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


Easy to do. Simply type #TheInvestigation into your webbrowser. You will be able to view either on the Law Works website or YouTube or Facebook!

Star-studded play 'The Investigation' brings Mueller report to life. CNN

On Monday night, at the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan, an audience was treated to a powerful live reading of "The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts," by stars including John Lithgow, Jason Alexander, Annette Bening, Kyra Sedgwick and Alyssa Milano. The play, written by the Pulitzer Prize winning Robert Schenkkan, was a dramatization of the Mueller Report that used the actual text for dialogue. In an email interview with me, Schenkkan explained that he wrote the play out of frustration that the Trump administration had been "successful in obstructing the narrative" from the moment that Attorney General William Barr outlined the findings. Given the partisan political climate, the play seemed to be undertaking the role of Congress -- bringing the findings to life and giving the public a sort of thorough congressional hearing that we simply have not seen yet.

The results were powerful. The actors narrated parts of the action, using text from the report, while others acted out the lines as if they were the people in the report. Seeing Lithgow, as President Trump, delivering lines with furious indignation about closing down the "witchhunt" investigation and barking orders to his staff to follow through carried a much greater wallop than reading the dry text.
The actors reading about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, and subsequent cover up of what happened, paint a more damning picture when heard out loud. Michael Shannon, playing White House Counsel Don McGahn, offered devastating depictions of the moments this top counsel pushed back directly against Trumps's efforts to obstruct and lie about what he had done. After the cast reads out loud the ten possible acts of obstruction, Zachary Quinto's recitation of Attorney General Barr's summary sounds more misleading than ever. The play focuses on 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice. Actors including Kevin Kline, Ben McKenzie, Alfre Woodard, Gina Gershon, and Aidan Quinn, helped bring to life the devastating findings from the Mueller report on just how far President Donald Trump was willing to go to stifle a major investigation into his administration and into Russian interference in the election.
In contrast to the way that President Trump and Attorney General Barr have depicted the report, Schenkkan's play shows that Mueller's team documented a shocking abuse of presidential power. Billed as "The Play That Attorney General William Barr Doesn't Want You To See," according to the press release, "The Investigation" is a dramatic counterpoint to the disinformation campaign that came out of the administration.
Schenkkan's hope was to use the arts so that the play's audience would gain a better sense of the report's contents which have been discussed extensively and even became a best-selling book -- but not clearly or fully read.
In early May, a CNN poll found that only 3% of those polled had read "all the report," 24% said they read some of it. Three- quarters of those polled said that they had not read any of it.
Nor is it clear that many Americans who have read the report can really grasp its full implications.
"The notion that any significant portion of the populace will take it upon themselves to spend the multiple hours required to read a 450 page report is sadly unrealistic," said McKenzie, the star of "Gotham," who played Michael Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. in the play.
Schenkkan told me that the report, though detailed and comprehensive, was not easy to read. "The 'story' tends to get lost. A theatrical event like this makes the story very clear and easy to understand. It gives focus and emotion," he said in his email. Artists, he wrote, "surface the stories that need to be told and do so in a way which people can absorb. They provoke introspection, conversation and a sense of community -- all of which are sorely lacking right now."
This play, along with other comparable efforts -- such as a graphic novel that is in the works based on the report -- addresses one of the most fundamental flaws in the investigation: Without any substantive congressional hearings comparable to the Watergate committee in 1973, Democrats who favored the impeachment process would never really have a chance to sway the public.
President Trump, who is a product of the television era and seems to have little appetite for reading, may have understood that the fact that the investigation came out as a written report -- without complementary congressional investigations -- would work to his political advantage. Regardless of the substance of Mueller's findings, much of the public debate would revolve around interpretations of the findings rather than thorough readings of what Mueller's team discovered.
What's gone wrong? Partisan polarization is the most obvious culprit. Republicans have refused to join Democrats in convening serious hearings into the allegations. Senate Republicans have been saying that the case is closed.
With Republicans locked into an oppositional stance, and most Republican voters unwilling to break with the President, the potential for full-blown hearings is nil.
And the hearings that are convened take place on a fragmented and partisan media universe that makes it incredibly hard to break through to the public. The world of the news media is much different than the world of entertainment where high profile productions -- such as Game of Thrones -- still have the capacity to produce national conversations.
In the current media universe, conservative television networks like Fox News or web sites like Breitbart won't give a deep dive into the Mueller report the time of day. Instead, their talent primarily repeats the President's talking points. And presidential power has been crucial. The President has simply rejected the idea of congressional oversight. He used Attorney General Barr to spread a narrative about the findings that contradicted what people who did read it actually saw. The President has stopped key people from testifying and when they have, like Hope Hicks, they have said nothing.
The highest profile testimony so far has come from John Dean, a member of the Nixon administration who has little to do with Trump's scandal other than providing commentary. Faced with such a brazen use of presidential power, Democrats have been flummoxed in their efforts to teach the public.
With the broken state of Washington, perhaps it is time for playwrights, moviemakers, actors, and others from the world of culture to step  and fill the void. Otherwise, it seems almost impossible to shake the public into the kind of deep engagement that is necessary at times when our political institutions are under serious strain. "The Investigation" is a timely reminder that the giant political thud that could be heard in Washington when Mueller's report landed was not a result of its contents but rather the inability of Congress to translate the findings for the public. Julian Zelizer