SACRED FOOLS | MAINSTAGE 2008 - 43 Plays For 43 Presidents

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Sacred Fools Theater Company presents
the Los Angeles Premiere of

43 Plays For 43 Presidents

written by Andrew Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo, Chloe Johnston & Karen Weinberg

directed by Paul Plunkett

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SEPT 19 - OCT 26, 2008
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
plus Sundays, Sept. 21 & Oct. 26 @ 7pm

or, 2 for $43

Reservations: (310) 281-8337
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43 PLAYS FOR 43 PRESIDENTS is exactly what the title says - 43 short plays, each dedicated to a U.S. President from George W. to George Dubya. Originally produced by Chicago's Neo-Futurists, this high-speed, high-energy evening uses a cast of six to tell the story of America and all of her Commanders-in-Chief through comedy, songs, drama and more! Before casting your vote this November, take a look back at where we've been and who's been in charge along the way!

Critical Praise for previous productions
of 43 Plays For 43 Presidents!

"An atomic explosion of creativity."
-Chicago Sun-Times

"Deeply moving, stealthily patriotic."
-Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Hilarious, difficult, insightful, revelatory
and totally unforgettable."
-Chicago Weekly News

Read More!


WINNER of an L.A. Weekly Award
for Best Lighting Design (John Sylvain)


& Ass't Director
Ass't Choreographer
Set & Props Design
Costume Design
Sound Design
Lighting Design
Music Consultant
Stage Manager
Logo & Projection
 Graphics Design
Technical Consultant
Sound Engineer

Haven Hartman
Adam Bitterman
Paul Plunkett
Natasha Norman

Marianne Davis
Tifanie McQueen
Mary McIlwain
Jaime Robledo
John Sylvain
Alexander Wright
Monica Greene
Adam Bitterman

Kevin Jordan
Bobby Stapf



From George Washington to the current Bush, a few words from our commanders in chief.

If Jon Stewart, the Smothers Brothers and the League of Women Voters invaded the Hall of Presidents at Disney World, the results might resemble "43 Plays for 43 Presidents" at Sacred Fools Theater. This vitally engaging survey of every American chief executive turns acute pertinence into exhilarating theatricality.

First produced by the Neo-Futurists of Chicago, "43 Plays" sifts presidential history -- and facts forgotten by history -- into a quasi-vaudeville that fits set and prop designer Tifanie McQueen's austere portico as disarmingly as the "Direct Quote" sign that flashes atop the proscenium.

Written by Andrew Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo, Chloë Johnston and Karen Weinberg, the 43 short plays represent a rare case of multiple writers forming a more perfect union. Their prismatic, annotated approach spurs director Paul Plunkett and a superb ensemble to run the agitprop gamut, from hilariously ironic to gravely arresting.

Bayiates' opener, "George Washington in the Garden of Eden," finds the magnetic Michael Holmes' faintly bewildered commander in chief donning a symbolic coat of office, hinting at the cavalcade ahead. The stylistic diversity serves each subject, whether it's sly Rafeal Clements leading the charge in Weinberg's "Teddy," or piquant Tina Van Berckelaer's ineptly professorial Woodrow Wilson in Benjamin's "A Lecture on Myself."

Throughout, audience-contact tactics are apt, and the final maneuver registers a masterstroke. Aided by designer John Sylvain's dense lighting, Mary McIlwain's unfussy costumes, Jaime Robledo's kaleidoscopic sound and Adam Bitterman's projection graphics, the effect is delightfully, thoughtfully provocative, which distinguishes this ineluctable L.A. premiere.

-- David C. Nichols
Special to The Times
© 2008 L.A.
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Often it’s not just the who, what and why that makes a history lesson viable, but the how – as in how you tell it. That’s the premise behind this witty, sardonic collection of mini-plays about the American presidency. Studded with song and dance, these distinctive one-to-five minute segments – originally created by five writer-performers belonging to Chicago’s Neo-Futurists theater ensemble – reveal some basic human truths about the 43 individuals who have inhabited the Oval Office (as well as some uncomfortable aspects of our nation’s political legacy). Each segment plucks facts from the textbook version of history and combines them with lesser known, more subversive revelations. Among the famous, the infamous and the all-but-forgotten, only a few, including George Washington (Michael Holmes), emerge with reputations untarnished. The ironical portraits include John Adams (Kelley Hazen) as a fretful neurotic who signed legislation shredding the Bill of Rights, Indian fighter William Henry Harrison (Tina Van Berckelaer) who enthusiastically exterminated thousands of Native Americans but on his deathbed sought treatment from a Native American healer, Ulysses Grant (Rafael Clements) who, as a young, man despised guns but was forced to attend West Point by his father. Of particular interest this election season is the sketch about the 1876 electoral college shenanigans that put popular-vote loser Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House. Directed by Paul Plunkett, this production features an accomplished ensemble of six, adept at underscoring both the playful and the poignant.

-- Deborah Klugman
© 2008 L.A. Weekly

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During its two and a quarter hours, director Paul Plunkett's splendidly varied and imaginative production offers 43 two-minute plays, each about one of our fine (or, very occasionally, fiendish) presidents. As one might expect, the plays differ in style and mood — some are surreal, some biographical, some comedic — and they offer an equal variety of tones, ranging from straightforward respect to cool irony and genuine pathos.

