'What the Constitution Means to Me' comes to Guthrie

A woman holds her hands up while giving a speech.
Cassie Beck as Heidi Schreck in the national tour of "What the Constitution Means to Me." The production is showing at the Guthrie Theater until Oct. 24.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Actor Cassie Beck is at the Guthrie, portraying the playwright Heidi Shrek in her memoir play “What the Constitution Means To Me.”

The critically-acclaimed show, which runs until Oct. 24, is loaded with tough topics at the center of American debate, as well as Schreck’s personal experiences.

The play focuses on the playwright as she earns her college tuition by winning Constitutional debate competitions across the country.

The Guthrie is staging the play as the first in-person production since Spring 2020.

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MPR News host Tom Crann spoke with Beck about the play and what audience members can expect.

The following is a lightly edited transcription of the conversation with Beck. Listen to the conversation and an audio preview of the play using the audio player above.

This is a memoir play, but it's largely a monologue. I'm wondering what the audience should expect from this show?

I have the unique experience of having been an audience member. I saw Heidi do it at New York Theatre Workshop before they went to Broadway and ultimately, the Kennedy Center. I can speak from experience that what I went through as I was watching this beautiful performance is what we call in the business “feeling all the feels.”

It's humorous. I was intellectually stimulated, there's emotionality. I've learned a lot. As we watch Heidi hold her 15-year-old self up to the Constitution, as well as her 44-year-old self up to the Constitution, she's re-examining and examining what she knows or thinks she knows. It's really an invitation for us to do the same.

The show has changed, and can change, based on the news. Whether it's Jan. 6, the Texas abortion law, an effort now to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Whatever's in the news, will it change? And will those specifics be addressed?

Yes, they will. Heidi is still writing on the play. We're still in contact, we are working on it every day. It is important for it to feel and be truly current. If we are asking audience members and ourselves to continually work on our relationship with civic duty and the Constitution, then we're going to be pulling in the headlines and looking at current issues that are affecting people right now.

At the end, there's a debate with a student debater. How much does that debate change from performance to performance? Is that a live debate or is that scripted?

It is a live debate. The two teenage debaters we have are interchangeable. They won't do every performance, they'll switch back and forth. And so depending on who's on stage with me, there are very different debates and arguments being made.

So you have to be up to that as a debater as well, because you could be on the opposite side of where you were last night.

That's correct. Or even two shows in one day. It could be totally different.

Listen to the conversation using the audio player above.