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Culture > News

The Writer and Cast of New Political Commentary The Restaurant on Why Politics Matter

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at South Carolina chapter.

It’s no secret that American politics have become increasingly divisive. Her Campus spoke with the playwright and leading actors of the political commentary, The Restaurant: Millennial Commentary on Middle America on the importance of voting, personal involvement in politics and how The Restaurant addresses and challenges American society and politics.

Tyler Quehl, the writer, lyricist and composer of The Restaurant took inspiration for the new musical from the 2016 election. Jordan Pontelandolfo and Thomas Poteat portray the two main characters who are faced with similar struggles and questions as many Americans in the current political climate. When questioned if they believed it was important to vote in elections, all respond with a resounding yes.

“Everyone should vote because the fewer people that vote, the less accurate the outcome is to the people’s opinions,” says Thomas.

“It is so important to vote because nowadays, so many people want to complain about politicians, and I am definitely of the opinion that you can’t complain about someone if you didn’t do anything to try and fix it,” explains Jordan. “If you didn’t vote in an election, you can’t complain about the elected official because you didn’t do anything to prevent them from being in office.”

“Everyone’s vote matters because if one person doesn’t vote, that might lead to another person having that same apathetic mentality,” says Tyler. “…and it snowballs into this huge number of people who choose not to vote.”

Voter apathy is increasingly prevalent among Americans, many who feel like their individual vote simply does not matter. In the 2016 presidential election, little more than sixty percent of United States citizens voted.

Voter apathy is just one of the many current issues explored in The Restaurant. Act 1 opens with the down-on-their-luck employees of a chain restaurant preparing for the annual corporate convention where a representative elected by the employees has the opportunity to change corporate policy. Unfortunately, the last several years have seen representatives who are more focused on maintaining the status quo than representing the interests of the voters and increasing despair among the Restaurant employees. All these changes when Jordan’s character, the Poster Child, has the opportunity to go to the conference to try and bring about real change. She gives the Restaurant employees hope and they begin a campaign to have her elected.

“There’s this apathy that’s addressed and this newfound surge for change because this time, it counts,” explains Tyler.

“Originally, The Restaurant was going to be a satire of American politics in general. It grew more into a commentary on things that I’ve seen and what I want to say as a person. The metaphor is supposed to be obvious: it’s a metaphor for the election. It’s intentionally an obvious metaphor for the election but then it takes off from that…The main point of the show isn’t just about the election system but the things that surround it and the ideas behind it. [Act 2] shows different viewpoints and reactions of people during the aftermath [of an election]. That’s when it becomes less on the nose and more original.”

The Poster Child rises above apathy and believes she has the ability to change the world. Her Campus asked Jordan if, like her character, she believes that individuals can have an impact on politics and society.

“I think if individuals choose to spread a message and to educate others and try to get others to vote or lobby, they can definitely enact change. At the end of the day, our elected officials have to answer to the voters,” she says.

Thomas’s character, the Dropout, campaigns on behalf of the Poster Child and supports her after the election results. When asked how people can be more politically responsible and involved in real life, he urges Americans to stay up to date on the news and to contact their local senators to voice their opinion.

“Everyone should care about politics because it affects the basic rights that everyone lives upon,” he says.

The Restaurant will be presented by Off Off-Broadway in Benson Theater from November 15 – 18. Admission is free. For more information, visit Off Off-Broadway’s Facebook page.

Bri Hamlin

South Carolina '19

Hello, it's Bri (to the tune of Adele please). I am a senior at USC Columbia and am not currently thirty, flirty, and thriving, but twenty-one, anxious, and trying will sure do.