The Best Man Opens This Weekend

In Gore Vidal’s classic 1960 play, The Best Man, two rival presidential candidates duke it out for the ex-president’s endorsement and to become their party’s nominee. Thankfully, if you’re tired of watching the real fights on TV, this night at the theatre includes no plagiarized speeches, e-mail scandals, or candidates by the name of Clinton and Trump. Instead, you’ll get a great satire on American politics that’s equal parts funny and dramatic.

My name is Scott Miesse, and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to play the role of Joe Cantwell, a senator with plain naked ambition who will stop at nothing to win his party’s nomination. Sound familiar? Gore Vidal’s writing has stood the test of time, in large part because he was so prophetic about what politics was turning into; the issues he raises are incredibly timely. On the flip side, he had a good sense of what is timeless about human nature; Vidal was able to write intricate characters that are still so recognizable among today’s politicians. In the play Joe Cantwell’s opponent, William Russell, digs into him by noting that Joe is a self-made man who fights his way to the top, but how exactly he does it and who he clobbers to get there is not always in plain view. You might say there are characters who posses that kind of intensity and drive in recent presidential races, and we’re not always sure whether to admire their initiative or question what’s been going on behind the scenes. In a similar vein, there are characters, like Russell, who are intelligent, witty, and level-headed. You’d love to have them over for dinner, but you wonder if they have what it takes to be the leader of the free world. The tensions in both these men lead the play to ask who is the “best man” – and the answers it proposes are fascinating and complex. And maybe also a little scary, given today’s climate.

Our final production has come through weeks of rehearsal and it has been an absolute joy working with such professionals. Our director started our first four rehearsals with table work – sitting around a table together, reading and re-reading the play, talking about characters’ objectives and motivations. There have only been a few productions I have been a part of that utilize this kind of work before getting the actors up on the stage. During this time we broke down the play into units, or smaller segments. In a unit each character has a goal that encompasses another actor or actors onstage so it creates tension, needing something from someone else. Having done this work it is so helpful to then fully memorize the script with these details in mind that create a much more dynamic and interesting story.

The candidates are now in their corners ready to fight, and we hope you’ll join us for the main event. Lights, politics, action. This is a show down you do not want to miss.

The Best Man runs from July 29th through August 7th, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2 PM. The play is being performed at The Black Box Theatre at GlenOak High School, 1801 Schneider Street NE in Canton. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.seatofthepants.eventbrite.com.