A conversation with ‘Building the Wall’ writer Robert Schenkkan on the urgency of today’s political crisis
April 17, 2017
Playwright Robert Schenkkan's new work, "Building the Wall," is a hot-take play that depicts what could unfold after a terror attack in Times Square encourages President Trump to declare martial law and imprison more and more immigrants and suspects until his private prison system morphs into Nazi-style death camps. It's a metaphor for how America increasingly allows fear to overshadow public policy — and how President Trump masterfully exploits it. The play will have an off-Broadway run beginning in May. With the production nearing, I called the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer as part of a larger story on why Trump inspires artists more than other presidents, but our discussion touched on topics so vital to our democracy that I wanted to make it available. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation so blistering, so intelligent, so exciting that it could only have occurred in the New York Daily News. To read more, click here.
President Trump may have art on his funding hit list — but his antics sure inspire it
April 17, 2017
President Trump doesn't want to fund the arts — but he’s certainly inspiring plenty of it. Even as the Trump administration's first budget proposal includes not a dime for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, there's no shortage of art aimed squarely at the 45th President. The very long list begins and ends with Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan "hot-take" of a show, "Building the Wall," which will mount a just-announced off-Broadway run in New York May 12 through July 9 after successful performances in Los Angeles and Denver. To read more, click here.
Pulitzer Winner’s Trump Play Is to Come to New York
Review Robert Schenkkan's 'Building the Wall,' set in Trump's America, imagines the unimaginable
March 20, 2017
How does darkness overtake a nation? The philosopher Hannah Arendt took up the subject in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” which investigated the mystery of how ordinary Germans transformed into murderous Nazis. The face of evil, Arendt discovered, wasn’t a demon lurking in the cellar but the factory supervisor in the nice house across the street. Those carrying out the orders that led to the extermination of millions of Jews along with other marginalized groups became part of the bureaucracy of genocide. This startling and still controversial insight — that the Holocaust was executed not by sadists but by conformist clerks and self-interested middle managers — inspired the famous subtitle of Arendt’s book: “A Report on the Banality of Evil.”Robert Schenkkan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (“The Kentucky Cycle”) who co-wrote the screenplay for “Hacksaw Ridge,” has a new play that explores the concept of the banality of evil in our own backyard. “Building the Wall,” which opened Saturday at the Fountain Theatre, imagines the unimaginable happening in Trump’s America. To read more, click here.
New Play Brings Trump Campaign Rhetoric to Life
March 15, 2017
It was in the midst of the presidential debates of 2016, and Robert Schenkkan was alarmed. Though both the pundits and the polls seemed to assure that Hillary Clinton would soon become the 45th president of the United States, the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist felt that the rabidly racist, anti-immigrant cant that spewed from the mouth of the Republican nominee had already brought familiar if discredited ideologies, supposedly long ago settled by war and safely consigned to the past, harrowingly close to the highest office in the land. So Schenkkan, perhaps best known for The Kentucky Cycle, his epic nine-play saga of three Appalachian families’ violent and avaricious quest for the American Dream, sat down to write. One week later, he had the first draft of Building the Wall. The playwright believed that his taut political suspense drama, which fast-forwards Trump’s immigration policy of mass arrests and deportations to the incarceration of several million detainees, would be merely a dark cautionary tale of dystopian fiction, a national bullet narrowly averted. With November’s electoral upset, however, Schenkkan’s speculative chiller had suddenly taken a leap towards becoming real. To read more, click here.
Robert Schenkkan’s Protest: A Portable ‘Wall’
March 8, 2017
How do you write a play about the Trump presidency when real events threaten to change the script seemingly daily, even hourly? In Robert Schenkkan’s case, the answer is: Get very angry and write very quickly. The National New Play Network’s rolling premiere of Schenkkan’s Building the Wall opens March 18 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, the same day the two-character play will be published in hardback. Productions are also scheduled for Curious Theatre Company in Denver and Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Ariz. Set in 2019, Building the Wall finds a writer interviewing the supervisor of a private prison who’s been prosecuted for carrying out Trump’s federal policies surrounding immigration and deportation. American Theatre spoke to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Kentucky Cycle and All the Way. To read more, click here.
Stories of Scalia, Simone and Lyndon Johnson in Arena Stages next season
March 8, 2017
The Great Society, Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to his enormously successful All the Way, will run between February 2 and March 18 of next year. In The Great Society, the wily, larger-than-life Lyndon B. Johnson simultaneously tries to prosecute an unpopular war and advance a historic social program while running a racially fraught nation. “[The Great Society is] impressive in its scope, surprisingly energetic and shines a bright, clear light on a pivotal moment in American history, as postwar optimism began to dim, as cracks in the polity became ever more apparent,” Charles Isherwood of the New York Times said. “I came away more impressed than I was with ‘All the Way’ — and, ultimately, more moved.” Kyle Donnelly, who direct All the Way at Arena last year, will direct this year, and Jack Willis returns as Lyndon Johnson. To read more, click here.
Pulitzer Prize-winning UT alum uses writing as a force for change
March 4, 2017
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Robert Schenkkan said he depends on the pen when the sword fails, and called on writers to use their words as a force for change. Schenkkan touched on issues relating to freedom of press, refugees and climate change, and said he felt it was his responsibility to make them known in a lecture hosted by Plan II Thursday. “I have never felt the urgency … that I feel today,” Schenkkan said. “As an artist, I had to act. I had to act now.” To read more, click here.
Oscar Winners ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ ‘Manchester’ Soar to Top of Disc Charts
March 4, 2017
Two Academy Award winners – and Best Picture nominees – were released on disc by Lionsgate just before the Oscars and promptly vaulted to the top of the national home video sales charts the week ended Feb. 26. “Hacksaw Ridge,” the Mel Gibson-directed biopic of a pacifist war medic that won Oscars for Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, debuted at No. 1 on both the NPD VideoScan overall disc sales chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales, and NPD’s dedicated Blu-ray Disc Sales chart. To read more, click here.
"Hacksaw Ridge" wins Oscar for sound mixing!
February 28, 2017
Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace win for "Hacksaw Ridge.”
Other nominees include:
Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye, “Arrival” w
Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow, “La La Land”
David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth, “13 Hours"