President Jimmy Carter Joins Arena Stage Audience on a Realistic Return to ‘Camp David’

It’s almost certainly as close to Camp David as I’m going to get.  Not only were we transported back 35 years to those “impossible” talks that tried to change our world — the very man that led them was sitting just a few feet away.

Camp David
Photo by Teresa Wood

It was a roll call of the Who’s Who of Washington Thursday night at Arena Stage, as Chris MatthewsGarrett GraffNancy PelvosiSally Quinn, Bob Schieffer, Jim LehrerEleanor Holmes NortonKitty KellyJudy Woodruff, Jim MoranAndrea Mitchell, and so many more (in no particular order other than the order I spotted them…) took a few hours to take in a play.  But not just any play.  A play that made history in so many ways.

President Jimmy Carter, and wife Rosalynn (as well as Jehan Sadat), were in the audience for the world-premiere of Camp David, a historical drama about their lives; the first time a President has attended the opening of a theatrical production about events that happened while he was in office… and without pre-reading the script (according to Arena Stage’s Molly Smith).

Camp David
Photo by Teresa Wood

What it must be like to sit in a theatre audience and watch a performance based on you, and events in your life, that have truly made history… surreal, I’m sure.  And Carter looked like he was enjoying every minute of it.

Camp David is based on true events surrounding the 1978 Camp David Accords, the 13 day meeting between President Jimmy Carter, Isreali Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as they attempted to forge an agreement for peace in the Middle East: a trying task with some trying personalities to get over a lot of trying history.

The four person play — because Rosalynn Carter certainly does her part to move the men along! — features a cast of notable actors (Tony Award nominee Hallie Foote (Rosalind), Egyptian actor/activist Khlaed Nabawy (Sadat), Tony Award winner Ron Rifkin (Begin) and Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas (Carter) and a script by Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright.

“To produce a play about a Jew, an Arab and a born again christian making peace in the middle east, what was I thinking?,” laughed Wright at the post-show reception.  “This wouldn’t have happened if one great man had not defied the odds and made the peace that has endured for years. So I want to say — he’s [Carter’s] not here, he’s left, he was crying, which I’ve never seen before — my dear friend Jimmy, Mr. President and the lovely Rosalind, Mrs. Carter, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Camp David is part of Arena’s American President’s Project (remember Mary T, and Lizzy K.?!) which helps students, students of history, fans of the theatre, and everyone interested in our country’s narrative to learn more about the lives and legacies of our Presidents and their families.

Camp David runs through May 4th in Arena Stage’s Kreeger Theatre.

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