Another Family Play With Politics Coursing Through

It’s not much of a stretch to hop from the Joseph Family of Amy Herzog’s After The Revolution, to the Apple family of Richard Nelson’s quartet of “Apple Family Plays,” the first installment of which began previews this week at Studio Theatre with That Hopey Changey Thing, a play originally written for The Public Theater in New York and commissioned to open on the very night on which it was set, election night, November 2, 2010.AppleNew1 Our student subscribers and I attended the second preview and met with director Serge Seiden after the performance. We’ll be back next Thursday night as well for part II, Sweet and Sad. I shared my micro impressions right after the show on facebook:

…Beautiful writing, acting, producing and all the rich Chekhovian affect one could hope for save the element of any interior plot development. Lots of inroads to character, but their action-lines? Like the extended dinner conversation that comprises the time span of the play, themes develop and recede; life and manners and political and social mores are revealed and then…? It’s all to be continued in the next installment. And then the next… Lovely and stimulated all the same, and sharply political in the debates it chooses to pursue–as well as richly meta-theatrical. Made me wanna write and write, and that’s the best compliment I can give a play–to wanna emulate it.

Jeremy Webb, Kimberly Schraff, Sarah Marshall, Ted van Griethuysen, Elizabeth Pierotti and Rick Foucheux at Studio Theatre

Jeremy Webb, Kimberly Schraff, Sarah Marshall, Ted van Griethuysen, Elizabeth Pierotti and Rick Foucheux at Studio Theatre

Now an opportunity to hear from others. As we look forward to our return visit in just a few days!


31 thoughts on “Another Family Play With Politics Coursing Through

  1. I greatly enjoyed Studio Theatre’s production of “That Hopey Changey Thing”, but cannot exactly say why. Perhaps it was sometime about the ease with which it seemed to depict the many different political impacts that Obama’s election, and as an extension, elections more generally can have on peoples’ politics, and the rest of their lives even, or the comfortable familiarity that the cast seemed to display with one another, transforming the play for me into something much more real, more concrete. Expanding on the latter idea, I found this feeling of closeness that each character exhibited, or in the case of Tim did not exhibit, to greatly add to the play and felt that it allowed me to much more easily take in the production as though as I actually observing a family’s dynamic relationship(s). By doing this I feel that it not only exposed the rifts that often emerge between family members when politics are concerned much more effectively and convincingly than it perhaps otherwise would have, but also feel that it helped to illuminate the manifold, lasting issues that an individual family member’s illness can take on the family unit as whole, almost seeming at times as though the rest of what goes on outside of that person’s illness is only ancillary and all that really matters is what happens with them. For instance, it was quite interesting to observe how the entire cast stopped what they were doing to listen more closely to some of the conversations between Uncle Benjamin and Tim, or how one of the few constants throughout the play was how Uncle Benjamin constantly had to be reminded of how Oliver had been put down, or certain other aspects of his life, something that is of course frustrating for those who have to do the reminding, but each of the characters did remind him, even at moments when they were engaged in arguments or dialogues with others. In a word, Uncle Benjamin seemed to be the nexus around which the play’s action took place, despite the fact that he spoke scant few words during the play, a dynamic that I can relate to and one that I found quite interesting.

    • Hey Joe! I’m wondering what your opinion is of the point the in the play when a member of the family decided to play along with the Uncle’s lapses of memory about Oliver? Was it simply a cop-out so that they wouldn’t have a sad moment of realization for the millionth time that week? Or was it a more conscious smoothing over of a hopeless situation. Did it show a giving up and moving on from trying to nurse Uncle back to health? Does it show a greater need in the family to move on from their differences instead of having the same argument over and over again? I’m not quite sure if the scene was quite as deliberate as I have taken it to be. I just know that it struck me deeply that there was a sudden secret that the kids were hiding from the Uncle in contrast to the secrets that the Uncle seems to be carrying for the kids’ deceased father.

  2. This past weekend was a very appropriate time to see “That Hopey Changey Thing.” With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, many of us are anticipating a family dinner with our beloved crazy, conspiracy lover Uncle Joes where no topic of conversation will be off limits, politics included.

    I predicted an assault on the conservative revolt of 2010 upon hearing the title, a phrase coined by Tea Party darling Sarah Palin but Serge Seiden does anything but, aside from the collective outburst of disgust when her name is first spoken at the dinner table. The play examines the current Democratic president and the underwhelming dissatisfaction that has since permeated since his momentous election in 2010 2008. The collective message from the dinner table seems to be that Republicans are bad but Democrats are not any better. This is symbolized when Uncle Ben goes to vote. He come back from the voting booth not knowing who he voted for and this detail goes by the wayside when he returns to dinner; who he voted for does not matter. The play has withstood the test of time in that Sarah Palin is still as snarky as ever. But the ebbs and flows of the dinner table conversation left me wanting more. Nothing said by this overall even-keeled family struck me as refreshing or provocative. I concede that political banter may have served only an ancillary role in the production but as soon at the dialogue would enticingly indulge me, it quickly receded.

