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Looking past the political limelight, “The Race” seeks true leadership

The stage is set, the tickets are sold, the lights on, but the seats, however, are empty. Concordia theater is producing “The Race” this upcoming weekend in an unconventional way to comply with COVID safety precautions. Live streamed over Zoom, the theater crew along with the campus are in for an entirely new experience, depicting the desired leadership in our elected leaders throughout an election process.

“We had to adapt it our own way to fit our audience and now with COVID, we’ve had to think outside the box in order to get people involved,” first-year and cast member Gabriel Messa said. 

The cast of “The Race” at a rehearsal | Danika Vukovich

Along with the switch to a virtual show, director Jon Leiseth and the cast have been thinking of new ways to perform with masks and social distancing.

“We worked with the set designer from the get-go to design a set that would not only allow but also encourage or insist people be six feet apart from one another,” Leiseth said. 

Practical changes were necessary but moving this play to an online format was an even bigger feat. Collaboration was pertinent to the adoption of the play. 

“Our script won’t sound or look like other productions of “The Race” around the country. We took out text, added text, adapted text; we invited students to be creative co-authors of the project,” said Leiseth. “I enjoy that process and I think it has an incredible educational and artistic value to inviting young artists to co-author new work.” 

The play will consist of several different segments. Act 1 will have a normal scripted format, but Act 2 will have a live question and answer portion as well as projected video interviews, which follow different political campaigns during the election process. 

“We want [the audience] to focus and think more about a leader as a person instead of their policies,” first-year and cast member Jackson Peterson said. “We are going back to basics: this is what we want in an elected leader,” 

“The Race” is especially relevant to the upcoming election and will be shown by 14 other colleges this year, including Georgetown University where the play was created in 2008. In the midst of the presidential election, this play applies to the current situation as well as elections to come. 

“We live at a time when politics are extremely polarized. In terms of people’s loyalties and opinions, the thing that I appreciate about “The Race” is it comes in the side door of the election by not asking who are you going to vote for, but instead, by asking what you are seeking in an elected leader. That question allows us a rare opportunity to have a fuller conversation about the democratic experiment, which is the United States,” said Leiseth. 

Messa believes this production is important for the campus to watch, because it gives a new perspective on the election process. 

“It is a great play for people to see because our message is so powerful, especially for a young voter like me voting for the first time. I hope that when people see “The Race” they are able to see and understand and be able to grow through that experience,” said Messa. 

This play is also teaching cast members to be innovative in light of a challenge. 

“This is not what I was expecting for my first college show, but I am grateful to have the experience to focus on something bigger than myself. This is a whole thing that is there for other people to help them learn more about how to vote instead of who to listen to,” Peterson said. 

The cast and campus will both learn more about voting and politics in general. Moreover, this play will serve an even greater purpose. Finding community in a time of disconnection directly relates to theater.

“The key ingredient of theater is being alive together and witnessing an event together, and potentially being transformed by that event. To me, that is a unique opportunity that we don’t find in many places,” Leiseth said. 

“The Race” will be performed this weekend, October 16 and 17 at 8:00pm via Zoom. Admission is free, but tickets can be reserved at

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