SRJC Theatre Arts Presents It Can't Happen Here

Sept 12, 2017 – The Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) Theatre Arts Department presents It Can’t Happen Here, a cautionary dark satire about the fragility of democracy and how fascism can take hold even in the land of liberty. It Can't Happen Here follows the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to return the country to greatness. Sinclair Lewis’ eerily prescient 1935 novel gets a fresh update in this adaptation that examines what brings a citizenry to the point of sacrificing its own freedom and how a courageous few can prevail to overcome the fall.

It Can't Happen Here is appropriate for anyone over the age of 14.  Sinclair Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. This adaptation by Tony Taccone and Bennett Cohen received its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre during the fall 2016 presidential election.  It will appeal to anyone who is interested in politics, current events, history, literature, economic philosophy, social issues and the arts. This entertaining and sometimes funny play is a cautionary tale that will leave audiences stunned by its relevance.

Special appearance by local singer/songwriter Teresa Tudury. “Part chanteuse, part comedian, part bona fide pop artist…and a voice that could stop a war.” —Buzz Weekly

Actor Khalid Shayota plays journalist Doremus Jessup. Kal grew up in Baghdad, Iraq with Saddam Husain as president. He says, “I started reading the book and was absolutely hooked by the similarities in today’s events and the book’s. This book was published in 1935! The more things change, the more they stay the same. The loss of freedoms happens slowly; it creeps up on people.”

Ellora Gordon, who plays Sissy, grew up in Sebastopol and is an alum of ArtQuest at Santa Rosa High School. She feels that the most fulfilling theatrical experiences have been those with cultural and political significance. She says, “My grandparents had to flee Austria as children, leaving their families behind when Nazis gained power. My Jewish heritage is very important to me; I carry that with me always.”

Actor Michael Arbitter plays the villain Effingham Swan and other roles. He says, “The relevance of the work cannot be denied. Our regular dalliances with Fascism can no longer be ignored. My hope is that this work will spark a debate about the grey nuance of evil.”

Pales Gensler, who has performed in several Theatre Arts’ productions, plays a variety of roles in the show and says, “I hope to show people that just because I have Asperger’s, does not mean that I can’t put on a good show.”

Ryan Sayler plays the Communist, Pascal, and says “I was mostly non-political until the recent election. Not long after, I heard about this show, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it, even if it meant just playing a chair or something.”

Actor Brett Mollard attended Montgomery High School. He says, “I’m politically a moderate and seeing how unbelievable things have gotten, to the point where it’s hard to satire politics because it’s so absurd…I think the play is extremely important.”

Stage Manager Coleton Wilson says, “I’m drawn to the statement the play is making about democracy. My generation seems particularly active politically, and the message of the show is an excellent parallel with a lot of what’s happening, without being biased toward any particular party.”

Newman Auditorium, Santa Rosa Junior College, Emeritus Hall, Elliott Avenue, Santa Rosa Campus

October 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14 at 8:00 PM
October 8, 14 and 15 at 2:00 PM
Sunday October 8: Post show talk-back with the cast and production team
Wednesday October 11: Post show panel discussion with the playwright Bennett Cohen and SRJC instructors

Ticket Cost: $10-$18

Parking $4

Directed by Leslie McCauley. Show by Tony Taccone and Bennett Cohen, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis. World Premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, fall 2016

Further details on show times, and SRJC performances for the remainder of this season can be found online at

Ticket information is also available online and may also be purchased by calling SRJC’s Theatre Box Office at (707) 527-4307. 

Left to right: Khalid Shayota as Doremus Jessup, Neil Thollander as Senator Buzz Windrip, Ellora Gordon as Sissy, Sheila Farmer as Mrs. Gimmitch

Photo by Tom Chown