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Theater groups gear up for election

Shows update productions to mark occasion

The theater community doesn’t always relish sharing the spotlight, but they have made an exception for next Tuesday. Various legiters are gearing up to mark the presidential election, including Tony Kushner, the Upright Citizens Brigade and the Chicago production of “Dirty Dancing.”

Starting over the weekend, several shows are performing special editions tailored to the election, such as UCB’s “Election Eve” edition of comedy panel discussion “Shut Up! I Hate You!,” and the final performance of the “Palin Family All-Star Revue and Election Spectacular” on Monday.

At the Public Theater cabaret space Joe’s Pub over the weekend, “Weimar New York” had two “election-timed” performances with Scissor Sister Ana Matronic and drag queen Lady Bunny. Keren Ann’s election night perf at the venue will feature live feed of the returns before and throughout the show. And Joan Rivers brings her standup act back to the Cutting Room on election night, with the Alaska governor expected to be high among subjects on her radar.

But if election-centric theater events were states, the one with the most electoral votes would be Epic Theater Ensemble’s “First Vote,” a benefit for the troupe’s education programs heralding first-time voters. Playwrights Craig Lucas, Kushner, Neil LaBute and others will contribute material to be performed by thesps including Bill Irwin, Kathleen Chalfant and Colman Domingo.

Lucas said that while the election is important in general, it has special resonance with the Actors Equity and guild members. “The Dramatists Guild can’t provide healthcare to its members, so playwrights are left to take our own health insurance, and ever since the Republicans took over managed care, the benefits have gone down and the premiums have gone up,” observed Lucas, whose latest play, “Prayer for My Enemy,” opens Dec. 9 at Playwrights Horizons.

“I’ve lived through the last 30-odd years of elections in this country when many of my friends didn’t vote at all, and there was a sense that ‘Oh, your vote doesn’t count,’ ” added Lucas. “But I think the last two administrations have proved that our vote does count very, very much.”

On the box office side, producers are getting creative for what could easily be a sparsely populated night at the theater, given the interest in watching the results. “Broadway in Chicago,” which includes Windy City productions of “Jersey Boys,” “Wicked” and the recently opened “Dirty Dancing,” will be offering all Nov. 4 seats at $44 in honor of the 44th president, whoever he may be. Announcements of the returns will be featured during intermission and after the curtain call.

As for Broadway itself, it looks to be a quiet night, with the possible exception of thesp Rick Holmes, who gets to improv a few lines in “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

“Depending on what’s going on, there’s a possibility of an election update,” laughs Holmes, who in previous perfs has announced Super Bowl results and that he was the father of Sarah Palin’s baby. “Sarah Palin’s been really good to me.”

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