The Power in "All the Way" On Stage

Tania Thompson
 | Sep 06, 2016
Bo Foxworth and Hal Landon Jr.

Bo Foxworth and Hal Landon Jr.

How does the medium matter—stage or film—when it comes to storytelling? For two actors in SCR’s production of All the Way, it matters a lot.

Robert Schenkkan’s play All the Way has been a runaway success on stages across the country, including its award-winning production on Broadway. The story of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s year as an accidental president, during which he achieved passage of the Civil Rights Act through his own personal style of politicking, also is a popular HBO film.

In SCR’s production of All the Way, Hal Landon Jr. and Bo Foxworth are among the 18 actors who portray more than 60 characters. Fifteen of the actors—Landon and Foxworth included—juggle multiple characters as the action unfolds on one set that serves as dozens of different locations. These are the ingredients of how a great story is well told.

Both Landon and Foxworth also were in the HBO film, but the magic, says Foxworth, really happens in the Segerstrom Stage.

“The creative and collaborative spirit of this relatively small cast and crew bringing to life this epic story—that makes it unlike anything you could ever see on film and television,” he says.

Live theatre as a storytelling medium lets audience members feel like they actually are in the oval office with LBJ as he wrestles with the problems of passing of the Civil Rights Act or in Dr. Martin Luther King's living room as he attempts to arbitrate the differences that existed between the black leaders of the civil rights movement.

“Nothing can compare to the energy and connection of actors and audience,” says Foxworth.

Landon agrees, adding that “the immediacy of live performance has always been one of biggest advantages of going to the theatre. I've noticed from watching our rehearsals that this sense of immediacy is greatly enhanced by the fact we are watching events from recent history.”

The film version gave the actors a different experience around the same story.

“Of course it was a great thrill,” says Foxworth. “To portray such a fascinating and complex man as Robert McNamara was a great privilege. And to be able to work with such consummate professionals as Bryan Cranston, Bradley Whitford, director Jay Roach and playwright and screenwriter Robert Schenkkan was a great thrill.”

Foxworth says that, from an actor’s point of view, film has a subtlety where “the flicker of an eye can speak volumes and the ability to do a scene again and again until you get what you want, offers an incredible kind of freedom. Landon also says he loved being in the film.

But both men love the theatricality of All the Way.

“Our stage production of All The Way creates a theatre experience that will have audiences talking for days, especially in this current political environment,” says Foxworth.

In All the Way, Landon portrays Sen. Strom Thurmond, Sen. Everett Dirksen and a network television correspondent. Foxworth portrays Robert McNamara, Sen. James Eastland, Rep. William Moore McCulloch, Gov. Paul B. Johnson, a network correspondent and a barber.

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