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The Originalist

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The Originalist

Four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Edward Gero (Red) returns to Arena Stage as one of America’s most brilliant and polarizing figures: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. When a bright, liberal, Harvard Law School graduate embarks on a nerve-wracking clerkship with Justice Scalia, she discovers him to be both an infuriating sparring partner and an unexpected mentor. How will their relationship affect one of the most incendiary cases ever to reach the nation’s highest court? From Charles MacArthur Award winner John Strand (Lovers and Executioners) comes this daring new work about passionate people risking heart and soul to defend their version of the truth. This production will be performed in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle in an exciting new three-quarter thrust configuration.

John Strand


“He has intrigued me for a long time because he's kind of a lightning rod. Half the country thinks of him as a monster and half thinks of him as a hero. I love
to explore why that is. And how can you resist a character who's a brilliant jurist and also a showman at heart?” – JOHN STRAND

The Originalist is generously sponsored by Andrew R. Ammerman and John and Linda Derrick.


Edward GeroEDWARD GERO (Scalia) last appeared at Arena Stage as Mark Rothko in Red. He is a four-time Helen Hayes winner and 14-time nominee. Regional credits include Mark Rothko in Red at the Goodman Theatre; the title role of Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre; The Chosen at Theater J; Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly! at Ford's Theatre; American Buffalo, Shining City (Helen Hayes nomination) and Skylight (Helen Hayes Award) at Studio Theatre; and The Matchmaker at CenterStage. In 30 seasons with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, he's played 70 roles, including Helen Hayes-winning turns in Henry IV, Richard II and Macbeth. In New York he's appeared at South Street Theatre and Classic Stage Company. Film and TV credits include Die Hard 2, Striking Distance and narrations for Discovery Channel and PBS. He's an associate professor at George Mason Univ. and instructor at George Washington University's Academy for Classical Acting and University of Maryland.

Kerry WarrenKERRY WARREN (Cat) makes her Arena Stage debut in The Originalist. She recently closed The River on Broadway with Hugh Jackman as an understudy for The Woman. Her New York credits include Good Grief at Intar (Jessica), Black Hoodie (Carri) ESPA/Primary Stages Reading Series and Much Ado About Nothing (Hero) with the Mobile Unit at The Public directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah where her cast brought Shakespeare to all five boroughs including prisons, shelters, community centers and the Public Theater. Regionally, she has performed at CenterStage in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Cassandra) and Macbeth (Witch/Lady MacDuff/Gentlewoman) for Shakespeare at the Manor on Shelter Island. She is a recent graduate of the Juilliard School (Group 42) and was awarded the President Joseph W. Polisi Prize for 'Artist as Citizen'.

Harlan WorkHARLAN WORK (Brad) is excited to appear in his first full production at Arena Stage. Previous performances at Arena include workshops of Clarkston by Sam Hunter and The Age of Innocence by Karen Zacarías. Other Washington appearances include Rysiek in Our Class at Theater J, Delio in The Duchess of Malfi with We Happy Few and Sam/George in Charm at Taffety Punk. In New York he performed with The Drilling Company, Fundamental Theatre Co. and was a company member of Storm Theatre. Harlan holds a BA from Cornell University and an MFA from the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Academy for Classical Acting.


JOHN STRAND (Playwright) is a resident playwright with Arena Stage through the American Voices New Play Institute. His previous work at Arena Stage includes The Miser, an adaptation of the Moliére play set in Reagan-era America; Lovers and Executioners, winner of the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; and Tom Walker, also commissioned by Arena Stage. His recent work includes the book and lyrics for Hat! A Vaudeville, a new musical with a score by composer Dennis McCarthy (South Coast Repertory); Lincolnesque, a dark comedy about politics and madness in D.C. (The Old Globe, dir. by Joe Calarco); and Lorenzaccio, his adaptation of Alfred de Musset's 1834 French classic (Shakespeare Theatre Company, dir. by Michael Kahn). Strand is the author of the book for the musical The Highest Yellow, with a score by Michael John LaChiusa, (Signature Theatre, dir. by Eric Schaeffer). Additional plays are The Diaries (commissioned by Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); Otabenga, (Signature Theatre, dir. by Michael Kahn, MacArthur nomination); Three Nights in Tehran, a comedy about the Iran-Contra affair (Signature Theatre); and The Cockburn Rituals (Woolly Mammoth Theatre). Strand spent 10 years in Paris, where he worked as a journalist and drama critic, writing in English and French, and directed New York University's Experimental Theater Wing in Paris. His novel Commieland was published by Kiwai Media, Paris (2013).

