Jack Willis Returns as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in THE GREAT SOCIETY
Robert Schenkkan's The Great Society, the second half of the epic drama about President Lyndon Baines Johnson, makes its Washington, D.C. debut at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, following the theater's critically acclaimed 2016 run of All the Way. Kyle Donnelly returns to Arena Stage to helm this political thrill ride that "shines a bright, clear light on a pivotal moment in American history" (New York Times). Chronicling LBJ's second term as he seeks to maintain his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and complete a raft of impossibly ambitious social policy projects, The Great Society runs February 2-March 11, 2018 on the Fichandler Stage.
As previously announced, Jack Willis, seen at Arena Stage as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in All the Way, and in Mother Courage and Her Children and Sweat, reprises his role portrayed with "extraordinary tenacity" (Washington Post). Willis originated the role of LBJ at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012.
After appearing as Martin Luther King, Jr. in All the Way which was "played with an effectively intense realism" (Metro Weekly), the previously announced Bowman Wright returns to the role. Wright has also appeared in The Mountaintop and King Hedley II at Arena Stage.
The 17-member cast features returning actors from All the Way, including Desmond Bing as Bob Moses, JaBen Early as Stokely Carmichael, Cameron Folmar as Governor George Wallace, Richmond Hoxie as J. Edgar Hoover, Lawrence Redmond as Hubert Humphrey, Susan Rome as Lady Bird Johnson, John Scherer as Robert F. Kennedy, Stephen F. Schmidt as Senator Everett Dirksen, Craig Wallace as Ralph Abernathy and Tom Wiggin as Robert McNamara. Joining the company is Elliott Bales as Adam Walinsky, Deonna Bouye as Coretta Scott King, Gary-Kayi Fletcher as James Bevel, Megan Graves as Pat Nixon and Andrew Weems as Mayor Richard Daley.
"The Vietnam War provides an intense backdrop for Johnson's second term and with The Great Society, Robert Schenkkan thrusts us back into the heat of those turbulent days," shares Molly Smith. "What a thrill it is to welcome back actor Jack Willis as Lyndon Baines Johnson, as well as director Kyle Donnelly to anchor this sequel to the electrifying All the Way."
"There is a particular photo of LBJ, with his head down on a table in the Situation Room, listening to a tape from a soldier on the field in Vietnam," explains Donnelly. "The immensity of what he has done and the burden he has carried are profoundly moving. The price he and the country have paid for the insistence of pursuing victory in Vietnam is heartbreaking. Our current political climate does not include accountability as a value, which is even a bigger loss for us all, and makes directing The Great Society at this present time all the more critical."
Donnelly reunites with several of her longtime design collaborators, most of whom designed All the Way-Set Designer Kate Edmunds, Costume Designer Nan Cibula-Jenkins, Lighting Designer Nancy Schertler, Original Music and Sound Design by David Van Tieghem and Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne.
Robert Schenkkan (Playwright)'s plays include All the Way (Tony Award), The Great Society, The Kentucky Cycle (Pulitzer Prize), Hanussen, Shadow Play, Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates, By the Rivers of Babylon, Handler, The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune, Heaven on Earth, Tachinoki, Final Passages, The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Dream Thief, A Single Shard and The Twelve. His newest play, Building the Wall, has enjoyed an unprecedented rollout in theaters across the country (including Forum Theatre in D.C.) and Europe; it is published by Skyhorse Press. Film credits include Hacksaw Ridge (six Academy Award nominations) and The Quiet American. TV credits include All the Way (eight Emmy nominations), The Pacific (25 Emmy nominations and a WGA Award), The Andromeda Strain, Crazy Horse and Spartacus. www.robertschenkkan.com
Kyle Donnelly (Director)'s Arena Stage credits include The Little Foxes; All the Way; Other Desert Cities; Ah, Wilderness!; Well; The Women; Born Yesterday; She Loves Me; Polk County (Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical); Dancing at Lughnasa (Helen Hayes Award for Best Production); Misalliance; Tom Walker; Shakespeare in Hollywood; Lovers and Executioners; Summer and Smoke; and School for Wives while associate artistic director. Additional credits for Seattle Repertory, Steppenwolf, Huntington, La Jolla, Goodman, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Berkeley Repertory, McCarter, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Cape Cod Theatre Project, The Old Globe, American Conservatory Theater, Studio Theatre, Humana Festival and ALLIANCE THEATRE, and Give Me Your Answer, Do! (Roundabout). Awards include TCG's Alan Schneider Director Award. Kyle is a faculty member of the M.F.A. actor training program at the University of California, San Diego.
