“One of the greatest wonders of being a playwright is getting to see your work played in so many different ways and spaces. I feel like I get to build a house and see how people decorate it.” — Selina Fillinger
In her latest comedy, POTUS: Or Behind Every Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, playwright Selina Fillinger skillfully weaves together abundant absurdities, clever innuendos, and whimsical props. The show kicks off with a tumultuous day in the White House, where the chief of staff and press secretary grapple with damage control after the president makes a lewd remark about his wife, setting off a chain of chaotic and hilarious events.
Originally hailing from Eugene, Oregon, Fillinger is fueled by the energy of writing plays that serve to uplift and heal. “I’m always trying to do something that I’ve never done before. And if a project really scares me before I sit down to do it, then I know that it’s going to intellectually stain me for the duration that it has to,” she shared in an interview with WWD in 2022.
Fillinger is exceptionally excited for the unique challenge of performing in-the-round in Arena’s Fichandler Stage.
“It is so hard to do a farce in-a-round, it’s really challenging. It also really relies on the bodies, space, and using the language and text of the play to create the tension, energy, and propulsion. You can’t rely on the walls and props in the same way. All the bodies in the space have to work really hard, and I just really like feats of athleticism on stage, so that’s been really exciting for me.”
While the play is set in the White House, Fillinger explains it could take place anywhere power systems and machinery exist—nodding to patriarchy being in all spaces, even when a man is not in the room.
Fillinger’s inspiration for POTUS was sparked when the “p***y-grabbing” tape featuring former president Donald Trump was leaked, igniting a debate about media decorum and coverage in October 2016.
“The catalyzing event was that media moment around the leaked tape because I was fascinated how this off-hand comment was changing the media landscape in real time.”
But it wasn’t until Trump’s election, and the revelation of the significant number of votes cast by white women, that she confronted the harsh reality of women acquiescing to the patriarchy and its impact on their own subjugation and that of others.
POTUS illustration by Loveis Wise.
Selina Fillinger headshot by Orrin Anderson.