I’ve known a few people in my life who have met a President. And what do they say? “He was so nice. He shook my hand and let me tell him about….” Because what do we want from our Presidents? Beyond the politics, like any celebrity we want to identify with them somehow.
I’ve never met a President, but I did meet David Sedaris — stay with me here. As he signed my book for my friend Julie he asked, “now who’s Julie?” There was my moment: an invitation to become a raconteur to my favorite raconteur. I unloaded on him about our shared appreciation of his writing, as well as an outlandish story (I’ll save you the gory details). He laughed, finished signing my wife’s book, and as we traipsed away he said, “I love stories like that.” David Sedaris was suddenly much more real to me than a the words on a page or a voice on the radio.
44 Plays for 44 Presidents allows us to identify with our Presidents by contextualizing their decisions, their tensions, and their personal life. We are allowed to humanize legendary figures like Lincoln and sympathize with Presidents we never knew much about — like Pierce.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean to trivialize the Presidency to merely celebrity — and seeing a President portrayed is much different than meeting one in person, but dare I say it, one of the greatest strengths of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents is that it levels the playing field of history so that we can connect to these Presidents on the same plateau. That is why it is so exciting that currently 31 productions of this play are in the works across the country. Between production, performance, and audiences I hope we can all meet on the same plateau, and see some of the President in ourselves — or vice versa!