In 2008, Barack Obama surged to a historic election victory thanks to a groundswell of popular support. His campaign appealed to the hopes of a generation.
Six years later, as his presidency enters its final years, Over Here Theatre Company and Theatre 503 present a two-week festival of new American plays about life in Obama’s America.
Greg Wilford spoke to director Lydia Parker.
Greg Wilford: How did the idea for this festival originate?
Lydia Parker: I’m originally from the US, but I’ve lived in the UK for 14 years, so I haven’t actually been in America since Obama became president. I was curious to see what life was like there, what Americans thought of him, and I thought it would make a great idea for a festival.
GW: This production has been partly funded by Kickstarter. Was that always your intention?
LP: I’ve never done Kickstarter before, but I decided to give it a go. We finally reached our target with 67 minutes left to go. It was a real surprise to get total strangers supporting us.
GW: Some of the playwrights have written for US network television and HBO. Was it hard to get those people involved?
LP: Not really. When I was looking for submissions I contacted literary agents in America and the playwrights association in New York, and we got lots of volunteers. Charles Evered wrote his piece specifically for the show.
GW: Do you think Obama’s administration is as ripe for satire as George Bush’s was?
LP: It’s not really all satire; it’s more of a balanced show. Because Obama is so intelligent and well-spoken, people think he’s made mistakes, but they’re worried that he’s signed off things like the NSA and drone strikes. Some of the plays reflect the good things that have happened while he’s been in office, like Obamacare. We just tried to choose the best-written plays, and quite often they tend to be the critical ones.
GW: How do you think Obama will be remembered once he’s left office?
LP: I think he’ll be remembered very positively. He’s been called a socialist by Republicans who oppose Obamacare, but he’s for the people.
Theatre 503, the Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, Battersea; June 3 to 14, Tuesday-Saturday 7.45pm, Sunday 5pm; £12; theatre503.com, 020 7978 7040