The HWS Theatre Department held a free public reading on Oct. 24 of a new stage adaptation of “It Can’t Happen Here,” a performance based on the 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis. The production was performed in conjunction with theaters across the country in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the piece’s original opening, an initiative sponsored by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Written as a cautionary response to the rise of Hitler, “It Can’t Happen Here” follows the ascent of a demagogue who rises to the presidency by promising to return America to greatness.
“I lost count of the number of times that we gasped at lines spoken by characters from Lewis’s 1935 text because they felt like they had been ripped from the headlines of a contemporary newspaper,” says the show’s director, Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May.
The performance featured Casey Cady ’18, Jacqueline Fisher ’18, Clare McCormick ’17 and Femke Van Hout, an exchange student from the Netherlands. Also participating were Assistant Professor of Psychology Emily Fisher, Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth, Associate Professor of Political Science DeWayne Lucas and Professor of Music Bob Cowles.
“Art provides an important counterpoint to politics,” May says. “Because these readings happened on the same day in a variety of theatres, they symbolically demonstrate a unified national voice in opposition to the hateful rhetoric that has been so prevalent this election cycle.”
Loren Hiser ‘15 worked on the project during her one-year internship with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
The national reading was made possible thanks to the generous support of Barbara and Rodgin Cohen and Orin Kramer and was presented in cooperation with the Sinclair Lewis Estate. View a short video excerpt from the show.