Brett Kavanaugh's A Woman In Bootleg Theater's 'Who's Hysterical Now?'
This story was updated on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018.
Last week's Supreme Court confirmation testimony was brought back to life on Tuesday night at L.A.'s Bootleg Theater in a staged reading called Who's Hysterical Now?. But this time, nominee Brett Kavanaugh was a woman, and his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was a man in the gender-swapped production.
"What if Brett Kavanaugh were a woman? What if a woman responded like Senator Lindsey Graham? What if a man recounted aloud a time when two women held him down on a bed? How would we naturally respond to that?" writer/producer Tina Poppy said in a press release.
The idea was to bring to life a criticism widely made on social media and opinion pages — that if a woman had behaved as Kavanaugh did in the hearing, she would not still be considered a contender for the highest court in the land, according to reporter Rico Gagliano, who attended the show for KPCC's The Frame.
Poppy edited down the many hours of transcripts from the Senate hearing into about 90 minutes for the production, and then she flipped the genders of every person who spoke — female senators became male, male became female. Several dozen local actors then re-enacted the hearings.
Perhaps the biggest name involved in the production was Alyssa Milano, who attended last week's hearings. The cast also included Jennifer Kim (Bourne Legacy, Mozart in the Jungle), Heidi Sulzman (Hell or High Water), Angela Trimbur (Final Girls, The Good Place), Ashley Rae Spillers (War Dogs, Vice Principals), Jayne Entwistle (Desperate Housewives), Sophia Takal (Always Shine, V/H/S, Wild Canaries), Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, Fargo), and more surprise guests.
The show was put together in just three days. Organizers wanted it out into the world before a potential vote later this week, following an FBI investigation.
"I don't know what people will be left with. I hope it's a dialogue," Poppy told Gagliano before the show.
In the show, all of the pronouns are reversed. So a female Kavanaugh angrily defends herself while a male Dr. Ford talks about being sexually assaulted by two women.
"Now you have a man saying, you know, 'Brenda and Mary took me up the stairs. They closed the door. One of them turned up the music. Brenda got on top of me,'" Poppy said. "I mean, it reads, at least when I'm reading it to myself, it reads more like pornography, or some sort of sexual conquest. And so then to think of it, 'Oh, but this man is being assaulted,' I think it puts a lot of our expectations about gender into question."
Did it work? Gagliano said it was hard to see the hearings in a different light when everything was still so fresh in mind. He couldn't help remembering it was in reality a woman who was recounting the sexual assault.
But it may have succeeded as pure satire. Divorced from the drama of an actual hearing, the proceedings became over-the-top absurd and sometimes just bizarre, Gagliano told The Frame.
Several moments drew outright laughter from the audience, including an exchange between senators Grassley and Feinstein in which they try to score political points — even off the way Ford is introduced.
"I didn't know what to expect going in," one audience member told Gagliano after the show. "I was like, 'I'm going to walk out feeling either proud or angry,' and I feel neither of those things right now. I think I'm just mostly shocked at how silly so much of that was. Like, listening to it all, there was a lot that was really childish and sort of out of character for what I feel like the people who run our country should present."
The takeaway for Gagliano? It says something about our modern moment that the actual transcript of a Senate Committee hearing comes off as political satire.