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What the Constitution Means to Me

The play title beside a woman's raised fist gripping a scrolled copy of the U.S. Constitution.
January 20 – February 18, 2024
On the U.S. Bank Main Stage

Filled with humor and history, this Pulitzer Prize finalist asks what the U.S. Constitution truly means. As a 15-year-old, Heidi Schreck won debate competitions defending the Constitution across the country. As an adult, she resurrects her teenage self to investigate its profound effect on four generations of women in her family. This exhilarating show culminates in a live debate with an actual teen, allowing audiences to weigh in on the Constitution's impact on our daily lives.

2019 Tony Award nominee and winner of the Obie Award, Off-Broadway Alliance Award, and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

“Superb … a highly entertaining, deeply informative, and ultimately hopeful examination of the document that impacts every single one of us, every single day of our lives.” –Chicago Sun Times

What the Constitution Means to Me

  • By Heidi Schreck
  • Directed by Marissa Wolf
Preview image for *What the Constitution Means to Me* Reading List

What the Constitution Means to Me Reading List

Calling all readers! Multnomah County Library put together a reading list inspired by our production of What the Constitution Means to Me.

A banner that reads "Women's Rights are Human Rights" hangs on fence in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

“Of Every Age, Sex and Condition:” Women and the Constitution

From the beginning of this country, there have been discussions of gender and race as it pertains to lawmaking. For more than 100 years, a proposed amendment to the Constitution has been awaiting ratification to solidify equal rights for women.

The first page of the U.S. Constitution on yellowed parchment cropped to highlight the words "We the People" and a portion of Article I.

The United States Constitution

A brief history and description of America's founding document, to help you prepare for What the Constitution Means to Me.

Smiling men and women wearing black robes pose side-by-side in a wood-paneled room; image is cropped so only 6 of 9 justices are visible.

The Supreme Court

As background for What the Constitution Means to Me, read about the origins, role, powers, and current makeup of the United States Supreme Court.

Smiling men and women wearing black robes pose side-by-side in a wood-paneled room; image is cropped so only 6 of 9 justices are visible.

Women’s Rights Movements

At the core of What the Constitution Means to Me is the lack of explicit inclusion of women's rights in the U.S. Constitution. Often called the Feminist Movement, the pursuit of women’s rights has taken several “waves” as the needs of women have evolved over time.

A woman stands with one hand on her hip and one hand to her forehead, partially covering her closed eyes.

Intimate Partner & Family Violence

In What the Constitution Means to Me, the main character, Heidi, describes several instances of domestic violence and violence towards women. The following information was provided to the creative team at our first rehearsal.

A young woman stands speaking demonstratively, holding up a paper in one hand, as an older woman seated at a small writing desk looks on.

Debates

What the Constitution Means to Me features a live debate. Debate is an ancient form of competitive discourse that can take many forms.

Preview image for Art Exhibit: *More Than February* by Ronin Roc

Art Exhibit: More Than February by Ronin Roc

January 14 – March 31  •  FREE

Portland Center Stage will host More Than February, an art exhibit by Portland-based multidisciplinary artist Ronin Roc, featuring icons of Black history to honor, reshape, and reclaim the legacy and stories that get passed down from one generation to the next.

Preview image for Piano Bar with Courtney Freed and David Saffert

Piano Bar with Courtney Freed and David Saffert

Mar 12, Apr 14, & May 14  •  FREE

Join us for this monthly event with local songstress Courtney Freed and Portland-based pianist David Saffert as they host a good old-fashioned PIANO BAR.

Preview image for Art Exhibit: *¡Soy Yo!* by Mika Martinez

Art Exhibit: ¡Soy Yo! by Mika Martinez

March 6 – April 7  •  FREE

¡Soy Yo!, is a multi-media project, created by Mika Martinez, that examines and celebrates Latinx identity featuring more than 50 portraits of the Hispanic/Latino community in Portland.

Preview image for March First Thursday featuring Seffarine

March First Thursday featuring Seffarine

Thu, Mar 7, 5 p.m.  •  FREE

Celebrate March First Thursday with a vibrant performance by Seffarine and their unique combination of Southern Spain and Morocco influenced songs. There will also be art exhibits by Mika Martinez and Ronin Roc, partner tables by Pueblo Unido PDX and Portland Refugee Support Group, with complimentary select beer provided by Deschutes Brewery.