MOLLY SMITH (Artistic Director) has served as Artistic Director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. since 1998. Her directing credits include Fiddler on the Roof, Camp David, Mother Courage and Her Children, Oklahoma!, A Moon for the Misbegotten, My Fair Lady, The Great White Hope, The Music Man, Orpheus Descending, Legacy of Light, The Women of Brewster Place, Cabaret, An American Daughter, South Pacific, Agamemnon and His Daughters, Coyote Builds North America, All My Sons and How I Learned to Drive at Arena Stage. Her directorial work has also been seen at the Shaw Festival in Canada, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Centaur Theatre in Montreal and Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, which she founded and ran from 1979-1998. Molly has been a leader in new play development for over 30 years. She is a great believer in first, second and third productions of new work and has championed projects like How I Learned to Drive; Passion Play, a cycle and Next to Normal. She has worked alongside playwrights Sarah Ruhl, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, Lawrence Wright, Karen Zacarías, John Murrell, Eric Coble, Charles Randolph-Wright and many others. She led the re-invention of Arena Stage, focusing on the architecture and creation of the Mead Center for American Theater and by positioning Arena Stage as a national center for American artists. During her time with the company, Arena Stage has workshopped more than 100 productions, produced 29 world premieres, staged numerous second and third productions and been an important part of nurturing seven projects that went on to have a life on Broadway. Molly recently made her Broadway debut directing The Velocity of Autumn, following its critically acclaimed run at Arena Stage in fall 2013. She was awarded honorary doctorates from American University and Towson University.

MISHA KACHMAN (Set Designer) has worked at The Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, Theater J, Opera Lafayette, Center Stage, The Wilma Theater, Milwaukee Shakespeare, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Skylight Music Theatre and Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, among many other companies in the United States and abroad. Misha is a Company Member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and a recipient of the 2013 Helen Hayes Award for his design of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Woolly. He is a native of Russia and a graduate of the Saint Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy. Misha serves as Associate Professor of Scene and Costume Design and Head of the MFA in Design Program at University of Maryland.

JOSEPH P. SALASOVICH (Costume Designer) is the Costume Director at Arena Stage, where he has worked for 15 seasons on over 100 productions. Last season Joe made his Arena Stage design debut with Mother Courage and Her Children. He has realized designs for Theoni Aldredge, Susan Benson, Linda Cho, Anne Hould-Ward, Toni-Leslie James, Willa Kim, Jess Goldstein, Martin Pakledinaz, Carrie Robbins, Ilona Somogyi, ESosa and Paul Tazewell, among others. In addition to his work at Arena Stage, Joe has served in various capacities in costume departments for the Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Virginia Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, NBC, HBO and Disney. His internships were with Williamstown Theatre Festival and Actor's Theatre of Louisville. Joe studied at the University of Dayton. Special thanks to Molly, Ted and the entire costume shop and crew. For Karen and Marjan.

COLIN K. BILLS (Lighting Designer) is pleased to return to Arena, where he recently lit Fiddler on the Roof. He is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company where he has designed over 35 productions, most recently Cherokee and Totalitarians. As a conspirator with the devising company dog & pony dc, he has collaborated in the writing, direction and design of A Killing Game, Beertown and Toast. His recent work includes Colossal at Olney Theatre Center where he is an Artistic Associate, Les Misérables at Dallas Theatre Center and Così fan tutte at Opéra Royal de Versailles. Colin has won three Helen Hayes Awards and a Princess Grace Fellowship in Theater. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

ERIC SHIMELONIS (Composer) returns to Arena after having composed music for Orpheus Descending and Anna Christie. Other recent productions include Marie Antoinette at Woolly Mammoth (Helen Hayes Award nomination), Julius Caesar and Richard III at the Folger, Fool for Love at Roundhouse, Grounded at Everyman and Olney and Never the Sinner at 1st Stage (Helen Hayes Award). Eric will be performing onstage in the upcoming Uncle Vanya at Roundhouse, and he is in the process of composing his fist full opera/musical Loved and Lost. Eric is an educational writer and director for the Washington Bach Consort, a recent member of the faculty at the University of Maryland and resident composer with NYC's Voice Of The City Ensemble, with whom he had a sold-out Carnegie Hall debut starring F. Murray Abraham singing his song cycle Elusive Things.

SUSAN R. WHITE (Stage Manager) is thrilled to be a part of Arena's 65th season and to be working, once again, with Molly Smith. Susan is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association.

