ROBERT SCHENKKAN

PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT & SCREENWRITER

News

Broadway-Bound ‘The Great Society’ Completes Casting With Richard Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson & Coretta Scott King Roles Filled; Opening Night Set

Robert Schenkkan’s Broadway-bound The Great Society, his second LBJ play following the celebrated All The Way, has completed casting and set an opening night for Tuesday, October 1 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.

Joining the previously announced Brian Cox (as Lyndon B. Johnson) will be Marchánt Davis as Stokely Carmichael, Brian Dykstra as Adam Walinsky, Barbara Garrick as Lady Bird Johnson, David Garrison as Richard Nixon, Ty Jones as Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Christopher Livingston as James Bevel, Angela Pierce as Pat Nixon, Matthew Rauch as Robert McNamara, Nikkole Salter as Coretta Scott King and Tramell Tillman as Bob Moses. To read more, click here.

Brian Cox To Play Lyndon B. Johnson in The Great Society

Tony Award & Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan will return to Broadway with the second of his two exhilarating dramas celebrating Lyndon B. Johnson’s legacy: The Great Society. This new play is the companion piece to Schenkkan’s Tony Award winning All The Way, depicting the tumultuous times that led to the conclusion of the Johnson presidency in 1968.

Director Bill Rauch (All The Way) reunites with Schenkkan after directing the premiere of The Great Society at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2014 and Seattle Rep in 2015.

Presented at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, this striking theatrical event features a brilliant cast portraying over fifty characters in two-dozen locations. The cast will include Brian Cox as LBJ, Marc Kudisch as Richard J. Daley, Grantham Coleman as Martin Luther King Jr., and Richard Thomas as Hubert Humphrey. The actors playing the roles of Richard Nixon, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Coretta Scott King, Lady Bird Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Governor George Wallace and Robert McNamara among many others, will be announced soon. To read more, click here.

Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way Sequel The Great Society to Play Broadway

Five years after All the Way brought Lyndon B. Johnson to the stage, the 36th President of the United States is heading back to Broadway. The Great Society, Robert Schenkkan’s 2014 follow-up to his Tony-winning play, will play the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Directed by Bill Rauch, performances will begin September 6 for a 12-week run.

While All the Way depicted Johnson’s year-long presidency in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Great Society picks up after his landslide victory in the 1964 election. The play explores his full four-year term against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement. To read more, click here.

LBJ Play ‘The Great Society’ Bound For Broadway; Brian Cox Cast In Follow-Up To Tony-Winning ‘All The Way’

He may not have sought nor did he accept a return to the White House, but Lyndon B. Johnson is coming back to Broadway: The Great Society, a companion play to Robert Schenkkan’s Tony-winning All The Way, will begin performances in September, with Brian Cox as the 36th President of the United States.

Also in the cast will be Richard Thomas, Marc Kudisch and Grantham Coleman (Amazon Studio’s upcoming Against All Enemies) making his Broadway debut as Martin Luther King Jr.

All The Way won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play and Bryan Cranston took the Tony for his lead role as LBJ. All The Way director Bill Rauch will return in that capacity for The Great Society. To read more, click here.

Brian Cox to Play LBJ on Broadway in 'The Great Society'

The play is the second by Pulitzer winner Robert Schenkkan to celebrate the legacy of the 36th U.S. president, following 'All the Way,' which earned Bryan Cranston a Tony in the role in 2014.

Lyndon B. Johnson is headed back to Broadway for another term. 

Five years after winning the Tony Award for best play with All the Way, Robert Schenkkan's drama about the 36th U.S. president's combative first year in office fighting to pass the Civil Rights Act, the playwright will return this fall with his second work exploring LBJ's legacy, The Great Society. To read more, click here.

‘The Great Society,’ About L.B.J., Is Coming to Broadway

Five years, endless rewrites and several productions later, that new play, “The Great Society,” is coming to Broadway.

The producer Jeffrey Richards announced on Thursday that he would present a 12-week run of the play, starting Sept. 6, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (that theater, although located at Lincoln Center, is considered a Broadway house).

