JoyDad & I had the immense good fortune last Friday to attend the premiere of a brand new play last weekend, The Lamentable Tragedie of Scott Walker, Govnour of Wisconsin. The playwright and director is a friend from church -- and also our favorite Elvis impersonator -- and we'd been hearing for weeks about the play from various angles within the congregation: the writing, several of the actors, the props, the costuming (including Republican codpieces aplenty!)
Though we weren't able to assist with any of the requested props, nor lend our acting talents, we did get a back-channel participation request right from the start. Would we be willing, the playwright asked, to lend him our story for use in the play? We were glad to say him "aye," trusting that he'd do right by us, reflecting what the Wisconsin budget means for us and others like us, and why we've raised our voices as we have. We didn't get much in the way of updates after that, a brief hint or two about who we'd turned into, and then the last update made it sound as if the final product had morphed quite far afield of any JoyFamily roots.
In the final weeks of preparation, JoyDad ended up contributing a recorded guitar solo for an original song, so we knew he'd have at least that presence in the production!
Lots of anticipation as we left Rose & Joy with yet another pair of friends from our congregation, to go see how the Lamentable Tragedie would represent what has happened in our state since February.
It well exceeded my high expectations.
The play takes the form of "Fakespeare," telling the Wisconsin 2011 story in lively Bardic borrowings and transformations. This English-major would see it again just for the thrill of trying to keep track of how many snippets from the canon I could identify! The tragically over-reaching, self-absorbed yet un-self-aware Walker character wreaks his administration upon the state of Wisconsin, eminently recognizable as our governor, with moments as Hamlet, Macbeth, and even Juliet! (Believe me, it works. Just go with it.)
A small but multi-talented cast of characters, gloriously costumed in multiple roles, ably represented state senators on both sides of the aisle, protesters and other Capitol denizens.
And then there was a touch of Dickens among the Shakespeare, a little Cratchit-ish family where the hard-working father is a non-partisan public employee (who plays a mean electric lyre), and the Tiny Tim-ish character relies on Medical Assistance, and the mother finds herself giving testimony that is openly ignored by the powers that be. And yes, my moment on the barrel with a bullhorn gets a nod as well. We were definitely recognizable to ourselves, and to friends as well.
Even without the interweaving of personal elements, I'd have been bowled over by this play, and how well it evokes what happened (and is still happening) here. The dialogue is wickedly funny and clever, and manages not just to bring a powerful critique of the Walker administration, but swipe at protester and senatorial foibles on the left as well, making the heroes all the more heroic as they eventually band together.
The glimpses of JoyFamily on that small, spare stage made me feel simultaneously both proud and very much aware of being a small, small part in the larger play that is working out on the stage of Madison, and Wisconsin, even now. That larger play is still being written, and will take a dramatic turn in one way or another on Tuesday with the recall elections as six Republican senators, who have been marching in lock-step with Walker, must answer to the voting public.
On Saturday morning, JoyDad and I were still thinking on the Lamentable Tragedie, and singing hey, nonny nonny. And we had an Elvis-sighting at the breakfast table. Joy clearly echoed "nonny, nonny." Just once, but it was definitely there.
Thank you, Doug, and players and participants all!