Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended a Saturday evening performance of Heidi Schreck’s “What The Constitution Means to Me” this weekend, prompting tears from the cast and a mid-show standing ovation from the audience.
Ginsburg is perhaps known more for her love of opera than for plays, but the concern of Schreck’s Pulitzer-nominated work is, as the title suggests, the U.S. Constitution — something RBG knows a bit about. That said, the play’s core premise, in which an adult Schreck debates a high school-aged actor about whether our founding document should be scrapped for something more egalitarian, appears to be grounds for one of RBG’s signature dissensions.
As Slate reports, RBG is a fixture of Schreck’s play even when she’s not in the orchestra. The play includes a sound bite of Ginsburg’s punchy response to when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court (her answer: when there are nine). The line draws regular applause, but on Saturday, with Ginsburg in attendance, the crowd sprang to their feet.
But sadly, Ginsburg was not selected for a pivotal cameo: the role of arbiter of the Constitution’s fate. While an audience member is selected each night to judge the winner of the play’s central debate, the longtime jurist was not picked by Schreck’s opponent Thursday Williams. Schreck told Backstage senior staff writer Casey Mink on Twitter the reason for the snub:
Thursday didn’t know she was in the audience so she chose another judge! I only realized moments before I went onstage because somebody slipped. IT WAS AMAZING. We all greek tragedy cried upon meeting her and she seemed fine with that. @BeingTdubs@ciprian_rosdely@mirrorworm— Heidi Schreck (@heidibschreck) June 16, 2019
Williams’ pick voted to keep the Constitution. On Twitter, Williams reported that Ginsburg concurred with the audience member’s judgment.
She said something along the lines of—Thurgood Marshall did not like the original Constitution—but he loved the one we have now and how much it can evolve.— Thursday Williams (@BeingTdubs) June 16, 2019
After theatergoers, including “The Band’s Visit” star Katrina Lenk, posted about Ginsburg’s night at the theater on social media, onlookers crowded the stage door.
Justice #RuthBaderGinsburg leaving What The Constitution Means To Me on B’way! The show was great. #RBGpic.twitter.com/KBhl5All0W— Evan Agostini (@AgoFoto) June 16, 2019
In recent years, Ginsburg has been the subject of a documentary film, a biopic, and even a song cycle conceived by her relatives. Following her feted visit to Broadway, a one-woman show doesn’t seem off the table.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.