The Election

A play about the rank and file

By Natasha Greenblatt with the company Jennifer Brewin, Qasim Khan, Anand Rajaram, Yolanda Bonnell, Courtenay Stevens

Every election campaign has its central strategists, its local tacticians, its paid organizers — and then there are the troops, the party loyalists, the rank and file, who knock on doors, serve coffee, collate and stuff envelopes, and bang in signs. The Election tells their story.

This theatre project is the second in a series of works about public service in Canada. Common Boots Theatre first created The Public Servant, a play developed from interviews with federal employees.

Common Boots artists will create The Election based on their actual experience of working for four different political parties in local ridings during the 2015 Federal Election. The play’s structure will mimic a campaign: it begins the moment the writ is dropped and ends when the polls close. In between, party workers and our artists set out to convince voters that their party — and only their party — will herald the New Jerusalem.

All election campaigns are filled with drama, setbacks and twists. But rural Canada provides an ideal setting to highlight the distance between national ideals and local practicalities. Rural ridings befuddle national strategists, as constituents rarely sit neatly on the political playground of right or left.

The Creative Process

As participants in the campaigns, artists will focus on their co-campaigners and the dynamic between the rank and file and the higher ups. The artists’ task is not to judge but to campaign. After the vote, the company will create fictional scenes, from which lead writer Natasha Greenblatt will fashion a play. We are planning a workshop production in fall of 2016 and a premier in the 2016-2017 season.

The Election will be a work of fiction. Our concern is citizenship, not scandal. Common Boots will protect anonymity and confidentiality, and have signed agreements to cover activities during the campaign and the resulting play.

A note about the commission:

My family has been running in municipal, provincial and federal elections since 1935. My mother ran in 14 elections; she was the mayor of Victoria, Speaker of the B.C. Legislature and the Minister of Children and Families. My father ran six times, and was an MP from 1988 to 1992. My grandfather on my mother’s side ran five times federally, unsuccessfully. My grandfather on my father’s side ran five times before he was elected MP and was then reelected five times. I have two aunts who ran federally, unsuccessfully, a brother-in-law who ran for the Parti Québécois, unsuccessfully, and wrote a book about Swedish social democracy. The committee rooms were my daycare. As I child, we played election campaign instead of cops and robbers.

— Jennifer Brewin, Artistic Director, Common Boots Theatre