The cyclical nature of humankind’s foibles and achievements is a common thread to much of HHG Theatre’s work. Several of our plays – shows like Re:Union, Except in the Unlikely Event of War, and works-in-progress like Glacier and It Can’t Happen Here – are set in bygone eras or previous generations. In a sense, we’re choosing to investigate our present state through a “reflective” lens. Perhaps it’s a more direct route to coming to terms with who we are by connecting with who we’ve always been.
This is certainly the case with our new project Daisy. When we started developing this story set during the 1964 U.S. Presidential election we knew that we were using it to comment on contemporary society and democracy, but we had no idea just how similar the past was going to be to the present.
The 1964 U.S. Presidential election featured Barry Goldwater as the Republican candidate, a man who was carried forward to his Party’s nomination on a wave of extremism that he was both the progenitor of and the fortunate beneficiary of. Sound familiar?
Donald Trump (and Ted Cruz) and the current state of the Republican Party are looking frightfully similar to what was going on in 1964.
Of course, the 1964 campaign is most remembered by the infamous “Daisy Girl” ad, which is the central element to our play. But there was another famous advertisement from that campaign which was just as devastating, and which has recently come back into the public consciousness like a bolt of collective lighting.
“Confessions of a Republican” is a brilliant piece of political messaging created by Doyle Dane Bernbach that features an actor (who was a real Republican) delivering a blistering criticism of why he cannot support his nominee Barry Goldwater, even though he’s been a lifelong Republican. As you listen to this brilliant ad, it’s impossible not to hear “Trump” everytime you hear “Goldwater”.
Playwright Sean Devine went to New York City in 2014 and got to meet and interview the actor Bill Bogert who played the “Republican” in the ad, and got to watch Mr. Bogert watch himself. Here he is: