The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign

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

Completing the cycle that began with the 2016 Dallas Theater Center/Alley Theatre co-production of All the WayThe 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

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

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.

Review: ‘The Great Society’ at Arena Stage

Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 margin of victory – nearly 16 million popular votes and a lopsided total of 486 electoral votes – is almost unimaginable today. Armed as well with a 68-32 majority in the Senate, and a House dominated by Democrats, 295-140, his lofty legislative goals seemed well within reach. How, then, did LBJ’s support dissolve so radically? How was it possible, less than four years later, that he’d lost the power and the will to seek another term? To read more, click here.

Washington comes out for the opening of LBJ play ‘The Great Society’

At the Washington premiere of “The Great Society,” a play about President Lyndon B. Johnson, there were plenty of  political plot twists happening offstage.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who received Arena Stage’s American Voice Award for her advocacy of the arts and arts education, was honored after Thursday night’s show. And thanks to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tying up the spending bill, prompting a partial government shutdown for a few hours overnight, she was able to actually watch the entire play without running out early and heading to the Hill for a vote. To read more, click here.

The agony and ecstasy of LBJ is revived in ‘The Great Society’

In Robert Schenkkan’s “The Great Society,” Lyndon Johnson wins the 1964 election but loses his soul and goes to hell. American cities burn and Vietnam drags him under by the lapels of his rumpled gray suit; in Kyle Donnelly’s enveloping production at Arena Stage the flames actually lick at LBJ from below.

“The Great Society” is Schenkkan’s sequel to “All the Way,” the Tony-winning drama that showed Johnson in full wheeler-dealer mode as he navigated the Civil Rights Act to passage. Schenkkan is certainly interested in the legislative process, and the audience watched LBJ’s hardball negotiations with a double consciousness during Thursday night’s opening as the 2018 federal government shut down yet again. To read more, click here.

What Trump-Era Democrats Can Learn From LBJ

Last week, Robert Schenkkan’s new play, The Great Society, opened at the Arena Stage in Washington. This riveting sequel to the Tony-award winning All the Way,about the Lyndon Johnson presidency, is a haunting piece of theater for liberals to watch in February of 2018, when President Trump and the Republican Congress have been swinging a political wrecking ball at Barack Obama’s legacy.

The two plays capture an important lesson about presidential history: that it is possible for the country’s top leader to be an incredibly effective policymaker yet fail politically at building a governing coalition that outlasts them. The costs of this kind of political failure are severe because it leaves everything a president built open to attack. To read more, click here.

Schenkkan’s Great Society: President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s tumultuous term

If the shade of Lyndon Johnson permitted himself a small smile last night, who could blame him? The irony of having the Washington opening of the second of Robert Schenkkan’s two-play cycle about our 36th President — who presided over the enactment of Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, the end to the Poll Tax, and a dozen other significant changes in the way we take care of each other — on the eve of the second government shutdown in a month was palpable, and inescapable. The America of Lyndon Johnson’s time transformed itself. The America of our time struggles to pass a simple budget. To read more, click here.

“Great Society” A Larger Than Life History Lesson on Alley Theatre Stage

The Houston Alley Theatre set for “Great Society” is a marvel, a backdrop that, by turns, takes on the grandeur of the White House Oval Office, Civil Rights march infrastructure, and ever-increasing tallies of Vietnam dead. Frequently, it’s also the setting for the folksy stories Lyndon Baines Johnson was famous for, the kind of down-home truth telling that drew people to him before he circled in for whatever it was he was after. And he was always after something. To read more, click here.