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New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

(Off-Broadway) What the Constitution Means to Me

From 25 critic and 229 member reviews
Members say: Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Clever

About the show

This witty and searingly personal exploration of the Constitution strives to breathe new life into our founding document and imagine how it will shape the next generation of American women. More…

Fifteen-year-old Heidi Schreck put herself through college by giving speeches about the U.S. Constitution. Now, the Obie Award winner resurrects her teenage self in order to trace the document's profound impact on women's bodies—starting with her great-great-grandmother, a mail-order bride who died under mysterious circumstances. Obie Award winner Oliver Butler directs. 

New York Theater

"Schreck’s extraordinary show...Funny and infuriated, analytical and confessional, erudite and heartbreaking...Though the show often feels informal and spontaneous, it is actually all scripted...The remarkable mix of civic lesson and storytelling finds its fullest expression when Schreck takes us through the 14th amendment...It’s hard to imagine a more timely show...It is really about what the Constitution means to all of us." Full Review


for a previous production “I left the theater with an electric current running through my body the likes of which I haven't felt since 'Hamilton'...An X-ray examination of our republic's founding document that brilliantly straddles the border between ode and indictment...Schreck approaches her subject with such implacable enthusiasm...Her supernova energy is as infectious as it is disarming...'What the Constitution Means to Me' ought to run at least as long as our country does." Full Review

Stage Left

for a previous production "Part civics lesson, part memoir—at once bittersweet and beautiful—Schreck’s mostly one-woman play...recounts her formative experience of wrestling with the constitution’s meaning as a teenager through the lens of her adult self, the women in her family, and the bitterly divided nation it serves. Heartbreaking, humorous, brilliant, and profoundly important, this is a must-see event of the fall season.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

for a previous production "By telling us about herself, Schreck shows us ourselves, our country, our own shared history. 'What the Constitution Means to Me' isn’t political commentary, which moves one way and often tells us what we already know. Rather, it’s a masterful act of storytelling, blending unflinching vulnerability, nimble humor, and acute analysis to inspire revelation. It’s a play that expands beyond itself, offering an immensely powerful model for modern civic theater." Full Review


for a previous production "By turns deeply funny, heart wrenching, inspirational, and one of the most searing and enlightening pieces of political theatre in recent memory...Schreck, who began developing this piece 10 years go, is a remarkably sincere storyteller with a gift for remaining uncannily present in the room and in the moment...'What the Constitution Means to Me' feels unmistakably alive — like a vital conversation, a sit-in, a seance of sorts for the soul of the country." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

for a previous production “A thrilling performance piece; as provocative as it is political...What Schreck goes on to reveal in her explanation of how her viewpoint on the Constitution has matured involves her family's dark history...all of which Schreck neatly and tidily connects to the rights not afforded to women...A searing and compelling argument, told to us in a non-threatening matter-of-factness that's stunning for its abundance of clarity and reason.” Full Review

Front Row Center

for a previous production “A souped up TED TalK...An excellent and passionate argument in favor of the Constitution...Schreck is so adept and facile that we are willing to follow her...There are odd, unneeded elements included in this production...Iveson is given the thankless task of fulfilling the part of the contest moderator...Also not needed is the debate with a high school student...All in all, Schreck’s is an electric presentation. One only wishes she would be presenting it for a joint session of Congress.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

for a previous production “Powerful evocative new play...As directed with a free-flowing and creative hand...it hits us deep and sharp, almost as complicated as the ripples of distrust and pain that strike through Schreck...The effortless grace of Schreck, pulling hard from her past experiences and history, solidifies the experience in such a compelling and moving way that one can’t help but be moved...I applaud Schreck for giving us a debate that feels so pure and required.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

for a previous production “Schreck's fearless, funny examination of the American legal system...Schreck is a charmer, an innately witty performer whose passion for the subject shines through...For three quarters of its running time, 'What the Constitution Means to Me' creates drama as Schreck pursues her argument, weaving together legal history with her personal story and elegantly posing some very troubling questions....Oliver Butler's direction keeps the enterprise engaging even when it veers off." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

