"It's a full staged reading; it's not a performance. There are no props, no costumes," said Giardina. "This is something that's often done with plays. I can hear it read and gauge the audience reactions."
In a March 24 profile of the play in The Charleston Gazette, Giardina said it follows "the typical boy-meets-boy, boy-hates-boy, they clash for a while then grudgingly come to respect each other. And then they come to like each other. So, it follows the trajectory you see in the movies."
Giardina has won renown for a series of historical novels including "Good King Harry" about Henry V of England, two West Virginia mining conflict novels, "Storming Heaven" and "The Unquiet Earth," a fictionalized biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Saints and Villains" and "Emily's Ghost," based on the life of Emily Brontë.
In "Robert and Ted" she tracks how the first encounters between Kennedy and Byrd in the early 1960s did not go so well.
"Byrd was in his first term and Kennedy was elected in a special election not long after JFK was elected," said Giardina. "Kennedy was from a wealthy family in Massachusetts and Byrd came up hard in the coalfields of West Virginia. He felt Kennedy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and got all the committees handed to him. Byrd knew that was not going to be the case with him."
The play touches on the albatrosses around the neck of each senator that would follow them throughout their careers. For Byrd, it was his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan as a younger man, and for Kennedy it was Chappaquiddick -- the July 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne, whose body was discovered underwater inside an automobile later found to have been driven by Kennedy.
Giardina said she hopes "Robert and Ted" gives theatergoers an appreciation for the two senators "with all their flaws." After all the conflict and noise, in the end what most impresses her about both men was "their basic humanity and basic decency," she said.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.