Based on true events, Daisy is a political drama that presents the moment in TV history that ushered in the age of negative advertising and forever changed how we elect our leaders. It also tells the more cynical tale of how a nation got led into war, distracted by the “packaging” of a seemingly peaceful U.S. president. Daisy explores the art and science of political manipulation, the forces at play on public consciousness in our mediated world, and the impact that fear has had on our democracy.
Set during the 1964 U.S. presidential election, with brutal race riots erupting across America, the play takes place in the high-pressure advertising world of Madison Avenue: a group of “ad men” working for Lyndon Johnson unleash the most powerful political commercial ever conceived, the “Daisy” ad. War was the objective. Peace was the bait. Everyone got duped.
Thoroughly and painstakingly researched, Daisy’s characters are based on real-life figures that are icons in the advertising world, including Bill Bernbach, the creative pioneer who founded the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency, and Tony Schwartz, the eccentric “sound man” who forever revolutionized the science of communications. Mixing fact with fiction, the story’s protagonist is a conflicted idealist named Louise Brown, a brilliant copywriter who withholds a damning secret as she struggles against her ethics and her ambition.
Daisy is further example of Canadian playwright Sean Devine’s use of historic events to shine new light onto contemporary questions. The tools and impacts of “negative advertising” that were unleashed in 1964 have bored their way deeper and deeper into our television screens and our individual consciousness ever since. And as for the art of political deception and distraction, who knows how low we can go?
Sean Devine is a Canadian playwright, actor, and artistic director of Horseshoes and Hand Grenades Theatre. His most recent play Daisy premiered at Seattle’s ACT Theatre in 2016, where it received a Gregory Award nomination for Best New Play, and a Broadway World Seattle Critic’s Choice Award for Best New Play. Originally commissioned by NYC’s Ensemble Studio Theatre, Daisy has had public readings in Chicago, Toronto, and Ottawa, and will be published by Talonbooks (Canada) and Dramatists (US). His first play Re:Union premiered in Vancouver in 2011, was published by Scirocco in 2013, and was presented at Ottawa’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival in 2015, where it won the Prix Rideau Award for Ottawa’s Best Production. Sean’s newest play When There’s Nothing Left to Burn, was commissioned by the University of Lethbridge, where it will premiere in 2017. Sean ran for federal office as the NDP candidate for Nepean in the 2015 election. He lost.
“ 'The Daisy ad,' said ACT artistic director John Langs, 'was the first time the White House and Madison Avenue held hands' to run a serious attack-ad campaign during a presidential election. Its legacy has come all the way to last year’s presidential campaign, with Trump launching ominous, old-fashioned black-and-white attack ads against Hillary Clinton." —Brendan Kiley, Seattle Times
“Daisy is a story that, through history’s unnerving tendency to repeat itself, resonates so deeply with our current moment that it should be required viewing for all registered voters.” —Seattle Weekly
"It’s winning plays like this which can shine a spotlight helping us to find what’s important.” —Broadway World
“What makes the play wonderful isn’t its big themes and its digging for the root causes of political evil...but its more modest accomplishments as an embodiment of rational, civil discourse and technologically driven psychological manipulation. We want both...Isn’t that the power of art?” —Encore Arts Seattle
“Addressing issues such as fear-mongering, racial injustice, police killings, sexism in the workplace, and the integrity (or lack thereof) of politics, it leads the audience through a provocative discussion on how we as Americans came to our point of being today.” —University of Washington Daily
Tell us what you think!
Sign Up or Sign In to add your review or comment.
Related Blog Posts