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Arena Stage announces Phylicia Rashad, Anna Deavere Smith & E. Faye Butler



Phylicia Rashad, Anna Deavere Smith and E. Faye Butler lead the casts of the first productions in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, Kreeger Theater and Fichandler Stage

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage’s inaugural season at the Mead Center for American Theater opens with three productions featuring three powerful leading ladies – E. Faye Butler in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in the company’s renovated, iconic Fichandler Stage; Phylicia Rashad in playwright Marcus Gardley’s world premiere of Every Tongue Confess in the brand new 200-seat Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle; and Anna Deavere Smith in her one-woman play, Second Stage’s production of Let Me Down Easy, which begins its national tour in the freshly refurbished Kreeger Theater.

“To open the Mead Center with amazing casts including actors like Phylicia, Anna and E. Faye is just one of the many ways we’re introducing audiences to the breadth and strength of this new center for American theater,” says Artistic Director Molly Smith. “These distinguished African-American women, whose illustrious careers precede them, along with the cast members joining them, embody the diversity that is integral to Arena’s mission.”

Oklahoma!, directed by Molly Smith October 22-December 26, 2010, will feature award-winning D.C.-area favorite E. Faye Butler as Aunt Eller, who among many credits has performed in the national tours of Mamma Mia! and Ain’t Misbehavin’. She is joined by Valisia LeKae as Laurey, whose Broadway credits include Ragtime, 110 in the Shade and The Threepenny Opera; Nicholas Rodriguez as Curly, who last performed at Arena Stage as Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza and who has appeared on Broadway in Tarzan; Cody Williams as Will Parker, a rising young performer who will make his professional debut along with 16-year-old D.C.-area native June Schreiner as Ado Annie, who was discovered in last summer’s Arena Stage Academy Musical Theater Training Company. Additional casting as of August 10, 2010 is listed on the production Fact Sheet below.

Every Tongue Confess, directed by Kenny Leon (Broadway’s Fences, Arena Stage’s Stick Fly) November 9, 2010-January 2, 2011, will feature Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad as Mother Sister/Sophia, who was last seen at Arena Stage in Blue. Rashad is best known as Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show and has performed on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gem of the Ocean and A Raisin in the Sun, among others. The ensemble cast for Every Tongue Confess as of August 10, 2010 also includes Jason Dirden as Shadrack, Crystal Fox as Sister/Reporter, Autumn Hurlbert as Benny Pride, Jim Ireland as Stocker Pride, John Earl Jelks as Blacksmith/Bobb, Eugene Lee as Brother/Jeremiah, E. Roger Mitchell as Deacon/Tidings and the role of Bernadette will be announced at a later date.

Let Me Down Easy, directed by Leonard Foglia December 31, 2010-February 13, 2011, stars Baltimore native Anna Deavere Smith, whose film credits include Philadelphia, The American President and Rachel Getting Married. Her television credits include The West Wing and the current Nurse Jackie. Smith’s documentary-style stage productions also include Fires in the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles and House Arrest.

Full casting and creative teams to be announced at a later date. For further information please e-mail press@arenastage.org.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Managing Director Edgar Dobie, Washington, D.C.-based Arena Stage has become the largest theater in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights. Founded in 1950 by Zelda Fichandler, Thomas Fichandler and Edward Mangum, Arena Stage was one of the nation’s original resident theaters and has a distinguished record of leadership and innovation in the field. With the opening of the new Mead Center for American Theater in 2010, Arena Stage becomes a center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 200,000. For more information please visit www.arenastage.org.

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