Old Subject, New Satire
“CampBoHoGro!” is a surprise: it’s a satire about American politics that isn’t about Donald Trump!
In a time when Americans are anxious and rife with deep and divisive opinions regarding the upcoming presidential election, a play that looks back on past American presidents and satirizes their vices and image is a refreshing treat. There will be no Trump, Sanders or Clinton here. Instead, “CampBoHoGro!” looks back to the 60’s, satirizing past presidents like Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Co-creators Rachel Kerry and Jessie Winograd said that they first drew inspiration from a photograph of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and many other powerful men at the Bohemian Grove camp. The political and economic behemoths allegedly discussed politics and business in secrecy around a red-checkered table cloth. “We found the picture really compelling,” Winograd said, “though we are taking inspiration from real life characters, we are taking great liberties with historical events.”
The story revolves around several smaller interactions and events in the titular summer camp “CampBoHoGro!”The characters Nancy and Ayn (based on Nancy Reagan and Ayn Rand), denied entry to the men-only encampment, accidentally summon a demon spirit of the redwoods, Molochia, whose unbridled femininity threatens to destroy the camp.Meanwhile, Dick (based on Richard Nixon) and Ronny (based on Ronald Reagan) are in a bitter rivalry over the lead position in the camp’s Our Free World Pageant. PBJ (based on LBJ) is engaging in sadistic displays of power and dominance over his friend and subordinate Hubie (based on Hubert Humphrey). All the while, Hippies and journalists infiltrate the camp and add further existential threats. It’s up to the men of BoHoGro to band together to save their camp and their country.
While the play may not be a historically accurate account or representative of any of the politicians it satirizes, “CampBoHoGro!” serves as particularly potent satire about inclusion and exclusion in a time of political instability. Today, just like in 1967, America is involved in unpopular wars across the globe, the political systems corrupt and exclusive to a select elite and social unrest is widespread and vigorous, demanding everything from justice to racial and gender equality to government transparency.
Gender is also a significant theme of the play. Historically, Bohemian Grove has not accepted women into the camp. The cast responded to this by having all the main characters who were in actuality male be portrayed by women, and all the characters who were in actuality women be portrayed by men. The subject of male dominance and hegemony in American politics is also addressed in this manner, contributing to the overarching themes of a division between the government elite and the citizenry.
“I would say (to the audience) to be open,” Winograd said, not just to the themes of gender and political satire that makeup the backbone of the performance, but to the possibility of serious truth to coexist with the extremely silly and the patently false.
“CampBoHoGro!” is directed by Rachel Kerry, and is a devised work of theater by the Brain Melt Consortium. The Brain Melt Consortium is a name you may recognize from their past production of “A Spectacular Night with the Stars” at TNC and their play “Seven Fragments” which won the award for Best Video Design at the 2016 FRIGID Festival. BMC develops their plays via an abstract method: they decide upon a few distinct characters and plot points first and develop them to completion before writing the script. “Brain Melt Consortium’s process is a little bit like a role-playing game,” Winograd said, “We do our own research into our own characters and build our reality that way…we do a lot of improvisation together to find the nuances in the relationships between the characters.”
“CampBoHoGro!” will premiere at TNC as part of the Dream Up Festival on September 9 at 9:00 PM in the Johnson Theater. For a full performance schedule, ticket prices, and more info about the play or the festival, please visit http://www.dreamupfestival.org. For more information about the Brain Melt Consortium, please visit http://www.brainmeltconsortium.com.
Stay beautiful, America!
By Tim Esteves