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Curtain Up on Arena Stage!
The landmark theater opens its doors with an open house this weekend, and artistic director Molly Smith has a lot to smile about By Leslie Milk
Arena Stage at the Mead Center is the largest theater complex to open in Washington since the Kennedy Center. Photograph by Nic Lehoux.
Comments () | Published October 22, 2010
 The unsinkable Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage, is riding high. Arena has a spectacular new home, thanks in part to a $35-million gift from philanthropists Jaylee and the late Gilbert Mead. The old theater in the round and its little proscenium-stage siblings have gotten an extreme makeover. They’ve been redesigned and wrapped in a glass gift box, ready for their star turn.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater opens on October 22 with a production of Oklahoma! “Its message is hope and optimism,” Smith says of the classic musical. “It is perfect for this moment at Arena Stage.”

It took more than optimism to build the $135-million Mead Center. It took 12 years—a period that included two recessions, 9/11, and the sniper shootings, all of which kept many Washingtonians away from the theater. At the same time, Washington experienced a boom in theater construction that made yet another theater—let alone one in Southwest DC—seem foolhardy.

But Smith felt she had to persevere. For the 60-year-old Arena to flourish and attract top talent—such as playwrights Sarah Ruhl and Anna Deavere Smith—as well as draw enthusiastic audiences, it needed bold new spaces.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 10/22/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles