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Play Recreates Parts of Trump Cabinet Confirmation Hearings


Theater director Nicholas Kent, right, and actor Peter Davison rehearse for the play "All the President's Men?" in London, April 20, 2017. Davison played U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

A theatrical production about American politics opens in New York City next month.

On May 11, The Public Theater will present a staged reading of All The President’s Men?

No, not the book, All The President’s Men, which told about two reporters and their investigation of Watergate -- the biggest political scandal in American history.

Unlike that book and movie about Watergate, the title of this new work ends in a question mark. And the show is performed as a sort-of “reality theater.”

The words the actors will speak are direct testimony from the sometimes-angry Senate confirmation hearings for four nominees to President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

All four were confirmed. They are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services chief Tom Price and Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The show will be held at the theater called Town Hall. The show's cast has yet to be announced, but it is expected to include some famous names.

“All the President’s Men?” is among several recent artistic productions created in reaction to Trump's election as president.

British writer Howard Jacobson just published a humor novel called Pussy. An HBO television series about the 2016 election is in the works. And, Robert Schenkkan's play “Building the Wall,” which imagines Trump’s presidency turning dictatorial, can be seen at a theater in Los Angeles.

Britain’s Nicholas Kent created and directs All the President's Men? He led the staged reading of the work Monday at London’s Vaudeville Theater. The director said he wanted to understand what Trump, the “outsider” politician, really stands for.

He said, “I thought the best way of finding out about the whole philosophy behind the Trump presidency would be to look at the Senate confirmation hearings. Because the beliefs of the people involved would come out of that, and their backgrounds would come out.”

Kent, a former artistic director in London's Tricycle Theatre, has overseen other fact-based plays. His work The Riots examined England's 2011 riots. His Guantanamo - Honor Bound to Defend Freedom looked at the U.S.-led war on terror. And his play, The Great Game, explored Afghanistan's history of conflict.

For his latest project, Kent watched 50 hours of Senate hearings. He said, at first, “it was a little like watching paint dry.”

But, he said, over time the important issues came out during the testimony. In his words, “The questioners, and the questions asked, were as revealing as the answers in many ways.”

The four cabinet nominees were little known to most Americans. Tillerson is a former head of the energy company ExxonMobil. Sessions served 10 years in the Senate and, earlier, was Attorney General for the state of Alabama. Tom Price is a medical doctor. He served many years in the U.S. Congress representing the state of Georgia. And Scott Pruitt was formerly Attorney General of Oklahoma.

Kent said he chose these four men because he believed they generally represent how America will be governed. He said, “I'm not trying to do a satirical portrait in any way whatsoever. I'm trying to look at their beliefs.”

Kent says the president himself appears in the show only through “a few tweets.”

“It's the administration that's going to make the man, as we've already seen,” the director said. He noted that two of Trump's campaign promises -- to halt travel by people from countries considered centers of terrorism and to end Obamacare -- have been blocked by courts and Congress.

Kent said Trump can tweet forever but, he added, “It is actually the machinery of government and the people under him, who are going to carry out his policies, that are the most interesting.”

I’m Caty Weaver.

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Words in This Story

scandal –​ n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong

title –​ n. the name given to something (such as a book, song, or movie) to identify or describe it​

testimony –​ n. something that someone says especially in a court of law while formally promising to tell the truth​

philosophy –​ n. a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live​

background –​ n. the experiences, knowledge, education, etc., in a person's pas​

reveal –​ v. to show (something) plainly or clearly​

portrait –​ n. a detailed description of something or someone​

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