As staff director of the Senate Rules Committee, Jean Parvin Bordewich played a major role in staging the 2013 presidential inaugural ceremonies.
While on vacation from Capitol Hill in August of last year, Bordewich penned her own production. In New York's Hudson Valley she finished the first draft of "Marriage, Lizards and Love," a play that tells the tale of a young couple's fracturing marriage premiering at this summer's Capital Fringe Festival.
Bordewich, who retired at the end of May after more than 20 years as a congressional staffer, said in recent interview that despite the many parallels, she was at first shy about sharing her creative venture with her Capitol Hill colleagues.
“I didn’t tell anybody about it at work for a long time because I think I was reluctant to mix the two things," she said. "I was also reluctant to share it with my family, too, because it is personal to do something creative, even if it is not about you."
Inspiration for “Marriage, Lizards and Love,” came unexpectedly in 2011, after Bordewich and her husband saw Harold Pinter’s play "Old Times" at Sidney Harman Hall.
"I couldn’t stop thinking about it, especially the spare dialogue, the failure of the characters to connect with each other, and the way color and shapes were used in the staging," she said. "I’d never thought about writing a play before, but I eventually decided to see what my ideas looked like on paper.”
After a reading in September by professional actors, she decided to enter the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival. Once the play was accepted, she gradually began telling her colleagues.
Bordewich said that beyond the obvious comparisons between politics and theater that people tend to joke about, she sees true parallels.
"Both are ways of studying people and relationships and how human beings really behave in the world," she said. "Politics isn’t just about thinking and analysis — it's about people."
“Marriage, Lizards and Love” explores how much partners are willing to change in order to make a relationship work, and what happens when they choose not to. It touches on the persistent effects of loss and trauma on families and relationships.
Julia and Henry, the troubled couple at the heart of the five-character play, are haunted by buried secrets, conflicting desires and a mysterious presence shadowing their relationship. Julia, a lawyer, wants a baby; Henry wants to write opera.
Performances of “Marriage, Lizards and Love” are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, as well as on July 16, 19, 24 and 26 at The Shop at Fort Fringe (607 New York Ave. NW), next to the Festival’s box office and the Baldacchino Tent Bar. Tickets are available on the Capital Fringe website.
Bordewich has another play in the works.
“I was reluctant to write a political play while I was working as a staff director, but now I can,” she said. “My next play takes place in the McCarthy era, when not only suspected Communists, but also homosexuals were targeted by the McCarthyites. Their ruthless political tactics even pushed one senator to kill himself in his Senate office. I hope to have it ready for the 2015 Capital Fringe Festival.”