Ari Edelson Goes “All The Way” With LBJ

All The Way — the exciting new play about Lyndon Johnson’s first year in office, as the “Shakespearean figure of towering ambition and appetite who hurls himself into the Civil Rights Act” — is captivating audiences in previews. It opens March 6 on Broadway.

This Sunday (February 23, New World Stages, New York), a day-long symposium offers an in-depth exploration of both the political and artistic sides of the play. Participants include historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and civil rights activist Bob Moses.

But none of it would be possible without Staples Class of ’94 graduate Ari Edelson.

Ari Edelson, accepting the Westport Arts Center Horizon Award. (Photo/Emily Hamilton Laux)

Ari Edelson, accepting the Westport Arts Center Horizon Award. (Photo/Emily Hamilton Laux)

The passionate director/producer — who in his high school days riveted the town with his production of Falsettos — is the artistic director of The Exchange and The Orchard Project. Both supported early development of “All The Way.”

The Exchange — a New York City-based theater company — focuses on new plays. It runs the Orchard Project, a summer development center where artists and companies can realize their innovative new ideas. The Orchard Project birthed Tony-winning 33 Variations on Broadway, The Royal Court’s Posh, Obie-winning The AliensThe Shipment and Architecting.

When Ari was at Staples, everyone knew he had enough talent to reach the top. Now it’s clearer than ever that he’s headed All The Way there.

(Fun fact: Westporter Harvey Weinstein is a co-producer of All The Way. For more information on Sunday’s day-long symposium, click here. For more information on All The Way, click here.)

All the Way

6 responses to “Ari Edelson Goes “All The Way” With LBJ

  1. Ari is certainly making a name for himself. When he directed Falsettos at Staples, the auditorium was under rennovation so the show was presented at the Westport Country Playhouse. How about that for seizing an opportuanity? Everything about the production was stellar.

    Ari was at the top of his class in many ways. He stood quite tall academically but his sense of humor, his graciousness and his courage as a human being also stand out. That smile you see in the photo is genuine and constant.

  2. I remember reading about Ari a while back and what he was accomplishing. I did not realize he was a Staples alum.

  3. The director, Bill Rauch used to live in Westport – during the mid-70s.

  4. Douglass Davidoff

    I had no idea about the Westport connections. My partner, Marta Flanagan (Staples ’79) and I saw “All The Way” about five months ago at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” was mesmerizing as LBJ, and the extraordinary cast, script, and direction was enhanced by a fabulously creative set reminiscent of a Roman forum. The set is pliable, enabling the storylines in so many ways as the play explores LBJ’s first year in office from Dallas to Election Day of 1964.

    We haven’t stopped talking about this show. You don’t want to miss it. It’s a very important addition to interpretation of one of the most important decades in our history — and it’s a whale of a good time! If you’ve read any of Caro’s volumes about LBJ, especially Master of the Senate, then … don’t think you know it all; this is another take on LBJ, MLK, the black power insurgency in the nonviolent civil rights movement, as well as the roles of Hoover, HHH, and the southern bloc in the Senate led by Richard Russell, D(as it were)-Ga.

    One of the most significant aspects of “All The Way” for us was the rapt attention paid to the show by students and young adults in the ART audience. They ate up this history and wanted more. They would have sat through a third and fourth act.

    Buy tickets the instant they are available.

    — Doug Davidoff
    Staples ’79
    Arlington, Mass.

  5. Judy~
    I have a different memory of why Falsettos was staged at the Playhouse. Gloria, the principal of Staples at that time would not allow the play to be presented at Staples. The production was a portion of the Broadway play
    about the impact of AIDS on a family. Staples is not immune from censorship.

    • Wally, I wasn’t in the loop regarding “why” so you might very well be right. There was, however, still a problem with the auditorium. Admittedly, there were those who had a hard time with the show but far more who applauded the choice and the quality of the production. Ari’s leadership skills and willingness to take on a challenge continue to clarify tough subjects.

      Players often pushed the envelope. I do know that when I decided to do “A Chorus Line” (late 90s) there were controversial elements in it as well. I went to Gloria and told her it was my show of choice. There was no rule that stated I had to get administrative approval, but I wanted her to stand behind the decision that nothing would be cut or modified. The integrity of the piece needed to be respected. She gave us her blessing. When we did “Tommy”, which also pushed the envelope, I received a note from John Brady (then superintendent) that said for the first time he understood the need for theatre to “push” an audience’s thinking. I so treasure that note that I still have it somewhere so could probably find his exact words.

      Certainly, Staples isn’t/wasn’t immune from censorship. Administrators weren’t always kind and supportive but over the years I encountered some who weren’t fearful of taking risks. I feel blessed to have spent thirty-four years of my career at Staples where I was encouraged to keep learning and growing as I was pushed forward by my colleagues and my students. Ari is certainly one who pushed me and he is still doing it with a smile.