Last night I attended a reading of a play in progress call “The Founders Project.”
It was ninety or so minutes of quotes by historical figures, every day citizens and current political figures, Thomas Jefferson to Alexis de Tocqueville to Harriett Tubman to Sarah Palin.
The quotes, read by six actors, were about democracy, freedom, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the right to vote, women’s rights, human rights, commerce, the constitution, politicians, America.
It was surprisingly entertaining.
Everyone in the audience appeared as engaged as I was, except for the man sitting next to me.
At first he was just fidgety. Moving in his seat, tapping his fingers.
Then his leg started bouncing up and down. He was getting agitated, but I assumed he just had to use the restroom or had someplace he would rather be.
But when one of the actors read a quote from Mitt Romney, something about corporations being people because the money from the corporations ended up going to people, the guy muttered, “That’s right.”
And I thought, “uh oh.”
A short while later, a list of the Tea Party’s principles and beliefs was read. The man said, “hear, hear” out loud.
People glanced at him uncomfortably.
I was just afraid that he would try to leave the show in protest and climb over the top of me to get to the aisle.
He stayed though and towards the end of the show an actress read a section of Paul Ryan’s vice presidential acceptance speech:
“But America is more than just a place…it’s an idea. It’s the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. This idea is founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed.”
The man started applauding.
He applauded alone and for maybe a full minute.
It felt longer. People turned to look at him. One of the actors covered his mouth. He may have been suppressing a cough, but I think he was trying not to laugh.
I wondered how I had the luck to sit next to the only vocal conservative in the audience.
It was the only time my neighbor applauded. When the show ended, he walked out any sign of appreciation for the actors.
I wonder why he had attended the show in the first place. Works in progress at this particular venue tend to be a little edgy, or even just plain weird. And edgy theater tends to attract more liberal types.
What made Mr. Tea Party come?
Maybe the name, “The Founders Project,” caused him to think it would be more “God Bless America” than “America Sucks?”
Although he may have been tricked into attending, I’m also kind of grateful to him and his outbursts.
I was watching the show, enjoying the show, completely unaware of its left leaning tendencies because I agree with them.
And because the producers made a point of saying it was unbiased. Or at least hinting at it.
It’s a bit disingenuous, if you think about it. The playwright makes a big deal about saying, “These aren’t my words. They’re the words of the founding fathers.”
Even though we were also told that the play was a response to her frustration over how the Tea Partiers (Tea Party-ists? Tea Party-ites?) twist the Declaration of Independence and Constitution to further their cause, there’s still an air of objectivity.
“These are not my words.”
But the act of selecting, editing and arranging the quotes is a statement, even if the quotes are accurate.
A Conservative could complete the exact same project and make the quotes say something entirely different, entirely supportive of the right.
I suppose I was happy to overlook that fact, to take the playwright at her word, because I share her political views.
My neighbor’s annoyance made me realize I was watching propaganda. Propaganda for the good guys, maybe. But propaganda all the same.