Hexagon Show Turns 50

Annual Congress Night Is Wednesday

Posted March 11, 2005 at 4:47pm

What do Fidel Castro and America’s last 10 presidents have in common?

They’ve all been spoofed by Washington’s political, satirical and musical comedy group, Hexagon.

This year’s show, called “With Levity and Jesting for All,” marks Hexagon’s 50th anniversary season. Since 1956, the group has produced an original show every spring and donates all proceeds to a local charity, which has been a tradition since the first performance raised $2,600 for the American Cancer Society. They have since raised more than $3.5 million for more than 30 area charities, including Children’s Hospital, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and DC Habitat for Humanity.

The charity the group has chosen this year is Friends of Hexagon. The nonprofit organization has devoted its time to raising funds to buy a storage facility for all of the equipment associated with the show. Once Hexagon owns a storage facility, it can donate more of its profit to charitable organizations, rather than spending it on expensive building rental fees.

In accordance with tradition, members of Congress will be joining the Hexagon cast on Wednesday for the annual Congress Goes to Hexagon Night. Begun in 1988 by Skip Maraney, a 26-year veteran of the group, Congress Goes to Hexagon Night was initially enacted to increase ticket sales to Wednesday night performances. Now it has become a staple for constituents, who sell out the theater to see their representatives on stage.

“It’s a terrific organization that does wonderful things for the community,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is performing in this year’s show. “It’s a way to participate and help an organization that does things for the community and have a good time at the same time.”

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) sees Congress Goes to Hexagon Night as his chance to be an actor and to laugh at himself and his colleagues. “I’ve been [in Congress] 10 years, this will be my 11th year, and I’ve been there every year and I do it because the money is for a good cause. I’ve had a lot of fun with it every year; they always have good scripts and good lines. It ends up being an evening full of laughs.”

Other Members of Congress expected to participate are Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) were scheduled to perform but had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts.

While Members of Congress actually appear on stage, many of Washington’s other political elite provide material for the show. At a Friday night rehearsal a week before the show opened, 10 members of the cast representing each president from “Ike to Dubya” were rehearsing a unique skit titled “President’s Wall.” In the skit, the presidents discuss serious social issues, such as health care.

“You found a way to give Americans affordable health care?” asks the panel of presidents. “No, but I did save 15 percent on my car insurance,” answers the actor playing Gerald Ford.

There is a new face among the presidents this year. Chad Ramsey, regional director of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has taken over the role of George W. Bush, a part normally played by veteran Hexagoner John Allnut.

“At my regular job I spend a lot of time opposing Bush, so it’s a great chance to lampoon him,” Ramsey said of the role.

But Allnut is far from retiring. The actor, who works for the Justice Department, has been a member since 1986 and as long as a Bush is in office, he will always have a part to play. This year, in addition to playing George H.W. Bush, he also briefly plays his son and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in an oratory titled “A Bush Shall Reign Forever and Ever.”

Malcolm Edwards, a member of the group since 1981, is directing his seventh show this year.

“The 50th is a very important show. It’s a combination of 50 years and hopefully we’re going to be passing the baton to the new younger breed and hopefully it will go on for another 50 years,” he said in an interview.

On most nights from the beginning of January until the show opens in March, the members of Hexagon gather in the gymnasium at the Lab School of Washington to rehearse original skits and musical numbers. The all-volunteer comedy troupe is made up of 59 cast members, all from different backgrounds and professions, and ranging in age from 22 to 70.

Even though the hours are many and long for the cast, Hexagon members say it is all worth it to be able to perform in front of an audience. Abby Aronson, a member of the group who is a foreign service officer with the State Department, said many of the people in the group wanted to become involved in a community theater but found them too cliquey and exclusive, and Hexagon is far from that. Its jovial members laughed and joked and encouraged one another as the night wore on, their energy and enthusiasm radiating.

“We’re a social club with a theater problem,” Aronson said with a laugh as she knitted a blanket between skits. “But we don’t just get together and put on a show, there’s a lot of talent.”

“With Levity and Jesting for All” is being performed at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown through March 26. To order tickets, call (202) 333-SHOW or visit www.hexagon.org for more information.