Our House: The Capitol Project Podcast

Our House: The Capitol Play Project Act 1

September 22, 2023 Wonderlust Productions Season 1
Our House: The Capitol Project Podcast
Our House: The Capitol Play Project Act 1
Show Notes Transcript

Listen to the first act of the play you've heard referenced so many times in the podcast:  While a chorus of activists, legislators, lobbyists, civil servants, and tour guides attempt to get their way, an idealistic new employee finds herself at the center of an unexpected controversy. Misunderstandings and mistaken identity lead to a crash course in the realities that both constrain and inspire the men and women who have devoted themselves to public service (inside a building brimming with idealism, cynicism, absurdity, significance, and power—plus more than a few old ghosts who have something to say).

EPISODE 1 

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

Did you look at the paintings in the ceilings? 

Did you notice the carvings and dramatic friezes? 

Designed to awaken civic feelings? 

Welcome to the People’s House 

Did you climb the marble steps and see the view? 

Were you moved by the visions and the statues? 

Do you feel that the government is you? 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

CIVIL SERVANT 

Those figures, peaceful memorials, the gardens, the art, 

Remind me I work where the sum is larger than my small part. 

EXPERT 

Under the moon, I met my lover on the steps. 

To talk about the latest budget fight. 

There’s a passion for our state that we share. 

Falling in love while we debate what’s wrong and right. 

CHORUS (different voices) 

Welcome to the People’s House 

How do you figure that this place is Minnesotan? 

Marble columns and goofy ceilings? 

Who takes the blame for these pretentious decorations? 

CASS GILBERT 

It made my name [CHORUS: Cass Gilbert] 

It launched my career [He built the U.S. Supreme Court.] 

It built my brand. [He designed every piece of furniture here.] 

It gave focus to a young land. [We’re exceptional.] 

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

PROTESTERS (in the background, faintly as first) 

No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace! 

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

PROTESTERS (coming closer) 

No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace! 

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House 

Don’t pay attention to occasional cost overrun 

Just hear the history echo through majestic halls 

In this place where your business gets done. 

ANGELA + PROTESTORS 

No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace! 

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House! 

EPISODE 2 

TOUR GUIDE 

Hello. Welcome to the People’s House. I’ll be your interpreter today. It’s a wild time to be at the Capitol. Always. Obviously. But with the new session. The new governor. Lots of questions. 

ZEALOT 

Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered. 

TOUR GUIDE 

Yes, thank you, yes. 

ZEALOT 

Empires place their reliance upon sword and cannon: Republics trust in the citizens’ respect for law. If law be not sacred a free government will not endure. 

TOUR GUIDE 

As this is a public building, the public can come here to speak, whatever they want at whatever volume. Some people read the bible or, as you heard,  in the inspiring quotations that are carved on the walls of the second and third floors above. Once, I remember, a normal typical Wednesday morning when a woman marched on the steps of the Capitol to protest the killing of racing dogs. In Spain. If we’re quiet, we can hear families wandering through the halls, taking in the majesty. 

CHILD (awed-whisper) 

Are we allowed to be here, Mommy. 

MOTHER 

Why wouldn’t we be allowed to be here, Sweetie? 

CHILD 

It’s a rich person’s house. 

MOTHER 

No, Honey. It’s our house. It’s the People’s House. Everyone is allowed to be here. 

CHILD 

Everyone? Really? 

TOUR GUIDE 

We can hear footsteps of the staff echo back and forth as they rush between  different offices. (the sound of the capitol business happening.) 

The music of the Capitol. 

Maybe ghosts too. 

ZEALOT #1 (distant, echoing) 

Empires . . . place. . . their reliance . . . ance. . . ance. . . 

TOUR GUIDE 

Or, an issue will just explode, and people will want to come to the Capitol to make their voice is heard. If you look up to the second floor balcony overlooking the rotunda, you can also often see members of the media recording video for television. 

PRESS 

I'm Julia Svensgaardsen with Channel 5 News. It’s been two months since the new governor won his office in a surprise victory, but he still hasn’t announced his staff or commissioners. Even though his budget is due 5 weeks after swearing in. MMB, the Minnesota Management and Budget office, would be working right now with his staff to set his priorities. But, these are no longer normal circumstances. 

I don’t think I have ever walked into this building and not been struck by the grandeur of the place, the beauty of it. The men who built his building made fortunes in Minnesota, and you can tell that they really thought they were a fabulous state, that they were really becoming someone special, and I can vouch to them that in Minnesota, state government is where it’s at. And I believe that those men are turning over in their graves considering the disrespect that some people show towards good government these days. 

I don’t even want to come to work some days now. 

TOUR GUIDE 

Does anyone here remember Governor  Stassen? 

PRESS 

Political giants used to walk these halls. Elmer Anderson. Wendell Anderson. Al Quie. Rudy Perpich. Arne Carlson. I never thought I’d miss Governor Jesse Ventura! 

TOUR GUIDE (patiently) 

Gov Stassen was our 25th Governor, and he almost defeated Dewey for the Republican nomination for President in 1948. In the year 2000,  he actually was still running for President. 

We’re called interpreters instead of tour guides because obviously we have to interpret what we think is important, and it’s extremely subjective. The story I want to tell right now is about how Governor Stassen was going to quit the race for President in 2000, for the final time. Chairs had been laid out for the press in the rotunda, the main lobby area underneath the dome. A podium had been set up. But no press showed up. No one. He was a distinguished politician. But his time was done. He had no idea that he was about to give a speech to an empty room. 

Right before the speech, a tour bus driver showed up. With a group of Russian diplomats, and he asked if the interpreter at the information desk, if she could keep an eye on them. Because they had been drinking all night, and they had thrown up on the tour bus. He had to get it cleaned before he could drive them any further. 

At this point, the diplomats were subdued, hung-over, docile. AND wearing suits. So. The interpreter sat them in the chairs in the rotunda. Gov. Stassen gave his speech, and it was a good speech, about fighting for what you believe in and making the country a better place, and when he was done the diplomats leaped to their feet and applauded. And I remember how proud he looked when he shuffled away, for the last time, not knowing they weren’t press and that they probably didn’t understand a word he said. He died less than a year later. 

I think that story will resonate the more you learn about the capitol. Ideas versus reality. The show, the people behind the scenes, what role you might play. 

PRESS 

How do I get people to listen to me when I say we're on the verge of a real crisis? We don’t know who will be leading the Department of Transportation? Management and Budget? Labor? Agriculture? We won’t have a government if we do things this way. WHO WILL BE THE NEW GOVERNMENT'S NEW CHIEF OF STAFF? 

TOUR GUIDE

Anyway. Let's begin our tour.

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

Did you look at the paintings in the ceilings? 

Did you notice the carvings and dramatic friezes? 

Designed to awaken civic feelings? 

TOUR GUIDE (over the music) 

I’d like to begin our journey two floors down from the rotunda, where tunnels connect this building to the rest of the Capitol complex. As though the heart pumping blood to the arteries. 

CHORUS (a little louder) 

Welcome to the People’s House 

Did you climb the marble steps and see the view? 

