Building the Wall (2017)


Event Status
Aug. 30, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2, 2017, 2 p.m.
Sept. 2, 2017, 8 p.m.
Sept. 3, 2017, 2 p.m.
Sept. 3, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 10, 2017, 2 p.m.

By Robert Schenkkan

Directed by Brant Pope

"A must-see show!"
- The New York Times

From Pulitzer Prize and Tony® Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The Kentucky Cycle, Hacksaw Ridge), comes the incendiary political thriller that is captivating audiences across the country.

"A mesmerizing and shocking new play that simmers with of-the-moment urgency."
- The Hollywood Reporter

Written in “a white heat” fury following the November 2016 election, Schenkkan’s Building the Wall imagines a dystopia impacted by President Trump’s border and immigration policies. It’s the near future and millions of undocumented immigrants have been detained in overflowing prisons. Now, a writer interrogates the director of a private prison as he awaits sentencing for carrying out the federal policy that has escalated into the unimaginable. This riveting and illuminating drama delivers a powerful warning and puts a human face on the inhuman, revealing how, when personal accountability is denied, what seems inconceivable becomes inevitable.

The regional premiere, directed by Brant Pope, showcases a professional cast, including Franchelle Stewart Dorn as “Gloria” and David Sitler as “Rick.”

The running time for Building the Wall is approximately 90 minutes. There is no intermission.

The play includes adult language and mature content and may be inappropriate for age 13 and under.

View the Building the Wall playbill.


Preview: August 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Opening: August 31 at 7:30 p.m. 
Additional Performances: September 1, 5-8 at 7:30 p.m.; September 3 and 10 at 2:00 p.m. and September 2 at 8:00 p.m.

Community Engagement Events: September 7

Panel: Writing and Producing New Work in the American Theatre
2:00 p.m. / Oscar G. Brockett Theatre

Respondents include: Vivienne Benesch (Producing Artistic Director, PlayMakers Repertory Company), Cal MacLean (Producing Artistic Director, Clarence Brown Theatre), Marissa Wolf (Director of New Work/Artistic Associate, Kansas City Rep), Robert Schenkkan (Playwright) and Kirk Lynn (Playwright, The Method Gun, Fixing King John).

Panel: The Role of the Critic and Scholar in Assessing New Work
4:00 p.m. / Oscar G. Brockett Theatre

Respondents include: Michael Barnes (Columnist, Austin American-Statesman), Robert Faires (Arts Editor, The Austin Chronicle), Jay Handelman (Arts Editor and Theatre Critic, Sarasota Herald-Tribune), Robert Schenkkan (Playwright), Roxanne Schroeder-Arce (Scholar, Playwright, Mariachi Girl) and Kirk Lynn (Playwright, The Method Gun, Fixing King John).

The above panels are free and open the the public. Seating may be limited.
Panel times, location and respondents are subject to change.

A Conversation with Playwright Robert Schenkkan and Director Brant Pope
Immediately following the September 7 7:30 p.m. performance / Oscar G. Brockett Theatre

Patrons are invited to a post-performance conversation with Playwright Robert Schenkkan and Director Brant Pope regarding the play's development process, the role of the playwright and the play's themes. This event is open to ticket holders for the September 7 performance.


The University requires all faculty, staff, students and visitors to pay for parking on campus. For guests attending Building the Wall, discounted parking can be purchased online at Discount parking via Click and Park is available for purchase until 10:00 p.m. the day prior to the event.

Previews, Reviews and Inside Look

About the Playwright 


Robert Schenkkan: Pulitzer Prize, Tony and WGA Award-winner, three-time Emmy-nominated writer. Author of sixteen plays: All The Way, The Great Society, Building The Wall, Hanussen, Shadowplay, By The Waters of Babylon, Handler, A Single Shard, Devil and Daniel Webster, Lewis and Clark Reach The Euphrates, Final Passages, The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune, Heaven On Earth, Tachinoki, The Dream Theif and The Kentucky Cycle (Pulitzer prize, Tony and Drama Desk nominations). Also a collection of one-act plays, Conversations with the Spanish Lady and a musical (book and co-lyrics), The Twelve, winner of the 2015 Henry Award. The 2014 Broadway production of All The Way swept the Awards season, winning the Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Drama League and Tony Awards as well as the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Award, the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize and Boston's Elliot Norton Award. It also set two box office records on Broadway. It aired in May 2016 as a film for HBO, with Steven Spielberg producing, directed by Jay Roach, and was nominated for eight Emmy Awards and the Humanitas Prize. Film: Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield; The Quiet American, directed by Phillip Noyce. TV: The Pacific (HBO mini-series; WGA Award, two Emmy Awards and Humanitas Prize nominations), The Andromeda Strain, Crazy Horse, Spartacus. @ROBERTSCHENKKAN

