Forum Theatre, long noted in DC for its raw and politically provocative theatermaking, has elected to cease operations, effective immediately.
“As we began preparing for Forum’s 15th season, we stopped to ask ourselves a very pointed question: ‘Have we accomplished the challenges we set for ourselves?’ the company said in a statement released this afternoon. “And the answer was a clear and enthusiastic, ‘Yes. Yes, we have.’ And so…Forum Theatre will be closing our doors, secure in the knowledge that we have done what we came to do.”
Forum thus ended its tenure on the DC theatre scene with the April 7 closing of the well-received Nat Turner in Jerusalem, Nathan Allen Davis’ story about the abolitionist martyr on the eve of his execution.
“Our seasons were built to be conversation starters, with strong points of view and challenging questions from a variety of perspectives,” the company said in its farewell statement. “We emphasized the present-day relevance of each production at every stage of the process with every artist collaboration and with our audience.”
Forum sought to display that present-day relevance to the end. In May of last year Forum joined theaters across the company in staging Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall. Forum’s production earned plaudits despite being organized on short notice. Other politically challenging plays in the Forum oeuvre included (but were not limited to) I Call My Brothers, The Shipment, The T Party, and Caryl Churchill’s Drunk Enough to Say I Love You
As much as it was known for its edgy political work, Forum also presented searing emotional dramas, including Blackberry Winter, World Builders, Passion Play, Angels in America Part I and II and Anu Yadav’s remarkable one-actor ‘Capers. Of course, these dramas had political implications as well.
But the single work perhaps most identified with Forum is Stephen Aldy Guirgis’ astonishing story of pain and forgiveness, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, which it produced three times, with mostly the same cast. The first of these performances was in 2008, before Guirgis became famous for Between Riverside and Crazy (for which he won the Pulitzer) and The Motherfucker with the Hat.
By its own count, Forum has produced 53 plays, including nine world premieres.
Forum originally was “Forum Theatre and Dance” and operated out of an H Street space it shared with Theater Alliance. It dropped “and Dance” because it didn’t do any dancing; and left its H Street digs for a black box in Silver Spring when the owners decided to convert it to an exercise palace. Forum moved to an innovative marketing strategy making unreserved seats available at whatever price the purchaser wanted to pay.
Forum will celebrate its 14 years on June 11, with cocktails at 6.30 at the Blind Whino Southwest Arts Club, 700 Delaware Avenue SW, Washington DC 20024, followed by a staged reading of Caryl Churchill’s A Number with Jon Hudson Odom and Craig Wallace.