Manifest Destiny's Child

I don’t think you can ever go wrong watching a Guy Masterson production in the Assembly Rooms. I remember seeing a wonderful one woman version of Animal Farm here some years ago. And the Company has come up trumps again with Manifest Destiny’s Child.

A charismatic and well told account of a professional communicator’s trials and tribulations

Okay, bad choice of expression, given that Donald Trump is the villain of the piece. Perhaps better to say that Dennis Trainor Jr’s autobiographical account, written and performed by the man himself, is a charismatic and well told account of a professional communicator’s trials and tribulations. Trainor is the Associate Professor of Theatre at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, writing and performing for the Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company, of which he is the founding artistic co-director. He is also a documentary film maker and political communicator, and his wide range of skills are deployed to good effect in this production.

The set instantly evokes a home office, a huge screen ready to project the films bashed out at the laptop perched atop a desk. Trainor bounces out and it is immediately apparent that this is going to be entertaining and interesting, his pink-tinted optimism infectious as he launches into a ninety-minute monologue. Trainor paints an early picture of affluent middle class American home life on “Main Street in a New England town” - travel-trophy masks on the wall, Chopin on the piano, private school blazers hung up in the hallway. He is no Swampy but still cocks a snoot at his own class, claiming its label reads ‘made in Bangladesh’. The story then moves on to his role in the 2016 US Presidential campaign, where he ran comms for Green candidate Dr Jill Stein alongside contributing whacky ideas for stunts that were rarely adopted. Surrounding these party political adventures are tales of his exploits as a film maker and clips of Acronym TV (his nationally syndicated news and politics show). Trainor also discusses his experiences at Dakota’s Standing Rock Native American reservation, the sixth largest in the US by land area, where a battle to safeguard the community from a planned pipeline was won in 2016.

It is all fascinating to a political enthusiast and elegantly told in an authentic voice. The screen is used to good effect to provide footage support. At times, the account evokes the West Wing or the movie Primary Colors, although the insight into a minority party campaign provides a very different type of intrigue. No less fascinating though. Pre-recorded phone and dinner party conversations provide us with different voices, to help break up Trainor’s monologue and to further his story through revealing his interaction with fellow activists.

My only reservation here is whether this story can carry forward interest to a wider audience, built as it is around lengthy stories of political campaign intricacies. Trainor has all the skills of a TED talker, and much of this presentation reminds us of that genre, but his material is fairly narrow in its focus, political geekery often outmuscling the relationship dynamics of those involved. Nevertheless, this is an interesting and insightful session, an opportunity for armchair activists to hear from a modern day communications Munchausen.

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The Blurb

The true story of an unassuming teacher who jettisons a cushy job to join the frontline of the Occupy movement, to Communications Director for Jill Stein's well-meaning but flawed 2016 US Presidential campaign. A provocative, intelligent, often hilarious account of how America lost its way and woke up in Trumplandia! Dennis Trainor Jr takes a pickaxe to the pillars supporting the toxic myth of American exceptionalism. A world première directed by Broadway veteran, David Esbjornson (Angels in America, world première in 1991). For American Autumn: 'Calm and smart, offsetting its stridency with humour' (New York Times).

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