I have been interested in the relationship between American citizens and their government. I came to understand how government is structured and functions through my own curiosity with guided and self-guided education. I devoured all seven seasons of The West Wing and admired the dramatic mission of its cast and crew: to give average Americans a look behind the curtain of government. I watched each episode with a tab open to Wikipedia so I could research its real-world counterpart. I know it is not always accurate and that it dramatizes mundane things, however story telling is supposed to do that. That's how it gets you and me engaged.
I wanted to force every-day citizens to participate in a legislative project, my character Senator Kip Tunamelt has to write a bill with the help of the public, and so he would have to teach the visitors what a bill is, how it's written, and how to get it passed. This is more of a farce than an actual political exercise, however I wanted the visitors to feel like the "we" in "we the people". With that, my mission was to pique her and his interest in political mechanics, and maybe they will look it up later and get involved.
Let's Write A Bill!
On April 7th, 2017, Senator Kip Tunamelt conducted a Town Hall meeting at Practice Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. He instructed the assembled crown on how to write a bill.
THE PEOPLE'S NIGHT
The evening began with sweeping patriotic music blaring from desktop speakers hooked to a laptop. Next to this office setting was a printer, paper stacked, ready to go. Passers by poked their heads in, curious about the federal decorations and bombastic characters.
"Y'all, we gonna have a show that involves you 'round 8 O'clock, come back alright? There's free beer!" chants Senator Kip Tunamelt of Florida. His personal aid Terri watched from behind the desk as she fixed her makeup.
Citizens came and went, some stayed and chatted with the Senator, asking him what all of this was. He excitedly explained it to a group of his constituents, "Y'all the Department of Trust has sent me up here to make sure y'know how to write a bill. That's important cause I'm not sure me and my colleagues even know how!" The group laughed uncomfortably. The Senator ramped up the energy, and geared up the sleepy visitors for a night they would never forget.
ACT OR RESOLUTION?
The crowd gathered, the Senator asked them to get comfortable and they all sat on the ground. Senator Tunamelt opened a beer with his front teeth and kept reminding the people that the beer is free. Several more citizens joined and cracked open an ice cold PBR.
The Senator began, introducing The Department of Trust, his eccentric personal secretary Terri, and the generous venue of Practice Gallery. He then launched into the exercise, asking if anyone knew the difference between an Act and a Resolution. No hand raised.
The Senator explained the difference, and said it is the most important decision because it determines how effective the bill is. After the lesson, the crowd agreed on an Act.
The next step was to decide what this bill would do. The visitors voted to write a bill demanding that The United States, in any part, must get to Mars by the year 2020. A lofty goal to be sure, but the Senator-turned-Emcee guided them through the process of making the bill an Act.
He deputized four volunteers into the United States Congress, two would act as sponsors for The House of Representatives and two as sponsors for the Senate. They were key to passing the bill and preparing it for Governor Tom Wolf's signature. He was brought in on teleconference and dispatched his support. With his signature, the bill became an Act, and that Act became a law.
MARS BY 2020
The Senator mentioned, after at least seven beers, that he doesn't think we could get to Mars by 2020. "I mean, I get it... the Earth is dying and Trump is President, let's leave and populate Mars. Guess what, Mars is far away, and IF we got there, it'd be meaner to us than a changing climate." He was excited by the engagement he witnessed of the Philadelphians and expressed his interest in doing another Let's Write A Bill meeting. He wants to educate the every-day person, the bread and butter of the lower and middle class, the ones whom are effected by legislation the most.
WE THE PEOPLE
It was clear by the end of the night, after the bill writing, the bill signing, the press conference, that the Senator is a big supporter of us, the People. He believes in Vox Populi Vox, or the voice of the people is the voice.
His constituents lingered and shared more beers after the event, and the Senator talked to them about the experience. Late-comers to the bill writing looked puzzled as they walked into the space, which reeked of PBR, body odor, and patriotism. He went up to them, one-by-one and proudly explained what the group had done just minutes before
The visitors to Practice Gallery after the opening night will experience a different environment: there wont be a rowdy populace, the make-shift office is cleared away, and there is a wall-sized projection playing a video of the Let's Write A Bill Town Hall proceedings. No free beer, nor the Senator's obnoxious speech.
On the podium, the bill is typed on a single sheet of paper, beer stains and myriad signatures mark the page. It is a testament to the power of you and me, of we.