Photo Gallery

In the news

Jason Fraley
You know him as Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre. You may also recognize him as the Republican Senate Whip in season 2 of House of Cards. Now, actor Edward Gero is playing an entirely different role as sitting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the new play The Originalist, which runs at Arena Stage now through April 26… Read more

The New York Times
Adam Liptak
In December, after more than a year of research and reflection, Edward Gero went to see an argument at the Supreme Court. He was in the final stages of preparing to portray Justice Antonin Scalia onstage, and it was time to see his subject in his element. Mr. Gero, a seasoned actor steeped in Shakespeare, felt right at home. “The level of listening in that room was astonishing,” he said. “The only thing analogous to that is being in a theater with a good show.” And Justice Scalia, who dominates Supreme Court arguments with probing questions laced with sarcasm, gave a fine performance… Read more

Washington Post
Nelson Pressley
In the case of Scalia v. Gero, Antonin Scalia stared down Edward Gero as the actor visited the Supreme Court to observe the justice at work. “We locked eyes for about 15 seconds,” says Gero, currently playing Scalia in John Strand's new drama The Originalist at Arena Stage… Read more

Richard Harris
Last month, veteran Washington actor Edward Gero sat in on the Supreme Court's oral arguments, a notepad on his lap. He watched the nine justices enter the courtroom from behind velvet drapes shortly after 10 a.m. But Gero had his eyes trained on one person in particular: Antonin Scalia… Read more

Rachel Martin
Drama, suspense, monologues, arguments – what could be more theatrical than the U.S. Supreme Court? A new play called The Originalist takes a look at one of its real-life stars – Justice Antonin Scalia… Learn more

The Economist
Near the start of The Originalist, a new play about Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, the judge is shown boasting that he could beat any liberal at poker, not least President Barack Obama. In card games as in life, left-wingers “lack ruthlessness when the stakes are high’, the actor playing Mr. Scalia explains… Read more

Capitol File
Oussama Zahr
What surprised Edward Gero most in preparing for his role as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in John Strand's new play, The Originalist, which opens March 6 at Arena Stage, is how much they have in common… Read more

Theater Mania
Hayley Levitt
The cast of John Strand's political drama The Originalist met the press at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage where the play will be making its world premiere. Directed by Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith… Read more

Carey Purcell
Arena Stage will present the world premiere of the political drama The Originalist, about Justice Antonin Scalia. Performances of John Strand’s new play begin March 6 and continue through April 26. Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith will helm the production… Read more

Q&A with Edward Gero

Four-time Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Edward Gero, last seen at Arena Stage as legendary American artist Mark Rothko in Red, returns this spring to play another iconic American—polarizing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—in The Originalist.

What drew you to The Originalist?

Ever since I had played Richard Nixon, the idea of doing another political/governmental figure intrigued me. People kept mentioning I should do Scalia. Italian-American, Roman Catholic, born in New Jersey? An obvious fit. But no play existed. When the idea first crossed my mind, I thought, sure I can play him, but who would want to go see a play about him. And then about two years ago, I ran into John Strand at the theater. He came up to me and said, “Do you remember that you asked me to write a play with you in mind a few years ago?” I didn't remember asking that. I felt embarrassed. I thought, “Wow, am I ever presumptuous to ask that!” John said, “Well, I have. It's about Scalia. Would you be interested?” I was flattered and humbled that John would have responded to my audacious request, and I admit, given my earlier misgivings about interest in the subject, was a bit disappointed actually. But when I read the play, I thought this would be a great project to undertake. So when Molly called and asked me to take part in the yearlong development process, I jumped at the offer.

You’ve played several biographic roles on the stage including Richard Nixon (Nixon’s Nixon), Mark Rothko (Red) and now Justice Antonin Scalia. Is it more or less challenging to play characters with an actual, recorded history than fictional ones?

Playing Mark Rothko in Red at Arena was a terrific experience. I feel fortunate and grateful to come back to Arena to work on John Strand’s play with Molly Smith. Frankly, I think biographical characters are some of the most fascinating to play. Think of this year’s top movies are all biopics—Steven Hawking in A Theory of Everything, Alan Turing in Imitation Game, Cheryl Strayed in Wild, John du Pont in Foxcatcher, Martin Luther King in Selma, Chris Kyle in American Sniper—clearly, audiences love watching history. The difference in playing them is there is an enormous public record from which to draw, photos, video recordings and so forth. The challenge is that audiences know these characters and bring their own ideas and experience of them to the theater, along with a more critical eye to the performance, i.e., does it match my understanding and idea of the character? With fictive characters, the actor’s must rely more on analysis of the playwright’s clues of character in the text, and use one’s personal experience and imagination to connect to those ideas and create a character. There is another piece to it that I find particularly fascinating. Because audiences already know the characters, they can see actor’s work more clearly. As a watch with the gears exposed, they can see the actor’s inner working and how they tick. It’s no different than what an actor does for any other role, but with biographical characters, the cover is removed.

