44 PLAYS FOR 44 PRESIDENTS
by Andrew Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo- Bayiates, Chloë Johnston, and Karen Weinberg
September 20 - October 7, 2012
Directed by Jennifer Uphoff Gray
Featuring UW Madison Theater Professor Patrick Sims, Milwaukee actors Jonathan West, Matt Daniels, Georgina McKee and Marcella Kearns
From Chicago’s acclaimed Neo-Futurists comes a hilarious, and decidedly non-partisan jaunt through the lives of the 44 Commanders-in-Chief, from George Washington to Barack Obama. Using comedy, drama, dance, and music, five actors conjure a theatrical experience that recounts, in chronological order, the entire history of our country’s highest office. A timely primer on the context and significance of the impending vote, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents entertains as it educates, but don't worry — there’s no final exam at the end. Unless you count the election, that is.
“If Jon Stewart, the Smothers Brothers, and the League of Women Voters invaded the Hall of Presidents at Disney World, the results might resemble this play.”
—David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times
Sponsored by: CUNA Mutual Group, Custer Financial Services, The Burish Group of UBS Financial Services Inc., and Isthmus
Forward Theater Company's production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, will be complemented by a multi-media art exhibit in the Playhouse Gallery at Overture titled "44 Presidents by 44+ Artists." It features presidential portraits by 48 diverse local artists who work in photography, painting, print making, paper and collage, fiber art, computer graphics, and other media.
“Last year’s photography and fiber art exhibit in conjunction with Forward’s production of A Thousand Words was a great success. The possibility of a similar exhibit to accompany 44 Plays for 44 Presidents this season was too exciting an opportunity to pass up,” said David Wells, who coordinated and curated both of the exhibitions.
In March 2012 the call for artists went out throughout the state. “The initial idea,” Wells continued, “was to have a single piece inspired by each president, done by a different local artist. As we invited artists, it was clear that many were interested in participating, so instead of cutting off at 44, we included more.”
In April, the artists met in Madison to learn about Forward Theater’s production of 44 Plays and to choose the name of a past or present U.S. President (or a 2012 presidential candidate) as her/his subject. The only requirement was that all works should measure 16” x 20”.
“For most of them,” Wells explained, “the first half of the project was research and the second half was finding an appropriate way to distill what they’d learned into a piece that would reflect the artist’s personal style. In some cases, the artists chose a style significantly different from their normal work. It has been exciting to see their interpretations, hear comments about the project, and see the immense creativity of our local artists.”
“Forward has prided itself from the beginning as an organization that engages our community on multiple levels,” said Jennifer Uphoff Gray, Forward Theater’s Artistic Director and director of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents. “The artists I’ve spoken to were extremely excited and challenged by the project, and we can hardly wait to share what they created!”
Gwen Rice, Communications Director for Forward Theater agreed. “The great thing about this collaboration is that we're not only introducing our audience to the work of Wisconsin artists, the artists are also getting the chance to know us better. And the art exhibit is in a public place -- Overture Center for the Arts -- so Forward will have a presence in the building even when we're not performing. After the production is over, the art exhibit will move to the Sundance Cinemas Gallery, so again, our collaboration lives on after the final bows, and is presented to more and more people. It's a really gratifying way to share our art.”
The "44 Presidents by 44+ Artists" exhibit will move to Sundance Cinemas at the end of October and will be exhibited there through January 2013 - from the election through the inauguration of the next president.
The exhibit was made possible by Overture Center for the Arts; the Pleasant Rowland Great Performance Fund for Theater, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation; Dane Arts; the Terry Family Foundation; and the Madison Arts Commission, with funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board.
Artists participating in the exhibit include: Brenda Baker, Tom Barry, Marcus Benavides, Randall Berndt, Derrick Buisch, Barry Carlsen, Terri Colamatteo, Juliette Crane, Bruce Crownover, Reece Donihi, Scott Espeseth, Jane Fasse, Doug Fath, Julie Ganser, Susan Gardels, Teresa Getty, Renee Gouaux, John Hitchcock, Tracy Honn, Sally Hutchison, Jayne Reid Jackson, Niki Johnson, Tom Jones, Carolyn Kallenborn, Amy Lambright Murphy, Ryan Lawless, Scott Lesh, Tom Linfield, B. Tracy Madison, Tom Miller, Trent Miller, Maren Munoz, Brandon Norsted, Liese Pfeifer, Bill Pielsticker, Georgene Pomplun, Kalpana Prakash, Paul Baker Prindle, Linda Putz, Aliza Rand, Bird Ross, Andrew Rubin, Jason Ruhl, Mark Salisbury, Katrin Talbot, Chris Thomas, Nicholas Tisdale, Paul Tourdot, Michael Velliquette, and David Wells.