2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Carry a Big Stick’ by Catherine Aselford

Carry a Big Stick is not your typical Fringe show, and the story behind it isn’t typical either. Playwright Paul Handy is a judge, not a starving artist. Director Catherine Aselford was planning to produce an all-female cast in a poetic reweaving of The Odyssey, not direct an all-male cast in a drama about political intrigue.

Catherine Aselford.
Catherine Aselford.

But a confluence of events has brought Carry a Big Stick to Fringe audiences in a way that parallels the events in the play.

The playwright of the Odyssey piece was unable to complete the script in time for this year’s Fringe, the way the French were unable to complete their canal-building project during the 1880’s. Suddenly Aselford was available. “I’d directed a reading of Carry a Big Stick a couple of years ago, and I really liked the script,” she said. “There’s a tense energy to this play, and the playwright has created complex and interesting characters. There are some really meaty scenes for these guys.”

Unforeseen circumstances thrust Theodore Roosevelt into the White House, with spectacular results. “I was really disappointed when my planned Fringe project fell through,” said Aselford. “But it freed me up to direct Carry a Big Stick.”

But isn’t it easier to find four women to play mythological characters than six men to play historical characters? Nobody knows what Circe looked like – if she even existed — but Teddy Roosevelt is instantly recognizable.

Two of the actors from the earlier reading are in the cast, but several others weren’t available. “Although we planned on open auditions, when I directed an Actors Center staged reading in March, I found two actors I wanted to cast. But the tides of circumstance swept them in another direction — into other Fringe shows. Luckily those open auditions yielded some great results. Not only have I got a wonderful cast, I’ve met some exciting actors who are new to me.”

But what is Carry a Big Stick about?

At first glance, it might seem like a typical Washington show: Power, politics and greed…back room deals and compromised ideals. But the main characters are all doing their best for their country, which certainly not how we view national politics today  Despite seemingly conflicting agendas, the President, a powerful congressman, and the self-proclaimed “most famous lawyer in America” fight through their differences to accomplish what they all knew to be a world-changing feat: To connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

“It’s a political coming-of-age story, it’s a ‘buddy play,’ it’s a play about destiny – manifest or otherwise. It’s a darn good story. And it’s true.”

Card Front (1)

The Warehouse- 645 New York Ave, NW, in Washington, DC
Metro: Gallery Place (Red Line)
Vernon Square (Green/Yellow Lines)
Thursday July 11 @ 6:45pm
Sunday, July 14 @ 10:30pm
Friday, July 19 @ 7:80pm
Saturday, July 20 @ 6:45pm
Wednesday, July 25 @ 8:45pm
Saturday, July 27 @ 1:45pm

ABOUT CAPITAL FRINGE: Capital Fringe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2005 with the purpose of connecting exploratory artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performance in the District. Capital Fringe’s vital programs ensure the growth and continued health of the local and regional performing arts community by helping artists become independent producers while stimulating the vibrant cultural landscape in our city. Official Hashtags: #outsidetwire #capfringe13 #CapFringeSoldOut


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