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Election-season theater offerings

Theaters get presidential with these fall campaigns.

 (Photograph: courtesy of Bailiwick Chicago)
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Photograph: courtesy of Bailiwick Chicago

Pre-production photo for Bailiwick Chicago's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

 (Photograph: courtesy of Carol Fox & Associates)
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Photograph: courtesy of Carol Fox & Associates

Cast members of Assassins at the Viaduct Theater

 (Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent)
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Photograph: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent

44 Plays for 44 Presidents at the Neo-Futurists

Assassins No actual presidents appear in Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s 1990 musical, which instead looks at the office via the lens of the men and women who’ve tried to (and sometimes did) kill the commander in chief. Assassins ranging from Charles Guiteau (who killed James Garfield) to Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore (who made separate attempts on Gerald Ford’s life) interact at a fairground shooting gallery, in what Sondheim has called “a dreamlike vaudeville.” Director Billy Pacholski saw a production of Assassins last year in San Francisco and was inspired to revive the show in Chicago for election season. “We’re stripping away a lot of that vaudeville and carnival aesthetic off of it, down to a very human-scaled production,” says Pacholski, who’s mounting the musical as an independent production. He cites the tea party and Occupy movements as corresponding signs of the times. “You listen to the rhetoric and it’s people who are really angry without really knowing who to be angry at, which parallels the stories of a lot of the presidential assassins.” Wed 10–Nov 10. Viaduct Theater (assassins-chicago.com).

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson “It’s definitely a fictional account. I call it kind of a modern-day fantasia on a historical theme,” Scott Ferguson says of the cult-hit 2008 musical by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman. So you’re saying our seventh President wasn’t really a twentysomething rocker in skinny jeans and emo eyeliner? “It’s what I’m calling modern-day vaudeville,” says Ferguson, who directs the show’s Midwest premiere for Bailiwick Chicago. “Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, and he was also famous for going against Congress—he was the first President to go, No, I’m in charge, I’m the People’s President. The whole idea of the deadlock between Congress and the President is very relevant.” As the show’s opening number says, “Populism, Yea, Yea!” Thu 4–Nov 10. National Pastime Theater (bailiwickchicago.com).

ElectionFest 2012 Pine Box Theater has signed up a dozen playwrights, including Laura Eason, Sarah Gubbins, Nambi E. Kelley and Paul Oakley Stovall, to get explicitly political for this festival of new ten-minute plays digging into our polarized landscape. “It came up when we were talking about these interactions we’d seen on Facebook between people who were completely in opposition,” says Susan Bowen, who’s producing the festival with Catherine Allen. Such dialogues seem to happen more in social media than offline, Bowen notes, since we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded friends in real life. “How great that could be if more of those [conversations] could happen between people who don’t necessarily agree but are forced to be in the same room.” Oct 22–30. Theater Wit (theaterwit.org).

44 Plays for 44 Presidents The Neo-Futurists revisit a 2001 hit (it was 43 Plays then, obvs) that uses Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind’s cheeky mini-play aesthetic to say hail to every chief from Washington to Obama. “Part of the reason we even considered [remounting] it was the scope of the larger project going on nationwide,” cast member Bilal Dardai says. He’s referring to the Plays for Presidents Festival, masterminded by Neo alum Andy Bayiates, who set out to secure no fewer than 44 election-year productions of the show at professional theaters, colleges and high schools across the country. The project culminates in simultaneous election-night events and a composite video production to be posted online. “The thing that’s amazing,” Dardai says, “is how many things echo, how many things will be surprising to audiences to look at a certain President and go, Wow, that’s strangely similar to things from five years ago.” Thu 4–Nov 10. Neo-Futurarium (neofuturists.org).

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