The political comedy variety show Hexagon has become an annual tradition here in D.C.
This year, the 64th annual event returns every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from March 15 to April 6 at Woodrow Wilson High School in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Northwest D.C.
“We poke fun at everybody,” Hexagon’s Gene Tighe told WTOP. “Needless to say, the man who pays a lot of attention to ratings and lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has given us more than enough material this year, so we’re looking forward to poking a little bit of fun at him.”
This year’s theme is “Romp in the Swamp,” to borrow a phrase from President Donald Trump.
“This year we’re going to have Mr. Trump [impersonated] on stage,” Tighe said. “We’ll probably have somebody playing [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller and somebody playing the attorney general. Of course, the vice president will be there too … and we have a kickline that [former first lady] Michelle Obama’s book is co-aligned with, so you’ll get to see a little bit of her.”
In addition to the portrayals of famous figures, what political topics might be tackled?
“We’re probably going to have a congressional investigation,” Tighe said. “We’re probably going to have some folks talk a little bit about Brexit overseas. We’re also going to have some folks who want to talk about 2020, which is looming big time. We’ve got some folks who are running against the president, folks on the Democratic side, folks on the Republican side. … Mostly, from the view of the public: what’s new, what’s going on and what do you see as the president’s biggest challenges coming from not only here in the U.S. but also overseas?”
If politics feels too divisive, there’s also plenty of social topics exploring our everyday lives.
“You’ll see families not getting along too well using Metro, going to school and having some social issues trying to learn computers and trying to figure out what to do next week and next year when I’m looking for a job with — guess what — Amazon coming to town! So you’ll probably see a little bit of Jeff Bezos and other ideas on how he’ll revolutionize the D.C. area.”
As these events unfold in the news throughout the year, Hexagon volunteers jot down creative ideas. They then meet in August with longtime writers and musical contributors, namely president Joe Kaplan, director Nicholas Brashour and musician Doug Mauer.
“They get together and get the finest material they can, marry it with song, then ensure it’s an original approach,” Tighe said. “We don’t want anybody else’s material, so once it becomes a Hexagon song, it’s a Hexagon song, it’s copyrighted and that material gets put into skits.”
The sketches are broken up by “News Breaks” similar to “Weekend Update” on “SNL.”
“Once upon a time there was a little desk where two people sat and gave funny news lines and it was called the news break,” Tighe said. “‘Saturday Night Live’ had their chance … but we call it ‘News Breaks.’ There are four in each show, they run about five minutes and they’re funny lines that folks in the media, like here at WTOP, come out and [read]. We’ve had TV people, lots of folks from across the board and the new congresswoman from Florida, Donna Shalala, wants to be a part this year and of course [D.C. Delegate] Eleanor Holmes Norton.”
“It does marvelous work for all of our cancer victims,” Tighe said. “They have little groups of folks who get together and talk about their trials and tribulations and help each other out.”
Hexagon was founded 64 years ago in November 1955 by a group of young Washingtonians and a former member of the then-all-male Princeton Triangle Club. They called the new group Hexagon (double the Triangle) to mark the inclusion of women.
Led by Charles Ilsley, the group, including iconic satirist Tom Lehrer, wrote songs and parodies for the show, “Meet the Beep.” After the show, the organizers found themselves with $3,500 in profits ($32,000 in today’s dollars), which they donated to the American Cancer Society. Sixty-four years later, and with more than $3.5 million donated to 40-plus organizations, Hexagon is now America’s oldest continuously running all-original political satirical musical comedy revue.
Best of all, the entire show is put on by volunteers from a variety of day jobs.
“They’re lobbyists, lawyers, nurses, folks that have done every kind of job you can think of, from being engineers to chemists,” Tighe said. “I started out in the Air Force, so there’s some military people. A lot of us have come from different backgrounds in our second and third lives to find that Hexagon has married us literally and figuratively with our mates or partners.”
That’s right, Hexagon has actually rang wedding bells.
“There are folks who have met their future wives and husbands at Hexagon. They acted on stage together or did something behind the scenes and, believe it or not, stayed together.”
In the end, it’s a tight-knit group of friends who reunite to share their creativity each year.
“It’s a great way to spend a few weeks doing something that you love with people that you like spending time with and to perform in front of a gracious and thankful audience,” Tighe said. “It’s a unique approach, but it’s worked for us for over 60 years.”
Find more details on the Hexagon website. Hear our full conversation with Gene Tighe below:
WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Hexagon's Gene Tighe (Full Interview)