Earlier this year, Cara Blouin bemoaned what she considered a lack of political “dialogue” in theater.
Out of this frustration came the Republican Theater Festival.
Blouin, a liberal, created the festival in Philadelphia to give way to right-wing voices in a traditionally liberal medium.
“In theater, we pride ourselves on pushing boundaries,” Blouin said. “But I think that’s become more talk than action.”
The festival, which opened Monday night and will end this evening, presents 10 short plays addressing pointedly conservative perspectives and is put on by mostly liberal actors and directors.
While the festival has already earned her some notoriety in theater circles, Blouin wishes that “the liberals in the audience will take the night to reevaluate some of their prejudices” against conservative politics, and that conservatives will “break down some of the stereotypes they hold against theater people.”
She added, “It’s a conversation between the writers and their material, and after that, between the actors and the material.”
In July, Blouin and her theater company Forearmed Productions called on local playwrights to submit conservative-leaning pieces for the festival, and the word soon spread to national playwriting organizations.
While she didn’t at first expect enough submissions to fill her program, she ended up receiving more than 100 plays from authors hailing from as far as Austin, Texas.
After the submission deadline, she brought the plays to a “bipartisan selection committee,” which selected the final 10 plays for the festival.
“Our goal was to pick the most compelling and interesting stories,” Blouin said, adding that the committee also looked for an appropriate balance of subject matter.
David Marcus — an actor and playwright from New York whose play, “501©,” lampooned not-for-profit theater productions — said, when news of the festival came to New York, “all the downtown theater cats knew I was a Republican, so they sent me the information [to submit].”
Marcus agreed with Blouin’s opinions on the state of modern political theater.
For a long time, he said, the theater community “was working in an echo-chamber of conformity,” and some producers, authors and actors thought that everyone was “singing the same song from the left.”
Blouin herself directs two plays in the festival — “Battle Hymn” and “Volley” — which deal, respectively, with a Christian couple who attempts to save a Jesus statue from demolition and the rhetoric of political debates.
Philadelphia-based actor David Morse performs the male lead role in “Battle Hymn,” a character whose beliefs differ immensely from his own, the actor said. “When I first read the script, it was a little — jarring.”
He added, laughing, “But I finally came to the conclusion that I could play him in the same way — and not to compare them — that I can play a murderer. I don’t have to agree with the character in order to play him.”
Many of the plays make commentary on issues such as abortion, fiscal responsibility and religion. Some also criticize Obama-era liberalism.
In “Occupy This,” a television news reporter interviews a group of Occupy protesters about their motivations.
One protester makes a plea for universal health care, social freedoms and three square meals for every citizen, to which another corrects him, “No, we’re against meals — they’re a conservative conspiracy!”
According to audience member John Zak, the plays were not offensive, despite their critical points.
“Some of the attitudes of the characters were typical, but done in such a way that really was quite entertaining,” he said.
The festival was part of “The American Presidency: A Theatrical Response,” a series of plays and discussions held at Plays and Players Theatre in Center City through Nov. 18.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.