Our forecast feature allows us to comfortably predict, even before the year’s first show opens, that 2019 will be an exciting one for Washington area audiences as companies open newly renovated venues, welcome new leadership and take on exciting new artistic risks.
Round House Theatre
Round House Theatre will undergo a full interior renovation including an adaptable performance space and transformed lobby. The work starts in January, 2019 and will be ready to welcome patrons back by their first show of the 2019/2020 season.
When Theater J audiences return to the EDCJCC in September, 2019, they will find a refreshed Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater with a new entrance, new seats, and new carpet, a state-of-the-art box office on the ground floor, and renovated lobbies and bathrooms.
The Jewish King Lear, Theater J’s final performance of this season, will be held at Georgetown University’s Davis Performing Arts Center.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Woolly Mammoth will undergo a significant renovation of its space this summer, during which the company will forgo productions. No further details are available at this time.
Synetic Theater must relocate
Synetic Theater learned that, since Amazon will move one of its headquarters into 1800 South Bell Street, where the theatre is now located, their lease will not be renewed beyond August 31. This allows the company to complete its current season at South Bell, while relocation plans are taking place.
Synetic is seeking a new location, with the help of several organizations, and reaching out to its patrons for funding to help them identify the new location in time for their next season announcement, and to find and outfit the new theatre space.
MetroStage‘s new home will be what the company describes as a “jewel box” theatre on the present site of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria, VA which will be converted to condos along with other commercial development. MetroStage, as of this writing, does not know how long they will continue in their Royal Street location. However Carolyn Griffin, Artistic Director, passed on this piece of Washington theatre history: “Since 1984 we have built three theatres – we converted our Royal Street venue from a lumber warehouse. This fourth will actually be a permanent space.”
Alliance for New Music-Theater
Led by Susan Galbraith, the Alliance for New Music-Theater will be partnering with the Library of Congress to produce Black Pearl Sings!, by Frank Higgins, a story about the culture of the Gullah islanders, who some claim to be the “most authentic African-American continuous culture and community.”
Compass Rose has been out of house all season. Now it seems that plans to be in a permanent venue are reaching fruition. Details are coming.
Ally Theatre Company
Ally Theatre which usually plays on the mainstage of Joe’s Movement Emporium, will be converting a downstairs studio into a small, intimate venue for their workshop production of Hope Villanueva’s The Head That Wears the Crown which opens February 22.
The Capital Fringe Festival
Capital Fringe plans to re-open its Logan Fringe Arts Space in 2020.
The 2019 Capital Fringe Festival will return to southwest DC. While some locations will be familiar from the 2018 festival including Arena Stage, this year’s Festival will create a public, interactive video arcade and a full bar/hangout space .
While applications to perform are open through January 11th, the first show has been announced:
Shakespeare’s Worst, which Capital Fringe describes as “a bold, great for the full family comedy” which was written by Nick Newlin, a local actor and clown and Mike Reiss (a four-time Emmy-winning original writer for The Simpsons).
In 2019, these new artistic leaders will be taking on their leading role as heads of four area theatre companies.
On January 1, Raymond O. Caldwell took over the leadership role at Theater Alliance from Colin Hovde, who has been the company’s Artistic Director since 2011. A DC actor/director and lecturer at Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts,Caldwell will be directing Blood at the Root that opens at Anacostia Playhouse on February 22.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Maria Manuela Goyanez, now a few months into her position as Artistic Director, came to Woolly’s leadership role from her position as The Public Theater’s Director of Producing and Artistic Planning. The company is now under the leadership of three women; Goyanes is joined by Meghan Pressman as Managing Director and Woolly Board President Linette S. Hwu.
Goyanez succeeds Howard Shalwitz, who led the company he co-founded for nearly 40 years.
Baltimore Center Stage
Stephanie Ybarra, who officially became Baltimore Center Stage’s Artistic Director in December is, like Maria Manuela Goyanez, from New York’s Public Theatre. “Stephanie Ybarra is one of the rising stars of the American non-profit theater, a leader and a producer who is equally grounded in artistic excellence and a passion for social justice,” said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis.
Ybarra replaced Kwame Kwei-Armagh, who was in the position for 7 seasons, and has returned to London to become Artistic Director of the Young Vic. Kwei-Armagh was just named one of the top 100 most influential theatre makers by The Stage.
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Simon Godwin will officially become Artistic Director of Shakespeare Theatre Company on August 1, 2019. London’s young visionary director has been meeting STC staff and working with the retiring Michael Kahn to plan the 2019-2020 season. A much- in-demand director, whose Royal Shakespeare production of Hamlet was seen here in 2018, Godwin will make his Tokyo debut directing a Japanese cast in Hamlet for Theatre Cocoon in 2019.
NextStop Theatre Company
NextStop, by its own admission, will be taking unusual risks with its first two plays of 2019. The musical [title of show] will have no assigned director. Instead the company is turning over directing responsibilities to the four cast members of the show.
While Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, an uncensored peek into the lives and minds of teenage girls, is one of the most produced plays in America, most companies cast actresses in their twenties to play the teenage members of a girls’ soccer team. NextStop, aftern an extensive search, has cast teenage actresses from Virginia, Maryland and DC.
4615 Theatre Company
In addition to not only snagging the world premiere of Joe Calarco’s Separate Rooms with a star studded 9 person cast to end its second season in February, 4615 Theatre Company will be adding six limited engagements for its third season which will reflect on its four mainstage shows. Those events, tentatively titled 4615 EP’s (Extended Play), will range from concerts to photography exhibits to even full scale mini-productions and will be free.
Brave Spirits Theatre
Brave Spirits lives up to its name this season. Its April production, As You Live It, will be its final performance of 2019 while they prepare to become the first American company to perform Shakespeare’s eight history plays in rep. They will take on this epic task thusly:
The first four plays (Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V) will open and play in early 2020. Then its time to rehearse the second four plays (1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, and Richard III) and perform them in early 2021. Finally, they will bring back the first four plays and run all eight plays in repertory.
Rorschach Theatre Company
In February, Rorschach Theatre will present its first production outside of D.C.: Reykjavik by Steve Yockey at the Silver Spring Black Box in Silver Spring, MD. The company is also gearing up for another first; an under wraps (for now) large scale site-specific theatre event along the H Street corridor scheduled for fall 2019.
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
“At a time when a rise in hate crimes has been documented in the United States, it is especially vital for theatre to do its part to look for cross-cultural understanding and to stand together against hate and support education about the Holocaust,” the company said in its press release.
While Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has had the Wendy Kesselman adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank on its programming, starting in April, the mass murders at the Pittsburgh synagogue led to a decision to expand their outreach to cultural organizations which extended to The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect (New York). The Center will be sending to Baltimore a powerful exhibit of photos of Anne Frank taken by her father.
Following the retirement of long time member Karen Hansen to Vermont, the tightly knit ensemble of Happenstance Theater will welcome Craig Jaster, company member Mark Jaster’s brother, for Pantheon, which will premiere in April at Baltimore Theatre Project and move to Joe’s Movement Emporium in June. Happenstance will tour in July, although they haven’t said where in the world they plan to land, leaving us only with “looking forward to the next turn around the sun.”
WSC Avant Bard
In 2019, Avant Bard will inaugurate the Playwright’s Teaching Residency. New York–based playwright Matt Minnicino—whose comedy A Misanthrope Avant Bard will stage in the spring—will custom-write ten-minute plays for the junior theatre arts class at Yorktown High School, then direct the students in their performance. Each playlet will be featured as a curtain-raiser during the first weekend of Avant Bard’s Scripts in Play Festival.
Restricted deed covenants, common on land and property leases in the 1920s and 30s, were used as tools for racial segregation. Lorraine Hansberry’s family’s experience of such a covenant in the Chicago area formed the basis for A Raisin in the Sun. Ally Theatre is developing and producing a new play by Doug Robinson about these covenants, in partnership with Joe’s Movement Emporium and The Hyattsville Community Development Corporation for their Mapping Racism Project. Ally Theatre will have a staged reading of the new play in February and a full production at Joe’s Movement Emporium and a Hyattsville location in May.
Washington Improv Theater
WIT is continuing to bring improv to young students through a growing number of after-school programs. Education Director Jonathan Murphy oversees WIT’s long relationships with Marie Reed Elementary, Sitar Arts Center, Kingman Boys and Girls Club, and various elementary schools in DC Public Schools.
In September, we’ll find Peter’s Alley, Inc (formerly Peter’s Alley Productions) producing its first play in over a year at The Writer’s Center, Bethesda. Md.
Two companies have extended their reach to publishing.
Contemporary American Theater Festival
Plays by Women of the Contemporary American Theater Festival will be released in February 21, 2019. This collection will feature five plays produced at CATF – Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams, The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess, Memoirs of a Forgotten Man by Baltimore playwright D.W Gregory, Dead and Breathing by Chisa Hutchinson, and 20th Century Blues by Susan Miller, as well as interviews with the playwrights. Lynn Nottage wrote the introduction. The book may be pre-ordered through Amazon.
WAPAVA (Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive) has been recording and preserving performances by Washington area theatre companies large and small since 1993. Last season, they archived 43 productions, bringing their collection to 928 performances.
This year, they have released an e-publication WAPAVA Reel Time: A Historical Look at DC Theatre over 25 Years . Included are revealing interviews with DC theatre professionals such as Paata Tsikurishvili..
“I’d like people to know that in a community like this, anything’s possible.” Tsikurishvili, of Synetic Theater, said in a WAPAVA interview, thinking back on his company’s achievements since coming to D.C. after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
WAPAVA’s REEL TIME can be viewed here. The print version is available with a donation of $250 or more to the company.
Visit the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the University of Maryland to view an archived performance (an appointment is recommended) or visit www.wapava.org to see their searchable database.