DC native Mario Correa had never even written a play before Tail! Spin!, but the sexually charged political production starring former SNL funny woman Rachel Dratch is garnering rave reviews from the likes of the New York Times. This isn’t straight-up first-timer’s luck – the co-host of Entertainment Weekly’s “News and Notes” radio show was a staffer on Capitol Hill in the ’90s, which proved to be vivid inspiration for this strain of comedy.
Tail! Spin! details four recent political sex scandals, with the dialogue composed solely of actual tweets, utterances, and transcriptions made by the press, politicians, and their paramours. If you need a reminder on which bad politician did what, Correa’s nicknames for the four main characters sum up the scandals: Anthony “I Was Hacked” Weiner, Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford, Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, and Mark “Underage Page” Foley. We chatted with the playwright about slut-shaming, ongoing re-writes, and his own personal experience with Republican congressman Mark Foley.
I knew that I wanted to write a play based on Mark Foley, or someone living a double life. When I went to write the transcript, I realized that if I wrote this dialogue, it would be completely unbelievable to an audience.
Easier and harder. You know where your story starts and you know where your story ends – the news told me that. You are only limited to what you say, which really limited my ability to convey context. One document leads you to another; one police report leads you to a police recording. The supertitles are there to provide a little bit of context and let the dialogue speak for itself.
Since the Fringe, Weiner and Sanford ran again. Mark Foley has had several careers, or attempted careers. Just last week, Larry Craig was fined $242,000 because he used his campaign funds to defend himself in court against the underage page case. He has to pay back what he spent, and some fines.
I will keep changing it – it changed during previews. Last week, all of a sudden Sanford and his fiancé broke up. Rachel Dratch had some suggestions, and she and I looked through the quotes. She really liked some of those lines so we talked together about which lines made the most sense.
Mo Rocca was a close childhood friend of mine. He’s now a correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning and you may recognize him as a reporter on The Daily Show. He liked the script, and kindly agreed to play the role of Mark Sanford at the Fringe Festival. Mo introduced me to Rachel via email, I sent Rachel the script, and she really liked it. In the first version, there were two women playing all these roles. Director Dan Knechtges suggested it as a one-woman tour de force, with Rachel playing all the roles.
From my point of view, I really liked that it emphasized the point that these women were expendable – they performed similar actions and cycled in and out of these men’s lives. It solidifies the idea that these men treated the women as expendable creatures. It makes artistic sense to do this because these women were really one in the same, until you get to Jenny Sanford, who broke the mold of the political wife.
The second that Rachel got attached to it, she realized that the Barbara Walters impression would be prominent. We introduce the Walters scene with a superscript of “is this tweet working” quote. The lights go up, and you see her doing the face. Now audiences have begun to anticipate the line, and start laughing before Rachel says it.
In a review of the 2012 New York Fringe Festival production of Tail Spin!, Time Out New York critic Adam Feldman said, “it verges on slut shaming.” Should politicians be slut-shamed for their private lives, and must public figures accept that their private lives will be scrutinized?
Many of us make mistakes in our personal lives. What these stories at least highlighted to me was that these men made the rules for the rest of us. At the same time, they pontificated the rules. What strikes me is that this is not about sex. The show is about power. All four men felt that their power would protect them, and because of all the trappings of power these men believed they could get away with things that regular people can’t get away with.
Congressman Mark Foley was the chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus at the same time that he asked an 18-year-old page to share the size of his penis. I read that Mark Foley made sexual advances toward your boyfriend during the time while you were a staffer on Capitol Hill.
I worked as a political aide to congresswoman Connie Morella in the ’90s. Mark Foley was quite out among gay staffers, it was really the world’s worst-kept secret. He tried to get my boyfriend to come work for him on multiple occasions, even though he is a Republican and my boyfriend worked for a Democrat. He was known as gregarious and flirtatious among our group of staffers. It was no surprise when the scandal came out.
“Tail! Spin!” at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker St.; 866-811-4111; through Nov. 30.