    One small critique I have of the play is that no one in the family, especially Marian, the elementary school teacher and fiery liberal majordomo, appeared to be remotely interested in the results of the election. This seems at odds with her character development. It is easy to become ingratiated by Mrs. Apple whose paranoia about being a research subject for Jane’s book on American manners in quite comical. I look forward to returning to Studio Theatre in the coming week.

  3. The production of the first of the Apple Family Plays, That Hopey Changey Thing, provided our class with another experience to examine a family’s interactions. However, this play struck me with a wave of nostalgia that I have not experienced in any other productions from this semester. Uncle Ben reminded me so much of my own grandfather. Uncle Ben’s past successes, countless roles, and endless memories were slowly being sucked out of him. I watched the same process occur with my grandfather, as he suffered from dementia for years, up to the day he died. He began to forget such simple things, like how to get home from the grocery store. My grandfather’s memory quickly deteriorated as time passed. He would leave his retirement home on foot in the middle of the night in search of a snack, only to end up at a gas station a mile away. He took apart every electronic gadget he could get his hands on, reminding the family of his engineering career and creative mind. My grandfather still had this desire to be independent. He was still himself; it was just difficult to reach him.

    This production of That Hopey Changey Thing did a wonderful job of showing the effects of dementia on the entire family, not just the individual. As frustrating and sad as it was personally for my grandfather, it was painful to watch him quickly decline. However, it was those few lucid moments that made the difference and gave my family the ability to cope. The Apple family also cheerfully reacted to Uncle Ben’s conversation and random participation, as they caught a few glimpses of the man they once knew and still loved. Overall, the family members’ interactions with Uncle Ben were authentic, even though their conversations appeared to be extremely forced. I remember those attempts at conversations. It was exhausting and annoying, but I would do anything just to have the opportunity to speak with my grandfather once more.

    • Casey,

      My grandfather has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and I find that the conversations between Uncle Ben and the rest of the family to be the aspect of the play that I most resonated with. While I have not seen my grandfather since he’s been in this state (he lives so far) but I too am familiar with the conversations and attempts at jogging his memory. He thinks my father (age 50) and my 3 uncles (ranging from 46-42) are still 10-2 years old! It was so familiar watching the play and observing the moments of peace and happiness the family seemed to experience when Uncle Ben would have a moment where he would remember something, and also so quickly he would revert back to his tragic state of memory loss.

  4. What stood out to me about “The Hopey Changey Thing” was Uncle Benjamin, and the family dynamics that encircled him. Having a grandmother who is also passing through the stages of Alzheimer’s, it was both funny and painful, in a way, to see the conversations that were taking place…knowing that this person that you love so dearly is no longer able to remember much of anything at all.

    What was interesting about this family, though, is that Uncle Benjamin was the glue that held this otherwise politically polarized family together. As I reflect on the play, the question I would ask is: would this family still be “together” were it not for their declining uncle? That is, would they still entertain respectful conversation, or even conversation at all? Would they even be spending time with one another?

    I have noticed in my own family that tragedy is what brings a family to put aside differences and to join together for one cause–in this case, for Benjamin. They all delight in his victories–when he spoke of acting with Tim or when he remembered the words to the song at the end–and they all share in his losses–when he could not remember that Oliver died. It did not ultimately matter if one was Republican or Democrat, or voting or non-voting when it came to Uncle Benjamin. Is that not how it should be though? When a person comes to the end of his or her life, it begins to become clear what matters and what does not, though I do not know that the Apple family has truly reached this point yet–of rising above themselves for the larger picture. It was both sad and petty to hear them argue about politics when they could have spent the time delighting in their time together in the last months and years with Uncle Benjamin.

    • Hey Madison,

      I liked that focused on how central Uncle Benjamin is to the family and this play. I didn’t quite do the same, but I wanted to. At any rate, I agree with you in how it seemed very petty of the family to be arguing about politics and the “broken system”, so-to-speak, instead of relishing in the moments they were spending with Benjamin. At times during the play, I felt sad for Benjamin’s because of the way his family acted like he couldn’t hear or wasn’t in the room. But, as outsiders looking in, I think it’s easy for us to judge the Apple family and think of their actions as careless, when we aren’t in the immediate circumstances. I mean, this is their everyday. It’s their reality. For those of us who have yet to experience such tragedies, we see their actions as selfish or petty. Even so, I don’t think that’s an excuse nor is it meant to detract from my agreement with your comments. I just think it’s all about the perspective and experience of the individuals watching this play that affects how they initially perceive this family’s conversation at this moment in time.

