“We had a long conversation in rehearsal about the media coverage surrounding the tragic triple murder that took place,” he said.
“The play is about how the media shapes public opinion, and we were just struck by the media coverage of that event and how different it would have been, not only locally, but nationally, if the religion or the race of the attacker and his victims were different.”
New York-based guest actor Michael Bryan French said many recent events have shed a new light on the production.
"The horrible shootings that took place a couple of weeks ago, having Dean Smith pass away while we’re here, having our director Tom have a new baby while we’re here-- all sorts of things,” French said. “It was sort of one milestone after another, so it gave a little more weight to what we were doing.”
French said he is living in Chapel Hill for roughly seven weeks in order to play Dr. Stockmann, the lead character in the production.
“If there was a major production of a Henrik Ibsen play in New York, the competition is so stiff there that I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to snag the role, so sometimes the people that have a deep love of theater look at the opportunities elsewhere,” French said.
“And I was lucky enough to be able to bring my wife and dog down here, so we’re here for seven and a half weeks and we’re really enjoying Chapel Hill.”
French said An Enemy of the People will cause the audience to leave with a lot of questions and no great amount of answers.
“I think people will be appropriately conflicted as to who they want to side with,” he said. “It’s a pretty provocative play in that way.”
Quaintance said he also wants the audience to question themselves.
“I want the audience to question ‘What would I do in this situation, with the stakes this high and so much on the line,’” he said. “I really want the audience to consider both sides of the story and really question what they would do in the same situation.”
French said despite the play’s serious theme, there would be some moments of slight comic relief.
“It’s not a knee slapper comedy, but there is plenty of irony and farcical moments in the play,” he said.
According to Quaintance, the play’s universal themes are what makes it stand out as a production.
“I think one of the things that makes the play so good, this adaptation so good, is that at the heart of it is family: what is your duty to your family versus your duty to your public,” he said. “Those are issues that are really universal and accessible. It’s not just a play about an issue-- it’s a play about a family.”