The Neo-Futurists, the Chicago-based theatre collective whose Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind has been running in Chicago since 1988 and in New York since 2004, have updated their 2002 play, 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, as the 2016 season opener at Merrimack Theatre in Lowell, MA.
Now titled 45 Plays for 45 Presidents, the production consists of 45 two-minute plays, one for each of the 44 American chief executives. The evening ends with the audience voting on the 45th President—and what the 45th play will be. The audience then gets to see either a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump play to close the show. MRT artistic director Sean Daniels has been directing the play every presidential election season since 2004, and returns to direct again here.
The production, which began performances September 7, opens September 10 and is scheduled to run through October 2.
The play is described thus in production notes: “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.”
Daniels said the plays keeps changing as public perceptions of certain presidents evolve. This year the plays about Barack Obama and George H.W. Bush have been rewritten. “You find that we all share the same opinions about the first 16 presidents,” he said. “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.”
The cast consists of Veronika Duerr, Nael Nacer, Terrell Donnell Sledge, Celina Dean and Aaron Muñoz.
The creative team includes Wendy Seyb (choreography), Michael Raiford (sets), Brian J. Lilienthal (lights), A. Lee Viliesis (costumes), Stowe Nelson (sound) and Ido Levran (projections programmer).
MRT is partnering with Rock the Vote and Lowell Votes to encourage voter registration in the lobby of the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, located at 50 East Merrimack Street in Lowell. Tickets are on sale now at www.mrt.org or by calling (978) 654-4678.