Cara Blouin has been called the Ann Coulter of Philadelphia, but all the theatrical director wants is for people on the Left and Right to hear each other out.
It’s why she created the Republican Theater Festival, which debuts tomorrow and runs through Wednesday at Plays & Players Theater in Philadelphia. The three-day festival brings 10 conservative-leaning plays to the public in a forum usually reserved for progressive politics.
Plays like Ludmilla Bollow’s “Battle Hymn,” depicting a fight to keep a statue of Jesus in a public park, and C.J. Ehrlich’s “Occupy This,” a tale satirizing those 99 percent types, hardly seem like typical theater fare.
Blouin, 33, says she initially feared she wouldn’t have enough play submissions to kick start the festival. She ended up sifting through roughly 100 entries.
She expected tales promoting conservative social issues, but the biggest themes running through the submissions involved personal responsibility and fiscal conservatism. The plays also captured the sense of alienation conservatives feel in today’s not-so-tolerant arts culture.
The plays may have been written by conservative-minded playwrights, but the actors and directors bringing them to life are mostly liberal.
“They are the sort of actors who are interested in pushing their own boundaries,” she says, adding the actor playing the leader of the Christian group in “Battle Hymn” is a devout atheist.
The rehearsal process opened up the kinds of open discussions Blouin hoped would happen when she first came up with the festival. The same can’t be said of the feedback from outside the rehearsal space.
Some liberals are angry that their peers are “fraternizing with the enemy,” while some conservatives feel the plays put the Right into a too-narrow template. The Philadelphia press has treated the festival with respect, she says, although some bloggers trashed the event sight unseen.
Blouin doesn’t want to be a spokeswoman for the Right. She plans on handing off the festival to a new director next year. She’s still heartened by some of the initial responses. She recalls a conservative actor sharing how he routinely sits quietly in dressing rooms play after play while his peers “make fun of my ideas and religion.”
“It’s nice to have this opportunity,” he told her.