It is a federal law that every institution receiving money, directly or indirectly, from the federal government must have an event to honor the constitution. Most institutions host a speaker, but Waynesburg University steps outside of the box.
The annual Constitution Day Play, put on by students of the Stover Center for Constitutional Studies and Moral Leadership, satisfies this federal law and provides a great educational opportunity for students. The play, titled, “Province in Duty: The Legacy of Marbury vs. Madison,” will be held in the Goodwin Performing Arts Center Sept. 19 at noon. Admission is free, and the audience can expect a performance of about 25 minutes in length.
“Each year we focus on a different issue in American constitutionalism,” said Dr. Lawrence Stratton, Director of the Stover Center and Professor of Ethics and Constitutional Law. “It is our charge for Constitution Day.” It was important to actually focus on the first major case in which the judiciary established its authority for judicial review.”
Ryan Williams, junior political science major and president of Student Senate, was chosen by Stratton to serve as chair of the committee of Stover Scholars to head the production of the play. The creation of the script and production as a whole was largely a team effort. Williams’ duties included initiating the production concept, editing and combining previously written scenes. This was essential in creating the script, assigning roles and acting in the play himself as Chief Justice John Marshall. Williams put a creative twist on the portrayal of this supreme court case by incorporating an ESPN theme into the production.
“The message I am trying to give to the audience is that you can take a case that is kind of just black and white and add excitement to these supreme court cases,” Williams said.
“This is really a new dramatic angle, which was Ryan’s idea,” Stratton said.
The Stover Center has also received help in their production from Edward L. Powers, Professor of Theatre, who is the director of the production.
“This has been a kind act of generosity on his part,” Stratton said.
The production will be set in “courts center” and will be full of plays on words, students portraying famous historical personalities, sports commentary and educational entertainment.
“My goal is that because of the creativity of Ryan and all of the students involved, it will go viral,” Stratton said. “We’ve already had legal-bloggers such as Josh Blackman mention our previous productions.”
The Constitution Day Play has been an annual event since 2011 and has attracted audiences from the Linsly School in Wheeling West Virginia, homeschoolers in the region, the president of the local rotary club and students’ parents. It has become a traditionally attended event that is not only used for entertainment but as an educational device and opportunity.
Stratton said recorded videos of previous productions have been used as teaching tools by high school teachers and college professors in the classroom. The productions also educationally benefit the student Stover Scholars involved, as they become masters of the historical content of these court cases. They also learn basic skills from performing that will help them later on in the work-force.
“We have found in the Stover Center, especially as I speak about our program to lawyers and judges, that so much of the legal profession is engaged in drama,” Stratton said.
The play will also be posted and available to view on YouTube after the production.
“I hope it leads to people having a greater appreciation of our Constitution,” Stratton said.
“I do believe that the dramatic portrayal of this case will be better than anything else I’ve ever seen, and it’s thanks to the committee and Ryan grappling with the logistics of the production that have really made this the case.”