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NY Times, Arts & Leisure features Arena Stage D.C. & plans for new play development

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage (Artistic Director Molly Smith) recently began their 60th season filled with award-winning artists and projects to celebrate the grand opening of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Arena Stage begins the 2010/2011 season as a national center for production, presentation, development and study of American theater.

NEW YORK TIMES, Arts & Leisure

January 16, 2011

Leaving the Light On for Playwrights

By Patrick Healy

WASHINGTON

WHEN Molly Smith began envisioning a third theater space here for Arena Stage, as part of the recent $135 million transformation that she led as artistic director, she grappled with how to distill her ideas into a clear form. Then one day she found herself staring at her hands. “I cupped them together, and there it was, that was our theater,” Ms. Smith recalled. “When you look inside two cupped hands, you have a cradle. That’s what I wanted: a small, enveloping cradle where we could nurture and stage newly birthed American plays.”

Cradle is not a word typically associated with playwriting. Many writers do not look to theaters for care and feeding, let alone a security blanket. What you often hear about instead is crummy pay, no health insurance, not enough time for rehearsals, and enormous frustrations in persuading major regional houses like Arena Stage to mount the second or third production of a new play, given how many artistic directors prize world premieres. And those artistic directors are no pollyannas. Staying afloat is tough business, they say, with theaters like Intiman in Seattle, the Pasadena Playhouse and others that have endured financial struggles in this era of diminished donations. Producing largely unknown plays is usually a riskier bet at the box office than a revival of a classic. (Paging Willy Loman!)

So it is an act of some theatrical audacity, really, that Arena Stage has christened its new 200-seat space as the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle (named for benefactors who donated $7.5 million) and endowed it with the mission “of developing new American plays and cradling artistic risk.” But the Cradle is itself part of an audacious act: Arena Stage’s effort to brand itself as a national center for producing, presenting, developing and studying American theater. At a time of great competition for grant and foundation money among nonprofit theaters Arena is seeking to stand out among the 75 or so major regional theaters by building on its 60-year-old roots in Washington, stressing the word “American” in its messages to audience members and convening events to focus on the craft of playwriting and careers of playwrights.

To read the rest of the story, click the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/theater/16arena.html?_r=1&ref=arts

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Arena Stage in D.C. announces agenda for National Convening at Mead Center on Jan 26-29, 2011

AMERICAN VOICES NEW PLAY INSTITUTE AT ARENA STAGE ANNOUNCES

AGENDA FOR THE UPCOMING NATIONAL CONVENING

FROM SCARCITY TO ABUNDANCE: CAPTURING THE MOMENT FOR THE NEW WORK SECTOR

 

HELD AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

AND STREAMED ONLINE LIVE AT #NEWPLAY TV

JANUARY 26-29, 2011

 

(Washington, D.C.) Now in its second year, the American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater will hold a four-day convening bringing together more than 100 theater practitioners from across the country to further the dialogue around new play development. The convening, entitled From Scarcity to Abundance: Capturing the Moment for the New Work Sector, will take place in the Mead Center (1101 6th St., SW) January 26 – 29, 2011 and will focus on the following: identifying the rich and vital activity that already exists in the new play sector, exploring the gaps and challenges facing the field and strategizing the means of continued and closer collaboration to advance the new work infrastructure moving forward. This convening will build upon the outcomes and initiatives that grew out of last year’s convenings: Defining Diversity, Black Playwrights: the Stories We Tell and Devised Work.

This convening is made possible through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Continue reading

Arena Stage in D.C. hosts New Play Festival, January 19-30

ARENA STAGE AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

HOSTS THE #NEWPLAY FESTIVAL

A CULMINATION OF THE

NATIONAL ENDOWNMENT OF THE ARTS NEW PLAY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

RUNNING JANUARY 19-30, 2011

 

*** Festival includes full-length presentations and readings of the seven inaugural NEA-NPDP selections

as well as scenes from the documentary film of the program ***

(Washington, D.C.) The discourse surrounding new play development continues within the American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, as the company presents the #NewPlay Festival. The festival, which is a culmination of the National Endowment for the Arts New Play Development Program (NEA-NPDP), will feature full-length performances and readings of six plays at the Mead Center (1101 6th St., SW), concurrently with one play in full-production at The Studio Theatre (1501 14th St., NW). The Festival also includes a presentation featuring scenes from Robert Levi’s forthcoming documentary that follows the development of selected projects, which will be followed by a panel of featured artists speaking about their process. The #NewPlay Festival runs at the Mead Center January 19-30, 2011. Festival casting and performance schedule below. Continue reading

