If California’s historic 1950 US Senate race had gone the other way there would have been no Checkers speech, no Watergate break-in, no Woodward and Bernstein, perhaps an earlier exit from the Vietnam war. The race pitted the popular Democratic Congresswoman and former actress Helen Gahagan Douglas against a thiry-eight year old Republican member of the House named Richard Nixon. The election, destined to become one of the nation’s most infamous, was notable as the race that Nixon acquired his “Tricky-Dick” moniker.

Nixon waged an unrelenting red-baiting campaign, calling Gahagan Douglas “pink right down to her underwear.” Two weeks before election day in 1950, according to Greg Mitchell’s 1998 book on the race, the Republican Senatorial candidate even accused his opponent of being the conduit through which decisions made by Josef Stalin in the Kremlin flowed to the United States Congress. (This wasn’t true.) The contest is also well-known as the first “modern election” in that dirty campaigning was married to sophisticated media technology for the first time making money (for massive ad buys) even more critical to political success.

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas, a new comedy/drama by Michelle Willens and Wendy Kout tells the true story of the infamous race in which the young Nixon destroyed the elegant Congresswoman (and wife of Melvyn Douglas). A finalist for the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Conference, the play offers an amusing and insightful window into a formative time for modern American politics.

On May 1, thanks to the playwrights’ generosity, there will be a special May 1 reading and reception of the play starring award-winning actors Christine Lahti and James Naughton with all proceeds going to The Nation magazine. As an added benefitNation writer John Nichols will be speaking at the post-reading reception. Taking place at 7:30 on May 1 at Symphony Space in Manhattan. Click here for info and to buy tickets. This reading kicks off the playwrights’ series of readings on behalf of groups and organizations which they feel Gahagan Douglas would have approved.