    • I find Uncle Ben an interesting character. I definitely agree that he seems to be the “glue” of the family as everyone turns to him during tense arguments. Perhaps it is because he showed little opinion on politics, which made him approachable for the rest of the family members. I remember earlier in the play, one of the positive sides of amnesia that Uncle Ben talked about is being able to see everyday as a new day. I think another perk of being oblivious and forgetful of the events that surround him is that it makes his personality more mellow and less argumentative. The character of Uncle Ben teaches us that it is not always pleasing to have the most sound and compelling argument or even to be right all the time, sometimes it is more healthy to just remain neutral and not take part in an argument at all.

    • Madison,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with your grandmother and Alzheimer’s. I have no first hand experience with the disease, but I can only imagine how hard it must be to see someone you love lose all of his or her memories. I have also noticed that tragedy brings family together. To answer your question, I do not think that this family would still be “together” if it was not for Uncle Benjamin. I think this is obvious in their quarreling because they have little in common beside their concern for their uncle. It scares me to think that families who share so many great memories of the past can grow so far apart. I cannot even fathom the idea that in the future I will have a similar relationship with my siblings.

  5. It’s hard to outline the plot of the play. Some could even say perhaps the play had no plot. Without any explanation, the play takes us straight into a family dinner and where we are able to observe the conversations and interactions of the different family members. Throughout the play, some characters would be seated with their backs towards the audience, which was unusual for theater. But perhaps that is the intention of the playwright, to provide the audience with the raw, uncut scene of the lives of the average American family.

    It was very interesting that Jane talked about writing a book that dissects and analyzes interactions that happens around a dinner table. She proposes making observations of who sits where, who tells others where to sit and who eats first to show the hierarchies present in a family. I thought that was very reflective of the play itself as the play is about the interactions and clashes between different members of the family. Through Jane’s description of her dinner table observation, we are also reminded that at the start of the play, Richard the older brother was the one that seated everyone at the dining table, which meant that he is likely the alpha male in the family. I wonder how much simple customs and manners could be reflective of the positions that each family members hold. Richard shows the qualities of being the alpha male as he seems to lead the conversations and challenge others’ opinions. One memorable event was his thoughtful and comical defense of Sarah Palin where he criticized the public for demonizing her without proper reasoning. At the same time, we can also feel the dominant presence exerted by old Uncle Ben even though he is the character with the least lines. Despite his quiet presence and his amnesia, other members still show a significant amount of respect and consideration for him. Perhaps it was due to his seniority and his powerful influence on the members of the family when they were young. A couple of students and I talked after the play and we all agreed that Uncle Ben was our favorite character. It is hard to pinpoint the reason, but he just seems to exhibit a positive aura that attracts people to him.

  6. On Thursday night we saw the first play of a four-part series: “That Hopey Changey Thing.” It was about a family who coincidentally gets together on the night of a major election in the state of New York. The family consists of an uncle, three sisters, and one brother. While together, they openly discuss important issues such as Uncle Benjamin’s health and the current political climate of the US. In the end, the family members part with only a slightly better understanding of each other.

    In watching “That Hopey Changey Thing,” I can’t say that it was extremely interesting or particularly provocative to me. I can say, however, that the acting was phenomenal– especially by Uncle Benjamin. Unfortunately, that may be the extent of my praise towards this play. Even so, my lack of astonishment is not to say that this was a bad production. Far from it. I can see the merit in the exchanges between the characters, in the characters themselves, and in the content of the play. All I’m saying is that this just wasn’t for me.

    Although I’m generally interested in politics and all that jazz, I felt as though the play was throwing way too many references at me, and I couldn’t keep up! Some of the references dated back to the Clinton administration, which took place during the very beginning of my primary years. Other references, like the more recent ones, rang a bell, but the dialogue between the characters was simply too quick for me to grasp or even understand. I understand this is a simple thing to fix, in regard to my latter critique, but it affected my ability to connect with the characters.

    Throughout this play I kept searching to find a character that I could identify with. Perhaps, I thought, I would be able to identify with the brother, Richard who was the lawyer of the family. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. Maybe one of the sisters? No, still nothing. My inability to connect with these older characters that were very politically aware was evident almost as soon as the play began. Needless to say, I found it to be very discouraging. Yet, in spite of all of these obstacles, I was at least able to recognize the major themes and flaws of the characters.

