Teaching The Constitution Through Theater

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is excited to partner with StoryWorks Theater to teach the Constitution through theater in order to develop inclusive and transformative educational experiences that foster a deeper understanding of the U.S. Constitution. The plays developed through this program engage students in inquiry based and experiential learning to inspire them to ask complex questions about the historical underpinnings behind contemporary issues. The process creates pathways to civic engagement and the fundamental recognition that “We the people” includes us all.

Beautiful Agitators

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StoryWorks Beautiful Agitators is a virtual play reading about Vera Mae Pigee, a hair stylist and business owner in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights era. Using her beauty parlor as a hub for Delta-based organizing and resistance, Pigee operated her salon by day and then transformed it into a clandestine center for civil rights organization and education in the evenings. Known for her big hats and larger than life personality, Mrs. Pigee led the direct action that registered nearly 6,000 African Americans to vote in the region. Although Pigee was largely left out of the history books, along with many women of the movement, this abridged version of Beautiful Agitators and accompanying curriculum revives her legacy, highlighting her methods and tactics.

Now’s The Time

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StoryWorks Now’s The Time written by Jean P. Bordewich is a filmed performance that opens at the dawn of Reconstruction, the Civil War has just ended but the nation is plunged again into crisis with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Johnson ascends to the Presidency determined to restore white supremacy in the South. Congressional radicals led by Thaddeus Stevens are fighting for a different vision. They intend to create a new society of full racial equality, where Black Americans will have real economic and political power, including ownership of land confiscated from the rebels, education, suffrage and election to public office. This titanic political battle between President and Congress culminates in the first impeachment and trial of a U.S. president, and to more than 150 years of continuing violence and discrimination against Black Americans.

ElectionLand USA

* Coming Soon!

A new play titled “ElectionLand USA” has been commissioned by StoryWorks Theater as part of our Teaching the Constitution Through Theater series, with readings and filming scheduled for 2024. Written by Jean P. Bordewich. 

StoryWorks Theater’s Teaching the Constitution Through Theater develops inclusive and transformative educational theater experiences that provides students with the opportunity to examine our history and to foster a deeper understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Through content consistent with school curriculum standards, the program engages students in experiential learning and inspires them to ask complex questions about the historical underpinnings behind contemporary issues. The process creates pathways to civic engagement, creates lasting memories and instills a tangible sense of social belonging.

StoryWorks seeks to support educators by identifying content areas that have a lack of educational resources. StoryWorks is committed to expanding upon academic standards by further developing content related to civic engagement, justice, agency, equity, diversity and constructive discourse. Our curricula combines inquiry with higher-order thinking of analysis,evaluation and synthesis. The theater component works to give students a more intimate and immersive experience as they witness the events unfold. This work is based in the investigation of primary sources and their relationship to critical moments and attitudes in American history. In emphasizing historical context, we help educators establish a foundation from which to guide students to find contemporary parallels. This process engages learners in the active reflection of how the legacy of these pivotal moments informs the struggles that we, as citizens, continue to grapple with today.

About USCHS

Discover the heart of American history with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society! Founded in 1962, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society has proudly worked to preserve and share the history of the Capitol, the Congress, and the people who work therein. As a nonpartisan, educational 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Society was chartered by Congress in 1978, in part, “to foster and increase an informed patriotism.” In service of this mission, the Society conducts historical tours of the Capitol Building, hosts both virtual and in-person public history programming, publishes scholarly research in various aspects of Capitol History, coordinates a digital civics education resource hub for teachers, manages a renowned civics education field trip program for Title I D.C. public school students, and commissions works of fine art for the Capitol collections.