Director’s Notes for 44 PRESIDENTS (and a fat picture of me from 2002, but it’s Jimmy Carter seeing the show!)
So, my family grew up in politics. I’m from Washington, DC, and still have several mugs that play “Hail To The Redskins” when you pick them up.
My uncle Gordy was the Deputy Whip of the Republican Party for a while, my Uncle Milan is a George Bush appointed federal judge and I’m actually from what wikipedia (which is never wrong – sorry Sinbad) would call a “US political family”
My personal political land elsewhere (look way over to the left), which adds for awkward or perhaps quiet family reunion dinner conversation during election years.
What has always fascinated me being descendant from Republicans and then coming over to the other side – is the lack of conversation that happens between the two ideologies. The lack of looking to see where the other is right.
There’s the great Simpsons episode where they stumble upon the Republican convention with a banner “We’re Evil” and the Democratic convention with a banner “We Can’t Govern”. Right?
So, my relationship to this piece, which I have been lucky enough to direct twice before – when we did it for Jimmy Carter in Atlanta and he laughed all thru the Ronald Reagan piece – when we asked Louisville audiences to pick the 44th president and every night an almost fight and a true conversation broke out (Obama won the night shows, McCain won the matinees) – what I loved about it, was that it was a brief moment where there was a piece of political theater that wasn’t so on the nose with it’s politics, so that we could talk about our differences and our similarities in the long view. Both productions had stunning honest post-show conversations outside the knee-jerk reactions of every day political conversation.
Example: We all have baggage with George W. Bush or Obama – but could we put that aside and go back 40-50 years? Can we talk about Wilson setting up the system that we regulate banks with, thus leading to 2008. What about Einsenhower? Can you be against war and pro-interstate high way system at the same time? And the great champion of the liberal loving National Endowment of the Arts? Fiscal conservative Republican Richard Nixon. Sometimes our historical narratives are a little messier and our presidents a bit more human than fits into pre-organized camps of good and bad (depending on where you stand).
Which brings us to this production – where we are partnering with Rock The Vote and all the local colleges in an attempt to use this piece let younger artists talk to younger voters – and create dialogue and conversation and chaffing before our young friends get so settled into their idealogy that anyone who disagrees must be unfriended stat.
I truly think this play is a chance to take the long view. To not talk with blood in our throats about about politics, but to at least listen to the other side about issues I am a gambling man, so I can tell you that the odds that each of us is a 100% right is pretty low….so what then might the other side be right about?