A full-length play called The Tea Party Project launches this weekend, set on exposing “the funny, the bizarre, and the downright horrifying” parts of the tea party through comedy and satire. It’s put on by a liberal theater company and runs for two weeks in our nation’s Capitol.
“Don’t take the homemade signs and colonial costumes lightly – there’s something alarming brewing in our politics today,” reads the advertisement. “The Tea Party Project exposes the truth behind the tricorn hats.”
The play promises to “educate, entertain, and empower” its audience through commentary, monologues, photos, and other multimedia. It’s part of the Capital Fringe Festival, a conglomeration of art performances that allows performers to display their talent without the restraints of “artistic vetting or selection.” The result is a hodgepodge of independent acts with the perfect space for something like The Tea Party Project.
“Whether you’re someone who associates a tea party with gun-toting “Patriots” or you still think it means teacups and scones, The Tea Party Project provides a fresh look at the movement defining our political times,” the advertisement continues. “When it comes to the tea party, fact is stranger than fiction.”
Jenny Towns is the co-founder of the theater collective that is putting on The Tea Party Project, which includes five cast members and costs $15 for admission. Towns believes that the performance treats tea partiers fairly.
“We are interested in being fair to people in the tea party movement,” said Towns. “We have people in the tea party who are excited. We are not putting
words in people’s mouths.”
But Towns thinks that a line was crossed around the time of health care reform, and her play intends on exploiting that line for comedic effect.
“That line had to do with some of the hate speech that we saw coming out during that time. Some of the violent rhetoric about revolution, [and] the rise of tea party candidates with very extreme positions,” she said, pointing to Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul as one example.
John O’Hara, author of "A New American Tea Party," fails to see the humor in focusing in on the “funny,” “bizarre,” and “horrifying” parts of the movement. He points out that much of the violence associated with tea party rallies has been staged by anti-tea party protesters who were simply out to discredit the movement.
“We know for a fact that people show up at these rallies with extreme signs, with the intention of making the tea party look extreme,” said O’Hara. “I just think there’s so much going on, there’s so much seriousness, to focus on a few signs seems like a strange place to put your time and effort.”
“There are nutty people on the bus that I take to work. Any gathering of thousands of people are going to have a variety of characters. But the vast majority of people know it’s very mainstream.”
The theater collective that is staging the Tea Party Project was also involved in The Palin Project, a theatrical reading of "Going Rouge: Sarah Palin - An American Nightmare," a book edited by two senior editors at The Nation magazine. Proceeds from that sold-out performance went to Planned Parenthood, and “raised quite a bit of money” for the cause, according to Towns. She is expecting similar crowds this time around.