Were you moved by the vision and the statues? 

Do you feel that the government is you? 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

CIVIL SERVANT 

Those figures, peaceful memorials, the gardens, the art, 

Remind me I work where the sum is larger than my small part. 

CHORUS 

Welcome to the People’s House. 

TOUR GUIDE 

That’s a civil servant. We’ll learn more about her later. And here come two partisan staffers. Aides to various legislators. They’re very young, they usually work very long hours. They’re always connected to their cell phones. They live an extremely unhealthy lifestyle.

(MATT and SARA step out of the din, walking and talking like on The West Wing

MATT 

Do you ever imagine— 

SARA 

Imagine I’m in an episode of the West Wing? Absolutely. So much of what we do is just work. Printing things, signing things, sending things, boring. 

MATT 

Late at night, when my footsteps are echoing through the hallways, I imagine Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. 

SARA 

Or Veep. I sometimes imagine I’m in Veep. But with less swear words. 

MATT 

But not House of Cards! No way House of Cards

SARA 

Not in Minnesota. 

TOUR GUIDE 

From here we get to see the multitude of people working around Minnesota. Meet, for example, a public policy expert: 

EXPERT 

Under the moon, I met my lover on the steps. 

To talk about the latest budget fight. 

There’s a passion for our state that we share, 

Falling in love while we debate what’s wrong and right. 

SHEILA 

May I? 

TOUR GUIDE

We haven’t met yet. We saw you upstairs? 


SHEILA

It’s my first day at work, and I was wondering—I’m a little lost and turned around, the lobby is a circle and the marble staircases on either side look identical so its hard to tell whether I’m going east or west, north or south, and— 


(Conspiratorially.)


I’ve never actually been inside the Capitol building before. 

I been outside. Because every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day I brought my daughter Angela down to the rally on the steps so she could see that people do make a difference. 


We’d park the car and stop at the Sears that used to be across the street to go to the bathroom. Cause I was sure the doors to the Capitol were locked. You think about these things when you have small children.


It was always so cold, and we’d all get bundled up. Jumpers and moon boots. When Angela was little, she said the Capitol looked like a rubber ducky. All the people marching around it were the water, and it was looking out for us.


TOUR GUIDE

Here in Minnesota, we take pride in the fact that the doors to our state capitol are open.


SHEILA

I didn’t know. No metal detectors. 

The bathrooms here are gorgeous. 

No one told me. No one helped us feel welcome here.

So, now, it’s my first day at work, and I’m turned around, and can you help me–


TOUR GUIDE

Of course, I can–What brings you [here]?


PROTESTERS (Everybody)

No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!


TOUR GUIDE (trying to talk over the noise)

What brings you here?


CHORUS (over the chants) 

Welcome to the People’s House.


ANGELA (overlapping the song)

No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!


CHORUS (louder)

Welcome to the People’s House.


PROTESTERS

No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!


SHEILA

I never thought I would be working here, I’m just a concerned citizen, a mother, with a black child. My child is why I am here. I don’t want her to fall through the cracks. I don’t want anybody’s kids to fall through the cracks. And whatever I can do to help, whatever I need to do in this role. That’s why I’m here


ANGELA (entering and repeating)

No Justice, no peace! No Justice, no peace! 


SHEILA

And that is my daughter. 


(Beat.)


CHORUS

Welcome to the People’s House

Don’t pay attention to occasional cost overrun

Just hear the history echo through majestic halls

In this place where your business gets done. 


ANGELA + PROTESTORS

No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace!


CHORUS

Welcome to the People’s House!



EPISODE 3 EXCERPT: WHAT’S NORMAL?


TOUR GUIDE

Hi. Welcome to the People’s House. We’re starting our tour today in the sub basement, two floors below the Capitol’s rotunda, in a circular room called the Vault. Lots of people walk through here all the time coming and going from other buildings. Down here, tunnels connect this building to the rest of the Capitol complex. The heart pumping blood to the arteries of state government.


And today, a young activist has broken off from a main protest and found herself in front of us here, waving a protest sign and chanting.


ANGELA

No Justice! No Peace!


TOUR GUIDE

Look. A security guard is on their way.


ANGELA

I have a right to be here. You can’t kick me out.


SECURITY GUARD

I don’t want to kick you out. You just can’t have a sign on a stick, don’tchaknow.


ANGELA

I can’t have a protest sign? Are you saying I can’t protest here?!


SECURITY GUARD

You can have a protest sign. You can’t have the stick.


(Shrug.)


Also, balloons with helium in them. I don’t make the rules.


TOUR GUIDE

He just takes the stick and walks away and goes back to blocking the path. Look at her get right in the way of the Civil Servant.


ANGELA

No Justice! No Peace!


CIVIL SERVANT

I’m non-partisan staff.


TOUR GUIDE

Civil servants pride themselves on their non-partisanship.


ANGELA

So you don’t care.


CIVIL SERVANT

No. That’s not what non-partisan means. I work for both sides. I’m a civil servant.


ANGELA

What about being on the right side?


CIVIL SERVANT (side-stepping)

I have so much work to do. You don’t understand. I’m stepping around you now. Please.


LOBBYIST

It’s good that you’re here, Young Lady, that you’re out there making your voices heard. Your voices matter to the legislators.


ANGELA

Who are you?


LOBBYIST

I’m not important. I get along with everyone. Technically, I’m a registered lobbyist but really—


ANGELA

You’re part of the problem.


LOBBYIST

That’s not how things really work. I’ll keep walking.


(moving on)


But good luck translating the noise you make into legislation. Here’s my card. Think about giving me a call when you need me.


LEGISLATOR

I’m a Legislator, and you can come and talk to me any time, Young Lady. I have an open door policy. Anytime. Especially if you live in my district. 


ANGELA

What are you going to do about—


LEGISLATOR

Now talk to my legislative aide about setting up an appointment.


(SARA steps forward.)


SARA

That’s me. I can give you fifteen minutes 3 weeks from now.


LEGISLATOR

I enjoy working for all Minnesotans—especially the ones in my district. Which, as you can imagine, makes me very busy. Got to keep going.


SHEILA

Angela? 


ANGELA

I’m not talking to you, Mom. Not if you’re going to work near this new governor.


SHEILA

I took a job here for the same reason you’re protesting. To make a difference. I’m so proud of you.


ANGELA

Except they don’t want us here. Do you see any black faces? 


CIVIL SERVANT (overhearing)

That’s not fair. We are trying to be more inclusive. 


ANGELA

There’s a neighborhood full of African-Americans two blocks away. How hard is it really to include them?


LEGISLATOR

The doors are open. If people showed up for hearings


ANGELA

They have jobs. Why don’t you just take a walk down the street?


SHEILA

Angela, I raised you better than to be rude to people you don’t know.


ANGELA

Mom, I know you count the black faces everywhere we go, I’ve watched you steel yourself to the way white people talk down to you.


SHEILA

I raised you to see people as potential allies no matter where they start and to value the progress we’ve made in the last 50 years. Excuse me, Sir, I noticed you walking by, and I was wondering whether I might ask you–


ANGELA

No Justice! No Peace! No Justice! No Peace! Are you an ally?


