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New play examines Hillary Clinton's role in Lewinsky scandal

In this image taken from video, Monica Lewinsky embraces President Clinton as he greeted well-wishers at a White House lawn party in Washington Nov. 6, 1996.
AP Photo/APTV
The MeToo movement has renewed analysis of Hillary Clinton's decision to stand by her husband

A re-examination of the sexual liaison between former US President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky -- and how it shaped the political career of Hillary Clinton -- is the subject of a play opening in London at the end of March.

The genesis of the play 'Devil with the Blue Dress' in mid-2016 was the “conception story” of Hillary Clinton’s political career, the play’s creator Kevin Armento told i24NEWS.

That angle was soon dashed by Donald Trump’s victory over his Democratic rival, and with it, the predicted election of the United States’ first female president.

However the emergence a year later of the #MeToo movement, a slew of sexual misconduct allegations against Trump (all denied), and the revelation he paid a porn star $130,000 in “hush money” have thrust the play back into the political and cultural zeitgeist.

“We entered this new cultural moment of reassessing our relationship with communal power,” Armento said, “it really demanded looking at it a second time and it’s really sharpened the play and continues to.”

In 1998 forensic evidence, found on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, contradicted Bill Clinton’s denials that he had not had “sexual relations with that woman,” then a 22-year-old intern.

Hillary Clinton, at the time considered a groundbreaking First Lady for her policy advocacy, stood by her husband.

Armento sees the scandal as formative of Clinton’s subsequent political career.

“In the general election [of 2016] there was a lot of discussion of who is Hillary Clinton, who really is Hillary Clinton, and I thought it was really strange that for a woman who’s been in the public eye for 30 years, that we Americans didn’t seem to really have a sense of who she was and this sort of careful, calculating nature that everyone had ... ascribed to her.”

“And she was a crusading liberal in the early 90's, she was the First Lady who broke all the rules of being First Lady,” Armento said.

“But when she started exploring running for the Senate on the day that President Clinton was acquitted of his impeachment charges she began what I think was a political career that had to be rooted in discipline and carefulness -- because her husband had not exhibited those things.”

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

And only since the #MeToo movement began reckoning en mass with the sexual misconduct of powerful and famous men has Lewinsky spoken in terms of the yawning gap in power between herself, the young intern, and the leader of the free world.

Previously, she described their relationship as purely consensual and maintained that the only abuse of power came during Clinton’s attempt at a cover-up.

“The thing I sense [Lewinsky’s] asking us to do from her vantage point is to re-frame and re-imagine with some measure of compassion what this experience was, and I think not just for her, but for everyone at the center of it and that’s definitely the central goal of the play,” Armento said.

Hillary Clinton, he said, may also be reckoning with her role in the Lewinsky scandal.

“I bet you anything that she’s going through a moment of self-reflection as everyone who is paying attention to the Me Too movement is also going through a moment of reflection,” he said.

“But I also bet it’s really hard to do that when the sex predator who beat you in the election is now sitting in the Oval Office and his party is not asking him to have the same measure of self-reflection.”

'Devil with the Blue Dress' is opening at London’s Bunker Theater on March 29.

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