Tired of negative political commercials and partisan rhetoric? Why not change it up and have some election-season fun?
This weekend the Gilbert and Sullivan Players of Tarpon Springs will poke fun at the political process with a comedic opera, The Spoiler, or Demotic Democracy.
The family-friendly election spoof encourages audience participation — the audience members will even get to vote for their favorite Spoiler candidate.
"It's not a partisan work in any way," said Constantine Grame of Tarpon Springs, who wrote The Spoiler and is its music director. "Between 2002 and '03, I remember observing the election cycle. It wasn't a presidential election, but I realized whatever political perspective one comes from, one doesn't like it when a minor candidate runs with the same principles as your candidate… That could throw the election to the person you really disagree with. I thought it would be funny to take that to the extreme."
Grame did just that, creating the comic opera in three acts that join love and politics. Step back into the late 1800s and early 1900s as the first act opens. The creative set places the audience in a downtown park in any place America. People are carrying their political signs and rallying for their candidates.
Wondering why Grame chose an opera? His answer is as delightful as the production design.
"There's a long tradition of comic operas, but in recent decades, most operas written tend to be on the serious side and people have forgotten about the idea of writing funny ones," said Grame. "I thought we should keep that tradition alive."
And while plenty of action takes place on stage, a lot happens off stage too. Audience members can feel free to bring and wave small flags. Early voting by the audience will also take place before the production starts.
Then they will take part in election day during intermission — but this election day has nothing to do with the real one. Votes will be tallied and results revealed before the end of the show.
Stage director Jamie Bierchen leads his cast of 40 — Democrats, Republicans and independents — in the light-hearted opera sung in English.
Featured characters run the gambit from beautiful and poised to cunning and crooked. On the stage, ladies adorned in long dresses and big hats and dapperly dressed gentlemen speak to a different time, but the political goings-on and the process will seem familiar to today's audiences.
In this political arena created by Grame, there is Mayor Potwhistle, the beautiful Anabel, the unscrupulous candidate Bertrand Bilkmore, election supervisor Miss Angelina Applebottom, and the handsome spoiler, Royston Bartholomew.
"First I started writing the words and then the music," said Grame. "That's where it all came from. If anyone has not seen an opera before, it's something people are going to love because it's funny, it's in English and it's about a topic anybody can laugh at. It's written to be fun and the audience will definitely come away amused."
The production has 14 pieces of music. Grame spent three months writing the words and a year writing the music.
He hopes audience members will walk away humming some of the melodies he composed for the show, but he also hopes people will have a good laugh at the funnier moments of an election cycle.
"The Spoiler is a family show that doesn't address any real political issues," said Grame. "In these politically divided times, we can come together and have a good laugh about the process."