EXPERT (trying to get away)

Uh, um, uh. I’m an expert on environmental policy. I can’t pay attention to every issue. I’m sorry. Understanding this one issue is hard enough. Its keeping the water clean—and, um, it’s mostly not about partisan politics actually. We just keep the state running.


ADVOCATE (stepping forward, to ANGELA)

I’ve been working on these issues all my life from the outside, as an activist, like you. I’m an advocate. Don’t take it personally. Politics doesn’t have feelings. Or logic. It’s slow work. You cry a little, and then you have to get a little numb to the realities at the Capitol.


ANGELA (to EVERYONE)

It sounds to me like you’re all basically saying that you don’t care that this crazy new governor gets elected or that the system was built to be unfair to people like me. You act like its business as usual.


(EVERYONE stops and looks.)


CHORUS (together?)

If I didn’t care, would I put up with the regular abuse?


LEGISLATOR

My father was the fix-it guy here when I was a kid, and I think I was ten when I decided to be a legislator. Because I saw what a difference I could make sitting in the chair where people voted.


ADVOCATE

I was driving from the East Coast to a Dominican convent in Montana but I stopped to visit Hubert Humphrey’s casket. Which happened to be lying in state up in the rotunda on my way past. Right there I knew, because of the great Hubert Humphrey, I knew I wanted to take action in the world.  To make it better. And I never made it to the convent.


LOBBYIST

My grandfather was a legislator, my father an activist. My family shaped this state, and I’m proud of being a part of that.


EXPERT

While I earned my Ph’d, I realized that there was no better place to affect the roots of the system. Not just earn a paycheck but really make long-lasting change.


CIVIL SERVANT

When I was a child, I loved every trip to the Capitol with my family. I loved getting to hear people— I’d sit in the galleries in the house or senate chambers forever and listen to speeches bout who knows what. Loved that someone could make a difference with their words. To be a part of the arguments and the negotiations and the effort to make a better world. Simply being on staff, simply working here, is the best job I can imagine.


CHORUS

We were born caring.


ANGELA

And I was born with this skin color in a culture that refuses to admit that it matters when it obviously does. Otherwise, Philando Castille would be alive. And Jamar Clark. 

And Daunte Wright.


And George Floyd. 


(Silence. A heavy silence. Then, CHORUS begins to say something, tentatively, trying to be caring, sincere, with: )


LOBBYIST

Listen. All of us felt that.


CIVIL SERVANT

We care. We do care. Listen.


LEGISLATOR

Listen. That isn’t fair. You don’t really understand what happened. It’s complicated.


EXPERT

Listen. Even the nonpartisan staff needed to address that, and we try very hard to keep our feelings to ourselves.


ADVOCATE

Listen. . . Listen. . . Listen. We are trying to change that system.


(But they’re all talking at once, again, so it becomes a mess of noise.)

SHEILA (cutting everyone off)

You’re not listening!


(pause.)


LEGISLATOR

Who are you?


SHEILA

Does it matter?


EXPERT

It generally does around here.


SHEILA

If everyone can just stop talking over each other for a second. If I could ask some simple questions—


(Overlapping, slightly)


CIVIL SERVANT

I have got so much work to do.


ADVOCATE

We’re working on it.


EXPERT

This problem isn’t in my area.


LEGISLATOR

People don’t understand what we’re trying to accomplish here.


LOBBYIST

This is not how things work around here.


(As they talk over each other and move around, the chants from the protestors outside the room become louder and ANGELA joins in. “No justice! No peace!”)


ANGELA (overlapping)

No Justice! No Peace! 


SHEILA

Angela, Wait!


ANGELA (exiting)

I don’t want to talk to you. You can’t act like everything is normal. I’m out of here.


SHEILA

Angela! Wait.


(Pause.)


TOUR GUIDE

Well. . . If you look to your left, you’ll see the Legislative Aides we met earlier still engaged in the important work of doing the People’s business.


SARA

If this were an episode of The West Wing


MATT

The new Governor would have sent his new Chief of Staff into the Capitol incognito


SARA

Yes. To ask questions about what we really do.


MATT

You don’t think . . . 


SARA

She said she wanted to ask questions.


MATT

She said she wanted to make a difference.


SARA

Do you think she might be the new Governor’s new chief of staff?


MATT

Shhhh! The members of the legislature that we work for 


SARA

Would probably value that information. A lot.


MATT

If this were the West Wing.


SARA

Which it isn’t.


MATT

No, it isn’t. . . except. . .


SARA

. . . except. . .


MATT (almost gone)

What if. . .


(Exiting. Doors open. More protest sounds “No Justice! No Peace!)



EPISODE 4 EXCERPT: THE PAST IS ALWAYS PRESENT


PRESS

We’re standing today in the Cass Gilbert library, in the Western half of the building, on the third floor.

In 2017, when the restoration of the Capitol building occurred, two controversial paintings were moved from the Governor’s reception room to this out of the way space. One large painting depicts the Sioux Treaty of 1868 as though the parties to that agreement were happy, rather than coerced. Another painting, Father Hennepin at the Falls of St. Anthony depicts . . .


(A sound indicates the arrival of a ghost who is Native American.)


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN 

Imagine if they made the genocide of your people into a really well-drawn, fun comic book.


CHILD

Mommie, did you hear someone talking?


MOTHER

Shhh, Honey, she’s making television right in front of us. . . 


PRESS

Some preservationists argued that because the artists, Francis Davis Millet and Douglas Volk, were premiere landscape painters of their time, the paintings should keep their place at the Capitol. Others argued that the gross, historical misrepresentations they illustrated, depicting Native people as savages blessed by Father Hennepin’s presence, are too egregious for. . . 


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN 

Imagine if your people were depicted as though in a comic book.


CHILD

Mommie, I’m scared. I think the painting is talking.


MOTHER

Shhh. Don’t be rude.


PRESS

Five years ago, this controversy consumed discussion of the Capitol restoration. This room was remodeled in an attempt to contextual the paintings—their significance and their offense.


(A sound indicates the entrance of a German construction worker.)


GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER

I did not know, when I came from Germany to work for a new life, that someone already lived here. 


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN

You did not know someone lived here first, or you did not care?


(Some ghostly music. Another GHOST-CIVIL WAR SOLDIER enters.)

Imagine if they made the genocide of your people into a comic book.


GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER GHOST

I did not know, when I came from Germany to work for a better life here.


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN

You did not know, or you did not care.


GHOST-CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

You helped build this building? Thanks for the monument.


CHILD

Mommy?


MOMMY

Shhhh!

GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER

You fought in the Civil War?


GHOST-CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

I did. I died at Gettysburg. My face is in a painting in the Governor’s reception room from a photo that my family brought to the artist.


GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER

I died here. During the building. Wheeling brick on a wheelbarrow. The wheel barrow fell and I went with it.


GHOST-CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

You helped to build a nice building.


GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER

I like the restoration. Did you see in The Vault? There were pictures of all the people who worked on it. 


GHOST-CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

I like that they kept our flags on the first floor. 


GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER

Yeah, it’s nice to keep the history where people can be inspired.


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN

What about the history that isn’t so inspiring? 


(GHOST of ROBERT HICKMAN enters.)


GHOST-ROBERT HICKMAN

Tell me why a building that attempts to be a monument to the war to end slavery only has statues and pictures of white people?


GHOST–IMMIGRANT WORKER

Maybe they didn’t know about you.


GHOST–ROBERT HICKMAN

My name is Robert Hickman. In 1863, in the middle of the war, I led 75 other slaves to freedom from Missouri to Minnesota, founded a church that still exists today, and lived and died here until 1900. 


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN (to SOLDIER)

While you fought in the Civil War, my people were being exterminated and driven off land we lived on for centuries.


GHOST–CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

You were a sovereign nation that attacked settlers. They defended themselves.


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN

The Bureau of Indian Affairs of the United States Government stole the money that was promised us through treaty after treaty. They kept food from us. When we asked for what was owed us, the response was “Let them eat grass. Or their own dung.” We were starved until we had no other choice but to defend ourselves.

GHOST-CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

Do you even consider yourself Minnesotan?


GHOST–NATIVE AMERICAN

Minnesota is our word.

PRESS

The question is: How do we wrestle with the past? What responsibility do we in the present have for causes and effects that began long before we were born?


MOTHER

Let’s go, Sweetie. There’s more of the building to see.


CHILD

But, Mommie, the ghosts are arguing about history—


MOTHER

Shhhh. There are no such thing as ghosts. 

We need to catch up with our tour.


    (The ghosts and the ghost music disperses as the people exit.)


EPISODE 5 EXCERPT: THE POWER OF INVISIBILITY


TOUR GUIDE

As we continue through the building, you may not notice that the business of government continues all around you. 


SHEILA

I was looking for my daughter Angela, and I ran directly into a young man who was carrying a bill.


TOUR GUIDE

Though the building always has a fair amount of tourists, most of the people you see work here. A Legislator, of course


LEGISLATOR

What bill?


TOUR GUIDE

Civil servants


CIVIL SERVANT

Is there a bill?


TOUR GUIDE

Policy experts.


EXPERT

What bill?


TOUR GUIDE

Lobbyists


LOBBYIST

You’ve got to have the bill in your hand.


TOUR GUIDE

Advocates


ADVOCATE

Or who knows what they’ve put in it. Or taken out of it.


EXPERT

What bill?


LEGISLATOR

Where’s the bill?


(And they exit in a bustle of noise, looking for the bill—“Where’s the bill?” “Who’s working on a bill this early?” “Which bill?” “Do I need to seeing this bill?”)


OSCAR (quietly, cautiously, a stage whisper)

Excuse me.


SHEILA

Ahhh! You scared me. Why are you hiding?


OSCAR

You see me?


SHEILA

Of course I see you.


OSCAR

If you can see me, then something must be wrong. . . something’s different today. . .something’s strange.


SHEILA

Who are you?


OSCAR

I work in the office of the Revisor of Statutes.


SHEILA

You ready the statues?


OSCAR (whisper)

No. Revisor of statutes


SHEILA

You receive cashews?


OSCAR

No!


CHORUS (popping head in)

Revisor of Statutes!


SHEILA

O. That’s a name. What do you do?


OSCAR

We draft the legislation.


CHORUS 

They draft the bills.


(Barbershop quartet?)


The bills.

The bills.

The bills.


OSCAR

People

want to believe that their

legislators know

Ev’rything      (beat) about

Ev’rything that happens here


ADVOCATE

(Beat)   People do!


OSCAR (and ADVOCATE and LOBBYIST?)

But!                 (beat) in re-

ality most legislators

only know a little bit

(beat) about one or 

two of the issues 

closest to them.


LOBBYIST

It’s true.

          

OSCAR

                      (beat) And they

certainly don’t under-

stand the intersections with

other laws already on the

books


LEGISLATOR

Well. Hey. The state’s more than 150 years old.


OSCAR

     (beat) So the

legislators tell us what they

want in a bill, and we

write it.


SHEILA

How come you’re singing?


OSCAR 

Because


CHORUS

We are the

Keepers of the Rule of

Law.


OSCAR

We’re kind of magic. Invisible but essential to making the process work. You can’t even get to our offices unless you know about the secret elevator.


CHORUS

We are the

Keepers—


EXPERT

Well, actually, wouldn’t you say the judicial branch is really the “keepers” and you are more like the custodians—


LEGISLATOR

Wait. The judicial branch are the interpreters—


CIVIL SERVANT

The executive branch implements—


ADVOCATE

So then the Office of the Revisor of Statutes are. . .?


OSCAR and CHORUS

. . . the Keepers 

of the Rule of

Law.


(CHORUS sees OSCAR as though for the first time but focus on the papers in his hands. Overlapping.)


CIVIL SERVANT

Is that a bill that you’re holding?


OSCAR

No.


LOBBYIST

Let me get my hands on the bill.


OSCAR

No. By the power of the revisor of statutes, Invisibility! Presto!


EXPERT

I still don’t agree about this “keepers of the rule of law” thing—


ADVOCATE

What happened to the bill? Where’d it go? 


(Murmur murmur “New Governor” “What’s he up to?” “New Governor”. CHORUS is distracted by that possibility.)


OSCAR (whispering again, at first)

More than once, after a late night negotiating session between legislators, and lobbyists, and interest groups, and activists, they’ll bring us the notes that their legislative aides wrote down, trying to keep up with the conversation—sometimes on napkins, and we’ve got to make sense of it. We just hope they didn’t all agree to something that is actually illegal.


LOBBYIST

Everything depends on that bill.


CIVIL SERVANT

You all make too much out of it. Everything depends on how we implement the laws on a daily basis in the agencies. Talk about being invisible.


LEGISLATOR

I’m always nice to the nonpartisan staff. I have no complaints with the nonpartisan staff.


CIVIL SERVANT

Except whenever you want to score political points. You freeze our pay and hiring, so we have to do more work with fewer people and no raises.


LEGISLATOR

Well, in the business world, you would have to justify—


CIVIL SERVANT

I’ve worked in the business world. All you’ve ever wanted to be is a legislator. They don’t unilaterally freeze pay and hiring in the business world.


LEGISLATOR

Ok. But your job is different because


LOBBYIST

Just when I think we’ve successfully lined up the support for my client’s bill, the nonpartisan staff will come in with questions and concerns and slow down the entire process.


LEGISLATOR

Exactly! I can’t get a road built for my district without years of nonsense—


EXPERT

Nonsense? You think it's simple? What about the environmental impact? 


CIVIL SERVANT

What if it will harm important historical sites? Whose land will the road be built on?

Will it cut through historically marginalized communities? Will the vendors be selected in a fair process?


EXPERT

In my agency, we have to come up with a way forward that balances all the competing interests—regardless of who is the governor. If it’s a pro-business or pro-automobile governor, we go a little one way. But we don’t completely ignore the other side of the issue. Cause the parties will shift. And the state will still be full of different people.


