Theatre at Tarleton to present more than just a civics lesson

Special to the E-T
Theatre at Tarleton to present more than just a civics lesson

The Theatre at Tarleton and the Department of Fine Arts will present their first production of the 2012-13 season, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, a chronological, biographical survey of the lives and presidencies of each of the 44 men who have held the office.

Directed by Prudence Wehnert-Skinner, assistant professor of fine arts, the production opens Tuesday, Sept. 25 and continues through Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center Theater, with performances at 7:30 each evening.

Theatre at Tarleton is among 44 separate productions of the play around the country in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election, and has been selected to contribute a portion of the production to create an online composite video of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents. The collaborative project involves theatres of all sizes, including high schools, universities and theatre companies?with each contributing a separate production of one president. Tarleton has been selected to contribute Play #20, “Dance of a Thousand Ironies” which depicts the presidency of James A. Garfield.

The two-hour show, comprised of short, biographical scenes, highlight the lives of all the American presidents. Their mistakes and successes are celebrated by a company of actors who take turns donning a star-spangled coat that symbolizes the presidency. Beginning with George Washington’s almost Eden-like perfection, the scenes shift between the comic and the tragic, from Ben Franklin giving Thomas Jefferson a Borscht Belt-style roast, to the frank portrayal of William Henry Harrison’s life as an “Indian slayer,” and later the grim onset of the Civil War.

Act II starts off the 20th century with the assassination of William McKinley, moves through a Nixon-praising dance number and arrives at a polarized America in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama terms.

“This production allows us to, in a comical and entertaining way, provide our students and the audience a brief look at each president,” said Wehnert-Skinner. “I believe that we as Americans are so lucky to be given the privilege to vote for our nation’s leader. My hope is that our production will generate more excitement to vote and participate in the democratic process this fall.”

Following the performances each night, audience members and students will have the opportunity to register to vote if they have not already.

Since its 2002 premier, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents (originally 43 Plays…) by Andy Bayiates, Sean Benjamin and Geneva Gallo-Bayiates, has garnered a history of sold out audiences, critical praise for its smart and irreverent take on history, and a 44th play for President Obama.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, faculty and staff, and $5 for students with a valid ID. Tickets are on sale at the Fine Arts Box Office. Hours are Monday through Friday, 2-6 p.m.

For more information about this and other upcoming Theatre at Tarleton productions, please visit