With a consequential national election mere days away, TheatreWorks is bringing the office of the American presidency into sharp focus with its production of House Arrest: A Search for American Character in and Around the White House, Past and Present. Written by playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith, House Arrest is a series of intriguing and engaging monologues cultivated from Smith’s extensive research and interviews conducted with well-known political figures, citizens and political commentators in the 1990s.
“Starting with Jefferson through Lincoln, and then moving into the 20th century and culminating with Clinton, the play examines the intersections of celebrity, race, gender, power and the press as they come together around the American presidency,” says Caitlin Lowans, TheatreWorks’ artistic director. “It’s such an important conversation now. To have this piece provide the context to say, ‘These questions aren’t new, they’re woven into the fabric of America,’ is essential.”
Lowans says the timing of the play, just before the Nov. 3 election, is “absolutely intentional. We considered this play when originally planning our in-person season last fall. Then, this fall, as the election, the pandemic and the movement for racial justice were all continuing to dominate our national discourse, this work seemed perfect.”
Timing aside, Lowans has other reasons to be excited about the show. In particular, the new virtual format allowed TheatreWorks to engage with two directors who might not have been accessible in a normal rehearsal setting.
“One of the silver linings of rehearsing over Zoom was being able to invite in a director from Chicago and another from Boston and have them get to know our local acting community.”
Lowans also has high praise for the six local directors and 16 actors who have come together in unconventional times to bring this work to the virtual stage. TheatreWorks has experienced the same struggles as many other performing arts organizations in recent months, including staff furloughs and an inability to provide work to the many freelance artists it typically supports throughout the year. The opportunity to take the stage once more with a meaningful and timely performance has been inspiring.
“We want folks to have a historical context for the current moment, to create richer jumping-off points in their conversations and their thinking about the choices they’ll make on Nov. 3. I also hope they’ll be fed by the creative contribution of the artists, and eager to support our performers during what’s been a very difficult time.”
The play opened in digital format on Oct. 22, but there is still time to catch it before it closes on Sunday, Nov. 1. Lowans says that attendees can expect a simple visual environment dominated by fantastic acting and thought-
provoking questions. Audience members can easily stream from any device that uses Vimeo wherever they choose to settle in. Best of all, it’s financially accessible — a must in these trying times.
“Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at UCCS, attendees can choose whether to pay $0, $10 or $20 for the same experience. So, folks can see this for free or choose to pay in a way that supports future TheatreWorks programming,” says Lowans.
Streaming through Sunday, Nov. 1, free-$20, uccspresents.org