    Between Richard and his sister Jane, for example, both told everyone how they refused to vote during this election to which Marion defensively countered back. Admittedly, both Richard and Jane opted out of voting for different reasons: Richard for his livelihood and Jane for her disillusionment in the political system. Even so, in the midst of this family setting, many American ideals and attitudes toward the current system is brought to light, and reveals that the large majority of Americans are buying, or not buying, into this political machine for reasons that are less than ideal. Instead of democracy and equality, we see politicians fighting for power, money, and self-interest. And instead of voting for righteousness and future generations, Americans are voting for instant gratification and for the immediate future. Whether or not this was forced upon American citizens by the upper echelon or the American people forced it upon society, I’d like to think that this play is a commentary on the broken system that currently supports the American infrastructure.

    • I agree that this play was hard to get in touch with. I kept trying to identify with a character but I could not fully attach myself to any of the characters personality and more importantly their ideology. It took a while to intrigue me and reel me in to the plot and the extensive conversations. At times, I could not see characters because an actor or an actress was blocking my sight. The political topics came out of nowhere it seemed like for me and I think it could have been smoothly introduced better. To me, the messages that were being given were too obvious and not done in a more savvy way. I did like the play, however it was long and seemed dry at some points.

    • Dominique,

      I also ran into the trouble of not being able to relate to the characters. I thought it might be an issue of age, but I did not seem to feel the same level of disconnect to the characters of any other play we’ve seen this semester, even though many of the characters have also been much older than me. Perhaps it was my lack of understand of the politics that was the underlying thread throughout this play, or the fact that my family does not talk about politics at the dinner table, or much at all. Their family did not seem like an atypical family, just not one that I can identify with. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who did not feel an attachment to the play.

      • Somewhat in response to both Anna and Dominique, I am wondering what it was that would cause someone to relate to a character in the play…if not age or politics or personality. It seems that most of us walked away from this play without being able to relate to any of the characters, which is odd for a theater performance. The play did not seem to reach even those who were interested in politics–though maybe this play requires one to have both age and an interest in politics (to be able to fully engage in the political discussion that this play covered). I just wonder what made this play particularly unsuccessful for the students in our class, and what does make it successful with other people…

  7. On Thursday, we watched the first of the “Apple Family Plays” at Studio Theatre titled That Hopey Changey Thing. The first thing that struck me was the stage. I really enjoyed how the audience is seated around the stage, creating a variety of perspectives through with people can view the scene. In this particular show, people sitting in the center could see into the kitchen, but I could not because I was seated to the left of the stage. The alternate perspective created some mystery during the show.

    The characters Jane, Marian, and Barbara reminded me of my grandma and her sisters. The chemistry the three of them had, even though they had spent so much time apart, is something only sisters have. I have seen this in both with my grandma’s sisters and with my own sister. On the other hand, my family does not general dive into political debates during dinner, so I did not feel a real connection to the play. In my immediate family, we also share the same political views, so there would never be such a quarrel.

    An issue I thought about while reflecting on the play is how far people will go to protect their families. Richard is willing to leave a job he loves with the Democratic Party and takes a position from his prior political opponent in order to keep his family together and to pay for his children’s school. While his family, particularly Marian, rips him apart for his actions, I think that he is simply being a good father and husband. Ideally, his wife would realize he is putting her needs above his own and she would do that same to find a compromise, but this does not happen. I think that this theme shows another aspect of politics in the family. Sometimes one member of the family makes sacrifices for the good of the whole. While some people may view Richard as betraying himself and his values, I see him as the leader of his family.

    • I also found some of the criticism others had regarding Richard’s decisions to be a bit harsh.
      To me it seemed like the logical step to someone who had completely given up on a system and was doing his best to operate within it regardless. If he viewed both sides as reprehensible and the situation as unchangeable, then he should do his best to support those he immediately cared about.
      Certainly, it’s not the ideal situation but given his situation, I felt that many overemphasized his weaknesses.

      Likewise, I was able to find similarities in the interactions between family members and relate them to my own family. Perhaps this is more because we always look to connect with characters rather than a definite similarity or realistic depiction, I really can’t say. Regardless, I found some of the quick snappy back and forth (which you mentioned) and some of the mannerism and worries to be quite real.

    • Katy, I really like what you mention about the willingness of someone to make sacrifices for their family, although these sacrifices are not always reciprocated. There is a quote that I love that reads, “Always fight until you can’t anymore, and then be fought for.” I agree that it seemed as though Richard was making all of the sacrifices, while he wife was reaping the benefits. I also feel as though Richard may have lost a piece of who he is by taking the job. In my opinion, I am not sure that I saw this as a growth for him, but rather I believe that it is Richard settling. It will be interesting to see how this will work out for him and how he will be changed in the process. I am excited to see the play a year later and see if his political and personal beliefs have been completely altered and if this has been enough to save his marriage.

