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BWW Review: WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME at Guthrie Theater

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The production runs until October 24th.

What the Constitution Means to Me, written by Heidi Schreck, and directed by Oliver Butler, inspires its audience to examine their relationship with the constitution and its ever-changing application to everyday life. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2019, Schreck's unique experiences as a teen debate participant, and other life experiences, provide context for how the constitution impacts every single person in this country.

The play opens with the show's first-person narrator, Heidi Schrek (portrayed by Cassie Beck), giving context for the play. Heidi shares her life experiences through acting as her fifteen-year-old self and her current, forty-something-year-old self. While weaving through these lenses, Heidi Schreck sheds light on how the constitution applies to her life in both contexts. Heidi Schreck specifically focuses on how the Ninth and Fourteenth amendments impact her life and the lives of others.

This play inspires conversation. First of all, Schrek's writing and Beck's captivating performance make it feel as if the audience and Heidi are having an intimate conversation. Her candor, humor, and transparency leave audience members feeling like a close friend just seconds after the lights dim. Secondly, subject matter like generational trauma, women's rights, and of course, the application of the constitution to everyday life push the audience members to begin an inner dialogue as to how their experiences relate to those of Schrek's.

There are countless moments throughout the play when the audience audibly relates to Schreck's realizations about the constitution. It's clear that the themes resonate with people from all walks of life, but specifically with those whose lives have been limited by the constraints of the constitution. Schrek expertly shares stories that prove: "The constitution doesn't tell you all the rights that you have...because it doesn't know." These ambiguities are often tragic for those who weren't included in this 200-year-old document, and Schreck's script honors those who deserve better.

Cassie Beck is absolutely captivating in the role of Heidi Schreck. Her humor is endearing, and her storytelling is impeccable; she seamlessly takes on the role of Heidi, making each of Heidi's seem like they're her own. Mike Iveson, a member of the original Broadway cast, stuns with the role of the Legionnaire and his experiences of toxic masculinity.

The second part of the play includes a live debate between Beck and a current debate student. This night, it was Emilyn Toffler, an actor and debater from Los Angeles. Toffler, still a high school student, engages the audience with their impressive skills. This was the most magical part of the play. At one point during the show, Schreck mentions that the younger generations are perhaps shining light into the dark parts of the past to light the way forward into the future. Toffler is quite literally the epitome of this idea; future generations are in impeccably capable hands if people like Toffler are leading the way.

What the Constitution Means to Me is an extraordinarily relevant play. It's the perfect way for the Guthrie to begin its return to live theater. It's inspiring, intriguing, and stimulating, which is exactly what audiences need after such an extensive break from the gift of live theater.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus


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