Tonight we’ll be blocking my big scene as FDR in Annie. In this speech, delivered to students at UNC, Roosevelt is more playful than he is in his better known more formal speeches (his first inaugural “The only thing we have to fear” and the Pearl Harbor “A date that will live in infamy“). Here. he’s even a little snarky towards his detractors, though in the play it’s always Warbucks who snipes at the Democrats. So this is probably the FDR I should try to emulate.
FDR’s speeches are very oratorial; even this informal address sounds carefully planned and studied, more like a church sermon than the folksier modern political speeches that are designed to play well as sound bites.
There’s a long stretch between the set-up and the punch line, and even though we know from his smirk he’s going to deny that he breakfasts on grilled millionaire, Roosevelt masterfully fills the gap with the message he wants to get across.
So if there’s a message for me in this, it’s not to rush things. Roosevelt is being criticized on the radio for being all talk and no action — it’s Annie’s optimism that inspires his cabinet, and with a newly energized cabinet, Roosevelt’s leadership skills can finally turn optimism into action.
Here’s another theater company’s version of the “Cabinet Tomorrow” scene we’re rehearsing tonight.