Robert Schenkkan: All the way from Ashland to Broadway

Robert Schenkkan’s ALL THE WAY, the first half of a two part epic about President Lyndon Baines Johnson which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012, went on to a sold out production at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre, and won the Kennedy Theater Prize, is now headed for the largest and most unforgiving audience on earth: Broadway.

The New York version, as the previous two, will be directed by OSF’s Bill Rauch.

Commissioned as part of OSF’s The United States History Cycle: American Revolutions, ALL THE WAY is a brilliant example of the kind of new work Oregon’s flagship theatre company is uniquely positioned to undertake. As the largest repertory theatre in America hidden away in Southern Oregon’s idyllic Rogue Valley, OSF can commission big new plays and bring them to life in a supportive environment for artists. Audiences can look forward to THE GREAT SOCIETY, the second part of Schenkkan’s massive historical project, in July 2014.

With OSF’s firepower at the ready, creating great new works for the theatre is mainly about picking a good writer and getting out of the way. In Schenkkan’s case, they’ve got a great one. You’d think a place like OSF would have little trouble cranking out one new showpiece after another for the American canon. But as anyone who has seen a new play in Ashland recently knows, more often that not world premieres down south are weak at best and seem unlikely to last very long.

Thankfully, along with the cast of currently fashionable writers under commission at OSF, there are a few in the house who are the real deal. Bill Cain, Lynn Nottage, and Schenkkan himself come to mind.

If all goes well, we can look forward to more modern masterpieces from these playwrights soon.