“We understand the timing may seem bad for this play but we in the theater are dealing with it. We know neither of these events portray the real heart of Mesquite and its people.”
It’s one thing to live it. It’s another to see Mesquite’s heated political history portrayed in a New York City off-off-Broadway play.
For those who remember the mayoral campaign of 2011 when incumbent Mayor Susan Holecheck was running for re-election it was a horrible time in Mesquite’s political scene. The election, scheduled for April, was becoming heated as then-Councilwoman Donna Fairchild was considering a run against Holecheck.
In August 2011 CNN.com ran a story about the whole election episode titling it “The Meanest Little Town in the West.” That became the basis for Playwright Leegrid Stevens to author his play titled simply “Mesquite, NV.” Liz Amberly plays the lead as Mayor Hadley, a retired paralegal running for re-election. Thomas Coté is director.
Stevens began writing his play in July 2015.
In a telephone interview with the Mesquite Local News, Stevens said, “This is not a documentary. It is loosely based on actual events. I wanted to portray a microcosm of the economy after the great recession and the overheated political rhetoric at the time.”
In early January 2011 Holecheck threatened to take action against Fairchild after the councilwoman allegedly filed a travel voucher worth $94 for a trip to a Las Vegas meeting that she ultimately didn’t attend. Fairchild admitted filing the voucher but never cashed the city-issued check for it.
Holecheck had placed an item on the city council’s January 25 meeting that would determine if Fairchild should be removed from her seat for violating the council’s code of conduct.
Early that same day Fairchild shot her husband Bill and then herself in what was reported by the Mesquite Police Department as a murder-suicide. The question of why Fairchild took such drastic action has never been answered.
Ultimately, Holecheck lost the mayoral race to Mark Wier by a landslide.
The web site, https://www.broadwayworld.com/off-off-broadway/article/MESQUITE-NV-to-Parody-Angry-American-Politics-at-Workshop-Theater-20170906 announced the off-off-Broadway show that runs from Oct. 5 to 28 at The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street. “Based on actual events, “Mesquite, NV” by Leegrid Stevens is a dark comedy about power and politics that is one part Coen Brothers and one part Preston Sturgis.
It’s set in the retirement community of Mesquite, Nevada and dramatizes a contentious municipal election. The campaign turns nasty as complaints of sweetheart deals and fraudulent travel vouchers are leaked to the local press.”
Stevens told the MLN that “we don’t want to offend anyone in Mesquite with this play. With the recent tragic events in Las Vegas and its ties to Mesquite, we are very sorry. We understand the timing may seem bad for this play but we in the theater are dealing with it. We know neither of these events portray the real heart of Mesquite and its people.”
According to the web site, “Stevens initially discovered the 2011 Mesquite fracas through a CNN report and followed up by interviewing people who had been on the City Council at the time. He wrote the play over the last year and a half, “as a reaction to the heated political rhetoric of this country before Donald Trump reared his head.” The play offers unique perspective on the function of anger in American politics. Mesquite had been devastated by the national mortgage crisis, creating a sense of ire and helplessness that attached itself to tinderpoint issues.
Stevens says, “All the arguments were personal. The city had no left or right wing, exactly, just a constant search for blame. Everyone felt under attack.” He wanted the play to show the style of contemporary American politics — how you have to be outraged about either side. “People can’t abide a lack of outrage nowadays,” he declares, “no matter how small the issue. Bake sales, a $90 dollar voucher, a municipal election. The big issue is actually just the outrage.” This play puts a small town’s outrage under a microscope. The characters all use it and leverage it to their advantage until the outrage spirals out of control.”
[Publisher’s note: Mesquite Local News reporters Barbara Ellestad and Linda Faas will attend the play in person later this month and report on it after their return.]