this play produced," Lim says.

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Richard Gwin/Journal-World Photo

Cast members for the play "Miss Julie," Philip Schroeder, left, as Jean, the valet, and Jan Chapman, who plays Miss Julie, the Count's daughter, rehearse their lines for English Alternative Theatre's production of the play. The show opens runs Wednesday through April 11 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

That might be because English Alternative Theatre's new production has been controversial since its first publication in 1888.

Written by August Strindberg, "Miss Julie" was deemed "a heap of ordure" and "totally repellent" by critics, while Strindberg was labeled a misogynist.

It took 16 years for "Miss Julie" to be professionally staged.

Now, Lim wants to interpret Strindberg's work in a new, more positive light. He'll do so Wednesday through April 11 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

"Although terrible things happen to some of the characters in this play, I don't think that this play is misogynistic," Lim says.

Set at the turn of the 19th century, Julie, the Count's daughter, is left to celebrate Midsummer's Eve with the servants at her father's manor.

Depressed in the wake of a broken engagement, Julie befriends Jean, her father's footman. Resentful of the class system, Jean is searching for a way to rise above the position into which he was born.

The play follows Jean as he tries to exploit Julie and push her toward self-destruction.

For Kansas University theater alumna Jan Chapman, who portrays Julie, reinventing the character has been a journey.

"It has been a challenge as a modern actress to portray a woman who has been written very weak, who is puppet, in a lot of ways, in the hands of Jean," says Chapman, of Kansas City. "The play itself as originally written is a condemnation against the very notion that women could be equal to men. It is an interesting challenge to try and turn that on its ear."

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