How Zach Theatre tackled LBJ and ‘The Great Society’



Steve Vinovich as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan’s “All the Way” at Zach Theatre. Vinovich also plays the late president in the second outing, “The Great Society.” Contributed by Kirk Tuck

It is clear that no couple has made a greater impact on Central Texas over the long run than Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.

From his role in taming in the Colorado River to his scores of national triumphs and tragedies — that reverberated back home — LBJ looms large in local memory. From her environmentalism to her wide-ranging philanthropy, Lady Bird also helped shape this city and its ways of thinking.

With that in mind, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, who grew up in LBJ’s long Austin shadow, wrote a two-part stage epic about the president. The first installment, “All the Way,” won Tony Awards on Broadway for Schenkkan and for star Bryan Cranston before receiving lauded treatment on HBO.

In 2015, Zach Theatre produced a critically acclaimed version of “All the Way” with actor Steve Vinovich, Cranston’s Broadway understudy, in the lead role. He returns under the direction of Dave Steakley in the second part, “The Great Society,” which begins previews on Jan. 25.

We sat down with Steakley at a South Austin coffee shop to discuss the great, flawed man and his permanent influence on Austin. …

We’re starting to bring the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This is part of  story about Zach Theatre’s rendition of “The Great Society.”

RELATED REVIEW: “The Great Society” speaks powerfully to today through the politics of yesterday.

Author: Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes writes about Austin's people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman and

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