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Fillinger's farcical take on politics flies from pen to stage in hit Broadway play, "POTUS"

Paul Kolnik
Vivacity Media Group
Pandemonium erupts as the cast of POTUS try to establish order amidst a presidential mishap.

A hit Broadway comedy is making headlines for its raunchy and edgy take on male-dominated politics. “POTUS: Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive”- was written by a former South Eugene Theatre student.

“POTUS” is a frenzied and often profane comedy set in a fictional administration rife with gaffes and stumbles. The story begins with the President making a sexist slur about the First Lady (who just happened to be in the room), then spirals into seven women launching headfirst into all-out damage control within the Oval Office.

Orrin Anderson; Brian Bull
Shelter PR; KLCC
Selina Fillinger (inset); outside the Shubert Theater in New York's Broadway district.

“POTUS” opened this spring and critics have largely praised this comedy of errors that parodies the patriarchy.

“I think just being exposed to good taste early on is really helpful in terms of developing an aesthetic and developing a voice,” playwright Selina Fillinger told KLCC.

A South Eugene High School alum, Fillinger developed her theatrical talents there, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and at Northwestern University ahead of her Broadway debut at the age of 28. She currently works in the writers room for Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show.”

Fillinger credits her pointed take in “POTUS” to seeing the political in everything.

“The political in the workplace, the political in what we eat, the political in where we live, the political in where we go to school,” she said.

“I don’t really think it’s possible to write something non-political. People who think they are doing that are often ignoring key facts of the world.”

The production also has a powerful cast adept with comedic frenzy and political satire including Rachel Dratch of “Saturday Night Live” fame. Other cast members are Vanessa Williams, Julianne Hough, Julie White, Suzy Nakamura, Lilli Cooper, and Lea DeLaria. Tony-winning director Susan Stroman directed.

Keen-eared NPR afficionadoes will recognize the voice of NPR's Ari Shapiro in a brief voiceover as well.

Additionally, the production scored three Tony Award nominations, including for Dratch and White’s performances, and Beowulf Borritt’s scenic design.

Paul Kolnik
Vivacity Media Group
Vanessa Williams (left) as the First Lady, and Rachel Dratch as the president's secretary (right) in a scene from "POTUS."

Among those who saw “POTUS” open on Broadway was Fillinger’s high school theatre director, Pat Avery. He says compared to earlier dramas she penned, this was a very different genre.

“The surprise of ‘POTUS’ was that it was a farce as farce can be, with the kind of tempo and door-slamming and people coming and going, incredible comic-timing, and one-liners that I hadn’t seen in her previous work which was brilliant.”

Fillinger says she didn’t single out any specific president or administration when she wrote “POTUS.” Avery says she didn’t have to.

“When it comes to males in power, there are plenty of dumbasses to go around.”

“POTUS” continues its madcap run through mid-August at New York’s Shubert Theatre.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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