It was the summer of 2001 and it was definitely summer. The sweat that trickled down to the small of your back and car exhaust filled your lungs if you breathed too deeply that summer. Rorschach was doing a summer show. Rorschach's fourth show was Tony Kushner's adaptation of a Pierre Corneille play The Illusion. This was my second show with Rorschach and I was excited to be playing a comedic role after throwing my lesbian daughter into a whore house just months before in God of Vengeance.
All the familiar faces were in The Illusion and even then we were building a core of performers and designers that would work with us time and again. Jenny McConnell (before there was a Frederick) directed a cast that included Rorschach favorites like Rahaleh Nassri, Yasmin Tuazon, Jason Stiles and Grady Weatherford. Rounding out the cast were oft time sound designer and actor Jessie Terrill, Tim Marone, and Mike Glenn. And designers included company member Deb Sivigny and friend of the theater Eileen Daly.
The Illusion is the story of a father who goes on a journey to find a wizard who will tell him what happened to the son he abandoned. The wizard then proceeds to show the father scenes from his son's life. In each scene the son has a different name as do the people around him. But as each scene progresses we see him fall into love and into lust. At times killing and at others being killed. All of the scenes play out before the father and no can be sure which is true.
What I remember most about this production was the heat and the crowds. We were in a windowless warehouse gallery in NW, near what is now the DC Convention Center. People came in droves and sat mesmerized as the story unfolded. Fans were placed behind the heads of the audience to cool them and the cast acted their asses off. It was a special experience, one of those times in your life where you find the people and place that you want to stay with you for all your life.
I have no doubt that similar feelings are afoot at rehearsals for A Bright Room Called Day. This is yet another Kushner play of beauty and depth. And Rahaleh I know has the same sort of abiding love that many of us who were in The Illusion possess. Grady even gets to make a return trip on stage.
I feel that of all the playwrights we have produced at Rorschach, Tony Kushner is my favorite. His writing is a mixture of timeless and timely that you don't find anywhere else. His characters fill the stage and hold forth in monologues of unsurpassed beauty and he can write low jokes as well. He finds truth and beauty in everyone of his characters. His use of the supernatural and surreal to illustrate real world truths is masterful. Many people are only familiar with Angels in America and if that was all he ever did he would be ensured a place in theater history text books from this day forward. Plays like Slavs, A Bright Room Called Day and The Illusion only cement that place. And I think this will not be the last time Rorschach brings Kushner to life on our stage.