WASHINGTON — More than 250 people listened to a live staged reading of a single volume of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday, with dozens of performers reading bite-sized chunks.
Event hosts expected the reading to take 11 hours, finishing up around 11 p.m. Staged in the glass auditorium at Washington’s Arena Stage, the free event attracted more than 250 people.
Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith began the reading. After reading her portion, she said in an interview that she expected more people to show up later in the evening. There is an “an alchemy that happens” when something is read aloud in front of an audience, she said, even when it’s a dry legal document.
“Most of it happened here, so it affects all of us as citizens in D.C.,” Smith said of the report and its findings.
The production handled redacted portions of the 182-page report by sounding a buzzer in the auditorium. Audience members reacted with amusement when a volunteer in the front row then held up a “redacted” sign to signal the blackout.
The event’s co-creator, actress and activist Jjana Valentiner, was the second reader. She said she was inspired to bring the reading to D.C. after director Jackson Gay staged a 24-hour reading of both volumes of Mueller’s report in New York. That event drew an audience of 700, according to the Arena Stage.
Valentiner said that with politicians ramping up their campaigns for next year’s election it was the right time to shine a light on what the report said about President Donald Trump.
“We’ve already seen his behavior in office, and he also happens to be a candidate,” Valentiner said.
Smith said she did not know if anyone would sit through the entire reading although several people had emailed her and said they planned to.
Arena Stage spokeswoman Lauren McMillen said the public had been invited to read portions of the report and 400 applied for 225 slots.
Audience members were free to come and go during the 11-hour reading. In the evening, food trucks were scheduled to be on hand to serve lobster rolls, cookies and milk outside the theater for those with the endurance to listen to every procedural nuance of the report. The event was also live-streamed, and the organizers had an overflow room on standby.
Audience member Sue Klein, 74, a Democrat and director with the Feminist Majority Foundation, said she attended the reading because it would reinforce Mueller’s report ahead of his planned testimony in Congress next week.
“I think it’s very important, and I would like to see Trump convicted of obstruction of justice and other crimes as soon as possible,” Klein said outside the entrance to the theater as she was leaving.
Fllory Dock and her son, Tristan Dock, said they wanted to hear at least part of the report for themselves. Fllory Dock said she believed the live reading offered a glimpse of the report that was otherwise filtered by the news media.
“I’m interested in hearing more about it from the horse’s mouth,” Dock said.
Tristan Dock said the event brought people of all walks of life together, noting that the speakers included actors, professors and lawyers.
“People, not just from the D.C. area, can come and listen to what Mueller said,” he said.