Originally Published: October 29, 2014 5:28 p.m.
Playwright Rich Orliff realized that "beyond politics, there are real people."
So, he tapped into his background as a journalist and came up with a documentary-style play that puts real faces on people who belong to the Tea Party around the nation.
The Prescott Center for the Arts Readers Theatre production of "Chatting with the Tea Party" opens at 7 p.m. Thursday at PCA's Stage Too. It plays at Stage Too again at 6 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday and also at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Prescott Valley Public Library and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Chino Valley Senior Center. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Using his experience as a journalist, Orloff spent more than 63 hours interviewing Tea Party leaders in different parts of the United States, in addition to attending meetings and other Tea Party events to answer the question, "Who are these people?"
Parker Anderson, director of the Stage Too Readers Theatre production of "Chatting with the Tea Party," said the play "is balanced in its approach to its controversial subject." In fact, he said, "Liberals and conservatives may come away from it each thinking it is propaganda for the other side."
In a readers' theater format, Anderson, as Orloff, talks with Tea Party leaders, taking verbatim excerpts from the playwright's interviews with such people as Tricia Stickel, president of the Maury County Tea Party in Tennessee, whose discourse relates to an incident in Dearborn, Mich., where a judge used Sharia Law to decide an assault case involving a Muslim. Another of the multiple portrayals of real people in the play is Bob Diamond, head of the Bronx Tea Party, who warns of the unseen hand of the Council on Foreign Relations controlling the U.S. government.
In addition to Anderson, the cast includes Paul Epoch, Deana Carol, Layne Longfellow, Bill Haas, Arlene Minuskin and Mary Timpany.
As Orloff researched his subject, Anderson noted the playwright found that the Tea Party encompasses a widely diverse group of people, some of whom even disagree with each other.
"In the long run, Orloff's quixotic quest has him questioning his own world view," Anderson said.
"The play does not tell you what to believe, but it may well help you identify what you do believe," Longfellow said. "Most of us have friends and colleagues around us who share our views, so we don't present those views to others who differ from us. Here, in this production, we get to hear what we do believe, spelled out, so it's clear and understandable. And, we get to hear what others do believe - others whose views are different from our own - also clear and understandable."
The actors, whose real life Tea Party members are colorful, find "Chatting with the Tea Party" enlightening, they said.
"I learned a lot," Timpany said. The play "is good education for me. I hope it is for the audience."
"What I find surprising is that the narrator, even though he is a playwright, was never condescending," Minuskin said. "He truly wanted to now who they (the Tea Party) were."
"I am definitely learning a lot," Carol said. "I am learning more at each rehearsal."
Epoch has discovered in performing in "Chatting with the Tea Party" that agendas vary from Tea Party to Tea Party.
But, the thread that binds the various Tea Party groups together "is defending the Constitution," he said.
The play "does a remarkable job of laying out both sides," Longfellow said. "And, it is brought to us at the perfect time in our history. It is a presentation of current events in the form of narrative and dialogue."