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From the annals of scandal 

Star Bar rakes the dirt of America's quiz-show era

click to enlarge So, I won all of Ben Stein's money. What now?
  • So, I won all of Ben Stein's money. What now?

Mark Hennessy, with his earnest charm and clear blue eyes, reminds me of a younger version of the Ronald Reagan I watched on television as a child.

Hennessy is the art director for Star Bar Players and directs the theater company's new play, Night and Her Stars, which explores the quiz-show controversies of the 1950s. Just like it reads in the scandal annals, the producer coaches the contestants, causing American viewers to fall in love with the photogenic Charles Van Doren, who eventually replaces the long-time champion Herb Stempel.

"We don't have any royalty in this country," says Hennessy. "Our royalty comes from who we deem worthy. Right now, we deem celebrities and sports figures the most worthy ... we want them to live up to a certain way of life. When they fall, we all want them to find their way back."

How true. This probably explains my urge to jump into my favorite sweatpants and drink hot cocoa while Hennessy gently explains trickle-down economics to me. Tell me sweet little lies.

Hennessy is also interested in exploring the relationship between television and the audience.

"What you're basically doing every time you turn on the TV [is] opening up the front door and saying, "Come on in. I'm allowing you into my world.'"

Hennessy uses a large television set as the backdrop for the play. The play's audience will become a television audience, trusting what the viewers of the '50s trusted, letting the characters into their lives.

Like voodoo economics, but way more fun, the play promises to be the betrayal of a lifetime.

Capsule

Night and Her Stars

Lon Chaney Theater, 221 E. Kiowa St.

Oct. 27, 8 p.m.; Oct. 28, 2 p.m.; Nov. 3, 10 and 11, 8 p.m.; Nov. 5 and 12, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $15; call 573-7411 or visit starbarplayers.org for more information.

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