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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

Arena Stage announces full cast for Marcus Gardley’s every tongue confess – World Premiere

 

ARENA STAGE AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

ANNOUNCES THE FULL CAST FOR

THE WORLD PREMIERE OF

MARCUS GARDLEY’S every tongue confess

DIRECTED BY KENNY LEON

FEATURING PHYLICIA RASHAD

*** Inaugural production in the 200-seat Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle

in the Mead Center for American Theater ***

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announced the full cast for the world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s every tongue confess, which opens the new Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, the third theater space in the Mead Center. Director Kenny Leon (Broadway’s Fences and last season’s Stick Fly at Arena Stage) leads an ensemble cast featuring talent from across the country, including Tony Award-winner Phylicia Rashad teamed up with Jason Dirden, Crystal Fox, Autumn Hurlbert, Jim Ireland, Leslie Kritzer, Eugene Lee, E. Roger Mitchell and Jonathan Earl Peck. every tongue confess runs November 9, 2010-January 2, 2011 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.

“The birth of a new theater space is cause for major celebration,” says Artistic Director Molly Smith. “The inauguration of the Kogod Cradle, as a theater created for new works, needed to be a premiere. Marcus Gardley is a young writer who is a theater poet, who writes plays that are epic and intimate at the same time. The first project that is created in a new theater will be always remembered, and every tongue confess is that play.”

In the backwater town of Boligee, Alabama, the summer heat is rising higher, driving the townsfolk to distraction and conjuring the spirits of the past to walk the earth. Wrapped in the combustible music of a Deep South juke joint and the sweat-soaked gospel of a revivalist church tent, intergenerational stories of loss and redemption collide. Gardley blends ancient myth with magical realism, Biblical allegory with the local TV news to create a fiery theatrical furnace in which some will be saved, some will be purged and the truth cannot escape.

Growing up in a family of ministers, Playwright Marcus Gardley always felt at home when he was at church. “Theater is church for me because it’s the place where souls are moved,” says Gardley, whose play is based on the church burnings that happened in 1996 Alabama. “My characters make a home in my mind and speak to me until I put them onstage, and now, these characters get to speak to D.C. in a new home. This is the story I want to share with the world.”

Director Kenny Leon returns to Arena Stage for his fourth production with every tongue confess. “I knew I had to do every tongue confess,” says Leon. “It’s earthy, epic, contains rich poetry and song with intriguing characters. This play is the perfect play to open the Kogod Cradle and this incredible cast will make Marcus’ words really speak to people.”

Marcus Gardley (Playwright) is a multiple award-winning poet-playwright who won the prestigious 2008 Helen Merrill Award and a Kesselring honor. His most recent play On the Levee was produced at Lincoln Center Theater and has been nominated for seven AUDELCO awards including outstanding playwright 2010. His most produced work, And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, was performed at the Cutting Ball Theater and received both critical acclaim and two sold-out extensions. His Bay Area plays This World in a Woman’s Hands (October 2009) and Love is a Dream House in Lorin (March 2007) have been hailed as the best in Bay Area theater. The latter was nominated for the National Critics Steinberg New Play Award. He has had six plays produced including: dance of the holy ghosts at Yale Repertory Theatre (now under a commercial Broadway option). He is the recipient of the SF Bay Area’s Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Scholarship and the ASCAP Cole Porter Prize. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of New Dramatists, The Dramatists Guild and the Lark Play Development Center. Gardley, a native of West Oakland, teaches Playwriting and African-American studies at Umass Amherst.

Kenny Leon (Director), named one of Financial Times’ Top 20 Southerners to Watch, is one of the most exciting and acclaimed directors in American theater today. In July 2010, his hit Tony-winning Broadway show Fences garnered 10 Tony nominations, including Best Director. Past Tony nominations include his Broadway productions of Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean and A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. Mr. Leon was nominated for Best Director by the Directors Guild of America for the film version of A Raisin in the Sun, which received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and won three NAACP Image Awards. Mr. Leon’s awards include the Drama League Julia Hansen Award for lifetime of excellence in theater, MIT Eugene McDermott Humanitarian Award, as well as the ABBY and Christopher awards. He’s been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, NBC, Charlie Rose and PBS and was featured as People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful and the Face of Martell’s national and international advertising campaign. While directing every tongue confess, Mr. Leon crisscrosses the country directing Private Practice for ABC. Mr. Leon’s upcoming Broadway work includes Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, winner of London’s Olivier Award for Best New Play. Formerly Artistic Director of Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, Mr. Leon is presently Founding Artistic Director of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. His directorial credits include classic theater, drama, comedy, opera, musicals, musical revues and film. He’s directed extensively around the country, including Chicago’s Goodman Theater, Boston’s Huntington Theater, Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theater, Hartford Stage, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Los Angeles’ Center Theater Group, Milwaukee Repertory, New York’s Public Theater, Atlanta’s Fox Theater, Seattle Repertory, Georgia Shakespeare, San Jose Repertory, Dallas Theater Center and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Leon was artistic director of the 10-play August Wilson Century Cycle at the Kennedy Center, marking the first time all 10 plays were produced in repertory under one roof. Other directorial credits include Swimming Upstream, Breaking the Silence, Flashdance, which toured the UK through May 2009, and was stage director on Alicia Keys’ As I Am worldwide tour, which launched in the UK, toured Europe and finished in North America. He staged the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s opera Margaret Garner, featuring mezzo soprano Denyce Graves, at Michigan Opera House and the Auditorium in Chicago. He’s produced works including Disney and Elton John’s Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Pearl Cleage’s Flying West and Blues for an Alabama Sky, among others. He produces the August Wilson Monologue Competition, and is currently producing a documentary film about the importance of the arts in our lives. With honorary doctorates from Roosevelt Univ., among others, Mr. Leon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta Univ.

