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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Play challenging U.S. Constitutional protection of minority groups plays at Overture Center

Forward Theater presents Pulitzer Prize winning play, ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’
Playwrite’s personal experiences on her high school debate team inspired “What the Constitution Means to Me.” Image courtesy of Ross Zentner

Written in 2017 by Washington playwright, screenwriter and actress Heidi Schreck, “What the Constitution Means to Me” first premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop Sept. 12, 2018, according to Concord Theatricals. Later, in March of 2019, it would appear on Broadway, becoming an immediate sensation.

Inspired by events in Shreck’s childhood, it received widespread recognition and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Drama was nominated for two prizes at the 73rd Tony Awards.

Schreck is well known for her works “Creature,” “There Are No More Big Secrets” and “The Consultant.” Her most well-known work, though, is “What the Constitution Means to Me.”


A semi-autobiographical work, Schreck takes inspiration from her experience in constitutional debate in high school, where she gave speeches on the Constitution to raise money for her college education, according to Concord Theatricals.

Today, Forward Theater brings the show to the Overture Center for the Arts under the artistic direction of Jen Uphoff Gray.

Gray was first introduced to the play in the initial stages of its production. But it wouldn’t be until she saw it in New York that she would try to produce it in Madison.

“I knew going in before I saw it, how sort of important and informative it would be with the subject matter,” Gray said. “What I didn’t know until I saw it was how much warmth, humor and just sort of human emotion the play would have.”

The play addresses our understanding of the U.S. Constitution and its failure to protect women and minority groups.

It uses personal experiences and family relations to explain what the Constitution does or does not do for citizens, especially women.

“It is a woman’s attempt to understand the ways in which the United States Constitution does or does not protect her as a citizen,” Gray said.

It is also said to address themes such as sexual assault, immigration, mental illness, abortion and abuse. Schreck uses personal experiences and family relations to address these issues.

The combination of dark themes and witty humor is what makes the play so entertaining and captivating, Gray said. It takes the dry topic of the Constitution and dark themes like abuse and mixes them with humor and a human touch.

“The way that [the play] deals with some potentially very dry or dark material in a very warm, warm and human way stood out to me,” Gray said.

The production features four cast members. The leading role as Heidi Schreck will be played by Colleen Madden, who is a core company member at American Players Theater and was previously cast in many roles such as Gertrude in “Hamlet,” Posthumus and Cloten in “Cymbeline” and Tranio in “The Taming of the Shrew.” She has also worked before with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks and Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Other cast members include high school debate students Alliae Krueger and Caroline Talis from Salt Creek High School and La Follette High School, respectively.

Krueger and Talis will be performing as debaters. This is another novelty of the play, Gray told The Cap Times last month. It is very rare to have actors below the age of 18 cast.

Casem AbuLughod is a Madison-based improv performer, actor and instructor. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and also holds a Master of Arts in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York.

AbuLughod was previously involved in performances with theaters such as Children’s Theater of Madison and Are We Delicious? — a Madison-based ensemble of Madison writers and performers — and Strollers Theatre.

AbuLughod will play the role of moderator, a representation of the American Legionnaires young Heidi presented for.

Together, the actors, along with director Jen Uphoff Gray, and the Forward Theater Company wish to entertain the Madison community with a night of fun and laughter while questioning the document that shapes and governs our lives in the U.S.

The play is expected to run April 4-21 at the Overture Center for the Arts. Tickets start at $25 for the general public, and student tickets can be purchased for $15.

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