Although most mainstage plays have been around for decades or even hundreds of years, this term Harbach will host a play’s world premiere.
“At Night’s End” was written by visiting Israeli scholar Motti Lerner and directed by Professor of Theatre Neil Blackadder. The play tells the story of an Isreali family getting ready for a marriage on the brink of 2006’s Second Lebanese War. When the war breaks out, each character’s own psychological battle scars appear.
Although most of the audience has never been to Israel and many of them might not have even heard of the Second Lebanese War, Blackadder believed that the play was more universal.
“It’s a play set in a very specific context,” Blackadder said, but although the play is about an Israeli war in 2006, “it’s much more about the trauma of people who fight in such wars.”
Lerner said that for him, the play is about vulnerability.
“On the face of it, they’re a very successful family,” Lerner said. “But that’s only the face of it.”
Through the course of a single night, the family has to grapple with the fact that their lives are not as successful as they seem on the surface. Every character has been damaged by the men’s service in the Israeli army, either because of their own service or the damage it does to their relationships with those who have served.
Lerner said that he wrote about war because he feels war is often inaccurately glorified. He wanted to use his play to depict it honestly.
“In most centuries, the traumas were not discussed,” Lerner said. In those stories “War strengthened you … but this has always been a lie.”
He thinks that soldiers feel like they cannot talk about the damage they suffered in war. Instead, the stories that get told are stories of victory, sacrifice and honor.
“People have to realize war is a terrible experience,” Lerner said. “The price they pay, [soldiers] continue to pay for the rest of their lives.”
The production of the play has been an interesting experience for everyone involved.
Blackadder said that Lerner has been deeply involved from the beginning of the play, putting in his two cents on everything from auditions to initial talks and rehearsals.
“It’s been great,” Blackadder said. “He’s been really involved from the get-go.”
Lerner said that he has learned about the play by seeing it produced. After hearing the actors rehearse, he realized he could condense the play and cut six pages.
The compact version of the play clocks in at around 90 minutes with no intermission. This shorter version is fitting for Knox, since after each performance, Lerner will hold a Q&A. After a term of sharing his knowledge with the Knox community as a visiting scholar, he sees the play as a capstone to his work.
“This play is almost the deepest way I can connect with Knox,” Lerner said. “I’m very glad to have the opportunity.”