Chasing George Washington

A White House Adventure

Book & Lyrics by Karen Zacarías with the young playwrights of Young Playwrights’ Theater
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma

Synopsis

Field trips are fun, especially when your destination is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! In this charming musical, our founding fathers (and mothers!) show three kids the history of the White House. Dee, José, and Annie accidentally knock George Washington out of his portrait and into real life – turning their White House tour into an unexpected adventure. As they try to get the nation’s First President back into his painting, the threesome encounters Jacqueline Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd, Dolley Madison, and other famous White House residents. Together, they learn that the White House isn’t just a historic building… it’s also a home.

“The dude on the dollar bill leaps to life in Karen Zacarias’ entertaining and sometimes inspiring children’s musical ‘Chasing George Washington’. The production also features a spry score by Deborah Wicks La Puma that ably mixes hip-hop, disco, ballads and traditional show music.” – The Washington Post

History

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Felicia Curry, Harry A. Winter, Billy Bustamante and Jenna Sokolowski at the The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Carol Pratt

Commissioned by the Kennedy Center and the White House Historical Association, Chasing George Washington was created with the help of Young Playwrights Theatre. In 2007, YPT brought a group of 5th and 6th graders to tour the White House and then write about the experience. From those student’s reflections, Karen Zacarias shaped the script that would become Chasing George Washington. The show premiered in the spring of 2008, and was honored with an invitation to perform in the East Room of the White House for the First Lady and invited guests, and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play. From 2009 – 2010 it was performed across the country as part of the Kennedy Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences on Tour, and in 2011 was adapted into a book by Ronald Kidd.

Chasing George Washington is published by the Dramatic Publishing Company.

“The phrase ‘if these walls could talk’ is often heard. In the case of ‘Chasing George Washington,’ they do — and they have a compelling story to tell.” – The Washington Post

Musical Numbers

1. WHITE HOUSE FIELD TRIP - Letter, Kids, Guard
1. WHITE HOUSE FIELD TRIP - Letter, Kids, Guard



2. GEORGE WASHINGTON HAS LEFT HIS FRAME - George, Kids
2. GEORGE WASHINGTON HAS LEFT HIS FRAME - George, Kids



3. WHITE HOUSE SLIDE - Susan Ford, with George, Dee, José



4. RESTORATION - Jackie Kennedy, with George, Kids



5. TIFFANY EPIPHANY - José, with George, Annie, Dee



6. PEN AND INK - Dee, with Annie, José
6. PEN AND INK - Dee, with Annie, José



7. WHITE HOUSE FIELD TRIP REPRISE - All
7. WHITE HOUSE FIELD TRIP REPRISE - All


Felicia Curry, Jenna Sokolowski, Billy Bustamante at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Carol Pratt.
Felicia Curry, Jenna Sokolowski and Billy Bustamante at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Carol Pratt.

Audio demo features the voice talents of: Felicia Curry (Dee), Scott Graff (Washington), Gia Mora (Ms Letter), Steve Limones (José), and Monet Sabel (Annie).

Production Elements

Orlando Rep

Cast: 3 Women, 3 Men

Female
ANNIE – an Eastern European immigrant girl, also plays SUSAN FORD (Mezzo Soprano)
DEE – an African American girl, also plays CAROLINE KENNEDY (Alto Belt)
WOMAN – plays MS. LETTER, JACKIE KENNEDY, MARY TODD LINCOLN, and DOLLEY MADISON (Lyric Soprano)

Male
JOSÉ – a Latino boy, also plays TAD LINCOLN (Tenor)
GEORGE WASHINGTON – first President of the United States (Bari/Tenor)
MAN – plays GUARD, PRESIDENT LINCOLN, PRESIDENT FORD (Off stage), and PRESIDENT VAN BUREN (Bass/Baritone)

Music: Traditional Musical Theatre. Accompaniment tracks available.
Musical Difficulty: Moderate
Technical Requirements: Moderate. Gilbert Stuart painting gets “knocked off” wall, various location and time changes. Use of projections recommended.
Suggested Audiences: Young Audiences/Families

“Every sixth grader in the US (and his/her parents) should see ‘Chasing George Washington.’ Wonderfully accessible! Funny, relevant and poignant! There was not a dry eye in the house after the Lincoln scene and beautiful song. My son has never asked more questions about history. The play made all of us appreciate the evolution of the Revolution. Next week we are going to see the Washington portrait at the Portrait Gallery per my son’s request! A play with impact… to change the way kids see themselves and their role in history.” – ‘Soccerdad’

Authors

KAREN ZACARÍAS (Book & Lyrics) is hailed by American Theater Magazine as one of the ten most produced playwrights in the U.S. and the most produced Latina playwright in the nation. Her comedy Native Gardens,  about race, class, plants, and fences, hit a political zeitgeist and was one of the top produced plays of 2019. Her musical homage to the telenovela Destiny of Desire, “a terrifically entertaining theatrical roller coaster”(Charles McNulty, LA Times) has sold-out the largest regional theaters from East to West (Arena Stage, The Goodman, Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and is now heading to Broadway. Her gripping drama The Copper Children,  about a controversial child separation case in 1905, just had an acclaimed world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and her bilingual translation of Romeo y Juliet will premiere at California Shakespeare Festival in September of 2021.  Other award-winning plays include  The Book Club PlayLegacy of LightMariela in the DesertThe Sins of Sor Juana, and the adaptations of Just Like UsInto the Beautiful North, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent. Her work has also been produced at The Kennedy Center, The Guthrie, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Goodman, South Coast Rep, and many more.

 

Karen is also one of the most produced children’s theater playwrights in the country. She is the author of ten renowned TYA musicals with composer Deborah Wicks La Puma including Ella Enchanted, Einstein is a Dummy, Ferdinand the Bull, Looking for Roberto Clemente, Chasing George Washington, Jane of the Jungle, and Frida Libre.  Karen is also the author of the Marvel play Squirrel Girl Goes to College, and the librettist of several Ballets. She is one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage, a core founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons – a large national organization of artists seeking to update the American narrative with the stories of Latinos – and she is the founder of the award-winning Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT). YPT was cited by the Obama administration as one of the best arts-education programs on the nation.

Karen was voted 2019 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine for her advocacy work involving the arts. She is an inaugural 2019 Sine Fellow for Policy Innovation at American University for advocating for the intersectionality of art and policy and was selected by The League of Professional Theatre Women to receive the 2019 Lee Reynolds Award given annually to a woman in theater who has helped illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural, or political change. She was awarded the 2019 Medallion by the Children’s Theater Foundation of America for excellence and craft and a 2019 speaker at TEDEX Broadway. A graduate of Stanford University and Boston University, Karen lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children. She is represented by the Gersh Agency. www.KarenZacarias.com

DEBORAH WICKS LA PUMA (music) – see her bio page

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