Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Bright Room Called Day --- General Information

In conjunction with Oregon State University's 2010 Holocaust Memorial week (April 12-15) OSU Theatre will present Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day in the Lab Theatre (Withycombe 147) on April 14-17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 18 at 2:00 p.m.

Written in 1985, Kushner’s historical drama depicts the lives of a group of middle-class artists and activists living in Berlin between 1932 and 1933. Over the space of a single year in the apartment of Agnes Eggling, a young bit-part actress, the characters face rise of Hitler and fascism and the crumbling of the Weimar Republic. Confronted with the growing tyranny of Nazi control, each character must choose how to respond to the political upheaval that tests friendships and moral convictions. Kushner offers a rich and witty narrative about the way that the personal and the political collide.

A Bright Room Called Day
was originally workshopped in New York City in 1985 directed by Kushner. It premiered in San Francisco in 1987 at the Eureka Theatre and was produced again as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1991.

Tony Kushner, best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning play (1992-1993) Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, was born in New York City July 16, 1956. He attended Columbia University and received a BA in Medieval Studies in 1978. In graduate school at NYU he studied directing until 1984. Some of his better-known plays include the epic two-part Angels in America, A Dubbuk or Between Two Worlds, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline or Change. He co-wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's Munich in 2005 and is currently developing a film on the life of President Lincoln. He married his boyfriend, Mark Harris in 2003 and they were the first gay couple to be listed in the New York Times' "Vows" section.

Kushner's politics live and breathe through his work. Angels in America, for example, articulates the complex intricacies of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s and addresses how the personal and political overlap. His style is characteristically postmodern; he frequently disrupts narrative, blends the historical with the literary, shifts perspectives, foregrounds his politics, and presents an ambiguous view of reality. In one scene of A Bright Room Called Day, for example, Husz conjures the Devil into Agnes' Berlin apartment. Whether the Devil's appearance actually happens or is merely a symbolic act is never really clear. Similarly in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Harper and Prior encounter each other outside the boundaries of reality, she in a drug-induced hallucination and he in a vivid fever dream. They refer to this chance dream-like meeting as the "threshold of revelation." Powerfully theatrical moments such as these draw attention to key issues and themes in Kushner's plays.

This strong use of theatricality is reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht's Epic Theatre and A-effect. The disruption of a narrative structure tending towards realism reminds the audience that the purpose of the play transcends entertainment and is meant to inspire thoughtful discourse and action. In A Bright Room Called Day, the plot is punctuated by short scenes and the disruption of placard-like slides addressing the plays' historical context. Kushner blends a fictional story about fictional characters with the harsh reality that led to Hitler's rise. It is no accident that Agnes, Baz, Paulinka, Husz, and Gotchling are witty and identifiable characters. As the plot of the play progresses, each character faces his or her own hypocrisies. It is easy to stand up to tyranny when one's life is not in danger. The presence of the slides contextualizes the play's issues and demonstrates how "good" people can allow evil to happen through the world because of fear and complacency.

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