Continental Divide

Continental Divide

Continental Divide

By David Edgar
Directed by Tony Taccone
A joint commission with Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Limited Season · Roda Theatre
November 6–December 28, 2003
World-premiere production

Running times: 3 hours each, including one 15-minute intermission each

Internationally acclaimed playwright David Edgar (Pentecost, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby) turns his attention to American politics with this two-play cycle examining both sides of a gubernatorial campaign. These two plays, which can be seen in either order, explore what has happened to the revolutionary fervor that took hold of both the Right and the Left in the 1960s, and how it has been transmuted and carried on in politics today.

Mothers Against
It is five weeks before the election and Sheldon Vine, the Republican candidate for governor in a very tight race, has gathered with his key advisors to prepare for the big debate with his Democratic opponent. Vine’s own leanings are distinctly libertarian, but revealing his true beliefs and running a forthright campaign would risk alienating the voters. Over the course of the weekend one thing becomes clear: this battle—the one he must fight with his advisors, including his own family, over what kind of campaign to run—is the most crucial of his career, with implications that could change his entire life.

Daughters of the Revolution
Michael Bern, a former campus radical and retiring community college dean, discovers years later that the political collective of which he was a prominent member in the ‘60s had been infiltrated and betrayed to the FBI by one of their own—a betrayal with consequences for Michael’s career and marriage long after he thought he had left his radical past behind. As he sets out on a journey to find the traitor, he must come to terms with the man he has become and the relative success, or failure, of his political ideals.

Creative team

David Edgar · Playwright
Tony Taccone · Director
William Bloodgood · Scenic & Projection Design
Deborah M. Dryden · Costume Design
Alexander V. Nichols · Lighting & Projection Design
Jeremy J. Lee · Sound Design
Todd Barton · Composer, Mothers Against
Lue Morgan Douthit · Dramaturg
Douglas Langworthy · Dramaturg
Luan Schooler · Dramaturg
Randy White · Associate Director
Amy Potozkin · Casting Director
Michael Suenkel · Stage Manager
Kimberley Jean Barry · Assistant Stage Manager

Cast

Mothers Against
Tony DeBruno · Mitchell Vine
Michael Elich · Don D’Avanzo
Bill Geisslinger · Sheldon Vine
Robynn Rodriguez · Connie Vine
Susannah Schulman · Lorianne Weiner
Vilma Silva · Caryl Marquez
Derrick Lee Weeden · Vincent Baptiste
Christine Williams · Deborah Vine

Daughters of the Revolution
Tony DeBruno · Arnie / Ira / Eddie / Mitchell
Michelle Duffy · Abby / Beth / Branflake
Michael Elich · Bill / Troy / Zee / Don D’Avanzo
Bill Geisslinger · Ted / Jimmy / Nighthawk / Sheldon Vine
Marielle Heller · Dana / Nancy / Trina / Aquarius
Lorri Holt · Blair Lowe
Terry Layman · Michael Bern
Craig W. Marker · Jack / Darren / Sam / No Shit
Jacob Ming-Trent · Jools / J.C. / Rainbow / Bob LeJeune
Robynn Rodriguez · Elaine / Ash / Connie Vine
Susannah Schulman · Lorianne Weiner / Firefly
Vilma Silva · Kate / Therese / Yolande / Hoola Hoop
Melissa Smith · Rebecca McKeene
Derrick Lee Weeden · Kwesi Ntuli
Christine Williams · Ryan / Pat / Snowbird

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Prologue: from the Artistic Director

In the spring of 2000, my friend and colleague British playwright David Edgar, wrote me a letter outlining a new idea for a play. A keen, longtime observer of American political life, he wanted to create an epic drama that used the backdrop of electoral politics to examine the fissures in our society and the nature of our contending ideals. Two plays were emerging in his mind, each a separate entity grappling with the myths surrounding the ‘60s, the contradictions within the Republican and Democratic parties, and the deeply personal ways in which we individually and collectively attempt to create a sense of value. While different in tone and structure, the two plays were to be interrelated both thematically and theatrically.

Such a grand idea, which immediately struck me as astoundingly ambitious, unrelentingly complicated and deeply exciting, proved to be irresistible. Backed by the combined energies and resources of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Berkeley Rep, we set out on this journey called Continental Divide. Now, some three years later, after months of research, readings, workshops and a full production in the wildly supportive environment of southern Oregon, we bring you the project in its latest incarnation.

So here we are, in Berkeley, perhaps the proudest, certainly the loudest municipality in the constellation of communities that make up the Bay Area, where the legacy of the ‘60s and the politics of the new millenium are very much in evidence. From our alternative lifestyles to the spirit of radical entrepreneurship, from our obsession with individuality to our drive to create new communities with new values, the Bay Area continues to reinvent itself like few other places in the country. What better place to bring this play, written about people engaged in a conscious attempt to better themselves who are often at odds with their families, governments and indeed, the world?