CHORUS

The State of Minnesota,

My North Star, my dear.

I hold your interests close to my chest

And think about only what’s best 

For you.

You.

You.

You.


When I dream about your eyes

And the nays, and the ways

We disagree. I hope you see.

I’m just trying to be 

The best

Keeper of the Rule of

Law.

For you

You.

You.


You.


CIVIL SERVANT

It’s the process that matters. The process is beautiful.


LEGISLATOR

But my constituents still don’t have a road!


EXPERT

You only think of your constituents. We’re thinking of the best interests of the state. 


CIVIL SERVANT

But we’re not supposed to make a big deal because we’re non-partisan


OSCAR

So non-partisan we shouldn’t even be talking to you.


SHEILA

How do you act like you don’t have opinions when you see the outcomes going badly?


OSCAR

Because being in the room matters. During the Marriage Amendment debate, I know that me being a gay man made a difference. Legislators, my colleagues, lobbyists, could see a person they knew who would be affected by the law they were writing. I didn’t ever stop being nonpartisan but I know that if I stay in the room, I can make a difference. It’s the process that matters.


CIVIL SERVANT

We believe in the process.


CIVIL SERVANT and EXPERT/CHORUS

We are non-partisan

We work for everyone

We stay in the background 

where truth can be found.


ADVOCATE

What people really want is to merge their identity with something larger than themselves.


CIVIL SERVANT

I worked in Materials Management, when the 35W Bridge collapsed. It was about 6pm when that happened and it was incredible the network of people who had to come together. They had to get immediate approval to secure the site, to get the right people in there. Immediately. The phone calls that went out. The emergency declarations that were made with respect to procurement. Immediately. Folks who had to come in – with contracts – to test the air and do other disaster recovery type services, necessary services-- a lot of people in our division that nobody thinks about--all the way through the construction of the new bridge. It was a big deal and a lot of work.


In an awful situation

You want people who are patient

Who will work together all hands on deck


CHORUS

To build a bridge of hope and respect

For you..


ALL

That’s what non-partisan means.


EXPERT

Crisis happens everyday and government deals with it. You may not notice if the crisis doesn’t affect you but it affects lots of people. I guarantee it. That’s what non-partisan staff do.


OSCAR

People talk about how the Capitol lacks civility and is too political, but my parents grew up in a place where trouble was solved with bullets. I am very appreciative of this country and the freedom and respect people have for the law, and I wish that other areas of world that are troublesome could actually learn something from how peaceful this democracy has been in the past. 

And, I wish, that people here and now would appreciate it more too.


SHEILA (excited)

I have someone I need you to meet. Come with me.


OSCAR

Ow. You’re grabbing my arm hard.


SHEILA (as they’re getting farther away)

Sorry. Come on. It’s important that you talk to–


MATT

Did you just see what I saw?


SARA

Did you just see what I saw?


MATT

What’d you see?


SARA

Who do you think she’s taking him to meet?

She’s taking him to meet the new governor!


MATT

Why are we not following her?


SARA

Which way did she go? Let’s go.


SHEILA 

We’re turned around again. Did you see which direction my daughter Angela went? 


TOUR GUIDE

Uh, no, but–


SHEILA

Let’s go this way Oscar.


OSCAR

Ok, ok.


(As though from a greater and greater distance, we hear MATT and SARA.)


MATT

She went in this door.


SARA

No, it was this one.


MATT

I get turned around so easily in this place. This way.


SARA

--No this way. The marble and wood all look the same on either side! Every door is identical!


MATT and SARA

Which way

--did she go?



EPISODE 6 EXCERPT: IT’S A GAME! IT’S A SHOW!


TOUR GUIDE

We’re returning to the basement of the building for a moment, for those of you who made need a snack. There’s an actual cafeteria, called the Ratheskellar, down. Also, a nifty little room and kitchen that is called the Governor’s Dining Room which probably hasn’t served that exact purpose for a very long time. The press have their own offices down here, a large bullpen for each of the major outlets, and then individual offices for the long-serving, most important members of the press.


SARA

How did we lose her?


MATT (pointing and getting all tangled up)

Well, you can go left at one fork in the road and then left again, and I think I saw her go toward the Centennial Building but then maybe it was the new Senate Office Building which would be the opposite direction. 


SARA

Wasn’t the restoration supposed to make sure everything was clearly labeled?


TOUR GUIDE (conspiratorially)

It looks like these legislative aides have been running around tunnels, working up a sweat. Fun fact: Some Capitol workers do actually get their exercise by jogging underneath the grounds during their lunch breaks.


MATT

Do you think the ghosts are moving the signs around already?


SARA

You believe in the ghosts?


MATT

I once saw this old man walking super slowly down the hall and go into a room, but when I ran over to the room, it was locked. I’m sure it was a ghost.


(Maybe the sound of the other ghosts returns. Did they have theme music?)


SARA

Once, my Member’s caucus was camping out in front of the governor’s office, as part of a protest. He had the 3 am shift, with another legislator, and they swear--they both swear--that they heard carts of bills being rolled down the hallway. Swear.


(And more sounds.)

MATT

ghosts.


SARA

yeah.

(Pause)


Why are we even down here?


MATT (snapping out of it)

Because the Governor’s Chief of Staff is already secretly in the building, and we’re the only ones who know. And if we can tell our Members who it is,


SARA

That would be something.


MATT

The Member that I work for said that the people with information have power.


    (Sudden, spooky laughter and AIDES jump and scream, thinking it’s a ghost. CHORUS reappears.)


EXPERT (laughing, spooky)

Mostly, the people with power have power.


LOBBYIST

No, no. Information does matter. In my business, if I can put good concise information in front of a legislator, that will be appreciated. You need to know your subject.

EXPERT

I know my subject. I have a lot of information. I have very little power.


LOBBYIST

And you do need an election certificate on your side.


ADVOCATE (to MATT and SARA)

He means, you need to get elected.


LOBBYIST

That’s what I said.


EXPERT

You are so inside the game, you don’t even realize how you sound. You said, “election certificate” instead of “get elected”.


MATT and SARA

Where did you all come from?


CIVIL SERVANT

We’re always here.


EXPERT

It’s like purgatory. I’ll go from one hearing to another hearing, to a seventh hearing, all in the same day. And the legislators will say the hearing is supposed to start at a certain time but who knows if that’s true. 


LOBBYIST

Sometimes, there’s no point in coming back until they’ve worked out the details on the bill.


CIVIL SERVANT

On the side, with you, not in the normal process. Not in hearings, in the open, with transparency. There’s this secret process. Where legislative tricks happen.


LEGISLATOR

The more transparent we are, the less likely we are to get anything done.


CIVIL SERVANTS

That’s not true.


LEGISLATOR

It is true.


ADVOCATE

Does it matter what you get done, if what you get done doesn’t include the voices of all Minnesotans?


CHORUS

(Song)


It’sa game, it’sa show.

There’s so much happening behind the scenes

That you don’t know.


