Emily Waecker is returning for her fourth show with Remy Bumppo, where she has previously designed An Inspector Calls, You Never Can Tell (Jeff Award), and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Jeff nominated). In this interview, Emily shares what has made the design process for Both Your Houses unique from any other.
James Bohnen, our Artistic Director Emeritus, is back to direct for the first time in three years! In a rapid fire, three question interview, he has shared his initial insights into Both Your Houses and his return to the Remy Bumppo directorial helm.
Read the interview >
A dramaturgical timeline helps the artists place the dramatic work in cultural, political, and socio-historical context. It also informs the various elements of the production's physical design, creating an accurate sense of the time and place within which the action of the play unfolds.
Maxwell Anderson’s Both Your Houses, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1933, is critical of contemporary Congress and expresses the country’s loss of faith in governmental process. It is necessary to historically contextualize this play in order to recognize the parallels and differences between then and now. The following timeline is organized into four sections: theatre and literature; film and visual arts; science and technology; history and politics.
The only women in Both Your Houses are Congresswoman Miss McMurtry and secretaries Marjorie and Bus. Even though the first Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin (R-MT), took office in 1917 and the 19th Amendment that extended voting rights to women was passed in 1920, the political culture would take decades to adjust to female enfranchisement. The treatment of Miss McMurtry by her male peers reflects the male-domination and bias of Congress in the early 20th century. Many of the early Congresswomen attained office through “widow’s succession,” continuing the policies of their late husbands. These political pioneers tried to integrate themselves as congressional insiders but were often prevented from serving on powerful committees. They were also challenged by social expectations about the “proper” female roles of wives, mothers, and caregivers, and suitable subjects for their attention. Above all, Congress was resistant to the changing gender roles taking place in American society, but these first Congresswomen remained undeterred.
In Both Your Houses, Alan McClean tries to kill a House Resolution that will put federal money toward constructing the “Nevada Dam” in his home state. The Nevada Dam parallels the real-world Hoover Dam, started in the same year that Both Your Houses was first produced. In 1921, Herbert Hoover proposed Hoover Dam’s construction on the Colorado River in hopes that the project would tame the Colorado River and be financed through the sale of its hydroelectric power. The Colorado River Board finally passed his proposal in 1928, requesting $165 million from the US government. Six Companies, Inc. won the contract and completed the enormous dam in 1935, using enough concrete to pave a road from Seattle to Florida and employing 21,000 men, 112 of whom were killed by poor working and living conditions. Almost 80 years later, the cost of the Hoover Dam has been repaid to the Federal Treasury, as predicted by Hoover after whom the dam was eventually named.
Both Your Houses takes place in a building taken over by mold and in a state of disrepair. In designing this set, Yu Shibagaki drew from the historical home, or lack thereof, of the Appropriations Committee. The committee relocated at least six times after the construction of the Capitol building in 1793, before finding a permanent residence in 1938.
Learn more about the many homes of the Appropriations Committee >
Maxwell Anderson was incensed enough with the Hoover administration during the Great Depression that he set aside the work on his Tudor trilogy of poetic tragedies to return to his journalistic roots and pen Both Your Houses, a scathingly witty comedy about the corrupt practices in Congress.
Anderson was born in 1888 in Atlantic, Pennsylvania. He was an avid reader as a boy, especially of poetry, and graduated with degrees in English Literature from the University of North Dakota and Stanford University before becoming an English teacher and part-time journalist in San Francisco. In 1917, he became Chair of the Whittier College English Department, a Quaker institution, but was ironically dismissed for expressing pacifist views in 1918. He subsequently moved to New York to write for the New Republic, New York Evening Globe, and New York World, before becoming a dramatist, finding critical and financial success with his second play, the anti-war What Price Glory? (1924)
Anderson is known for his range of work, plays, poetry, screenplays, etc., but especially for his plays written in blank verse.
He died in Stamford, Conneticut in 1959 at the age of 70.
Remy Bumppo Field Guide @ 2018