With Thursday’s visit by conservative speaker Dennis Prager — and the heated debates surrounding that visit — free speech, censorship and competing economic ideals have been the talk of University of Wyoming campus this week.
So, an irreverent play poking fun of trickle-down economics, capitalism, socialism and the corporate takeover of government and media could not have come to UW at a better time.
“Fascism! The Musical” opens Tuesday — less than a week after Prager’s visit — with performances continuing throughout the week, and speaks to the current campus climate, said UW Professor William Missouri Downs, who co-wrote and will co-direct the play.
“Those who want to limit freedom of speech on campus are the real fascists,” Downs said. “Anyone who tries to shout down a speaker — they’re the problem. Right and left, it’s happening on both sides. There is no political party innocent here.”
Downs wrote the play with Sean Stone, temporary assistant lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance. The pair teamed up previously to write “Angry Psycho Princesses,” a play that satirized Disney princesses.
Downs is co-directing the play with Kevin Inouye, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance.
“Fascism!” is a musical comedy about a fake, 24-hour news channel called “Wolf News.”
“The women newscasters go on strike and protest the fact that the United States is no longer the United States,” Downs said. “It is now the Corporate States of America and corporations now have more power than the government.”
The play features songs about trickle-down economics, student loan debt and guns on campus, and a musical number in which the philosopher Ayn Rand sings about the virtues of selfishness.
“We (also) have a socialism polka, where we put the social back in socialism,” Downs said.
The play lampoons the current state of affairs in this country, as exemplified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the controversial Citizens United case, which defined money as speech and allowed corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions, Downs said.
“We’re in a situation now where individual billionaires and massive multinational corporations have more control over American life than the government,” he said. “If you have a problem with an elected leader, you call them up, you can send them a letter, you can vote them out. But when you have a problem with a corporation, you are powerless.”
Many have objected to UW putting on the play, Downs said.
“One of the problems is this country has lost its sense of humor,” he said. “And the students are losing their sense of humor. Being a comedian is tough when the audience is afraid to laugh.”
Regardless, Downs said he hopes students — as well as other members of the community — will attend, as they have much to gain from the humor and passion of the play.
“I think a sense of humor is a sign of maturity,” he said. “When you can laugh at yourself, at your country, at your leadership, at your religion, at your beliefs, you’re a mature person. Immaturity is when you cannot question yourself, when you can’t chuckle with yourself. And we have a lot of immature people in this country right now.”
“Fascism! The Musical” opens 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, with 7:30 p.m. performances continuing through Saturday, Nov. 18. The final show starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19. All performances take place on the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Main Stage.
Tickets are $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for UW students and can be purchased at the Performing Arts Box Office or at www.uwyo.edu/finearts. Call 766-6666 for more information.