with excerpts by Hutch Pimentel, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Observer and HILLARY AND CLINTON Assistant Director Kevin Reyes
KEVIN REYES: Audiences attending Hillary and Clinton may well be confused when they walk into the theatre and see two actors who look nothing like their real-world counterparts portraying the characters of Hillary and Bill. This, however, is all according to plan.
HUTCH PIMENTAL: On the first day of rehearsal, after we read through the script for the first time, playwright Lucas Hnath made a quick announcement: “Throw out your dramaturgy packets. They won’t be helpful. They might actually be harmful.” What we thought we knew about the world we were creating would not serve us.
The intention of this is to create an experience called “stereoscopic theatricality”. “It’s a terribly pretentious term,” Lucas said in The Wall Street Journal. “But if you tell people, ‘Here’s a person you already know,’ and then you do some things contrary to the image they hold in their heads, there’s a dissonance. And if you can get audiences to hold both of these images in their mind at once, something exciting and mind-expanding and psychically beneficial happens. It’s uncanny and titillating all at once.”
REYES: To answer the playwright’s call, Victory Gardens went out of the way to cast these roles with actors who look nothing like their real-life counterparts. At the outset of the show, a black woman walks onto the stage and announces herself as Hillary Clinton.
This lets universality of the text resonate in ways that wouldn’t be possible if we were simply ascribing these characters’ words to people doing imitations of them. By having actors who represent a broader swath of America, we can see how Lucas’ story speaks for any person who has ever felt deep love for another and deep ambition for themselves.
PIMENTAL: The brunt of this weight falls on the actors, to maintain a suspension of disbelief in a world that is so far separated from the world they inhabit. They have to hold themselves differently and modify their speech patterns to inhabit the world that’s been created by Lucas. Lucas has written in every moment in which a breath or pause is taken. The rhythm of speech must be followed to a “t”. Once the actors unlocked the rhythm, and the whole play was laid out in front of them, it was beautiful to behold.
REYES: We throw everything we know about the Clintons in our world out the window, and let whatever details are provided in the written text come back in to create our versions of the characters. This allows the actors the freedom to discover Hillary and Bill anew. Through this discovery, audiences may find that by the end of the play, they not only know the Clintons more intimately than they ever have in the past 25 years, but they know a little bit more about themselves as well.
HILLARY AND CLINTON is playing now through May 1 only. CLICK HERE for more information.