The Republican Theater Festival Isn’t Just Torture

George W. Bush alum leads a roster of playwrights tackling abortion, unions, and the Occupy movement, too.

Back in July, the Philly Post broke the news that the city would host the country’s (the world’s, actually) first ever Republican Theater Festival, presented by 33-year old West Philadelphia theater artist Cara Blouin. Philadelphia Live Arts/Fringe founder Nick Stuccio asked, “Is she serious?” Her friends begged her to reconsider. Even Roger Ebert jumped in with some Twitter sarcasm: “At last! A theater festival with right wing plays.”

A few months and more than a hundred play submissions later, Blouin and her bi-partisan selection committee have picked ten short works to present at Plays & Players Theater in November. The finalists come from as far away as Wisconsin and Texas, with some from right in our backyard. Here, the ten plays that make up the Republican Theater Festival.

Propaganda
by Mike Long, Washington, D.C.
Long, who teaches writing at Georgetown University and has done speech writing for George W. Bush and Chris Christie, sums his play up: “Maimed into silence, a woman has come with a bomb to kill the man she blames, a former CIA operative. He fights for his life, but the only weapon he has is confession. But something else is going on.” Long says he gave up on political speech writing after realizing that “nobody is changing their mind.” He describes the state of politics this way: “If the other guy has chopped off heads of puppies, he’s evil. If it’s your guy, the puppies had it coming.”

Occupy This
by CJ Ehrlich, New York City
Other titles by Ehrlich include The Cupcake Conspiracy (“Terrorism is easy. Marriage is complicated.”) and The Red & Green Room (“…the darker side of the Mario Bros.”). In satire Occupy This, everyone favorite’s 99 percent movement sets the scene as an entrepreneurial homeless man tries to convince a businesswoman to invest in his lunch.

Battle Hymn
by Ludmilla Bollow, Wisconsin
Bollow’s works have been performed in over 75 U.S. theaters as well as abroad in places like South Africa and China. In this one, a group of Christians battles their town over a statue of Jesus that’s in a public space.

501(c) Me
by David Marcus, New York City
According to playwright Marcus, his comedy “is about a guy who goes ‘individually not for profit’ in order to pursue his existence outside the conformity that is the commercial world.” Marcus believes that the time is ripe for the Republican Theater Festival: “I am particularly troubled by theme in American Theater of blaming the US and capitalism for all the world’s woes, even while most of the theater companies are nonprofits taking money from the government and corporations. American Theater has become like a petulant 20-something who asks his folks to front the cash for a tell-all book about what shitty parents they are. Diversity of opinion on our stages can only help rebuild the dwindling audiences of the last 30 years.”

The Abortion Bomb
by Basil Considine, Boston
A Catholic family is upended when a daughter decides to end her pregnancy. After all, when was the last time we had a good conversation about abortion?

Home from College
by Eric Balchunas, South Jersey
After “turning liberal” at college, a young woman comes home to attack her parents’ conservative values — and ask them for money. “It’s kind of punk rock,” says Balchunas (a Bloomberg analyst by day) of the Republican Theater Festival. “The contrarianism is what attracts me. The Fringe has all these naked shows. Great. But a Republican theater festival has good shock value, too.”

Downsizing Undercoat Man
by Walt Vail, South Jersey
Cue Johnny Doc and those giant inflatable rats. This play, from an 85-year old Pitman author and retired teacher, takes on “the power of unions.” (Note to Plays & Players Theater: Have some backup generators standing by.)

Running Amok
by Quinn Eli, Ardmore
“Folks near and dear to me feel passionately that giving a platform to so-called ‘conservative’ ideas is likely to turn our local stages into an extension of Fox News,” explains Eli. “This isn’t the movie Alien — exposure to different ideas isn’t likely to fester inside us and turn us all into Ann Coulter. We have to give ourselves more credit than that, and more importantly, we have to give more credit to audiences. They’ll know if something stinks in Denmark, and if they show up to be entertained and instead get fed a bunch of partisan claptrap, they’ll go running for the doors.” Running Amok tells the story of a black athlete who demands to take responsibility for a public scandal rather than having his publicist make race-based excuses for him.

Eternal Flowers
by Lavinia Roberts, New York City
Producer Blouin describes Eternal Flowers as “a quiet meditation on the effect that serving in the military has on one small family town.”

Volley
by Hank Schwemmer, Austin
“I half-believed their call for play submissions was a joke,” says Schwemmer. But he submitted anyway. When asked to describe Volley, he writes: “I hesitate to give much of it away. It was written in January as a response to the state of political discourse. (There isn’t a single sentence to be found in the play.)”

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