The Cast of every tongue confess

Jason Dirden (Shadrack)’s Broadway credits include Fences. Off-Broadway: The First Breeze of Summer (Signature). Regional: Stick Fly (Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre), Fences (Geva), August Wilson’s Century Cycle (Kennedy Center), Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (True Colors). TV: Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. Training: Morehouse Coll. and Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Crystal Fox (Missionary/Tender Meeks)’s other D.C. area appearances include August Wilson’s Century of Plays (Kennedy Center); True Colors’ Flyin’ West (Lincoln Theatre); Three Sistahs (Metrostage); and Home (Roundhouse Theatre, Helen Hayes nomination). Other regional credits include Black Pearl Sings (Penumbra); Gem of the Ocean (Seattle Rep, directed by Ms. Rashad); Seven Guitars and The Boys from Syracuse (Alliance Theatre); Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, The Piano Lesson and A Raisin in the Sun (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Ms. Fox was a Best Actress Drammy winner for For Colored Girls… (Portland Center Stage). TV/Film credits include In the Heat of the Night, The Sopranos, House of Payne, Old Settler, Mama Flora’s Family and Driving Miss Daisy.

Autumn Hurlbert (Benny Pride) made her Broadway debut in Legally Blonde. Off-Broadway/Regional: Abigail Peck in A Contemporary American’s Guide to A Successful Marriage (2009 Fringe Festival recipient for Outstanding Actor); Beth March in Little Women (first national Broadway tour); Wanda Clark in Lucky Guy (Goodspeed); Gwen Goralski in Killing Women (Beckett Theater, Theater Row); Eponine in Les Misérables (Pioneer Theater). TV/Film: Rachel Hughes in Sudden Death!; Guiding Light and MTV’s Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods. Ms. Hurlbert is also a singer/songwriter.

Jim Ireland (Stoker Pride), a native of Philadelphia, resides in New York where his Off-Broadway credits include The Shawl, directed by Sidney Lumet, Motherbird (original cast) by Craig Lucas and Ephemera. In his hometown, Jim has performed at the Walnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia, Here I Come!), the Arden Theatre (Man and Superman), the Wilma Theatre (Macbett) and in Twelfth Night, directed by Greg Doran of the RSC. Jim is a member of Blue Roses Productions and Circle East, with whom he’s directed and performed works of fellow members Lanford Wilson, Terrance McNally and Craig Lucas. Mr. Ireland last performed in D.C. in the 1987 toddler-acclaimed Pinocchio, A Real Boy! at the Kennedy Center. Television appearances this year include Mercy and Law & Order.

Leslie Kritzer (Bernadette)’s Broadway credits include a soloist in Sondheim on Sondheim; Janey in A Catered Affair (Drama Desk nom); Serena in Legally Blonde (Clarence Derwent Award) and Hairspray. Off-Broadway: Monica in Rooms (Outer Critics Circle nom) and Pickles in Great American Trailer Park (Drama Desk nom). Regional: Daughter in Memory Show (Barrington Stage); Valerie Solanas in POP! (Yale Rep); Sally Bowles in Cabaret at TUTS; and Little Becky in national tour of Urinetown. Concerts: Hildy in On the Town (Encores!); Broadway Three Generations (Kennedy Center); guest soloist honoring Alan Menken and Sir Tim Rice at London’s Royal Albert Hall and several cast recordings. Time Out NY Award for her show Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches. TV/Film: 17 Photos of Isabel; Law & Order: SVU; 3 LBS (CBS); and Jason and Jessica (HBO).

