UAlbany Senior Starring in ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’ at theREP

Two women are seated next to each other on a stage. The woman on the left, in a red sweater over a white button down shirt, gestures with her hands while staring in the distance as the other woman, in a green blouse and blazer, watches her.
UAlbany senior Isabel Sanchez (left) will appear in "What the Constitution Means to Me," showing Sept. 15-Oct. 8 at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany. (Photo by Doug Liebig)

By Bethany Bump

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 19, 2023) — Isabel Sanchez hadn’t thought much about the Constitution prior to her sophomore year at UAlbany, when her contemporary theater class studied What the Constitution Means to Me, the hit Broadway play by Heidi Schreck.

The play features Schreck reflecting on how the U.S. Constitution shaped her life and the women around her, and pulls from her experiences touring American Legions while in high school as she debated the U.S. Constitution for college scholarships.

This past spring, Sanchez learned the play would be coming to the Capital Repertory Theatre (theREP) in Albany this fall and, encouraged to audition by her professors in the Theatre Program, was cast in the role of a debater. It will be the first professional acting job for the UAlbany senior, who is double majoring in theater and education and has been involved in on-campus productions and short films.

Poster for the play "What the Constitution Means to Me" depicts a woman's face overlaid with an American flag and a microphone.

What the Constitution Means to Me has its opening premiere tonight at theREP, starting at 7:30 p.m., and runs through Oct. 8.  Since rehearsals began in late August, Sanchez has had a chance to reflect on the central question behind the play’s title.

“There’s a point I make in one of my debate speeches — that out of the 4,500 words and 27 amendments in the Constitution, the word ‘woman’ is never mentioned once,” she said. “And so that really stuck with me.”

In her role, Sanchez spends the second act of the play debating Schreck’s character, played by Kim Stauffer, over whether the Constitution should be abolished.

“We are living by a document that dictates our rights, that is supposed to be representative of ‘We the People,’” Sanchez said. “However, the majority of the population isn't included in that ‘We the People.’ Women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folks, indigenous peoples are not included in that. And so this experience has been something that really made me think about how we are living in a world that is inequitable and how change needs to happen.”

A young woman in a red sweater worn over a white button-down shirt gestures with her hands on a stage. Tall rectangular panels behind her depict images of the U.S. Constitution.
Isabel Sanchez (Photo by Doug Liebig)

First produced in 2017, the play had its Broadway premiere in 2019 and went on to be nominated for two Tony Awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Though it explores heavy topics such as domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and abortion, it has been described by major media outlets as “endearingly funny and deeply affecting” and “something every citizen must see.”

Sanchez, who first caught the acting bug at age 7 after a one-word appearance in Hansel and Gretel, believes her time at UAlbany was pivotal to landing the part. Since arriving on campus as a freshman, she has participated in almost all productions put on by the Theatre Program, including last year’s production of The Wolves, and had roles in short films by both students and outside production companies.

“In my four years here I have grown tremendously, not only as an actor and through my training, but also in terms of my knowledge about how this industry works and my knowledge about theater in general,” she said. “I have all of my professors and all of the directors that I've worked with during my time here to thank for that, because in true honesty, without them I wouldn't have been able to do this.”

TheREP is offering UAlbany students discounted tickets to the play. Purchase tickets online and use the code UALBANYCONSTITUTION.