  8. Last Thursday, we had the pleasure of watching the first part of the “Apple Family Plays” at That Hopey Changey Thing. I enjoyed the ambiance and I could tell that the theater was newly renovated. What struck me instantly was the size of the platform that they were performing in. It was small and intimate, which is different from the other settings and milieu in other theaters. The actors and actresses seemed to have a good relationship with one another because they made it seem as if they really could be siblings.
    It was interesting how the playwright fused family and politics together with a dichotomy of Democrats and a Republican. I felt the controversy brewing especially when the topic of Obama came to the table of discussion. What was so powerful about this play was the theory of manners and decorum. They talked about how being polite really is just a way to mask your inner feeling—a veil.
    The veil that I noticed with the brother was his desire to gain more autonomy and economic power by joining the Republicans. He rationalized that both political parties were corrupt, an opinion that lead to apathy in voting. He did not vote for any candidates like one of his sisters did, which showed a selfishness in him that really made one question his motives.
    The siblings who lived in cities left their sisters’ house, barely helped clean the dishes, and retreated back to their lives of luxury. To me, that said it all. The fact that you have the audacity to sit at the dinner table criticizing others decisions and beliefs and just get up and leave without trying to help fix the issues you so adamantly see. The play was good and left you thinking and mused, but also once again shared the overall importance of the family.

  9. I wasn’t the biggest fan of “That Hopey Changey Thing.” While there were some good lines here and there I found the overall play to lack excitement. I wasn’t she when the climax occurred or if there was one at all. I felt like a lot of the play felt superficial. Like there wasn’t real emotion behind it, or maybe I just couldn’t understand it. I think that a majority of why I feel this way is that the family dynamics seemed a lot like one side of my father’s family. My Grandfather divorced my grandmother when my dad was in his 20s and remarried a woman with children of her own. When we go over to their house for holidays there is an odd dynamic between my father and his stepsiblings since they never really lived together or got to know each other, yet their parents are married. It’s always this superficial relationship where they act like they know each other but really don’t. I feel like the dynamic in the play was similar. The siblings barely seemed to know anything about each other. They just had these memories from long ago which made them feel like they were supposed to be connected. I felt like the play was emphasizing how they had all grown apart, like the way Richard and Jane never really came to visit and the way their political involvement and affiliations were no longer in line. So they would have these arguments about these things then make up after and it all just felt very inauthentic. Then at the end there was that awkward tickle fight scene and nostalgia while Uncle Benjamin was singing the song at the end. It felt forced and inauthentic. I spent most of the play feeling uncomfortable and waiting for it to end. Perhaps someone else could explain the family dynamic in a way that would make it more palatable?

  10. Like any of the other plays we’ve seen, there were many aspects which proffered themselves to analysis; however, it is difficult to speak to all of them so, given that I just finished re-inspecting Russell Brand’s call for revolution in the UK and and Robert Webb’s response [to Brand] before seeing the play, I walked away seriously considering the family’s varying degrees of apathy or frustration toward the political system.
    What is the value of participating in a political system you fail to believe in? Is the apathy selfish? It seemed much of my classmates reacted in a way to suggest it was. How can you change the system if you don’t participate? After the show the director commented on the ‘rise’ of the tea party. In fact, the rise of the tea party is correlated with the apathy many Americans felt with the political system. Their choice not to vote affected the outcome negatively. Yet, one can see how choosing between the lesser of two evils election after election; listening to lies by both sides. In some respects, Richard exemplified these Americans; however, his choice to take a job for its money and to do away with his values makes one wonder if he was not a bit of a hypocrite.
    At some point, he felt disconnected. As if it doesn’t matter which side he voted with or worked with. Perhaps, the best he felt he could do in the system was look out for himself. Since you cannot expect justice or fair play or honesty in politics, then perhaps one should focus on self-preservation only. No doubt this contributes to the denigration of the system, as does the apathy his sister presented. Hers was markedly different. Certainly she was frustrated, but she seemed less intense in her frustration, less incensed. So, why then, didn’t Richard do anything? In some ways, this was Marianne’s question. Here she was fighting—realizing that the system was imperfect but that small steps were possible. Still, she seemed to fall prey to the very issue Richard was concerned about. She had fallen prey to the mindless bashing and anger toward the “other side”. It is us versus them.
    In some ways, though the two ultimately faced the same dilemma (though Richard certainly did less to solve his own). Interestingly, this draws back to Russell Brand and Robert Webb divergence in views. On one hand, Brand (and Richard) feels the apathy is a result of a broken system that cannot be fixed through voting. The solution? Do not vote. Do not participate in a system which does not benefit you. While, the results are undoubtedly bad if not enough people are invested in this idea, is there a point where enough of the population feels that this is necessary in which the system will irrevocably change. That it will be broken down and we will have a change to rebuild it completely? At the same time, Webb felt that this was inherently not the answer, in part because it isn’t achievable. His line of thinking is along the phenomenon the director mentioned, and Marianne’s feelings. Not participating will inevitably result in a worse overall system and more problems. The best we can do is motivate everyone to vote and to truly consider how they vote. To continue voting for the “better team” until the system is fixed. Again, however, this requires a large enough portion of the population to actively participate and invest themselves in this notion, rather than go through the “motions” of voting and democracy. To notice the issues, perhaps like Barbara, but do nothing. To walk to the station and not remember who was whom (though I’m not entirely convinced the symbolism with Uncle Ben was intentional). So, how do we motivate enough people to care and care in the same way we do? Well, that’s the question isn’t it?

