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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

State of the Union

Following graduation from the University of Michigan, as many of her classmates rushed in a lemming like exodus to New York City where most of them will become highly skilled wait staff and bartenders awaiting their big break on Broadway, Margo Brenner began searching for a job in other lower profile but prolific markets landing a job as an intern at The Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C.

After her year’s contract was up, with girl Friday experience, and unemployed, she began to network through the connections she had made within the Washington theatre cadre. She learned of an upcoming production of the 1946 Pulitzer Prize winning political comedy—all political plays are comedic—State of the Union written by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to be staged at the Ford’s Theatre. She spoke long distance to the California based director, Kyle Donnelly, and was hired over the phone to assistant-direct the show! I shall tell you about my reaction to Margo’s directoral debut in the theatre Abraham Lincoln often visited, once too often.

Attending State of the Union, at Margo’s invitation and with her parents was a thrilling and chilling experience for Susie and me. It was written on the heels of World War II where up until 1945 all Americans were pulling the same wagon to win the war. Following its conclusion it was back to politics as usual. The machine chose to groom and run a popular industrialist who made a lot of airplanes that gave the Allies air superiority during the war. The immediate problem became the potential candidate’s affair with a press agent and his estrangement with his wife, an untenable circumstance for a presidential candidate. The wife when approached with the idea of her husband running for president and the vision of her becoming the First Lady reunited the couple in a sham.

The ensuing tale of deception, compromise, and manipulation of the candidate made the audience uneasy as it realized through the dozens of television monitors stacked on top of each other surrounding the proscenium that flashing 30 second sound bites from the first televised commercials up through Kennedy-Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, 41, and 43 that nothing has changed. When dark the screens receded behind a scrim of presidential slogans plastered on signs beginning with Lincoln. The message was not very subtle. That is both frightening and comforting; Frightening that the process is so conniving, yet comforting that since that war we have elected a Roman Catholic president, witnessed an assassination, had our civil rights extended through a relatively bloodless revolution, forced a law breaking president to resign, impeached another president for lying, and now taken congressional control away from a president who many view as being in denial of the events and challenges surrounding his office. Thanks in part to Margo, we realize our fabric in this flawed thing called Democracy is still in tact.

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