On Wednesday, May 21, the Bottletree will host Civically Challenged, a game show that will give issues like the Pepsi sign foofaraw, the Hoover busing hullabaloo and the 20/59 imbroglio the Monopoly treatment. In addition to serving as a fun reinvention of the idea of a public forum, the event is also a fundraiser for the Desert Island Supply Co., the Woodlawn-based creative writing and tutoring center.
The interactive event will feature teams centered around each of these issues facing Birmingham, following them as they travel, Candyland style, through a host of civic challenges. With a limited war chest to draw on to help with random challenges (such as hiring Alexander Shunnarah for someone injured in a billboard accident), each team has to navigate away from the Molasses Swamp of demagoguery and empty sloganeering.
The team that succeeds in the first round will have the unenviable task of answering questions from the United States citizenship test in the second round. I Believe in Birmingham founder Joseph Baker, AL.com columnist John Archibald and Weld Publisher Mark Kelly will serve as judges throughout the night.
“Civic engagement is cool now. It’s not just for squares anymore,” said show organizer and emcee Max Rykov. “Sometimes, though, there’s a very serious tone on internet comment threads, and things can get very nasty when you’re anonymous. So with this event, instead of the glamourless cave of internet anonymity, you find yourself commenting on things amid a crowd of people.”
“It’s basically a live version of getting likes on a Facebook comment thread, with hilarious consequences,” Rykov added.
The night will begin with a group singalong of “This Land is Your Land,” which will hopefully set the tone for an evening of friendly debate, or for people to feel comfortable learning more about complicated issues like Alagasco’s demolition of the historic train depot near Railroad Park.
“This is an opportunity for people to talk about these things in person in a friendly, fun environment,” Rykov said. “We’re not looking for right or wrong answers. We’re looking for interesting answers.”
Civically Challenged: A Simple Game of Democracy will take place on Wednesday, May 21. Doors will open at 8 p.m., with the game starting at 9. For more information, check out the event on Facebook.