Olivia Atwood ’17 and Maggie Seymour ’16 learned plenty at Bowdoin, but they never nailed down the details of what happened during the Watergate scandal. That absence of knowledge is exactly the premise of the alums’ original musical, “Dickie in the House,” which premieres at the Peoples Improv Theater (PIT) in New York on Thursday.
The two-woman show, subtitled “The possibly true, entirely fabricated, probably wrong story of Watergate as told by two girls who really don’t know what happened but gave it the old college try,” is not Seymour and Atwood’s first at the PIT. Last summer, the pair put on “15 Villainous Fools,” a comedy loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors.” They first developed that show as Seymour’s honors project.
In search of a new project, the duo—who call their theater company Liv & Mags—considered pursuing other mediums, but came back to the idea of live theater.
“We love theater more than anything in the entire world, and all we wanted to do was act,” Atwood said.
The theme of the show they eventually wrote stemmed from their shared realization that they often faked possessing knowledge about history.
“We both realized that we didn’t know a lot about what happens in certain historical events,” Seymour said.
“But we pretend to know,” Atwood added.
They decided to focus their pretend-knowing about history on the Watergate scandal. To write the show, they met twice a week at the Panera Bread between their respective apartments in New York City. Seymour was also working as a second-grade teacher, while Atwood held several jobs.
As the project progressed, they sought help from friends. Kristen Krak, with whom Atwood studied during a summer at the National Theater Institute, helped the duo transform the rudimentary songs they had written into melodies worthy of a musical. When summer rolled around, Aziza Janmohamed ’19 came to town to be the pair’s stage manager. Her duties include helping with staging, blocking and props, while also promoting the production.
“It’s been an incredible amount of fun. I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Janmohamed said. “I’ve mostly done just acting stuff on campus, so it has been really exciting for me to experience the production side of theater.”
Eric Mercado ’18 did the show’s lighting.
“The Bowdoin support of this show and of Maggie and my shows has been incredible,” Atwood said.
She noted that several of their friends and a former professor provided feedback on “Dickie in the House,” and that numerous students and alumni attended showings of “15 Villainous Fools.”
Both women also credited theater at Bowdoin for giving them opportunities to innovate, citing “15 Villainous Fools” as an example of the freedom they had to try out their own ideas, rather than sticking to a prescribed script.
“I think the Bowdoin theater scene specifically allows a lot of flexibility in the productions performed,” Seymour said.
With college behind them, the duo is considering moving beyond live theater for their next production—perhaps trying a web series or a podcast.
“We’re ready to do something with a little wider reach,” Atwood said. “Because this show, pretty much the only people who are going to see it are friends from out of town who are visiting and New Yorkers.”
“Dickie in the House” premieres at the PIT at 9 p.m. on Thursday. The production will have 13 showings in total, the last of which is on September 28.