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Play explores interaction between values, politics

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A production by the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance explores how 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 today through Sunday and Feb. 7 through 10 and will stage in the Stevens Building Players Theatre on the NIU campus.

“A Bright Room Called Day” opens on conversations between a middle-aged German actress and her artistic friends in the early 1930s. As they witness the fall of democracy and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, 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 compare Reagan and Hitler, but to ask questions about individual limits in society and politics.

“I don’t think plays are there to give us answers,” Gelman said in a news release. “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. As people move their analysis away from the Hitler extreme, at what point does behavior and ideology stop being evil?

“It really has to do with personal choices that are affected by and in turn effect political realities,” Gelman said in the release. “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.”

Weeknight and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students. Tickets are available online at www.niu.edu/theatre.

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