Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ed Gero and "The Originalist"

Edward Gero
It's surprising how often I wish that I had learned how to take dictation. My most recent longing occurred when I was at a panel discussion at Asolo Rep that included Edward Gero. Gero is currently starring in "The Originalist," a show about Justice Antonin Scalia. His preparation for the show included spending time with the Justice, and he was full of thoughts about Scalia, his legacy and today's political climate. I was scribbling as fast as I possibly could.

I happened to have a meeting with Bob Massey, my editor at Florida Weekly, right after the panel. I was still so pumped up that I couldn't stop myself from blathering on. And here's one -- of many -- reasons I love working with Bob. After listening to me for a few minutes he didn't politely look at his watch and mention his next meeting. Instead, he said, "I think you should write an article about this." And so I did. Click here to read it. 

But there was so much more that I wanted to share (especially after my follow-up phone conversation with Gero). Having become immersed in the world of Constitutional law, Ed has some thoughts about its application in today's times.

"The Constitution is our friend now, big time," he said during the panel discussion. He referenced Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution as being particularly pertinent. Surprisingly, nobody asked what this provision states. Was I--a trained lawyer--the only one who isn't conversational about The Title of Nobility (or Emoluments) Clause? 

The provision prohibits the federal government from granting titles of nobility and restricts members of the government from receiving gifts emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states without the consent of Congress. I admit to laughing when I first read it since I suspect you-know-who likes to think of himself as a king who can operate by fiat. But the real issue stems from his refusal to release his tax returns. Without full information about his business relationships (which he has not, of course, divested himself of), how can American citizens know what conflicts of interest exist? 

Gero also discussed how Scalia's approach to differing perspectives can be distinguished from those of the new administration. Scalia welcomed the opportunity to argue his position with people on the other side of an issue. And he also had the ability to get past an issue once a case had been decided.

Ed summarizes Scalia's modus operandi as "Listen with respect. Don't vilify so long as they did their research and presented a strong argument. Vote and, win or lose, move on." It sounds so dignified.

Gero also shared some great stories that didn't make their way into my article. Like the fact that he has shared the stage with several Supreme Court Justices.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C. used to host an annual lawyers' night. The event featured performances of Shakespearean scenes in which the Justices made cameo appearances. Sandra Day O'Connor played Gero's mother in a scene from "King John." He also appeared opposite William Rehnquist.

But his favorite memory might be from his performance with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in "Henry VI." Where else would he have gotten the chance to hear RBG utter the infamous line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." And here's the topper. When Gero visited RBG in her chambers, he mentioned that they'd shared the stage. She said she remembered and walked him over to her bookcase. A framed picture of the two of them sat next to a photo of her with Nelson Mandela. He reports feeling duly humbled.

Then there's the remark Justice Scalia made while at a judicial conference shortly before his death. When asked what he would do if he had to retire, Scalia staunchly said he had no intention of ever retiring. But the questioner was persistent. As a pure hypothetical, then, what would he do?

"I'm thinking of starring in a play about Edward Gero," he said.

"The Originalist" can be seen at Asolo Rep through March 7.

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