The United States is a primed political powder keg — which UC San Diego Assistant Professor of Playwriting Deborah Stein and her creative partner, Performer and Director Suli Holum, fully understand. Stein and Holum have created a new theatre piece that explores the extent of modern behavioral tendencies, using the platform of a political campaign. The objective: to discover how people could work in politics and still make the questionable decisions we see on our social media newsfeeds.
“We were reading and obsessing over some politicians’ ‘bad behavior,’ and wondering how someone who is so successful could do something that seemed so dumb…something that could so obviously be caught. So we started thinking about how humans are animals, and how a lot of our behavior could be thought of as animal behavior,” said Stein of the origins of the play.
In this play, humans really do become these metaphorical animals. Stein and Holum are the two halves of the creative partnership, Stein | Holum Projects, which is an ongoing exploration of interdisciplinary theatre. Movers + Shakers: A Play with Songs is their latest project.
“We were reading and obsessing over some politicians’ ‘bad behavior,’ and wondering how someone who is so successful could do something that seemed so dumb…
Using this piece as an opportunity to “teach through practice,” Stein | Holum has integrated the UCSD Theatre and Dance MFA program into the play. “[The MFAs] are amazing! So talented, so curious, really committed, really game to take risks and go outside their comfort zone,” said Stein. This allows both Holum and Stein to really work through their process — creating a laboratory that explores stories wanting to be told and pushes the limits of theatricality (to learn more about their process, check out their website).
“Movers + Shakers is funny, uncomfortable, fast-paced, sharp, sometimes ridiculous, but most importantly, it’s surprisingly and unexpectedly touching,” explains Stein, and if you have ever walked through the halls of Galbraith during their rehearsals, you can definitely attest to that. The piece combines aspects of physicality and humor, while delivering a poignant conversation about why humans elect officials that make questionable decisions. Why are these people who so blatantly disregard the con]sequences of their personal actions allowed to hold such influential positions over our cities, states, and nations? Stein | Holum attack this question head on, and entertain you during the process.
“Movers + Shakers is funny, uncomfortable, fast-paced, sharp, sometimes ridiculous, but most importantly, it’s surprisingly and unexpectedly touching,”
Reminiscing about the creation of the show, Stein mentions that, “Suli recently said that this play is about ‘how we as a country choose our alphas.’ In other words, how we choose the people we want to lead us — and how often the qualities that makes someone seem like an appealing leader might also mean that they have qualities that are not as admirable personally.” Which really aims to somewhat answer the age-old question of why we choose people who are not good for us. But in a political sense, of course.
The play also attempts to explore the contemporary obsession with cell phones, and the digital culture itself. The amount of time that humans, in general, are absorbed in their handheld technology, is already an interesting concept; but Movers + Shakers delves into the world of the personal lives of the politically powerful and examines how they exercise exhibitionism through this online universe.
In the end, it is a play with songs! “It’s not a traditional musical — the songs do not move the story forward,” Stein reflects. “The songs are often expressions of characters’ fantasies, or their most private selves. The song you would sing in the shower, or yell at the top of your lungs in the car, or while you’re waiting in line at the parking office.”
When you walk into the theater to watch Movers + Shakers, you are thrown into a quick-witted, undoubtedly entertaining, and extremely gripping tale that will have you thinking every step of the way. And with election season upon us, maybe it’s a good way for us students to critique our own expectations of political candidates. And maybe it’ll even get us to put our phones down once in awhile.
Movers + Shakers: A Play with Songs runs from February 13 – 21, 2016.
Tickets can be purchased here or at the UCSD Theatre & Dance box office.