By Suni Jo Roberts
Recent national events provide a backdrop rich for comparison to the time period in Tony Kushner’s 1985 play “A Bright Room Called Day.” The play, set in 1930s Berlin in a woman’s apartment among her left-leaning friends, tells the story of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party through a group of friends who do little to actively resist their rise.
Julia Glander’s theater classes at WCC felt the political relevance of the play as they studied it for their semester-long project. Three theater courses, Acting II, III and IV, collaborated to put on “A Bright Room Called Day.” The play was presented to the campus community on Sunday, Dec. 10 in the theater located in the Crane Liberal Arts and Sciences building.
Mary Zoran, a student at WCC, who plays Agnes in the play which is the woman who owns the rent-controlled apartment in Berlin she is also afraid of losing, can relate the play to current day.
“For me personally, I use … current events and things happening to really resonate, because I think it’s relatable,” said Zoran. “Anybody can really find Agnes in themselves when you see the extreme right or the extreme left and kind of feeling like you are neither of those but don’t really know what to believe or what to think. Amidst everything that is terrible that’s going on your also not able to connect to anybody and then your just kind of lost and that’s scary.”
Zoran explains that stories like “A Bright Room Called Day” are powerful because they can give both the actors and audience a new perspective and make them open to different views.
“I always feel like if we believe that what we are saying, and what we are telling is important, then something is going to come across to the audience,” said Zoran. “I think just having the ability to bring an audience into a completely new situation … you always carry that with you … it’s like an experience when you are watching this story, you are feeling what the characters are feeling, if you allow yourself to, you have to allow yourself to.”
One student in the play was able to relate more directly to his character being a veteran. Ryan McGriff plays Husz, Agnes’ lover who is also a veteran. McGriff was in the army for four years, and deployed to Iraq for 15 months from 2007-2009. McGriff said he was able to offer a different perspective as a member of a group of student veterans, who he sees as a group that tends to not engage as much with other students which sometimes lets negative stigmas persist. He said he thinks student veterans have an interesting and diverse perspective. McGriff talks about when he first got the information from his instructor that they would be performing this play.
“When she brought this up I was actually really excited because there is a lot of anti-semitic movements still happening today specifically surrounding Trump supporting like the new fascist type of KKK and stuff like that which are in turn, like the neo Nazi party,” said McGriff. “I was excited going into it especially getting Husz who is a vet like I am … so, it was an interesting character to get selected for.”
Justin Shapley, a WCC student plays Baz, a gay man who is part of Agnes’ friend group. Shapley also sees the relevance of this play today.
“Once you read it and really start to understand it … you start to get what the message is and how oddly it is kind of like a prophecy, almost like repeating history here,” said Shapley. “One of my scenes I do talk about—it’s a metaphoric monologue—I talk about changing seasons of history and how we need to understand our past to understand where we are presently in order for us not to repeat those horrible things that happened in the past.”
Shapley said he really started to understand why the instructor chose this play “because it has something to do with present day.”
The student actors who performed in this play were able to connect events in history to present day, which Zoran thinks the audience will pick up on as well.
“I think everyone will resonate and will find something to connect with,” said Zoran. “Hopefully it will inspire them to reconsider some of the things that are happening.”