Arena Stage Opens Its Doors to the World at Oct. 23 "Homecoming," With Alumni Stars

By Kenneth Jones
23 Oct 2010

Arena Stage alumnus Kate Baldwin
Arena Stage alumnus Kate Baldwin

The first preview of Arena Stage's Oklahoma! on Oct. 22 may have been the first official performance at the Washington, DC company's expanded new home, but Oct. 23 is a free-for-all day for the general public to explore the more-than-$100-million premises, dubbed the Mead Center for American Theater.

After more than a decade of planning and more than two years of construction, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest DC officially re-opens to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony and "Homecoming Grand Opening Celebration" on Saturday.

From 11:30 AM-6 PM the festivities include backstage tours, performances (including appearances by Broadway's Matt Bogart, Kate Baldwin, Brad Oscar and Alice Ripley — all Arena veterans) and activities in eight spaces in and around the Mead Center including the Fichandler Stage, Kreeger Theater and Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle. Various theatrical performances and children's activities will occupy one of the rehearsal halls, the lobbies and the classroom.

All of the free general admission tickets to events in the Fichandler Stage, Kreeger Theater, Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle and backstage tours that were made available to the public Oct. 8 have been reserved, but limited tickets will be available for day-of release outside the Mead Center beginning at 10 AM.



Next Stage by José Andrés — the cafe in the Mead Center, operated by José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells — will be open all day. In addition, Design Cuisine and Fresh Start Catering, along with José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells, will set up various outdoor food vending locations during the celebration. The Washington Nationals' "NatsMobile" will also be outside, "spreading the excitement of Nationals Stadium to Arena’s homecoming celebration."

The Mead Center for American Theater, designed by architect Bing Thom, was under construction for two and a half years, during which Arena Stage presented season productions in temporary locations in Crystal City and at the Lincoln Theatre on U St., NW. According to Arena, "The planning and building of this theatre complex has been a catalyst for community-wide revitalization in Southwest DC. New restaurants and commercial retailers have already moved into the Southwest neighborhood. This homecoming celebration marks the beginning of a new era for Arena Stage, further establishing itself as a national center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theatre."

The Homecoming festivities continue with the sold out Opening Gala Celebration Oct. 25, which is distinguished by Honorary Chairs President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Honorary Co-Chairs D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty. The Opening Gala is a black-tie event commemorating the inaugural season at the Mead Center featuring cocktails, dinner and a one-night-only performance featuring Alice Ripley and The Manzari Brothers, headlined by Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell and emceed by ABC7/WJLA-TV lead anchor Leon Harris.

Production-wise, the 2010-2011 inaugural season kicks off with Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, directed by artistic director Molly Smith. The season also includes every tongue confess, Second Stage Theatre’s production of Let Me Down Easy, The Arabian Nights, Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Albee's At Home at the Zoo, Ruined and a special pre-Broadway world premiere of John Grisham's A Time to Kill, adapted by Rupert Holmes. In addition, Arena Stage will present staged readings of the remaining 28 works by Edward Albee during The Edward Albee Festival, and will produce a national new play festival featuring the selections for the first round of the NEA New Play Development Program hosted by Arena Stage.

Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 200,000. For more information, visit www.arenastage.org.