Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Director Edgar Dobie announced the 2017-18 season lineup for the company’s 68th season, which will include a mix of classic plays, world premieres, and musicals new and old.
“Our 2017-18 season celebrates a multiplicity of voices that will barnstorm America. We’re combining artistry and activism, politics and entertainment to showcase a lineup that includes two world premieres, two musicals and one premiere as part of our Power Plays initiative,” said Smith in a statement. “From the Supreme Court to the Alaskan wilderness to Cherokee Nation to Japanese-American internment camps to President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s White House, we’re bringing stories to the stage that represent diverse voices and communities. Our commitment to parity continues—half of the projects in our season boast a female playwright or male playwright of color, and seven are helmed by female directors.”
The new season will launch in July with the return of John Strand’s 2015 political drama The Originalist, featuring acclaimed D.C. actor Edward Gero reprising his role as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Later in the season, Jack Willis will reprise his performance as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the D.C. premiere of The Great Society, the sequel to Robert Schenkkan’s Tony Award-winning All the Way.
The season also offers newer work from contemporary female voices, including Karen Zacarías’ comedy Native Gardens, about the clash of class and culture that pushes neighbors over the edge; Christina Ham’s Nina Simone: Four Women, a play with music revealing how the velvet-throated singer defined the sound of the Civil Rights Movement; and Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths, which tells the true story of the son of Japanese immigrants who defied a court order when America put its own citizens into internment camps during World War II.
On the musical front, the classic American musical The Pajama Game, directed by Alan Paul with choreography by Parker Esse, will be presented in October. Also on the slate: Mary Kathryn Nagle’s world-premiere drama Sovereignty; Arthur Miller’s The Price; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running; and Snow Child, John Strand, Bob Banghart, and Georgia Stitt's new musical that dances on the edge of legend, based on Eowyn Ivey’s novel.
Season details, according to Arena Stage, follow:
By John Strand
Directed by Molly Smith
Co-production with Asolo Repertory Theatre and The Pasadena Playhouse
In the Kreeger Theater | July 7–30, 2017
Four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Edward Gero is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in The Originalist. This smash-hit show from 2015 returns to offer audiences another opportunity to see Gero’s “lively performance [that] lands the laughs, delivers the gravitas and at every turn makes you believe this tantalizing man,” (Washington Post) in this special limited engagement. When a bright, liberal, Harvard Law School graduate embarks on a nerve-wracking clerkship with Justice Scalia, she discovers him to be both an infuriating sparring partner and an unexpected mentor. How will their relationship affect one of the most incendiary cases ever to reach the nation’s highest court? Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the show afresh, as the late Justice Scalia’s seat is filled on the Supreme Court and interest in the Court is at an all-time high.
By Karen Zacarías
Directed by Blake Robison
Co-production with Guthrie Theater
In the Kreeger Theater | September 15–October 22
Good fences make good neighbors…right? From the outrageous mind of playwright Karen Zacarías (Destiny of Desire) comes this hot new comedy about the clash of class and culture that pushes well-meaning neighbors over the edge. Tania, a very pregnant Ph.D. candidate, and Pablo, her rising attorney husband, move next door to Virginia and Frank, a deep-rooted D.C. couple with an impeccably trimmed backyard. But when a questionable fence line puts a prize-worthy garden in jeopardy, neighborly rivalry escalates into an all-out border dispute, challenging everyone’s notions of race, privilege and where to draw the line on good taste.
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Seema Sueko
In the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle | October 6–November 5
Everything has a price—even our dreams. Victor Franz has returned home to settle his late father’s estate. In an attic overflowing with memories and furniture he meets the enigmatic Gregory Solomon (Hal Linden), a professional appraiser committed to turning a profit off Victor’s past. But before a bargain can be struck, an estranged brother enters the scene to reframe Victor’s memories and force them both to reconsider the true cost of personal sacrifices. One of the most personal plays by an American theater giant, Arthur Miller’s The Price is a fascinating study of the struggle to make peace with the past and create hope for the future.
