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‘Heroes of the Fourth Turning’ an Ambitious Undertaking
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Thursday, August 19, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY RAY J. GADD

It would seem like an innocent enough gathering. Four college alumni converge on a small Catholic college in Wyoming to celebrate their beloved college professor’s ascension to presidency of the college.

But, as the night wanes, their reunion spirals into a vicious fight to be understood as they debate everything from the pro-life movement to Trump and even racism in the wake of the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Va.

The characters ask questions like “How’s your soul?” and “Can you be pro-choice and a good person, too?” as they pray the rosary around the firepit. All voted for Trump in 2016—each for his or her own reasons. And each regrets it.

It’s all part of Will Arbery’s “Heroes of the Fourth Turning,” which will have its Idaho premiere at The Spot in Ketchum tonight through Aug. 29.

“This incredibly unique play addresses huge issues facing America today with humor and heart,” said Yanna Lantz, one of five actors taking the stage. “There are conversations about identity politics, who deserves to have rights in America, the perceived threats to white conservatism, animosity towards marginalized groups, Trump’s influence on the Republican party, resistance to change, religion and so much more.”

The two-plus-hour play, directed by Brett Moellenberg, is quite an ambitious undertaking for the young theater troupe in its first in-person performance since January 2020. The language must be precise; the characters believable. And the subjects they debate are the red hot pokers that have split Americans down the center.

All handle it deftly. And, they say, one of the points of the play is the need to listen to others, no matter their view.

“This is a microcosm for the world,” said Natalie Battistone. “We lump people into groups and deal with them based on labels. We often don't hold space to hear someone, to understand them as a fellow human. The play deftly expresses how not listening and continuing to slam an agenda through, or undermining, overstepping other people's arguments, thoughts and feelings, escalates to a debilitating and destabilizing place. This play shows us how powerful language can be. And how destructive.”

Battistone plays Emily, by far the closest to Mother Teresa of the bunch. She is nearly bedridden by pain, possibly because of her ability to feel other people’s anguish vicariously. “My body is just a friggin’ prairie of pain, and I can’t choose to make it go away. It’s just what I’ve been given,” she says.

Kevin, played by Kevin Wade, is a slush who works for a company that publishes Catholic textbooks. He’s quick to take a sip of whiskey to quell his anguish and self-loathing. He wants a girlfriend. And he wants a priest’s collar.

Justin, played by Peter Burke, was a sharpshooter in the Marines and the stain of killing appears to be weighing on him. He also seems to be preparing for doomsday: We lost the popular vote, by a lot. And they’re trying to wipe us out.”

Teresa, played by Yanna Lantz, is sleek and fashionable and a user of cocaine. She writes for a Breitbart-like website and is obsessed with Steve Bannon, who has just gotten kicked out of the Trump administration. She advocates war against those who practice abortion, comparing planned Parenthood to pogroms and the Holocaust. And in her mind Trump has “come to save us all.”

Gina, the new college president played by Patsy Wygle, is a Goldwater girl and a former member of the John Birch Society. But even she is shocked by how extreme Teresa has gotten. “In the thin, thin space between your intellect and your animal nature is the tiny cave meant for the Holy Spirit….You’ve sealed it shut,” she tells Teresa.

“For me, this play allows me to be a fly on the wall for pointed conversations I would normally never be privy to,” said Lantz. “I’m thankful to be reminded that America is made of all kinds of people with different backgrounds and views--and my echo chamber is not what everyone agrees with. I think ‘Heroes’ does an excellent job of opening the doors to conversation with those we agree and disagree with--and teaching us that we are all human and deserve to be heard.” 

Assistant Director Patrick Mazzella agreed: “I believe one of the core issues addressed by play is the dangers of living in an echo chamber. How surrounding ourselves only with people who look and think like us corrupts our ability to empathize with our fellow human beings. We become entrenched in our own perceptions and lose our ability to discern universal truth, which then leads us to believe that anyone who challenges our own perception must be evil, inept, or ignorant. They become the other, the outsiders.” 

 The title of the play is based on “The Fourth Turning,” a 1997 book by Neil Howe and William Strauss that says civilization moves in 80-year cycles and that each of those cycles is made up of four parts. The fourth turning is cataclysmic collapse and its generation heroes. Past turnings include the Civil War and World War II.

 Teresa is the one pushing it, as she is the idea that there’s a war coming. “And you need to be on the right side,” she says.

 “The fourth turning as a concept is what keeps me thinking about this play,” said Moellenberg. “In most areas of our personal lives, we need to hit a rock bottom before we ascend back into a good place. So, looking at this idea on a societal scale, where we are right now makes sense. How much lower can we sink? How do we build back better?” 

Mazzella cautions viewers to resist the impulse to ally or with or stand against certain characters based on whether they agree with or disagree with their world view.

“The first time I read this play, I fell victim to this instinct and it really was a disservice to myself. I lost the ability to process the true underlying themes, the beauty of the relationships and the triumphs of the play and instead was wrapped up in self-inserting my ideas into the conflict and political discourse. I would encourage anyone viewing this play to withhold judgment of these characters, whether you agree or disagree with them politically, and instead be as open to the humanity behind them as you can be.”

 IF YOU GO…

 What: “Heroes of the Fourth Turning”

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19-29. Box office and concessions open at 6:45 p.m.

Where: The Spot, 220 Lewis St., No. 2, in Ketchum. Box office and concessions open at 6:45 p.m.

Tickets: $15.50 for students and those 30 and under and $31 for others. Tickets are available at

https://ci.ovationtix.com/35975/production/1071790

 SAFETY WISE…

The Spot installed a new air conditioning this summer, along with an HVAC overhaul that cleans the air five times an hour. Staff are also regularly disinfecting surfaces and seats, encouraging contactless payment and conation options. The Spot is recommending that all patrons wear a mask and the staff require that unvaccinated patrons be masked at all times. Masks will be available at the door.


 

 

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