Avant Bard Theatre, formerly known as WSC Avant Bard (and before that, as Washington Shakespeare Company), will mark its 30th anniversary with a new name, and a three-play season, Artistic Director Tom Prewitt announced at at a staged reading benefit of Don Marquis’ Archy and Mehitibel, which featured Rick Foucheux and Holly Twyford on Monday, October 14 at Signature Theatre.
Avant Bard, Prewitt explained, marks the company’s evolution from a troupe which staged new interpretations of Shakespeare’s work to one which does an eclectic array of new and classical plays. The company added “Theatre” to its name in order to remind people of “the business we are in,” Prewitt said. Finally, the name change puts the company near the top of the alphabetical list of theaters in the DMV, Prewitt pointed out wryly to the gathering of supporters, rather than near the bottom where it has previously been.
As for that season, Avant Bard Theatre will start off with Suddenly Last Summer, Tennessee Williams’ drama about a wealthy socialite whose beloved son, a poet, died under mysterious circumstances. She uses her wealth and connections to engage a doctor to pronounce the only known witness to this death clinically insane, but, as you can imagine, things do not work out as planned. Artistic Director Emeritus Christopher Henley (who is also a journalist for DCTS) directs.
Suddenly Last Summer will run from February 27 to April 5, 2020, in rep with Lauren Gunderson’s Ada and the Engine. This is a play about Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, a mathematician who famously translated an Italian essay on Charles Babbage’s Analytic Engine into English, providing her own notes about how Babbage’s invention could be used. Her accomplishment won her the sobriquet “world’s first computer programmer” and one of the first computer languages was called Ada. The prolific Gunderson is a Steinberg-Award winner for The Book of Will (seen here at Round House Theatre in 2017) and I and You (Olney Theatre Center, 2014) and is one of the most produced contemporary playwrights in the country. Megan Behm, who directed Avant Bard’s A Misanthrope last year, will direct this play.
Finally, showing that the company has not abandoned its Shakespearean roots, Avant Bard Theatre will stage Julius Caesar May 21 to June 21, 2020. This is the story of how Rome surrendered its democracy to crown an emperor, how a group of rebels worked together to kill him, and the grim consequences thereafter. Avant Bard Theatre has not announced a director for this work.
Avant Bard Theatre will also present its Scripts in Play festival from December 5-22 of this year, in which the company will have staged readings of plays under consideration for full production at a later time. Avant Bard Theatre will stage Scripts in Play at Theatre on the Run; the remaining season will be at the Gunston Arts Center.
Avant Bard Theatre began life in 1989 as the Washington Shakespeare Company and for many years produced out of the Clark Street Theater, which has since been torn down. They now produce at the Gunston Arts Center in Arlington, DC.