Robert and Ted: An excerpt from the play

For thirty years, Denise Giardina has captivated readers with nationally bestselling novels including Storming Heaven, Saints and Villains, Good King Harry, and Emily’s Ghost. But more recently, the acclaimed novelist has turned to the stage, writing a powerful two-act play titled Robert and Ted, which traces the relationship between the late Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. With an historian’s eye and a novelist’s perception, Giardina recounts and imagines their evolution from political foes to allies and firm friends, showing “all their flaws” as well as their “basic humanity and basic decency,” as she explained to the Charleston Gazette. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Watergate, the Reagan administration, and the second Iraq War, the play offers a searing commentary on contemporary political discourse. Robert and Ted debuted with an on-stage reading at FestivALL, an arts celebration in Charleston, West Virginia, in June 2012.

ACT I, SCENE 5

(Multimedia: scenes from the civil rights movement—dogs attacking demonstrators, fire hoses turned on children, marches on the Selma bridge, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking.)

Lights up. Byrd is speaking while Kennedy enters and sits at a desk and listens, a look of disgust on his face.

BYRD

And now I’d like to share with the august members of the Senate the society page of the Welch Daily News. Mrs. Herman Wells has returned from a trip to visit her daughter in Galax, Virginia. Meanwhile members of the Brooks Garden Club led by Mrs. Charles Lockwood are engaged in a beautification project on the hillside between the train depot and the Veterans’ War Memorial Building. They are planting a variety of both annuals and perennials.

KENNEDY

(Stands and claps sarcastically) Congratulations. Fourteen plus hours speaking against the Civil Rights Act, the longest filibuster in Senate history, and for a great cause. You must be worn out.

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Denise Giardina is the author of six novels including the national bestsellers Storming Heaven, The Unquiet Earth, and most recently, Emily's Ghost. She lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

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