University of Rochester

EVENT: Magic, Love, Swordplay, and Betrayal: The Illusion Comes to Life on Stage

October 1, 2009

Tony Kushner's Adaptation to be Presented by International Theatre Program

The University of Rochester's International Theatre Program will take audiences from mayhem to magic with Tony Kushner's The Illusion, a play that will premier Oct. 8 at Todd Theatre on the university's River Campus.

Freely adapted from a 17th century comic-drama by French dramatist Pierre Corneille, Kushner's The Illusion questions the true nature of love, loss, and reality. "What attracts me to Kushner's version of the play is that it preserves Corneille's rich poetry and language while creating a world that is immediate, contemporary, and viscerally entertaining," says Nigel Maister, director of The Illusion and artistic director of the International Theatre Program.

Set almost entirely in a mysterious cave, The Illusion follows a guilt-ridden father's attempt to reconnect with his estranged and disinherited son through three visions conjured up by a well-meaning magician. The visions, which seemingly bring the son and his romantic endeavors and exploits to life, celebrate the play's central notion so aptly summed by one of the central characters: "The art of illusion is the art of love, and the art of love is the blood-red heart of the world."

The Illusion originated in 1636 as Corneille's L'illusion comique (The Theatrical Illusion), a comedy about the delights of the theater. After being neglected for many years, the play was revived in the early 20th century. In1988, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner of Angels in America, Munich, Caroline, or Change, Homebody/Kabul, freely adapted the play, while incorporating his own interpretations on commitment and betrayal.

Premiering on stage during Meliora Weekend, The Illusion marks the 20th anniversary season of Todd Theatre with "a work that has a special connection to the area," says Maister. Kushner's mother, Sylvia Deutscher Kushner, was herself a graduate of the Eastman School of Music.

In addition to directing the production, Maister also designed the sets for The Illusion. His work at the University includes a wide range of plays, from those by William Shakespeare to Ibsen, to Nobel Laureate Dario Fo. Maister has received a Drama League Directing Fellowship and the "Fleur du Cap" Theatre Award, among many others, is a founding member of the acclaimed new-music ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, which was established by Eastman School of Music students."

Costume designer Arnulfo Maldonado holds many theater credits and is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and recipient of the 2008 Princess Grace Theater Fellowship. Lighting designer Thomas Dunn is an associate artist of the International Theatre Program whose work has been seen across the country. Sound design is by William J. Pickens, whose recent work for the International Theatre Program includes last season's The Hairy Dutchman. He spent four years at Geva Theatre Center creating sound design for numerous shows, including Kander and Ebb's, Cabaret. Fight direction for The Illusion is by acclaimed fight choreographer J. David Brimmer, whose numerous credits both on-and off-Broadway include David Mamet's Speed the Plow, and the Tony Award-winning musical, Spring Awakening.

The Illusion will run Oct. 8-10 and 14-17, 2009, at 8 p.m. with 3 p.m. matinées on Oct. 10 and 11. Tickets are $7 (UR students), $10 (for UR faculty, staff, alumni, and for seniors 55+), and $13 (general public). Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 585-275-4088. They are also available at the box office one hour prior to each performance. All performances are held in Todd Theatre, located in the Todd Union building on the River Campus.