You are here : : Season Archives > 2013 - 2014 > Drums in the Night

Drums in the Night

Directed by Sarah Wansley

@ Mandell Weiss FORUM Theatre

November 6 - 17


About the Play

About the Playwright

Bertolt Brecht wrote Drums in the Night as a young man scarred by his experiences as a medic in World War I. Director Sarah Wansley’s update tells the story of Kragler, an Iraq war veteran with severe PTSD intensified by his experiences as a POW. It’s the increasingly familiar modern story of the soldier who makes the ultimate sacrifice for his country only to find that when he comes home it no longer feels like home. Wansley sees her version as a deeply disturbing nightmare. “I aim to put on stage the ugliest and most frightening parts of the culture I have grown up loving.”


Bertolt Brecht changed the course of modern theatre more than any playwright since Ibsen. In 1898, Brecht was born into a prosperous family in Augsburg, Bavaria, and studied natural sciences and philosophy at Munich University. His first play Baal was written in 1918 and subsequently wrote thirty-nine others before his death in 1956. Forced to flee Germany due to Nazi purges of left-wing writers in 1933, Brecht spent the greater part of his creative life on the run, living briefly in Sweden and Finland and even settling in Santa Monica, California. In 1947, Brecht returned to East Berlin and established The Berliner Ensemble with his wife, Helen Weigel (a notable actress, who originated several of Brecht’s most famous female roles). Brecht's influence extends well past his career as a playwright. As a director, Brecht's work with the Berliner Ensemble made it the most influential and important theatre in post-war Europe. As a theoretician, Brecht's theories on the Epic Theatre lead the way to sweeping innovations of theatrical possibilities.


About the Director

Sarah Wansley is a second year MFA Directing candidate. Previous UC San Diego directing work includes Ex Machina (WNPF '13 and New York International Fringe Festival 2013), Titus Andronicus (AD) and Lumping in Fargo (AD). Sarah is the founding Artistic Director of Aporia Theater, with whom she has directed Woyzeck (Access Theater), Follow Me Down (The Flea Theater), Passion in the Park (Central Park), Bare Naked Drama (The Cherry Pit), The Disappearance of Jonah (Capital Fringe Festival), Moonlight, The Real Inspector Hound, No Exit, and The Real Thing (Columbia University). Other directing credits include Here Comes Tomorrow (Youngblood / EST), #serials@theflea (The Flea Theater) and What the Future Awaits (McCarter Theatre Center Youth Ink Festival). Sarah graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University and was a member of the 2011 Lincoln Center Director’s Lab.

Director's Statement

He thought war was a nightmare, and then he came home. Brecht wrote Drums in the Night as a young man deeply scarred by his experiences as a medic in WWI and furious at the hypocrisy he found in every corner of society on the home front. To me, Drums in the Night is a story of a soldier who returns to the country that sent him off to commit atrocious acts of violence in a meaningless war, and finds that he no longer has anywhere to call home.

The central metaphor for my production is a nightmare. I want to begin the play with a theatrical rendering of Brecht’s song, Ballad of the Dead Soldier, as a nightmare both Kragler and Anna have. When Kragler arrives at the end of Act 1, however, he finds that the nightmare has taken over his reality. The “nightmare-world” is simultaneously an outward expression of Kragler’s internal PTSD and a theatrical representation of the grotesqueness he sees around him.

My production will speak very specifically to this moment in America – Kragler is a soldier returning home from the war in Iraq (where he was prisoner) and the Spartakus revolution is a violent uprising of Tea Party / NRA supporters.

I began my work on Drums in the Night looking at the chaotic and disturbing cityscapes of George Grosz and the aesthetics of the play developed as a modern, American version of that world, which will be all to familiar to the audience. I find the garish materialism expressed in American cities is truly grotesque and with this production I aim to put on stage the ugliest and most frightening parts of the culture I have grown up loving. Only by truly acknowledging what we have become, can we wake up from this nightmare.


The Cast

The Creative Team

Coming Soon!
Director - Sarah Wansley
Scenic/Media Designer - Andrea Healy
Costume Designer - Amy Sutton
Lighting Designer - Chris Lundahl
Sound Designer - Melanie Chen
Dramaturg - Lily Kelting
Production Stage Manager - Kate Guthrie
Asst. Stage Managers - Liz Fiala
Morgan Zupanski
Asst. Scenic Design - Andrea Healy
Asst. Costume Design - Danae McQueen
Asst. Sound Design - Andrew Vargas



Wed, Nov 6, 7:00 pm PREVIEW
Fri, Nov 8, 7:30 pm OPENING
Sat, Nov 9, 2:00 pm MATINEE
Sat, Nov 9, 7:30 pm  
Thu, Nov 14, 7:30 pm  
Fri, Nov 157:30 pm  
Sat, Nov 167:30 pm  
Sun, Nov 17 7:00 pm CLOSING

Located at: Mandell Weiss FORUM Theatre

Parking Passes Required: Monday through Friday. Weeknight passes are $2 per vehicle from the vending machines located in the UC San Diego Theatre District/La Jolla Playhouse parking lots and entry display case. Please remember your parking space number. You will need it to purchase your parking pass.

Note: Machines take all major credit cards except Discover and when paying with cash you must use exact change, NO CHANGE GIVEN.

Parking Passes Not Required: Saturdays and Sundays

Cars without permits are subject to ticketing by UCSD Campus Police. The Theatre & Dance Department does not have the authority to waive and cannot pay parking tickets.



Advance tickets for this production are available Monday-Friday, noon to 6 pm by calling the Box Office at 858.534.4574 or in person at the Theatre District’s Central Box Office at the Sheila & Hughes Potiker Theatre. 

At-the-Door tickets, if available, can be purchased one hour before show time at the performing theatre’s box office at Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre.

General Admission: $20
UCSD Faculty/Staff/Alumni Association,
and Seniors (over 62): $15
UCSD Students/UCSD Alumni Association (with ID): $10

Of Interest:

TheatreForum - An international theatre journal since 1992
La Jolla Playhouse - UCSD is home to this Tony Award winning theatre
UC San Diego Home Page - UC San Diego's Main Web Site
9500 Gilman Drive MC0344
La Jolla, CA 92093
Tel: (858) 534-3791