An American Original

Read Feed

An American Original

A Reading List for Arena Stage's 'The Originalist'

Needless to say, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia shook up U.S. politics deeply. Scalia's influence on the court was profound, and it is no surprise that writers have engaged both his legal career and writing as well as his overall personal presence on the court in trying to understand him. 

For Arena Stage's upcoming production of The Originalist, here are a few books and plays suggested by the team at Arena that will give you a fuller understanding of Scalia's life and work.


The Originalist by John Strand
DC's Arena Stage commissioned playwright John Strand to take up the way that Scalia approached legal decisions and worked with his own team of law clerks. The play focuses on Scalia's relationship with his liberal law clerk, Cat, as he discerns his approach to the 2013 court rulings that impacted the state of gay rights in the U.S. The play portrays Scalia's deeply conservative values while also showing the lively and engaged relationships that he built with the people around him. DC Public Library's recording of the play is from an earlier Arena production directed by local theater leader Molly Smith and starring Edward Gero and Karry Warren. 

Though we are still adding more of Strand's plays to our theater collection, we have three recordings of his work from the Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive (WAPAVA) in DCPL's Special Collections. WAPAVA creates archival recordings of local theater productions and is an excellent resource for theater completists!

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic
Written by veteran Supreme Court reporter Biskupic while Scalia was alive, American Original is the first full-scale biography of the justice. Drawing on full access to the justice and deep knowledge of the court's culture and inner workings, Biskupic depicts Scalia's life from his childhood in an Italian immigrant family to his time in the Nixon and Ford administrations leading to his rise to the highest court. Biskupic's biography situates his legal philosophy in the context of his whole life.

Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner
Fortunately for us, Scalia wrote Making Your Case, laying out the techniques of legal writing and oral arguments. Many of us learn about legal reasoning only through the work of journalists or perhaps through fictionalized courtrooms in TV dramas. Here, one of the great masters of U.S. law lays out the methods for making a legal case and persuading others of its merits. 

Scalia's Court: A Legacy of Landmark Opinions and Dissents by Antonin Scalia and Kevin Ring
Go right to the source! To understand Scalia, one should read his legal writings, which show not only his philosophy of law but his gift for writing. Scalia's Court contains many of the justice's most important decisions and most fluid writing, compiled by Kevin Ring.