How have you been preparing for the role of Justice Scalia?

I have spent the last year reading as much as I could on Justice Scalia. Joan Biskupic’s biography, “An American Original,” was particularly helpful. I have also read “The Federalist Papers” to get a sense of what the founding fathers were debating about when creating the Constitution. I have spent hours watching videos and interviews with the Justice. But the most extraordinary research has been observing Justice Scalia, in person, hearing arguments from the bench in the Supreme Court.


Post-Show Discussion - Marriage Equality in the Court with Adam Liptak, Marc Solomon & Sarah Warbelow
Thursday, May 28, following the 8:00 p.m. performance

A special conversation focused on same-sex marriage’s road to the Supreme Court, the recent hearing of Obergefell v. Hodges and what the June decision could mean for marriage equality in the United States. The conversation will feature The New York Times Supreme Court Reporter Adam Liptak, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry and Author of Winning Marriage Marc Solomon and Legal Director of Human Rights Campaign Sarah Warbelow. Director and Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs at George Washington University Frank Sesno serves as guest moderator.


Adam Liptak is the Supreme Court correspondent of The New York Times. Mr. Liptak, a lawyer, joined The Times’s news staff in 2002 and began covering the Supreme Court in the fall of 2008. He has written a column, “Sidebar,” on developments in the law, since 2007. Mr. Liptak’s series on ways in which the United States’s legal system differs from those of other developed nations, “American Exception,” was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting. In 2005, Mr. Liptak examined the rise in life sentences in the United States in a three-part series. The next year, he and two colleagues studied connections between contributions to the campaigns of justices on the Ohio Supreme Court and those justices’ voting records. He was a member of the teams that examined the reporting of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller at The Times. Mr. Liptak was born in Stamford, Conn., on Sept. 2, 1960. He first joined The Times as a copyboy in 1984, after graduation from Yale University, where he was an editor of The Yale Daily News Magazine, with a degree in English. In addition to clerical work and fetching coffee, he assisted the reporter M.A. Farber in covering the trial of a libel suit brought by Gen. William Westmoreland against CBS. Mr. Liptak returned to Yale for a law degree, graduating in 1988. During law school, he worked as a summer clerk in the The New York Times Company’s legal department. After graduating, he spent four years at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, a New York City law firm, as a litigation associate specializing in First Amendment matters. In 1992, he returned to The Times’s legal department, spending a decade advising The Times and the company's other newspapers, television stations and new media properties on defamation, privacy, newsgathering and related issues, and he frequently litigated media and commercial cases. He has taught media law at the Columbia University School of Journalism, U.C.L.A. Law School and Yale Law School. While working as a lawyer, Mr. Liptak wrote occasional book reviews for The Times and The New York Observer and contributed to other sections of The Times. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Business Week and The American Lawyer. He has written several law review articles as well, generally on First Amendment topics. Mr. Liptak lives in Washington with his wife, Jennifer Bitman, a veterinarian, and their children Ivan and Katie.

Frank Sesno is director of the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) at The George Washington University. He is an Emmy-award winning journalist and creator of, a user-driven web and television project that highlights innovations in sustainability. He hosts and facilitates the Planet Forward Salon Series focusing on topics such as energy policy, green jobs and food production. He has moderated events for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Bayer CropScience, Land O’Lakes Foundation and National Geographic, among others. As SMPA director, Sesno leads a faculty of nearly two dozen world-class professors who research and teach journalism, political communication and the impact of digital media in international affairs. Sesno teaches classes on environmental multimedia reporting, ethics in journalism, documentary and ‘the art of the interview.’ Inspired by his mother’s experience with Hospice, Sesno hosted the Hospice Foundation of America’s Continuing Education Series for seven years. Sesno's diverse career spans more than three decades, including 21 years at CNN where he served as White House correspondent, anchor, and Washington Bureau Chief. He has covered a diverse range of subjects, from politics and conventions to international summits and climate change. He has interviewed five U.S. presidents and literally thousands of political, business and civic leaders — ranging from Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and broadcast legend Walter Cronkite. Before joining CNN in 1984, Sesno worked as a radio correspondent at the White House and in London for the Associated Press. He has won several prestigious journalistic awards, including an Emmy, several cable ACE awards, and an Overseas Press Club Award. Sesno is a member of the Board of Trustees at Middlebury College, AmeriCares and the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves as chair of the Posse Foundation Washington Advisory Board as well. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Middlebury College.

