SRU Theatre opens “Frost/Nixon” Dec. 1

Actors during dress rehearsal for Frost/Nixon

(From left) Taylor Hahn will star as David Frost while David Skeele portrays Richard Nixon in the Slippery Rock University Theatre Department production of "Frost/Nixon." Photo by Benton Palermo, a senior communication: digital media major from Beaver.  

Nov. 29, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - It was dubbed the political crime of the century when five men broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee inside the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C. in the summer of '72.

What was subsequently learned - including plans that called for pilfering documents and wiretapping phones - would turn the world on its ear as evidence mounted that the mastermind behind the dark op was none other than President Richard Nixon.

Two long years later, Nixon, with pressure mounting and possible prosecution on the horizon, resigned the presidency without ever admitting to any wrongdoing.

Three years later, David Frost, a British television host and journalist, sat across from the former president at a seaside home in Monarch Bay, California, owned by longtime Nixon supporters, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Smith. The 12-interview sessions resulted in a four-part television event that included Frost extracting an apology out of disgraced Nixon for his role in the scandal.

Nearly half a century later, Slippery Rock University will recall the political interviews that changed the course of history with a theatrical staging of the play "Frost/Nixon."

The historical production, written by Peter Morgan, both recreates the four televised programs that led to Nixon's apology and wrestles with the political aftermath of an astonished nation. The play opens at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 1 in the University Union.

Additional performances will take place at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 2 and Dec. 4-7 and at 2:30 p.m., Dec. 3.

"As an older American, this production has great historical significance for me," said Gordon Phetteplace, associate professor of theater and the play's director. "I remember going out to protest Nixon. I remember him resigning. I remember watching Frost's interviews with (the former president) on television. These were incredibly important moments to me and to the country.

"In many ways this is a very timely production for our country. It really pinpoints the exact turning point of how our people view their president and elected officials.

"Before Nixon, it was largely believed that regardless of political party or who was elected, you trusted the president to do the right thing for the better interest of the country. Now, you see a skepticism for our leaders that was born with, or has grown since Nixon and the Watergate scandal."

Despite focusing on Nixon's tragic downfall, however, "Frost/Nixon" embodies a theme of grace while investigating the potential of power to corrupt leadership.

"I think this play does a great job of trying to be fair to Nixon," Phetteplace said. "It asserts that he was largely misunderstood and that he began his presidency with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, the struggle to maintain power will cause an individual to cross moral lines they normally wouldn't.

The "Frost/Nixon" cast includes:
-David Skeele, professor of theater, as Richard Nixon.
-Tyler Hahn, a senior dual communication and theatre major from Hanover, as David Frost.
-Zachary Malinak, a senior dual communication and theatre major from Conway, as Jim Reston.
-Sean Grove, a senior criminology and criminal justice major from Lebanon, as Jack Brennan.
-Patrick Lamb, a freshman theatre major from Greenville, as Manolo Sanchez/Light Technician 1.
-Steven MacDonald, a junior theatre major from Pittsburgh, as Swifty Lazaar/Stage Manager 2.
-Kristina Streno, a junior theatre major from Eighty Four, as Caroline Cushing.
-Jared Lewis, a senior theatre major from Pittsburgh, as John Birt/Ollie.
-Jacob Craig, a senior dual theatre and philosophy major from Monroeville, as Bob Zelnick.
-Haley Johnson, a freshman theatre major from Erie, as Evonne Goolagong/Woman Chorus 1.
-Samantha Misterka, a sophomore dual secondary education-English and theatre major from Pittsburgh, as Woman Chorus 2.

Tickets, priced at $10 for students and $12 for the general public, are available for purchase at A Dec. 2 "Community Night" performance, will offer all seats for $10.

MEDIA CONTACT: Maizee Zaccone | 724.738.2091 |