CEDAR RAPIDS — While “The Diary of Anne Frank” plays out through March 25 in the Theatre Cedar Rapids auditorium, “Bent” offers a look at other populations persecuted under the Nazi regime.
This story, which TCR describes as “a powerful and provocative look at the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust and a heart-rending account of love, redemption and self-acceptance,” unfolds downstairs in the Grandon Studio March 16 to 31.
Hoopla caught up with Matthew James, 39, of Iowa City, an actor familiar to Corridor audiences, who is stepping into the director’s role.
Q: In a nutshell what is “Bent” about?
A: “Bent” starts with the Night of the Long Knives in June of 1934 ... when Hitler executed a lot of the top SA (storm troopers) brass or members.
It follows a gay couple that has invited a gentleman over the night before, who was marked as one of the people to be executed that night. And then that starts them on a journey of trying to escape and get across the border. They’re eventually captured, and one of them goes into a concentration camp and ends up meeting a person and starts their relationship there.
But generally speaking, “Bent” is about truth, and in such circumstances, can you stand in your own truth? Will you fight for others’ truth? And what is truth?
It’s a wild ride. It starts off as a little bit of a farce — kind of a sitcom-type thing, and then slowly goes elsewhere.
Q: But it’s very serious subject matter?
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
A: Yes. And then there are moments of humor. That’s the brilliance of the script — it’s not completely heavy, although it does have its moments.
Q: What kind of conversations do you hope it sparks among audience members?
A: Finding parallels between then and now, and hopefully, what can we do to prevent that from happening again.
Q: Is it the kind of show that makes people leave talking?
A: Oh yes. (“Either that, or completely silent,” said assistant director Ray Vanek of Iowa City.)
It’s a very, very powerful show. I was in the show about six years ago, and it’s one of maybe two or three shows that even today people still talk to me about or remember. It left a lasting impact on them.
Q: How does it fit in or dovetail with “Anne Frank”?
A: It’s around the same time. “Anne Frank” occurs a little bit later. “Bent” captures the rise to power of Hitler and what things were like initially, and “Anne Frank” captures more later in the war.
So “Bent” is prewar and “Anne Frank” is during the war.
Q: But do they end up in a concentration camp?
A. Yes. It starts off with civilians. Act I is outside of the concentration camp, and slowly moving there, and Act II is in the concentration camp.
Q: Are they marked with pink triangles?
A: They are. We’re trying to also highlight the different designations or brands that people were given. I think there were seven different colors that they had, that denoted immigrants or Roman and Sinti (gypsies), criminals, political prisoners, people with handicaps and (others).
Q: What’s it like stepping from the actor role to the director role for the show?
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!
You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.
A: With this cast, it’s been really great. I’ve enjoyed the process of helping them create characters rather than focusing just on the one I’m creating. And I’ve really enjoyed sort of creating the whole show — the creative process.
Q: Have they brought any new insights that you may not have thought about?
A: Oh every day, every day. And that’s what I love about the artistic process.
- WHAT: Linge Series: “Bent”
- WHERE: Grandon Studio, Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE
- WHEN: March 16 to 31; 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
- RATED: R
- TICKETS: $19 to $24, TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or Theatrecr.org