Arena Stage's New DC Complex Will Open With Oklahoma!, Among Eight Full Productions

News   Arena Stage's New DC Complex Will Open With Oklahoma!, Among Eight Full Productions
Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith announced on Feb. 17 that following construction of its new Mead Center for American Theater, the company's 2010-11 season at the complex will include eight full productions, including works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Edward Albee, Lynn Nottage, Marcus Gardley and more.
Edward Albee
Edward Albee Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Arena's 60th season, on the freshly enhanced three-theatre campus in Southwest Washington, DC, will launch in October with the musical Oklahoma! in the refurbished Fichandler Theatre.

The 2010-11 inaugural season at the Mead follows more than two years of construction at not-for-profit, a period when Arena produced at borrowed stages in the DC area.

Expected for 2010-11 are eight full productions, seven presentations from the National Endowment for the Arts New Play Development Program and public readings of all 30 of Edward Albee's works, totaling "at least 45 projects produced and presented by Arena Stage in the inaugural year at the Mead Center."

Arena Stage is now billing itself as "a national center for production, presentation, development and study of American theatre."

Smith said in a Feb. 17 statement, "The moment we have been waiting for has arrived — we are heading home. After 11 years of planning and two and a half years of construction, the beautiful new Mead Center for American Theater will be ready to welcome audiences and artists this fall." The new campus includes the renovation of the two existing performance spaces — the 683-seat Fichandler Stage and the 514-seat Kreeger Theater — and the creation of the 200-seat Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, a venue dedicated "to cradling risk surrounding new or radically re-envisioned productions of American theatre."

The three theatres "are supported by a centralized lobby and box office, state-of-the-art technical and costume shops, light and airy rehearsal halls, open education spaces, increased concessions and a café, a terrace overlooking the Potomac River and for the first time in Arena Stage's history all artistic, educational and administrative departments are united under one roof."

The season will include a tribute playwright Edward Albee. Readings of all of his plays are planned, and Arena will simultaneously stage his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Pam MacKinnon (Arena's A Delicate Balance) and his At Home at the Zoo.

Arena Stage's Edward Albee Festival will be a three-month celebration of Albee. All 30 Albee works will receive public readings, utilizing every performance space within the Mead Center.

Arena Stage is currently in negotiations for two productions not featured in this announcement, as part of the eight-show season, including the production that will reopen the Kreeger Theater.

The American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage will feature presentations from the seven inaugural selections of the National Endowment for the Arts New Play Development Program (NEA NPDP). These readings will take place in the Kogod Cradle Jan. 17–30, 2011. The Institute was designed as "a center for the research and development of effective practices, programs and processes for new play development in the American theatre." For more information about the NEA NPDP visit

The following plays will be read in the program: The Brother/Sister Plays; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph; I've Never Been So Happy by Rude Mechanicals; Agnes Under the Big Top by Aditi Kapil; Happy End to Everything by Lloyd Suh; Detour/South Bronx by Claudia Rankine; Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven by Octavio Solis.

The official opening celebrations will begin with a Homecoming Celebration Oct. 24, 2010. This will be a free open house for the public to explore the brand new Mead Center.

The following night, Oct. 25, Arena Stage will hold the official opening gala celebration.

The 2010-11 Season of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater

Music by Richard Rogers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, directed by Molly Smith
Oct. 23–Dec. 26, in the Fichandler

"Set at the turn of the 20th century, Oklahoma! tackles issues of class, culture and convergence between farmers and cowmen in this rugged frontier. Laurey, a lively girl who runs her aunt's farm, is courted by two very different young men. Her journey to find the man of her dreams and the satisfaction of settling down with the right one mirrors the journey of the territory toward progress, community, and eventual statehood."

Every Tongue Confess
An Arena Stage commission and world premiere by Marcus Gardley
Nov. 9, 2010–Jan. 2, 2011, in the Kogod Cradle
"In the backwater town of Boligee, Alabama, the summer heat is rising higher, driving the townsfolk to distraction and conjuring the spirits of the past to walk the earth. Wrapped in the combustible music of a Deep South juke joint and the sweat-soaked gospel of a revivalist church tent, intergenerational stories of loss and redemption collide. Playwright Gardley blends ancient myth with magical realism, Biblical allegory with the local T.V. news to create a fiery theatrical furnace in which some will be saved, some will be purged and the truth cannot escape."

Production to be named at a later date
Dec. 10, 2010–Jan. 23, 2011, in the Kreeger

The NEA NPDP New Play Festival
Jan. 17–30, 2011, in the Kogod Cradle

The Arabian Nights
Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman
Adapted from "The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night"
Jan. 14–Feb. 20, 2011, in the Fichandler

"In ancient Baghdad, a courageous young girl postpones her execution by weaving magical tales for the troubled king. Genies and jesters, lovers and thieves spring to life from Scheherazade's imagination — allowing her to win the king's heart even as she secures her freedom. Tony Award-winning director and playwright Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses) celebrates the wonder of storytelling and the redemptive power of love." Produced in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
By Edward Albee
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Part of the Edward Albee Festival
Feb. 18–April 3, 2011, in the Kreeger

"You're invited for drinks with George and Martha. As wickedly hilarious today as when it first shocked audiences, Virginia Woolf is an ingeniously funny play that packs a helluva wallop. What starts as verbal sparring at an impromptu cocktail party, devolves into a no-holds-barred battle of wits and wills. With brilliant writing and some of the greatest characters ever created for the stage, Albee set a new standard for American theatre with this sharp, vicious Molotov cocktail of a play."

At Home at the Zoo
By Edward Albee
Part of the Edward Albee Festival
Feb. 18–April 17, 2011, in the Kogod Cradle

"American master Edward Albee has outdone himself once again with a riveting new drama that expands on the one-act that launched his career 50 years ago, The Zoo Story. In this meticulous and nuanced look at the lives of three New Yorkers, an everyday conversation between a husband and wife takes an unexpected turn into dangerously personal territory. The revelations and confrontations catapult them from their delicately balanced world onto life-changing paths. With the intensity and honesty for which Albee is known, At Home at the Zoo reveals the cutting truth about the razor's edge of our humanity."

By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright
April 22–June 5, 2011, in the Fichandler

"In war-torn Congo, Mama Nadi keeps the peace between customers on both sides of the civil war by serving everything from cold beers to warm beds. Inspired by interviews conducted in Africa, Ruined was the most honored play in 2009, winning the the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as Best Play awards from the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Obie, New York Drama Critics' Circle and Outer Critics Circle. This searing play is an engrossing and uncommonly human story told with humor and song, revealing the immeasurable loss and hopelessness of war, yet finding affirmation in life and hope."

Production to be named at a later date
May 6-June 19, 2011, in the Kreeger

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