Arts & Entertainment

Annual variety show explores political satire

1812 Productions’ show focuses on the presidential election.

After watching the nightly news, Dave Jadico sometimes scribbles a new verse of lyrics and lines on his palm.

His tendency to impulsively rewrite is an occupational hazard of performing in 1812 Production’s political comedy, “This Is The Week That Is.” The show opens Nov. 27 at the Plays & Players Theatre. Jadico, the external relations director for 1812 Productions, has performed in every show since the company’s creation a decade ago.

Approaching the opening of its 10th consecutive year, the variety show encompasses a series of sketches that reflect both local and national, political and social movements of the past year.

“Depending on what is happening in the world, the show is constantly being rewritten and updated,” Jadico said. “It’s that live, dangerous nature of not being sure what is going to happen next.”

The show follows a similar structure to Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, poking fun at government and society, but because of its theatrical foundation, extravagant costumes and musical numbers are also part of the performance.

“SNL sometimes does random sketches, while everything we do is all topical to what is going on right now, so it’s a little more politically and socially charged,” said Jennifer Childs, the show’s creator and 1812’s producing artistic director.

The show is set on a traditional stage and performed for a live audience. The intimate setting invites audience interaction—in certain scenes, like the newscast segment of the second act, individuals leave their seats to be interviewees in the broadcast.

“One thing we constantly ask ourselves is what makes our political humor different,” Childs said. “And what we have is you … in the room with us and making you part of the experience, so it’s a vastly different show every night.”

Along with audience response, the show’s direct dependency upon breaking news causes roughly a third of the material to be altered over the course of its five-week run, entailing a series of night-to-night changes ranging from reworked song lyrics to full costume revamps. During a past show, dancing stem cells and an armed octopus turned into Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen.

With the presidential election approaching next November, 2015 has been an extraordinary source for satirical material, Childs and Jadico said.

“This particular year is where there’s a lot of characters … a lot of personalities, because there is a wide pool of people vying for the presidency,” Jadico said. “And people are aware of this wide spectrum of individuals because they’re in the press so much.”

While this year offers a hotbed for political substance, it also proposes significant controversial topics, like race relations, gun violence and same-sex marriage. With extensive media coverage on these events, they’re difficult to avoid while collecting material for the show.

1812 Productions approaches these sensitive topics by considering the responses of policy makers and the media.

“When you take a look at how people react to these things, that is where satire often lies,” Jadico said.

Although the writing staff is “pretty liberal,” they try to maintain an “equal opportunity offender,” Jadico said, keeping the content balanced between poking fun at Democrats and Republicans. The humor surfaces from whoever is grabbing the public’s attention.   

The show naturally receives some criticism. But as a political humor show, these are expected consequences.

“We get at least one complaint, one, ‘I’m offended’ comment every year, and we’re worried if we don’t,” Childs said. “If we don’t, we haven’t done our job.”

Grace Maiorano can be reached at grace.maiorano@temple.edu.

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