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See Side Show, The Totalitarians, Healing Wars, and much more this month. By Tanya Pai
Side Show, the musical about conjoined twins and vaudeville entertainers in the 1920 and ’30s, comes to the Kennedy Center June 14. Photograph by Cade Martin.

OPENING THIS MONTH

The classic musical West Side Story returns to the National Theatre after a pre-Broadway run in 2008. June 3 through 8.

At Warner Theatre June 3 through 8 is We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical about a dystopian future.

The Tony Award-winning puppet musical Avenue Q comes to Olney Theatre Center, offering hits such as “What Do You Do With a BA in English?” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” June 11 through July 6.

Beauty and the Beast, the musical version of the Disney film with a Grammy- and Academy Award-winning score, comes to Wolf Trap June 6 through 8.

No Rules Theatre Company presents Boeing Boeing, about a man juggling several women whose complicated love life is thrown into a tailspin in part thanks to flight delays. June 4 through 29 at Signature Theatre’s Ark Theatre.

Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie stars in Buyer & Cellar, about a struggling LA actor who takes a job in the basement “mall” of a Hollywood star. June 20 through 29 at Shakespeare Theatre.

Ordinary Days, at Round House Bethesda through June 22, is Adam Gwon’s off-Broadway hit about four New Yorkers trying to nativate their romantic lives.

Cloak and Dagger , from Helen Hayes Award winner Ed Dixon, is a musical-comedy whodunit that sends up classic 1950s film noir. June 12 through July 6 at Signature Theatre.

The smash musical adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King, with direction and costumes by Julie Taymor, returns to the Kennedy Center for the first time since 2008, June 17 through August 17.

Arcturus Theatre Company presents Distracted, about two parents trying to deal with their nine-year-old son’s recent diagnosis of ADD. At Atlas Arts Center June 12 through 22.

At the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is Enter Ophelia, Distracted, Taffety Punk’s depiction of Hamlet’s Ophelia as she descends into madness. June 20 through 28.

London’s Gate Theatre brings Grounded—about a female fighter pilot who, because of an unexpected pregnancy, is relegated to flying drones—to Studio Theatre June 10 through 29.

Nancy Robinette stars as a woman trapped up to her waist in earth in Samuel Beckett’s dark comedy Happy Days. June 7 through July 5 at Atlas Arts Center.

At Arena Stage is the world premiere of Healing Wars, a theatrical dance piece narrated by Bill Pullman that explores the experiences of doctors who treat patients during wartime. June 6 through 29.

American Century Theater presents Judgment at Nuremberg, playwright Abby Mann’s work based on the true story of post-World War II war trials. Through June 28.

Cock, Mike Bartlett’s story of a gay man fixated on his encounter with a woman while on a break with his boyfriend, is at Studio Theatre through June 22.

The first play of Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts (August Osage County), Killer Joe is a black comedy about a Southern family who hires a hit man to kill the matriarch in order to collect on insurance money. June 5 through 29 at DC Arts Center.

Academy Award winner Bill Condon directs a reimagined Side Show, the 1997 Broadway musical about conjoined twins and vaudeville entertainers Violet and Daisy Hilton. June 14 through July 13 at the Kennedy Center.

At Round House Silver Spring is The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, about the trial of the biblical traitor taking place in purgatory. Through June 14.

Imagination Stage presents the beloved Roald Dahl classic The BFG, about a friendly giant who brings good dreams to children and the little orphan girl who befriends him. June 26 through August 10.

The Prostate Dialogues , a one-man show by Jon Spelman that explores the effects of cancer on an individual’s life and relationships, runs through June 29 at Theater J.

Private Lives, Noël Coward’s 1930 comedy about a divorced couple who discover they’re honeymooning in adjacent suites, is at Shakespeare Theatre through July 29.

The Totalitarians, Peter Sinn Nachtreib’s farce about a speechwriter’s attempts to get a wealthy housewife into political office, is at Woolly Mammoth through June 29.

Theater Alliance’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia, which premiered at the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival, tells the story of a woman with dissociative identity disorder who’s lost the memory of one hour of her life. June 4 through 28 at Anacostia Playhouse.


ONGOING/LAST CHANCE

A Midsummer Night’s Riot closes June 6 at Keegan Theatre.

Henry IV parts 1 and 2 close at Shakespeare Theatre Company June 7. Read our review.

Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight closes June 7 at Keegan Theatre.

The Piano Lesson closes June 8 at Olney Theatre.

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) closes June 8 at Synetic Theater. Read our review

Freud’s Last Session is at Theater J until June 29. Read our review.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 06/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Britton suffered a fractured cheek when he was attacked after the debut of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Forum Theatre. By Benjamin Freed
Britton. Photograph courtesy Forum Theatre.

DC actor Frank Britton stuck around Forum Theatre with his fellow thespians for a few hours Monday after the curtain came down on the first show of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. It was, by most accounts, a routine opening night for actors at the Silver Spring theater, who hung out backstage until the early-morning hours. Britton finally made his farewell shortly before 2 AM, headed to a 7-Eleven store for a late-night snack, and proceeded to a nearby taxi stand for a ride home.

