Cusack and Redford Host Special Reading Of 'Don't Blame Me' 10/2

By: Sep. 24, 2008
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West Los Angeles: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Helen Gahagan Douglas” was written by Wendy Kout and Michele Willens and is based Helen Gahagan Douglas’ life. “Don’t Blame Me…” follows Helen from an entitled Republican and successful stage actress to an incorruptible liberal congresswoman who stood for education, internationalism, feminism and integration and finally to the 1950 Senate race where Nixon’s anti-Communist / anti-Semitic smear campaign ended her political career. The October 2 reading will be hosted by Katrina vanden Heuvel to benefit THE NATION Magazine. Robert Redford and John Cusack are Honorary Hosts for the evening. Wendy Malick and Charles Shaughnessy will read. The VP debate will be shown on the big screen before the reading from 6-8 pm and there will be a reception  after the reading in the Landmark Wine Bar. Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.landmarktheatres.com or by calling (310) 470-0492.

“Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas”: Historians say that politics as we know it changed as a result of a California Senate race in 1950.  That’s when a young Richard 

Nixon falsely accused his opponent, the beautiful, three-term liberal congresswoman and ex-Broadway and opera star, Helen Gahagan Douglas, of being a Communist. Nixon earned the name “Tricky Dick,” Helen was dubbed the “Pink Lady.”  He ascended to the Presidency… until Watergate. She was forgotten… until now.

This four actor (one plays multiple roles) play, set in Hollywood and Washington D.C., builds to that dirty, dramatic race while telling the cautionary personal tale of Helen, a flawed and remarkable heroine.    

The play follows Helen’s early life as a pampered, entitled Republican, through her meteoric entertainment career, her love affair and marriage to the dashing actor and Democratic activist, Melvyn Douglas. Nixon is the narrator, a comic and ominous Iago during the first half of the play until he becomes a major political player. Helen’s social conscience and passion for liberal ideals are ignited when she personally encounters the migrant workers of the West.  Melvyn becomes a reluctant movie star, (sparring with the likes of Hedda Hopper and Louis B Mayer) then heads to war, leaving Helen alone with their two children.  Needing a new career challenge, she is elected to the House where she meets the seductive LBJ and becomes a prescient proponent of women’s and civil rights, cancer research, non-proliferation.  Her second term brings in Richard Nixon.

Though the decision threatens Helen’s marriage, she runs for the U.S. Senate against Nixon who emerges as a formidable foe using outrageous campaign tactics against Helen, testing her integrity and political career. 

“Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas” was chosen as an O’Neill Conference Finalist. 

WENDY KOUT/Co-Writer and Producer 
Wendy Kout writes for theatre, film, TV, the web and is VP of Development for Tartikoff/Ebersol Television.   She created and Executive Produced the hit show ANYTHING BUT LOVE for ABC, has written/developed feature and TV projects for Laura Ziskin, Barbra Streisand, Paul Reiser, John Hughes, Universal, Columbia, TriStar, MGM, Disney and Lifetime.  Ms. Kout’s newest play is a comedy entitled NAKED IN ENCINO.  She has served on the Board of The Liberty Hill Foundation in L.A. and the Fund for Santa Barbara, served on the Social Justice Award panel for the Santa Barbara Film Festival and has created and produced fund raising events for grass roots non-profits in both cities.  She lives in Los Angeles with her favorite male writer, Dennis Koenig.    
 
MICHELE WILLENS/Co-Writer and Producer
Michele Willens is a longtime journalist with many articles in the New York Times among other periodicals.  She interviewed Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1973 and has wanted to tell her story in a dramatic fashion ever since.  Ms. Willens’ first play, DEAR MAUDIE, was published last year by Playscripts, Inc. and her newest play is entitled FAMILY DINNER.  She is currently writing a book for Hay House Publishing called BEAUTIFUL FOR LIFE and is Chairman of City Lights

Youth Theatre in New York City where she lives with her husband, DATELINE Executive Producer, David Corvo and their two children.

Photo Credit James Sims



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