Arena Stage will inaugurate its $125 million renovated facility, The Mead Center for American Theater, with a blizzard of productions in 2010-2011, kicking off its 60th season on Oct 23, 2010 with the first modern American musical, Oklahoma! , and featuring a festival dedicated to the work of the man most consider the greatest living American playwright, Edward Albee. Arena will present forty-five different projects, including productions or staged readings of all thirty of Albee’s plays and seven selections from the National Endowment for the Arts’ New Play Development Program, which will run during a two-week festival in January.
The season will also feature the world premiere of an Arena-commissioned work, Marcus Gardley’s Let Every Tongue Confess, which, Arena says, “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” and Lynn Nottage’s Ruined, the 2009 Pulitzer prize winner for drama.
Arena will offer full productions of Albee’s most well-known play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and of At Home At the Zoo, which, like Arena itself, has received a full-scale renovation. Pam MacKinnon, a frequent Albee interpreter, will direct Virginia Woolf. At Home At the Zoo is Albee’s first play, The Zoo Story, with an Albee-written prequel (we discuss it in more detail here.)
The Arena season will feature another adaptation by Tony Award-winning writer/director Mary Zimmerman, who sensationally adapted the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece for Shakespeare Theatre two years ago. This adaptation will be of The Arabian Nights, and will run between January 14 and February 20 of next year. The entire season can be viewed here.
This immense theatrical enterprise will be carried out in Arena’s new facility, which features the renovated Fichlander Stage and Kreeger Theater and a brand new “cradle” space, named after legendary philanthropists Arlene and Robert Kogod. The Fichlander will continue to offer theater in the round – 683 seats and ten thousand square feet of it, and the Kreeger will retain the fan-shaped design of its stage, seating 514 in forty-four hundred square feet. Arena describes the Kogod, which it says is “built to support the birth and nurturing of new and developing play(s),” as “[a] unique, oval-shaped intimate theater with flexible seating and the latest technical capabilities.” It will seat two hundred.
The new design has certainly satisfied Zelda Fichlander, Arena’s founding Artistic Director and the artist for whom the Fichlander Stage is named. “The building is absolutely stunning,” Fichlander said. “It is a magnificent and important piece of architecture that contributes greatly to the cultural landscape of Washington. It is one the best designed buildings in D.C. in the last decade.”
The new facility, which will be named in honor of philantropists Gilbert and Jaylee Mead, will be two hundred thousand square feet in volume overall, with a cantilevered roof and thirty-five thousand square feet of glass in three hundred seventy panes surrounding the building. You can view photos of the facility, and watch construction via webcam here.
Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, with four productions remaining in their 59th season, paused to consider the significance of this next step. “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.”