Director Heather Arnson on Speaker Pelosi and the Play She Inspired

Nancy Pelosi The Adult in the Room

Nancy Pelosi. She’s the first female Speaker of the House—and second in line to become President! She’s also the subject of Bill McMahon’s new play “The Adult in the Room” featuring Orlagh Cassidy.

“We’ve been in communication with Speaker Pelosi,” reports Tony/Emmy/Olivier Award-winning producer Jim Kierstead. He and Emmy Award-winning producer Linda Karn and Broadway producer William Fernandez are staging the world premiere in Chicago.

“With this production, we feel we are shining a spotlight on her authentic personality and lesser-known aspects of her life that influenced the powerful woman she has become,” continues Kierstead. “We hope she will come see this production.”

In the meantime, Rebellious spoke to Heather Arnson, who directed the work with Conor Bagley, about Madam Speaker and the play she inspired.

Janet Arvia: What do you think makes Nancy Pelosi tick?
Heather Arnson: Family, faith, protection of the Constitution (it is her sworn duty, after all), and making the world a better place for all who live and will live in it, especially for the children.

Is this a character-driven play with a political slant or a political play with a character-driven slant?
Mainly it is the former…told through a life navigated in and around politics, thus pulling through the theme at nearly every turn. At its core, though, it is about the strength of one person, one woman, who brings her foundations and inspirations with her to and through her greatest challenges and accomplishments both in her personal and professional lives. Often, in fact, those lives intersect in the most curious and complex ways. As Nancy says in the play, with reference to Audrey Hepburn in the specific, and to women as an entire gender, in the global, and by extrapolation here to Nancy herself: “She (has) a lot of colors. As do we all.”

Will you incorporate new political developments as they occur into the play?
Having developed the script through an intricate collaboration process with playwright Bill McMahon, we have sculpted the manuscript…with surgical precision so that it will be able to stand on its own, no matter the current state of the union or its players throughout the run in Chicago, while exemplifying the uniqueness of this moment—her moment—in history.

Further exploration of what shows itself to happen in the ever surprising, not easily navigated, future of our country may or may not find a place in what is already a powerful, theatrical look inside a woman who has, for decades, made an incredible impact on policy and protocol through her fierce determination to protect the founding principles (amended founding principles, noted here with thanks that our Constitution has the ability to grow), that allow for the stability of the country to continue long past this blip in time. To quote Thomas Paine, by way of Nancy Pelosi, “The times have found us.”

“The Adult in the Room” performs at Victory Gardens Theater’s Richard Christiansen Theater from Jan. 26 to Feb. 15. Tickets are available at victorygardens.org. To learn more about the play, visit theadultintheroomplay.com.

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Ms. Arvia is a freelance writer, former filmmaker, artist and Janet-of-all-trades who is pleased to serve as Arts & Culture Editor on our magazine since she’s always been Rebellious.