LBJ and MLK: Connected in life and death



MLK and LBJ in the White House.

The following post was written by David Domke, professor and chair for the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. Domke studies political leadership, news coverage, and social change, with particular interest in the dynamics of post-9/11 America. 

Lyndon Baines Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. are intertwined in American history. We can’t understand the impact of one of them on US politics and society without recognizing the contribution of the other.

That’s why they are the focal points of All the Way and The Great Society, showing at the Rep through early January. And that’s why they are the centerpieces of a lecture series I am doing in January and February, titled Marching to Selma: How MLK, LBJ, and the Civil Rights Movement Changed the World. The plays and lectures will lead us to the eve of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

On the one hand LBJ and MLK were contrasts. LBJ was born dirt poor in the hill country of Texas, west of Austin, as the son of a politician and went to college at Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College. MLK was born into relative comfort in Atlanta, the son of a revered minister, and went to prestigious Morehouse College and eventually earned his PhD at Boston University. LBJ sought power and upon achieving it gained a platform to help disenfranchised people; MLK sought to elevate the disenfranchised and as a result gained a platform of great power and influence. Most importantly for their era, one was white and one was black.


What Did You Think of All the Way?

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Accidental president. Brilliant politician. Flawed man. Pictured: Jack Willis. Photo: Jenny Graham.

We want to know! Tell us what you thought of Robert Schenkkan’s epic drama All the Way.

Think & Drink with Robert Schenkkan

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Thinking & Drinking with Robert Schenkkan and Tonya Mosley!

Last night our friends at Humanities Washington hosted the second of two Think & Drink discussions with playwright Robert Schenkkan, moderated by Tonya Mosley, Journalist with Al Jazeera America, The Huffington Post and KUOW. The casual talk back took place at the Royal Room in Columbia City (the previous night was at Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in Greenwood).

The crowds gathered excited to learn more about the plays and the process, and Robert didn’t disappoint. Among the interesting tidbits we learned was that the Obamas did not see All the Way on Broadway but the Clintons and Nancy Pelosi did. After working on All the Way and The Great Society for almost five years, Robert still cannot say if he likes or does not like the former president—“it’s complicated” seems to be the only way to put it.


The Playwright Behind The President: Writing LBJ for the Stage

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Check out City Arts’ November feature on the LBJ plays:!

The following post was written by Marketing Intern Amelia Peacock.

We’re thrilled to present two plays by renowned Seattle playwright Robert Schenkkan chronicling Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency: Tony Award-winning All the Way, and its companion piece, The Great Society, commissioned by Seattle Rep.

LBJ was a 6’ 4” tall pillar of American history, effectively working across political aisles to pass many landmark pieces of legislation including the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Just as LBJ changed the face of American politics 50 years ago, Robert Schennkan’s plays revitalize American theatre today, introducing this pivotal, historical character to the stage and back into public conscientiousness.

Robert Schenkkan presents sides of LBJ the world has never seen before: the accidental president, the brilliant politician, the flawed man. While we prepare to participate in theatre history and meet the LBJ we never knew, here are a few facts about the playwright who wrote him into being.


Let’s Start the Conversation!


LBJ, Warren Magnuson, and others during the Seattle World’s Fair.

Happy Election Day! Make sure to get your ballot in the mail.

In the spirit of voting, politics, and our upcoming LBJ plays, All the Way (which starts next week!) and The Great Society, we’d like to remind you of two important, free community discussions taking place this week at Seattle Public Library.

Bryan Stevenson

Tonight, 7-8:30 p.m.

Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor of law at New York University Law School , Stevenson is a nationally renowned civil rights activist. Tonight he’ll read from his new book Just Mercy, an account of Stevenson’s work as founder of a legal practice dedicated to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.

Can’t make tonight’s discussion? Watch Stevenson’s TED Talk, “We need to talk about an injustice,” here.

LBJ’s Legacy in the Pacific Northwest

Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Hosted in collaboration with the Museum of History and Industry and Seattle Public Library, this panel discussion will reflect on the lasting legacies of LBJ era legislation in the Pacific Northwest. Panelists had direct ties to LBJ’s administration, were prominent politicians in Washington state during the 1960s, or worked for LBJ’s longtime U.S. Senate friend and collaborator, Warren G. Magnuson. Topics will include the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Vietnam War and the War on Poverty. Panelists include:

  • Daniel J. Evans, former governor of Washington state
  • Gerald Grinstein, former CEO of Delta Airlines and the Burlington Northern Railroad and former administrative assistant to U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson
  • Gary D. Gayton, attorney and a delegate to LBJ’s first White House Civil Rights Conference
  • Stanley H. Barer, chairman emeritus of Saltchuk Resources and former administrative assistant to U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson
  • Gerry Johnson, managing partner at Pacifica Law Group and former administrative assistant to U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson

Stay tuned for more opportunities to engage in the dialogue connected to LBJ’s legacy. We’ve created a full calendar of events here.

All the Way runs Nov. 4, 2014-Jan.4, 2015. For tickets and more information, please visit our website.

What’s in a Word, Exactly?

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Mary Todd Lincoln, and the ghostly apparition of her husband, posing for Mumler’s camera.

The following post was written by Artistic Literary Intern Eric Werner.

Summerland, by Arlitia Jones, is set in the very real world of Charles H. Mumler, a famous spirit photographer in 1869. While the world of the play is fascinating in its own right, Arlitia’s careful rendering of it on the page is a feat of theatrical magic.

As the Artistic Intern assigned to Summerland, I’ve seen firsthand the slow development of the script—at times broad rewrites to help the audience track a particular plot line, other times precise changes to keep our modern ears immersed in the parlance of 1869. These small changes go a long way toward keeping us in the world of the play—audiences are used to theatre using props and costumes to suggest a time era, but they are less attuned to the subliminal effects of language. After all, it is the smallest brush strokes that provide the sharpest detail.


Joyce Degenfelder: By the Numbers


Joyce Degenfelder in her shop! Photo by Amelia Peacock.

The following post was written by Marketing Intern Amelia Peacock.

I hesitate to say that I interviewed Joyce Degenfelder in her “office.” The word implies four walls, a desk, a chair, maybe a floor lamp, and a non-descript watercolor or two. But Joyce’s office is so much more than that – it is a workshop. It is a world!

Joyce’s space in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s costume shop is a spectacular homage to her profession and her talent. Wooden heads with wigs in various stages of completion stare down from rows and rows of shelves. My own face stares back at me from a giant mirror taking up most of the wall opposite the door. Joyce’s “desk” is a wooden vanity counter underneath the mirror and her “chair” is a large, red, barber-style seat. There are no floor lamps or watercolors to be seen, but there are papers and books galore and a work bench with clamps, wig mounts, bright lamps and yet another mirror. Although it is daunting to be faced by mirrors on all sides, Joyce’s space is nevertheless cozy and inviting. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, dropping down a long tunnel to find a whole other world at the bottom. I jumped when Joyce’s phone rang halfway through our interview because it seemed like an alien sound in such a fairytale setting.