It Can't Happen Here

By Susan Medak posted 09-11-2020 07:27


Dear Colleague,

On October 13, Berkeley Rep will launch a radio play adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s remarkably prescient and terrifying political drama IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE. We hope you will join Roundabout Theater, South Coast Rep, Center Theater Group, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Rep, and Arena Stage as Broadcast Partners in sharing this recording with your audience and community at no cost. Our intention in reviving this production in its new form is to use our theatrical tools and collective reach to get out the vote!

We ask nothing of you other than to promote this event to your audience and to share news of your participation with your local press.

About the Play

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a novel that imagines the rise of fascism in America. Concerned about race riots, a huge income gap between the rich and the poor, the stigmatizing of immigrants, global terror, and a right-wing extremist running for president, Lewis’ novel reads like it was ripped out of today’s headlines. Whether he’s describing Buzz Windrip, the demagogue who wins the presidency based on the promise of making our country great again, or Doremus Jessup, a liberal newspaper editor who simply waits too long to take Windrip seriously, Lewis’ understanding of our political system was precise and far-reaching. The parallels to this moment in time are uncanny and the cautionary nature of his message is profoundly important.

Shortly after publication of the novel, Lewis wrote a play by the same name for the Federal Theatre Project. On October 27, 1936, the play opened in 21 cities across the United States, free of charge - its message created a sensation.  In 2016 Berkeley Rep produced Bennet Cohen and Tony Taccone’s theatrical adaptation of Lewis’ novel, and simultaneously made the play available to theaters, universities, and community centers across the country to present their own readings of the play. Our production ran in the weeks preceding the election that ultimately brought Donald Trump to the presidency, and those of us who were witness to the production found the election particularly unnerving because it had been so frighteningly anticipated way back in 1935.  Lewis’s ability to imagine what had seemed unimaginable and then suddenly became very real showed a remarkable understanding of the power of the darkest forces in our country.

And now, as we look ahead to an election with almost unimaginable consequences for our country, Berkeley Rep reunites Bennet Cohen, Tony Taccone, and Lisa Peterson with much of the original cast, as well as some extraordinary new additions, to bring this vital story to new life. And once again, the Lewis estate has given us the rights to share this with audiences so long as it is shared with them at no cost. 

About the team

Original novel by Sinclair Lewis
Adaptation by Bennett S. Cohen and Tony Taccone
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Sound Designer Paul James Prendergast

David Strathairn
Elijah Alexander
Danforth Comins
Scott Coopwood
William Thomas Hodgson
Anna Ishida
David Kelly
Sharon Lockwood
Eddie Lopez
Alex Lydon
Tom Nelis
Greta Oglesby
Gerardo Rodriguez
Carolina Sanchez
Charles Shaw Robinson
Mark Kenneth Smaltz

The event

A prerecorded audio play of IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE

October 13  8pm EST/7pm CST/6pm MST/5pmPST (via a YouTube link) [note that the recording will continue to be available to audiences until Election Day (Nov. 3, 2020)].

Artist credits and dramaturgy available to all your viewers via a link to be determined

A live Q & A with the creative team following the broadcast

Recognition of your theater as a Broadcast Partner

A sample press release that you can adapt for your use with local press

What we ask of you

  • Notify us of your desire to participate in this effort by filling out this form. Any theater that signs on by end of day on Tuesday, September 8th will be included in a national press release announcing the event.
  • Promote this event to your audience and community
  • Invite any other theater, school, community organization that might share your interests in joining us as Broadcast Partners. Anyone who completes the form as a Partner will be recognized in any future press release and during the broadcast, itself.

That’s it. We hope it’s pretty straightforward!

We know this is short notice. But we hope that won’t keep you from joining us.

Let’s come together to GET OUT THE VOTE!

Susie Medak                      Johanna Pfaelzer

Berkeley Repertory Theatre