If you missed Arena Stage’s 2015 production of The Originalist, about Antonin Scalia—or if you’re just missing the Supreme Court justice, who died in February—good news follows: The show is returning for two nights this summer to create an original cast recording, featuring DC actor Edward Gero as Scalia.
Tickets to the June 24 and 25 performances are by invitation only, but like Supreme Court oral arguments, the audio will be made available to the public. Arena Stage is collaborating with L.A. Theatre Works on the recording, which will be broadcast on NPR affiliates (including WAMU) and distributed with educational material to public high schools around the country.
The play, written by John Strand and directed by Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith, leans heavily on Joan Biskupic’s biography American Original in its portrayal of the bold, often polarizing Scalia. In the show, Scalia spars with a newly-hired liberal law clerk (Kerry Warren) during proceedings in US v. Windsor, the 2013 landmark case that ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages.
The performances will also be followed by a post-show discussion between NPR Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg several of Scalia’s former clerks.
Ahead of the original production last year, Gero, an award-winning Shakespearean actor, studied and met with Scalia, even striking up a bit of a friendship. (They went skeet shooting last June.) Gero’s performance was so convincing, that when Scalia died, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson‘s office and the Huffington Post both mistook publicity photos of Gero in character for the actual Scalia.
“It took my breath away as if it hit me right in the chest and pushed me back into my chair,” Gero told Washingtonian about hearing of Scalia’s death. “It’s a great loss.”
President Obama‘s nominee to fill the vacancy left by Scalia, DC Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, has been stuck in limbo with little hope of getting a confirmation hearing before the presidential election. But perhaps a permanent recording of a play about the bond between the conservative icon Scalia and a liberal law clerk can motivate the Senate to move on Garland before November. Arena Stage, under Smith’s direction, does not shy away from getting political. “When we first told people we were producing a play about Justice Scalia, they responded with dropped jaws,” Smith says in a press release. “This is a thoughtful play that challenges how we view ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ and works to find a political middle between them.”