The Former Miss Barstow with every Tom, Dick and Harry in a doll's house


  • Richard Newton Freelance artist



HIV, AIDS, parking lot, Los Angeles, performance art, dada, 1980s, Richard Newton, hospital, bathroom


Julie Holledge, panel chairperson and member of the International Ibsen Committee, invited myself along with 3 others to participate in the Inaugural Artists’ Keynote Panel: Applied Ibsen on Four Continents: The Artists’ Intentions.

My presentation focused on “The Former Miss Barstow with every Tom, Dick and Harry in a doll’s house.” This was an adaptation of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” produced and staged in Los Angeles, California, 1987.  For the XIIIth International Ibsen Conference at the University of Tromsø, Norway, I projected images; a few found on the internet, and many from the production itself, as well as a video clip shown streaming live from YouTube.

The article describes the social context of the 80s, analyzes the reinterpretation of Ibsen’s characters, and sets out to explain the symbology of the sets and costumes. I also touch on the differences between this production and Ibsen’s original in four important aspects. These would be the macaroons, the Tarantella, the silk stockings and the end of the play.

Finally, I explain my decision to upload this version of “A Doll’s House,’ scene by scene, to my page on YouTube. Having shown films and videos for many years at festivals around the globe, I was looking for a way to step outside that box and reach an international audience just beyond my keyboard. In all of these ways, the goal has been to illuminate the ways in which an artist takes Ibsen’s text and applies it to the specific social context of their time and culture.

Author Biography

Richard Newton, Freelance artist

Richard Newton was born in Oakland, California, 1948. He currently lives in Pasadena, California. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Irvine where he studied with Ed Moses, John Mason, Vija Celmins, Phil Leider and Barbara Rose, along with many other brilliant artist-professors.

Richard Newton has shown artworks, artists’ books, films & videos and presented live performances and site-specific installations throughout the world. His one-of-a-kind books were shown at DOCUMENTA VI in Kassel, Germany. Some performances by Newton have found him in unusual places. For the PUBLIC SPIRIT FESTIVAL, the audience found him performing behind a chained door in a downtown derelict hotel. Titled, “Get Under The Table, Don’t Look at the Windows,” this performance dealt with alcoholism, family relationships, the nature of infinity and the threat of nuclear destruction. In another performance, the audience found “The Man Who Could Eat Glass” locked in his hotel room, ruminating on what it means to be American and to be held hostage. The meaning of “hostage” was expanded to include being held by a foreign government, being held with criminal intent, being held by the mental illness of one’s own mind, and being held under the addiction to alcohol.

In the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, Richard constructed “The Grotto.” It featured a well of beer, which was constantly refilled from The Grotto’s seeping walls of beer cans. At New York’s P.S. 1, he constructed “Yucca Flat,” an isolated desert landscape. The entire landscape, which filled an entire room in the gallery, was manufactured from flattened tin cans, broken beer bottles, and slices of bread. The only sounds were the intermittent crying of a baby and the persistent yelping of a small dog.

Newton’s early art films and videos have shown at museums, galleries, ciné clubs, festivals, and on cable television. Richard’s “Flying with the Angels,” directed and produced with Nancye Ferguson, won many awards and screened at festivals and independent venues around the world. Another of Newton’s short films, “Swift Nudes,” won first prize at Certamen Internacional de Cine Ciutat D’Igualada, Barcelona, Spain. Richard Newton’s first feature film, “small white house” won the award for Best First Feature and was runner-up as best film in the festival at the 19th Festival Internacional de Cinema, Figueira da Foz, Portugal. “small white house” also won at the ARCO ‘91, 1st Exhibition of Experimental Cinema, Madrid, Spain.




How to Cite

Newton, Richard. 2015. “The Former Miss Barstow with every Tom, Dick and Harry in a doll’s house”. Nordlit, no. 34 (February):29–61.