    • Leah,

      I share in your observations about our political system and our civic duty to vote. When reading your post and, in particular, your comments about the Russel Brand – Robert Webb exchange, I reconsidered if the cause and effect of the dilemma this production examines is properly placed. Do we not vote because the political system has failed us time and time again or is the political system in the shape it is because we do not vote? Voter turnout for presidential elections has vacillated around an unimpressive 50% for many of the past cycles. But for many smaller, midterm, and off-presidential cycles, voter turnout is woefully low (i.e. the 2010 midterm elections).

      You ask “How do we motivate enough people to care and care in the same way we do?” I would answer by saying that we have to combat the general sense of apathy of the American voting public by reiterating that elections have consequences. Americans may lament that even though they vote year after year, it seems that nothing has changed. That is not true. And that is not true most clearly on the local and state levels, the levels where voter turnout for elections is abysmally low. When only 30% or so of eligible voters vote, (often these people are already heavily engaged in the political process and volunteer for candidates and happen to be older, white Americans) things still do change and arguably not for the better. This past year we have seen new voter ID laws enacted in many states and municipalities, attempts (successful ones at that) to roll back union and collective bargaining rights, and state legislatures drastically redrawing congressional districts for partisan benefit just to name a few. And so, I share in yours and Marianne’s feelings and say that elections do have consequences and we must all do our civic duty to vote even in the most uninteresting and smallest of elections.

      • Hey friends,

        I’m going to jump in with some thoughts on this interesting conversation about voting and the Russell Brand “Revolution.” Szymon, you bring up a good point about voter turnout and ID laws. The fact that some people in office are working so hard right now to disenfranchise potential voters is powerful testimony votes matter and your vote does count. Why else would certain members and factions of Congress push for stricter voter ID laws and legislation that makes voting more difficult? Somehow I am skeptical that it is an innocuous attempt to combat the nearly non-existent instances of voter fraud.

        Russell Brand strikes me as a pretty smart guy who usually knows what’s up, but I would agree with you two that he was a bit off the mark with his “don’t vote” comments. I would guess that one of the reasons trying to cut Social Security benefits is so risky is because old people are so politically active and thus their interests are well represented. If the voice of the people can be drowned out in a variety of ways (gerrymandered districts, voter suppression, shady campaign finance from interest groups, for instance), then not actively not voting is like drowning yourself. Or maybe waterboarding yourself. After all, Richard (the intellectually honest, introspective charatcer) and Jane (the uninterested, uninformed character) had the exact same amount of say in the midterm elections: none.

  11. Studio Theatre’s production of “That Hopey Changey Thing,” provided the audience with an interesting perspective into the challenges of a typical family, specifically confrontations centered on politics and caring for their elderly uncle. I found myself not being able to relate as much to the political bickering because in my family, it is almost expected that you maintain a certain political view. I found it interesting that the brother was willing to divert from that because from my own experience, I was brought up learning the importance of certain political and social beliefs. Thus, it became so ingrained in my system that it would almost feel as though I was going against my moral constitution to vote any other way. I found some relief in Richard’s willingness to defy the wishes of his sister, although I found it counterintuitive to his newfound political independence that he would decide against voting.

    The component of the play that most affected me was their experience with the dementia of their grandfather. A particular scene that felt near to me was when the grandfather had a moment of mental clarity and each of the siblings sat around the grandfather leaning in to each of his words, hoping that this moment would last forever. I experienced something similar when my grandmother was dying. She was hospitalized in the intensive care unit for 3-4 months. There is honestly nothing like watching the person that you considered to be the strongest person in the world and your sole protector slowly die, losing her memories, and the very idea of who you are in the process. One of the best days of my life was on Christmas Day 2004, when suddenly she awoke fully lucid. The fact that she could remember who all of us were will forever be the best Christmas present that I have received. I remember everyone crowding around her, similar to the Apple family, grasping at her every thought and wanting this to last forever.