Britton says he was “literally feet away” from a cab when he was assaulted by a group of four or five young men, who pummeled him and stole nearly every personal belonging he had on him, including an iPad, his wallet, his phone, and the bag of food he had just purchased. “This group just walks past me and one sucker-punches me, sends me to the ground, hits me in the face several more times,” Britton tells Washingtonian from his hospital room. “Robs me of everything I have save for my glasses and my hat.”

Witnesses who saw the assault near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road called the authorities, but a Montgomery County Police spokeswoman says there is no detailed description of the suspects in Britton’s mugging and that no arrests have been made. Britton was taken to nearby Holy Cross Hospital, where he is awaiting surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone. He also suffered a contusion on the back of his head and hemorrhaging around his right eye.

Britton was playing the Roman judge Pontius Pilate in Forum’s revival of Stephen Adly Gurguis’s gospel comedy, which is scheduled to run through June 14. Forum’s artistic director, Michael Dove, says an understudy will take over Britton’s role for the duration, although Britton claims he can make a speedier recovery.

“I just want to get back to my show,” he says.

Members of Washington’s theater community were quick to chime their support for Britton after word of his mugging circulated on Tuesday. As Britton doesn’t have health insurance, friends of his set up a page on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to help pay for his convalescence. The page blew past its original $3,000 goal within hours, and the total is now over $21,000.

“Jesus, God, that’s amazing,” Britton says when told of the financial support. “It could have been a lot worse. They could have blown me away, but they just broke my face.”

Posted at 04:10 PM/ET, 05/27/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The 33-year-old opera singer and DC native is making it big in 2014. By Sophie Gilbert
“I think of singing almost like ministering,” says Soloman Howard, who is in the Washington National Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. Photograph by Roy Cox.

When he plays the sorcerer Sarastro in the Washington National Opera’s production of The Magic Flute, May 3 through 18, Soloman Howard will mark a high point in a very Washington success story: The 33-year-old bass grew up in Southeast DC and later this year makes his debut with the Metropolitan Opera and the Los Angeles Opera.

“I tell people that I was born in this city and the Washington National Opera gave my career the chance to be birthed here as well,” he says. Howard started singing in church at age three and first considered going professional at seven, when his uncle gave him $50 for performing in a Howard University fashion show: “I thought, ‘Wow, if I can make $50 every time I sing, that’s what I want to do.’ ”

At 13, he joined the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Children of the Gospel Choir, which took him on his first international trip, to Spain. A scholarship got him to Morgan State, where he played football and began performing opera, later training as a soloist at the Manhattan School of Music. Three seasons ago, Howard auditioned for the WNO chorus, prompting former artistic administrator Scott Guzielek to ask him where he’d been all this time. A few weeks later, Howard auditioned for then general director Plácido Domingo. During his time as a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program member, Howard has traveled to Russia and performed in the WNO’s Show Boat and Don Giovanni as well as the world premiere of Approaching Ali. 

“I think of singing almost like ministering, because I grew up in the church,” he says. “I hope to continue to have a voice that can take people to another place.”

Tickets ($25 to $305) at kennedy-center.org.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:08 PM/ET, 05/06/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The actor/director discusses his hip-hop spin on the classic fairy tale at Imagination Stage. By Sophie Gilbert

Paige Hernandez—shown with Mark Hairston—plays the lead in Cinderella: The Remix, a girl who wants to be a deejay in a place where it’s illegal. Photograph courtesy of Imagination Stage.

Actor/director Psalmayene 24 completes his trilogy of hip-hop shows for young audiences with the world premiere of Cinderella: The Remix at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage. The show stars Paige Hernandez, who also choreographs, as a girl who dreams of making music in a world where girls are shut out. Written by Psalmayene 24 and featuring original music by Nick Hernandez, the show runs through May 25. Here’s a conversation with the creator and director.

Where did the idea for a hip-hop retelling of Cinderella come from? 

I was thinking about what would be a good follow-up to my last show, P.Nokio, and got the idea for a trilogy. I looked at my first two plays and saw that Zomo the Rabbit was an exploration of the past and P.Nokio looked at the present, so I thought about what could serve as a vibrant future for hip-hop culture. What’s lacking right now is a multitude of strong and progressive female voices, so I thought I would focus on that challenge. At the core of Cinderella is transformation and dreams coming true, so those were the seeds I started with.

Can you summarize the show?

It’s about a girl who wants to be a deejay, but she lives in Hip-Hop Hollywood, where deejaying is illegal for girls. It’s the journey of this young woman who’s trying to be herself, trying to be authentic against all odds, which is something that all people struggle with. The idea of doing something you love when it’s difficult or even illegal for you to do is timely in terms of thinking about marriage equality, so that was something else I hoped would resonate.

What are the challenges in making theater for young audiences?