The play will star Brian Cox (“Succession”) as President Johnson; Marc Kudisch (“Finding Neverland”) as the Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, Grantham Coleman (“Much Ado About Nothing”) as Martin Luther King Jr., and Richard Thomas (“The Little Foxes”) as Hubert H. Humphrey. The production will be directed by Bill Rauch, who also directed “All the Way.”

“All the Way,” which starred Bryan Cranston both onstage and in a subsequent television adaptation, ended in November, 1964, when Johnson, who became president upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy, won election to a full term. “The Great Society” follows Johnson until March, 1968, when he announced that he would not seek re-election.

“It chronicles the high-water mark of the programs of the Great Society, and the growing tragedy in Vietnam,” said Mr. Schenkkan, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for “The Kentucky Cycle.” “It’s an extraordinarily dramatic period, and absolutely urgent — in many ways, I think of it as the origin story for our present political crisis.”

“‘All the Way’ is a drama,” he added, “and ‘The Great Society’ is a tragedy.”

The play was first staged at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2014, and then at the Seattle Repertory Theater (where it ran alongside “All the Way”). It has had several subsequent runs, including in 2017 at Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, Fla., and last year at the Alley Theater in Houston, the Arena Stage in Washington and the Dallas Theater Center. Mr. Schenkkan said it has “changed considerably” along the way. “I wanted to get this right, and I’ve taken my time,” he said. “Now I feel the script is absolutely right and tight and ready for New York.”

The play is a commercial production, with a team led by Mr. Richards, taking place in a nonprofit house, Lincoln Center Theater. The producers, who also include Louise Gund, Rebecca Gold, Stephanie P. McClelland, Jayne Baron Sherman and Jacob Soroken Porter, are renting the space from the nonprofit, according to a spokesman for Lincoln Center Theater, but the nonprofit’s members will have an early opportunity to purchase tickets (starting Monday) and the theater is credited as a co-producer; the arrangement is similar to that for “Ann” in 2013.

Mr. Schenkkan, who wrote a play, “Building the Wall,” about the Trump era, as well as the script for a recent live reading of the Mueller report, said he believes his new play has resonance in today’s political climate. “It is a cautionary tale of presidential power,” he said. “There was a fight in 1964 over the vision for this country — who we are, what we stand for, what does it mean to be an American — and boy, does that sound familiar.”

New York Times. 

Critic's Notebook: An All-Star Cast Turns the Mueller Report Into Absurdist Tragicomedy

Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Gina Gershon, Michael Shannon, Krya Sedgwick and Jason Alexander are among the many stars who delivered a live-stream reading of the Mueller Report, adapted for the stage by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan.

The Mueller Report has been on the best-seller lists since it was released, but it's one of those books that few people get around to actually reading. It is, after all, an official document numbering hundreds of pages, much of its language consisting of dry legalese. Fortunately, playwright Robert Schenkkan has distilled the voluminous tome into its dramatic highlights for theatrical presentation, The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts. The piece, read by an all-star cast in a performance live-streamed from New York City's Riverside Church, reveals it to be a masterpiece of absurdist tragicomedy.To read more, click here.

Mueller report play spotlights Trump’s 10 acts of possible obstruction

One way to make the 448-page Mueller report more accessible to the general public? Turn it into live entertainment.

On Monday night in front of an audience, John Lithgow, Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, Kyra Sedgwick, Alyssa Milano, Michael Shannon, Alfre Woodard, Joel Grey and more took the stage at New York’s Riverside Church for a live reading of “The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts.” Adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, the play focused primarily on Mueller’s findings around whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. To read more, click here.

Celebrities Read the Mueller Report, and It’s a Dark Comedy

Who knew that the Mueller report was a comedy?

The findings of the special counsel, of course, concern dead-serious questions about the integrity of American democracy. The published version is dry as a [redacted] saltine. Robert Mueller himself has the stoic G-man bearing of someone who would laugh by writing “ha ha” on a memo pad.

Yet “The Investigation,” a star-studded dramatic reading of sections of the report, adapted by the playwright Robert Schenkkan and staged at Manhattan’s Riverside Church and live-streamed Monday night, opens with an episode of drawing-room, or rather dining-room, farce. It’s early 2017, and President Trump (John Lithgow) meets with then-F.B.I. director James Comey (Justin Long) over dinner.

“I need loyalty!” Mr. Lithgow fulminates.

