- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Members of Congress, media personalities and city officials had fun hamming it up at the Arena Stage Monday night — acting as if regular political life didnt give them enough opportunity for drama and clowning.
"They play themselves, and theyre good sports about it," playwright and director Nick Olcott said of the three dozen or so VIP players who took part in Arenas Living Stage benefit. And why not? After all, he pointed out, most of the jokes were "at their expense."
The one-evening play, "Washington Weird," told a tale about a mad scientist who tries to create the perfect politician — one who is capable of doing such strange things as winning an election by a clear majority.
The scientist, Dr. Frankenweisenheimer, dreams of accomplishing his goal by using the creme de la creme of body parts from real-life pols.
The brain of Rep. Constance A. Morella, for example, and the hands of Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence Small, an accomplished acoustic guitar player.
Claiming to have little trouble with stage fright, Mrs. Morella reported no desire to leave the political stage for a purely dramatic career anytime soon.
"This [performance] reminds me that I have to continue to work hard so I can keep my day job," she joked.
Most of the one-night actors simply read their lines, but a few performed songs, including Rep. Joe Knollenberg, who did a Louis Armstrong imitation, and Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Franklin Raines, who sang a song to the tune of "The Monster Mash" as Rep. Carrie P. Meek stood beside him shaking her hips to the rhythm of the song.
Mrs. Meek said her weirdest political experiences were far stranger than the recent Florida election, with its dimpled chads and butterfly ballots.
"One of them was when I was newly elected in 1992 and Miami had just had a hurricane," Mrs. Meek said. "I walked up to a woman on her porch and asked her if there was anything at all I could do to help."
"She said, 'Go get me another bulb. That ones burned out. So I did."
Another participant, National Public Radio personality Diane Rehm, said the strangest thing she had experienced was when, during a live show, a ceiling board fell down and hung by a cord a few inches above former D.C. Schools Superintendent Floretta McKenzies head.
"The amazing thing was she never missed a beat," Mrs. Rehm said. "She just looked up and continued talking."
As the 23-scene play progressed, the actors du soir sat backstage watching the proceedings via closed-circuit TV while preparing for their cameos.
When the jazz band Amo & the Swing Voters, led by Rep. Amo Houghton, started up, Rep. Jim McDermott leaned over to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and said, "It sounds like Clinton out there."
Mr. Mineta responded, "If hed been asked, hed be here," at which both men laughed.
In line with the "Washington Weird" theme, no one raised an eyebrow when at least four cast members failed to show up for the play. The four, after all, were Sens. Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Susan Collins and James M. Jeffords, all busy wrangling over the tax cut on the Senate floor.
For any other director, the loss of four cast members would have been a nightmare, but Mr. Olcott was prepared.
"We worked around it … we just cut their scenes," he said. "After all, Washington is a weird place."


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