Atlanta-born 35-year-old Lauren Gunderson is currently the most produced living American playwright. This award-winning author’s works are known for their wit, intelligence, and heart and the wide range of topics and allusions they incorporate. They have powerful messages, but they convey them in a hilarious way.
Gunderson has said, “I’m a firm believer in comic activism, the kind that attempts to skewer the unfair and thoughtless. When we laugh at idiots, we erode their power. Comedy encourages (demands) that we be vocal in the face of the laughter is our outrage, our change-making, our hope for better.”
When Gunderson was disappointed in the results of the 2016 elections, she wanted to encourage people to laugh rather than to cry. So she allowed theater groups to put on staged readings of one of her political plays royalty-free to generate some Inauguration Day comedy.
The play is called The Taming and is officially described as follows:
Tweetering, pandashrews, and undying giddiness for James Madison — what else could you expect to find at a Miss America pageant? In this hilarious, raucous, all-female “power-play” inspired by Shakespeare’s Shrew, contestant Katherine has political aspirations to match her beauty pageant ambitions. All she needs to revolutionize the American government is the help of one ultra-conservative senator’s aide on the cusp of a career breakthrough, and one bleeding-heart liberal blogger who will do anything for her cause. Well, that and a semi-historically-accurate ether trip. Here’s lookin’ at you, America.
Over 40 theater groups have taken her up on her offer, including Bare Theater here in Triangle NC. This show takes place at 7:30 tonight at the Visual Arts Exchange in Raleigh. It is free, but the group will accept donations for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Let me end with Gunderson’s words about this play and why she was encouraging Inauguration Day readings:
In 2013 I wrote The Taming, an all-female political farce for Crowded Fire Theatre, to unpack the deep frustration of a divided and obstructionist patriarchy, to laugh with the painful truth about extremism on both sides, to toy with our country’s history and wrestle with its foundational imperfections, and to make manifest a dream of reason and understanding prevailing in America. That feels more necessary now than three years ago.
I believe that stories well told can accomplish a pretty magical feat: transporting us into the hearts and minds of others. Theatre specifically requires us to show up and participate in the story and feel the particular power of congregation as well as catharsis. The communal embrace of theatre was always an ancient way of processing politics, society, and great change. I believe it still is.