Without trying to imitate reality, (for such an attempt would clearly be reductive and ironically, unbelievable), Continental Divide dares to take the temperature of our times and to challenge some of our most fundamental preconceptions.

Tony Taccone

David Edgar on Continental Divide

The idea of writing a pair of plays about the same fictional election—each complete in itself but enriched by seeing the other—came to me three years ago. The concept of each individual play goes way back.

In 1979, I drove across America, talking to people who had been involved in the radical political movements of the 1960s. The most striking thing was the shared biography of so many of the activists I talked to. A large number came from radical, often Communist backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, many of these red diaper babies were Jewish. Because of the anti-communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, a significant proportion hadn’t found out about their parents’ political affiliations until they too became caught up in political activism.

Like Presidential politics, the radical mass movements of the ‘60s had a generational back-story: the children of Senator Joe McCarthy’s victims were seeking both to avenge and to outdo their parents. There were other connections between the generations: like the Communists of the ‘30s and ‘40s, the New Left in the ‘60s were particularly concerned with racial discrimination; their politics had a strong cultural element (from folk music to rock and roll); early political success led on to failure, disillusion and reassessment. At its 1962 founding conference in Port Huron, Michigan, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) declared: “We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom and love.” In 1969, the last SDS convention split into rival Marxist/Leninist and paramilitary factions, leading some of its most dedicated members (again, like the Communists of the 1940s and 1950s) to continue the struggle underground. Both generations had their fair share of defectors, who took the passion and certainty of the radical left into the conservative camp. Finally, both generations faced a massive government campaign of surveillance, infiltration and dirty tricks. I always asked my interviewees if they’d applied for their FBI file—almost all of them had, and were amazed by the level of investigation that was exposed.

I was 20 in 1968, and so I felt a part of the same story. For many years, I’d wanted to write a quest play, in which a former ‘60s activist would seek to investigate and come to terms with his own past, with all its heroism, passion and betrayal. As the baby-boomer generation began to run for high political office, I realized I could set a play about the legacy of the ‘60s against the background of a conventional political campaign.

As this idea developed, it was joined by another one. A year after my 1979 trip, I heard the story of an ambitious young congressman pretending to be his former boss, not as part of an amusing office skit, but in order to prepare a Presidential hopeful for a political debate. David Stockman had become disillusioned with Republican primary candidate John Anderson, and so agreed to play Anderson in Ronald Reagan’s primary debate rehearsal. Stockman went on to play other Reagan debate opponents (playing Walter Mondale, he so demoralized Reagan that the President lost the real debate). I remained fascinated by the idea of the debate prep grudge match: someone acting somebody they distrusted or disliked, to help someone else wipe the floor with them.

I quickly realized that debate prep had further dramatic possibilities. Prep is a period when all the key players come together to make life-and-death campaign decisions. Often, they do so in the candidate’s own home. America has the most dynastic political system of any of the great democracies—the Kennedys, Gores and Bushes in national politics, the Browns in California. Like everyone else, I ached to know what happened in that Texas hotel room in November 2000, as the Bushes senior and junior contemplated the possibility that Jeb might have failed to deliver George W. the state which would avenge his father’s defeat eight years before.

So setting a play within a debate prep weekend allowed me to combine a political and a family drama. “Family” is of course a key concept for the Republicans—it is also a crucial battleground within the party. Most people see the ‘60s as a period of radical activism for civil rights and against the Vietnam War: on the other side of politics, a parallel movement was forming. In 1960, the Young Americans for Freedom’s (YAF) founding statement insisted that political and economic liberty are indivisible; in 1964, many YAF activists cut their teeth campaigning for Barry Goldwater; in 1969, the YAF national convention split down the middle over the issue of the military draft. The divisions that were exposed in the ‘60s—between traditionalist social conservatives and free-market libertarians, the patrician Republicanism of the northeast and the values voters of the southwest—are fracture-lines that still threaten the Republican Party, despite its current success.

Add to that the difficulty that politicians of all parties have with wayward children, and I felt I had a rich opportunity to combine the most dramatic elements of current politics in a single, climatic weekend.

For a long time, these two ideas were swimming separately round in my head. They came together when Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival both approached me to write a play for them, and responded enthusiastically to the idea that it should be a joint commission. The result is a cycle of two plays, mapping the inter-generational and inter-party struggle between competing but not always incompatible visions of the American Dream, set on either side of the same election in an imaginary western state.

Young Americans for Freedom: The Sharon Statement

Adopted in Conference, at Sharon, Connecticut, on September 11, 1960

EXCERPT
In this time of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.

We, as young conservatives, believe:

THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;

THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom; …

THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power; …

THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;

THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation; that when it takes from one man to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both.

