The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is bound for Broadway.
"All the Way," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Schenkkan's play about the early months of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency, opens at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York City on March 6, 2014.
OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch will direct, and Bryan Cranston — best known for his Emmy-winning lead role in the hit TV series "Breaking Bad" — will play LBJ.
"All the Way" was commissioned by OSF as part of its American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle and premiered at OSF in 2012. The production was directed by Rauch and starred OSF resident actor Jack Willis. This will be the first OSF-commissioned work to be produced on Broadway.
The play won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History last year.
"All the Way" recounts LBJ's political maneuvering to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through a hostile Congress while jockeying for the presidential nomination in that election year. The play portrays the distrust of LBJ by civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and Stokely Carmichael, as well as dramatizes the standoff between LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover.
"All the Way" had a sold-out run at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., this fall, with Rauch directing and Cranston playing LBJ.
Also reprising their ART roles are Michael McKean as J. Edgar Hoover and Brandon J. Dirden as Martin Luther King, Jr. Christopher Liam Moore from the OSF production plays Walter Jenkins.
The design team from OSF will continue for Broadway, with scenic design by Christopher Acebo, costumes by Deborah Dryden and lighting by Jane Cox. Paul James Prendergast is the sound designer and composer. Shawn Sagady is designing the video projections and is joined by Wendall K. Harrington.
"The space in the Neil Simon is very different," says Rauch. "The seating is almost double that of OSF's Bowmer Theatre, but, ironically, the stage with the proscenium arch is smaller. It means rethinking design elements. Also, Wendall has brought some wonderful new concepts for Shawn's projections."
Schenkkan says there are changes to the play since the OSF run.
"The shape of the play is the same," says Schenkkan. "But there was a revision prior to the ART production, during the run and since. We had a great cast in Ashland and then in Cambridge. New people raise new questions. They made me look at the play differently."
Rehearsals for the Broadway show begin Jan. 14 with previews starting Feb. 10.
Schenkkan's sequel to "All the Way," "The Great Society," opens in the Bowmer Theatre on July 23, 2014. Rauch again directs and Willis plays LBJ with much of the same cast as the 2012 predecessor.
"After the ART production of 'All the Way,' I restructured 'The Great Society,'" says Schenkkan. "They are very different plays tonally. 'All the Way' is a drama. 'The Great Society' is a tragedy. It was challenging and satisfying to go forward with new issues and new conflict."
American Revolutions is OSF's 10-year program (2008-2018) of commissioning up to 37 new plays sprung from moments of change in U.S. history. Bringing together artists, historians and institutions from around the country and mirroring the scope and scale of Shakespeare's history plays, American Revolutions is the largest commissioning and production project in OSF's 78-year history.
Other American Revolutions commissions seeing life outside Ashland include Naomi Wallace's "The Liquid Plain," to be staged in 2014 at Baltimore's Center Stage; "American Night: The Ballad of Juan José," by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash, which has had numerous productions throughout the nation, including California Shakespeare Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Denver Center Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre; and "Ghost Light," produced by Berkeley Repertory in 2012.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.