Pulitzer-winning playwright coming to Loyola


Caroline, or Change Photo credit: Courtesy of Jefferson Performing Arts Society

Emma Gilheany

Tony Kushner, described by Loyola professor Laura Hope as “the greatest living playwright,” is coming to Roussel Hall on Nov. 2.

In an event that is free and open to the public, Kushner will be interviewed by a founding editor of America Theatre Magazine, Jim O’Quinn. Raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kushner is a Pulitzer Prize, Tony award and Emmy award winner, as well as an Oscar nominee. Kushner will also have a private event for Loyola theater students, which will be similar to a master class, on Nov. 3.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Laura Hope, Loyola professor and chairwoman of the Theatre Arts and Dance Department, said.

Kushner’s event will be in conjunction with Loyola’s own production of Kushner’s musical, Caroline, or Change. The show will run on the weekends of Oct. 27-29 to Nov. 3-5 at Jefferson Performing Arts Society’s Westwego Performing Arts Theatre.

Caroline, or Change, which premiered on Broadway in 2004, tells the story of Caroline, an African-American maid, and her relationship with the white family she works for and her own family. Set in 1963 in Lake Charles, the play offers a backdrop for many historical events, such as John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

This production marks the first collaboration between Loyola’s Department of Theatre Arts and Dance and the Jefferson Performing Arts Society. The cast consists of both Loyola students and professional actors. Playing the main character, Caroline, is Troi Bechet, a local actress.

Hope is very excited to be putting on this show.

“It’s one of the best musicals of the last 30 years. I’ve always wanted to be involved in this musical,” she said. This production also marks the first time the show will be performed in the area.

Both Hope and musical theatre sophomore Josie Gautier, who serves as the dramaturg for this production, emphasized how relevant the show is today, with Hope saying “It’s more relevant now than when it first premiered.”

They both referenced the racial tensions and the social justice issues present in the play, as well as a timely subplot about confederate monuments being removed.

Gautier described the modern day relevance of Kushner’s plays as “fortune telling on Tony Kushner’s part.”

Gautier’s role as the dramaturg, a student researcher for the production, serves “to help enlighten actors on the context of the play,” she said. Based on research she did for the play, she noticed how Kushner “draws parallels in history,” and described his storytelling as “incredibly thoughtful.”

“The show deserves a really wide audience,” Hope said. “The theater is a good place to go to see someone else’s point of view.”