Jack Willis (President Lyndon Baines Johnson)'s Arena Stage credits include The Little Foxes, All the Way, Sweat, Mother Courage and Her Children, Book of Days, Of Mice and Men and Agamemnon and His Daughters. Broadway credits include Julius Caesar, The Crucible, Art and The Old Neighborhood. Off-Broadway credits include The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, World of Mirth, The Iphigenia Cycle and Valhalla. He has appeared in more than 200 productions worldwide and been a company member at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Trinity Repertory Company and Dallas Theater Center. Film/TV credits include Toy Story 3, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Cradle Will Rock, The Out-of-Towners, Love Hurts, I Come in Peace, Problem Child, Law & Order, Ed and Dallas.
Bowman Wright (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) was last seen at Arena Stage as Martin Luther King, Jr. in All the Way and The Mountaintop and King in King Hedley II. Theater credits include Our Lady of Kibeho (Signature Theatre Company); TogDog/UnderDog (Marin Theatre Company); A Raisin in the Sun (Geva Theatre Center); A Midsummer Night's Dream (La Jolla Playhouse); The Dreamer Examines His Pillow (Shakespeare & Company); The Piano Lesson (Virginia Stage); Since Africa and A House with No Walls (Interact Theatre); Fences (Actors Theatre of Louisville); and Death and the King's Horsemen (Lantern Theatre). Films credits include Sight (Lionsgate Productions) and Vinson (Sainvil Productions). TV credits include Person of Interest, Blue Bloods and Elementary. Bowman is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego.
Elliott Bales (Adam Walinsky/General Westmoreland/Colonel Al Lingo/Gardner Ackley) makes his Arena Stage debut. Elliott works as a theater and film actor based out of Arlington, VA. Theater credits include A Midsummer Nights Dream (Folger Theatre), Occupied Territories and The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Theater Alliance), Harvey (1st Stage), Not Enuf Lifetimes (The Welders), Romeo and Juliet (Unexpected Stage) and White Christmas (Little Theater on the Square). Elliott's film credits include Manager of the Year, Wireless and The Coming Storm, and TV credits include Legends and Lies: Patriots, Nightmare Next Door and Evil Kin. He is a graduate of Abilene Christian University and the National War College. Elliott retired from the US Army after 26 years of service.
Desmond Bing (Bob Moses/Hosea Williams/Ronald Frye/Father Clements) appeared at Arena Stage in All the Way. D.C. credits include Wig Out (by Academy Award-winner Tarell Alvin McCraney/directed by Kent Gash, Studio Theatre); A Midsummer Night's Dream (Folger Theatre); Unexplored Interior (Mosaic Theater); Occupied Territories (Theater Alliance); The Migration Series (The Phillips Collection); and staged readings of Fences and The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Olney Theatre). Desmond completed a Kenan Institute Playwriting/Acting Fellowship at the Kennedy Center where he workshopped his first plays, The Peculiar Awakening of Riley Parker and PRIDE. He attended The North Carolina School of the Arts, Steppenwolf Classes West and The Upright Citizen Brigade. Desmond thanks his friends/family for their continued love and support and Hawaiian pop sensation, Hoku, for making the song, "Perfect Day." Upcoming: The Legend of Georgia McBride (Round House Theatre).