EXPERT

Once upon a time, the Governor and the Speaker of the House told the press that they were sending their staffs into a room together to work out a compromise. But we knew that they weren’t ready to compromise. Into a conference room they go. I think the press was waiting outside. The first one to speak is going to have to start negotiations, so no one spoke. These are friends, by the way, people whose children have played together, who have known each other for years. No one says a word. How long do they have to sit here in order to make it appear to the press outside that they’ve really negotiated? 1 hour? Two? Two and a half. Two and a half hours. In a room. No one speaks. 


LOBBYIST

Because their bosses needed to be able to say that intensive, good-faith negotiations broke down. It was a necessary part of the process in order to get them to an agreement later.


CIVIL SERVANT

That’s not the way the process is supposed to work. That’s not a process that’s working well.


ADVOCATE/CIVIL SERVANT

It’sa joke, it’s a game

There’s so much happening behind the scenes

You’d think they’d feel shame.

 

EXPERT

My job in legislative hearings is to play whatever role the politicians decide we’re going to play that day. Am I apologetic? Am I combative? What does the Governor need today? What play are the legislators trying to write?


My boss and I joke about which one of us is just going to crack first and just say, “You don’t care about the statement I’m about to make. Let’s just get to the games.”


LEGISLATOR

You should know that this is true no matter which party is in power. They each use the same tricks.


CIVIL SERVANT

Some bills you think will be big and they aren’t. Some idea that starts with everyone going “of course” ends with something like, “Wait. We’re paying to breathe?”


LOBBYIST

No one likes the process except when it works for them.


It’s a story, like a play

There’s truth beneath the drama

If you only see the way.


LEGISLATOR

I remember one Senate Majority Leader who used to make the hearings run into the middle of the night because he wanted to make everyone so tired that they had to compromise just to get some sleep.


(counterpoint here. With the LOBBYIST and LEGISLATOR repeating this verse and the EXPERT, CIVIL SERVANT, and ADVOCATE singing:


It’s a game, it’s a show.

There’s so much happening behind the scenes

That you don’t know.//


It’s a game It’s a show It’s a story It’s a joke


It’s a joke, it’s a game

There’s so much happening behind the scenes

You’d think they’d feel shame.//

It’s a story it’s a joke


It’s a story, like a play

There’s truth beneath the drama

If you only see the way.


It’s a joke, it’s a game, it’s a story like a play

It’s a joke, it’s a game, it’s a story like a play

It’s a game, it’s a show

there’s so much happening behind the scenes 

that you don’t know



SARA

I want to be in the room.


MATT

I want to be in the room.

 

ANGELA

How can you draw that conclusion from those stories? 


MATT and SARA

Where did you come from? Have you been listening this whole time? Shouldn’t you be with the protestors?


ANGELA

Those stories explain why people elected this crazy governor. The process is incomprehensible to the majority of people. Those stories are awful. 


LEGISLATOR

People are more angry now than they used to be. That’s a thing that’s changed.


ADVOCATE

I don’t know if that’s true. I remember one time a legislator from the Iron Range leaped across the conference table and tried to strangle another legislator.


LEGISLATOR

But if an Iron Range Legislator calls you a sonofabitch, it means he likes you.


EXPERT (agreeing)

These days, I’ll be called to a hearing on some uncontroversial thing and feel like the fangs are out for reasons I don’t understand.


ADVOCATE

In 2008, the bill allowing adoptees to have access to their own birth information passed the House and the Senate. There was great euphoria, the author cried. Then it was vetoed. We don’t know why but we heard it was because the governor simply wanted to punish the bill’s sponsor for an unrelated reason. So it went from high to low. There were people waiting to have things happen. For them, it was personal. They would have access to their own information, they might be able to contact relatives, find out who they are, if they have a tribal connection. It is like having the key to the door withheld. Every year, we know we have the votes. Bipartisan. And every year, the bill gets killed. Some people had some desperate reactions to that veto--breaking down; emotional, physical responses; feelings of depression, loss, grief. A political action does have real consequences. It’s not a game for them.


LOBBYIST

These stories simply show that everything takes time.


ANGELA

Don’t you see that it’s always the marginalized communities that are waiting the longest? How can I not be angry?


LOBBYIST 

There used to be a more collegial culture.


ANGELA

That left out a whole bunch of people. It’s not a game! “No Justice!” It’s not a show!  “No Peace!”


    (SHEILA re-enters, dragging OSCAR with her.)


SHEILA

Angela!


MATT (referring to SHEILA)

It’s her.


SARA

It’s her. 


ANGELA (sarcastic)

How’s your “important new job", Mom?


MATT and SARA

“Important new job!”

SHEILA

There’s someone I want you to meet. He’s seen the process work, from the inside.


ANGELA

That’s not what I heard. I heard about a process that hides what’s really happening from the people.


OSCAR

A lot of people who work in state government are willing to help anyone who walks in the door.


SARA

People call our office about anything they need help with. Loud kids on their street.


MATT

I spent a day helping someone with their utility bill once. It was a good day. I helped her.


OSCAR

Some people don’t know where to go, so they go to the big white building that they see from anywhere in St. Paul.


EXPERT

A woman stopped me in the halls to yell at me for not doing enough about Methamphetamines.


CIVIL SERVANT

People call the Attorney General because they think he’s supposed to represent them in court.


ANGELA

Just because those are Minnesota nice stories, doesn’t make it better that the public only sees a made-up show about politics instead of the real story about how the people with power and privilege really work.


OSCAR

Listen. We show up. We do our jobs. and hope for the best. I keep my opinions to myself. When I get home, I enjoy a glass of wine, or two. And come back another day. What else can we do?


SHEILA

We can do better. We can expect better from ourselves. We can make real change.


MATT (excited whisper)

She sounds just like the new Governor!


SARA (also a whisper)

I know! “Big, Beautiful Change!”


SHEILA

Why are you whispering?


MATT and SARA

It’s an honor to meet you./We’re so happy to be the first to welcome you to the Capitol.

        

SHEILA

That’s nice. What do you do?


MATT and SARA

Legislative aides./Assistants/We’re call Aides/Or Assistants.


MATT

We’re available if you need our help.


SHEILA

Um, ok, I don’t think—I just started—


SARA

We won’t tell anyone. You can trust us to keep your secret.


SHEILA

What secret?

Oscar, where are you going? Why are you backing away?


OSCAR 

I don’t like the feel of this. Remember, invisible?



SARA and MATT

We’ll back away too. Invisible./Right./You can trust us./Invisible. We won’t tell. Don’t worry.


SHEILA (to ANGELA)

See, Angela, people who work here do want to help if we just give them a chance.


MATT and SARA (loud stage whisper to TOUR GUIDE)

THAT’S THE GOVERNOR’S NEW CHIEF OF STAFF!


TOUR GUIDE

If you say so. . .


MATT and SARA (to tour)

Shhhh! Don’t tell! The new chief of staff!


SHEILA

What are they talking about?


OSCAR

Partisan staff. You have to give them some space. Leave them alone. They run back and forth like chickens with their heads cut off.


