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Revival Of 'It Can't Happen Here' Has Some Asking, Can It?

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Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

“Buzz” Windrip displays his oratorical skills in a 1936 Federal Theatre Project production of “It Can't Happen Here” in New York City.

A 1930s play that parodies a bombastic outsider who wins the presidency and goes on to become an American dictator is being revived next week in downtown Las Vegas and around the country.

“It Can’t Happen Here,” a cautionary tale by Nobel Prize-winning writer Sinclair Lewis, was first produced during the depths of the Depression, when fascists were goose-stepping across Europe.

Readings of the play are scheduled for Monday in a dozen cities, including Las Vegas. Organizers say the play has resonance in our own times in the way it addresses hot-button topics such as politics, immigration, and economic anxiety.

“There are a lot of similar issues (today), and things that seemingly have not changed,” said Adriana Chavez, who is co-directing the Las Vegas reading. “Doing this reading is a way to address them anew.”

Dina Emerson co-directed the play. She said when she re-read the play this revival she gasped at some of the dialogue and so will others.

“I think when people hear some of the dialogue that was written back then they will gasp, they will gasp with amazement about how relevant it is," she said.

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The play and the novel it was adapted from center on the rise and fall of  “Buzz” Windrip, a firebrand elected president on the promise to remember those society left behind.

Troy Heard, artistic director of the Majestic Repertory Theatre, plays Windrip in the Las Vegas reading. The character is based on Louisiana Gov. Huey “the Kingfish” Long, a populist who became a national political figure during the Depression.

Chavez said the play is more than an antiquated piece from the Depression but something that really resonated with her.

“It is a call to action and I really feel that the arts are a way to express thoughts and ideas that maybe otherwise don’t get voiced in a way that’s creative and artistic and open to anyone," she said.

The reading is free and open to the public, starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6, at 920 S. Commerce St., a converted industrial space that was recently home to the Tilting the Basin all-Nevada modern art exhibition.

There’s more information here.

Guests

Adriana Chavez and Dina Emerson, co-directors of “It Can’t Happen Here”; Troy Heard, artistic director, Majestic Repertory Theatre 

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