A play about German citizens pondering resistance to the Nazi Party during its rise to power is coming to the University of Wyoming stage next week.
“A Bright Room Called Day,” published by Tony Kushner in 1987, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6-10 at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Thrust Theatre. Tickets are $14 for the public, $11 for UW faculty and staff and senior citizens and $7 for students.
The play, set in 1930s Germany, follows a group of artists and activists living in Berlin and watching the Nazi Party gain influence as the Weimar Republic declines.
They gather in the apartment of a struggling actress as they analyze the changes happening around them.
Meanwhile, the play juxtaposes the experience of an American woman living in New York during the late 1980s, who makes connections between her contemporary political climate and that of 1930s Berlin.
Director Kevin Inouye, a UW faculty member in the Department of Theatre and Dance, said the same connections made between 1930s Berlin and 1980s America could be made of today’s America.
“I think in many ways, the parallels are much more blatant and obvious to people today,” he said.
“If anything, it’s much more relevant now than when it was written.”
He pointed to examples such as alt-right groups becoming more active and the related rise of the anti-fascist movement.
The characters in the play discuss how to resist the Nazi Party’s rise to power. Should party members be confronted in the streets? Can political action effect change? What is the role of art in resistance?
“Some of those same conversations are happening this last year,” Inouye said.
The production uses projection materials mixed in with the script, including footage of a Nazi rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1939. Inouye said many people aren’t aware some Americans wondered if National Socialism was a legitimate political movement.
“It’s been a little sobering to have to revisit and examine more closely our own country’s affiliations and history with Nazism and fascism,” he said.
“A Bright Room Called Day” was an early play by Kushner, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “Angels in America,” about the AIDS epidemic in New York.
Inouye said “A Bright Room” isn’t one of Kushner’s best-known plays, but it’s seeing a nationwide resurgence.
In some parts of the country, he said, a university might not even be able to obtain the rights to produce the play because of interest from larger theaters.
“I think it’s still a very important and relevant play, for reasons that I think are readily apparent,” he said. “It’s being produced a lot more this year than it has been.”
Inouye chose the Buchanan Center’s Thrust Theatre for the production in part because of its intimate setting. In parts of the play, characters talk directly to the audience, and that connection is easier in the smaller space.
“Here, it’s a much more interpersonal experience when they break that fourth wall,” he said.
For audience members, Inouye said he hoped they would consider the play’s depiction of ordinary citizens deciding how to respond to events happening in their midst.
“I think this show, especially, challenges the audience to reflect on when they would get involved and how they would get involved, and what their own stance would be in a situation like that,” he said.