Eugene Lee (Elder/Jeremiah)’s New York credits include August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (Broadway), Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer-winning A Soldier’s Play (Negro Ensemble Company) and WPA Theatre. Regional: Crossroads Theatre Company and Center Stage. L.A.: Eyes of the American (L.A. Theatre Center) and Split Second with Denzel Washington and Alfre Woodard (Mayfair Theatre). Samm Art Williams’ Woman from the Town (Inner City Cultural Center, 1990 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor) and Richard II (Mark Taper Forum). TV: The Women of Brewster Place, The District as coroner Hud Sanders, NYPD Blue, Without a Trace, The White Shadow. Film: Static, Coach Carter, Lackawanna Blues, Black Listed and Menace II Society. Mr. Lee is also a playwright whose works include Killingsworth, the book for the musical Twist (Walnut St., George St.), East Texas Hot Links (Met Theatre, Arena Stage, Royal Court, Public) and Fear Itself (Crossroads, Ubu Rep).

E. Roger Mitchell (Brother/Bobby) resides in Atlanta and was most recently seen in A Confederacy of Dunces at Theatrical Outfit. Other credits include: Jitney, Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean and Cuttin’ Up (Alliance Theatre); Cormac McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited (Theatrical Outfit); A Cool Drink of Water (Horizon Theatre); Miss Evers’ Boys and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (Kenny Leon’s True Colors). Film: Blood Done Sign My Name, The Crazies, S.W.A.T., Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Daddy’s Little Girls, HBO’s Boycott and Warm Springs (2005 Emmy Award Best Picture). Television: Past Life, The Shield, Navy NCIS, One Tree Hill and House of Payne

Jonathan Earl Peck (Blacksmith) returns to Arena Stage after last appearing in Blood Knot, a show done in repertory with The African Company Does Richard III, for which he received a Helen Hayes nomination. Other Arena Stage credits include Tom in The Glass Menagerie. Mr. Peck also performed in Tamburlaine (Shakespeare Theatre Co.). On Broadway, Mr. Peck played Pasha Selim in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio (Lincoln Center) and performed as Lauren Fishbourne’s replacement in The Lion in Winter. Recent film and TV credits include the pilot episode for AMC’s Rubicon, Cadillac Records and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Phylicia Rashad (Mother Sister) returns to Arena Stage after last appearing in Blue. A native of Houston, Ms. Rashad graduated magna cum laude with a B.F.A. in theater from Howard Univ. She recently made her directorial debut at the helm of Seattle Rep’s production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Broadway credits include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (also West End), Gem of the Ocean, A Raisin in the Sun (2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, Drama Desk Award), Blue, Jelly’s Last Jam, Into the Woods, Dreamgirls, The Wiz and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Off-Broadway credits include Cymbeline, Bernarda Alba and Ed Bullins’ The Duplex (Lincoln Center); Helen, The Story and Everybody’s Ruby (NYSF Public Theater); Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In an Upstate Motel, Weep Not for Me and The Great Mac Daddy (Negro Ensemble Company); and The Sirens (Manhattan Theatre Club). In regional theater, she performed as Euripides’ Medea and in Blues for an Alabama Sky at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Known to TV audiences for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show and as Ruth Lucas on the CBS sitcom Cosby, she received the NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for both of these roles. She’s also been nominated for two Emmy Awards and has received two People’s Choice Awards. Feature film credits include: Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, directed by Tim Reid; Free of Eden, opposite Sidney Poitier; Loving Jezebel, directed by Kwyn Bader; and The Visit, directed by Jordan Walker Pearlman. TV film credits include: A Raisin in the Sun (2008 Emmy nom); The Old Settler (AFI nom), directed by Debbie Allen; David’s Mother; False Witness; Jailbirds; Polly; and Polly Comin’ Home. Other television appearances include Touched by an Angel; Blossom; and A Different World. Ms. Rashad supports the work of the PRASAD Project, an international charitable organization, and is a member of the Broadway Inspirational Voices. Ms. Rashad has received honorary doctorates from Providence Coll., Morris Brown Coll., Clark Univ., and Barber-Scotia Coll. and the Harvard Univ. Foundation Award. In 1999 she received the Dorothy L. Height Dreammaker Award sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women Inc. in association with Aunt Jemima/Quaker Oats Co. In December 2001, Ms. Rashad was honored by the board of directors of New York Women in Film and Television with the Muse Award for Outstanding Vision and Achievement.

The Creative Team of every tongue confess includes Dramaturg Nakissa Etemad, Set Designer Tom Lynch, Costume Designer Ilona Somogyi, Lighting Designer Allen Lee Hughes, Composer Dwight Andrews, Sound Designer Tim Thompson, New York Casting Director Alaine Alldaffer, Arena Stage Casting Director Daniel Pruksarnukul, Stage Manager Kurt Hall, Assistant Stage Manager Keri Schultz and Assistant Director Jamil Jude.

Further information and images available upon request. Please e-mail press@arenastage.org.

every tongue confess is supported by The Edgerton Foundation.

every tongue confess Special Events, Ticket Information and Performance Calendar

Southwest Night—Friday, November 26, 2010 at noon

An invitation is extended to our Southwest D.C. neighbors to buy $25 tickets, plus applicable fees, for one designated Friday evening performance of each production. Proof of Southwest D.C. residency—or continued employment—for each audience member of each party must be presented at the time of purchase. Tickets are limited to four per person and are based on availability. To purchase tickets, call 202-488-3300 or stop by the Arena Stage Sales Office. Plays and dates are subject to change.