Arena Stage Release: Arena Stage Announces Cast & Creative team for The Arabian Nights

ARENA STAGE AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

ANNOUNCES CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM FOR UPCOMING PRESENTATION OF

THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY TONY AWARD WINNER MARY ZIMMERMAN

*** The Arabian Nights is restaged in-the-round for the first time at Arena Stage, in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre Company ***

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is delighted to present The Arabian Nights, written and directed by Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses). The production, presented in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre Company, has been recognized as “Zimmerman’s most theatrically complete and perfect creation” (Chicago Tribune). The Arabian Nights explores the humanity that people across all cultures share, as told through a whimsical, imaginative and compelling story. The Arabian Nights runs January 14-February 20, 2011 in the Fichandler Stage.

“Mary Zimmerman is a seminal theater artist whose gift is the visual,” says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. “When I saw this production of The Arabian Nights at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago I knew the production would be exhilarating in the Fichandler at Arena Stage. This is a magical story told by a magical director and her company.”

The story is set in ancient Baghdad, when a courageous young girl postpones her execution by weaving magical tales for the troubled king. Genies and jesters, lovers and thieves spring to life from Scheherezade’s imagination—allowing her to win the king’s heart even as she secures her freedom. Zimmerman celebrates the wonder of storytelling and the redemptive power of love in this “exhilarating, imaginative theatrical escape” (Variety) that Chicago magazine calls a “feast for the eyes and ears.”

“For me, the extraordinary, ever-changing collection of stories originally called The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night is a testament both to our imaginative abilities as storytellers and the absolutely vital, regenerative power of stories—how stories cultivate empathy, how they civilize us,” says Zimmerman. “It is a profound, obscene, poetic, comic never-ending text. I’ve been with it for 20 years and I’m particularly happy, for the first time, to do it in the round; I think that arrangement is particularly well-suited to what the show is, what it is about.” Continue reading

D.C.’s Arena Stage releases first American Voices New Play Institute Monograph

ARENA STAGE AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER RELEASES

THE FIRST AMERICAN VOICES NEW PLAY INSTITUTE MONOGRAPH

*** Monograph features three Institute convening reports, interviews with the Institute Resident Playwrights and Project Residents and reports on major events since its inception in July 2009 ***

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces that the American Voices New Play Institute has released its first monograph, which is available to the public for download online at www.arenastage.org/new-play-institute.

The monograph functions as an annual report, detailing the proceedings of the three convenings that the Institute held in its inaugural year as well as articles from new play sector leaders and the first class of New Play Producing Fellows. The monograph also features interviews with Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith; the five Institute Resident Playwrights Amy Freed, Katori Hall, Lisa Kron, Charles Randolph-Wright and Karen Zacarías, as well as Institute Project Residents David Henry Hwang and Lynn Nottage. This monograph serves to document and disseminate major findings of the Institute throughout its first year.

The Institute is designed as a center for research and development of effective practices, programs and processes for new play development in the American Theater. The Institute operates under the leadership of Smith, driven by Dower. The Institute includes a suite of interrelated programs, all of which are built upon innovative models currently operating in the field that demonstrate potential for replication in other communities. Continue reading

D.C.’s Arena Stage launches national tour of Let Me Down Easy with Anna Deavere Smith

ARENA STAGE AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

PRESENTS SECOND STAGE THEATRE’S PRODUCTION OF

LET ME DOWN EASY

CONCEIVED, WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY ANNA DEAVERE SMITH

DIRECTED BY LEONARD FOGLIA

*** Let Me Down Easy kicks off its national tour in the nation’s capital; panel discussions featuring Sally Jenkins and Ruth Katz, among others, on select Sundays during run ***

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is pleased to announce that it will launch the national tour of Second Stage Theatre’s production Let Me Down Easy. This one-woman production, which is conceived, written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith (Nurse Jackie, Fires in the Mirror) and directed by Leonard Foglia (Broadway’s Thurgood) and was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 of 2009, is “a continually engaging and engrossing collection of testimonials” (The New York Times) that explores the fragility of the body and the resilience of the spirit. Let Me Down Easy runs December 31, 2010-February 13, 2011 in the Kreeger Theater. Continue reading

Toronto Star raves about Arena Stage’s Oklahoma! & Molly Smith

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, opened as the inaugural production at the Mead Center for American Theater ( Fichandler Theater, SW, Washington, DC).  The production received critical raves and is playing an extended limited engagement through December 30th, 2010.

