“MURROW” at the AT&T Performing Arts Center highlights a legendary journalist in his own words

An inside look at “MURROW,” a one-man show about celebrated journalist Edward R. Murrow.

"MURROW" AT&T Performing Arts Center
Nicolas Greco as Edward R. Murrow – Pictures by Guido Venitucci/Courtesy of Bren Rapp

As a graduate of New York’s Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Joseph Vitale remembered hearing former CBS producer Fred Friendly tell stories of his time working in early TV and radio news during class. Friendly was the longtime producer for Edward R. Murrow, the pioneer of broadcast journalism whose radio reports on the horrors of World War II and televised takedown of McCarthyism made him a household name and journalistic legend.

Vitale recalled hearing Friendly describe the story of how Murrow assembled his nervous “See It Now” broadcast team before airing his initial report on McCarthyism. Murrow told them they would always carry regret if they didn’t go through with the broadcast, explaining that “the terror is right here in this room.” “It was such an amazing story,” Vitale said. “I remember sitting in that class thinking, ‘You know, somebody should write a play about this.’”

Vitale would go on to do exactly that, with his one-man show “MURROW” debuting off-Broadway in May 2016. Now, about eight years later, “MURROW” returns to the stage from April 11-21 in a production by Bren Rapp at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Hamon Hall.

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Rapp, the co-founder of the now-defunct award-winning Dallas children’s theater Fun House Theater, sought to produce the show after becoming inspired by Murrow’s voice during the pandemic. She remembered following all the different broadcast news coverages of former President Donald Trump walking across the street and holding a Bible up at St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op after police had used pepper spray and other riot control tactics to clear racial justice protestors from Lafayette Park. “What I saw was a politician completely manipulate the media and the media completely manipulate the public, regardless of what side of anything they were on,” Rapp said of her feelings watching the coverage. It led to Rapp seeking out “MURROW” and discussing her plans for the play with Vitale.

After the pandemic, Rapp eventually submitted “MURROW” to the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project and had the show accepted for a 10-performance run. She said she approached her subsequent work producing the play with the mindset of finding people “who could park their biases at the door” and present a non-politicized production that wouldn’t slant in favor of one party or the other. “I only want to make a statement piece about the need for truth,” Rapp said of her goal for the show.

Rapp tapped New York-based Nicolas Greco to play “MURROW” and Montgomery Sutton to direct. She praised Greco for his ability to add “depth and dimension” to Murrow’s stoicism, referring to the decision to cast him as crucial to producing the show.

The show examines Murrow and his accomplished career through an intimate and personal lens. “If you’re going to create a multidimensional character, you show his greatness and his flaws,” Vitale said. “You show his confidence and his misgivings. You show what he’s proud of and what he’s not proud of.”

Vitale’s voluminous research drives the play and its dialogue. The playwright poured over books, articles and TV broadcasts to create the script and even conducted firsthand interviews with those close to the famous journalist like Murrow’s wife, Janet. “I got to talk to her on the phone, which was amazing,” Vitale said. “She actually made changes in the script and gave me material that’s not found in any books.”

"MURROW" AT&T Performing Arts Center
Playwright and 2020-21 Woodward-Newman Drama Award Finalist Joseph Vitale

Vitale also spoke with one of Murrow’s Boys, David Schoenbrun, prior to creating the script. After the production made it to the stage in New York, he even talked to Murrow’s only son, Casey, after he attended one of the performances, calling the experience “quite a thrill and an honor.”

According to Vitale, Murrow’s own words comprise much of the play’s most important dialogue. “I didn’t use Murrow as a kind of voice to speak to the audience,” Vitale said. “I let him do it.”

Rapp says the production aims to present Murrow as “more than a talking head,” emphasizing the importance of his approachability for having the audience trust him and “learn something from him.” “He’s got to be differentiated from the people we see every day,” Rapp said.

Both Rapp and Vitale see “MURROW” as an opportunity to educate audiences not just on the journalist himself but the importance of nonpartisan, unbiased reporting in today’s landscape. They see the show as a potential opportunity for young journalists and anyone who shares news today to learn from the professional standards that guided Murrow via the power of theater.  

“We live in a day and age now where each of us individually need to take some accountability too because we have the ability to share information,” Rapp said, highlighting how easy she finds others can share information that matches their beliefs, regardless of its accuracy. “I think educating an audience takes on a greater significance than just the historical impact of Murrow because of that, because we’re the carriers of the news.”

“MURROW” runs from April 11-21 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Hamon Hall. For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit http://www.murrowtheplay.com/.

These interviews have been edited for clarity.


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