Photo courtesy of Joshua Schenkkan

About the Director 


Brant Pope's work has been seen Off-Broadway (John Houseman Theatre, St. Clements Theatre) and in numerous regional theatres such as The Hartford Stage Company, Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Clarence Brown Theatre, Park Square Theatre, ArtPark, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, American Stage and GeVa Theatre. For 11 years, Pope was director of the Florida State University - Asolo Conservatory and associate artistic director of the Asolo Repertory Theatre. At the Asolo, he directed the regional premiers of Three Days of Rain, Beast on the Moon and Kindertransport, as well as 33 other productions. Since 2010, he has served as the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin and currently holds the Z. T. Scott Family Chair in Drama. He is particularly proud that Robert Schenkkan is an alumnus of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

About the Cast 


Franchelle Stewart Dorn has played dozens of roles over her career at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, American Conservatory Theater, Yale Rep, Long Wharf, George Street Playhouse, Great Lakes Shakespeare, Cleveland Playhouse, Arizona State Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, Chautauqua, Guthrie, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Contemporary American Theater Festival, off Broadway at Red Bull and at The State, ZACH Theatre and Austin Shakespeare theatres in Austin.
Dorn has been seen on Law and Order and as "Dr. Rita Madison" on NBC's Another World and films Die Hard with a Vengeance, Chances Are and Raise the Titanic. She can also be seen on one of PBS' longest-running series, Literary Visions. Dorn has been nominated for seven Helen Hayes Awards and has been the recipient of three. She has also won the Austin Critics' Table Award for her performances in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Edge of Peace and Medea. She has more than 400 voice-over and on-camera appearances to her credit.
Dorn received her acting training at the Yale School of Drama and is a previous head of the acting program in the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin where she remains the Virginia L. Murchison Regents Professor. She has been named both an Academy Distinguished and Regents' Outstanding Teacher and is a recipient of the College of Fine Arts' Outstanding Teaching Award.


David Sitler was last seen in The Exonerated at Florida Studio Theatre as "Gary Gauger." His career has seen him on Broadway with Rosemary Harris and Phil Bosco in An Inspector Calls, on national tour with Stacy Keach in Frost/Nixon, working with over 16 Off and Off-Off Broadway Theatre Companies in New York City and regionally from Maine to Utah in roles from "Atticus" to "Scrooge." Television credits include Zero Hour and Law and Order - SVU as well as the second season of Plant and the films The Strange Ones, Tupelo Roar, Black Dog Red Dog and The Marvelous Fishman. Proud member of Actor's Equity.

About the Panelists 

Vivienne Benesch (Producing Artistic Director, PlayMakers Repertory Company) is in her second season as the PlayMaker's artistic director. For 12 seasons she served as artistic director of the renowned Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory where she launched a New Play Workshop that saw over 40 new works developed through commissions, staged readings, company residencies and solo performance platforms. She directed over 15 productions at CTC including the world premieres of Zayd Dohrn's The Profane and Molly Smith's Metzler's The May Queen. She has helmed productions of The May QueenThree Sisters, Love Alone, RED and In The Next Room for PlayMakers, directed extensively for The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Trinity Repertory Company as well as the Julliard Drama Division, where she was also on faculty. As an actress, Benesch has worked on and Off-Broadway, in film and television, and at many of the country's most celebrated theatres.

Cal MacLean (Producing Artistic Director, Clarence Brown Theatre Company) joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville as department head and producing artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre Company in 2006. Prior to his arrival in Tennessee, MacLean was professor of theatre and head of directing at Illinois State University. He was also artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, a professional, summer classical theatre associated with Illinois State University. As producing artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre (CBT), he administers Tennessee's only LORT theatre. Among his productions for the CBT are: A Flea in Her Ear, Galileo, The Secret Rapture, A Streetcar Named Desire, Amadeus, Kiss Me Kate, Sweeney Todd, Our Country's Good, The Threepenny Opera and The Crucible. Under his leadership, the CBT has increased its earned and unearned revenues, reinvigorated its M.F.A. and B.A. training programs in theatre and expanded its audience and community engagement.