Deonna Bouye (Coretta Scott King/Sally Childress) is New York based and thrilled to make her Arena Stage debut. She last worked in D.C. on Quiara Alegria Hudes' Barrio Grrrl tour at the Kennedy Center. New York appearances include Ars Nova, The Lark, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Dramatists and Page 73. Regional credits include The Bluest Eye (The Guthrie); This Random World and How We Got On (Humana Festival/Actors Theatre of Louisville); Clybourne Park and Safe House (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park); Guadalupe in the Guestroom (Two River Theater); Vanya and Sonia... (Weston Playhouse); Not Medea (B Street Theatre); Wonder of the World (Iowa Summer Repertory); and National Playwrights Conference (The O'Neill). Film/TV credits include Brazzaville Teenager with Michael Cera, PlayStation character and My Crazy Love. She holds an M.F.A. degree in acting from The University of Iowa.
JaBen Early (Stokely Carmichael/John Lewis) is a native Washingtonian, previously seen in All the Way and Ruined at Arena Stage. D.C. credits include Father Comes Home from the Wars (Round House Theatre), Unexplored Interior (Mosaic Theater Company), The Convert (Woolly Mammoth), Julius Caesar (Folger Theatre), F***ing A (Studio Theatre), Native Sun (American Century Theater), Titus Andronicus (Molotov Theatre), Me and The Devil Blues (Flying V), and The Cloak Room (Capital Fringe Festival). Regional credits include We Are Proud to Present... (Philly Interactive Theatre), Ruined (Marin Theatre Company) and The Death of Bessie Smith (Liberty Free Theatre). JaBen trained at Morehouse College, Sarah Lawrence University and the BADA program at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. He would like to thank his parents and extended family for their endless support.
Gary-Kayi Fletcher (James Bevel/Jimmie Lee Jackson) is honored to be making his Arena Stage debut. Regional theater credits include the world premiere of Marley (Baltimore Center Stage); American Hero (Rep Stage); Ruined and Fences (Everyman Theatre); and an award-winning performance as Lank in Detroit '67 (Paul Robeson Theatre). Film and TV credits include work in F.S. Key: After the Song, America's Most Wanted, The 6th Degree and the critically acclaimed web series Casters and Mythos. Gary-Kayi is a member of Luna Stage's Studio Luna Acting Company. Instagram/Twitter: @itsgarykayi itsgarykayi.com
Cameron Folmar (Governor George Wallace/Richard Nixon/Clark Clifford) returns to Arena Stage after appearing in All the Way. New York credits include The 39 Steps (Broadway and Off-Broadway) and Volpone, The Merchant of Venice, The Jew of Malta, Five by Tenn and Waiting for Godot (Off-Broadway). Additional credits include Measure for Measure, All's Well That Ends Well, An Ideal Husband, Hamlet, Timon of Athens, A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear (Shakespeare Theatre Company, affiliated artist); The Habit of Art (Studio Theatre); Five by Tenn (Kennedy Center); The Winter's Tale and Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Santa Cruz); Don Juan (Seattle Repertory Theatre); Scapin (Denver Center); The Tempest and The Figaro Plays (McCarter Theatre Center); and The Little Foxes (Cleveland Play House). TV credits include Law & Order and Conviction. Cameron is the voice of Genn Greymane on "World of Warcraft."
Megan Graves (Pat Nixon/Waitress/Sheriff's Auxiliary) returns to Arena Stage after appearing as Alexandra Giddens in The Little Foxes. D.C. credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Second Shepherd's Play (Folger Theatre); Peter and the Starcatcher (Constellation Theatre); Love and Information, Passion Play and Clementine in the Lower 9 (Forum Theatre); Redder Blood (The Hub Theatre, Helen Hayes Award nomination); and Wild Sky (Solas Nua). Megan received her B.F.A. from Shenandoah Conservatory and is a proud company member of Forum Theatre and Only Make Believe
Richmond Hoxie (J. Edgar Hoover) returns to Arena Stage after appearing in All the Way. D.C. credits include Vienna Lusthaus: Revisited (Kennedy Center) and Butley (national tour). He made his Broadway debut in I'm Not Rappaport (also first national tour). Off-Broadway credits include If Only (Cherry Lane), The Film Society (Keen Company), To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday (Circle in the Square) and Lenin's Embalmers (Ensemble Studio Theatre). Additional credits include Justice and The Dining Room (Playwrights Horizons) and Angel Street (The Pearl). Richmond has performed at many regional theaters, including American Repertory Theater, George Street Playhouse, Seattle Repertory, Hartford Stage, La Jolla, Huntington and Yale Repertory. Film/TV credits include Shades of Blue, Boardwalk Empire, JFK, Still of the Night, Without a Trace, the various iterations of Law & Order, China Beach, L.A. Law. richmondhoxie.com
Lawrence Redmond (Hubert Humphrey) was last seen at Arena Stage as Joe Wilson in Intelligence. Other Arena Stage credits include Richard Russell in All the Way, The Music Man, Ruined, Christmas Carol: 1941, Damn Yankees (Helen Hayes nomination), Passion Play: a cycle, South Pacific (Helen Hayes nomination), The Misanthrope, The Great White Hope, Guys and Dolls and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Earlier this season he played Sartorius in Widowers' Houses at Washington Stage Guild. Other D.C.-area venues include Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, Olney Theatre and Gala Hispanic Theatre. He is a member of Actors Arena, a two-time recipient and multiple nominee of the Helen Hayes Awards and a 2018 D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellow.