for a previous production "Schreck…delivers an awesome performance, filled with anger, vulnerability, astuteness, and pain, but also with welcome dollops of humor…'What the Constitution Means to Me' is absorbing, and there's…a lot in to absorb. It's an educational, if decidedly polemical, event that makes its lessons that much more pertinent by their connection to Schreck's personal experiences. When it's over, however, you may consider turning your attention to what the Constitution means to you." Full Review


for a previous production “Shreck’s inescapably truthful, yet eventually hopeful autobiographical performance piece...An extraordinary balance of historical fact, legal analysis, and personal experience presented with a warm, conversational tone. Though the piece is directed by Oliver Butler, you could find yourself wondering if Schreck's occasional moments where she needs to stop and compose herself are staged or natural occurrences. They are that realistic.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

for a previous production "The unique outing is a barrel of laughs, while at the same time being seriously instructive...I bought the debate’s spontaneity. I bought Schreck’s whole kit and caboodle for the same reason that underneath the laughter and her quick way with an adlib, she means everything she’s saying...She’s vastly amusing, all right, but she’s also unmistakably politically engaged. You love her for it." Full Review

Time Out New York

for a previous production "The show offers a compelling mix of earnest sweetness and thundering mountaintop fury. As the show began on the 27th, though, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings were still ringing in the audience’s ears, and Schreck—a fizzy presence—cried through nearly the entire performance. So did I. Yet there is more in Schreck’s piece than a pure appeal to emotion; there’s a deep and rational argument about the purpose of rhetoric, the value of giving a girl a podium." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

for a previous production "Schreck transitions between past and present, between her fifteen-year-old self and her adult self. This convention allows her to both focus on the speech and on her feelings about the Constitution 'then and now'...In an electrifying performance, Ms. Schreck ricochets between decade and generations...This is a challenging play and an important one. Directed by Oliver Butler, Ms. Schreck uses every tool of rhetorical argument to make her case." Full Review


for a previous production "But more than mere memoir, Schreck's work, smartly and simply directed here by Oliver Butler, puts the many violations of human rights over the past two centuries into context while also succinctly explaining the document that both let them happen, and ultimately, stopped some of them from continuing." Full Review

The Wrap

for a previous production "Schreck is an engaging storyteller with a delivery that seems improvised even when she is sticking to her winding but always-focused script...The wonderfully composed 14-year-old Rosdely Ciprian astonished at my performance. Despite the depressing state of the news (and our Twitter feeds) about the fragility of our democracy, Ciprian sends the audience out with an almost buoyant hope for the future." Full Review

New York Stage Review

for a previous production "The play is an anguished, deeply personal, and ultimately hopeful look at whose rights are protected and respected under our governing document and whose are not... Schreck is a warm, engaging presence, and her script, too, conveys an ingratiating conversational warmth. But what makes the play so impressive, and so necessary, is Schreck’s earnest, well-intentioned interest in reckoning not just with what’s gone wrong in our system, but also what’s gone right." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

for a previous production "What does the Constitution mean to playwright-actress Heidi Schreck? Any number of sharply observed, pointedly challenged, deeply appreciated, and honestly questioned things, which comprise 'What the Constitution Means to Me'...'Constitution' has a couple of false notes, but they’re truly minor...Schreck is a marvel. Her mostly monologue has the casual intimacy of a conversation with a friend and the authority of encyclopedic erudition." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

for a previous production “'What the Constitution Means to Me,' slightly unwieldy creature that it is, hit me with exquisite timeliness in this historical micro-moment One strength of the show is the way in which it wraps a sophisticated argument...around a nuanced look at exactly the ways in which women grapple with the fear of not being safe in their bodily integrity or protected by the law...The show—like America right now—blends the personal and the political in ways that are as inextricable." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