MATT and SARA

We shouldn’t tell you/We can’t tell you/we don’t want you to know what we know/We shouldn’t—


THAT’S THE NEW CHIEF OF STAFF! THAT’S THE NEW GOVERNOR’S NEW CHIEF OF STAFF!!


(A general rush of surprised and disbelieving reactions. SHEILA and ANGELA are just confused “Who?” “What?” “What’s everyone so excited about?” Until finally. . .)


(But it’s too late and the scene ends in confused rising noise.)



EPISODE 7: SOME WORDS FROM THE WISE


TOUR GUIDE

If you grew up in Minnesota, then you first came to the Capitol with your school group. ‘Member how you ran up the stairs, with your teacher yelling at you to slow down, and then you burst in and stopped. Because your mouth fell open. The big columns, the elaborate paintings and carvings on the ceilings. My group went up to the roof and walked around the Quadriga--the gold chariot made by Daniel Chester French–who also made the Lincoln Memorial—When no one was looking, I reached out and touched those beautiful shiney horses with my finger.


In high school, I was a Capitol page. Our supervisor, MJ Hedstrom, handed me my first manila envelope and she said, “We have never lost a bill in the legislative chamber, and I would be LOATHE if this was the first one!” I felt so small, and so important. My memory is clouded by imbalances of power, big people and little people scurrying through the corridors, and back again, and around, like characters in an MC Escher drawing.


We’re going to take a detour on our route through the Capitol building today. Hear from a few people that you may not normally give your attention. First, a Maintenance Worker—


MAINTENANCE WORKER

There’s a rhythm to this place, almost like the Capitol is a living being. When the session starts, there’s a lot of public and excitement—spiffy and clean. In the middle, it gets emptier, quiet, secret meetings, who-knows-what’s-getting-done. Then at the end of the session everything’s moving energetic, frenetic even.


TOUR GUIDE

You may not notice the security guards as you wander the building. They try to keep a low profile.


SECURITY GUARD

I see people go into windowless rooms at all hours of the night and come out three years older. Time is strange here. You’ve probably been here longer than you think you have because a lot more than you could even watch has been happening. It’s probably not the same day as when you started.


CIVIL SERVANT

When the session ends, for those of us in the Executive Branch, there’s this quiet. You go to pick up the bills from the Revisor’s office. A day ago, the place may have been full of people, craziness, but back to your desk now, it’s time to actually put the laws into practice.


MAINTENANCE WORKER

Us worker bees don’t ever stop. We take pride in keeping this symbol of our state beautiful everyday. A guy fixes the light switches. People who hire the contractors. The very basic things that keep the gears turning that you don’t see.


CIVIL SERVANT

Our job is to take the last step. Everyone else has left. That’s what we do, outside the craziness. I go outside and discover the sun is still shining, and it’s an amazing relief. And I feel this amazing sense of accomplishment.


SECURITY GUARD

If I spoke. About everything that I’ve seen. In the last 30 years. Here. I would not have kept my job. For so long.


(Pause)


30 years. You see. A lot of things. . . That other people don’t see.


(Pause)


I can tell you this. Though. True or false. It takes a rumor. Less than five minutes to travel across the Capitol campus. 


TOUR GUIDE

Like the rumor about the Governor’s new chief of staff?


SECURITY GUARD

I’m not saying. Anything. 


(Pause)


I can tell you this though. Once. Before cell phones. I watched two former legislators run an experiment. Legislator A says to Legislator B that he’s going to start a rumor that Legislator B was about to announce a run for governor. How long, says Legislator A, do you think it will take before a reporter calls you to confirm the rumor? Legislator B has an office downtown. Five minute walk south. Former Legislator A goes that way. Former Legislator B goes that way. Turns out, I hear later, the press was calling Legislator B’s office by the time he had walked back to it. That’s how quick rumors spread around here. Whether the rumor is true. Or false. And this was before the Internet.


(Pause. Pause. Pause.)


I thought I could tell you. That. Before you see what is about to happen. But don’t tell anyone it was me who told you. K? 


(Pause.)


Ok. . . .


Ok.


TOUR GUIDE

Here comes Matt again, on his cell phone.


MATT

Mom, you’ll never believe—

Mom, you’ll never believe—

 

Mom, listen to me. I did this thing today at the Capitol. I discovered who the governor’s new chief of Staff is.

 

          (Interrupted.)

 

No, Mom, it is important. Because that person has a lot of authority and—yes, we all would have found out eventually but--I can’t believe you think that. Remember that little program I told you about that someone snuck into a bill. It helped save Aunt Julie’s home day care. It helped save a lot of businesses in our town. You don’t see how but I wish you’d believe me.

 

Sorry, I’ve got to go. I’m late for a hearing. 


Mooooom. Yes, I’ll call grandma.

 

TOUR GUIDE

Sara is also on her cell phone.


SARA

Dad!

Guess what, guess what, guess what. I did this thing today at the Capitol. I discovered who the governor’s new chief of staff is. The chief of staff is essential to making sure the Governor’s agenda is implemented across the agencies. The State of Minnesota is a larger employer than 3M here. Dad?

 

          (Interrupted.)

 

No, I’m not still writing the Governor’s proclamations. I haven’t had that job for a few years. I’m a legislative aide. I help push through an agenda—

 

          (interrupted again.)

 

Yes, I know you think the proclamations were silly, Dad, but for someone who was affected by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Dad, it was really nice to be finally recognized by the Governor. It meant a lot to them. People cried. Just because it didn’t affect you doesn’t mean the government is wasting time.

 

Thank you. So, let me tell you about how I single-handedly exposed the new governor’s secret plot to—

 

TOUR GUIDE (to audience)

Let’s keep going.



EPISODE 8: RELATIONSHIPS!


TOUR GUIDE

There’s a rumor going around the Capitol that Sheila, the woman we met earlier, Angela’s mom, is the new governor’s new chief of staff so a lot of people would like to meet her. 

If we watch her, Oscar, and Angela together, we will see them get zeroed in on by the Capitol community as though they were wearing a homing beacon, we can learn a lot.


(The cello plays a short intro then holds one single note.)


GOOD DAVE HANSEN

Dave Hansen. At your service. Lobbyist. The Good Dave Hansen. Teacher’s Union. 


(Cello adds a second note.)


BAD DAVE HANSEN

Dave Hansen. At your service. Lobbyist. They call me Dirty Dave. Hansen is my name too. Dirty Dave because I represent gambling. Fossil Fuels. 


(Cello adds a third note. BAD DAVE shrugs)


We create jobs.


(Another cello chord)


TOUR GUIDE

The lobbyist we already met, re-enters.


SHEILA

Which Dave Hansen are you?


LOBBYIST

Steve.


(SONG. Has the rest of the CHORUS returned to be a part of it?)


LOBBYIST CHORUS

Allow me to help you understand

The Capitol. (Allow me.) I can tell you

How power really works.

I’ve spent more time in these halls than anyone else. 

I know all the ins and outs and quirks.