“You will always get honesty from me,” Mr. Long answers, stiffly.

“That’s what I want. Honest loyalty.”

If you’ve followed this case, you’ve already heard this story — not just in the Mueller report, but in newspapers like this one, back in 2017. But something about Mr. Lithgow’s bluster and the way he hits “loyalty” a little harder than “honest” nails something essential about his character, and the assembled audience cracks up. To read more, click here.

“It’s the End of My Presidency”: Movie Stars Channel Mueller

Funded by scions of the Disney clan, John Lithgow, Annette Bening, Jason Alexander, Michael Shannon, and friends brought the special counsel’s report (and Trump’s line “I’m fucked!”) to life.

The pictures we carry in our heads of Disney—cheerful rodents, regal lions, long waits for the good rides—rarely include Robert S. Mueller III. But last week a group of stars gathered at Riverside Church for a dramatization based on the special counsel’s report. The playwright Robert Schenkkan had distilled Mueller’s doorstop into “The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts,” with the actors reading verbatim the evidence for each alleged obstruction of justice. Financing for the endeavor came not from the Magic Kingdom—the Walt Disney Company—but from three Disney siblings who decided to collaborate on a project for the first time.

“My mother, who was not a Disney, was a great storyteller, but I’m an idealist, and I think that’s the Disney side,” Abigail Disney said at the after-party, in the bowels of the church. She’s been a successful filmmaker for some time, but in recent years has taken up progressive activism. She missed most of the Mueller play, because she was at CNN, advancing her crusade against insufficiently taxed wealth (like her own) and excessive corporate compensation (like that of Robert Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., who made nearly sixty-six million dollars last year). Her brother Tim (also a filmmaker) and her sister Susan (a restaurateur and philanthropist) represented the family. They are all the grandchildren of Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother and a key figure in the early days of the company.

The show itself maintained the austere tone of the Mueller report. There was almost no political posturing, just the exact words that the prosecutor and his team composed. The actors sat on the altar, in chairs draped with patriotic bunting. They rose in place to deliver their lines. Some of the casting seemed random, but there were several magical pairings. John Lithgow’s aristocratic honk sounds nothing like Donald Trump’s voice, but his incessant whining (“Not fair! ”) captured the President’s mien nicely. Joel Grey hammed it up with a Southern accent as Jeff Sessions, and Jason Alexander, just because, killed in a Chris Christie cameo. The biggest laughs of the night came courtesy of Michael Shannon, as Don McGahn, the White House counsel who tried to fend off the President’s incessant efforts to interfere in the Mueller investigation. It’s one thing to read that McGahn told his boss that he takes notes “because he is a real lawyer,” but Shannon’s saying it brought down the house.

That was the point of the performance—to elevate the Mueller report from dry text to live theatre. Even pared down to a brisk seventy-five minutes, the saga retained its maddening complexity, notwithstanding the deadpan efforts of Annette Bening, as the narrator, and Kevin Kline, as Mueller himself. Even news junkies had trouble keeping track of all the references and characters. (Wait—who was Rob Goldstone again? Oh, the publicist who set up the June, 2016, “Russian adoption” meeting at Trump Tower.) Couplings like Alfre Woodard as Hope Hicks, Alyssa Milano as Jay Sekulow (sic), and Piper Perabo as Jared Kushner (sic!) delivered pleasing surprises, and moved the story along, even if the parts didn’t seem likely as future movie roles. The Disneys undertook the project out of frustration that the public hadn’t yet grasped the magnitude of the misconduct that Mueller uncovered, but it seems doubtful that the production, despite its virtues (and a live stream), will do much to change attitudes about the President.

Walt Disney, along with most Disneys of earlier generations, was known as a political conservative. (So is a fourth sibling of the three producers.) Tim worked at the company for a few years, but his sisters never did. Abigail is unapologetic about using her name to bolster the causes she believes in.

“Disney is the last shameable company in the world, because it’s an emotional brand,” she said. “There’s a lot of love in that brand, and people will always pay attention to it.” Abigail credits her theme-park patrimony with shaping her views. “What’s ‘It’s a Small World’ except a little bit of a United Nations?” she said. “I think that ride set me up to do what I do.” ♦  Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker

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