for a previous production "It combines memoir, civics lesson, polemic, debate and Q&A into a piece that is both engaging and frustratingly disjointed...Ms. Schreck is a very appealing performer, which made the event more enjoyable than my summary might suggest. Much of it is quite entertaining, as well as educational. Nevertheless, it does ramble rather aimlessly. Its inner logic escaped me." Full Review


for a previous production "Of all the shows opening this season, Heidi's Schreck's 'What the Constitution Means to Me' best captures the mood of the moment in our country...It's a real eye-opener to what the Constitution is, and how it has evolved from the time our Founding Fathers wrote and presented it in 1787 as the backbone of our justice system...Though the show is never boring it can be confusing at times to know which part of Heidi's psyche we are eavesdropping on." Full Review


for a previous production "'What the Constitution Means to Me' succeeds as a novel personal exploration but gets sidetracked by ambitiousness...Mr. Iveson later on drops his character and states that he is gay and recounts incidents of homophobia. As heartfelt as these asides are, they don’t quite jell with the rest of the show...Director Oliver Butler’s smooth staging yields momentum and plentiful creative imagery." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "The production feels less like a finished play than an endlessly open-ended conversation, being invented on the spot...Personally, I could have done with a bit more theatrical manipulation throughout, with more varied heightening of tone and pace. At times, listening to Ms. Schreck can feel like reading page after page of unpunctuated, unparagraphed prose. But if the show still has the shapelessness of a work-in-progress, that’s appropriate to the subject, isn’t it?" Full Review

AM New York

for a previous production "The scattershot, seemingly improvised style of the piece is both its major strength and weakness. Schreck’s unpredictability and hyperactivity can be enlivening...That being said, many sections are repetitive, rambling and hard to follow. It is a show that manages to feel thin and overwhelming at the same time. Premiering in the midst of the Senate vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Schreck probably could not have picked a better time to do her show." Full Review

Broadway & Me

for a previous production “This is important stuff and Schreck is an amiable guide but there’s an amorphous quality to this show that struck me as making it less like a theatrical piece and more like a TED Talk, albeit an engaging one...Schreck pretty much keeps to the script she’s written but...she regularly strays into asides that add to the running time but don't add much to the message she’s trying to get across...There are some attempts to inject a little drama...But their connection to the constitution seems str... Full Review

Clever, Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You want to educate your mind, heart & soul. Now the Constitution truly means alot to me. I’d lost faith but now in this darkness have hope.

Don't see it if Don’t want to know hard facts or don’t feel for your fellow human beings.

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Intelligent, Refreshing

See it if You like an original, smart, timely, entertaining show.

Don't see it if You prefer a conventional drama or comedy.

Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting, Exquisite

See it if you're interested in making a choice and maybe, quite possibly, even disagreeing with the writer.

Don't see it if you aren't interested in participating and want something that leaves you on ground that hasn't been shaken apart.

Also Heidi Schreck is now the white artist that all others will be held aga... Read more Read less

Perfect, Amazing, Incredible

See it if just see it.

Don't see it if see it please.

Delightful, Intelligent, Must see, Thought provoking

See it if You are interested in history, politics, current events treated in a thought-provoking and often very humorous way.

Don't see it if if you want a conventional plot and characters. Don't see it if you don't care about political issues or think you already know everything.

Also This is one of the best things I've ever seen. But it's a roller coast... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Must see, Profound

See it if you want a night of theatre that opens up you soul, that asks a lot of you, that makes you pay attention, that is politically relevant

Don't see it if No reason not to see it. Go!

Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you live in the U.S. This show is brilliant. Everyone should see it. Heidi weaves the personal into the political in a masterful way.

Don't see it if you are deaf to women's issues, insensitive to domestic violence and sexual assault, or have a closed mind.

Absorbing, Masterful, Resonant

See it if You want an emotional, brilliantly-crafted, resonsant play about our country.

