When Heidi Schreck asked her longtime friend and fellow actor Mike Iveson if he would be part of her play What the Constitution Means to Me last fall, neither could have anticipated what lay ahead. Two Off-Broadway runs, a Broadway transfer (now twice extended), and two Tony Award nods later, the success of the Pulitzer finalist is a bonus. For Iveson, it was simply a great role in an extraordinary play.
Written by and starring Schreck with direction by Oliver Butler, Constitution sees Schreck resurrect her 15-year-old self, a teenager who gave speeches about the Constitution in American Legion halls. Iveson’s role in the play is three-fold. He first appears—decked out in blazer and Legionnaire hat—representing a real person from Schreck’s life, a WWII veteran who accompanied her from contest to contest. But as the play unfolds, Iveson sheds that persona and shows us his real self.
As Schreck shares deeply personal details about the ways in which the founding document has failed women, Iveson opens up about another societal construct: masculinity. He shares stories from his own life about his father, his sexuality, and his experiences with homophobia.
“You see Heidi unearthing all these truths, as it relates to the Constitution, and you watch her dig into her own past and her own life,” says Iveson. “And then you watch me do it, and it’s almost as if she’s started a chain reaction… If anything, I’m modeling how you can do what Heidi’s doing.”
Iveson’s third and final role is that of debate mediator. When Schreck invites New York City high school students Rosdely Ciprian and Thursday Williams, who alternate nights, to argue whether America should keep or abolish the Constitution, Iveson is on hand to guide things forward. It’s a vital part of the show, in which the permanency of the document is tested live, in front of the audience.
His most important role, however, is embodying what Schreck calls “positive male energy.” In a show that deals with violence, historical and personal, Schreck tells us how necessary it is to share the stage with a man she trusts. And for much of the show, Iveson is just that, sitting, listening, and supporting. “I take the job very seriously,” he says. “In a weird way I’m modeling what it looks like when a man actually listens to a woman. This is what it looks like when you listen to the women in your life.”