“Here's how you might fall in love with the Supreme Court: sitting in a dark theater, watching actors facing one another on a minimally dressed stage, reenacting an oral argument. This is Arguendo, a new play from Elevator Repair Service.… [It is] in the way of the best intellectual debates: impassioned, witty, quirky.”—Paris Review
Supreme Court Case:
Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc.
Docket # 90-26
Question: Does a state prohibition against complete nudity in public places violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression?
Widely acclaimed New York City theater ensemble Elevator Repair Service
(ERS) utilize a 1991 Supreme Court case that examines this central question and its verbatim transcribed text as the basis for their new production, Arguendo
, which is co-commissioned by the Wexner Center
. Arguendo (a legal term meaning for the sake of the argument) centers on a case brought by erotic dancers at two Indiana clubs, the Glen Theater and the Kitty Kat Lounge, who were petitioning the court for the right to perform completely nude. In ERS’s ingenious staging, three actors portray all of the Justices of the Supreme Court. The justices display surprisingly dry wit as they draw out key issues of free speech, censorship, and even the fine distinctions of the definition of art in their sage deliberations. “How does one draw that line between Salome and the Kitty Kat Lounge?” poses Justice Antonin Scalia.
Throughout, a dynamic background of animated projected text (taken from legal precedents) swirls, shifts, and zeroes into focus. This cleverly amplifies the strategies and thought processes of the two lawyers involved as petitioners in the case, as they scramble to withstand the probing inquiries of the justices. Arguendo and its thorny First Amendment puzzle illuminates the inner workings of the Supreme Court while entertaining you with humor, insight, and superbly inventive stagecraft.
Following each performance John Collins, artistic director of Elevator Repair Service, discusses Arguendo, the inner workings of the Supreme Court, and First Amendment issues with the following local authorities, who we thank for their interest and participation in this program. Tonight's expert will be David Goldberger, Professor Emeritus of Law, here at The Ohio State University.
Arguendo represents a fresh direction for Elevator Repair Service, who longtime Wex theater fans may recall from such earlier productions as Total Fictional Lie and Highway to Tomorrow. Since then, ERS experienced a major breakthrough with Gatz, their word-for-word staging of The Great Gatsby which toured to huge success worldwide. (The New York Times called it “The most remarkable achievement in theater not only of this year but also of this decade…one of the most exciting and improbable accomplishments in theater in recent years.”) They followed that remarkable achievement with two more polished productions based on literary classics: The Sound and the Fury and The Select (The Sun Also Rises).
Now ERS distill the strides they have made in recent years with ambitious large-scale stage works, retain the playfulness that is at the heart of the company, and take on new dimensions of civic engagement with Arguendo's multifaceted examination of a constitutional question. The Wex's performances of this riveting work come to us directly following its premiere at the prestigious Public Theater in New York. See for yourself how ERS have developed into one of America’s foremost theater ensembles.
Note: This show is intended for mature audiences, ages 18 and up.
Arguendo was co-commissioned by The Public Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage, and Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University. Arguendo was workshopped at The Public Theater’s 2013 Under the Radar Festival and was developed in part at New York Theatre Workshop and at Abrons Art Center.
This presentation of Arguendo was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It is also supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from Ohio Arts Council and the General Mills Foundation.
Click here for more information.