Photo Flash: In Rehearsal with Arena Stage's 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.
Arena Stage Executive Director Edgar Dobie, Jack Willis (President Lyndon Baines Johnson) and Bowman Wright (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) at the first rehearsal of The Great Society running February 2-March 11, 2018 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
Cameron Folmar (Governor George Wallace/Richard Nixon/Clark Clifford) and JaBen Early (Stokely Carmichael/John Lewis) at the first rehearsal of The Great Society running February 2-March 11, 2018 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
Andrew Weems (Mayor Richard Daley/General Wheeler/Norman Morrison/Dr. Appel), Richmond Hoxie (J. Edgar Hoover), Susan Rome (Lady Bird Johnson) and Tom Wiggin (Robert McNamara/Rep. Wilbur Mills/Stanley Levison/Seymore Trammel) at the first rehearsal of The Great Society running February 2-March 11, 2018 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
John Scherer (Robert F. Kennedy) and Desmond Bing (Bob Moses/Hosea Williams/Ronald Frye/Father Clements) at the first rehearsal of The Great Society running February 2-March 11, 2018 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
Megan Graves (Pat Nixon/Waitress/Sheriffâ€™s Auxiliary), Gary-Kayi Fletcher (James Bevel/Jimmie Lee Jackson) and Elliott Bales (Adam Walinsky) at the first rehearsal of The Great Society running February 2-March 11, 2018 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.
Cast and creative team at the first rehearsal of The Great Society running February 2-March 11, 2018 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.