Anyone who has wandered into Bardwell during the past couple of weeks might have noticed the emergence of portraits slowly taking over the space. There are 45 portraits in fact, representing women in politics throughout America’s history. From Abigail Adams to Nancy Pelosi, these faces helped shaped our country, and I’m excited we have a moment to focus on them as a group. As the 100-year mark of women’s suffrage approaches, it felt like the best time to celebrate the wild turns politics have taken since the birth of our nation. These women all contributed to the world we live in today, and while none of them have served as President (yet), they each have just as fascinating a story to be told.
When we decided last year to do 45 Plays for 45 Presidents as our Upper School fall play, we had no idea that the production would find itself right in the middle of an impeachment inquiry. Although I often find it rewarding to do relevant and relatable theater, I think we as an ensemble have found the play somewhat tricky to navigate during these politically-charged times. There is a shared concern to get this story right, and that has fueled us during rehearsals over the past few weeks. This cast full of smart, talented actors—each one playing 2 or 3 presidents—has successfully tackled this script in a attentive and delicate manner.
The play itself is taken from the style of the Neo-Futurists in Chicago. As a troupe of writer/actors, this playwright group prides itself on inviting the audience into a discussion and giving them less room to hide when presented with these uncomfortable subjects. Part of their mission includes “work that embraces those unreached or unmoved by conventional theater—inspiring them to thought, feeling, and action.” Each president is granted a very short play, allowing us to focus on their accomplishments, disappointments, or sometimes both. While many are quick and funny, the play does not shy away from the complicated history that we share as a nation.
So, feeling bogged down by the stress of politics these days? Want to celebrate the lives of men and women who paved the way for all politicians today? Or, maybe you just want to see a mini-musical about George H.W. Bush? Either way, we promise a thoughtful, fun, and meaningful night of theater that will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. This might just be the escape from politics that you need right now.
45 Plays for 45 Presidents will be performed Nov. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Bardwell Auditorium.