Seattle Repertory Theatre is planning a big date with the legacy of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson next season.
In a partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), the Rep will bring to its Bagley Wright Theatre mainstage both plays in Seattle dramatist Robert Schenkkan’s much-anticipated two-part series of docudramas about the tumultuous presidency of LBJ, who occupied the White House from 1963-69.
Also in the works for the 2014-15 Rep season are new, revived and local premiere plays designed to attract a cross-generational audience to Seattle’s flagship resident playhouse.
“This is one of my favorite seasons since I’ve been here,” says Jerry Manning, the theater’s artistic director since 2008, and a Rep staffer since 2001. “I’m very excited about how focused it’s going to be on new works, including things we’ve commissioned and helped to develop.”
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Sure to attract buzz are the Schenkkan plays.
“All the Way,” about Johnson’s challenging, nation-changing first year in office in the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination, will play the Rep from Nov. 14 to Dec. 23, 2014. It was originally commissioned by OSF and first staged at the Ashland fest by artistic director Bill Rauch.
“All the Way” (recipient of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, and the first Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama) is now running on Broadway, in Rauch’s well-received mounting that stars Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston as LBJ. At Seattle Rep, Jack Willis (who originated the role at OSF) will play Johnson.
Seattle Rep commissioned and will also present, in overlapping repertory with “All the Way,” the second play in the series, “The Great Society.” It depicts Johnson’s fight to enact such federal War on Poverty programs as Medicare, and his escalation of the Vietnam War — which tarnished and derailed his presidency.
“The Great Society’s” world production will open at OSF this summer, then come to the Rep (with Willis again in the lead) for a Dec. 5, 2014-Jan. 4, 2015 run.
“Working this out logistically with OSF is sort of like planning the Normandy invasion,” jokes Manning. “But we’re thrilled to be the first theater to present both plays in the same season.” (Patrons will be able to attend the two plays on separate nights, or see both in selected “marathon” performances.)
The world premiere of the Rep-commissioned black comedy “The Comparables” is also on the Bagley Wright docket (March 6-29, 2015). Written by Laura Schellhardt (“The K of D”), and staged by Rep associate artistic director Braden Abraham, the play focuses on an agency of competitive female real-estate agents hawking pricey properties. “It’s sort of like an upscale ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ in high heels,” says Manning.
Also new and coming up: the debut of the Rep-commissioned “Lizard Boy,” an original rock opera written, composed and performed by Seattle stage artist Justin Huertas, about a gay youth with lizard skin, who may be a superhero. (Runs March 27-April 26, 2015 in the Rep’s Leo K. Theatre.)
Also coming to the Bagley Wright: the late Seattle playwright August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, Depression-era drama “The Piano Lesson,” directed by Tim Bond (Jan. 16-Feb. 8, 2015); and the Seattle premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s new romantic comedy, “Outside Mullingar,” about a pair of “lovelorn Irish singletons” (April 24-May 17, 2015).
The Leo K. lineup also includes the hit Off Broadway cabaret musical “The Vaudevillians” starring Seattle’s own Jinkx Monsoon (Jerick Hoffer) and Major Scales (Richard Andriessen) and running Oct. 3-Nov. 2, 2014; and “Dear Elizabeth,” Sarah Ruhl’s piece composed of a selection of letters between celebrated American poets and longtime friends Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (Feb. 6-Mar. 8, 2015).
Info and subscriptions: 206-443-2222 or seattlerep.org.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org