What The Constitution Means To Me Pittsburgh City Theatre’s ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’: A Resounding Affirmation! What The Constitution Means To Me, presented by Heidi Schreck, is a theatrical marvel that defies categorization. Part history lesson, part stand-up comedy, a platform for live debate, an autobiographical memoir, a documentary podcast, and a tribute to women’s unwavering resilience, it underscores the idea that the U.S. Constitution is indeed a “living” document, as countless historians have emphasized. It pulsates with life, alternately shouting, offending, soothing, frustrating, and pleasing, much like the multifaceted experience of this exhilarating night of theater.
But Who Takes the Spotlight?
Heidi Schreck’s groundbreaking theatrical production is, without a doubt, a “living” entity, quite literally as live theater. Two key elements underscore this vitality. Firstly, no two performances can ever be identical, a fact that will become clear as you read further. Secondly, Schreck’s innovative narrative permits the lead actor to break “the fourth wall” as the occasion demands – be it for her performance, engaging the audience, or the spontaneous magic that is theater. At times, she transforms into a 15-year-old enthusiast reciting constitutional amendments at a local American Legion hall, at others, she assumes the persona of Schreck at 40, addressing the real audience. She may even become Tami Dixon (who usually portrays Schreck), reacting to an audience member, or Dixon as Schreck breaking character to share the sheer joy she derives from her performance. It’s a fluid, humorous, and profoundly educational experience.
Who could have imagined that the U.S. Constitution holds the distinction of being the oldest of its kind globally? What’s the connection between Justice William O. Douglas and feminine hygiene? Who is Jessica Lenahan, and what exactly does the term “shall” signify in a legal context?
Originality and Ingenuity
It’s no wonder that What The Constitution Means to Me achieved resounding success in 2019. This “show” rather than a traditional play, sold out on Broadway, received two Tony nominations, embarked on two sold-out tours in Washington and LA, only to be halted by the pandemic’s onset. However, it was subsequently adapted into a film for Amazon Prime Video, streaming in October. City Theatre, under the direction of Marc Masterson, now brings one of the first regional productions of this extraordinary show to the stage. While a national tour may pick up where it left off, this stands as one of the select original productions.
Democracy in Action
As the embodiment of Heidi Schreck, Tami Dixon truly comes alive on stage. Her mission involves establishing a connection with her audience, akin to a skilled stand-up comedian. Simultaneously, she aims to disrupt “groupthink,” evoke empathy, foster participation, and inspire democratic engagement. Longtime City Theatre subscribers may recall Tami Dixon’s highly acclaimed one-woman show, South Side Stories, which enjoyed an extended run in the Lillie Theater in 2014. Yet, here, she cleverly shares the stage throughout.
Ken Bolden alternates between roles, seamlessly transitioning from an American Legionnaire to a debate moderator, a fashion-forward teenager embracing his sexuality, and the charming actor he truly is. However, there’s more. Two different student debaters take turns engaging Dixon on different evenings. On opening night, the stage featured Lamees Subeir, a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School, whose quick wit and eloquence truly shone. On alternating nights, Swati Mylarappa, a sophomore at Fox Chapel Area High School, steps up to the debate podium. For this reason alone, it’s worth considering a second viewing of the show.
What The Constitution Means to Me represents the kind of theatrical achievement that deserves celebration, not only for its poignant exploration of the human experience but also for prompting introspection about our comprehension of civic responsibility, equal rights, and the benevolence of a democratic republic. It’s a history lesson that evolves with each passing decade, and at City Theatre, it evolves with every performance.
Acknowledgments and Kudos
Special commendation goes to Scenic Designer Sasha Schwartz for authentically recreating a 1960s American Legion Hall (which, upon reflection, may not have changed much since). Additionally, Richard Parsakian deserves applause for costume design, Greg Messmer for lighting, Tate Abdullah for sound, and Taylor Meszaros for stage management.
Catch What The Constitution Means to Me at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, South Side, running until February 12. Secure your tickets by visiting City Theatre’s website or contacting the box office at (412) 431-4400.
Photography Credits: Kristi Jan Hoover
Prentiss Orr, an Entertainment Central contributor, delves into the world of theater. His latest book, The Surveyor and the Silversmith, delves into the history of early European settlements and conflicts in present-day Western Pennsylvania.