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An eerie echo of today: 'It Can't Happen Here' play to be live streamed from Cat's Cradle

Production shot from "It Can't Happen Here". Photo courtesy of Martha Hoelzer.

This Sunday, "It Can’t Happen Here" will be live streamed from Cat's Cradle to the homes of audiences at 7 p.m. 

"It Can’t Happen Here" is a 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis that was adapted into a play. The novel is a satirical look at the rise of a fascist dictator. Leslie Frost, a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the producer of the upcoming production, has adapted the play, and says it eerily echoes today.  

The play reminds people that they have the opportunity to make a difference and the production wants to encourage civic engagement. 

“The play is a love letter to democracy,” Frost said. “What 'It Can’t Happen Here' focuses on is the idea that what matters more than anything else is that we act to make a difference. When you see images of Americans waiting 12 hours in line to vote, a play that celebrates how meaningful democracy is matters.”

Jackson Seymore, an actor in the play and a UNC graduate, as well as a past UNC student actor, reiterated the importance of people watching the play now. 

“People should watch this now because it is relevant,” Seymore said. “It's relevant to what it means to be a part of a democracy and what it means for authoritarianism to exist in America. 

“It's relevant today because it's happening today.”

After the play ends there will be a question and answer session with historian Tim Tyson.

Going Virtual 

An online production is one that everyone is having to adjust to. 

Joseph Megel, artist-in-residence in the UNC Department of Communication and the director of the show, said it has been odd directing a play virtually. 

“It's a new sort of artifice in terms of telling stories, and I think we are collectively adjusting to the artifice, but it’s also tiring at times,” Megel said. “It's a new experience for me, and I'm still sort of reckoning with what it means to create performance in this way. My classes are going through the same thing.” 

Seymore agreed with Megel that everyone is adjusting, and luckily the arts are able to as well. 

“The arts community is adaptable and it is flexible if nothing else,” Seymore said.  

Megel and Seymore both said that in going online it seems that "Zoom theater" is following a radio drama legacy. 

“Radio dramas have been a very important part of the American theatrical experience,” Seymore said. “I think this production is a show that we are trying to recapture some of that legacy of the radio drama but also bring it into the new age with Zoom theater.” 

While the production is not exclusively for the student community, Megel said he recognizes the importance of students watching it. 

“Certainly students should see this because of its history and its lesson on how history repeats itself,” Megel said. 

People can purchase tickets online by donating to organizations that promote voting and the donation will generate the plays’ link. 


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