Theater In Asylum Hosts Watch Party Of November 20 Democratic Primary Presidential Debates
The New York-based theater company, Theater in Asylum (TIA), will host another watch party of the democratic primary debates on at the bar the Gray Mare in the East Village as part of TIA's The Debates, staged adaptations of U.S. presidential election debates.
Free and open to the public, the Watch Parties are the first step in the process of creating The Debates. With mimicry, abstraction, and earnest curiosity, The Debates aims to illuminate the candidates, their policies, and their characters. The work pushes through the language of politics and of politicians that can so often be opaque and exclusive. It encourages the audience to engage and debate, and to not just let the elites and insiders discourse on citizens' behalf.
During the watch parties attendees are invited to participate in a game of candidate bingo. Members of Theater in Asylum will also be on hand to register people to vote. Attendees can watch the debates with minimal distractions and purchase drinks and food at the bar.
Created by Theater in Asylum (TIA), The Debates is a process of adapting U.S. presidential election debates into theatrical performances. After watching a debate, TIA artists and community members gather to analyze it, and create an original performance based on it. Throughout the process, participants speak lines from the debate, imitate candidates' gestures, invent scenes that provide context or history, and analyze the candidates the way an actor would a character in a play. Behind the scenes, every word and assertion (whether from the debate transcript or generated by the participants) is rigorously fact checked by a team of dramaturgs. All sources are noted in our publicly available script. The Debates aims to empower audiences to engage with the democratic process with knowledge and confidence.
The Debates had its earliest experiment in the summer of 2015 with the Lab Company at Ithaca's Hangar Theater. While serving as a Drama League Directing Fellow, Paul Bedard, TIA Co-Artistic Director, led students in an experimental staging of the infamous 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon. The following fall and winter, the company expanded the project further with a series of shows based on the Democratic Primary debates for the 2016 election. In an interview with Howlround, Paul Bedard stated that, "There is so much information in an election year. I believe it is the artist's duty to help make sense of it all, not with more information, but with interpretation, narrative, color, sound, story. Art helps us understand the stakes, the context, and the humanity within the chaos."
The work surrounding the 2016 election primaries culminated in a compilation piece presented at the Kraine Theater in NYC in April 2016 right before the New York State Primaries. New York Magazine's Bedford + Bowery hailed the show as "the perfect capsule of our surreal political culture... The actors seem to transform before your eyes, from a spot-on hunched-over Bernie impersonation to a frozen-lipped Hillary, swaying like a tipsy sailor." NY City Lens remarked, "Not only was The Debates-a play that amused and educated a full house at the Kraine Theater on the eve of the primary elections-about politics. It was politics."
Following the success of The Debates in New York, TIA held workshops of the piece at Muhlenberg College and Butler University and performed the complete work at the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia and The Hartford Carriage House in Hartford. The Hartford Courant wrote that, "This was the way to spend the nervous hours before voting began on Tuesday... Forthright, in-your-face, up-to-the-minute."
Most recently, AMNY covered the current iteration of The Debates.
THEATER IN ASYLUM (TIA) is a New York-based theater company founded in 2010 to provide asylum to highly charged subjects and characters. With ensemble-driven performance we investigate to inspire engagement, empathy, and action. We seek a freer world and believe theater is both the means and the ends.