For most teachers, the summer provides a respite from the homework, grading and other demands that come along with their important job of educating future generations.
For David Orlansky, however, the summer was an opportunity to continue working, albeit on something completely different from the special education classes he teaches at Lower Merion High School.
He used his latest summer vacation to continue work on a play, which ultimately became So You Want to be a Politician?, now at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake through March 25.
A political satire, the comedy follows Mike Goldberg, a political outsider living in a red-leaning, rural area in Ohio who decides to make a run for congressional office.
Goldberg enlists the help of two consultants to help run his campaign and in the process, makes a few compromises. They train him how to be a politician — it’s more than kissing babies and shaking hands, he learns — and how to win over the voters in his district.
“But in doing so,” Orlansky explained, “they sort of break him down of all of his convictions and morals, twist his words to sort of fit what the voters want to hear rather than what he really believes in.”
Religion also plays a role, as Goldberg is Jewish and tries to win over voters who are mostly not.
“I tend to write what I know, so I tend to put a Jewish character in every show,” said Orlansky, who went to Beth Sholom Congregation while growing up in Abington.
For Orlansky, who also served as director and producer, the timing was right for his story, as he thought about how “absurd” the political system is right now.
Underlying it all is a message for voters: Be informed.
“I didn’t want to really take one side or the other,” he said. “I wanted to write a satirical piece that sort of puts the onus back on the voters while still being pretty silly and goofy and having outlandish jokes and also hopefully has a message that sort of talks about how the voters need to hold the politicians accountable.
“It seems like a great time to talk about what we as voters can do to create change and make a difference,” he added, “and that starts with really informing ourselves.”
It’s not Orlansky’s first foray into satire; about eight years ago, he and a friend wrote a satirical musical about education that they put on at the Philly Fringe Festival in 2012.
He is working on another play and a musical for the future.
“It’s a passion of mine and I love doing it,” he said, “so teaching and having the summers off gives me the freedom to explore that passion.”
Through the play, which began performances March 15, he hopes to give the audience a chance to sit back and relax — and most importantly, laugh.
“Politics is pretty prime for satirization right now, but hopefully we can all sort of see how ridiculous parts of politics have become and then reflect on that and think about what we can do to change it,” he said.
He didn’t intentionally point to any one particular politician or situation in the play — though he noted some of the far-fetched ideas presented in a satirical manner don’t seem that far-fetched anymore — but played on broader ideas of what might be part of the political machine.
For instance, the audience plays a role in helping Goldberg decide his campaign funder. They participate in a game called “Choose That Big Donor” in which Goldberg has to decide between three “fairly corrupt big donor options” to fund his campaign, and the audience texts in their vote.
In another part of the play, the audience participates in a mock town hall, and several members are chosen to ask questions.
He was excited to see the play come to life before an audience, as he and the cast have been rehearsing since October.
“It’s a pretty unreal feeling to be able to write something and then see it come to fruition,” he said. “There’s so many elements to it — building the set, lighting, sound, the actors, marketing. There’s so many elements to it that either friends or people I know have been willing to help me with. It’s a great community.”
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