New Artistic Director, Molly D. Smith helms the season opener for Washington DC's Arena Stage, Tennessee Williams' classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which started previews Sept. 11, opens Sept. 18 and runs through Oct. 18.
The Pulitzer-winning drama tells of a woman frustrated by her impotent husband but not cowed by family patriarch, Big Daddy, in her plans to inherit the family plantation. Smith has chosen to stage the play with Williams' original 1955 ending.
Also announced for the upcoming Arena Stage season: Expecting Isabel, by Lisa Loomer, runs at the Kreeger space Oct. 2-Nov. 22. Former artistic director Doug Wager directs this comedy of a childless couple hoping to find the ideal birth mother.
Thunder Knocking on the Door, Keith Glover and Keb' Mo's [sic] musical, knocks on the Fichandler door Nov. 6- Dec. 27. It's a supernatural tale of a shape-shifting musician challenging the family of a legendary blues man.
Painter Georgia O'Keeffe is the subject of The Faraway Nearby, at the Kreeger Dec. 11-Jan. 24, 1999. John Murrell traces O'Keeffe's years in the New Mexican desert and her relationship with Juan Hamilton. Bitchiness reigns in The Women, Clare Booth Luce's jab at Park Avenue wives, running Jan. 15-Feb. 21, 1999 at the Fichandler. Kyle Donnelly directs this melee of backstabbing and gossip.
The poetic Oak and Ivy will grow at the Kreeger Feb. 12-Apr. 4, 1999. Kathleen McGhee-Anderson penned this piece about two African American writers hoping to achieve mutual greatness, despite barriers faced due to race and gender. Charles Randolph Wright directs.
Back in 1982, Arena staged a zany revival of the Marx Brothers vehicle, Animal Crackers. The show now returns (Mar. 26-May 30 at the Fichandler), staged by former artistic director Wager. Composers Burt Kalmar & Harry Ruby penned the immortal "Hooray For Captain Spaulding," while George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind committed such puns as, "Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know."
Closing the Arena season will be the Pulitzer-winning drama, How I Learned To Drive (Apr. 23-June 13). Artistic director Smith will stage Paula Vogel's play about a young girl's unhealthy relationship with her Uncle Peck. Other Vogel plays include The Baltimore Waltz and Desdemona.
For tickets and information on Arena shows call (202) 488 3300.
Smith co-founded Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska, in 1979 and built it into a distinct American theatre voice during her 18 years as artistic director, replaces Douglas C. Wager who announced his resignation as artistic director of Arena in Oct. 1996. The formal changeover began with the announcement of the 1998-99 season in July 1998.
Smith will share the duties of running the theatre with executive director Stephen Richard, who concentrates on administrative and financial matters. Of Smith he said, "[She] creates a nurturing environment for artists...an individual of humanism and social conscience."
On accepting the position, Smith said in a statement, "I have been speaking about the beautiful bloodlines which are the legacy of Arena Stage. I am thrilled to become a part of this history... From the Board to the staff to the artists to the audience -- we all have a part to play in the life-blood of this remarkable theatre."
Smith earned her masters in theatre at Washington DC's American University in 1978 and spent the past 18 years running Perseverance Theatre. She's directed more than 60 productions nationwide, and produced the world premiere of The Baltimore Waltz. Said author Paula Vogel, "To know Molly Smith is to adore her, to work with her is to be inspired, to see her work is to believe in the magic of theatre again."
Smith intends to concentrate on American plays, a shift from first artistic director Zelda Fichandler's propensity for Eastern European works and the avant-garde, and Wager's concentration on musicals and classics. Why do we go to Washington?" explains Smith. "To learn what the American mind is: the ideas, drives and passions that make us American."
Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Molly Smith plays at the Arena Stage, Sept. 11-Oct. 18. Call (202) 488-3300, for reservations or more information. -- By Sean McGrath, Robert Viagas and David Lefkowitz