John Rubinstein in "Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground" | Photo: Courtesy

The 2024 election is four months away. Morale is low and anxiety is high, but catharsis is on the horizon with upcoming productions at the New Vic Theatre: Richard Hellesen’s Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground (July 11-14) and Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me (Aug. 15-18) are plays about the relationship between the U.S. government and the populace that don’t preach the ills of a specific ideology. Instead, their protagonists are optimistic (cautiously or earnestly) about the direction of American society. Presented by Ensemble Theatre Company, these shows aim to spur reflection and conversation, inspire activism, and motivate people to send in those ballots!

Starring John Rubinstein, Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground is a lively and stirring portrait of the 34th president. The show takes place in the early 1960s when The New York Times Magazine published an article ranking the presidents. Eisenhower was incensed to find himself low on the list despite his status as a military hero and respected world leader. I saw Eisenhower several months ago at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura and was so impressed by his performance that I wrote in my review: “With a quiet power that commands respect, Rubinstein is so effective in this role that my brain has replaced the image of the actual Eisenhower with his performance.”

As a teenager, Heidi Schreck won enough prize money in constitutional debate competitions to pay for her college tuition. The play she wrote about her experience, What the Constitution Means to Me, was a Pulitzer contender and Tony nominee, and has become one of the most-produced plays in the country. Stacy Stoltz, who plays Heidi, calls the play part history lesson, part coming-of-age story. “There’s a purity of enthusiasm about the founding document because you’re looking at it through the eyes of Heidi at 15,” says Stoltz. “It’s a more idealistic vision.” Each performance includes a live debate with a local high school student and a post-show discussion panel with the audience.

For more information about both of these shows, see

Stacy Stoltz in ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’ | Photo: Courtesy

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