KSU Theatre To Present Cult Classic 45 PLAYS FOR 45 PRESIDENTS
This is not your ordinary play: it features a wrestling match, ballet, jug band, vaudeville show, and a presidential roast. Kennesaw State University's Department of Theatre and Performance Studies will present the cult classic "45 Plays for 45 Presidents" September 24-29 at the Onyx Theater on the Kennesaw campus.
Expanding with each election, the play features seven actors portraying America's storied presidents from inception to today, bringing obscure tales of our commanders-in-chief to light in whimsical and witty ways. Describing the show as "an insightful romp," Interim Chair and Professor Harrison Long says, "In an age of intense political division, it is therapeutic to humorously recall our common history as Americans. Humor can be a powerful tool to help us understand serious issues and also move beyond the ones that divide us."
At the helm of the play is KSU alumnus and Director Damien Lockhart. He says, "It is our goal with this production to help the past hold hands with the present. Using a variety of theatrical storytelling techniques, we will share anecdotes from the past that influence the present and impact the future. We strive to create a unique experience that is engaging, entertaining, and informative, and leaves the audience feeling empowered and activated." To help engage the audience and remind them of their civic duties, each performance will house a voter registration table and materials on how to contact state and federal representatives.
Lockhart adds, "Everything from the set to the costumes allows the audience to get a taste of the nation's nuanced history." Costume Designer Nicole Clockel, also a KSU alumnus, says, "From the start, (director) Damian and I both agreed we did not want to give this production an 'Uncle Sam on the 4th of July kind of costume.' It feels phony and this show is about giving a fuller picture, so why not give something more than one image of America? However, I did keep the [American] Revolutionary coat style to give the audience something that they immediately connect to George Washington and the beginning of our national history."
Although they are short plays, "45 Plays for 45 Presidents" is still a lot to handle. Some of the biggest challenges came with the scale of the show. "The challenge was juggling all these different balls in the air, as there are over 150 roles and lots of props. I needed to allow everyone's unique skills to shine, but also balance the roles and keep track of the props," says Lockhart.
"I think the most important thing this production communicates," says Clockel, "is that you have to find the facts yourself and get the complete picture before you can make an informed opinion."
As alumni of the university, it can be strange to come back to your roots not as a student, but as a leader. "It feels like a full circle moment," says Lockhart. "I get to do what I love, and mentor students at the same time. It's always a pleasure working with students and seeing them grow right in front of your eyes." As for Clockel, she says, "It is an unusual feeling to work professionally where you once studied to do this. Personally, that dissonance is probably due to me being a completely different person now than I was then. But it's been a change for the better and makes me proud."
Lockhart has become very active in Atlanta's professional theatre scene since graduating Kennesaw State, both as an actor and director. Some credits include: "Midsummer Daydreaming" at KSU, "Atlanta" (FX), "Completeness" at Mask Theatre, and "Twilight Los Angeles: 1992" at KSU. His everyday job is working as a historical interpreter for the Atlanta History Museum where he utilizes Museum Theatre "to teach thousands of students about history throughout the year," says Lockhart.
Clockel, currently Costume Design Assistant for the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, freelances for various groups in the area, including Aurora Theatre and Synchronicity Theatre, where she mounted two productions of "A Year with Frog and Toad." At the Center for Puppetry Arts, she works in the puppet building shop. She adds, "My favorite work has been on their holiday specials: "Ghastly Dreadfuls" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
The play "45 Plays for 45 Presidents" runs from September 24 through September 29, 2019 at the Onyx Theatre on the KSU Kennesaw campus. Please purchase tickets early as seating is very limited; tickets are available at ticketing.kennesaw.edu.