TICKETS: Tickets for every tongue confess start at $40, plus applicable fees, based on availability. Discount tickets are available for patrons purchasing tickets for multiple shows, students and groups. A limited number of $15 tickets for patrons age 30 and under go on sale each Monday for performances that week. (All patrons must present valid ID.) HOTTIX, a limited number of half-price, day-of-performance tickets, are available 90 minutes before curtain prior to every performance. With Metro Mondays, patrons who present a SmarTrip or Metro card can purchase half-price tickets for the week’s performances after noon on Mondays while supplies last. Tickets may be purchased online at www.arenastage.org, by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 6th St., SW, D.C.

Sales Office/Subscriptions                   202-488-3300

TTY for deaf patrons                            202-484-0247
Group Sales Hotline                            202-488-4380

Info for patrons with disabilities          202-488-3300

Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.

Weekday matinees at noon 11/26, 12/1, 12/7, 12/8, 12/23 & 12/24.

Sign-interpreted performances: 12/16 at 8:00 p.m. & 12/19 at 7:30 p.m.

Audio-described performances: 12/15 at 7:30 p.m. & 12/18 at 2:00 p.m.

Open-captioned performance: 12/29 at 7:30 p.m.

Post-show discussions: 11/30 & 12/9 after the evening show; 12/1, 12/7 & 12/8 after the noon show.

METRO: The Waterfront-SEU station (Green Line) is the closest Metro station to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. When exiting the station, walk west on M Street toward 6th Street, and the main entrance to the Mead Center is on the right.

PARKING: Discounted parking in the Mead Center garage is available by reservation to full-season subscribers for $18 per show. The entrance for the Mead Center garage is on Maine Ave. SW. Limited handicapped parking is available by reservation up to 24 hours prior to a performance. Remaining spaces are $20 for non-subscribers. Patrons can also park at either of Central Parking’s garages on 4th St. between I and M Streets for $10.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is a national center dedicated to the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Arena Stage produces huge plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 200,000. www.arenastage.org

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Oklahoma! at Arena Stage opens the 2010/11 Season of Arena Stage at the Mead Center

THE INAUGURAL SEASON OF ARENA STAGE AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

BEGINS WITH RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S OKLAHOMA!

DIRECTED BY MOLLY SMITH

*** Arena Stage favorites return, including E. Faye Butler and Nicholas Rodriguez, with the professional debut of Arena Stage Academy graduate June Schreiner ***

(Washington, D.C.) As Arena Stage begins a new life in its renovated home at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest D.C., it opens its inaugural season with a classic American musical that similarly embraces life on a new frontier. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is the first production at the Mead Center and features an all-star cast under the direction of Artistic Director Molly Smith. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! runs October 22-December 26, 2010 in the Fichandler Stage.

Inspired by the toughness of the prairie, Smith sets her production in the robust world of territory life filled with a dynamic cast as rich and complex as the tapestry of America itself. D.C. area favorite E. Faye Butler (Arena Stage’s Crowns, Ain’t Misbehavin’) stars as Aunt Eller, with Valisia LeKae (Broadway’s Ragtime, 110 in the Shade) as Laurey, Aaron Ramey (Broadway’s Curtains, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Jud and Nicholas Rodriguez (Broadway’s Tarzan) as Curly, who played Fabrizio last season in The Light in the Piazza, also directed by Smith. Cody Williams makes his Arena Stage debut as Will Parker alongside June Schreiner as Ado Annie Carnes, a high school junior at The Madeira School in McLean, VA, who was discovered in last summer’s Arena Stage Academy Musical Theater Training Company. With Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless music, Smith’s Oklahoma! celebrates the vigor of America’s pioneering spirit with athletic dance and boot-stomping energy.

Continue reading

Arena Stage announces Tectonic Theater Project’s “The Laramie Project Residency” joins 2010-11 Season

ARENA STAGE ANNOUNCES TECTONIC THEATER PROJECT’S PRODUCTIONS

THE LARAMIE PROJECT AND THE LARAMIE PROJECT: 10 YEARS LATER

TO BE PRESENTED AS PART OF THE 2010-2011 SEASON

AT THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces the award-winning New York theater troupe Tectonic Theater Project will join the 2010-2011 season with its national tour of The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later. Five performances will be presented in the Kreeger Theater November 19-21, 2010 and will feature many of the original cast members from The Laramie Project.

Directed by Tony and Emmy Award nominee Moisés Kaufman and Emmy Award nominee Leigh Fondakowski, The Laramie Project examines the 1998 murder of college student Matthew Shepard, the victim of a hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming. The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, depicts the town of Laramie 10 years after the original event, and premiered in October 2009 in New York City with simultaneous productions at 150 other theaters worldwide, including Arena Stage, where more than 1,000 people attended at the Lincoln Theatre. Both plays are written by Moisés Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris and Stephen Belber.

