‘The Originalist’ Returns to Arena Stage, Sparks Renewed Conversation

The OriginalistAs we wrote the first time it played in Washington, playwright John Strand’s “The Originalist,” is theater unequivocally of Washington, by Washington, for Washington… to borrow President Lincoln’s famous expression.  But to be sure, it will be fascinating to watch this one under a dramatically different political climate this time around.

Returning to Arena Stage July 7-30th — though restaged this time at the larger Kreeger Theatre — this play, set in and around the nation’s capital in 2012 and 2013, centers around the divisive and controversial Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (brilliantly played by four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Edward Gero) as he broods over and prepares his dissenting opinion in United States v. Windsor (the landmark case that struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act).

Gero reprises his role this time around, but he’s not brooding and drafting alone. His spunky new law clerk– self-lores_originalist_04described “flaming liberal” and Harvard Law graduate Cat (performed this time by Jade Wheeler)– is determined to, if not move Justice Scalia on policy issues, understand and learn from this puzzling “monster” of a man who has made the US Constitution into a veritable monument.  While she wonders if he has a heart; and he wonders if her soul will be saved; the audience finds itself (unusually) rooting for both sides of the aisle on this one.

Smart, funny, moving, and profound, anyone who’s been in DC (or watched its political theatrics) for even the briefest time can find something to love in this production.

The Originalist received its world premiere at Arena Stage in 2015, where it was extended twice due to popular demand. It returns to Washington, DC following celebrated productions in Sarasota, Florida and Pasadena, California, and following the DC run will move to Chicago’s Court Theatre.  It was originally commissioned as part of Arena Stage’s Power Plays initiative, which focuses on stories of politics and power.

lores_originalist_11And new this time around, Arena Stage will host special post-show conversations with notable guest panelists during the run of the critically-acclaimed political drama. The conversations will bring together guests with expertise on Justice Scalia and the Supreme Court, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, NPR’s Nina Totenberg; The Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin; former Congressmen Tom Davis (R-VA) and Martin Frost (D-TX); Georgetown Law Professor Lawrence Solum; and former Political Science Professor Joe DiGangi, a member of the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Post-Show Conversations 

Wednesday, July 19, following the 7:30 p.m. performance

  • Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio
  • Former Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), author of The Partisan Divide
  • Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal
  • Playwright John Strand
  • Actor Edward Gero

Saturday, July 22, following the 8:00 p.m. performance

  • Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court
  • Artistic Director Molly Smith

Tuesday, July 25, following the 7:30 p.m. performance

  • Lawrence Solum, law professor and originalism scholar at Georgetown Law
  • Playwright John Strand
  • Actor Edward Gero

Thursday, July 27, following the 8:00 p.m. performance

  • Former Congressman Martin Frost (D-TX)
  • Joe DiGangi, former political science professor, member of the Supreme Court Historical Society
  • Playwright John Strand
  • Actor Edward Gero

Tickets to this production and discussions are still available here.

*This post includes review information previously published on K Street Magazine by Jordana Merran. 

**Images credit Gary W. Sweetman, Asolo Repertory Theatre.

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