History with Heart

Certain sounds echo loudly through the halls of history. The Declaration of Independence. The Roar of the Industrial Revolution. The Boom of the Atomic Bomb. Such moments are so deafening, it can sometimes be difficult to hear the humanity that gives them such resonance.

My Lord, What A Night, the latest work from award-winning playwright Deborah Brevoort, looks at one such moment with abundant humanity.

On a crisp spring night in 1937, after performing a sold out concert, acclaimed international singer Marian Anderson is cast out of Princeton’s historic Nassau Inn because of the color of her skin. With few other options, she accepts an offer to stay at the home of one her biggest fans — none other than famed theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein.

David Edwards, Rod Brogan, and Thursday M. Farrar in FST’s production of My Lord, What A Night. Photo by Matthew Holler.

Back at Einstein’s New Jersey home, the two debate the evening’s preceding events, and more importantly, what to do about them. Each has choices to make, and the right answer isn’t always obvious. We soon realize: great minds don’t always think alike.

“My Lord, What A Night is set on the edge of the madness of World War II,” shared Director Kate Alexander, “and then there is this auspicious meeting between two outcasts — a scientist on the verge of a great discovery and a great singer who would not be given a place to sleep. What happens changes both of them forever.”

But Anderson and Einstein are not portrayed as monolithic icons, as we’re used to thinking of them. Instead, they come to life as ordinary individuals living in extraordinary times.

David Edwards. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“I think that when a play is based on real events and portrays people who actually lived, there is a bigger responsibility to ‘get it right,’” said David Edwards, who plays the role of Einstein in FST’s production. “I have played only a few historical figures in my career, and this character is probably the most famous of them.”

“If America can’t recognize its past, then America can’t be the nation I dream for,” said Thursday Farrar, who plays Anderson in FST’s production. “Now is the time to brighten our minds by looking back at others who faced equally hard challenges and rose above them with grace and humanity.”

Thursday Farrar. Photo courtesy of the artist.

My Lord, What A Night pulls back the curtain of history to reveal that humanity. It shines a light on the hearts and minds of people who helped lead us to where we are today. It also recognizes that greatness rarely comes fully formed. In fact, it takes work, courage, and sometimes, a little help from a friend.

“The power of theatre is that an audience can enter another person’s experience,” said the play’s creator Deborah Brevoort. “If you are swept up in a story and are rooting for the characters, your humanity is expanded. This is why theatre is necessary for democracy. There is no action unless there is imagination.”

My Lord, What a Night by Deborah Brevoort will play beginning June 30 in FST’s Keating Theatre. A Rolling World Premiere with the National New Play Network. Subscribe and see My Lord, What a Night plus two more Mainstage shows for as little as $49!