Susan Rome (Lady Bird Johnson) returns to Arena Stage after appearing in All the Way. D.C.-area credits include Hand to God (Studio Theatre); The Diary of Anne Frank (Olney Theatre); After the Revolution, Vanya and Sonia..., An Enemy of the People and Mud Blue Sky (Baltimore Center Stage); The Whale, Las Meninas and A Shayna Maidel (Rep Stage); Richard III, Macbeth and All's Well That Ends Well (Baltimore Shakespeare Festival); and associate artist-in-resident at Theater J where credits include The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, and others. Regional credits include The Substance of Fire (Mark Taper Forum) and The Legacy (Seattle's Centerstage). Film/TV credits include House of Cards, NYPD Blue, four seasons as DA Ilene Nathan on The Wire, A Dirty Shame and My One and Only. susanrome.com
John Scherer (Robert F. Kennedy) appeared at Arena Stage in All the Way, On the Town (Helen Hayes Award nomination) and Animal Crackers. Last season he appeared in Michael Kahn's production of Cloud 9 at Studio Theatre. At the Kennedy Center, he played Bertie Wooster in Andrew Lloyd Webber's By Jeeves, directed by Sir Alan Ayckbourn (Helen Hayes Award nomination). Broadway credits include By Jeeves, Sunset Boulevard and Lovemusik, directed by Harold Prince. He received the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for his performance in George M! at Goodspeed. Other regional credits include Goodman Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, Cleveland Play House, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Film/TV credits include Spinning into Butter, Crossing Jordan, The Shield, Law & Order (all three series) and Titus.
Stephen F. Schmidt (Senator Everett Dirksen/Deke DeLoach/Sheriff Jim Clark) returns to Arena Stage having previously performed in All the Way, Death of a Salesman, Noises Off, Damn Yankees and Guys and Dolls. At Ford's Theatre, where he is an associate artist, he has appeared in Ragtime, Violet, Hello Dolly! (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Ensemble) and 1776. Other D.C. appearances include The Producers, Triumph of Love, Stuff Happens and Crave (Olney Theatre); Urinetown (Signature Theatre, Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical); and Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka (the Kennedy Center, Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Musical). Stephen's screen work includes J. Edgar, My One and Only, La Bamba, House of Cards and The Wire.
Craig Wallace (Ralph Abernathy/Reverend Dobynes/Rep. Adam Clayton Powell) returns to Arena Stage after performing in All the Way, Hot 'n' Throbbing, All My Sons, K2 and The Great White Hope. His D.C. credits include performances at Ford's Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Folger Theatre and others. Regionally, he has performed at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Craig received his B.F.A. from Howard University and his M.F.A. from Pennsylvania State University.
