Jeffrey LewisA Walk In The Woods

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the American Ensemble Theater’s production of Less Blessing’s A Walk In The Woods — a play about the relationship between an American arms control negotiator and his Soviet counterpart that was (very) loosely inspired by the (in)famous walk in the woods by Paul Nitze and Yuli Kvitsinsky.

The play itself was quite successful during its initial run during the late 1980s — it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and an Olivier Award.  (I gather Frank Rich was less than impressed with the original staging, but whatever.)

The AET production was fantastic —  you can read glowing reviews in The City Paper and DC Theater Scene, as well as an interview with Martin Blank, the show’s producer.  And Rose Gottemoeller, who negotiated the New START treaty, was in attendance, which is one of the great things about seeing a play like this in Washington.

The performance was the last of the run in the Capitol Fringe Festival, which sold out. AET is putting on an encore performance on Capitol Hill, as part of the debate about the New START treaty.  The event is by invitation only, unfortunately, but where there is a will, there is way:

AET Invited by Ploughshares Fund to Perform A Walk in the Woods For Members of Congress

For Immediate Release

July 22, 2010

Who: American Ensemble Theater

What: Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominated play “A Walk in the Woods” by Lee Blessing

Where: Stewart R. Mott House, 122 Maryland Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002 (across the street from the Hart Senate Office Building)

When: Thursday, July 29 @ 7p.m.; by invitation only

About “A Walk in the Woods” and this Performance for Members of U.S. Congress

After a sold-out run at the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival, American Ensemble Theater has been invited by the Ploughshares Fund to perform “A Walk in the Woods” for Members of U.S. Congress.

Consideration of the “New START” treaty between the U.S. and Russia is well underway in the U.S. Senate.  Chairman John Kerry and Ranking Member Dick Lugar have announced their intention to vote on the treaty by the upcoming congressional recess, which starts August 7, 2010.  This treaty is the most recent step between the two nations to limit their long range nuclear weapons.

Lee Blessing’s play “A Walk in the Woods,” is a comic drama that follows two Cold War nuclear arms negotiators — one American, one Russian — as they struggle to reach an arms reduction agreement.

American Ensemble Theater Publicist:  Martin Blank, 301-897-8411,

About American Ensemble Theater

Under the leadership of Artistic Director and playwright Martin Blank, the mission of American Ensemble Theater is to present American plays. To seek out and perform what the playwright intended. To create a safe and joyous ensemble in which theater artists can thrive.

Martin Blank (Artistic Director) served as Artistic Associate for the American Jewish Theatre and American Place Theatre, New York City, as well as Literary Manager, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and founding Artistic Director, Theater J.  More online at


It’s a good idea, really, to host the theatrical equivalent to the hearing that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held on the history of arms control.  It has been a long time since we’ve negotiated and ratified a real arms control treaty with Moscow.  There is something revealing about how relevant A Walk in the Woods remains, even two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the putative dissolution of the one of the protagonists.


  1. Muskrat (History)

    I had the great good luck to see Alec Guinness and Edward Herrmann do this play in London in 1988, before the fall of the wall. (Is “Fail Whale” some distant psychic echo of “Wall Fall”? Probably not. But it would be cool if it were.) I remember it as being a wonderful evening of theater, and even at the time I felt it was a privilege to have seen Guinness perform live.

  2. Alan Tomlinson (History)

    I had the pleasure of seeing Sam Waterston and Robert Prosky play in this piece in NY in 1988 not that long after having read one of Strobe Talbot’s books about Paul Nitze. It was the only play I saw while in NY and honestly I hod no idea about the subject matter until the curtain came up. Serendipity.

    It is an excellent window into the less technical aspects of negotiation.