Playwright Robert Schenkkan, Director Bill Rausch, Dramaturge Tom Bryant
Crafton Hills College Professor is Dramaturge to Tony-nominated All the Way
By RACHAEL M. GUSTUSON
It may not be Breaking Bad but the new historical play All the Way starring Bryan Cranston hit Broadway for a limited run after receiving rave reviews at the Loeb Drama Center at the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge. All the Way, about Lyndon B. Johnson and the political turmoil that took place in 1963-64, just received Tony nominations for Best Play and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play.
Head of Crafton Hills College Theatre Department Tom Bryant is part of the accomplished creative team behind All the Way. Bryant, who has been at CHC for nine years, is the dramaturge for the play.
Bryant explained what a dramaturge is; "It's similar to an editor in books but different.”
Bryant said a dramaturge involves a lot of research, troubleshooting dramatic problems, working with the director and playwright and finally taking it to production and helping focus production decisions. "It's really two parts," said Bryant. "First, it involves work on the development and act of writing, and second, it is helping the director and playwright get the best possible effects from the play."
Bryant's relationship with All the Way playwright Robert Schenkkan began a few years back at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles for the production of Kentucky Cycle, which ended up a Broadway hit. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play that was three years in the making forged a friendship between Bryant and Schenkkan. This is the second project the pair has collaborated on.
"Director of All the Way Bill Rausch had an idea," said Bryant. "He wanted to do the equivalent of Shakespeare history plays- i.e., create a body of work that reflected American history in the same way that Shakespeare reflected English history. So he started to commission a series of plays under a grant called the American Revolutions Project."
The American Revolutions Project highlights key moments in American history and dramatizes those moments.
"About three years ago, Robert brought me aboard," said Bryant. And Bryant got busy researching the history.
"Dramatizing history is a difficult problem," said Bryant. "Sometimes history cooperates with you and sometimes it doesn't. It's sometimes wonderfully dramatic and sometimes just endless, boring details.
You're searching for the most dramatizing nuggets, things that would translate into scenes and plot lines."
Schenkkan chose to focus on the year 1964. LBJ took office in November 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Johnson had a tough year, in addition to the political challenges faced with finishing Kennedy's term he was faced with running on his own. "In that period he managed to pass the 1964 Civil Rights bill, against the will of most southern politicians and most conservative politicians," said Bryant. "He was an arm twister, manipulator and former senate majority leader.
The central irony that became Schenkkan’s theme was means and ends. You use less than honest means to achieve an extremely noble goal: the passage of the Civil Rights bill," said Bryant.
"It's a real triumph," said Bryant of the play. "We're looking for it to cast a light on what is happening in America today."
"The story is about the rise of a king, in our case a president, and the falling," said Bryant. "It's major work telling the story of a very crucial time."
You can find more information and tickets at All The Way Broadway.