As you might guess, the writers of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents did A LOT of research in the process of drafting the original script. Every play was based on a slew of facts we collected about the man, the time period, etc. – and the play has undergone a series of revisions in the past ten years.
Each writer had their own process for data collection – and with hindsight, I wish I’d kept better records of why I made certain choices in plays, the links I was using, books I had referenced, etc. If you asked me about a particular play, I could absolutely tell you what nuggets of information inspired the eventual draft in the script, what form the revision process took, what each element in the scene means or represents, and why I chose the facts I did. But I don’t necessarily have careful lists of all the sources I used, nor can I always trace the direct path that lead to the decisions I made.
What is funny – and sort of amazing – to me is that even after ten years, we’re still finding things we need to tweak. Not only do certain Presidents and presidencies look different over time, but also certain facts or common knowledge become refuted, challenged, debunked. Or in some cases, we just got it wrong and all the fact-checkers up to that point happened to miss the same thing we missed.
So… the next time we send a round of updates to Playscripts, they will include two minor tweaks that have arisen from those involved in the Festival doing their own fact-checking and research and eventually writing to us to say, “Hey, are you sure this is right?”
Bilal Dardai, who is currently performing in 44 Plays… at The Neo-Futurists, questioned the bathtub line in Fillmore based on research he found suggesting the information was based on a hoax perpetrated by H. L. Mencken in 1917. At the time of writing the show, both the hoax info and non-hoax info was available… with the majority of information seeming to support the idea that the hoax story might actually be a hoax. However, with more resources and minds available ten years later, the viability of the Mencken hoax story seems much more clear - and so we’ll be updating the script to reflect the latest available facts.
Dave Rabinow, a member of Elemental Theatre Collective and former improv colleague of Andy Bayiates, wrote to question the reference to Cleveland as “Uncle Jimbo” instead of “Uncle Jumbo.” This one is harder for me to figure out and seems to be a downright error on my part that no one until Dave has happened to catch and question! Cleveland’s nickname is indeed noted as Uncle Jumbo in a variety of sources – and they seem rather trustworthy ones at that.
So those are at least two changes required in future drafts… and of course, all of the authors continually look to improve our sections of the play; remain aware of the cultural, social, and political lenses by which the individual scenes and play as a whole are viewed; and look to ultimately ensure we’ve got a good, solid piece of theatre we can offer up to willing producers because we’re confident it will impact audiences.
If you notice errors, question facts and info, or just have general questions – don’t ever hesitate to email us! We’re nerds at heart and ultimately want to make sure all the info noted in the play is correct and clear. And because history and memory are somewhat fickle, we understand that this play especially has the capacity and perhaps the necessity to evolve over time.
(We also love to talk shop.)