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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Heidi Schreck on the vital What The Constitution Means To Me

Heidi Schrek
Heidi Schrek
Photo: Amazon

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Friday, October 15, and Saturday, October 16. All times are Eastern.


Top picks

What The Constitution Means To Me (Amazon, Friday, 3:01 a.m., premiere): With Broadway shut down through May of next year and many, if not all, regional and local theaters following suit, films like Marielle Heller’s recording of What The Constitution Means To Me (and Disney+’s invaluable document of the original cast of Hamilton) are more precious than ever. But the opportunity to see Heidi Schreck’s remarkable play—a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama—on screen would be invaluable even if the performing arts world had not been dealt blow after crushing blow in 2020.

In Constitution, Schreck plays herself, speaking warmly and frankly about her experience traveling the country as a 15-year-old, participating in debates about the United States Constitution to raise money for college. That’s the seed from which Constitution grows, but its vines reach far and wide, through both Schreck’s personal history and that of the U.S. It is vital, electric viewing, particularly right now. We spoke with Schreck about her play, the unsettling timeliness of its release, and what it’s like to wake up and find yourself on Breitbart.

The A.V. Club: So, an unavoidable question: What’s it like for you, having this film come out during Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings in this week of all weeks?

Heidi Schreck: Honestly, it’s a bit overwhelming. I recently watched the film—we were doing a color pass and I’ve been involved with editing—and when I was watching it, I thought, ‘I feel so much older than that woman. I feel like I’m watching a slightly more hopeful version of myself.’ That’s not to say that I don’t have hope, but I’m finding this week incredibly challenging. I have a lot of anger about these hearings. And I have a lot of fear about what’s going to happen to our Supreme Court after these hearings.

This is life or death for a lot of people. The decisions that the court is going to make if we have a 6/3 [conservative majority] are going to harm people. It’s going to cost people their healthcare. It’s going to affect voting rights, marriage equality, and a person’s right to make choices about their own reproductive healthcare. There’s so much at stake. I hope people might watch the film and realize how much this matters, if they don’t already.


AVC: You spent years performing this play, and the text was able to evolve with the world and acknowledge current events, however briefly. Can you imagine what doing the play now would be like? Would you be able to?

HS: I think I would. I remember doing the show the day that Dr. Blasey Ford testified [during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings]. I was so angry and so upset, and I remember thinking, ‘I have no idea how I’m gonna perform tonight.’ But on stage, I felt such a connection to people in the audience who were also having an emotional reaction to what was going on. Something about doing the show allowed me to move through all of my despair and anger to a place of, not exactly hope, but of feeling like I had energy to keep going and to take action and to fight. In some ways I wish I could do the show right now; there’s something about the arc of it that allows me to be in touch with my feelings, to process them, and then to feel like I have strength to keep going.


AVC: The play ends with a debate between you and a New York high schooler, Rosdely Ciprian. Watching it now, it’s incredibly inspiring but also made me aware of all the opportunities that could be taken from her. Do the Rosedelys of the world still make you optimistic?

HS: I don’t know that I exactly feel optimistic. However, I do feel inspired by people like Rosedely or Thursday Williams, our other debater, to go out and do what I can to help them grow up in a world where they can flourish. They’re both brilliant young women. I have faith in them, and they do give me hope, because they’re brilliant, passionate, activism-oriented young people. But I think the stronger feeling I have [is that they] give me energy to be an activist because I want to make this country better for them.


AVC: I have so many questions I want to ask you, but they’re all so sad. Do we talk about the future of theatre in the United States? There’s a section of the play that specifically addresses policing and violence against women, so do we talk about Breonna Taylor?

HS: Well, you’re welcome to say that I am absolutely for defunding the police. Breitbart published an article about it the other day.


AVC: Wait, really?

HS: Oh, yeah. I guess they saw the trailer and then looked at my tweets and then, headline: “Liberal playwright wants to defund,” and so on. So I’ve been found out.


American Utopia (HBO, Saturday, 8 p.m., premiere): “The film opens… with Byrne crooning a song to a plastic brain. Silly? A little. But also an instant visual symbol of his mission to get his audience’s minds moving right along with their feet. By the end, you’re grateful for such a loving record of the show, though the upshot is bittersweet: When Byrne and his band make their way through the crowd during the encore, it’s hard not to process American Utopia as both a balm and a requiem for live experiences.” Read the rest of A.A. Dowd’s review from the Toronto International Film Festival, and keep an eye out for an additional piece from Erik Adams tomorrow.

Regular coverage

The Great British Baking Show (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m.)
Saturday Night Live (NBC, Saturday, 11:29 p.m.): Host Issa Rae, musical guest Justin Bieber
The Haunting Of Bly Manor (Netflix): Binge coverage continues, concluding Saturday

More from TV Club

Grand Army (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): “Based on her Slut: The Play, Katie Cappiello’s Grand Army joins the few projects that give us an authentic view of teenhood and the emotional saga of high school without exploiting its young people or hiding behind a glaze of Hollywood tropes.” Read the rest of Aramide Tinubu’s pre-air review.

La Révolution (Hulu, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): “Netflix’s new historical drama La Révolution, an eight-hour series directed by Aurélien Molas, doesn’t so much bend history as it snaps it across its knee, fashioning its pieces into a bonfire around which to tell nationalist feel-good fairy tales and ghost stories.” Read the rest of Toussaint Egan’s pre-air review.

Helstrom (Hulu, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): Helstrom doesn’t have the panache of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it is a serviceably spooky TV series with some interesting hooks about how demonic parentage influences nature versus nurture.” Read the rest of Sam Barsanti’s pre-air review.



From Film Club

The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m., premiere): “The trial remains one of the most notorious in American history, and Sorkin remains faithful to its infuriating miscarriages of justice—to the way it seemed to illustrate, on a giant public stage, the rigged game our legal system can become.” Read the rest of A.A. Dowd’s film review.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!