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Q&A with “Room” director

Tae Andrews | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why do you believe Tony Kushner decided to give the play the name he did?

“The title comes from a misunderstanding or a mis-hearing. Kushner was at an exhibit of some sort that had video of an Agnes de Mille ballet playing on a TV set. From across the room, Kushner thought he heard the announcer say the name of the ballet was ‘A Bright Room Called Day.’ In fact, the name of the ballet is ‘A Bridegroom Called Death.’ A happy accident. In honor of Ms. de Mille, Kushner has named the lead character …’Agnes.'”

In what, if any, ways have you tried to put your own spin on the material?

“I don’t have any kind of ‘spin’ per se. But if you are asking what I think the play is about, I can answer that. [‘A Bright Room’] is about fighting historical amnesia by resurrecting historical truths that have been concealed or obscured. To redeem history by preventing the reoccurrence of similar disastrous mistakes in the present and future. “Also, I believe Kushner is telling us that in order for our political system to thrive and progress, it must make room for the voice of dissent.”

In the past the theater department has used some very unusual sets. Is there anything unique about the play of this set?

“We have at least one large, theatrical moment. To say more would spoil the surprise.”

The play features scenes involving a woman named Zillah who moves from Long Island to Berlin in 1990 out of protest of the growing power of the Republican party in the 1980s. Do you believe the play continues to have enduring relevance in terms of the current global political landscape?

“Yes, yes, it is hard to think of an American play that goes to the heart of so many contemporary political arguments. [‘A Bright Room’], like Tony Kushner himself, is unabashedly political. “The characters in the play are vigorously engaged in a heated, political discourse not unlike the conversation among Americans today. The audience will recognize the zealots, the fence-sitters, the mercenaries, the revolutionaries, the puppets, the party-line-towers, and indeed, the devils that dot the American and global landscape.”

How has your experience been in terms of working with the cast and crew?

“Fantastic. The actors are talented, smart and fearless. The designers are extraordinary. The crew is thoughtful and fastidious. As Zillah would say, I’m in ‘pig heaven.'”

Contact Tae Andrews at tandrew1@nd.edu