The signature political satire of the South Philly-based 1812 Productions opens Nov. 28 at Plays & Players Theatre.
Somewhere amid flushing out lyrics about Brett Kavanaugh, the Paris Agreement and Gritty, a group of writers popped up from their scripts when one of them received a breaking news alert on their smartphone.
“Jeff Sessions just resigned as attorney general.”
The team picked up their pens. It was time for yet another rewrite.
For the writers, who were convened around a table in a small Whitman studio, this rapid response is the very essence of their project, the 13th consecutive edition of “This Is The Week That Is” — the signature political satire of the South Philly-based 1812 Productions that opens Nov. 28 at Plays & Players Theatre.
The show, a series of skits composed by a handful of local thespians, changes on a night-by-night basis, reflecting not only the latest headlines but the immediate state of the world in real time.
While a portion of the show remains relatively unaltered, other chunks of the performance, including the news segment in the second act, changes on a week-by-week, or often, night-by-night basis, naturally depending upon whatever is unfolding in real-life. However, this method entails more than merely new quips but actually requires revised song verses.
“There’s not a whole lot of improv in the show. It’s improv going in to write the piece,” said writer, performer and musical director Rob Tucker. “But, the aspect of change, often, is something that actually scared me initially. … You have to surrender to what it is and surrender to the process of it, and let go of perfection, the idea of perfection. And, then you can just ride the wave, and every once in a while, you can have some fun.”
Considering today’s unparalleled political climate, determining which topics to encompass in the production may seem daunting. However, the cast says, in terms of depicting which themes were worth tackling simply depended upon their visceral feelings as news consumers, citizens and human beings living in the United States today.
Every year before rehearsals begin, the team breaks bread over dinner and chats about what’s floating in the political and social ether — not only only on a federal scale but on a local one, as well.
“I think everyone in the cast, I mean, is so different and has their own group of friends and community,” said writer and performer Tanaquil Márquez. “And, so a question was — what is happening in your community right now? What is the question that everyone is talking about?”
And while a plethora of concepts surfaced in their conversations, an unavoidable truth that emerged is the divisiveness plaguing the nation. Especially in the shadow of the midterm elections, where results were as tight as 51 to 49 percent, the cast was swarmed with a wave of new material for the audience-interaction show after the polls closed.
With this in mind, the cast says it actively avoids favoring one side over another, particularly since its producers, board of directors and, most of all, its audiences, fall all over the political spectrum.
In fact, the show works as an “equal opportunity offender,” as coined by 1812 Production’s Producing Artistic Director Jennifer Childs.
“That’s such a bad thing for our country to be that divided but we can’t ignore that in the show,” said writer, performer and 1812 Production’s external relations director Dave Jadico, who has been part of the show since its conception. “So, in the show, we do address this real strong divide, because our show is intended for everyone. It’s not like we’re just writing a liberal show.”
Today’s heightened political division often translates to an intensified defensiveness, as the cast stresses that they carefully tread the line between satire and sensitivity.
Abiding by the saying, “You can make fun of the smoke but not the fire,” the show refuses to humorize dire images currently circulating in the news but rather pokes fun at politicians’ outrageous commentary regarding such topics concepts.
“You don’t make fun of children in cages. That’s the fire,” Tucker said. “There are certain things that just aren’t funny, but you can make fun of the people in charge of that and the ridiculousness of that idea.”
For more information about showtimes and tickets, visit: www.1812productions.org/this-is-the-week-that-is-1/.