The Pajama Game
Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell
Music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Based on the novel 7 ½ Cents by Richard Bissell
Directed by Alan Paul
Choreographed by Parker Esse
Music direction by James Cunningham
In the Fichandler Stage | October 27–December 24
The Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory is a tiptop model of efficiency—so why are things getting so steamy? It could have something to do with how hard new superintendent Sid Sorokin has fallen for Babe Williams, the trouble-making head of the union grievance committee. Sparks really start to fly when a workers’ strike pits management against labor and ignites an outrageous battle of the sexes. Packed with seductive dance numbers like “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway,” the best way to ensure a good night’s rest during the hectic holiday season is to play The Pajama Game!
Nina Simone: Four Women
By Christina Ham
Directed by Timothy Douglas
In the Kreeger Theater | November 10–December 24
Velvet-throated songstress Nina Simone hypnotized audiences with her signature renditions of standards from the American songbook. But on September 15, 1963, a devastating explosion in Birmingham, Alabama rocked our entire nation to the core, and from the memory of the four little girls that were lost in this unimaginable tragedy, came “Four Women”—along with Simone’s other activist anthems like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Old Jim Crow” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Through storytelling and song, Nina Simone: Four Women reveals how this iconic chanteuse found her true voice—and how the “High Priestess of Soul” defined the sound of the Civil Rights Movement.
By Mary Kathryn Nagle
Directed by Molly Smith
In the Kreeger Theater | January 12–February 18, 2018
Some wounds refuse to heal. Mary Kathryn Nagle’s daring new work, which debuts as the fourth production in Arena Stage’s Power Plays initiative, travels the intersections of personal and political truths, historic and present struggles. Sarah Ridge Polson, a young Cherokee lawyer fighting to restore her Nation’s jurisdiction, must confront the ever-present ghosts of her grandfathers. With shadows stretching from 1830s Cherokee Nation (now present-day Georgia) through Andrew Jackson’s Oval Office to the Cherokee Nation in present-day Oklahoma, Sovereignty asks how high the flames of anger can rise before they ultimately consume the truth.
The Great Society
By Robert Schenkkan
Directed by Kyle Donnelly
In the Fichandler Stage | February 2–March 11
Robert Schenkkan’s Tony Award-winning play All the Way set the stage for President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s sudden ascent to the White House. In its D.C. premiere, The Great Society brings the second half of Schenkkan’s epic story to its harrowing conclusion. As America is divided by civil rights protests and the anguish of the Vietnam War, LBJ struggles to maintain his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., keep his political opponents in check and complete a raft of impossibly ambitious social policy projects.
Hold These Truths
By Jeanne Sakata
Directed by Jessica Kubzansky
In the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle | February 23–April 8
There is a Japanese proverb that says, “The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hit.” In 1941, one American, the son of Japanese immigrants, was the nail threatened by the hammer of the United States government. Reeling from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and driven by fear and prejudice, America placed its own citizens of Japanese ancestry in internment camps. A play for our times, Hold These Truths tells the true story of Gordon Hirabayashi, the American that defied an unjust court order to uphold the values on which America was founded. Filled with hope and buoyed by unquenchable patriotism, Hirabayashi’s unflinching defiance will leave you cheering the strength of the individual and his dedication to his own unalienable rights.
Two Trains Running
Co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre
In the Fichandler Stage | March 30–April 29
It’s 1969 and the Civil Rights Movement is sending tremors through Pittsburgh’s Hill District. At the center of the community is Memphis Lee’s diner, slated to be demolished—a casualty of the city’s renovation project. Confronted with a rapidly changing world, Memphis and his regular customers struggle to maintain their solidarity and sense of pride. From Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson comes this masterpiece about everyday lives in the shadow of great events, and of unsung citizens who are anything but ordinary.
Based on the novel by Eowyn Ivey
Book by John Strand
Music by Bob Banghart and Georgia Stitt
Lyrics by Georgia Stitt
Directed by Molly Smith
Co-production with Perseverance Theatre
In the Kreeger Theater | April 13–May 20
Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel The Snow Child, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is reborn as a magical new musical with a bluegrass-infused score. The 1920 Alaskan wilderness is a brutal place to try to save a marriage. Reeling from the loss of an unborn child, Mabel and Jack struggle to rebuild their lives even as the fissures between them continue to widen. But everything changes suddenly when they are visited by a wild, mysterious girl who embodies the dark woods that surround their cabin. In this beautiful and violent land, things are rarely as they appear, and what the snow child teaches them will ultimately transform them all.
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