Cons Family Photo

*The role of Young Debater is played by two actors on a rotating schedule which can be viewed by expanding the link below.

Divine Crane

Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m. (Preview)
Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m. (Preview)
Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m. (Opening)
Jan. 28, 2:00 p.m.
Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1, 11:00 a.m. (Student Matinee)
Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4, 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8, 2:00 p.m.
Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 15, 2:00 p.m.
Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m.

Alabaster C.K. Richard

Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. (Preview)
Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m. (Preview)
Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31, 11:00 a.m. (Student Matinee)
Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3, 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10, 2:00 p.m.
Feb. 11, 2:00 p.m.
Feb. 14, 11:00 a.m. (Student Matinee)
Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17, 2:00 p.m.
Feb. 18, 2:00 p.m. (Closing)

The Cast

Rebecca Lingafelter, Heidi Schreck
(She/Her)

Rebecca is a performer, director, producer and educator in Portland, OR. She is co-artistic director of PETE (Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble) and a company member at Third Rail Rep. Local acting credits include Collapse, That Hopey Changey Thing, Sweet and Sad, Belleville, and Arlington (Third Rail Rep), The Fourth of July (Profile), Grounded, DB (CoHo), R3, Song of the Dodo, The Three Sisters, Drowned Horse Tavern, [or, the whale], Deception Unit, Our Ruined House, Weather Room, The Americans, The Cherry Orchard (PETE). New York credits include work at Classic Stage Company, PS122, The Ontological Hysteric Incubator, The Bushwick Starr, The Chocolate Factory and the Metropolitan Opera. She is Chair of the Theater Department at Lewis & Clark College. www.petensemble.org.

Andrés Alcalá, Legionnaire
(He/El)

Andrés is thrilled to return to  Portland Center Stage after his performance as Egeus In A Midsummer Night’s Dream . Other performance credits include Florizal in A Winter’s Tale, The Moon in Blood Wedding at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Iago in Othello, Richard III in Richard III, Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Southwest Shakespeare in Arizona. Exiles, The Laramie Project, Love! Valour! Compassion! at Artist Repertory Theatre. Mr. Western in Emma the Musical for Arizona Theatre Company. Bordertown at Actors Theatre of Phoenix. Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown- Borderlands. Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins, Shrek in Shrek, Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz, Captain Hook in Peter Pan for the Northwest Children’s Theatre. Most recently, he directed The Inheritance part 1 and 2 for Triangle Productions.

Divine Crane, Young Debater*

Divine is ecstatic to be making her Portland Center Stage debut, exceptionally as the role of the young debater. Some of her other works include Belinda/Fan in A Christmas Carol at Portland Playhouse. Agnes in She Kills Monsters, Long John Silver in Treasure Island, and Sister Margretta in The Sound Of Music at Aloha High School. Ensemble in Les Misérables at YPTP. She would like to express gratitude to her friends and family who support her, her theater directors at Aloha High School, and Charles Grant. IG: @divinesoncloud9

Alabaster C.K. Richard, Young Debater*
(They/She)

Alabaster is a student at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon who is elated to be making their debut at PCS. They have been acting for all of their adolescent life in community theatre and various high school productions. Currently, they are also working at Hand2Mouth Theatre and are in the process of devising a production. Alabaster has been doing Speech & Debate and Constitutional Law since 2022 where they specialize in poetry interpretation, prose interpretation, congressional debate, and parliamentary debate. Alabaster enjoys long walks on the beach, Caesar salad, and incessantly debating with their family.

The Creative Team

Heidi Schreck, Playwright

Heidi is a writer and performer living in Brooklyn. Her play Grand Concourse was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and winner of the Stacey Mindich Lilly Award. Other plays, including Creature, There Are No More Big Secrets, and The Consultant, have been produced by Berkeley Rep, Long Wharf, Page73, Seattle Public Theatre, New Georges, Rattlestick, and more. Heidi has commissions from Atlantic Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and South Coast Repertory and has been a writing fellow with the Clare Tow Foundation, Soho Rep and Sundance Theatre Lab. Heidi's television writing includes "I Love Dick," "Billions," and "Nurse Jackie." She is developing a TV series with Amazon based on Patricia Lockwood's Priestdaddy. As an actor: Berkeley Rep, Roundabout, MTC, Playwrights Horizons, Shakespeare in the Park, Clubbed Thumb, Two-Headed Calf, "Nurse Jackie," "Billions," "Law & Order: SVU," "The Good Wife." Winner of two Obies, a Drama Desk, and the Theatre World Award.

