“45 PLAYS FOR 45 PRESIDENTS” OFFERS BOTH HUMOR AND INSIGHT TO KICK OFF MRT SEASON
227 YEARS OF AMERICAN HISTORY IN 2 HOURS
SEPTEMBER 7 – OCTOBER 2, 20
Just in time for the general election, Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) offers offers a one-of-a-kind take on the epic sweep of American history with “45 Plays for 45 Presidents.” In just two hours, through nearly every theatrical device imaginable, we see the highs and lows our country has hit over decades and centuries. With each commander-in-chief in the spotlight for two minutes, we experience not only their lives, but the distinctive American eras in which they served. And ultimately, we appreciate that our nation’s story is one that we all have written—and continue to write—every time we vote.
“45 Plays for 45 Presidents” runs approximately 2 hours, including one intermission. Performances are September 7 – October 2. Press performances are at 8:00 pm on Saturday, September 10 (Opening Night), and 2:00 pm on Sunday, September 11. All performances will be held at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, located at 50 East Merrimack Street in historic downtown Lowell. Tickets range from $70 – $26 and are on sale now at www.mrt.org or by calling 978-654-4678.
The evening ends with the audience voting on who the 45th president—and what the 45th play—will be; each audience will see either a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump play to close the show. MRT is partnering with Rock the Vote and Lowell Votes to encourage voter registration in the lobby.
About Play and its Creators
The Neo-Futurists, whose legendary “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” has been a staple of the Chicago theatre scene since 1988, first presented this presidential play in 2002, then called “43 Plays for 43 Presidents.” Four of its five writers were members of the troupe, which is renowned for an in-the-moment aesthetic and innovative, multi-modal storytelling. The writers—Andy Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg—created the show not as a series of impersonations, but rather as a set of fully realized theatre pieces that explore the thoughts, feelings, triumphs, and failures of the individuals we have chosen to lead our country—as well as of their families, colleagues, and adversaries.
One of the playwrights, Andy Bayiates, is a Billerica native, who was born at Lowell General Hospital. He is credited as the “Founding Father” of the play for the major role he played in its creation.
MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels has been directing the play every presidential election season since 2004, and returns to direct again here. When he directed the play in at Dad’s Garage Theatre Co. in Atlanta, Georgia, Jimmy Carter attended (and really enjoyed the Reagan play) and subsequently invited the cast to perform at the Carter Center. Daniels later directed the play at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky and Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY. Of the original Chicago production, Daniels recalls: “I thought it was so smart, and so well-done. How often do you get to see a full American civics lesson in less than two hours? To see the choices we’ve made as a country, over and over again?”
More About the Production
One thing Daniels loves about “45 Plays…” is that it keeps changing, as public perceptions of certain presidents evolve. This year, Barack Obama and George Herbert Walker Bush will both have their plays rewritten. “You find that we all share the same opinions about the first 16 presidents. Everyone loves George Washington… but suddenly when we talk about Reagan, everyone feels very strongly, one way or the other, about what it all means… One thing that’s exciting for me is that the writers have to continually update it, because public ideas change.”
Audiences at MRT’s production will be immersed in diverse storytelling approaches, both comical and serious: ballet, puppetry, personal narrative, prop-driven physical theatre, and Schoolhouse Rock-style musical numbers all converge into a cohesive whole. The set will use projection panels and light boxes scattered across the MRT stage, and costumes will be crafted to represent changing American fashion across the eras. Scene change music will transform as the show progresses to reflect the popular music of each president’s tenure.
Creative Team and Cast
The five-person cast includes Veronika Duerr (MRT’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” and “Home of the Brave”), Nael Nacer (MRT’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”), and Terrell Donnell Sledge (MRT’s “The Realness: a break beat play”), as well as newcomers Celina Dean and Aaron Muñoz.
Director Daniels is joined by a creative team that includes Wendy Seyb (Choreography), Michael Raiford (sets), Brian J. Lilienthal (lights), A. Lee Viliesis (costumes), Stowe Nelson (sound), and Ido Levran (projections programmer).
Tickets range from $70 – $26 and are available at www.mrt.org or by calling 978-654-4678. A senior discount is offered for 10% off adult ticket prices. Student tickets are $15. Group discounts are available for groups of six or more by calling 978-654-7561. $5 Night: Wednesday, September 7 at 7:30 pm. Patrons may purchase tickets for $5, cash only, at the Box Office between 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm. Limit 2 tickets per person. Lowell Night: Wednesday, September 14 at 7:30 pm. Lowell residents may purchase tickets for $10 at the box office from 4:30 pm-7:30 pm. Proper ID required, limit 2 per person. A Military Discount of $10 off per ticket (up to four tickets per production) applies to any performance for active duty, retired, veteran, and reservist members of the military.