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Syracuse Stage Opens 50th Anniversary Season With ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’
Syracuse Stage opens its 2023-24 50th anniversary season with “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Heidi Schreck’s deeply personal and powerful exploration of how the United States’ founding document shaped her life and the lives of the women who raised her. The production runs Sept. 13 to Oct. 1 in the Archbold Theatre at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St., Syracuse.
First performed off-Broadway in 2018, “What the Constitution Means to Me” was nominated for two Tony Awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The play follows Schreck’s sometimes humorous–and often profound–journey as she investigates what protections are promised by the U.S. Constitution, and questions who is protected and who is not.
As a high school student in Washington state, Schreck toured American Legions and gave speeches about the Constitution for college scholarship money. Her oration, which likened the Constitution to a crucible, praised the Founding Fathers for leaving room for interpretation. But soon Schreck, who moved to New York to pursue a career in acting, entered a period of growing disillusionment with the document, and began reflecting on the limits made by the men who authored the Constitution, and by those in power who interpret its words for all Americans. In an interview with National Public Radio, Schreck described the process of writing “What the Constitution Means to Me” as a sort of “reckoning.”
Reviewing for The New York Times, Ben Brantley called the play “an endlessly open-ended conversation.” At Syracuse Stage this conversation is brought to life by Mel House (Heidi), Phillip Taratula (Legionnaire) and Department of Drama students Emily Castillo-Langley and Malaika Wanjiku, who will alternate the role of The Student. The production team, which includes both Broadway veterans and Syracuse Stage resident artists, is led by Kathy A. Perkins (lights), Ann Beyersdorfer (sets), Carmen M. Martinez (costumes) and Jacqueline R. Herter (sound).
“I felt strongly that this was a great play for Syracuse Stage when I saw the Broadway production four years ago,” says Bob Hupp, Syracuse Stage artistic director. “I loved how Heidi Schreck personalized our nation’s founding document and used humor to explore such a timely subject matter. With a stellar cast and our insightful creative team, I look forward to seeing ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’ come to life for our Central New York audience.”
“I’m honored to helm one of the most important theatrical pieces of our current times,” says director Melissa Crespo. “Heidi Schreck’s play breathes new life into the Constitution and will leave audiences smarter and more connected to each other, and our great country.”
All evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. while all matinee performances begin at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $40 with discounts available for students and groups. Tickets may be purchased online at SyracuseStage.org, by phone at 315.443.3275, or in person at the Syracuse Stage Box Office.
Pay-What-You-Will performances for “What the Constitution Means to Me” are Sept. 13 – 17 inclusive; Prologue conversations, three pre-show discussions, will take place one-hour before curtain time on Sept. 17, 23 and 28; the Post-show Talkback will take place on Sunday, Sept. 17, after the 7:30 performance. Syracuse Stage has its open-captioned performances scheduled for Sept. 20 and Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. and Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m., as well as an audio-described performance on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. A special sensory friendly and open captioned performance is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
In addition to scheduled performances and programming, “What the Constitution to Me” will feature events in conjunction with the 2023/24 Syracuse University Humanities Center Syracuse Symposium. “The Landscape of Tomorrow: Art Exhibit,” showcasing artwork created by North Side Learning Center and La Casita Cultural Center’s community members, will be presented on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m in the Coyne Lobby at Syracuse Stage. Visitors to this opening-day exhibit are invited to stay to attend the first Pay-What-You-Will performance of “What the Constitution Means to Me” at 7:30 p.m. “The Constitution and the Landscape of Our Lives,” a panel discussion featuring director Melissa Crespo, professors from the College of Law and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and moderated by Suzette M. Meléndez, Faculty Fellow for the Office of Strategic Initiatives in Academic Affairs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will be presented on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m in the Archbold Theatre at Syracuse Stage. All Syracuse Symposium events are free and open to the public.