What the Constitution
What the Constitution The word timely has gotten an intense workout over the last several years. This is what it means to live on an event that was a knife’s edge in the history of. We balance, teetering, on a thin slip of stability, diamond-sharp and diamond-precious. In these times stories can’t help but take on new meaning. In this moment when almost everything seems to be vital Heidi Schreck’s “What The Constitution Meanings to Me” is available on Amazon Prime. It’s a towering achievement, a work of incredible clarity. It is also funny, compassionate, surprising, and, somehow filled with optimism. Watching it is essential and painful, just like taking a deep breath while holding broken ribs. It will hurt. The discomfort is worth the pain.
But it is a big difference, and Schreck’s decision to avoid more dramatic choices imbues “Constitution” with immediacy as well as vulnerability and candor. Focusing mostly on the 14th and ninth amendments, the play explores the beauty, contradictions and especially the failures of the United States Constitution by looking at it through several lenses one of which is her age as a teenager, at the age of 20 as an untrained young woman, as a grown woman, a daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter. (She is as she reveals in one of the best jokes, a huge fan of men “I’m the daughter of an father,” she deadpans, hand on heart.) It’s about her family history, and the history of the United States; it’s about the impact that being excluded from the preamble has meant to her life, and what that affects women as well as people of color LGBTQIA+ and non-binary people–and particularly for trans women and black women every day.
Inevitably, the work that Heller’s film of “Constitution” will get compared to most frequently will likely be Thomas Kail’s film of the original cast of “Hamilton”–proximity of release, subject matter, and of course format all invite the comparison. ( Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Angelica Schuyler wants Thomas Jefferson to “include women in the sequel”;” Schreck’s play seeks to determine if the original needs a rewrite or if the entire project must be cancelled and rebuilt with a brand new script and cast.) However, in its style it harks back to documentarian Jennifer Fox’s 2018 narrative film ” The Tale,” which chronicled Fox’s childhood sexual assault by looking at her personal perspective and using the tools of fiction to both add and remove personal distance. The past and the present can be happening simultaneously.
Schreck’s well-structured and thoughtful text would be a spoiler when we try to describe it more. However, there are some aspects that warrant attention, one of which might play better on film as opposed to in the theatre. While the previous paragraphs could suggest that Schreck’s work is a one-woman operation however, she’s not the only one on the stage long when actor Mike Iveson enters, playing his own role (as Schreck does) and an official there to ensure that Heidi and her unnoticed co-debaters follow the rules to the letter. He is a silent absent, unspoken presence. His role is to enforce the rules that he as well as others like him have written. The man is not in charge of enforcing rules, but he’s in the role of a vigilant and attentive watcher. Schreck reveals layer upon layer about abortion consent, domestic violence, and how the document she was adamant about at just 15 years old has failed her as well as many other women, for many years. The relationship is constantly evolving and Heller conveys the constant presence of Iveson and Schreck’s acute awareness of it with an edged, sharp elegance. The key is in the framing, a statement which, come to think of it, also applies to certain legal interpretations of the law of constitutions. What the Constitution Means to Me HD