Created by Theater in Asylum (TIA), The Debates is a process of adapting U.S. presidential election debates into theatrical performances. After watching a debate, we gather to analyze it, and create an original performance based on it. Throughout the process, participants speak lines from the debate, imitate candidates' gestures, invent scenes that provide context or history, and analyze the candidates the way an actor would a character in a play. We believe that this is a way to “try on” the candidates, demystifying them and emboldening the voter. Behind the scenes, every word and assertion (whether from the debate transcript or generated by the participants) is rigorously fact checked by a team of dramaturgs. All sources are noted in our publicly available script. Ultimately, we hope the material on stage, and the voting materials offstage, will empower audiences to engage with the democratic process with knowledge and confidence.
To inspire and empower people to participate in theater (both as audience and theater makers).
To inspire and empower people to participate in democracy (both by voting on election day and by participating in the discussion every day).
To create community and cross-pollinate artist and politically active networks.
Watch Party. We watch the debates live on television. These parties can be at a bar, a home, or a community space.
Political Analysis Meetings. We go through the transcript and separate fact from fiction, highlighting moments that deserve more attention. Facilitators lead participants in research and discussion to better understand what occurred during the debate. By the end of these meetings, the transcript is parsed into what is most potent for our show (either politically or theatrically) and what is discardable (repetitive or unsubstantive).
Scripting Meetings. We devise scenes or lift dialogue from the transcripts and accompanying research. Here we make the original script.
Rehearsals. We stage and rehearse the original script. Directors and choreographers lead actors and designers to bring the script to life on stage.
Performance. We present the team’s work to the community.
Follow Through. At all our events, voter registration and materials are available. After the performance, we work to remind all participants and audience to vote.
The DeBATES 2020
Staged adaptations of the 2020 Presidential Debates. Coming September 2019.
All expenditures for The Debates are paid for by Theater in Asylum. No action, script line, voting guide, or event is authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Theater in Asylum does not endorse any candidate in this race. We simply want more people, people like you, to engage and participate. While many moments in our shows are mimicked alongside video (our way of quoting) others are departures meant to serve only as parody and satire. No copyright infringement, defamation, libel, or slander is intended. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email us. Please don’t sue us!