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Interactions with A.R.T.’s All the Way

The American Repertory Theater currently is showing a production of Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, a dramatization of Lyndon B. Johnson’s  first year as President of the United States. Having been thrust into the Presidency, LBJ (played by Bryan Cranston) inherits what his predecessor had left behind including the mounting Civil Rights Movement.

A.R.T. offers those who frequent their website something more than directions, cast lists, bios, or ticket sale information (which is standing room only at this point). The website hosts a link to “My Story,” a selection of interviews from the A.R.T. community that tell the stories of those who remember 1963 America. An open invitation has been offered by the theater for others to post their stories onto their Facebook page, extending the play beyond the borders of the stage and reminding the audience of something that is incredibly simple, but just as easily forgotten: this happened.

That is not to say that what transpired/will transpire on stage is documentary. However, these interviews make what is being said on stage tangible. They show some of the faces that lived through LBJ’s presidency. “He was the right guy, at the right time. He knew all the right buttons to push,” says William Smith, one of those featured on the website. A lot of us are not in the “right time.” We’re here, and we’re now. Because of that, this play needs faces other than those of the storytellers.

The interviews are so incredibly simple. Taken in August 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the March On Washington, they subjects tell a story for two to eight minutes. They reach out to the audience, asking them to engage in some medium meant to inform their existing knowledge of that time period, and by extent the play. I have seen this tool (the interview) being used once before in Doerries’ Theater of War, a reinvention of Sophocles’ Ajax. It is powerful from an outside perspective to see how some can be effected by theater when those effect have a knowledge that others do not. The videos reach out to a broader spectrum of people, simply asking to watch, listen, and engage. The story site is a simple, effective dramaturgical tool to cast the net of interest as wide as it can, to help others engage with similar stories and to encourage others to become a part of the dialogue. That’s simply what A.R.T. has begun to create; a dialogue between people from different geographies, histories, economies, and generations.

This harks back to American Repertory Theater’s logo “Experience the A.R.T.” Experience the art. It is not a suggestion, not a request, but an imposition, a command, a manifesto. They ask that we, the audience, experience the theater, and this technique of presenting such powerful interviews is an extension of that experience.

All the Way is currently playing at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For tickets and further information, please visit the A.R.T. website.

One comment on “Interactions with A.R.T.’s All the Way

  1. […] Interactions with A.R.T.’s All the Way (dramalit.wordpress.com) […]

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