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Arena Stage announces Homecoming Opening Celebration

ARENA STAGE OPENS THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER WITH A HOMECOMING GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION FEATURING FREE PERFORMANCES, ARTIST DISCUSSIONS AND ACTIVITIES THROUGHOUT THE CENTER

Participants include Alice Ripley, Kate Baldwin, Anna Deavere Smith, E. Faye Butler,

the Manzari Brothers, Brad Oscar and the cast and musicians of

Arena Stage’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Opening Gala also scheduled to commemorate Arena Stage’s return to Southwest D.C.

(Washington, D.C.) After more than a decade of planning and two and a half years of construction, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest D.C. returns to the neighborhood with a ribbon cutting ceremony and Homecoming Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, October 23, 2010. From 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. the festivities will include performances and activities in seven venues including the Fichandler Stage, Kreeger Theater and Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, as well as an outdoor stage. Various theatrical performances and children’s activities will occupy one of the rehearsal halls, the lobbies and the classroom.

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

ARENA STAGE ANNOUNCES CASTING FOR THE INAUGURAL PRODUCTIONS TO OPEN

THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

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.

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Obama & Fenty to be honorary chairs of Arena Stage’s inaugural season

ARENA STAGE ANNOUNCES PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA TO BE HONORARY CHAIRS OF INAUGURAL SEASON

AND RE-OPENING GALA OF THE MEAD CENTER FOR AMERICAN THEATER

 

D.C. MAYOR ADRIAN FENTY & WIFE MICHELLE FENTY ALSO NAMED HONORARY CO-CHAIRS

 

*** Gala evening includes headlining performance by Brian Stokes Mitchell ***

 

(Washington, D.C.)  As the final touches on Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater are made, the theater is proud to announce that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be the Honorary Chairs for its grand re-opening and yearlong inaugural season at the Mead Center, which includes the Opening Gala Celebration October 25, 2010. Mayor of the District of Columbia Adrian Fenty and his wife, Michelle Fenty, will also be Honorary Co-Chairs. The support of both First Couples, representing the nation and the nation’s capital, further emphasizes that Arena Stage’s move back into the company’s home in Southwest D.C. is a seminal moment for the future of American theater.

“There could be no one better to help us celebrate Arena Stage’s new home for American theater than the President and First Lady of our United States,” shares Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. “Along with the support of Mayor Fenty and his wife, we are deeply grateful for their commitment to the arts in our country; our opening season back home would not be complete without them.”

The Opening Gala Celebration will be a black tie event within the Mead Center featuring cocktails, dinner and an exclusive one-night-only performance headlined by Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Brian Stokes Mitchell. Additionally, the evening will be emceed by award-winning journalist and ABC7/WJLA-TV lead anchor Leon Harris. 

The Opening Gala Celebration supports all of Arena Stage’s programs, including the exciting work on our stage, our investment in new play development and our wide range of community engagement activities.

For more information regarding the Opening Gala Celebration, including further casting and how to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.arenastage.org/support/special-events/.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is a national center dedicated to the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Arena Stage produces huge plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 200,000.

 

www.arenastage.org.

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Arena Stage announces José Andrés will operate cafe in new Mead Center

Arena Stage announces José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells as operator of cafe in the Mead Center for American Theater

*** Design Cuisine, Fresh Start Catering, José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells and Salamander Hospitality also named exclusive caterers ***

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage is proud to announce that José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells has been selected to operate the cafe in the Mead Center for American Theater. The idea for this partnership was first discussed between Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith and José Andrés, chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup and local restaurants including Jaleo, Café Atlántico and Minibar, almost six years ago when Smith began to envision a space in the Mead Center that could offer José’s unparalleled culinary creations. The culmination of this work will open in the fall. Detailed information including menus and operating hours will be announced at a later time.

In addition to this news, Arena Stage also announces that Design Cuisine, Fresh Start Catering and Salamander Hospitality will join José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells to be the four exclusive catering services provided within the Mead Center.

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Arena Stage Announces Six Playwrights in Residency as part of American Voices New Play Institute

ARENA STAGE ANNOUNCES

KATORI HALL, LISA KRON, AMY FREED AND CHARLES RANDOLPH-WRIGHT

JOIN KAREN ZACARÍAS AS THE FIRST RESIDENT PLAYWRIGHTS OF

THE AMERICAN VOICES NEW PLAY INSTITUTE AT ARENA STAGE

RECEIVING THREE YEARS OF BENEFITS AND RESOURCES TO DEVELOP NEW WORK

LYNN NOTTAGE AND DAVID HENRY HWANG ALSO BECOME

PROJECT RESIDENTS THROUGH COMMISSIONS FROM THE INSTITUTE

(Washington, D.C.) In August 2009, Arena Stage announced the formation of a new groundbreaking initiative created for the advancement of America’s new play development sector—The American Voices New Play Institute. The Institute—integral to Arena’s mission as a leading center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater—isdesigned as a center for research and development of effective practices, programs and processes for new play development in the American Theater.

