Tony-winning Seattle writer is already back at work on next play
A talk with Seattle playwright Robert Schenkkan, who won the Tony Award for best play on June 8 for his historical drama, “All the Way.” He’s back at work on the sequel, “The Great Society,” which debuts at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July.
The Seattle Times
What do you do after your play wins a coveted Tony Award, and you thank everyone you can think of on national TV?
Seattle playwright and screenwriter Robert Schenkkan celebrated his Tony win Sunday for the LBJ drama “All the Way” by heading backstage for pictures, schmoozing with the play’s Broadway star, Bryan Cranston (who also had just bagged a Tony for his performance in the play) and enjoying the company of son Joshua (a new Brown University graduate) and daughter Sarah (an aspiring actress).
“We went out and shut the town down. At 3 a.m. the restaurant had to get rid of us, because they wanted to close,” Schenkkan recalled happily from Ashland, Ore., where he is working on “The Great Society,” the Seattle Repertory Theatre-commissioned sequel to “All the Way.” It premieres at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July, then plays in repertory at Seattle Rep with “All the Way” this winter.
Said Schenkkan, “This is very special, my second trip to the Tonys.” His first was two decades ago, when his “The Kentucky Cycle” was nominated but lost to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America: Perestroika.”
“It meant a lot to me that the New York political community and the Broadway theater community embraced this play so fully. It was a homecoming, of sorts.”
Now he’s back to work, overhauling the latest draft of “The Great Society” (about Johnson’s landmark poverty programs and the U.S. war in Vietnam), which debuts in Ashland on July 27.
With “All the Way” recouping its entire investment on Broadway, and about to be published by Grove Atlantic press, there’s already chatter about the follow-up — which may, or may not, star Cranston if it comes to Broadway after its Seattle and Ashland runs.
Those regional productions will feature veteran Broadway and OSF actor Jack Willis as Johnson.
“There’s tremendous interest,” Schenkkan says. “I just gave (New York producer) Jeffrey Richards a copy of ‘The Great Society,’ which was my Tony night present to him. But there’s still a tremendous amount of work for me to do on the script, because it evolves in rehearsal and over time.”
Some of that work will happen later in Seattle, where Schenkkan will finally get some time in his Madison Valley home. “That will be nice. It’s been a while. I love the fall in Seattle, and I haven’t seen my house in a long time.”
Other tidbits of local interest from the Tony Awards ceremony:
• When his Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” won a Tony, director Kenny Leonmade an impassioned acceptance speech in which he acknowledged regional theaters for producing excellent work. One of those he named was the Seattle Rep, where Leon directed August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” in 2006.
• A memorial reel marking the deaths over the past year of important theater people included a photo and mention of Clayton Corzatte, a past Tony nominee and a beloved Seattle actor. Disappointingly, the memorial segment (which paid tribute to Julie Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini and others) was not seen on the Tony broadcast, but only by the show’s live audience in Radio City Music Hall. You can watch a video of it at www.tonyawards.com; search for “in memoriam.”
Misha Berson: email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published June 10, 2014, was corrected June 11, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Robert Schenkkan was last nominated for a Tony a decade ago. It was in 1994.