The collection of plays (written by Andrew Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo, Chloë Johnston, and Karen Weinberg, members of Chicago's Neo-Futurists theatre collective) provides what is essentially a living advanced placement U.S. history class, albeit one that is more entertaining than what you'll find in your old high school textbook. The plays avoid cheap shots, approaching the subject matter with respect but a singular lack of reverence.

Of course, the most important prezzies are represented, including a wise, stoical George Washington (Michael Holmes), who tries to set a gracious tone for his administration but who watches with horror as his less-virtuous successors battle for ownership of his symbolic coat. There's a sad-faced and glacial Abraham Lincoln (Constance Ejuma), who turns into a monument before our eyes, while other members of the cast intone lists of the dead who perished during the Civil War.

As far as our modern era's rogue's gallery of leaders and reprobates is concerned, Richard Nixon ("One Nixon, Underdog") is showcased by a series of actors who discuss the reasons Nixon was a good president after all — while sneaking through the audience, stealing people's wallets and handbags. George H.W. Bush (Kelley Hazen), in "Promises," is an easygoing hip-hop scoundrel, while Bill Clinton (a spot-on impersonation by Holmes) genially oversees the destruction of American liberalism.

Admittedly, a few of the short plays amount to little more than living political cartoons, but others are fully developed, suffused with drama and humor. The six-person ensemble shines throughout, assaying the beloved, as well as the "B-string," presidents (such as Scott Leggett's amusingly dim Van Buren and creepy waltzing Holmes as a bloodthirsty Polk) with skill and gusto.

-- Paul Birchall
© 2008 BackStage West

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Politics Unusual
‘43 Presidents’ not your everyday Potomac Follies

So many Americans are following every twist of this year’s Obama/McCain narrative that an obsession with all things presidential is becoming downright fashionable. Naturally, I was a trendsetter in this fashion, as in so many others. Even as a child in the Dark Ages, I was a presidency geek.

As young kids, my brother and I received a mail-order plastic model of the White House, complete with three-inch statuettes of each president. We spent hours pushing the miniature presidents around our bedroom floor and voicing the remarks that we made up for them – to the extent that we pretended that Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson co-hosted a TV series called “The Abe and Andy Show.”

Not surprisingly, we learned the names of the presidents in sequence at an early age. The hardest part was mastering that stretch of mostly forgettable names between the presidencies of our charismatic co-hosts Jackson and Lincoln. To this day I can rattle off that section of the list without hesitation, even though I don’t know all that much about the men behind those names.

Enter 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, at Sacred Fools Theater. This enormously entertaining revue consists of 43 short scenes about each American presidency, presented in chronological sequence, from Washington through W. And some of the best scenes are about some of the most obscure presidents.

William Henry Harrison, anyone? The second president on that list of relative unknowns between Jackson and Lincoln, he died after only one month in office. What would you say about him? But the creators of 43 Plays use his previous history as an Indian fighter, and a cluster of red balloons representing some of the Indians, to create a chilling image of the depths to which the presidency has sometimes fallen.

The show goes for chuckles more often than chills, as seen in the title of the sketch that immediately precedes the Harrison piece: “Van Buren: Jackson’s Bitch.” Yet even if you don’t care much about the relationship between Jackson and Van Buren (which, strangely enough, was already depicted on the L.A. stage earlier this year in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), the comedy of this scene has a startling currency.

Jackson blithely informs Van Buren that the banks are closing. Van Buren responds: “The less government interferes with private pursuits, the better for the general prosperity.” These au courant words – and many other lines throughout the production – are highlighted by a “DIRECT QUOTE” light above the stage that means exactly what it says. A few lines later, Van Buren comes up with a solution. It’s not called a “bailout” – 43 Plays was first produced in 2002, not last week – but you can fill in the words yourself.

In the first scene, George Washington introduces a coat that’s then passed down from one president to another. Three men and three women perform all the roles – not just the chief executives but seemingly dozens of other people. The only exception is an audience volunteer who is drafted to wear the coat of Chester A. Arthur.

Bully for director Paul Plunkett’s brilliant cast. Rafeal Clements, Constance Ejuma, Kelley Hazen, Michael Holmes, Scott Leggett, and Tina Van Berckelaer pack a surprising number of nuances into this quick-hit satirical format.

The script was created by the Neo-Futurists of Chicago, whose so-called “Founding Father” is Andrew Bayiates. The other writers are Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg. The writing isn’t quite as sharp with the recent presidents as it is with their predecessors, probably because we’ve all seen a hundred sketches about Clinton and Bush, even Nixon. It’s harder to come up with something fresh to say about them. But any group that can make me care about Franklin Pierce has my vote.

-- Don Shirley
© 2008 L.A. CityBeat

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Using comedy, drama, dance, and music, the half dozen actors in this crash course in presidential history conjure a theatrical experience that's part SAT prep, part Schoolhouse Rock! and which recounts, in chronological order, the entire story of the US presidency "from George W. to George Dubya." A timely primer on the context and significance of the impending vote, 43 Plays for 43 Presidents entertains as it educates, but don't worry — there's no final exam at the end. Unless you count the election, that is.

-- Shana Nys Dambrot
© 2008 Flavorpill

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