This Oklahoma! merits the exclamation point

Toronto Star newspaper

November 19, 2010

By Richard Ouzounian Theatre Critic

WASHINGTON, D.C.—You’re doing fine, Oklahoma!

The splendiferous revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical that has reopened the revitalized Arena Stage, the resident theatre of America’s capitol, is great news for Canadians on many levels.

In the first place, the amazing complex is the work of Vancouver architect Bing Thom. Secondly, the company’s general manager is a man who earned his spurs here at Canadian Stage, Edgar Dobie.

But perhaps most importantly, the show has been beautifully directed by Arena’s artistic director, Molly Smith, and she’s going to be undertaking the same duties for the Shaw Festival’s flagship production of My Fair Lady in the summer of 2011 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

If Smith’s work on Oklahoma! is any indication of what she’s going to do with My Fair Lady, I would buy my tickets for the Shaw Festival right now. Continue reading

Arena Stage extends Oklahoma! Box office records are shattered!

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S OKLAHOMA!

SHATTERS BOX OFFICE RECORDS AT ARENA STAGE

AND EXTENDS THROUGH DECEMBER 30, 2010

*** First production at the Mead Center for American Theater continues to break several sales records,

including highest sales made in a day and a week ***

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces that its inaugural production, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, extends through December 30, 2010, adding six performances to its run in the iconic Fichandler Stage. Due to previous commitments by the actors and Arena Stage, Oklahoma! must close December 30. Oklahoma!, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, continues to shatter Arena Stage’s box office records not even two weeks after opening night. Continue reading

More praise for Oklahoma! at D.C.’s Arena Stage – raves from Bloomberg News!

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, opened as the inaugural production at the Mead Center for American Theater ( Fichandler Theater, SW, Washington, DC).  The production received critical raves and is playing as a limited engagement through December 26th, 2010.

Bloomberg news

Frisky Pioneers Jazz D.C. ‘Oklahoma!’

By Jeremy Gerard

Rating: *** (= Excellent!)

The turbo-charged, romantic revival of “Oklahoma!” that opens in Washington this week may boast of a surrey with the fringe on top. But it has ants in its pants, too.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein perennial was a gutsy choice for artistic director Molly Smith. But the $135-million Mead Center for American Theater — that’s the fancy new name for D.C.’s venerable, now lavishly revitalized Arena Stage — deserved a big, celebratory show. Continue reading

Oklahoma! at D.C.’s Arena Stage receives rave review from Washington Post

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, opened as the inaugural production at the Mead Center for American Theater ( Fichandler Theater, SW, Washington, DC).  The production received critical raves and is playing as a limited engagement through December 26th, 2010.

WASHINGTON POST

THEATER REVIEW

A grand new state: You just cain’t say no to Arena Stage’s ‘Oklahoma!’

By Peter Marks

Washington Post Staff Writer
November 6, 2010

What a perfect time for a theater to hit its stride. Arena Stage’s “Oklahoma!” is quite simply an enchantment — a triumphant wave on which the venerable company rides back into its refurbished home on the Washington waterfront.

The show’s got life, humor, heart. Director Molly Smith infuses a musical that sometimes can come across as a nostalgia piece with the energy of a new age, with the gifts of a cast whose faces reflect the America of this moment. Her exciting take — reinforced grandly in Parker Esse’s superb choreography — touches on the uplift you feel merely walking into Arena’s newly glittering complex, itself a representation of the nation’s optimistic impulse for reinvention.

“Country’s changing, and we got to change with it!,” Curly, in the charming guise of Nicholas Rodriguez, confides to his prairie love, Laurey, portrayed with a beguiling earthiness by Eleasha Gamble. It might seem that in casting a Latino and an African American as the lead couple, Smith has placed Curly’s line in italics too deliberately. But not only is there some historical support for these choices, it’s also a fact that each of them sings like a dream. In the benevolent land of opportunity that is conjured here, they’ve earned these jobs, on merit.

And their performances are cushioned by the most astutely assembled cast Arena has rounded up for a musical in years. As the show’s comic couple, the dopey but devoted Will Parker and the overeager object of his affection, Ado Annie, the sublime Cody Williams and June Schreiner come this close to upstaging the main-event love story. Williams executes a two-step as sharply as he sings, and with the help of the male ensemble, turns the first-act dance number “Kansas City” into a thrilling acrobatic showpiece… Continue reading