The Debates had its earliest experiment in the summer of 2015 with the Lab Company at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater. Paul Bedard, while serving as a Drama League Directing Fellow, led students in an experimental staging of the infamous 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon. This experiment began with the goal of making a show about how debates have changed and given rise to spectacle over the years. We discovered, however, that the process of analyzing the debate transcript, having different people “try on” the candidates, and experimenting with candidates’ projected images, was more compelling than the show we set out to make. We found that devising original theater around the political debate empowered the actors to debate more confidently among each other and gain new enthusiasm for politics. When Paul returned to New York that fall, instead of bringing a show about Kennedy and Nixon, he brought back the ideas for the upcoming election.
When the Democratic Primary Debates began airing in fall 2015, Theater in Asylum began hosting watch parties, political analysis meetings, and devising sessions. We led six distinct workshops from October to April, clarifying our newfound process and gaining collaborators along the way. Beginning in April 2016, Theater in Asylum toured a compilation performance with material from all of the Democratic Primary debates. We timed our tour to present the material before each state’s primary, seeking to capitalize on our audience’s attention and ability to use what they saw to make an informed vote.
In September 2016, we began the process again with the general election debates. The Debates 2016 was presented on November 6 and 7, the day before and the day of the 2018 presidential election.
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!