In 1985, after decades of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev assembled for a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. These men, representing two of the world’s superpowers, sat in cream-colored armchairs; once the photographers had captured the occasion on film, only interpreters were allowed to remain in the room. Meanwhile, Americans—at least, those of us old enough in 1985 to pay attention to world events—awaited news of how the Geneva Summit transpired. This was, after all, a time before the 24/7 news cycle and social media could deliver updates in real time. Would the Soviet Union change now that a new leader had taken office? Would Reagan accomplish his “mission for peace?” Would the Cold War finally end? And the more human questions: Would the two men even get along? And if they did not warm to each other, what was at risk?
More than three decades later, with the answers to those questions now printed in history books, I encountered Rogelio Martinez’s provocative, absorbing new play, Blind Date. The play unites arguably two of the late 20th century’s most towering historical figures in ways that reflect the mystery and significance of these events when they first unfolded, yet allow us to keenly assess them from a modern perspective. I was struck by the play’s rigorous treatment of an historical moment—but also by its humanization of its central characters who, like many politicians, are sometimes rendered as distant diplomats. And I appreciated its portrayal, too, of Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev—political figures in their own right who shaped the landscape of the 1980s in their respective homelands.
In addition to my interest in the subject matter, I was intrigued by the chance to work on a new play by this remarkable playwright. Rogelio’s work has been produced or workshopped by such distinguished companies as The Public Theater in New York, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group, among others. Over the past few years, he has written a series of plays that deal with the Cold War era in which he turns his observant intellect and biting sense of humor to subjects not necessarily primed for laughs. We held several workshops of Blind Date over the past year, allowing Rogelio to rewrite and rethink his characters as a brilliant cast personified these public figures. It has been my pleasure to direct those workshops and the production you will see tonight.
I hope you will appreciate this play not only for its thoughtful investigation of history (whether you remember the era or not) but also for its witty and timeless examination of human nature.