 

TOUR GUIDE

Here’s how you know when you’re talking to a lobbyist. First. They have better shoes than anyone else, even the legislators. Better clothes. They get paid better, and they want to be memorable. Subtly so.


OSCAR

Also, they smile a lot but have no sense of humor because they can’t afford to offend anyone.

I don’t think you can trust them.


LOBBYIST

People demonize us but 


LOBBYIST CHORUS

We tell you all about our agenda up front.

We also tell you all the other sides.

We build relationships with decision makers.

That’s where our success abides.


LOBBYIST

People try to convince legislators to vote one way. We try to convince them too.


TOUR GUIDE

But citizens choose their causes.


GOOD DAVE HANSEN

I choose my causes too. I worked pro bono to get funds for the 35W bridge collapse victims. I remember how happy we all were when we called the Governor to tell him we’d worked out a way forward.



LOBBYIST CHORUS (underneath)

Relationships.

Relationships.



OSCAR 

I don’t know what is going on but I don’t like it. In my job, attention is really bad. We want to be invisible. 

LOBBYIST CHORUS (louder)

They take years to build and seconds to destroy.

Build relationships and work it.

Relationships

Relationships


(As though trying to find a magic spell to protect himself and SHEILA, and maybe ANGELA.)


OSCAR

Invisibility. By the power of the Revisor of Statutes—Make me magically invisible again, Presto! 


TOUR GUIDE

Keep an eye on Sheila because while Oscar is distracted, Good Dave leans in.

                                                                           OSCAR

It usually works. 


GOOD DAVE HANSEN

Unlike a lot of other people at the Capitol, we are bound by a code of ethics. I can’t represent clients that might be in conflict. There are rooms I can’t enter. There are methods I am legally prohibited from using that others—


PRESS

We heard there was news!


TOUR GUIDE

And the press has found us too. We should have popcorn for this.


OSCAR

Uh-oh. Invisible! Invisible! In—Sheila? Where’d you go?


TOUR GUIDE

Now she’s over there, talking to a different lobbyist.


LOBBYIST

All I have is my reputation. A legislator has to know that I’ll never lie to him. Or her. I’ll never put anyone I have a relationship with in a position that will embarrass them.


LOBBYIST CHORUS

I know a lot of facts about my clients' concerns. 

Relationships.

Take time to get to know. Don’t judge before you learn.

Relationships.

They take years to build and seconds to destroy. [Relationships]

Build relationships and work it. [Relationships.]


(DULUTH DAVE leads her out a certain door.)


DIRTY DAVE HANSEN (exiting)

We’re beggars really because we cannot make anything happen without a legislator.


PRESS

Is that her?


OSCAR

Is she who?


DIRTY DAVE HANSEN

You work with her?


ANGELA

That’s my Mom.


GOOD DAVE HANSEN (to OSCAR)

If you want to keep the secret, we can keep a secret.


OSCAR

What is it you think we need to keep secret?



RELATIONSHIP CHORUS

It’s personal but not. 

You have to learn the culture.

Relationships

Cultivate the interests of those you want to alter

Relationships

They take years to build and seconds to destroy. [Relationships]

We are advocates and beggars. [Relationships]

They take years to build and seconds to destroy. [Relationships]

Build relationships and work it. [Relationships]

[Relationships]


(MUSIC STOPS)


DIRTY DAVE HANSEN 

A lot of people at the Capitol don’t know how to count. What does it take to get the majority you need. Basic arithmetic. But also who can you count on. There’s nothing magical about what we do. 



ANGELA

What is going on?


OSCAR

I think they think that your mother is—


TOUR GUIDE

Now Steve has her ear.


LOBBYIST (bring SHEILA in)

Did you know, Sheila, that the Legacy Amendment is the most popular thing the legislature has ever passed? A Lobbyist figured out how to build that coalition. 


DIRTY DAVE HANSEN (taking SHEILA)

Most of what we do is simply to try to stop bad legislation. 


LOBBYIST (taking SHEILA)

You listen well. A Senate Majority Leader once told me, “You don’t have to talk. Just listen.” You’ll do alright I think. You’ll accomplish a lot.


SHEILA

Thank you.


TOUR GUIDE

Oscar can’t keep the press away.


OSCAR

The worst thing to happen is for staff who are supposed to be invisible to get exposed in the press.


PRESS

Will you tell us what you think of state government?


(Pause.)


TOUR GUIDE (whisper)

See, suddenly, everyone stop. Wait. Lean in.


SHEILA

Um. I guess I think people need to understand better about how the Capitol really works.


ANGELA

Or doesn’t work. 


SHEILA

Yes. It doesn’t work for some people.


PRESS

Is that your agenda?


SHEILA

I do believe there are a lot of ways in which government doesn’t feel accessible to all Minnesotans—I know I’ve felt that way—but I think that most Minnesotans would prefer that everyone was included in the task of making our state better, I think. Making it work for everyone.


PRESS

Access. For all Minnesotans.


DIRTY DAVE

Inclusion.


GOOD DAVE


Equity. 



(Hubbub, mumble mumble. “Access”. “Inclusion.” “Diversity.”)


GOOD DAVE HANSEN

Allow me to help. We can tell you who your allies will be. 


LOBBYIST

We can tell you who they won’t be.


DIRTY DAVE HANSEN

We can count for you.


SHEILA

For me?


LOBBYISTS/CHORUS

Absolutely! Whatever you want!


SHEILA

Well, let’s do it.


    (Everyone scatters making noise. “Access for all Minnesotans.” “New Governor’s agenda.” “Everyone included.” Hubbub and buzz and people get on their phones, go to their offices, they’re excited to have something to work on. Once they’re clear, they leave OSCAR, ANGELA, and SHEILA centerstage, dazed.)


OSCAR (taking SHEILA desperately)

We’re in big trouble.


SHEILA

You owe everyone an apology, Angela. People at the Capitol don’t see color. They want us here.


OSCAR

They see power. They’ve confused you for someone else. 


SHEILA

Who do they think I am?


OSCAR

The new Governor’s chief of staff.


SHEILA

Holy –


OSCAR

Shhhh! We’re in so much trouble. I don’t know what happened to my INVISIBILITY power? It must not rub off. WE’RE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE!


ANGELA

This is so great.


SHEILA

Now I didn’t tell anyone I was—


OSCAR (peeking out a door)

People are gathering right outside this door. Waiting. The press broadcasting live. Something is happening.


SHEILA

What is happening?


OSCAR

Whatever they thought you told them that you think the Governor wants to do.


SHEILA

?


OSCAR

Access for all Minnesotans! Inclusion! I don’t know—Equity!


ANGELA

That’s really great.


OSCAR

No, it isn’t. 


SHEILA

Yes, it is.


OSCAR

Are you crazy?


SHEILA

If that’s what it takes. 


ANGELA

Aw’right, Mom!


SHEILA

Let’s make some change happen, Oscar. What are we waiting for? Let’s walk out this door and  talk to them.


(The sound of the crowd comes back and then disappears as a door shuts.)


TOUR GUIDE

Well. 


(Pause)


You certainly picked an exciting day to tour the Capitol.