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Heidi Schreck Comes Full Circle With ‘Constitution’

May 7, 2019 by Suzy Evans
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Heidi Schreck (Photographed by Jenny Anderson)

When playwright and performer Heidi Schreck was in high school, she would go around the country giving speeches about the U.S. Constitution. Schreck was very good at these competitions, and the scholarship money she won paid for her college education.

Now, a few decades later, Schreck is revisiting that time in her life on Broadway in “What the Constitution Means to Me.” Schreck wrote and stars in the play, which delves into how the history of the United States parallels her own family narrative and how this document has failed the non-white male citizens of America. But a document that helped send her to college has now brought about another milestone for her: a Broadway debut and two Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Actress in a Play.

“This is a childhood dream that honestly I had given up on quite a while ago. I thought, ‘This is not my path,'” Schreck said on the morning of Tony Award nominations. “This play has taken an unexpected journey to get where it is now. This was not my imagined future for the play so it’s quite wonderful and a little shocking to me.”

She began performing sections of the play in 10-minute segments and ultimately premiered the show off Broadway in 2017 at Clubbed Thumb. The play came do New York Theatre Workshop in 2018 then to a commercial run at the Greenwich House Theater before opening on Broadway in March. The New York Times called the show “not just the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but also the most important.”

Heidi Schreck in “What the Constitution Means to Me”

“I’ve been working on this show for a decade. I’ve also spend 20 years writing and acting off broadway so this definitely feels like something’s come to fruition in a big way and that’s thrilling,” Schreck said.

Schreck is also known for her television writing, including time on shows like “Nurse Jackie” and Billions,” but on Broadway, she is also the only female writer nominated in the Best Play category at the Tony Awards. Her experience performing the play over the last year has shown her there is an audience for different voices onstage.

“I have been moved by how the fact that so many people want to come to this show and then come back time and time again, bring their families,” she said. “It’s demonstrated to me the fact that people do want to hear women’s stories, people do want to hear the stories that maybe haven’t been as prominent on Broadway in the past. Just doing the show has been an affirmation that there is an audience for more diverse work.”

Most of all, just as the competition and the show brought Schreck to important moments in her life, she hopes this production will have a lasting impact for Rosdely Ciprian and Thursday Williams, the two young women who join Schreck onstage at the finale for a real-time debate on whether to keep or abolish the U.S. Constitution.

“An interesting layer to the whole experience is that of course my mom had me do this contest so that I could have a better future, and now this contest has led me to this incredible place in my career that I didn’t necessarily expect to manifest,” Schreck said. “So it feels strangely full circle for me. I have these amazing young debaters in the show with me and the contest helping them with their future also feels exciting.”

Get tickets to “What the Constitution Means to Me” on Broadway.