Two Fall Plays from Renowned Playwright Tony Kushner

Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast

This term, Choate will stage Kushner’s play The Illusion and his adaptation of Brundibar, a Czech childrens’ opera

True to Choate tradition, the Paul Mellon Art Center’s stage will hold two productions this fall. Similar to last fall term, one production will be an opera, while the other will be a play. However, this year the theatrical productions were written by the same man: Tony Kushner. His works have been inspired by many generations and historical tragedies, as well as maintaining a level of emotional connection that can be felt, no matter the race, gender, or age. His pieces always spike the interest of viewers and keep dialogues open and alive after the viewings have ended; his productions are the threads that tie historical events to people. They help viewers connect to the past in ways only made possible through his writing.

This year,  Choate will host Kushner’s The Illusion and Brundibar. The two seem like an unlikely combination, as their messages are opposites. The Illusion is a comedy adapted from L’Illusion Comique by Pierre Cornielle, a tale about a contrite father seeking information about his sorcerer son. In comparison, Brundibar was adapted from children’s plays dating back to World War II that were rehearsed by children at the Terezin Nazi concentration camp, a story of two young boys  bullied by a grinder. Ms. Kalya Yannatos says, “We did not intend for the two plays to coincide. Ms. Kate Doak and Ms. Alysoun Kegel, each decided individually on what productions they wanted to portray. It was a very funny coincidence.”  She adds, “I think the opera will be a very meaningful show for the Choate community. It reflects on the past, and that is what we need today, in a time where things are politically unstable and so confusing.” 

The cast of The Illusion is studded with familiar campus faces, such as Avery Lutter ’18, Christine Mason ’19, and Ethan Luk ’20.

The Illusion will be performed on the Main Stage, whereas Brundibar will be held in the Paul Mellon Art Center Gallery. This may seem like an unusual location for an opera, but Ms. Yannatos reassured, “The gallery actually has the best sound and resonance. I also think it will be more intimate this way. The cast will really be able to delve into their characters and interact with the audience. It will be performed the way it was written and intended to, which is to touch every single audience member with all of the same overwhelming emotions.”

Attendance at last year’s opera proved disappointing. Ms. Yannatos said, “I truly hope people come with open minds. I do not want people to disregard Brundibar simply because it is an opera. The same amount of work, preparation, and effort goes into the opera as it does the fall play. One is not bigger or more significant than the other.

The cast of Brundibar has begun rehearsals. Will Flamm ’21 plays the title role. It is rare for a freshman to receive such a large role, making the opera even more significant. Flamm hopes to bring fresh and new talent to the stage. He said, “I auditioned for the show because of how original it is. The message that comes through this opera cannot be found in any other production.” He adds, “I really want people to understand how grim the Holocaust was. I want to be able to have the same effect that movies like Schindler’s List did.”

Flamm calls himself a “theater junkie.” He said, “I just wanted to get on stage and do my thing, and being able to play the lead character was gratifying for me.” However, even smaller roles have equal presence in the opera.

    Nicole Wasomi ’19 has taken on the role of a villager. Wasomi has had her hand in many Choate productions. Covering both her love for music and singing, the opera gives Wasomi a chance to share her passion. She said, “I auditioned because I really wanted to try something new. I have always wanted to sing in front of a crowd, and I think this opera will let me do just that.” She added, “I think having this role as a villager has given me a lot of freedom. I have artistic control over how I want her to be, how she exists in my mind. I can bring all those elements and bring the villager alive.”

    Mr. Kushner (best known for his play Angels in America) and a member of the opera’s original cast will be joining Choate’s cast members to help shed light and perspective on the two pieces. Both will be on campus in late November.

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