Students for a Democratic Society: Port Huron Statement

Adopted on June 15, 1962 at the SDS national convention in Port Huron, Michigan

EXCERPT
We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love…Men have unrealized potential for self-cultivation, self-direction, self-understanding, and creativity. It is this potential that we regard as crucial and to which we appeal, not to the human potentiality for violence, unreason, and submission to authority…

In a participatory democracy, the political life would be based in several root principles:

THAT decision-making of basic social consequence be carried on by public groupings;

THAT politics be seen positively, as the art of collectively creating an acceptable pattern of social relations;

THAT politics has the function of bringing people out of isolation and into community, thus being a necessary, though not sufficient, means of finding meaning in personal life; …

THAT work should involve incentives worthier than money or survival. It should be educative, not stultifying; creative, not mechanical; self-directed, not manipulated, encouraging independence, a respect for others, a sense of dignity, and a willingness to accept social responsibility, …

THAT the economic experience is so personally decisive that the individual must share in its full determination.

Utopia / Dystopia

“DEBATES are to ELECTIONS what TREATIES are to WARS. They ratify what has already been accomplished on the battlefield.”—Samuel Popkin, Debate Consultant

“Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused Friday to debate his top Republican rival, state Sen. Tom McClintock, saying IT WOULD NOT FIT INTO HIS STRATEGY FOR WINNING the recall replacement election…‘I have a plan to become the next governor of the state of California and the best way to do that is to stay on course.’”—San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, Sep 13, 2003

“Too many people have been beaten because they tried to substitute SUBSTANCE for STYLE.”—Patrick Cadell to Jimmy Carter

“You don’t need a WEATHER MAN / To know WHICH WAY THE WIND BLOWS”—Bob Dylan, 1965, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

“Recent events taking place on college campuses illustrate the growing trend towards ANARCHY which is overtaking our nation. It is important that the Bureau, as a result of theses events, redouble its efforts in penetrating these groups which have spearheaded the attacks on our established institutions…”—memo from J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations, May 16,1968

“In 1969, SDS, at the peak of its size and militancy, with some hundred thousand members, hundreds of chapters, millions of supporters, and under intense scrutiny (to say the least) of the White House and the FBI, broke into SCREAMING FACTIONS, one of which, the Weathermen, began to build bombs…History, as Czeslaw Milosz has said in a different connection, came off its leash.”—Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (Bantam Books, 1989)

“The ‘good sixties/bad sixties’ analysis is fraught with historical omissions…It bolsters complacency masked as maturity by underestimating how profoundly periods of intense conflict can alter people’s conceptions of WHAT IS POSSIBLE AND DESIRABLE.”—Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (Verso Press, 2002)

“Earth First! is not just a conservation movement, it is also a social change movement…It doesn’t make sense to bemoan the destruction of nature while SUPPORTING THE SYSTEM that is destroying it.”—Judi Bari, Timber Wars (Common Courage Press, 1994)

“I’ve spoken of the SHINING CITY all my political life…a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”—President Ronald Reagan, Farewell Address, January 1989

“The people of Berkeley must increase their combativeness; develop, tighten, and toughen their organizations; and transcend their middle-class, ego-centered life styles…We shall create a genuine community and control it to serve our material and spiritual needs. We shall develop new forms of democratic participation and new, more humane styles of work and play. In solidarity with other revolutionary centers and movements, our Berkeley will permanently challenge the present system and act as one of many training grounds for the liberation of the planet. We will make Telegraph Avenue and the South Campus A STRATEGIC FREE TERRITORY FOR REVOLUTION.”—from the manifesto of the Berkeley Liberation Program, 1969

“And this [Republican] party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is FREEDOM…balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that LIBERTY lacking order will not become the LICENSE of the mob and of the jungle.”—Barry Goldwater, accepting the nomination for president at the 1964 Republican National Convention

“The old get old / And the young get stronger / May take a week And it may take longer / They got the guns / But we got the numbers / Gonna win, yeah / We’re takin’ over / Come on!”—The Doors, 1968, “Five to One”

“Just because we have won victory, we must never relax our vigilance against the frenzied plots for revenge by the imperialists and their RUNNING DOGS.”—Mao Tse Tung

“At the risk of giving away the ending: it’s all LIBERALS’ FAULT.”—Ann Coulter, Slander (Crown Publishing Group, 2002)

California Constitution Article 2

SEC. 8. (a) The initiative is the power of the electors to propose statutes and amendments to the Constitution and to adopt or reject them. (b) An initiative measure may be proposed by presenting to the Secretary of State a petition that sets forth the text of the proposed statute or amendment to the Constitution and is certified to have been signed by electors equal in number to 5 percent in the case of a statute, and 8 percent in the case of an amendment to the Constitution, of the votes for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. (c) The Secretary of State shall then submit the measure at the next general election held at least 131 days after it qualifies or at any special statewide election held prior to that general election. The Governor may call a special statewide election for the measure.

Proposition 92: Oath of Allegiance

Summary: Requires all candidates for elective office, applicants for public employment, current state employees and state beneficiaries, residents of public housing, and new or re-registering voters to affirm loyalty to the United States, its values and its laws in the following terms: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will support its Constitution, uphold its democratic values and observe its laws; that I am not a member or supporter of any organization which pursues its ends by force; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”