Playwright C.J. Ehrlich enjoys writing characters who represent a variety of viewpoints. She still jumped at the chance to explore conservative themes without fear of ideological reprisal.
Ehrlich’s “Occupy This” is part of the first Republican Theater Festival, a three-day event in Philadelphia designed to let right-leaning playwrights have their say.
“What’s unique about this festival is that [founder] Cara Blouin gave us a safe space to speak for right-leaning characters without demonizing them,” Ehrlich says. Nor did she have to “dance around the minefield of P.C. talking points.”
“Occupy This,” by her own description, is “an affectionate skewering” of the far-left movement capped by an exchange between a business woman and a homeless man. The man wants the woman to “invest” in his lunch.
The inspiration for the play’s first part came directly from the damage caused by long-running Occupy camps, not to mention the resources squandered nationwide to keep the peace and clean up the mess.
She drew material for the play’s second half from her work as a soup kitchen volunteer and EMT.
“Many people are conflicted when confronted for cash on the street – we all support so many safety nets but still feel guilty in that moment of saying no,” she says. “As the woman says to the panhandler, “Who do you think paid for that sidewalk you’re sitting on?”
Blouin’s purpose with creating the Republican Theater Festival was to open a genuine dialogue between the Left and the Right. As far as Ehrlich is considered, Blouin more than met her goals.
“Both sides are getting pulled apart by the extreme ends where the bottom line is, ‘because I said so.’ Until we stop demonizing ‘them’ and start working toward ‘us’ it’s going to be nothing but shouting,” she says.
Not every play at the debut festival is “Republican,” Ehrlich says. “There are many nuanced points of view,” she says. “What makes this festival special is that it’s not ‘politics as usual.’ Both sides are being heard.”