By Lethbridge Herald on February 17, 2020.
Playgoers of Lethbridge is dropping a bombshell on Lethbridge audiences this week: it’s not staging a comedy.
Instead the long-time local theatre troupe will be staging a drama piece called “Daisy” which focuses on a 1964 television advertisement aimed at derailing the campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater. “Daisy” plays Wednesday through Saturday at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
“It’s a really different play; it’s a departure from Playgoers usual comedy,” said director Rita Peterson last week.
The 60-second television ad that prompted the play ran on Sept. 7, 1963. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the ad “changed American politics forever. A three-year-old girl in a simple dress counted as she plucked daisy petals in a sun-dappled field. Her words were supplanted by a mission-control countdown followed by a massive nuclear blast in a classic mushroom shape. The message was clear if only implicit: Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was a genocidal maniac who threatened the world’s future. Two months later, President Lyndon Johnson won easily, and the emotional political attack ad — visceral, terrifying, and risky — was made.”
According to the Smithsonian magazine, the “Daisy” ad pioneered the era of negative political advertising.
“First, though it is a famous ad, Daisy Girl, as the ad is known, only ran once. Secondly, it didn’t even mention Goldwater’s name. And finally, by the time the ad ran, Goldwater’s chances against LBJ were slim, even though the ad is often falsely credited with assuring the win. And there were two dozen other ads from LBJ’s camp — humorous, informative, dark and neurotic. Daisy became the iconic spot of its era not because it was the first Johnson ran in 1964; we remember it primarily because of its brilliant, innovative approach to negative advertising,” says the magazine.
The play, says Peterson, focuses on the ad agency commissioned to create the ad.
The play has six actors including five men and one woman, the latter a fictional character created by the playwright. All other characters are based upon real people, says Peterson.
When Peterson came across the script, she had to read it a couple of times because “I thought this is really tricky. . .there are all sorts of things happening.”
She put the play away but after taking it to the Playgoers board, she got the go-ahead to mount it.
“It’s got a really interesting message; I think everyone who votes should come to see it.”
This is Playgoers second year at the Sterndale-Bennett Theatre, located adjacent to the Yates. It’s a more intimate environment than the Yates where Playgoers for years staged productions.
“The show lends itself to the Sterndale,” says Peterson.
Ticket are $25 each at the Ticket Centre locations. Showtime is 7:30 nightly.
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