We asked area theatre companies to tell us what they were most looking forward to in 2020. Their answers surprised us!
Contributors: 4615 Theatre Company . American Ensemble Theater . American Shakespeare Theatre Company . Arena Stage . Avant Bard Theatre . Brave Spirits Theatre . Capital Fringe . CulturalDC . Folger Theatre . Happenstance Theater . MetroStage . Monumental Theatre Company . NextStop Theatre . Rep Stage . Rorschach Theatre . Round House Theatre . Shakespeare Theatre Company . Theater J . The Kennedy Center . Venus Theater. Washington Improv Theater . Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
New performing spaces:
“Excitedly watching as the future home of MetroStage is being gutted and readied for conversion. The former Crown Plaza Hotel in Alexandria, VA will soon become Venue, with luxury condos and a 7,000 sq ft performing arts theatre. In the meantime now that I have completed the move out of 1201 N Royal and will be offering a spring season of scattered events in the area that includes Cousin Bella Whore of Minsk which was such a success at the Kennedy Center. We will definitely bring it back with the wonderful Rick Foucheux and Adrienne Nelson.”
“The Folger Shakespeare Library will be closing in March 2020 to begin work on its multi-year Building Renovation Project—but Folger Theatre will indeed continue to produce plays, bringing its unique flavor on the road to other major DMV-area theaters. We are excited to announce our lineup of plays for the coming season in January 2020, and let the public know where to find Folger Theatre and other Folger events around town.
“Bringing the Folger on the road will allow us the opportunity to reach new theatergoers and make new friends across the DC region.”
CulturalDC is involved in what may be two new performing spaces in the coming year or so: Waterfront Station II on the site of the Riverside Baptist Church in Southwest DC, and Aspen Arts Park at The Parks on the site of the Walter Reed Fire Department in Northwest DC.
“At this time, the tenants do not have leases signed with the developers, and therefore we cannot discuss any specifics regarding the spaces. Given the size of the properties, it could be a year from now. A lot of theatres in DC expressed interest.”
We may be saying goodbye to Venus
“As Venus Theatre turns 20, one thing is clear. We can no longer function in poverty. We’ve produced 70 woman-empowering scripts and often times we lose money and still have to pay all of our artists and our bills. An Artistic Director in the city producing commercial work makes $500,000. I’m not saying I expect to earn that kind of money. But I think, 10% would be fair. A clear decision to no longer produce plays until the financial support is there will definitely be a new way of moving ahead. Whatever that means. Perhaps we stop producing. Perhaps we relinquish our space. Perhaps we build a state-of-the-art green theatre. Perhaps we tour. Perhaps we raise $200,000 and keep doing what we have done for 20 years. I have no idea. But, whatever happens, the people putting in the most hours will no longer be the least paid. It’s just bad business and we’ve paid our dues for two decades now. The question goes to our community of benefactors and funders – what is Venus worth to you?
“We are now collecting positive impact statements. As they have been arriving it’s been stunning to see the impact we’ve had on artists and audience all over the world. We’ve made careers happen. We’re the reason some plays are now published. It’s just been an incredible journey. To have been surrounded with near 1,000 brilliant artists and now receive their input is very strange and magical. As we face a world more and more hostile toward women it has become the job of Venus to speak, to pushback. Moving forward, this will no longer be done on the backs of the people working the hardest. I’m excited about this decision. I’m ready for the future!”
Shows, Shows, Shows!
Jordan Friend, 4615 Theatre Company
Look for 4615 to pop up in several locations this coming year. Joe Calarco’s Measure of Cruelty in a Bethesda pub this January, with other events in DC including Dance Loft.
“4615 continues its expansion, now with a team of 10 resident artists, and the addition of resident director Stevie Zimmerman. This year, the company pushes the limits of what constitutes a theatrical experience with events such as the world premiere of Renee Calarco’s MUSEUM 2040, a multi-venue, interactive museum exhibit set 20 years in the future…”
Martin Blank.American Ensemble Theater is now American Ensemble Film
“We just made our first film, a four minute short, that has already been accepted by 25 Film Festivals. Used all our theater skills, but very different too. More on our short movie at:http://backbeatmovie.com.”
