from the Footlights


July 2007                                       “Life shouldn’t be all work and no plays.”     


The most intelligent and gripping new English drama since Frayn’s last stage outing with Copenhagen. A first-rate spy story and . . . a piece of rare ambition.”            —Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph


“Anyone who mourns the disappearance of leaders with real civility and magnetism—or of topical dramas with the same attributes—will be buoyed by [this] extraordinary play . . . Democracy is not another game of Cold War cat-and-mouse. It’s really a play about loyalty, one that, in a satisfying way, ends up testing ours.”            —Peter Marks, The Washington Post


“[Democracy] achieves something close to impossible. It fascinates you with the ins and outs, ups and downs, of German politics: not in the Hitler era, not in the chaos of the 1920s, but in the supposedly boring 1970s.”            —Benedict Nightingale, The New York Times


What was it like when the course of the Cold War was starting to shift? When West Germany was starting to open to the East? And when its chancellor, Willy Brandt, was leading that drive, with the assistance of top aide Günter Guillaume who — unknown to Brandt — was an East German spy?


Michael Frayn’s play Democracy explores those complex issues of “Ostpolitik,” as Brandt called it, and that time. This will be the third Frayn play we’ve explored — the others being Copenhagen and Noises Off. Basing his play in factual, but mysterious events much as Frayn did in Copenhagen, Democracy re-imagines those interactions between Willy Brandt and his devoted personal assistant Günter Guillaume, who is no less devoted to his other role as a spy.


Footlights will explore it, too, with Jim Petosa, Olney Theatre Center’s artistic director, and director of Olney’s upcoming production of Democracy (plays July 18-August 12), at our dinner-discussion on Thursday, July 5. Jim Petosa is Footlights’ most frequent guest speaker. It is always a pleasure to meet with him.


Our dinner-discussion of Democracy takes place at Alfio’s, in the Willoughby Apartments, 4515 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase, MD (301-657-9133), two blocks from the Friendship Heights Metro. Dinner is prix fixe at $12/pp and includes choice of five entrees, salad, bread and butter, non-alcoholic beverages and spumoni ice cream. The $12 cost includes dinner and tip—cash or check payable to Footlights. A $5 donation to Footlights is suggested. Dinner is at 6:30; the discussion begins at 7:30. You are welcome to arrive before 6:30 so that all orders will be in the kitchen by 6:30 at the latest. Alfio’s will serve people earlier if they get there earlier. We will have extra chairs if you want to come for the discussion only. Valet or street parking is available.


For dinner discussion reservations, call Mark Gruenberg, 202-898-4825, or e-mail If you must cancel, call Mark by noon on July 5, so we have an accurate count of dinner reservations.


Democracy at Olney Theatre Center

Footlights will see Democracy at Olney Theatre, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road in Olney, Maryland on Saturday, July 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 and include a special post-show discussion arranged by the German Embassy. The deadline for payment is July 13. Make your check payable to Footlights. Send to Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct, Rockville, MD 20852. Call or e-mail Robin to say your check is on the way at 240-669-6300 or


Reading Democracy

Frayn’s Democracy can be obtained at Backstage Books (202-544-5744), 545 8th St. SE, Washington, DC (Eastern Market blue line metro stop). There are still some copies available from the latest order. In any event, if you are going to pick up a copy of the play, call first to make sure books are in stock. Copies of Democracy may be available also from your library.


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Please support Footlights, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Send your tax-deductible contributions to Footlights, c/o Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct, Rockville, MD 20852.

Next Season at Footlights


Harold Clurman, the eminent director and critic said in the early 1960s, that the great French existentialist author Albert CamusCaligula is “the emblem of a generation and a clue to much that has been thought, written, painted and happened not only in France since the war but to some extent almost everywhere in the West.”


Another critic said more recently, “If it is still read – and it is still very much worth reading –it is primarily for its language, its ideas, the relationship which it has with Camus’ other works, and the light it throws on Camus the man.” The play is now rarely produced, but “it has a permanent place in French literature as the expression of a particular mood in mid-twentieth century France and of a particularly important set of problems in contemporary thought.”

What might ordinary people, the audience, for example, do “if they confronted the absurdity of life but rebelled against it from a position of absolute power.” We will see what Camus suggests at a theater that always seems to add a large theatrical imagination to plays filled with ideas.


We will start Footlights’ twelfth season on Monday, September 17 with a dinner-discussion of Caligula. Our guest will be Christopher Henley, artistic director of the Washington Shakespeare Company (WSC). We’ll meet at Casa Fiesta, 4910 Wisconsin Ave., NW, DC. (202-244-8888).


We’ll see Caligula at WSC (Clark Street Playhouse), 601 S. Clark St., Crystal City (Arlington), VA (703-418-4808) on Sunday, October 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15.


     Thursday, July 5, 6:30 p.m., dinner-discussion of Democracy at Alfio’s, 4515 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase, MD .


     Saturday, July 21, 2 p.m., performance of Democracy at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd, Olney, MD. Tickets are $35; includes postshow discussion. Payment deadline is July 13.


     Monday, September 17, 6:30 p.m. dinner-discussion of Caligula at Casa Fiesta, 4910 Wisconsin Ave., NW, DC.


     Sunday, October 21, 2 p.m., performance of Caligula at Washington Shakespeare Company (Clark St Playhouse), 601 S. Clark St, Crystal City, VA. Tickets are $15; includes postshow discussion.


Dinner-discussion reservations: Reserve with Mark Gruenberg, 202-898-4825 or


Theater tickets: Robin Larkin, 240-669-6300 or Make check payable to Footlights. Send to Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct, Rockville, MD 20852.