School of Performing Arts theater production weaves a story of truth and lies in Russia | VTX

“True is what happens. False is what does not happen.” So says Nikolai Yezhov, a character in Rajiv Joseph’s ‘Describe the Night’ play and an actual member of Stalin’s secret police who oversaw the worst of the Great Purge and was himself executed on the orders of Stalin.

The School of Performing Arts production will run at the Squires Studio Theater for six performances from November 10-15.

The award-winning epic follows eight characters over nearly 100 years. “The story is set in Poland, Russia and East Germany, and bounces between 1920 and 2010, maintained by the accidental journey of a personal diary,” said director Susanna Rinehart, faculty member of school. performing arts. “It is magnificent in its theatrical construction, language, comedy and wit, and it has a disturbing and timely resonance in its subject matter, given Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and our own struggles with truth. and lies.”

Reality and fiction collide when real historical figures such as Nikolai Yezhov, Joseph Stalin, Russian Jewish writer Isaac Babel (whose diary travels 90 years in the course of the play) and another all-too-familiar contemporary figure mingle with the theatrical tapestry woven by the playwright. Joseph, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2010 play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” writes from the perspective of a storyteller.

“Like the diary of Babel, we are only given fragments of the past through which we can attempt to discern a logic. It’s just the nature of storytelling and memory,” Joseph told Wilma Theater’s Walter Bilderback. “But darker forces throughout history (to the present day) have exploited the fragmented nature of information in order to control people and create fear and fear. confusion or, as others might say, to keep the peace.

Themes of global citizenship, reality and the value of art are revealed through time-traveling scenes from the front lines of the Polish-Soviet War, a modern car rental agency and the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

“The play is hilarious and funny at times, deeply serious at others, and particularly about the nature of lies and truth,” Rinehart said.

To show “the remnant of the human reach of the play’s historical timeline”, the stage will feature “theatrical mountains of destroyed lives”, designed by veteran designer Randy Ward. Props designer Alexander Munn, a third-year MFA student, and technical director Laura Copenhaver will acquire and build the nearly two-story piles of rubble. The design and technical team will organize the different decades of history by drawing on the furniture stock of the theater department.

Lighting designer Daryl Norman Soh, a first-year MFA student, illuminates the various stages, structures and an ominous incinerator. The design and technical elements of the show tell their own tale of destruction, including multi-layered soundscape design by sound design faculty member Allen Sanders, assisted by theater major Kate Gonzales; and costumes designed by faculty member Tyler Holland, assisted by theater major Justin Buontempo. Theater major Maya Jaffe leads the stage management team.

“In the shadow of Putin’s war on Ukraine and our own contemporary era of disinformation,” Rinehart said, “Describe the Night” reminds us, “When we say something is true, it becomes true.” . When we say something is wrong, it becomes wrong.

Tickets and parking


Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students, and can be purchased at the Moss Arts Center box office in person or online. Tickets will be available at the door of the Squires Student Center from one hour before the show. Tickets are available online.

All members of the University community and visitors will be required to display a parking permit, use the ParkMobile app, pay a fee or pay using an hourly meter to park on the Blacksburg campus, unless directed otherwise by signaling. Find additional parking information here.

If you are a person with a disability and/or would like an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders prior to the event.

Written by Liz Gray, graduate student in artistic leadership at the School of Performing Arts