Andrew Weems (Mayor Richard Daley/General Wheeler/Norman Morrison/Dr. Appel)'s Arena Stage credits include A Perfect Ganesh, What the Butler Saw and You Can't Take it With You. He recently appeared at Shakespeare Theatre Company in Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Favorite Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include Julie Taymor's The Green Bird, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Bach at Leipzig (NYTW); Troilus and Cressida directed by Sir Peter Hall, and Cymbeline and Pericles directed by Bartlett Sher (Theatre for a New Audience); A Man's a Man (Classic Stage Company) and Manahatta (The Public). Regional credits include The Guthrie, Center Stage, Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and others. Andrew is the author/performer of two solo plays Namaste Man (Intiman Theater, Boise Contemporary Theater, Two River) and I Really Want to Know You (BCT, Fourth Street Theater)
Tom Wiggin (Robert McNamara/Rep. Wilbur Mills/Stanley Levison/Seymore Trammel) an Alexandria native, last appeared at Arena Stage in All the Way and The City of Conversation. Other D.C. credits are Gus in The Intelligent Homosexuals's Guide... (Theater J) and Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song (MetroStage). Broadway credits include Grease, Bobbi Boland, Breakfast with Less and Bess and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (Lincoln Center). Off-Broadway credits include The Foreigner, Livin' Dolls and Class Enemy. Film credits include Diggers, Brother to Brother. Daytime TV credits include a 10-year run as Kirk Anderson on As the World Turns, and primetime TV credits include Mike in Breaking Away, Izzy and Moe (with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney), The Bronx Is Burning, Iron Jawed Angels, Law & Order and Person of Interest. He recently played Gen. Ash Mackey on Madam Secretary.
The creative team for The Great Society also includes, Wig Designer Anne Nesmith, Fight Director Joe Isenberg, Dialect Coach Mary Coy, Casting by Victor Vazquez and Geoff Josselson, Dramaturg Naysan Mojgani, Stage Manager Kurt Hall and Assistant Stage Manager Marne Anderson.
ABOUT: Robert Schenkkan's Tony Award-winning play All the Way set the stage for President Lyndon Baines Johnson's sudden ascent to the White House. In its D.C. premiere, The Great Society brings the second half of Schenkkan's epic story to its harrowing conclusion. As America is divided by civil rights protests and the anguish of the Vietnam War, LBJ struggles to maintain his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., keep his political opponents in check and complete a raft of impossibly ambitious social policy projects. Jack Willis reprises his "stunning performance" (Broadway World) in this political thrill ride that explores the America of our past to better understand the America of today.
Adam Walinsky/General Westmoreland/Colonel Al Lingo/Gardner Ackley: Elliott Bales
Bob Moses/Hosea Williams/Ronald Frye/Father Clements: Desmond Bing
Coretta Scott King/Sally Childress: Deonna Bouye
Stokely Carmichael/John Lewis: JaBen Early
James Bevel/Jimmie Lee Jackson: Gary-Kayi Fletcher
Governor George Wallace/Richard Nixon/Clark Clifford: Cameron Folmar
Pat Nixon/Waitress/Sheriff's Auxiliary: Megan Graves
J. Edgar Hoover: Richmond Hoxie
Hubert Humphrey: Lawrence Redmond
Lady Bird Johnson: Susan Rome
Robert F. Kennedy: John Scherer
Senator Everett Dirksen/Deke Deloach/Sheriff Jim Clark: Stephen F. Schmidt
Ralph Abernathy/Reverend Dobynes/Rep. Adam Clayton Powell: Craig Wallace
Mayor Richard Daley/General Wheeler/Norman Morrison/Dr. Appel: Andrew Weems
Robert McNamara/Rep. Wilbur Mills/Stanley Levison/Seymore Trammel: Tom Wiggin
President Lyndon Baines Johnson: Jack Willis
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Bowman Wright
Playwright: Robert Schenkkan
Director: Kyle Donnelly
Set Designer: Kate Edmunds
Costume Designer: Nan Cibula-Jenkins
Lighting Designer: Nancy Schertler
Original Music and Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Projection Designer: Aaron Rhyne
Wig Designer: Anne Nesmith
Fight Director: Joe Isenberg
Dialect Coach: Mary Coy
Casting: Victor Vazquez and Geoff Josselson
Dramaturg: Naysan Mojgani
Stage Manager: Kurt Hall
Assistant Stage Manager: Marne Anderson
TICKETS: Tickets for The Great Society are $50-99, subject to change and based on availability, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as pay-your-age tickets, student discounts, Southwest Nights and hero's discounts, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/single-tickets/savings-programs.