The upcoming mainstage theatre production of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance explores how far politics can become intimately intertwined with individual values and personal judgment.
Playwright Tony Kushner’s “A Bright Room Called Day,” based on Bertolt Brecht’s 1938 play, “The Private Life of the Master Race,” will run from Thursday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, Feb. 3, and from Thursday, Feb. 7, through Sunday, Feb. 10, and will stage in the Stevens Building Players Theatre.
“A Bright Room Called Day” opens to conversations between a German middle-aged actress and her artistic friends in the early 1930s. As they witness the fall of democracy and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, they realize they must face challenges to their personal lifestyles and beliefs.
A subplot is introduced when Zillah, a 1990s New Yorker, interrupts the 1930s scenes to offer her perspective on the happenings in 1930s Germany. As she draws comparisons between Hitler and President Ronald Reagan, she ultimately flees to Germany to escape what she believes is an increasingly dangerous American government. When she arrives in Germany, the lines between past and present blur.
“A Bright Room Called Day” is directed by Alexander Gelman, who said the point of the play is not to answer whether Reagan and Hitler can be compared, but to ask questions about individual limits with regard to society and politics.
“I don’t think plays are there to give us answers,” Gelman said. “I don’t think it’s that simple.”
He said a quote from the play – “If someone is 25 percent Nazi, is that a Nazi?” – sums up the theme: When people move their analysis away from the Hitler extreme, at what point does behavior and ideology stop being evil?
Although the play is set in a time when most college students were either not yet born or not yet politically conscious, Gelman said themes, not events, are what make art relevant.
“It really has to do with personal choices that are affected by and, in turn, effect political realities,” Gelman said. “Where’s my personal line that I will not cross? We all have different places where that line is drawn, and usually we don’t actually discover it until we’re there, and that’s how we know who we are.”
“A Bright Room Called Day” weeknight and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets for “A Bright Room Called Day” are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students and are available online or by contacting the School of Theatre and Dance box office, open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 2 p.m. Friday, at (815) 753-1600.
For more information, call (815) 753-6000 or email [email protected].