ROCK SPRINGS — The Performing Arts Department at Western Wyoming Community College will open its 2015-16 season with the Tony Kushner play “A Bright Room Called Day” on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the WWCC Theatre. This politically charged historical drama, which contains mature language and themes, follows a group of activist friends in 1930s Germany who debate the country’s political future even as the nation’s Weimar Republic loses power in the face of Adolf Hitler’s ascendant Nazi regime. Parental guidance is strongly suggested for this production.
Audience members will be seated on the stage for “A Bright Room Called Day,” in a format that provides a more immediate and critical view of the production’s themes and action. Characters will move amongst the audience members and speak directly to them, all in an effort to “provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the action on the stage,” according to director and Associate Professor of Musical Theatre and Voice Eric-Richard de Lora.
“A Bright Room Called Day” centers on middle-aged actress Agnes Eggling (Gabriela Cipili), who is struggling to find her place in the tumultuous world of 1930s’ Germany. The country’s Weimar Republic is collapsing economically and politically, and Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party are reaping the benefits. Agnes’s apartment has become a hub for her politically active artist friends, who discuss their lofty ideas while trying to figure out how and if they should resist the Nazis’ inexorable rise to power.
Cipili, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, fully inhabits the lead role of Agnes Eggling in an intensely dramatic performance that requires significant emotional range and depth. Of all the story’s characters, it is Agnes who occupies the stage for nearly the entirety of the play.
“It’s a great learning experience, but it does take a lot of dedication to the part,” said Cipili, who portrayed Lena Lamont in last year’s musical “Singin’ in the Rain.” “Instead of progressing, Agnes is regressing, as her development is backwards. Agnes falls apart throughout the show.”
De Lora said he is pleased to direct this season’s first production, which benefits greatly from its very talented cast members, designers, technicians, interns, and staff. One of the challenges de Lora faced with “A Bright Room Called Day,” however, was exploring the historical foundation of the play’s storyline with the students. Kushner’s drama, which was written before the playwright’s better-known “Angels in America,” is a very political piece that required the cast to undertake some history lessons with Rock Springs High School teacher Mrs. Angela Stephens early in rehearsals. Stephens presented material on the period and answered the cast’s questions about the play’s textual references and the characters’ political philosophies and motivations.
Western freshman Alma Lambson, of Evanston, who plays the supporting role of Gregor Bazwald, or “Baz,” said the subject matter, the compressed timeline, and the overall intensity of this production represents a significant departure from his previous work in high school drama.
“It’s definitely a struggle,” Lambson said. “The shows here are more demanding, and there’s less time to actually rehearse for it than in high school. Time is extremely limited for the shows.”
De Lora said he hopes audiences will look beyond the characters’ political discourse and focus on their deeper struggles and aspirations.
“It’s a complex play, but if you listen to what the characters are really saying, and not be distracted by the political debates, you’ll truly feel their hopes and dreams for a better world that were lost,” the director said. “And that really is Kushner’s point: that by listening to one another and working together, we can build a better world.“
Western Wyoming Community College and the Performing Arts Department are pleased to present “A Bright Room Called Day,” beginning Thursday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m. and continuing Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. All performances will take place in the WWCC Theatre at the Rock Springs campus.