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MMC Theatre Professor, Alum Take Stage in Broadway Revival

MMC has good reason to celebrate a new star-studded revival of A Doll’s House opening on Broadway March 9—its cast includes Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Jesmille Darbouze-Smith, as well as Theatre alum Franklin Bongjio ’16.

The production, a fresh take on Henrik Ibsen’s 134-year-old classic, was written by playwright Amy Herzog, whose 2011 drama 4000 Miles was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and is directed by Tony nominee Jamie Lloyd. Darbouze-Smith stars as Kristine Linde, a widow who returns to her childhood town bearing an explosive secret, while Bongjio, previously cast in 2020’s A Soldier’s Play, understudies several roles.

Joining both on stage are Academy-Award winner Jessica Chastain, as heroine Nora Helmer, Tony and Emmy nominee Arian Moayed, and more. The play will run for a 16-week engagement.

A Doll’s House has been performed on Broadway more than a dozen times. Still, while audiences may be familiar with the story, the new production offers some radical changes, including a stripped-down stage. “There’s no set—it’s very bare bones,” Darbouze-Smith said. “We have chairs, ourselves, and each other, which is incredibly exciting but also terrifying.”

The revival also excavates the humanity of the characters and their relationships. “Through the lens in which Jamie is directing this piece, we are able to witness that these characters are very complex human beings,” she said. “It holds a mirror up to the complexities of relationships and self.”

Darbouze-Smith has worked in theater, television, and film for more than 16 years. She last performed on Broadway in 2019, starring in the Tony-nominated productions Betrayal and Kiss Me, Kate.

However, this experience is notably different in several ways, she said. “A Doll’s House is my first time back on Broadway after the pandemic, the birth of my second child, and my transition to a teaching career,” she said. “I am returning to Broadway a different person and excited to be able to do live theatre again.”

With this production, Darbouze-Smith said she’s also looking forward to learning from a seasoned team.

“Although I’ve been acting for so long, there’s always room for growth and learning,” she said. “Every director has their own style, and I’ll be in the room with actors who have experience in genres I have yet to have the opportunity to tackle. It is a gift to share the same space with them and to learn from them.”

MMC students will also benefit from the new play, with Darbouze-Smith ready to pass on lessons that might be helpful for them.

“I plan to share techniques I’ve learned in investigating and connecting to the text on a deeper level with my scene study classes,” she said. “I’m also co-teaching Professional Preparation: Business of Acting this semester, and I look forward to sharing what working on Broadway looks like, as well as hopefully having some of my fellow castmates share their unique journeys in this industry so that students understand there is no set way to have a career in theater. Everyone’s journey is different.”

Get tickets to A Doll’s House today.

Published: February 23, 2023