On August 20th, a panel of DC Theatre Scene writers presented a preview of the 2015-2016 theatre season at the Smithonian Museum’s S. Dillon Ripley Center. Tim Treanor was one of the panelists.
It was swell to be among the great explorers, scholars, former Presidents of the United States who have been invited to speak before the Smithsonian Institute, and as I sat on my comfy chair on the stage and watched the crowd file in — and, yes, I counted the house — I could almost imagine that I deserved to be in such illustrious company. Certainly under different circumstances my two colleagues — Lorraine Treanor and Jennifer Clements — might have been great explorers or former Presidents of the United States (arguably, they are both already scholars).
So I resolved to give my audience a stemwinder on the subject of what new plays would tickle their fancy next year. But a stemwinder is different than a written essay; a stemwinder is full of facial expressions and gestures; relies on the well-timed, tension-reducing joke; reacts to what the audience responds to; and so on. A written essay, on the other hand, is a sober thing, with limited giggling and snorting, meant to be digested over time. So what follows is not what I said but what I would have said, were I writing a column to say the things I said Thursday night.
Almost everyone here has spent an evening at the Kennedy Center, and most of you have been to Shakespeare Theatre and Arena Stage. But what many people don’t know, despite all the hollering DCTS has done, is how many theaters there are and how many different things they do.
Want edgy theater? Go to Studio. Want even edgier theater? Try Woolly Mammoth. Want to get involved in the play yourself? dog & pony dc may be your bet. Want a little more intense audience participation experience? Call Brian Feldman up. He’ll come to your house and wash your dishes. Then he’ll read a monologue and ask you whether he’s a better actor or dishwasher.
If you want theater about the Jewish experience, go to Theater J. If you want to see a play about the Middle East, give Mosaic Theater a try. Want a play about a mock-heroic comic figure? How about Flying V in Bethesda? Or in the very same location — the Bethesda Writer’s Center — you can see plays by the much more traditional Quotidian Theatre.
Signature Theatre specializes in the musicals of Stephen Sondheim. They’re so good that Sondheim joined the board. You want blood and guts? Give Molotov Theatre Group a try. Fond of Puppets? So is Pointless Theatre. Synetic Theater is world-famous for its movement-based theater, including its specialty, wordless Shakespeare.
Washington doesn’t have a theater district. Washington is a theater district. Theater Alliance, which has some of the area’s best new plays, operates out of Anacostia. So does Pallas Theatre Collective, which offers musicals in development. So does SCENA, specializing in European plays; they also perform at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street.
We have theater in the ‘burbs, too, including the far-out ‘burbs and the far-far-out ‘burbs. NextStop Theatre, which grew out of the area’s best community theater, the Elden Street Players, is in Herndon. 1st Stage, which the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout said put on a Side Man which was the equal to Broadway’s, is in Tyson’s Corner, not far from a shiny new Metro stop. We have Maryland Ensemble Theater in Frederick, Hub Theatre in Fairfax and Compass Rose in Annapolis. We have MetroStage in Alexandria and Round House in Bethesda. And that’s not all of them. We have theater all over the ding-dong place.
We have all sorts of theater — theater in fantastic palaces, theater in tiny galleries, big bucks theater, ten dollar theater. We’ve seen a musical version of Silence of the Lambs, and puppets in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. You can see the Greeks, and we have Shakespeare out the wazoo. So, honestly, if you don’t like theater, okay. But if you do like theater, don’t tell me there’s no place to go.
Tomorrow – Musicals and comedies in the new season by Tim Treanor
Now it’s your turn. If you were advising a theatrelover to try something new, what would you suggest?