A moment with Director Emily Scott Banks about the now

Emily Scott Banks

Q: In this new piece, playwright Aaron Posner has drawn upon the life of the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams. Posner is clear that this story lives somewhere between fact and fiction and is an examination of where we are today as viewed through the lens of the past. In what ways do you find that this is a play about right now? 

A: There are so many ways this play is absolutely about today!

This play repeatedly asks the question, “What does good government mean?”

Considering the immediately present debate over the Infrastructure Bill and American Families plan - in essence, is good government large or small - this is absolutely of right now. We have outgoing President Adams challenged by (and challenging) incoming President Jackson, in a conversation that we are still having today.

Additionally, the urgent conversations over race & equality that have been ongoing since the beginning of this nation, unceasing through today are hugely relevant. Frederick Douglass challenges a post-Amistad Adams to actually commit to fighting for equality on all fronts, and not just in polite and palatable ways. This debate over the “proper way to protest” didn’t really leave the news all of 2020, and remains a 
hot topic.

We have heated questions about the balance of work and family life, and those (usually the women) who have to quietly hold up the partner that gets the acclaim, and about the children who perhaps pay when their parents are called to do great work. Given the recent reminders in lockdown of the gender disparity of family and home workload, this doesn’t feel as distant as it might have pre-pandemic.

There are questions about who we actually actually are as a nation, examining and challenging the myth of ourselves versus the reality. It highlights how that current “reality” might be very differently perceived depending upon where one is standing, and the perspective that offers. 

Finally, this play mixes up genders and races, not in a color-blind or gimmicky way, but in order to highlight things said so that they might resonate more deeply, or be questioned more fully.

I think there’s at least fifteen other things that might come up in post-show conversations, but I’ll wait for those conversations.