Blind Date marked the completion of playwright Rogelio Martinez’s four-part play cycle dedicated to America’s involvement in the Cold War. The following essay appeared in the show program for the world premiere run of Blind Date at Goodman Theatre. You can access the article through the theatre's online blog ONSTAGE+.
No one in the Nixon Administration had any idea what would result when American table tennis champ Glenn Cowan stumbled onto China’s national team bus at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships. But Secretary of State Henry Kissinger saw a strategic opportunity, and seized it. Ping Pong examines how the games played between the United States and China in 1971 were directly responsible for restored diplomatic relations. At the center of this play is a literal table tennis match between the reigning champions of each nation. What appears to be a budding honest friendship between two athletes, however, reveals a cleverly fabricated plan by the people of China to attract Richard Nixon’s attention.
Born in East Berlin is set in a politically and physically divided Germany in 1988 and deals with the paranoia of a surveillance state. Anne, an American music producer, feverishly attempts to convince the Communist Party to permit a Bruce Springsteen concert in East Germany. Rock ‘n’ roll had been considered a destabilizing threat ever since the soundwaves of David Bowie’s historic 1987 Concert for Berlin penetrated the wall and unified the two halves of this broken nation. Now, Soviet officials will only allow The Boss to perform under some absurdly bureaucratic circumstances. An ensemble of characters reflecting the sweeping range of post-war political ideologies drives the action, as they debate the potential of rock ‘n’ roll to unite East and West Germany once and for all.
When Tang Met Laika, set in the mid-1990s, is chronologically the last installment in the set of Martinez’s plays. Although the Cold War is now in the past, it is not hard to imagine the lingering doubt Americans and Russians feel toward one another. Within the last decade, the two nations have gone from pointing nuclear weapons at each other to collaborating on the International Space Station mission. Feelings are different for American astronaut Patrick, when he meets and falls in love with Russian cosmonaut Elena on the Mir Space Station. Their relationship hits a hard reality once they land back on Earth, and their respective lives enter into the equation. This non-linear play examines the quiet chaos of a personal affair juxtaposed against the public disorder of restoring international diplomatic relations.