All About the Staging

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In every sense, U.S. election-year conventions are pure political theater. So much is at play, from the setup of the hall to the production of the broadcast to the casting and dialogue of the speakers themselves.

Day Three of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland was high on drama. It was supposed to be Mike Pence’s night. The Indiana governor and Vice Presidential nominee stood at the podium in the 10 o’clock hour and really introduced himself to the nation for the first time. (The people in the hall seemed to appreciate his speech, as they delivered applause and laughter at all the right moments — something we hadn’t seen much of during other presentations up until then. There also were several spontaneous outbursts of “We Like Mike” that erupted from the floor during the roughly half-hour remarks.)

But Mike Pence isn’t the only one people are talking about as we head into the final day of the RNC – as we all know, a lot of other things happened yesterday at the convention too.

Conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump’s son Eric were featured speakers, and their remarks were met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. (Laura Ingraham generated the most cheering.) But the biggest storyline to emerge during primetime from Quicken Loans Arena was Sen. Ted Cruz taking the microphone and urging those gathered to “vote your conscience,” rather than publicly endorsing Republican nominee Donald Trump (who had just entered the building and was in the crowd giving a thumbs-up to supporters). When it became clear that Cruz was not going to make the endorsement, delegates on the floor booed long and loud. Around the same time, the feed to the “Humongotron” that hangs from the arena ceiling and the lighted digital banners that ring the perimeter seating in the Q began to glitch and flicker before eventually going black. Clearly, the atmosphere was charged.

Outside the arena, demonstrations became more heated than they had been in previous days and Cleveland police made 17 arrests. One man even burned himself as he was in the process of burning a flag.

So much of pulling off an event like this is out of the organizers’ control. There have been a few hiccups, but the overall programming and hospitality related to the convention has received high marks from attendees. HB was able to connect on Wednesday with two alumnae who work for the Republican National Committee on Arrangements, Meagan Armington Langworthy ’95 and Caroline Zuchold ’15. The COA is the outfit charged with all of the inner-workings of the convention itself. As a full-time staffer, Meagan has been heavily involved in convention production planning for more than a year. Caroline is a summer intern with the COA, having learned about the position through HB network connections. Meagan had time to meet us for a quick photo last evening on Freedom Plaza between the Q and Progressive Field before making her way inside, where she was serving as a seat filler on the delegate floor during the primetime program.

Caroline also posed for a picture in Freedom Plaza during a short break in her work at the Skype booth Wednesday afternoon. There, she is helping to coordinate real-time videoconference interviews between convention-goers in the Q and convention speakers set up in Media Row — an area outfitted with miniature broadcast stages on the second floor of the East Parking Garage on East 6th Street behind the stadium. She even brought us in on the fun, and with three minutes’ notice, we had to formulate some questions for former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. (We asked him how he likes Cleveland and if he thinks that the way the Cleveland Police Department is handling protests and demonstrations during the RNC is helping to quell fears that might exist around the world about the relative safety of travelers to the United States. He answered both questions just as you might expect, then asked us for our restaurant recommendations. The footage from the entire brief exchange will be posted to the GOP Convention social media channels soon if it isn’t already.) 

We intersected with a few other HBers yesterday as well. Serendipitously, we ran into Arielle Goldberg ’13, an American University student who has been an intern with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) for the last two years. While Portman has not yet been in attendance at the convention itself, he and his staffers are in Cleveland for additional programming, and Arielle knew her way well around the hall. Since it was an off hour, we even had the chance to get into the Portman suite and make a quick trek through the lower levels of the Q and peek into some of the lavishly outfitted donor suites before stepping out onto the convention floor, where we saw Charlie Rose of CBS getting ready for a live shot. Later in the day, as we were hanging out near the MSNBC stage on East 4th Street, we saw rising sixth-grader Alexandra Christopherson and her mom. They told us they’ve been reading our blog and following the news coverage of the convention and they wanted to come downtown for the “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Again, we had up-close encounters with politicians and media personalities we’d only seen before through our television screens. Yesterday’s sightings included Joe Piscopo, Chris Hayes, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Wallace, and Cleveland native Jamil Smith of MTV News.

We also received a few emails from HB alumnae who have been involved in the convention in some way and we plan to share their photos and perspectives in the next issue of HB Magazine, which will come out in September. We’re hoping that the final day of the #RNCinCLE will bring with it more happy HB collisions and we have plans to meet with a few of our young alumnae downtown throughout the day.

HB will continue to offer dispatches from Cleveland during the convention, and we’d love to add more voices to the mix. Have a story or perspective to share? Please email director of marketing & communication Kathleen Osborne at kosborne@hb.edu. Hathaway Brown is a non-partisan organization, and as such does not endorse any particular political party or candidate. 

 

 

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