Ethan McSweeny, American Shakespeare Center
“Highlights of 2020 are going to include a “Venetian” trio of Othello, Merchant, and Volpone, joined in the fall by the world premiere of Keene up-and-coming superstar writer Anchuli Felicia King’s time-bending exploration of the first African American man to play Othello. We’ll have updates on casting and creative teams soon, but as a sneak preview, I’ve been successful in recruiting the divine Sara Topham (Stratford, Shaw Festivals and Broadway’s Importance of Being Earnest and Travesties) to join the company for the summer/fall and she will grace the Blackfriars with a Portia (amazingly, her first) as well as an Emilia and a glittering Lady Politic Would Be.
“But before that we’ve got the winter return of the Actor’s Renaissance season (and our company’s ongoing exploration of the history cycle) and the Homecoming for our national tour (which will bring the premiere of Emma Whipday’s The Defamation of Cicely Lee).”
“What are you most excited about showing audiences in 2020? This is a hard question to answer because I’m excited about all of our productions. I like to say that Arena has broad shoulders, and this year, there is such a dramatic range of voices. From wars in Afghanistan, to dissecting dictatorships, to celebrating August Wilson, to illuminating women athletes. One world premiere, two new plays in their second productions, and two plays that speak to our contemporary times. We are enthusiastically looking forward to another world premiere this summer with American Prophet—taking some of the words of Frederick Douglass to tell his story. And that’s just what’s on stage! We’re right in the thick of our Community Engagement program with the Voices of Now program for young ensembles all over the metropolitan area. It’s a ‘wow’ program where young people speak their minds—and they have a lot to say right now.”
Tom Prewitt, Avant Bard Theatre
“Our big news is that we turned 30 this season, so we gave ourselves a new name: Avant Bard Theatre. We did this not only to honor our anniversary, but also to let people know what line of business we’re in—the theatre biz, inspired by Shakespeare, our muse, and aspiring to meld the best of past and present in eclectic, intimate and affordable productions of the highest caliber. Despite the name change, we’ll continue to create what the Bard called ‘great reckonings in little rooms.'”
Charlene V. Smith, Brave Spirits Theatre
“Brave Spirits Theatre is beyond excited about our plans for 2020: the first half of our epic project Shakespeare’s Histories. In 2020, audiences will be able to see Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth Part 1, Henry the Fourth Part 2, and Henry the Fifth in repertory. The second half of the cycle will be presented in 2021 as Brave Spirits Theatre becomes the first professional American theatre company to fully stage the eight history plays in repertory, as well as the first professional company in the DC region to fully stage all three parts of Henry the Sixth. We look forward to having everyone in our audience, helping us make history!”
Julianne Brienza – Capital Fringe
“I am working with Richard Byrne on a blog series highlighting Fringe artists and audiences over the past fifteen years of Fringe starting in January. In going through the over 2000 productions to grace the many stages Fringe has either rented or created in vacant buildings the productions ranging from unique, moving to utterly absurd I am in complete awe of it all. I am excited to showcase and celebrate what this community has created over the past fifteen years in 2020.
Sabrina Mandell, Happenstance Theater
“We are most excited about building a new show for next summer’s 15th anniversary Fringe Festival. It will be part of the Curated Series. It will be titled JUXTAPOSE and we will be revisiting the territory of the shadow boxes of Joseph Cornell, one of our very first inspirations. The piece will lean on visual theatre, object manipulation, physicality, and of course, comedy and whimsy.
“Our second most exciting thing is that we are remounting BAROCOCO for our Off-Broadway premiere at 59E59 Theaters in New York City, in March/April.
“Our third most exciting thing is that we are going to tour to New England again after the Fringe, with a touring adaptation of our Vaudeville show that will be called POCKET MOXIE: A Happenstance Traveling Vaudeville.”
Beth Amann – Monumental Theatre Company
“We’re definitely looking forward to our regional premiere of Head Over Heels. This show featured the first nonbinary character in a lead role on Broadway—we’re very excited to be bringing this unique queer content to DMV audiences.”
“The thing that we’re probably most excited about at NextStop is our new “Front Row to History” Initiative, which will provide local students and teachers with free tickets to THE MOUNTAINTOP.”
“Here at Rep Stage we are very excited about the regional premiere of James Ijames Kill Move Paradise. Hailed by the New York Times as a necessary play for our time that “radiates an urgent and hypnotic theatrical energy” Ijames’ play is inspired by the ever-growing list of slain unarmed people of color in this country. The production will be directed by Danielle A. Drakes.”
Randy Baker and Jenny McConnell Frederick, Rorschach Theatre
“This next year is a big one for us. Rorschach is turning 21 in 2020 and we’re celebrating all year! In the new year, we’re excited to show audiences our very first musical THE TOXIC AVENGER, directed by Tracy Lynn Olivera. Looking further ahead, this summer we’re looking forward to creating new work with some of DC’s best new talent in our latest KLECKSOGRAPHY project.”
