Arena Stage's updated 2020–2021 season will now launch with three productions previously scheduled for the 2019–2020 season, which was cut short due to the ongoing pandemic: Celia and Fidel, Seven Guitars, and Toni Stone.
Kicking off the new season will be Eduardo Machado's Celia and Fidel beginning January 22, 2021. Helmed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, the production follows Fidel Castro’s rise to power, his political partner and closest confidant, Celia Sánchez, who inspired a revolution, and their fight over the children of the revolution. Originally produced last season, Celia and Fidel opened and closed on the same day due to the health crisis.
Lydia R. Diamond's Toni Stone, inspired by the woman who became the first female athlete to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues, will follow, making its Washington premiere beginning March 11. Pam MacKinnon directs.
Tazewell Thompson will then direct August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, which begins April 23. Wilson’s fifth play in his American Century Cycle is the culmination of Arena’s August Wilson Festival and concerns blues singer Floyd Barton, who vows to turn his life around after a surprise windfall leaves him hopeful for a second chance.
Beginning May 28, the theatre will offer American Prophet: Frederick Douglass In His Own Words. Featuring a book by Charles Randolph-Wright (Motown), who also directs, and music by Grammy winner Marcus Hummon (who also co-wrote the book), the musical chronicles the life and legacy of human rights leader Frederick Douglass, to be played by Cornelius Smith Jr. (Scandal, All My Children). Known as one of the greatest leaders of the abolitionist movement, Douglass was a prominent activist, author, orator, and statesman.
The season will conclude with Britta Johnson’s Life After, a new musical directed by Annie Tippe and choreographed by Ann Yee. The work, which begins August 13, explores the messiness of loss and the complexities of love, when a young girl unravels the secrets of her recently deceased father.
“We are a theatre that focuses on American plays, American ideas, and American artists. The double impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have made us as Americans more introspective than before,” states Smith. “It’s a time for looking deeply inward. We need a combination of soulfulness and joy—Arena’s season offers both thought-provoking and joyful projects that provide a powerful antidote to this moment in time. The season is full of soul and champagne, with energizing stories and soaring music.”
Among the previously announced titles no longer part of the upcoming season are Craig Lucas' Change Agent, Nathan Alan Davis' The High Ground, Theresa Rebeck's Enlightenment, the musical adaptation of Catch Me If You Can starring Corbin Bleu, Pearl Cleage’s Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous, Lynn Nottage's Crumbs From the Table of Joy, Mike Daisey's solo show The Change, and a Seema Sueko-helmed Rashomon.