Q: What is 45 Plays for 45 Presidents?
A: Exactly what it sounds like. It is 45 short plays about the 44 men (Grover Cleveland was #22 & #24) who have been the president. Some of them are funny, some are serious. Some are mini-musicals. One is a dance piece.
It was originally created as 43 Plays for 43 Presidents by a theatre group in Chicago called the Neo-Futurists. They added #44 in 2012, and the updated version of #45 was written in March of this year.
The style of The Neo-Futurists’ work is presentational. They pride themselves on “never playing a character,” and their audiences are constantly aware that they’re seeing a performance. There is no attempt to make the audience forget they’re watching a play and get swept into a story. For this particular play, the actors did NOT do impressions of the presidents they were playing. They weren’t trying to embody their mannerisms or vocal intonations. They also spoke directly to the audience at times.
We *LOVE* shows written in this style. PV Theatre presented a similarly-styled play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged in 2010. We also think that it will translate to video (our method of sharing the show for this fall---more explanation of how/why in a question below) better than a naturalistic/realistic play would.
Q: Why these plays? Why this year?
1) It’s funny and serious and musical and dancey and weird -- which is just how we like things around here. Isn’t it?
2) Since this is an election year, we thought this was super timely.
3) Creating “Theatre during COVID” is quite a challenge! The great thing about this play is-- it has 150+ characters (parts for everyone who wants to appear in the cast!), but a maximum of 5 appear at any one time. This makes it possible to rehearse and perform in SMALL groups-- which is key for social distancing!
Q: But...more presidents?! Really?!
A: Did you really think we were done with Kyle playing John Adams?? (This is a joke. If Kyle wants to play that part in this play, he’ll have to earn it at his audition).
Q: The 44 presidents were all men. Most of our cast will probably not be. How will that work?
A: By this point, y’all should be used to the idea that we’re going to ask you to play men. Historical, real-life men at that.
Q: How will we rehearse this?
A: All rehearsals (for the early & middle parts of the process) will be held via Zoom. This is for a few reasons-- it provides the opportunity for anyone who is “all remote” for school to participate, and it eliminates transportation issues with coming BACK to Valley after your afternoon remote classes. Because the method of sharing the show has yet to be determined (see below), we’ll consider two different stagings for each short play -- one that could be performed in person and one that could be performed virtually.
Q: So how will we show this to our audience?
A: For the first time in PV Theatre history, there will be NO live audience for this show. It just isn’t possible, given COVID-19 restrictions. The exact details of the “how” will be determined at the end of September-- but we are looking at two options:
Bring in the small casts of each play one at a time to block/tech/film their mini-play, and then cut together the video into a performance that can be streamed from our website.
If school is not meeting in person, or if it becomes too logistically difficult to be in the auditorium, we will record each scene on Zoom, and then cut together that video.
Regardless of the method we eventually choose, the show will be streamed LIVE from our website on October 29-31, 2020 @ 7pm. To watch the show, our audience will buy a ticket online, which gives them a unique “access code” to view the performance.
Q: October 29-31?! That’s so early! The show was supposed to be November 19-21!
A: Because this play has a political undercurrent, and play #45 directly references how many days are left until the election, we thought it would have more impact if we performed it before the election. This is quite a challenge! We’ve got to figure out how to work in a new format, AND film the whole show, AND edit it by opening night. We’re going to be busy!!
Q: Who is going to do the filming and video editing?
A: We hope you will! We know a great many of you take video production-- we want to use your skills! This is an entirely new and exciting project for us-- we’re going to find a way to make it work.
Q: What about the crew??
A: Well, to start, we’ll be bringing in the crew in small groups (to allow for social distancing) to clean and organize our space. Some of the crew did a basic strike of the 1776 set (thank you!!!), but we have plenty of things to put away and store in a neater, smarter way.
Then, there will be some scenery needed for the show. Some of it depends on how we end up filming-- if we are onstage at Valley, we’ll construct a basic set. If we are using Zoom, we’ll need to get green screen fabric and make sure each cast member has it...then use our computer skills to create virtual backgrounds!
Q: What will CHAMP Crew do?
A: There will be *some* costume pieces (whoever the president is in a given scene wears one particular jacket that gets passed from guy to guy). Also, this is a VERY heavy prop show. There will be a TON of stuff to gather (and, depending on how we end up filming this, possibly deliver to houses all over Hillsdale & River Vale).
Q: All of this sounds OK, but I have more questions.
A: We know. This is different -- but we’re pretty excited about it, and we think you’ll have a really good time putting it together. Feel free to email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions, OR come to the Theatre Interest Meeting (via Zoom) on Thursday, 9/3 @3pm.
Q: What about the musical? You always announce the whole season at once!
A: Yeah, we prefer to do it that way. But there are SO many uncertainties because of COVID, we just can’t make an informed decision right now. The production team has been meeting throughout the summer. We have ideas. We hope that by waiting until mid-Fall, we’ll have a better sense of what the spring might look like...and what we will be able to do...and how we will be able to do it. We hope waiting will be worth it :)