Marc Solomon is a preeminent front-line leader in the movement to win and protect marriage for same-sex couples, having worked on the cause full-time since 2004. He is the author of Winning Marriage, scheduled for release in November 2014. As National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry, Solomon directs all the organization’s programs to win marriage nationwide. In 13 years of work on marriage, he has led the campaign to protect marriage in Massachusetts and played leading roles in New York, Illinois, California, Washington, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine and elsewhere. He has initiated programs to make advances with both the Democratic and Republican parties and has led efforts to enlist elected officials and business leaders to the cause. He is a regular media spokesperson on local and national television, radio and in print, and is quoted frequently in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, The Associated Press and elsewhere. Prior to joining Freedom to Marry, Solomon served as executive director of MassEquality, where he led the campaign to defeat two constitutional amendments in the first freedom to marry state in the nation, beating back attacks by the Catholic Church, President George W. Bush, Gov. Mitt Romney and the right-wing anti-gay industry. Following the victory in Massachusetts, Solomon consulted with state-wide equality organizations in Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, and served as marriage director of Equality California following the passage of Proposition 8. Solomon has extensive background in advocacy, public policy and media, having served as a policy adviser to Senator Jack Danforth (R-MO) in Washington, D.C. and researcher for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Solomon has won multiple awards for his work on the cause. In May 2009, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick presented Solomon with the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s prestigious Franklin Delano Roosevelt Award, given yearly to an individual who espouses FDR’s ideals "with respect to democracy, justice, individual freedoms, and citizenship." In March of 2013, Boston-based Fenway Health presented Solomon with its Congressman Gerry E. Studds Visibility Award for service and leadership to the LGBT community. In 1999, the Rockefeller Foundation named Solomon one of 24 of America’s next generation leaders and invited him to participate in its prestigious two-year Next Generation Leadership fellowship program.Solomon is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Yale and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Sarah Warbelow leads HRC’s team of lawyers and fellows focused on federal, state and municipal policy. She also coordinates HRC's advocacy efforts as amicus curiae ("friend of the court") in litigation affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Warbelow joined the Human Rights Campaign in January 2008 as senior counsel for special projects and Justice for All fellow. She served as HRC's State Legislative Director from September 2009 to April 2014, working with state and local legislators and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organizations in pursuing their LGBT-related legislative priorities. Before joining HRC, Warbelow served as the program manager for the American Association of University Women Foundation Legal Advocacy Fund, specializing in education and employment discrimination law. Warbelow is also an affiliated professor at George Washington University and George Mason Law School, teaching courses on civil rights law and public policy. She received her bachelors' degrees in social relations and women's studies from Michigan State University and her master's of public policy and law degree from the University of Michigan. Warbelow is admitted to the bar of Michigan.

Post-Show Discussions

March 17 at noon
March 25 at noon
April 2 at 8:00 p.m.
April 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Behind the scenes

About two years ago, John Strand came into my office with a tantalizing idea for a new play. He wanted to write a play about one of the most polarizing and gregarious figures in America today—Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—with Edward Gero as the Justice. When the hair goes up on the back of my neck, I know it's a good idea. Read More

Antonin Scalia is really what interested me the most because he's such a controversial figure, and such a lightning rod, and such a divisive personality. That's irresistible for a playwright to have a character like that, because our reactions to this character say a lot about us as people. Read More

I'm really getting a sense of how significant this could be—in this community particularly. Everyone has an opinion and we're asking people to reexamine their points of view. We're advocating respectful thought. That's a risk. That's our job as artists. That's our calling. One of the great things about being in Washington with this play is that we have access here like no one else. Read More

Artistically there's the power and the personal nature of this super thrust. Large parts of the audience are watching the show in the round. It's a powerful set-up. People tend to think of the Cradle as a small, intimate space, and it's intimate alright, but it's not small. It's a brilliant combination. Read More


Audio Described

March 28, 2015 – 2:00pm

Open Captioned

April 1, 2015 – 7:30pm
April 9, 2015 – 8:00pm

For complete information on Accessibility Programs at Arena Stage, click here.