    I found it quite nice to enter into the home of another family and understand that although many things may separate us, most people are more alike than they realize.

    • Khayla, thank you so much for sharing the beautiful moment about your grandmother on Christmas Day in 2004. It is one of those memories you will truly cherish forever. I enjoyed reading your description of the relationship between Richard and his sister. His political decisions were conflicting and truly kept me thinking, as I tried to follow his train of thought. However, I realized that he was just as internally conflicted as many other Americans are today. I also found relief is his strength to argue with his sister. Not only did his comments show growth, but he also showed determination, even if he hadn’t completely decided on his political position.

    • Khayla, thanks for sharing such a personal moment with us. I am going to take this opportunity to sort of vent about my own personal struggle with witnessing a grandparent lose themselves to an illness. My grandfather passed this past April to lung cancer. And much like your grandmother, his slow death, albeit quick downward spiral, was so incredibly painful to watch. He too began to lose his memory, forgetting who his grandchildren were, forgetting my grandmother-his wife’s birthday, not being able to recognize when his favorite basketball team- the Lakers- were playing on the television in front of him. The family in this play, although I was not in love with every character, made me value the power of memory. There is a lot of value in being able to reminisce about old pleasant moments-especially when faced with pain and adversity. It seems such happy nostalgia is what kept them all going.

  12. I didn’t walk into Studio Theater’s “That Hopey Changey Thing” with many expectations, but I found myself leaving confused and unsure of the purpose of the play. It seemed to cover so many topics, including but not limited to politics, values, family conflicts, aging, and acting, and I couldn’t pinpoint what the playwright wanted the audience to think about. Perhaps it was intended for the audience member to decide what to take away from the broad display of subjects.

    My take-away point came from near the beginning of the play, when Tim and Uncle Benjamin are talking and Ben comes out of his shell for the first time. Tim says, “Amnesia is a state of being… you’re not bogged down by the past… Every day is completely free.” They were discussing acting, and how willed amnesia is a characteristic of great acting, but it made me wonder how that sentiment applies to everyday life. If you asked me a year or two ago, I would have told you without a doubt that if I could forget certain things from my past, I would. Even then, those certain things were the more painful ones, and I don’t believe I would have given up all of my memories. Our experiences throughout our lives make us who we are, and we learn from them to keep moving forward. I used to think that it would be better to forget painful memories, and that it would be better to live only knowing happy times. Now, I’m not so sure. Those painful memories are important. Sure, if I forgot them, every day would be completely free, but I also would have no idea who I am. I would have an entire day before me, with no direction, and nothing to base it on. Maybe for actors, it is great to have an empty slate to know your character, but in real life, I don’t believe that the idea transfers.

    • Hi Anna,
      I really liked your point about amnesia, and felt that your comparison between the usefulness of amnesia in acting and in life more generally was a quite interesting one. I would have to agree with your conclusion that it is our experiences that make us what we are, and that without them we would be lost to a certain extent, devoid of any of the unique defining characteristics of our personalities that once made us different than everyone else. Beyond that however, although I can appreciate Tim’s point, for me the idea of not being able to remember previous theatrical performances would only be detrimental for an actor as well. To explain, although that amnesia may indeed afford that actor a somewhat greater degree of originality, or purity, to me acting seems to be an incremental process, with each performance building slightly on previous ones and this point was thus one of the few within the play that puzzled me.

  13. That Hopey Changey Thing was simple in many ways. Much like The Velocity of Autumn, it centralized around characters having conversation. The scene stays the same throughout, with family members interacting, reminiscing, and discussing their varying, often contrasting, political views. I cannot say I loved it. I was a tad bored during most of it, and found some of the characters difficult to relate to. Jane’s character was a little over the top to me, constantly explaining to her boyfriend why she and her siblings behaved in certain ways—which sort of took away the organic nature of some moments. She was dramatic and seemed a little full of it at times. I related mostly to Barbara’s character as she seemed genuine, loving, outspoken and true to her word. I also appreciated the comedic moments provided by Uncle Benjamin. I did sincerely appreciate Richard’s discussion of Sarah Palin. He had an interesting take on the public’s ridicule of her (lack of) intellect. I do not feel sympathy for Sarah Palin in the same way that Richard did, but I think he speaks about a subject worth discussing. Palin is obviously not the only candidate that has been torn down and criticized in the public eye—rather it seems this happens to any candidate with enough uncovered dirty history. President Obama received tremendous personal ridicule when he was campaigning. Whether critiqued for his religious affiliations, (the imaginary implications of) his middle name, or his race especially, he also experienced vehement opposition in achieving his political goals. Richard made me wonder at what point do we draw the line? At what point will we stop digging into people’s personal lives in order to advance partisan political goals?

