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L.A. Theater Works recreates Hill/Thomas hearings on 20th anniversary

If you’re looking for politically charged radio drama, LA Theater Works has what you need this week. The dramatic group has released audio versions of two hot button issue plays: Unquestioned Integrity: the Hill/Thomas Hearings, and Atwater: Fixin’ to Die.

It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty years since law professor Anita Hill made her sexual harrasment accusations against now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The resultant drama played itself out in Senate hearings broadcast from October 11 through 13, 1991.

“Although the hearings themselves had no legal significance, to many observers they symbolized a public referendum on sexual harassment and other gender inequities in late twentieth-century America,” notes the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ post on the event. “As such, they have been widely credited with increasing public awareness about gender discrimination and motivating female voters during the 1992 congressional elections.”

Edward Asner, Ella Joyce, and Paul Winfield star in the L.A. Theater Works recreation of the hearings. Mame Hunt wrote the play, directed by Roberta Levitow.

Plus the theater company has released a new portrait of Republican Party chairman and campaign strategist Lee Atwater, inventor of the infamous “southern strategy”—targeting southern white voters bitter about the rise of the civil rights movement.

Gregory Itzin portrays Atwater. The piece was written by Robert Myers and directed by Richard Masur.

Atwater was also architect of the Willie Horton television ad, which made hay over the furlough release of a dangerous Massachusetts felon while 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was governor of that state. An African-American man, Horton’s mug shot appeared prominently in the piece.

“The ad was intended to highlight allegations that Dukakis was soft on crime, but critics saw it as an attempt to stir up racial fears,” notes a Washington Post retrospective on the controversy.

“I didn’t know what color Willie Horton was,” Atwater insists in the play. “I didn’t even know his name. All I knew is that somebody who brutally murdered somebody got let free to roam around!”

Incendiary stuff. You can add L.A. Theater Works to your podcast player at www.bigcontact.com/latw/rssaudio.


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