PHOTO CALL: Karen Zacarías' Book Club Play at Arena Stage

News   PHOTO CALL: Karen Zacarías' Book Club Play at Arena Stage
The ensemble cast of Arena Stage's production of Karen Zacarías' comedy The Book Club Play, about the personalities and tensions of bibliophiles who gather to discuss their passion, began their discussions with the Oct. 7 launch of previews. The cast includes Fred Arsenault, Ashlie Atkinson, Rachael Holmes, Eric Messner, Kate Eastwood Norris and Tom Story.

Artistic director Molly Smith directs the play, rewritten since its 2008 DC-area premiere in Maryland. Performances run to Nov. 6 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at Arena's Mead Center for American Theatre in Washington, DC.

The play examines "the intricacies of book clubs, with their unspoken rules, high-spirited debates and strong bonds formed when least expected." It's Zacarías' second collaboration with director Smith at Arena Stage, and the first work of an Arena Resident Playwright to be produced as part of the three-year residencies through the American Voices New Play Institute.

Here is a look at the production:


Zacarías said in a statement, "It's challenging to re-examine a comedy that you love, especially one like The Book Club Play that had a great popular response when it was first produced. Why mess with something that works for many people? But I knew there was something in the older script that did not fully capture the rich experience of being part of a good book club — the friendship, the food and the pleasure of talking about books."

The Book Club Play first opened at Bethesda's Round House Theatre and later played at the Berkshire Summer Festival in 2008. When Zacarías became an American Voices New Play Institute Resident Playwright in 2010, "she decided to use some of the resources allocated to her through the Institute to continue working on the play," according to Arena notes. Zacarías added, "My residency at Arena gave me time and space to revisit, rethink and rewrite the entire play. With the support of director Molly Smith and dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke, I took the leap and made exciting and dramatic changes while keeping the original premise and inspiration intact. My goal is to make The Book Club Play more engaging by making it funnier, deeper and more resonant."

Zacarías' works include Legacy of Light (world premiere at Arena Stage), Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (world premiere at Round House Theater) and several TYA musicals with music by Debbie Wicks La Puma.

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