Metro Weekly

Spotlight: Shakespeare Theatre’s Virtual Mock Trial

A fictional court case drawn from the marital woes in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale."

shakespeare theatre
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a previous Shakespeare Theatre Company Mock Trial — Photo: Kevin Allen

A few days before the Ides of March, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer will preside over a fictional court case arising from the royal marital woes that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s classic romantic drama The Winter’s Tale.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company vividly characterizes the classic romantic drama as one having “more royal scandals than four seasons of The Crown: accusations of adultery, jealous spouses, feigned deaths, a potential war with former allies, a hungry bear, and a statue brought to life.”

Andrew Weissmann, former counsel to Robert Mueller and the special investigation into Russian election meddling and now a prominent legal analyst for MSNBC, will also participate in the latest virtual “Mock Trial” in the organization’s popular series. Serving as advocate for the petitioner in Paulina v. Leontes, King of Sicilia, Weissmann has written a remarkably entertaining brief, issued in advance, that urges the court to reverse an earlier decision in favor of King Leontes and his claims of emotional distress and loss of consortium against his former lady-in-waiting, and Weissmann’s client, Paulina.

He does so compellingly by reframing the case as one that mirrors and directly references that of former President Trump, here regarded simply as “U.S. Ruler.” Take this gem of a description: “Our ‘very stable’ ruler has escaped punishment for his actions or even removal of his crown. Instead, he has gone on the attack by releasing the Kraken on the courts — a favorite royal pastime — suing Paulina and painting her as a part of the deep Sicilian state; a ‘nasty woman’; and not ‘even his type.'”

In response, Makan Delrahim, a former Trump-appointed Assistant Attorney General, has issued a brief poking holes in Weissmann’s arguments in ways infinitely more convincing than those proffered by Trump’s lawyers in his second impeachment trial. Poor Paulina. Joining Breyer on the bench will be four real-life judges: Jennifer Walker Elrod of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Amit P. Mehta of the US District Court for DC, Joshua Deahl of the DC Court of Appeals, and Thomas B. Griffith, retired from the US Court of Appeals for DC.

Thursday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for a streaming link are $30. Call 202-547-1122 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.

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