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Falcon Theatre, NKU Team Up for Production of "Daisy" Exploring 1964 LBJ Ad

Newport's Falcon Theater is pivoting from the stage to the screen for its upcoming production of Daisy, Sam Devine's play that explores the creation of one of American politics' most infamous campaign ads.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has mostly shuttered live performances, but Falcon, which operates a small theatrical space on Monmouth Street, is partnering with Northern Kentucky University's College of Informatics to produce what director Tara Williams called "theatre for film."

It will be available for on-demand streaming from October 30 through November 7 as Americans head to the polls for the 2020 election.

In 1964, the New York advertising firm Doyle Dane Bernbach forever changed the course of political advertising with a 60-second television spot. 

Today, the ad is usually referred to simply as “Daisy.” 

The making of this groundbreaking and landscape-altering advertisement is the subject of Sean Devine’s play of the same title. 

The black-and-white ad featured a three-year-old girl in a simple dress standing in a sunny field. The girl counted aloud as she plucked the petals from a daisy. When the last petal had been plucked, the girl’s voice was supplanted by an adult voice ominously counting backward from ten as the camera zoomed to an extreme close-up of the girl’s eye.

As the countdown reached “zero,” the image was replaced with horrifying footage of a nuclear explosion.

The ad was in support of the campaign to elect incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Daisy is a play that we have wanted to stage for a few years at Falcon, and we’ve been holding onto it until an election year because the play chronicles the beginnings of political attack ads,” Williams said. “And with live theater on hold during the pandemic, this project serves as a different creative outlet for our artists and production team and makes it possible to reach our audience in a new way.”

Williams said that the Falcon-NKU collaboration will remind some of the old CBS Playhouse 90, a television anthology drama series that aired from 1956 to 1961, which featured broadcasts of theater dramas and teleplays. The broadcasts relied heavily on wide shots and long camera takes. The result was a television/theater hybrid that became a staple of CBS’s primetime lineup for years.

Daisy features actors David Levy, Lisa D. Dirkes, Jay Dallas Benson, Terry Gosdin, R. DeAndré Smith and Bill Keeton. Details for streaming the presentation will appear soon on Falcon’s website (www.falcontheater.net) and on Falcon’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

-Staff report

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