Ryan Rilette, Round House Theatre
“There’s a lot in 2020 to be excited about. First on my own directing docket is the return of Martyna Majok, now with a Pulitzer Prize in tow! Round House’s hit production of Ironbound during the first Women’s Voices Theater Festival helped launch her career. She’s since been produced worldwide, and it’s the play we’re producing, Cost of Living, that won her the Pulitzer. Afterwards, Round House Theatre will be doing our first set of plays in rotating rep. With one show an intimate two-hander and the other essentially a massive, chaotic party, these two productions will stretch the limits of what our newly renovated space can do. I can’t wait for audiences to see all the different ways that we can customize our theatre, and to share this series of amazing stories with them.”
Simon Godwin, Shakespeare Theatre Company
“In 2020, Shakespeare Theatre Company will continue to expand. We’ll be breaking ground on our new administrative offices, rehearsal spaces, and actor and fellow housing. We’ll also be continuing to expand our definition of “classical theatre” while intensifying our efforts to connect with the vibrant and and diverse communities across D.C.
“We have many exciting plays to share with our audience in 2020, including two Shakespearean productions, and powerful collaborations with other theatre companies, both local and international. And following the success of Peter Pan and Wendy, we’ll be continuing to present revelatory family programming. Our mantra for 2020? All the World on Stage.”
“For the second half of our 19-20 season, we are doing two second productions, and offering a second chance to see a brilliant performance. Our second productions are Sheltered by Alix Sobler, running Jan 9 – Feb 2 and The Wanderers by Anna Ziegler running Feb 19 – Mar 15.
“Sheltered won the prestigious Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, earning it a world premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater in 2018. Theater J’s production is directed by Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr. The Wanderers was commissioned and premiered by San Diego’s Old Globe and won the 2018 San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel award for Outstanding New Play. The Wanderers is the fourth play of Anna Ziegler’s that Theater J is producing and we are proud to be her artistic home in DC.
“As for the second chance, that is Naomi Jacobson returning in her brilliant Helen Hayes-nominated performance as Dr. Ruth Westheimer in Becoming Dr. Ruth. The show runs at Theater J Mar 27 – April 19. It then tours to Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.”
Jeffrey Finn, The Kennedy Center
“We have a very exciting upcoming spring season. Our Kennedy Center-produced Broadway Center Stage series continues with starry productions of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Next to Normal with the original creative team from Broadway, plus the Tony Award–winning Bye Bye Birdie hits the stage in April. We are also delighted to be producing Nia Vardalos’s funny and touching play, Tiny Beautiful Things. My colleagues in International Programming oversee their World Stages series, including the upcoming U.S. premiere of Heroine, a one-woman piece based on the true story of a lesbian soldier in the U.S. Army. The WNO brings us the D.C. premiere of Tony Award® winner Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s opera, Blue. The National Symphony Orchestra is doing all nine Beethoven Symphonies in a span of three weeks, and the NSO Pops will present a concert staging of Bernstein’s On The Town. ”
Mark Chalfant, Washington Improv Theater
“As an improv theater, every show is brand new — never seen before and never to be seen again. Even so, we are still exploring innovative show formats and showcasing communities within Washington, DC, through improv. In February, we are celebrating Black improv in the DMV with “The Cookout,” Feb. 16 – 17, with both performances headlined by WIT featured ensemble Lena Dunham. Later in February, “The Feminine Experience” returns Feb. 23 – 24 with a night of true, improvised monologues as an all-star, all-female cast gives voice to the experience of, and rebellions against, being female. During our summer run (June-July), WIT brings to the stage a new wedding-themed romantic comedy called Dearly Beloved where the audience will play an essential role in determining the happily ever after.”
Maria Manuela Goyanes, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
“This is still my inaugural season at Woolly, so I am tremendously excited about all of it! Getting a chance to premiere a play again with the brilliant Anne Washburn, introducing audiences to the force of nature that is writer/ performer Paola Lázaro, and working on Mike Lew’s hilarious masterpiece about a ruthless student election in the middle of our own election year, are all a dream come true in my first programmed season at Woolly. 2020 will also mark the first full year of my partnership with our new Managing Director Emika Abe. We are cooking up big plans for Woolly, where we lean into what makes Woolly so important to the landscape of risk-taking theatre in DC and in this country.”
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