Marissa Wolf (Director of New Works/Artistic Associate, Kansas City Rep) launched OriginKC, a hotbed for powerful new plays, during her three-year tenure as director of new works at Kansas City Rep (KCRep). OriginKC offers meaningful, long-term support for a core of local and national playwrights through commissions, in-house workshops, a few public reading series and a festival that includes two world premieres each spring in KCRep's mainstage season. In the OriginKC: New Works Festival, Wolf directed the world premieres of Man in Love by Christina Anderson and Fire in Dreamland by Rinne Groff, which she'll direct at The Public Theatre in 2018. Wolf previously served as the artistic director of Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco for six seasons, where she developed and produced work by a vanguard of emerging playwrights including Christina Anderson, Lauren Gunderson, Young Jean Lee, Christopher Chen, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Caridad Svich, Thomas Bradshaw and Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. She has been nominated Best Director by BroadwayWorld San Francisco and the Bay Area Critics' Circle Award

Kirk Lynn (Playwright, The Method Gun (with Rude Mechs), Fixing King John) is a novelist and playwright living in Austin, Texas, with his wife, the poet Carrie Fountain, and their children. He is one of the five artistic directors of Rude Mechs theatre collective. Recent publications include: Rules for Werewolves (novel), Your Mother's Copy of the Karma Sutra (play), Fixing Timon of Athens (play), Fixing King John (play), How Much is Enough? Our Values in Question (play; with Melanie Joseph) and The Method Gun (play; with Rude Mechs). Lynn is an assistant professor of playwriting and directing at The University of Texas at Austin.

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce (Scholar, Playwright, Mariachi Girl) is a scholar, artist and pedagogue. She is an associate professor and teaches theatre education in the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition, she is affiliate faculty in the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Women's and Gender Studies. Schroeder-Arce's research interests include culturally responsive theatre education and Latino/a theatre for and with youth. She has published articles in journals such as Youth Theatre Journal, International Journal for Education and the Arts, Theatre Topics and Gestos. Her bilingual plays Señora Tortuga, Legend of the Poinsettia, Sangra de un Ángel and Mariachi Girl are published by Dramatic Publishing and have been produced by various theatres and schools throughout the U.S. Schroeder-Arce also taught high school in Texas for several years and served as artistic director of Teatro Humanidad in Austin. She also formerly taught at California State University at Fresno and Emerson College.

Michael Barnes (Columnist, Austin American-Statesman) is a native Texan who earned his Ph.D. in theatre history and criticism from The University of Texas at Austin. For the Austin American-Statesman, he writes about the city's people, places, culture and history. His book, Indelible Austin: Selected Histories, is in its second printing from Waterloo Press.

Robert Faires is arts editor for The Austin Chronicle, where he's been covering the local arts scene for 30 years. In 2011, American Theatre Magazine named his to a list of 12 of the nation's most influential theatre critics, and his writing has been recognized by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. On stage, he's conducted interviews with Stephen Sondheim, Susan Sarandon, David Mamet and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, among others. He's also been active in local theatre since 1980, having worked on more than 75 productions across the city as an actor, director, and writer, among them his own one-man adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V. He can also be heard weekly on the KMFA radio program Icons of Broadway, which he co-hosts with Mela Dailey.

Jay Handelman is the arts editor and theatre critic for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He supervises coverage of all the arts, reviews most of the professional and amateur theatres in southwest Florida and covers the business of arts in the Sarasota area. Before joining the Herald-Tribune in 1984, he spent nearly five years as a reporter and editor of United Press International's local news bureau in Washington, D.C., including one year as D.C. NewsCenter Editor. He is a two-time past chairman of the American Theatre Critics Association, the original organization of professional theatre critics, and now serves as president of the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association. He is also a member of the Television Critics Association.

In the News: Building the Wall

A resource for media and patrons, In the News features recent publications, reviews and interviews regarding Building the Wall and Robert Schenkkan.

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