Gun control. The Wall. The Flint water crisis. And now, trans bathroom rights. Let the folx at Debate! tackle America’s least desirable discussions for you!
A monthly event at the Downtown Player’s Club, Debate! follows a traditional format, with a not-so-traditional element of hilarity added in. “We were inspired by the circus-like atmosphere of the early presidential debates,” said show creator Julian Modugno, “and we thought, let’s do that, but with fewer rich white people on stage.”
Julian is a longtime performer in shows such as Scene Missing, Song Missing, Write Club, Nerd Nite ATL, and HydeATL. He teamed up with co-creator Krista Carothers and musical director Cherry DelRosario, who he knew from their days in Twinhead Theater, Atlanta’s self-styled OG DIY theater company.
“Anything goes, as long as it’s funny,” Carothers said. “Politics are already hilarious, so it’s not like the participants really even need to try that hard.”
With original songs by DelRosario and ongoing gags like the Airhorn of Righteousness & the Lobbyist Raffle, Debate! takes everything you love about true, honest discourse and makes it even more fun to watch. Every month, two team leaders are chosen from Atlanta’s best comedians, writers, performers, and activists. Each leader selects their fellow participants, which in past shows have included popular bar owners, improv actors, and even a foul-mouthed sock puppet. “We have a lot of puppets,” Julian emphasizes.
“These are serious issues in a satirical light. The more sarcastic the dialogue, the better. We don’t want you to just drop the mic. We want you to slam it against your opponent’s face so hard they forget what they were even arguing for,” Modugno elaborates. The audience holds the power at Debate!, because the winning team is chosen by a good, old-fashioned vote. Each audience member receives a token at the door, plus the opportunity to buy extra “votes” throughout the show, in an effort to better reflect our current oligarchy.
Past shows have demonstrated the anything-goes approach Modugno and company take to our sacred discourse. The gun control show ended in a tie but was won through a thumb war. The Wall debate was won for the pro-Wall side, with their brilliant argument that it could work as a gorgeous, thousands-miles long Beltine-style project. For the water debate, Ben Bowlin successfully argued that water was a fundamental human right through a combo of sci-fi, time travel, ghost stories, and an amazing puppet. (Expect puppets, is what we’re saying.)
On Tuesday, May 24, team leaders Zaida Sanchez and Oyle Harrison will plumb the depths of this nation’s bathroom crisis. To wit—these laws discriminate against the LBGT community, or are they simply protecting citizens’ right to religious freedom? (There's really only one answer here, but for the sake of Debate!, we’ll pretend.)
Join the crowd at Debate! at the Downtown Players Club on May 24 at 8 PM, and follow Debate ATL on Facebook to get all the latest updates. Make sure you bring extra cash to buy those votes—you want your voice to be heard, don’t you?