I made an impromptu visit to Seattle last weekend, and saw “Control: A Living Newspaper” by the innovative Strawberry Theatre Workshop. I had attended a play a couple years ago that they did using Woody Guthrie songs and human-size puppets, attired in Depression-era costumes, which I loved.
The living newspaper genre is rarely seen nowadays, but I would like to see it more often. Wikipedia’s Living Newspaper has a good description. It’s hard to imagine nowadays, that in the depths of the Depression, that community theatre was seen as a worthwhile investment by those implementing the New Deal, but it was, in the form of the Federal Theatre Project. The genre favors social action, as you can see by some of the 1930s-era titles: Triple-A Plowed Under, Injunction Granted, One-Third of a Nation, Power, and Spirochete. And yes, Spirochete was about syphilis, a huge public health concern then. As the project continued, it did run into conflict with the government that funded it.
The propagandistic possibilities of the Living Newspaper genre were obvious to the Bolsheviks, who invented the form.
“Control” is about gun control, and there is no shortage of articles, statistics, and opinions on that subject. The characters read snippets of articles to each other in semi-natural conversations. They even enacted a Jeopardy parody, which revealed that Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon spoke out in favor of gun control. The character of “man-that-Dick-Cheney-shot-in-the-face” did satire very well. The hardest article to hear, I think, was taken from an article by Veronique Pozner, mother of Noah, who was shot at Sandy Hill Elementary in 2013.
But unbearably sad and poignant moments overlapped with ridiculous moments as well. I was either surprised or not to find that Zombie Max bullets are a real thing. Check out the ad and video for yourself: http://www.hornady.com/ammunition/zombiemax
There was no resolution at the end of this play. The “Open Carry” movement was touched upon. President Madison returned to the stage to give his opinion about the Constitution, almost 240 years later. I enjoyed the novel presentation, learned a lot, but would have welcomed an audience discussion afterwards (and it may have happened on other performances).