The Institute will host five playwrights over three years and will provide resources and benefits to write and develop new or unfinished plays. D.C. native Karen Zacarías was announced as the first Resident Playwright in August 2009 and began her residency with the Institute in January 2010. She is now joined by Lisa Kron and Amy Freed, who will each start their three-year residencies in July 2010, and Katori Hall and Charles Randolph-Wright, who will begin in January 2011

In addition to the first round of Resident Playwrights, the Institute will also host Project Residents Lynn Nottage and David Henry Hwang, who will be commissioned through the Institute to write a play that Arena Stage will produce.

In addition to the residencies, the American Voices New Play Institute operates with a suite of interrelated programs, including the New Play Producing Fellowships, Theater 101 Audience Enrichment Seminar, administration of Round One of the NEA New Play Development Program and major convenings of American artists and arts administrators around issues facing the new play sector.

Under the leadership of Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, the Institute is guided by Arena Stage Associate Artistic Director David Dower and works in partnership with Georgetown University’s Theater Department, led by Dr. Derek Goldman. The American Voices New Play Institute is made possible through the keystone gift of $1.1 million in support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“With the launching of the residencies for the American Voices New Play Institute under the visionary funding of the Mellon Foundation, we at Arena Stage are eager to support and help transform play development around the country,“ said Smith. “These writers are so different; my mouth is literally watering at the thought of what each may write. From major dramas to musicals, comedies, one-person plays and interview-based stories, the range is exhilarating. Now the writers will have the time, support and finances to be able to do their best work. Each writer is splendid and has the talent and insight to surprise us all.”

The primary purpose of the residency is to write plays and to advance professional outcomes for the participating writers, as well as to help Arena Stage test and develop best practices for such residencies in theaters around the country. The playwrights will determine their individual involvement in the life of the theater company. Ultimately, Arena Stage hopes the Institute will make the case for the power, practicality and impact of resident playwrights in regional theaters nationwide.

“This first cohort of playwrights is going to really advance the inquiry here at Arena Stage,” shared Dower. “They come at it from so many different perspectives on form, process and story, and they have all grabbed hold of the opportunity to help develop the role of the playwright in the institutions of the regional theater. So I expect we’ll not only see work they write popping up on stages around the country, but I hope through their leadership we’ll see increased opportunities for playwrights’ residencies around the field.”

Playwright Residencies Details

  • Three-year terms for five playwrights (one local, four non-locals) to write and develop new plays.
  • Each playwright will receive a living wage salary, health benefits and housing (for non-locals), as well as an annual budget of $15,000 to cover collaborating artist fees and development expenses to be managed by the playwright.
  • Arena Stage will commit to producing at least one play by each writer during the time of their residency period, and the work they develop during the residency will be unencumbered by Arena.
  • The Resident Playwrights will work with New Play Producing Fellows, who will produce all new play development activities during their residency.
  • The Resident Playwrights may attend Arena artistic staff meetings and participate in Institute convenings, Theater 101 program, Georgetown University partnership activities, and any other Arena Stage activities that draw their interest.
  • Playwrights will have access to workspace at Arena Stage.

Project Residency Details

  • Commissions for two playwrights to develop a specific project, beginning July 1, 2010.
  • Each playwright will receive a budget to cover research, collaborating artist fees and development expenses to be managed by the playwright.
  • Arena Stage will assist in development of the project through hosting readings, workshops and other development activities as needed and determined by the playwright.
  • Arena Stage is committed to producing each project at the end of its development.
  • The Resident Playwrights will work with New Play Producing Fellows, who will assist in producing all new play development activities during their residencies as needed.

American Voices New Play Institute Resident Playwrights

Amy Freed is the author of Restoration Comedy, The Beard of Avon, Freedomland, Safe in Hell, The Psychic Life of Savages and other plays. Her work has been produced at South Coast Repertory Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Seattle Repertory, American Conservatory Theater, Yale Rep, California Shakespeare Theater, Berkeley Rep, Goodman, Playwright’s Horizons, Woolly Mammoth and other theaters around the country. Her recent play You, Nero debuted at South Coast Rep in January 2009 and was produced at Berkeley Rep in June of that year. Her latest play, Right to the Top, will have its first reading at the Pacific Playwright’s Festival in April 2010. Freed received the Joseph Kesselring Award, Charles MacArthur Playwriting Award, several L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Freedomland. She is an artist-in-residence in the drama department of Stanford University. She has been playwright-in-residence for South Coast Rep and recently served as playwright-in-residence for San Diego’s Old Globe Theater.

