Art, Music and Theatre presents ‘November’: President Gives Up Re-Election; Thanksgiving Turkeys Explode
At 7:30 p.m. from Nov. 16 – 19 in the Fine Arts Center Little Theatre, Cameron University’s Department of Art, Music and Theatre presented performances of David Mamet’s play, “November.”
“November” is a satire of the Oval Office and the President of the United States.
The president is Charles H.P. Smith (played by Payton Williams), and he is inefficient at his job. His approval rating is low, and he’s quickly running out of money.
It has been about four years since he became president, and as his term is nearing its end, his administration is falling apart.
The plot of the play takes place at some point before Election Day with the odds of Smith being re-elected appearing slim. Throughout the play, Smith tries to come up with ways to make money for his life after the presidency.
Showrunner Payton Williams said that it was exciting being cast as the lead role.
“David Mamet is my favorite playwright,” he said. “He’s written lots of great plays and screenplays. I really hoped I’d get cast as the lead because it was an exciting opportunity to see if Mamet’s book on acting would actually help me. Some of it was helpful, but I had to reach out to other sources, too.”
Since the play occurs in November, the annual turkey pardoning is a chance for the character of Smith to redeem himself and leave a better legacy behind.
Smith’s speechwriter Clarice Bernstein (played by Abbey Rinestine) convinces Smith to try running again for office.
Throughout the hilarity and chaos, Smith ends up deciding to forfeit any chance he had of winning a re-election campaign.
The Director of the play, Deidra Onishi, said that she is very proud of the cast in the way that they worked together, especially with character portrayals.
“Some people had more lines than others,” she said, “but each of the characters were very well formed and helped each of the other characters, so it was truly an ensemble piece.”
The playwright intentionally rearranges the chronological order of events to make a point in the play: the annual turkey pardoning takes place about two weeks after Election Day, which is always Nov. 7th.
Thanksgiving is always on the third Thursday in November, and the pardoning is the Monday before.
Throughout the performance of the play, there is a lot of foul language. Some of what the president’s character says would be offensive to many and unacceptable for anyone who would be elected into the Oval Office—although, that seems to be the point.
The play gives an imaginary image of what a real president might be like whenever the cameras aren’t rolling and the press isn’t lurking nearby.
President Smith is not based off of any real-life president, nor is he supposed to be an extreme caricature of a republican or democrat.
Written in 2007, the play is actually about what happens to a man when he’s about to lose the most powerful position in the world.
Onishi said that she and the cast never talked about whether the president exhibits qualities of a democrat or a republican.
“Whatever came out of Mamet’s words, that’s what it was,” she said. “If it sounded like a specific party affiliation than that came from Mamet’s dialogue.
The focus is on what happens to a man as he’s about to lose power.”
The setting for the play is a hand-made and hand-painted recreation of the Oval Office, including the presidential seal on the floor.
Bookshelves painted on the wooden backdrop featured working drawers along with removable prop books.
The decision to have the production in the Little Theatre gave the show a more intimate touch; it seemed as if the audience were in the Oval Office with the president, his assistant and speechwriter.
Onishi said that the play goes over what it means to be an American, what a democracy is and what rights are.
“The president sort of is the universal identity for America,” she said. “And so we’re looking at ‘what is that identity?’ Looking not necessarily at the glossed over, fancy suit and tie identity, but the identity of whoever may be president, in the human sense. We did it for that reason.”
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