Dec 31, 2009 — Potomac Stages.com, which for press and theatregoers alike has been an invaluable source of data on Washington area theatre since 2001, announced Wednesday that, after eight years and 2,200 reviews, it would cease posting as of January 1, 2010.
Potomac Stages was the brainchild of Brad Hathaway, a retired civil servant with a deep appreciation of Washington theatre and a yen to let people know about it. In collaboration with his wife, Teddie, the site’s editor and manager, Hathaway established a vigorous, complete and eclectic Web site. Potomac Stages’ scope was broad: on one day Hathaway might review a Broadway mega-production; on the next, a Washington professional company, community theatre or dinner-theatre production. Regardless of the play’s glamour or ticket price, Potomac Stages delivered the same sort of thoughtful, reflective review.
The earliest Potomac Stages article which survives on its website appears to have been a description of Teatro De La Luna’s Fifth International Festival of Hispanic Theater, which opened on February 6, 2001. The earliest review is of Shakespeare Theatre’s Oedipus Plays, which opened August 28th of the same year. Potomac Stages averaged an astounding two hundred seventy-five reviews a year, with nearly all of those reviews written by Hathaway himself, although in recent years David Siegel has lent a hand. It is safe to say that Brad Hathaway has seen more theatre in the Washington area than anyone else. And he has the sketch book to prove it.
During its eight years, Potomac Stages has been guided by Hathaway’s persistent insistence that it put itself in the shoes of the theatregoer. “We believe that our function is to provide you, the interested theatregoer, with the information you need to decide whether a particular show is one on which you want to spend your time and your money.” Hathaway said in the site’s mission statement. “Therefore, our reviews are neither literary criticism nor analysis of how the show might be done differently. Nor, for that matter, do we think our readers care much about whether we liked the show…we ask ‘is this a satisfying production?’ In the process we try to assess how well the production accomplishes what it set out to do. If we err, it is on the side of being positive. This is in part because we are aware of how very hard the creators of the shows have worked, and also because we are in awe of their willingness to put their work out for public consideration and – well, because we love live theatre.”
In addition to his prolific reviewing, Hathaway has written on theatre for Show Music Magazine, Musical Stages Magazine, Entertainment Design, Live Design, The Sondheim Review, The Alexandria Gazette Packet, the Arlington Connection, The Hill Rag, DC North, East of the River, The Voice of the Hill, The Mount Vernon Gazette, and Musical Stages Online.
Hathaway, who has one of the deepest musical theatre libraries in the Washington area, is a particularly sought-after expert on both musicals, and, his first love, orchestrations for musicals. We hear there may be a book or two in his future on this subject.
Were Washington theatre to create a a post for diplomatic envoy, Brad Hathaway would most assuredly have been named to it. A long time member of the American Theatre Critics Association, in 2008, he hosted their summer meeting in Washington, overseeing on-location visits, panels and tickets to 14 productions. While Hathaway credited the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division for managing the meeting, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the inspiration and energy for the undertaking could only have come from one person – Brad Hathaway.
Hathaway’s farewell to his following focused not on Potomac Stages’ many accomplishments but on the growth and improvement of Washington theatre itself during the site’s lively existence. Hathaway cited a virtual blizzard of superb Washington productions and performances in delivering his valedictory to the art which it served.
As Hathaway neglected to point out the good that Potomac Stages has done over the eight years it has advanced theatre coverage in Washington, it falls on DC Theatre Scene to do so.
Potomac Stages has been a pioneer, not just in arts journalism, but in electronic journalism generally. Brad Hathaway helped to establish that one need not be the designee of an enormous media company to comment on, and thus to advance, area theatre. Using a simple website of attractive design, he built an audience for his own well-written reviews, and sustained that audience with his sensible, well-argued observations. He won audiences for deserving shows, often by being the only reviewer to cover them. His service to community theatre has been incalculable. In collaboration with Teddie Hathaway and, in recent years, David Siegel, Brad Hathaway and Potomac Stages have been part of the beating heart of the DC theatre scene.
The Hathaways have been generous with their support of DC Theatre Scene. We will miss Brad’s encouraging “Oh, come on.” whenever we’ve faltered.
One thing which the Hathaways have never had on their Web site is a way of hearing back from their many fans. We hope you will help us pay tribute to them by posting your comments with this article. We know they are reading.
To start, we received this message from Linda Levy Grossman, President of the Helen Hayes Awards:
“From the moment Brad and Teddie began Potomac Stages, they have been a ubiquitous presence in Washington area theatre – physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Theirs has been a selfless task – and one that could only be accomplished because Washington area theatre owns a special place in their hearts. To bring attention to the extraordinary work done on Washington stages, Brad has been a champion, he has been been a collaborator, and he has challenged us all to get the message out that the breadth and scope of Washington theatre is second to none.
“Potomac Stages – stewarded by Brad Hathaway – has been an indispensible part of the Washington theatre landscape.”