Don't see it if You need lots of characters and are uncomfortable with direct address.

Also I can’t say enough wonderful things about this piece. It’s BRILLIANT. ... Read more Read less

Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if Timely, thought provoking about the impact of the constitution on four generations of women in Schreck's family. Funny and heart breaking.

Don't see it if If you are uninterested in American politics and our constitution.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if like new forms of theatre that address our current plight in context of feminism, the Constitution, and history.

Don't see it if dislike new forms or want a naturalistic play.

Also Hooray for theatre of debate. It's been dead in America for decades, b... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Masterful, Must see, Profound, Relevant

See it if You want to experience brilliant theatre artist's using the medium to truly communicate and create a collective experience.

Don't see it if You have a closed mind and long for a traditional "play".

Also I saw this production weeks ago and I am still processing the myriad o... Read more Read less

You won't regret seeing this show. guaranteed.

See it if you want relief from that punched-in-the-gut feeling and need to know that entire country hasn't gone crazy (no, it's always been teetering)

Don't see it if Honestly, there's no reason anyone, whatever their interpretation of democracy, shouldn't see this show. Go. Take your worst relatives. Go.

Also I wasn't expecting a lot, and actually I was gingerly hoping it wouldn... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant, Riveting

See it if you think that theater should be the mirror of its time. Also, if you are an American. A must-see if you are an American woman.

Don't see it if you are looking for escapism and fluff. Also if you can't handle the talk about domestic violence, violence against women and politics.

Also "Riveting" does not even begin to describe it. I'd like to think that ... Read more Read less

Funny, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if This is really a memoir, not a lesson on the Constitution. She is very funny, the story is original and the plot turns are unexpected

Don't see it if you don't like any of the above. I'm glad it's going to Broadway!

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You are looking for something brilliantly conceived and executed that will make you think.

Don't see it if You are looking for a naturalistic plot and alot of action. This is a talk piece.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant

See it if You're interested in a personal exploration of the Constitution and how it affects women's rights in particular.

Don't see it if You're not interested in the government or the current state of affairs in our country.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Resonant, Innovative

See it if you want a personal, uniquely-structured, thought-provoking play about the biases and power structures of this country.

Don't see it if You need a linear, traditional plot, or you don't want to confront the issues of sexism in our country.

Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound, Resonant, Riveting

See it if you're looking for an important, challenging piece of commentary. Heidi Schreck gives her soul to this and you can feel it.

Don't see it if You're looking for a tradtional play.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you're at all concerned about our nation circling the drain. You also like really engaging, memoiristic theater.

Don't see it if you're so #TeamBlackwell, you mix Heidi's Schreck & Blickenstaff; then become preoccupied designing National Parks show for Susan Blackwell.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you want to understand the constitution and amendments through a very personal lens.

Don't see it if no reason

Also this was much more than I expected it to be ....so moving and personal... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Riveting, Moving


Don't see it if you're a hater

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if you're an American. It delves deep into our very flawed, yet very valuable Constitution. The author is a funny writer & performer. Beautiful

Don't see it if ...don't care about where our country is headed. It is a masterful & thought-provoking evening. My only quibble was the lack-luster ending.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Must see, Profound, Topical

See it if If you love political theater, if you're down to geek out over analyzing specific clauses of the Constitution, if you love debate

Don't see it if If you like politically neutral theater, if you don't like breaking "the fourth wall"

Funny, Honest, Absorbing, Smart

See it if you want a smart, brave show that will blow your socks off and absolutely make you think. EVERYONE should be required to see this show.

Don't see it if you aren't willing to go in with an open mind and pay attention. There's lots to take in-if you want a light night, see something else.

Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Must see

See it if you are prepared for a masterclass in storytelling: witty, relaxed but burning with a quiet anger.

Don't see it if no, please see it. Everyone should see this. Important theatre that's also genuinely funny.

Cast & Creatives (12)