Marissa Wolf, Director
(She/Her)

Marissa is currently in her fifth year as artistic director of Portland Center Stage. Select directing credits include Fire in Dreamland by Rinne Groff (The Public Theater; world premiere at Kansas City Rep); Man in Love by Christina Anderson (Kansas City Rep, world premiere); Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really and Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson - Apt 2B by Kate Hamill, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens (Portland Center Stage); Precious Little by Madeleine George (Shotgun Players); The Lily’s Revenge (Act II) by Taylor Mac (Magic Theatre); and The Late Wedding by Christopher Chen (Crowded Fire Theater, world premiere). Workshops include The New Group and Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor. Nominated Best Director by Broadway World San Francisco and the Bay Area Critics Circle Award.

Jamie Devereux Tait, Scenic Designer

Jamie is a scenic, props and textile designer from New Orleans and currently based out of Portland, OR. He graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2003 where his focus was printmaking. Having been raised by a cabinetmaker and a textile artist, James' aesthetic sensibilities have always been rooted in the material, the tangible. He has spent the past two decades focusing on development as a craftsman and found that his personal artistry and reverence for traditional techniques were best married through scenic, properties and textile design. The products of James' work are that of his hand. This consideration and diligence lend to the inherent beauty and quality they possess.

Dayna Lucas, Costume Designer
(She/Her)

Dayna Lucas is a costume designer and assistant from Detroit, MI, now based in Portland, OR. Dayna received her degree in Communications/Film Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and eventually received a degree in Fashion Design FIDM in Los Angeles. She has worked in costume design for both film and theatre over the past nine years. Her most recent theatre work includes Argonautika (2019) for A Noise Within Theatre in Pasadena, CA, Matilda: The Musical (Costume Assistant), and A Christmas Carol (2022 and 2023) at the Portland Playhouse. For her portfolio and more information, please visit her website www.designbydayna.com.

Jennifer Lin, Lighting Designer
(She/Her)

Jennifer is a freelance lighting designer, stage technician, and theater-maker who has been working behind the scenes for Portland theater, opera, and dance since 2008. She attended Portland State University and in 2007 received The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Achievement Award for her lighting design for PSU’s production of Electra. Her lighting designs have spanned a wide range of venues, disciplines and styles, from site-specific dance, to opera in bars, to children's theater. Recent work includes Rent (Portland Center Stage), Mary Jane and I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t (Third Rail Repertory Theatre). Jennifer is a core company member of Third Rail Repertory Theatre. Long live theater.

Chris O'Toole, Sound Designer
(She/Her)

Chris is a composer, sound designer, and musician who is thrilled to be making her regional debut on the PCS stage. Previous theatrical credits include Pestilence: Wow! with Oregon Children’s Theatre’s Young Professionals program, Adam’s Run with Renegade Opera, PEEP with the Reformers, and The Ministry of Special Cases with Jewish Theatre Collaborative. You can catch her onstage playing with her band Death Knell, or in the irreverent sketch comedy group Spectravagasm. Special thanks to Sara Fay Goldman, and Forrest Gregor for their support and collaboration.

Charles Grant, Assistant Director
(He/Him)

Charles is honored and excited to step into the world of this play as the Assistant Director. As an artist who wears a number of hats (Actor, Producer, Teacher, and Director), he’s worked with various theatre companies over the years including Portland Center Stage, Portland Playhouse, Many Hats Collaboration, Third Rail, Fuse Theatre Ensemble, Broadway Rose, and Confrontation Theatre. He is currently in the role of Producing Director at Portland Playhouse. His most recent directing credits include A Christmas Carol (Portland Playhouse) and Great Wide Open (co-production with Many Hats Collaboration & Portland Playhouse). Charles is so grateful to Marissa for this wonderful opportunity as well as the whole cast and creative team for this experience. May we continue to share our stories on our terms. Check out thecharlesgrant.com or IG: @thecharlesgrant to say hello!

