After 23 years heading Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage, Douglas C. Wager will leave the company at the end of its 47th season, during which he'll direct three plays. No successor has yet been chosen, though production spokesperson Brook Butterworth told Playbill On-Line a head-hunter has been hired to find a replacement, and they're anticipating a new person in the fall.
Wager is leaving because he wants to concentrate on being a director and move away from the administrative side of things. He's working at the Guthrie this summer on a production of You Can't Take It With You, with a different cast from the one he'll direct at Arena Stage as his valedictory in April 1998.
Announced April 23, the new Arena season begins Aug. 29 and runs to May 13, 1998. Here's the line-up:
Room Service by John Murray & Allen Boretz; Dir: Robert Woodruff (Aug.29-Oct. 19, opens Sept. 3).
The Flying Karamazov Brothers wing their way through this farce, best known as a Marx Brothers film vehicle.
A Touch Of The Poet by Eugene O'Neill; Dir: Wager. (Oct. 3-Nov. 9, opens Oct. 8).
A disheartened Major fights the duel of a lifetime to reclaim his lost dreams. The show travels to the Denver Center Theatre Company after its D.C. Engagement.
Anna Deavere Smith's latest solo (title to be announced) (Nov. 7 Jan. 4)
Formerly titled, "The Press And The Presidency," Smith's show will also play at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in spring 1998. It's the third solo work for Smith, who burst onto the theatre scene with Fires In The Mirror and followed her success with Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. This time Smith moves into the world of political journalism, tracking the relationship between politicians and the media covering them. Uncle Vanya, Carol Rocamora translates Anton Chekhov's drama, directed by Arena's founding director, Zelda Fichandler. (Dec. 12-Jan. 18, 1998, opens Dec. 17).
A retired professor and his younger wife host friends and relations on their country estate, with numerous romantic triangles developing.
Dimly Perceived Threats To The System, by Jon Klein, directed by Wager (Jan. 23-March 15, 1998 opens Jan. 28).
A "pill-popping, ultra-caffienated domestic comedy about a nuclear family approaching meltdown."
Lovers And Executioners, by a disciple of Montfleury, translated/adapted by John Strand; dir: Kyle Donnelly. (Feb. 27-April 5, 1998, opens Jan. 28, 1998).
Cunning, cross-dressing Julie takes revenge on the husband who abandoned her on a desert island.
You Can't Take It With You, by Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman; Dir: Wager. (April 3-June 7, 1998 opens April 8, 1998).
Wager finishes his Arena years with a classic American comedy, populated by local Washington actors.
Black No More by Syl Jones, Dir: Tazewell Thompson. (May 8-June 7, 1998; Dir: May 13, 1998).
A co-production with MN's Guthrie Theatre, this zany satire is adapted from a 1931 comic novel by African-American writer, George Schuyler. During the Great Depression, a black physician invents the E-race-olator, guaranteed "to turn even the darkest colored man white as a sheet!" Not only does Max use the machine, he tries to marry a Southern belle -- and lead a Klan-like race organization.
In other Arena news, their slightly revised Sunday In The Park With George continues through June 15 (see story), and they're opening a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts May 14. That staging, by Romanian director and designer, Liviu Ciulei, begins previews May 9 and runs to June 15. Ciulei has directed 11 shows at Arena Stage since 1974.
"Ibsen's script," said Ciulei, "so controversial in 1881 that it did not pass censorship for two years, is the perfect vehicle for Arena's skilled technicians and riveting actors." Those actors will be Tana Hicken (Alving), Henry Strozier (Manders), Wendall Wright (Engstrand), Charles Janasz and Patricia Ageheim.
Designing Ghosts will be Ciulei (sets), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Nancy Schertler (lighting) and Cecil Averett (sound). Sarah Felder will serve as voice and speech consultant, Cathy R. Madison as dramaturg.
For tickets ($21-$42; subscriptions $93-$301) and information on plays at Arena Stage on 6th & Maine Ave. In Washington D.C., call (202) 488 3300.
In yet one more bit of Arena news, on June 2 the organization will hold a benefit for Living Stage, its community outreach firm. Featured will be an all-star concert performance of the Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse's play, State Of The Union. Performing the play will be former congressman Fred Grandy (of Love Boat) fame, Kweite Mfume, Katherine Mann, NPR's Nina Totenberg, Donna Shalala, Barney Frank and Susan Molinari. "It's a perfect sort-of inside-the-beltway theatre fundraiser, since their parts either reflect or directly oppose their political views," said spokesperson Butterworth. A musical interlude will feature Senator Trent Lott.
--By David Lefkowitz