Katori Hall is a playwright-performer hailing from Memphis, Tennessee. Her plays include Hoodoo Love, Remembrance, Hurt Village, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, The Mountaintop (2010 Olivier Winner for Best New Play), WHADDABLOODCLOT!?!?, The Hope Well and Pussy Valley. Other awards include 2009/10 Lark Play Development Center Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, Kate Neal Kinley Fellowship, two Lecomtedu Noüy Prizes from Lincoln Center, Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, Van Lier Fellowship from the Public Theater, NYFA Fellowship and Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award. Recently, she was short-listed for the London Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award and received the Otis Guernsey New Voices Playwriting Award from the William Inge Theatre Festival. Hall has been commissioned by the National Theatre in London, Public Theater and Women’s Project. She is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard and the Juilliard School. www.katorihall.com

Lisa Kron has been writing and performing theater since moving to New York from Michigan in 1984. Her work has been widely produced at theaters such as the Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Arena Stage, A.R.T., Huntington, A.C.T., Actors Theatre of Louisville, Tokyo’s Rinkogun, Barbican and on London’s West End. Her plays include: In the Wake(co-premiering currently at CTG in L.A. and at Berkeley Rep, scheduled NY premiere at Public Theater, Fall 2010); Well(premiere at Public Theater, 2004; named one of the year’s 10 best plays by The New York Times, Associated Press, The Newark Star-Ledger and Back Stage; Broadway premiere March 2006, two Tony nominations); and 2.5 Minute Ride(NY premiere at Public Theater, 1999; OBIE, L.A. Dramalogue and GLAAD Media Awards, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations). Kron is also a founding member of the beloved Obie- and Bessie-Award-winning collaborative theater company The Five Lesbian Brothers,whose plays include Brave Smiles, The Secretaries and Oedipus at Palm Springs (New York Theater Workshop).Lisa has received playwriting fellowships from the Lortel and Guggenheim foundations, Sundance Theater Lab and Lark Play Development Center; an NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Fellowship; the CalArts Alpert Award; and grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts. Projects in development include a musical collaboration with composer Jeanine Tesori, a new play for Drew University, and another for the Sloan Foundation through Playwrights Horizons. Lisa teaches playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.

Charles Randolph-Wright’s plays include Blue and Cuttin’ Up (which have had sold-out runs at Arena Stage and been produced around the country), and most recently The Night Is a Child (starring Jo Beth Williams at Pasadena Playhouse). His directing credits with Arena Stage include Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies and Guys and Dolls (both starring Maurice Hines), Oak & Ivy, Anthems, Señor Discretion Himself and Cuttin’ Up. His directing credits include the 75th anniversary international tour of Porgy and Bess, Daniel Beaty in Through the Night (Geffen Playhouse), They’re Playing Our Song in Brazil (in Portuguese), Brian Stokes Mitchell in Love/Life (Lincoln Center), Tough Titty (Williamstown), Blood Knot (with music by Tracy Chapman at ACT), among other productions at Roundabout, NY Shakespeare Festival, NY Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Mark Taper and Carnegie Hall. Randolph-Wright wrote and directed the upcoming film Mama, I Want to Sing! and directed the award-winning film Preaching to the Choir. TV directing credits include Lincoln Heights, South of Nowhere and the Nike Freestyle Soccer campaign starring Ronaldinho. He also produced and wrote Showtime’s critically acclaimed series Linc’s.

Karen Zacarías’ plays include Legacy of Light, the adaptation of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Mariela in the Desert, The Book Club Play and The Sins of Sor Juana. Her children’s musicals include Looking for Roberto Clemente, Chasing George Washington, Ferdinand the Bull, Einstein Is a Dummy, Jane of the Jungle and Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans. Her plays have been produced at Arena Stage, Kennedy Center, Goodman Theater, Denver Center, Round House Theater, Arden, Cleveland Playhouse, Alliance Theater and many more. Her awards include: 2010 finalist for the Steinberg Award for best New American Play (Legacy of Light), Francesca Primus Prize (Mariela in the Desert), National Latino Play Award, AT&T/TCG First Stages Award, Susan S. Blackburn Award finalist, New Voices Award and Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play (The Sins of Sor Juana). Karen lives in D.C. with her husband and three young children. She is also a playwriting professor at Georgetown University and the founding artistic director of Young Playwrights’ Theater in D.C.

