Review by Val O’Bryan, Front Row Reviewers
What the Constitution Means to Me is a play written by Heidi Schreck and a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play is simultaneously a personal memoir and a broader exploration of the United States Constitution. The play opens in a very informal and conversational way, with Heidi (Jenny Greer) explaining that she is recreating what she remembers of her experience as a teenage debater. The house lights are still on when the conversation starts, so audiences feel like they get an inside view. Heidi explains she won scholarship money by giving speeches about the Constitution, paying for her way to college. As she revisits her memories, she delves into the historical context and impact of the Constitution, examining its effects on various individuals, particularly women. She is telling the story of her family and showing how connected it is to the story of our country.
Greer plays a vulnerable and dynamic Heidi, willing to show us the parts of her story that bring her immense pain. Although Heidi usually addresses the audience in her explanations, an American Legionnaire (Brandon Bruce), serving as the debate official, sits to the side, reacting to her recollections with a lot of silent expression. Bruce brings authenticity to his character, giving visual facial queues to what he is thinking, although he doesn’t respond to the horrors he is listening to. Throughout the play, Heidi interweaves her personal stories with broader discussions on constitutional issues, including women’s rights, immigration, and the 14th Amendment. These are the stories families don’t like to talk about. Likewise, these are the stories that our nation leaves out of textbooks.
In the second half of the play, Heidi debates a high school student (Mercedes Murguia) over the question of whether to abolish the U.S. Constitution. The high school debater is young and passionate as she makes her arguments, reminding the audience of the hopefulness (and audacity!) of youth. The audience plays a part in this debate, so listen carefully because you might be asked to act as the debate jury and determine the verdict!
Something unique to What the Constitution Means to Me is director Zoe Aja Moore’s vision for how the audience slides out of reality and into Heidi’s memories and then the gradual steps the characters take to bring the audience back into reality. The use of sound, operated by Tyler Christensen and designed by Joshua France, is strategic. Before the show starts, audience members enjoy music by Dolly Parton and more. These songs connect to Heidi, her context, and the play themes. Heidi gently invites the audience into her memories with the help of lighting designed by Paul “Beatle” Ring. The beginning of the show features Heidi reflecting on her younger self with the Legionnaire judge serving as a silent observer of her stories. As the show continues, Heidi shifts from her younger self to her present self, and the Legionnaire shifts from a silent observer to a supportive friend. When Mercedes joins the cast, she contributes the voice of the upcoming generation to the mix. After the debate, despite seemingly insurmountable differences (ages, generations, experiences, opposing sides), Heidi and Mercedes talk and make connections as they converse. Despite many differences, these two individuals have more in common than they seem. Everything comes full circle when the two women sing “Landslide,” written by Stevie Nicks. This show not mere entertainment. This show is a memoir, a question, and a call to action.
What the Constitution Means to Me dives into a thought-provoking examination of the strengths and limitations of the Constitution, prompting the audience to reflect on its relevance and impact on contemporary society. What the Constitution Means to Me was nominated for many awards and won several, receiving critical acclaim for its combination of personal storytelling, social commentary, and engagement with the fundamental principles of the American legal system.
What does the Constitution mean to you? Consider your story with Heidi at The Center for the Arts at Kayenta.
Center for the Arts at Kayenta presents What the Constitution Means to Me, by Heidi Schreck.
The Lorraine Boccardo Theater, 881 Coyote Gulch Cir, Ivins, UT 84738
Plays on select dates until November 18, 2023, 3:00 PM and 7:30 PM
Contact: (435) 674-2787
What the Constitution Means to Me promo video