A play that premiered in Ashland has won the Tony Award for best play.
All the Way was written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bill Rauch, also artistic director for Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Starring Bryan Cranston, the play focuses on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first year in office and explores both his fight for re-election and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
All the Way made its debut at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and then jumped to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In May, Rauch talked with OPB’s April Baer about the challenges and rewards of directing All the Way.
“I’m the artistic director of a language-based theater and it all starts with the words,” Rauch said on State of Wonder. “Robert Schenkkan has just written an amazing play and LBJ was in real life such an incredibly colorful character. He’s a truly Shakespearean character and Robert really captures that. For me, it was really just helping the actors to bite into that language.”
Rauch also spoke about actors Jack Willis, who premiered the role of LBJ at OSF, and Bryan Cranston, who stars in the Broadway version.
“Bryan Cranston is a great actor who is a celebrity and that’s a very happy combination,” said Rauch. “Bryan brings a lot of the ferocity and intelligence and he is a very funny LBJ.”
Rauch credits Willis for his role in the play’s success.
“The play would not be enjoying any of its success without Jack Willis, and I cannot say enough about that,” said Rauch. “Jack is one of the great American actors.” Willis will perform the role of LBJ in the sequel to All the Way, called The Great Society, which is scheduled to open at OSF later this summer.
“I’m certainly grateful that there is a play that OSF commissioned and developed through a program that we created — American Revolutions looking at moments of change in United States history — so to have a play that we developed out of a program that we created performing on Broadway in a 1,445-seat theater is amazing,” said Rauch.
AP contributed to this report.