American Voices New Play Institute Project Residencies

David Henry Hwang’s plays include M. Butterfly (1988 Tony Award for Best Play, 1989 Pulitzer Finalist), Yellow Face (2008 Obie Award for Playwriting, 2008 Pulitzer finalist), Golden Child (1997 Obie Award, 1998 Tony nomination for Best Play), FOB (1981 Obie Award) and The Dance and the Railroad. He wrote libretti for the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author, with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice), Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (2002 revival, Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical) and Disney’s Tarzan (with songs by Phil Collins). His opera libretti include four collaborations with composer Philip Glass—1000 Airplanes on the Roof, The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera), The Sound of a Voice and the upcoming Icarus at the Edge of Time—as well as Bright Sheng’s The Silver River, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (2007 Grammy awards for Best Opera and Best Classical Composition), Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (Opernwelt 2007 World Premiere of the Year) and Howard Shore’s The Fly. Hwang penned the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate and Possession (co-writer) and also co-wrote the song “Solo” with Prince. His newest play, Chinglish, will premiere in 2011 at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, co-produced with the Public Theater in New York. Hwang attended Stanford University and Yale School of Drama and served by appointment of President Clinton on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Lynn Nottage is a playwright from Brooklyn. Her plays include Intimate Apparel; Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas and Ruined. They have been produced and developed at theaters both nationally and internationally. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2007 MacArthur Genius Award, Obie Award for playwriting, NY Drama Critics Circle Award, Best Play and John Gassner Outer Critics Circle awards, American Theatre Critics Steinberg 2004 New Play Award, 2004 Francesca Primus Award and two AUDELCO awards. Nottage’s most recent publications include: Intimate Apparel and Fabulation (TCG) and an anthology of her plays, Crumbs from the Table of Joy and Other Plays (TCG), which includes Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers and Poof! She was awarded a 2007 Lucille Lortel Foundation Fellowship, 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship, National Black Theatre Festival’s August Wilson Playwriting Award and 2004 PEN/Laura Pels Award for Drama. She is a graduate of Brown University and Yale School of Drama, where she is currently a visiting lecturer. Nottage is also a recent graduate of New Dramatists. http://www.lynnnottage.net

The Institute’s programs address a significant gap in the national new play development infrastructure. While there are many promising and productive practices scattered across the field that could help strengthen the overall ecology for new plays and playwrights, there is no central focus for advancing the sector as a whole. Promising innovations remain locked inside their originating context, with no way to test their capacity for successful replication elsewhere. For more information regarding all of the American Voices New Play Institute programs please visit www.arenastage.org/institute.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Performing Arts Program currently provides multi-year grants on an invitation-only basis to leading orchestras, theater companies, opera companies, modern dance companies and dance-specific presenters based in the United States. Although the Foundation does not confine its support to large organizations with national visibility, it does seek to support institutions that contribute to the preservation and development of their art forms, provide creative leadership in solving problems or addressing issues unique to the field, and present the highest level of institutional performance. Grants are awarded on the basis of artistic merit and leadership in the field and concentrate on achieving long-term results. In conjunction with regular program grants, the Foundation also makes a limited number of grants to research and service organizations that are doing work closely related to program goals.

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 will be a leading 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.

Arena Stage’s Sophisticated Ladies extends through June 27

ARENA STAGE EXTENDS
Duke Ellington’s SOPHISTICATED Ladies
NOW Through June 27, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage’s record-breaking and critically acclaimed production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies will now continue its run at the historic Lincoln Theatre through June 27, 2010. The production, which is the highest grossing show in Arena Stage’s 60 year history, was directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and choreographed by its star, the legendary Broadway veteran Maurice Hines.

Tickets for the extension are on sale now through the Arena Stage Sales Office by calling (202) 488-3300 or visiting http://www.arenastage.org .

Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies is a musical revue based on the music of Duke Ellington and was conceived by Donald McKayle (Broadway’s and Arena’s Raisin), with music, dance and vocal arrangements by Lloyd Mayers, additional vocal arrangements by Malcolm Dodd and original music direction by Mercer Ellington. It explores the legacy of local jazz hero Duke Ellington and follows his journey from the beginnings in D.C. through his time in New York City to his national and international stardom. The show travels through a history of song and dance with an “authentic, jazzy, brassy sound and dancing of high voltage and precision” (The New York Times). Big band music, from the roaring ‘20s through the swing era, serves as the show’s soundtrack with hits like “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and “Take the ‘A’ Train” while dance styles range from Charleston to swing to virtuosic tap.

Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies is sponsored by Hank and Charlotte Schlosberg and the Family of H. Max and Josephine F. Ammerman and Andrew Ammerman.

TICKETS: Tickets for Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies start at $25. Discount tickets are available for patrons purchasing tickets for multiple shows, students and groups. A limited number of $10 tickets for patrons ages 30 and under go on sale beginning each Monday for performances that week (All patrons must present valid ID). HOTTIX, a limited number of half-price, day-of-performance tickets, are available 90 to 30 minutes before curtain prior to every performance. Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.arenastage.org, by phone at (202) 488-3300 or at the Arena Stage Sales Office at 1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA 22202.

Sales Office/Subscriptions                  (202) 488-3300
TTY for deaf patrons                           (202) 484-0247
Group Sales Hotline                           (202) 488-4380

Info for patrons with disabilities          (202) 488-3300

ABOUT ARENA STAGE
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Managing Director Edgar Dobie, Washington, D.C.-based Arena Stage is 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 will be a leading 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 http://www.arenastage.org