James Douglass is trying to launch a new live theater in Rochester.
That combination adds up to “Frost/Nixon,” the first production of the new Absolute Theatre. The play, directed by Douglass, opens Oct. 6 in the Education Conference Center at Christ United Methodist Church.
“Frost/Nixon” is based on the interviews Richard Nixon gave British television host David Frost in 1977. Nixon had resigned the U.S. presidency in 1974 as a result of the Watergate scandal, and was intent on telling his side of the story.
“I was intrigued by it because of the current political scene,” Douglass said when asked why he chose “Frost/Nixon” to open Absolute’s first season. “It reminded me that there has been controversy in politics for years.”
Douglass has cast local stage veterans Larry Sinak as Nixon and Sean Lundberg as Frost.
“I wasn’t looking for anybody to impersonate Nixon,” Douglass said. “It’s about capturing the personality and character behind Nixon. The same with Frost.”
All of the characters in the play are based on real people involved in the interviews, from advisers and technicians to journalist James Reston, who wrote several books about Nixon.
“It’s kind of documentary style, narrated by Reston,” Douglass said. “He keeps the audience up to date on what’s happening. You’re getting a lot of information about what had happened in Nixon’s career.”
Douglass has cast Mark Hanson as Reston. Also in the cast are Alex Beerling, Bryn Curry, Bryan Lund, Brian Bedard, Jeff Lee, Doug Petty and Kami Sim.
The Watergate scandal, and subsequent resignation of Nixon were turning points in the history of the presidency, Douglass said.
“I think it’s where the game changed,” he said. “Before that, the president was protected. And Nixon fell into that trap. He thought if the president does it, it can’t be wrong.”
“Frost/Nixon” appears to be a timely play with which to start a new live theater, and Douglass said he feels extra pressure to get the venture off on the right foot. “Everything is a first,” he said. Props and staging had to be found, and even the performance venue was a last-minute decision. “All of that has been really challenging,” he said. “I worry if I don’t pull this off, there might not be another one.”
“Frost/Nixon” by Absolute Theatre
7 p.m. Oct. 6-8, Oct. 13-15
Education Conference Center, Christ United Methodist Church, 400 Fifth Ave. SW, Rochester
$20, through absolutetheatre.org