There’s danger in writing a play that directly reflects the now. It can look like a cynical land grab of the zeitgeist. Something a bit too easy, a bums-on-seats play for today that’s sure to garner plenty of media attention. It can generate dialogue that feels far too on-the-nose or worse, re-heat conversations that most of us have already grown weary of. But Schenkkan meets that danger head-on with a tightly-wound thriller that neatly pulls the rug on all these possible accusations. The setting is a brightly lit glass box, a prison room in Texas, 2019. Gloria (Angela Griffin) is the historian, here to interview Nick (Trevor White), a man on Death Row. To read more, click here.
REVIEW: BUILDING THE WALL (Park Theatre) ★★★★ WestEndWilma
May 8, 2018
Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wallbrought the stars out for press night, with Bryan Cranston and Juliet Stevensonamong its esteemed audience. It’s little surprise. Schenkkan’s latest play is a nice little coup for the Park Theatre – an 80 minute gallop through a near-dystopian (but still bleakly Trumpian) future, which has already found favour with American audiences and gets its UK debut here in N4.
It is 2019 and President Trump has been impeached. So far, so believable. Rick (Trevor White) is incarcerated awaiting sentencing for inexplicable crimes and grants a single interview to share his ‘truth’ – with the African-American historian Gloria (Angela Griffin). Gloria’s lifelong relationship with the question of race in America brought her first to academia and then here to Rick’s cell – ‘to understand why you did what they say you did’. To read more, click here.
PLAYHOUSE PICKINGS BUILDING THE WALL LONDON
May 8, 2018
The daily headlines alone provide fertile enough material for a critique of rising populism. But Robert Schenkkan’s play forces us to look up from the daily news drip feed and reflect on where an unchecked Trumpism could lead. Not in a far-off, technologically-facilitated dystopia, but as near as next month or next year.Rick (Trevor White) is being held in solitary confinement awaiting sentencing for… one isn’t quite sure – but it’s clearly not a minor misdemeanour. Academic psychologist Gloria (Angela Griffin) has obtained permission to interview him, with the hope of really understanding how events came to pass. As the play progresses, Rick opens up to Gloria’s questioning and the true horror of what ‘building the wall’ meant in practice is bit-by-bit uncovered. Relayed second-hand in this way, the contingent nature of reality in a world of ‘fake news’ is subtly teased out, and the audience is forced to consider the limits of what they can give imaginative credence to. To read more, click here.
12 Peers Theater Presents The Pittsburgh Premiere Of BUILDING THE WALL By Robert Schenkkan
May 8, 2018
12 Peers Theater will start their 2018 Main Stage Season with Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan. The Pittsburgh Premiere is directed by Ricardo Vila-Roger and features Tom Kolos and Lauren A. Bethea. Building the Wall examines hatred, fear, and institutional racism in an imagined 2019 in a post-Trump America and runs May 24 - June 10, 2018.
"Building the Wall is a cautionary tale, not a history play," artistic director Vince Ventura says. "We want to start discussions around the fairness of our systems, the balance of security and freedom, and the sometimes uncomfortable topic of institutional racism." To read more, click here.
Park Theatre presents the UK Premiere of Building The Wall
March 29, 2018
019. The wall has been built, and the President impeached – starring Angela Griffin and Trevor White, the UK premiere of the political thriller Building The Wall, from Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning writer Robert Schenkkan (Hacksaw Ridge, All the Way) comes to Park Theatre. A harrowing tale of the terrible events that resulted when Donald Trump made good on his promise to build a “beautiful wall” between Mexico and the United States. The official press night will be Friday 4th May, 7pm. To read more, click here.
Bull Ride to Pasture LBJ’s turbulent, beset second term makes for captivating, epic theater in The Great Society at the Dallas Theater Center.
March 17, 2018
“I feel like a catfish biting into a fat, juicy worm and finding a sharp hook in my jaw,” says Lyndon B. Johnson, as the 34th president reflects on the foreign and domestic battles he faces after winning his second term, in Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society, a Dallas Theater Center co-production with Houston’s Alley Theatre, where it just finished a successful run.
DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty wrangles this epic, history-packed play with 18 actors playing some 40 roles at a riveting horse-race pace at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Wyly Theatre. Once you get in the saddle, you want to go the distance with this profane, ego-driven president, who will lie, cheat and step on people’s feet to win his War on Poverty and get his Medicare Act passed. But when he tries to bluster and bluff his way through the escalating costs and body counts of the Vietnam war, his previously successful tactics drag him into the dirt.
The Great Society is Schenkkan’s sequel to All the Way, the Tony-winning drama celebrating Johnson’s 11-month tenure as the “accidental president” with his arm-twisting, wheeler-dealer tactics in getting the Civil Rights Act passed, a critical and audience success in DTC’s 2016 production. To read more, click here.
The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign
March 16, 2018
A dramatic scene is unfolding this month in Washington, D.C. Angry activists march and chant outside the White House demanding an end to the violence that’s killing America’s youth. Politicians squabble and point fingers, assigning blame and deepening divisions. A chasm has opened within the Democratic Party, exposing the disconnect between wealthy, white party elites and the hardships faced by poor people in small-town America. This story is not, however, about high schoolers pressuring for gun reform or Congressional deadlock on passing the national budget. It’s the story of The Great Society, a theatrical performance which premiered at The Arena Stage in Washington in February 2018. The play tells of President Lyndon Johnson’s vision of poverty reduction through massive government programs aimed at improving access to basic needs like education and health care, and the interplay between Johnson’s efforts and the struggles of civil rights leaders for racial and economic equality. To read more, click here.
Dallas Theater Center gives a great history lesson with LBJ play
March 16, 2018
Completing the cycle that began with the 2016 Dallas Theater Center/Alley Theatre co-production of All the Way, The Great Society depicts the tumultuous final four years of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. And “tumultuous” is putting it lightly, as there is seemingly no moment of peace for LBJ throughout the play as he wrestles with how to handle civil rights struggles, the escalating Vietnam War, and more. Brandon Potter reprises his role as Johnson, going head-to-head with a series of political figures. They include Martin Luther King, Jr. (the returning Shawn Hamilton), who pushes Johnson to keep his word on supporting voting rights; Sen. Bobby Kennedy (Jay Sullivan), a fellow Democrat with whom he has a testy relationship; Gov. George Wallace (Chris Hury), who seems unable or unwilling to help with racial unrest in Alabama; and many more. As with All the Way, the audience is thrust into the middle of an ongoing story, as playwright Robert Schenkkan assumes we have a certain familiarity with 1960s U.S. history. Instead of leading us by the nose through the events of the era, he provides a certain number of cultural touchstones while also diving deep into the debates LBJ had with a variety of people. It takes a few scenes to catch up, but once the play gets going under Kevin Moriarty's direction, it moves like a freight train. To read more, click here.
Powerful new play about LBJ should go all the way: 'The Great Society' from DTC and Houston's Alley Theatre
March 16, 2018
Timing wasn't a friend to Lyndon B. Johnson as the Texas-born president fought to pass his ambitious Great Society legislation while simultaneously coping with the morass of the Vietnam War and striving to stop racial injustice. But with today's arguments about the need for a social safety net, the debilitating cost of ongoing wars and the painful price of racial and other forms of polarization, the timing could not be better for the release of The Great Society by Robert Schenkkan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning University of Texas at Austin alumnus. Dallas is lucky to see this electrifying sequel to Schenkkan's Tony Award-winning All the Way. A co-production between two Tony Award-winning regional theaters, Dallas Theater Center and Houston's Alley Theatre, The Great Society continues through April 1 at the Wyly Theatre. To read more, click here.
Robert Schenkkan Constructs The Great Society in His All the Way Sequel
February 13, 2018
Arena Stage has brought Washington many plays that are marginally political, but its latest Washington premiere — of Robert Schenkkan's The Great Society — is unabashedly, completely political, and one of the finest dramas Arena has produced in recent years. A follow-up to his play All the Way, which told the story of Lyndon Johnson's unexpected appointment as president immediately after the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, The Great Society makes clear the struggles Johnson went through during his second term. To read more, click here.