New Play about Robert F. Kennedy
L.A. Theatre Works, a California company that presents, records, broadcasts and tours old-fashioned radio-theater productions of worthy plays, has just birthed a drama about Robert F. Kennedy and the evolution of his interest in civil rights. Titled “RFK: The Journey to Justice,” and written by Murray Horwitz (who co-created the Broadway hit “Ain’t Misbehavin’”) and Jonathan Estrin, the show made its debut about 10 days ago at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. It’s now touring the country
I interviewed the playwrights, the producer and a couple of the actors for an article that ran on Sunday in the Washington Post. But for space reasons I didn’t have a chance to explain fully how timely the play’s creators think it is. (I was one-year-old when RFK died, so working on this article was very educational for me.) A number of the interviewees drew clear RFK/Obama parallels.
“The excitement generated, and the hope represented, by Robert Kennedy in his own political career, after his own brother’s death, felt to us very parallel to, and reminiscent of, the effect that Obama’s candidacy had on so many people, emotionally in this just recent past,” Estrin told me.
Susan Albert Loewenberg, L.A. Theatre Works’s Producing Director, said that the tale of RFK’s political career is “instructive when we think about leadership today, and think about the courage to change the status quo, and think how difficult it is. If you’re watching [Obama] struggling with his healthcare bill—it’s the same thing! When you’re trying to fundamentally change a policy, it’s really hard!”
Harvard-educated actor Henry Clarke, who portrays the drama’s title character, said that while he doesn’t see a 1-to-1 correlation between Obama and RFK, the political and national context is similar. “There are still tangible things that divide us as a country, and we still look to political figures, for better or worse, to help to heal some of those divisions.” And what is more, “We still react very, very strongly when people point out those divisions, or try to heal them.” (Yes, “very, very strongly” sounds right.)
Anyone interested in the play can consult this tour schedule, to see where the live production will be performing. The show will be broadcast and recorded when the production returns to L.A. in March. You can buy plays recorded by L.A. Theatre Works (they often cast very big-name actors). I’d guess that this play will hit their virtual bookstore at some point.