Kamilah Bush, Dramaturg
(She/Her)

Kamilah is a playwright and dramaturg originally from North Carolina. She currently holds the position of literary manager at Portland Center Stage in Portland, OR. Kamilah has spent several years working in celebrated regional theaters across the country, including Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC, Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, FL and Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ.

Amanda Vander Hyde, Stage Manager

A graduate of Western Oregon University with a B.F.A in technical production, Amanda is a freelance stage manager in the Portland theater scene. She works as a production and stage manager for the likes of Oregon Children’s Theatre, CoHo Productions, and Artists Repertory Theatre. This is her third season on the stage management team at Portland Center Stage, and is grateful to continue to work on impactful stories.  Along with stage managing, she is an intimacy coordinator in the Portland area, having worked on various pieces, including several productions at PCS and at Bag & Baggage. She wants to thank her partner for putting up with her late hours and constant busyness.

Dana Petersen, Assistant Stage Manager
(She/Her)

Dana is so excited to be back at Portland Center Stage for her fourth season. Previous shows at PCS include Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really Young Americans; It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play; tick, tick … BOOM!; Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Assistant Stage Manager); RENT; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Redwood; and In the Heights (Production Assistant). Dana has also worked at Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Portland Playhouse, and The Old Globe. Dana graduated from The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.

Jenna Cady (They/Them) Wardrobe Crew

Heather Taylor (She/Her) Costume Maintenance 

Melissa Heller (She/Her) Crafts Artisan

Dug Martell, Esther McFaden, Myke Rodriguez, Roy Joshua Antonio, Bennet Berkower, Allison Knight-Blaine, Kelli McCloskey, Steph Landtiser, Zachariah Barbour, Graden Downing, Electricians 

Local Reviews

"The play is highly engaging, funny, thoughtful, entertaining – all of the things we go to the theatre for – and also very informative." —BroadwayWorld

"She {Heidi Schreck} treats the question of what the Constitution means to her ... as a matter of vital importance. She {Heidi Schreck} demonstrates reasons to care and to engage." —OregonArts Watch

"Lingafelter is a formidable local talent... Lingafelter is an absolute light in this performance.... You need a real dynamo in the role and PCS found one." —Portland Mercury

Critic Reviews

“Schreck’s autobiographical play cuts away at both the U.S. Constitution, examining the threads that make it up and hold it together, while carefully exposing the scar tissue the document has left on her and her family’s lives.” —The Seattle Times

“Deeply personal, Schreck transports the audience to her fifteen-year-old self who competed in Constitutional debates across the United States. In fact, she was so adept and victorious, Schreck was able to win enough prize money to pay for college.” —Forbes

“These moments of meeting her past self gives the show a lightness and potency that is not mere nostalgia, but a reclaiming of power.” —DC Theatre Scene

“Shattering, galvanizing and very funny, Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me close reads an old text in new and breathlessly exciting ways.” —the Guardian

“This unconventional Swiss Army knife of a play combines civics lessons, character study, personal history, stand-up, and nostalgia for high school forensics. In case you haven’t thought about the Constitution since high school, you’ll definitely think about it once you see it.” —Observer

“A personal window into the most profound questions about our nation.” —Oregon ArtsWatch

“ In viewing the U.S. Constitution through the lens of its impact on her family, Schreck shows in graphic terms that violent oppression, ignorance, and misogyny have been woven into the Constitution so finely and so thoroughly that they seem as natural as the air we breathe.”  —Chicago Sun Times

“Note the last two words in the title of Heidi Schreck’s hit show, What the Constitution Means to Me — this is a highly personal take, not a historical or legal lecture. Yet Schreck succeeds in widening her autobiographical play into a paean for basic fairness: The American Constitution, admired as it is, fails to protect all of us from violence and discrimination.” —The New York Times

In The News

"Seeds for the career of the acclaimed playwright, whose "What the Constitution Means To Me," were planted and nurtured in Oregon." —Oregon ArtsWatch

"Star Rebecca Lingafelter and director Marissa Wolf discuss staging a play that wrestles with whether the vision of the Founding Fathers can be salvaged." —Willamette Week

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Portland Center Stage is committed to identifying & interrupting instances of racism & all forms of oppression, through the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA).

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