When you walk into the Helen Hayes Theater to see Heidi Schreck's What the Constitution Means to Me, you'll be greeted by some pre-show music as you take your seat. And while this is now a fairly frequent occurrence before shows, all of the songs being played at the Hayes are sung by women. And it's in that moment that you will know that this is not your typical Broadway play.
When Schreck was fifteen, her mother convinced her to take part in competitions where she would talk about the Constitution. For Schreck, it became a way to fund her college education. A few years ago, she found herself thinking about the Constitution again, and as a result What the Constitution Means to Me was born. Through the show, she shares her family's story and her own story with the audience and questions what the Constitution meant to her at the age of fifteen, and what it means now.
As she brings herself back to her teenage self to share the arguments she gave about the Constitution, her current self continues to interrupt, sharing knowledge about herself and her family that she didn't have, or didn't want to share at the time. Her most though provoking discussion is on the 14th-amendment, which her fifteen year old self would have described as a force field that protected everyone's rights. But her current self can question how inclusive that force field is, especially when it pertains to her family members that were victims of domestic violence.
What could have felt like an autobiographical story about the speeches Schreck gave as a teenager instead feels more relevant than ever. The Constitution is a long and complicated document that should be on the minds of Americans today. The questions that Schreck brings to light, especially regarding the rights of women are incredibly important.
And while you may not realize it, the Constitution is on the minds of young people. The show concludes with a debate between Schreck, and in the case of the night I attended, Thursday Williams, an outspoken and self-assured high school senior. With assistance from Mike Iveson, who plays multiple roles throughout the show while sharing his own connection the Constitution, Schreck and Williams debate. Should the Constitution be kept? Or should it be rewritten?
While it is up to a random audience member to choose who wins the debate. Schreck makes one point so important, that it is plastered to the outside of the theater. Women aren't properly considered until page 34 of a pocket Constitution. And as Schreck properly points out: "We ALL belong in the Preamble."