  14. When Joanna Newsom was playing at the beginning of the play; I thought, “Well, it looks like I’m going to cry during this play.” But I was wrong. For some reason, this play lacked emotional resonance for me; I barely laughed, barely cried and barely felt anything at all, much less compared to if I was listening to a Joanna Newsom album, I would be weeping or giggling by the second track. Maybe this lack of emotion was fueled by the fact that everyone’s family is messed up, polar, and dynamically fluctuating throughout the course of dinner. Maybe having absurd family gatherings like that reflected in the play just felt so normal to me that I didn’t connect. But the thing is that the gathering in this display felt so dryly absurd and often awkward that I didn’t know how to respond to it. It’s much easier for me to respond to my great-grandmother flipping my dad off at the dinner table than me trying to respond to a dry political argument about voting in New York. That said, one thing I did leave the play thinking about was the elitism of politics and how it’s all just a competition of who is going to get the most votes and how money is going to be spent to get those votes. While this notion was a reaction of mine to the play, it made me disconnect from what was going on in the family and on stage and left me thinking about politics and how annoying they are, which was also probably a factor in my dissatisfaction with the play. Additionally, this semester, we have seen such great plays about the family that are raw, powerful, tear-jerking, and hilarious, so seeing the awkward family reunion on election night in upstate New York was less thrilling, less emotional, and frankly less engaging than the theater experience I’m used to.

  15. “That Hopey-Changey Thing” features a family getting together for dinner and exploring a variety of topics and themes. This play seemed different to me in comparison with the other plays I’ve seen this semester in that there was no singular plot or central focus driving all the action. It really seemed to just be a family getting together and talking. While the characters’ conversation eventually worked its way towards politics and the midterm elections, the drama was preceded by lengthy discussions about acting, aging, memory, and social conventions.

    In some regards, I enjoyed the style of the play; the mish-mash of ideas and dialogues allowed for a healthy variety of topics to be covered. Yet parts of it left me confused. If there is a meaningful connection between Tim’s reading of the book on bundling and the discussion of the midterm elections, I am afraid I just don’t see it.

    While there are many different elements I could write about in this response, I’m going to focus on the conversation that resonated the most with me: Richard’s plea for intellectual integrity and fair standards in political thought. He berates Marianne, the passionate (and downright annoying) liberal for failing to hold the same standards of judgment for the politicians in her “camp.” Marianne becomes so upset when Richard points out her flawed reasoning and her hasty demonization of Sarah Palin that she resorts to a stubborn string of expletives—a frustrating thing to watch, as I wanted her to engage more with Richard’s accusations.

    While I was disappointed that a more substantive conversation didn’t happen, the message still hit home for me. I think we could all learn from Richard’s point about the dangers of valuing winning over truth or even morality. If this norm exists in America (or Washington), it may be because of the way our news is presented to us—Fox News is a constant barrage of criticism on Obama and has little coverage of the numerous Republican shortcomings. MSNBC ridicules tea partiers and is largely silent about many failures of the Obama Administration. While some write this off as just the two news stations having different views, I am really bothered by it—I think willfully subjecting ourselves to whatever is a more comforting political narrative can only skew our perceptions and compromise our potential for critical thought and dissent. The news that is allegedly unbiased tends to cover politics and political elections like horseraces, with endless polls and projections and discussions of political gaffes. This kind of “horserace” coverage seems to only promote the “winning at all costs” mentality. Richard’s comments during his argument with Marianne serve as an important reminder to think independently.

  16. I quite enjoyed “That Hopey Changey Thing”, while it was definitely an older cast I felt a sense of familiarity with each of the characters. I come from a large family and though they are not estranged like this family was, a lot of the interactions rang true for my family. Richard reminded me of my great, Uncle Keith, the younger brother who gets teased and tormented by his sisters (much like how my grandmother and her sisters operate). Jane, with her young spirit, and young boyfriend reminded me of another aunt who also had a stint as a “cougar”. Marian and Barbara seemed to encompass all of my great aunts and my grandmother who are all very loving, accommodating and also FIREY! I enjoyed watching these characters interact with one another in a way that looked so natural and reflective of how many families are. From disagreements, to nostalgia, to tickling one another on the floor I enjoyed every bit of watching these actors.

    I also enjoyed Richard’s speal on Sarah Palin. While it did not make me more inclined to like her, it did make me notice something that even I am guilty of. Political affiliation tends to mask the reality that partisanship does not make a person any less HUMAN. People tend to demonize one another if their ideals are dissimilar to their own. The play also raised the question, are any politicians really GOOD?

    It was refreshing to see that while I could not see myself in any of the characters on stage, the genuineness of the wonderful actors helped me to still be able to identify and thoroughly enjoy the production.

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