It was in the spring of 2007 when the Signature Theatre decided to hold its first-ever Open House event, a chance to introduce itself to those in the community who weren’t familiar with the theater, showcasing performers and offering ticket deals for the year ahead.
“It’s a great kick-off for the new season,” says Walter Ware III, Signature’s casting director and the man responsible for bringing in the acts for the Open House. “There’s so much to do. We’ve got family programming, outdoor activities (snow cones and tattoos!), all-day concerts, master classes and more. And we’re trying to bring in people from the area who maybe don’t even know Signature, but will see this and want to come check us out.”
The 11th edition of the Open House, scheduled from noon to 8:30 p.m., on Sunday, Aug. 6, will feature five different stages with new events or performances happening every 15 minutes.
Inside the theater, a Season Highlights Concert will feature exclusive sneak-peek performances from Signature’s upcoming season including performances from A Little Night Music, Crazy for You and Scottsboro Boys. This will run three times throughout the day, at noon, 2:15 p.m., and 4:45 p.m.
Featured artists will include Signature favorites Natascia Diaz, Erin Driscoll, Will Gartshore, Stephen Gregory Smith, Nova Y. Payton and Bobby Smith. They will be taking part in Signature’s Leading Men and Signature’s Divas programs.
“These are some of D.C.’s biggest stars coming up and doing songs that represent them or a song they don’t normally get to sing. We’re putting them center stage and letting them do their thing,” Ware says.
Bobby Smith will host a tap master class, Band of Us, the finalists of the Bernard Ebb Songwriters competition, will offer an inspirational musical performance, and vocalist Nova Y. Payton will host a master class in singing for pre-selected students.
Outside, some highlights of the day include the U.S. Army Chorus performing at both 2:15 p.m., and 3:30 p.m., playing traditional military music, patriotic standards, plus pop, Broadway, folk and classical music; and Dupont Brass, an eclectic, soulful, nine-piece brass ensemble with a sound that mixes jazz, hip-hop and R&B, performing at both 4:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.
“The U.S. Army Chorus was here two years ago and we are excited to continue our association with them,” Ware says. “And Dupont Brass is just this kick-ass band that we have been trying to get for a while.”
Other events to check out on the day include a Family Cabaret at noon, where songs will include selections from Disney films and kid-friendly radio followed by Dueling Guitars with Natascia Diaz at 12:15 p.m., where the singer is reunited with Jesus Christ Superstar cast mates Ari McKay Wilford and Vincent Kempski; and Sondheim Songbook at 12:30 p.m., where a multitude of performers will sing songs by the legendary composer.
Children will enjoy balloon animals, free popcorn and sno-cones, ske-ball, basketball, a corn-hole tournament and more.
Several Shirlington businesses are also getting in on the fun, helping throughout the day, including Osteria da Nino, Samuel Beckett’s, and New District Brewing Company.
“We’re expanding the footprint of Open House and partnering with New District, where people can enjoy craft beer in the tasting room while Ines Nassara serenades them with Broadway tunes,” Ware says. “There’s some great food around to grab some dinner in the heart of Shirlington so people can get something to eat and see some performances.”
There’s also Signature Beer and Bingo at Beckett’s with specials throughout the day and prizes awarded to the best players.
Ware admits that while the final result is always a hit, putting an event like this together can be a bear.
“It’s a very unique event for Signature—this festival-ness atmosphere, and one of the most difficult parts is getting everything organized and people’s schedules worked out,” he says. “We’ve been doing it a while now, and we know the rhythm and what works and doesn’t, and it becomes like a steam train and just goes.”
Open House ticket deals
Ticket specials include $20 off for A Little Night Music (Aug. 15 to Oct. 8); An Act of God (Oct. 3-29); Crazy for You (Nov. 7 to Jan. 14); and The Scottsboro Boys (May 22 to July 1). And 50% off for 4,380 Nights (Jan. 16 to Feb. 18); Light Years (Feb. 6 to March 4); John (April 3-29); and Girlfriend (April 17 to June 10).
“One of the most important parts about Open House is it’s a community event and it’s a perfect introduction to Signature and what we do and what we can do,” Ware says. “The best way to take advantage of Open House, just in general, is to grab some tickets to the free shows and then take advantage of our specials for the 2017-18 season and get ahead on your theater viewing for the whole year.”
For more information, visit www.sigtheatre.org/events/2017-18/open-house