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"We the People" Gets Personal

November 30, 2022

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

These are the first 52 words of our country’s founding document, the U.S. Constitution, which was signed more than 230 years ago. We all probably spent hours memorizing the date that the Constitution was signed, who signed it, what’s covered in the Bill of Rights, and countless other factoids we needed to recall for a school test. What we might not have learned is how those 4,543 words—7,591 if you include all 27 amendments—directly impact our everyday lives.

This is precisely what the Obie Award-winning play and FST’s second Winter Mainstage, What The Constitution Means to Me, does.

Called “Endearingly funny and deeply affecting” by The Washington Post, this dramatic comedy explores how the U.S. Constitution affected the life of the playwright, Heidi Schreck, and four generations of her own family.

When Schreck was fifteen-years-old, she gave speeches and participated in debates about the Constitution at American Legion halls across the country for prize money. She used her winnings to put herself through college, where she started out as pre-law—before discovering that her true love was Theatre.

She started to work on the play that would become What the Constitution Means to Me in 2007, after performing a brief monologue about her teenage debating experiences at a theatre in the East Village.

“Honestly, I was kind of led by the play itself,” said Schreck in an interview with The Detroit News. “I didn’t start with the idea of ‘Oh, I’m going to tell these stories about my family.’ I really started with the idea of ‘I’m going to tell the story of being a 15-year-old and doing these contests.'”

Though this play tackles a major historical document, What The Constitution Means to Me is not a history lesson.

“This play asks audiences to truly engage with the heart of the meaning in our Constitution,” said Kate Alexander, the show’s director. “It takes the Constitution out of a tired civics class and makes it vital, important, and necessary to each and every one of us.”

No matter who you are or what you believe, What the Constitution Means to Me is not about forcing answers on anyone or trying to advance an agenda.

“There is no proselytizing in this play,” said Alexander. “There is only the fierce exchange of ideas about what is embodied in this document. It is our play as citizens of America and asks us to engage with the Constitution through the eyes of Heidi and ultimately to make your own decisions.”

What the Constitution Means to Me plays in FST’s Keating Theatre though February 26. For tickets and more information, click here.