The main challenge is making sure you’re capturing their attention and imagination. Kids have pretty pure truth meters, so they’ll let you know if what you’re doing isn’t fun or worthy of their attention. In theater, we work with dramaturges a lot, and their job is to make sure the world of your play makes sense. In my mind, young audiences are the best dramaturges because instinctively they have a gauge for what works and what doesn’t.

Tickets ($10 to $30) at imaginationstage.org.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:13 PM/ET, 04/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fiasco Theater’s visiting production is a breezy confection of a comedy. By Missy Frederick
Zachary Fine and Noah Brody in Fiasco Theater’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Photograph by Teresa Wood.

Anyone who likes to see the scoundrel get his comeuppance in the end should be warned: In Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, it’s not going to happen.

The play has two protagonists: There’s the stalwart if generally bland Valentine (Zachary Fine), speaker of one of the Bard’s most gorgeous passages (“What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?/What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?”). And then there’s that aforementioned scoundrel, Proteus (Noah Brody). The two are fast friends who later become rivals when Proteus decides his friend’s love, Silvia, must be superior to his own beloved Julia, essentially because his friend has her. He schemes to keep them apart and take Silvia for his own, to the despondency of Julia—and the complete disinterest of Silvia, who only has eyes for Valentine. Proteus’s behavior becomes increasingly inexcusable (by the end, he’s willing to take Silvia against her will), but ends up delivering him about ten seconds of actual consequences. But after all, this is a comedy, so—spoiler alert—it all works out in the end.

Get past the fact that Proteus is, generally, the worst, and Two Gents is a frothy confection of a play that goes down easily. It’s even more of a joy in the hands of New York company Fiasco Theater directors Brody and Ben Steinfeld, who have delivered a charming, breezy—and speedy—production at Folger. The play, with a spare set and several actors in multiple roles, moves at a smooth clip, occasionally interrupted with bursts of song. 

Most of Two Gents’ performances are exaggerated for comedic effect—Brody is a particularly hammy, if mischievous, Proteus, and Jessie Austrian milks Julia’s early suitor-related dilemmas for big laughs. Emily Young is the show’s most subtle performer, handily embodying two roles: Julia’s no-nonsense maid, Lucetta, and the worshiped Silvia, who is firmly steadfast in her rejection of both the devious Proteus and the loyal but hapless Thurio (Paul L. Coffey), her father’s choice for her husband.

The play’s most obvious source of comic relief is the goofy servant Lance (Andy Grotelueschen) and his trusty dog (Fine again). Their scenes together have the show’s most overt gags, but Grotelueschen also does a fine job playing off his fellow servant, Speed (Coffey). One terrific segment has Speed listing Lance’s love’s increasingly alarming faults, only to have him dismiss them out of hand. After all, she “brews good ale” and has a ton of money. Go into this Two Gents for the laughs, rather than any particular sense of moral justice, and this production definitely delivers.

Fiasco Theater’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona is at Folger Theatre through May 25. Running time is about two hours, with one intermission. Tickets ($39 to $72) are available through the Folger’s website.

Posted at 02:48 PM/ET, 04/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Washington's theater community celebrated its achievements in a new, party-first ceremony. By Benjamin Freed
Signature Theatre's and Ford's Theatre's production of "Hello, Dolly!" won three Helen Hayes Awards, including outstanding resident musical. Photograph by Carol Rosegg.

In their 30th year, the organizers of the Helen Hayes Awards tossed out the old script and started the partying before handing out any trophies.

Did banquet tables full of hors d’oeuvres and open bars outlining the floor of the National Building Museum distract from the on-stage presentations? Yes, but most seemed to enjoy the new format.

After years of putting Washington’s theater professionals and patrons through a long, seated show at the Warner Theatre followed by an after-party in the belly of the JW Marriott Hotel, TheatreWashington moved venues and rearranged the ceremony to allow people to choose between sitting in front of a makeshift stage or mingling with a snack and a drink.

Most chose the refreshments, a fact TheatreWashington’s president, Linda Levy, noted in her opening remarks when she encouraged people to grab a chair instead of clustering around macaroni-and-cheese displays. But there were only a dozen rows of seats, leaving most people hovering around the cavernous atrium to eat, drink, chat, and post photographs on Instagram, which were displayed on large screens during the two intermissions. Levy herself found a spot in the back of the room, holding court from a colossal deck chair placed by Celebrity Cruises, which she said is hosting a theater-themed voyage later this year.

Free-flowing victuals aside, there were many theater achievements to celebrate on Monday night, especially for Signature Theatre, which led all stage companies with eight awards, including three for its Hello, Dolly! co-production with Ford’s Theatre. The critically praised show won outstanding musical (a tie with Olney Theatre Center’s A Chorus Line), choreography, and ensemble in a resident production. Signature also swept the acting categories for resident musicals, with James Gardiner winning for The Last Five Years, Diana Huey for Miss Saigon, Bobby Smith for Spin, and Erin Weaver for Company. Jon Kalbfleisch was named outstanding musical director for his work in Signature’s run of Gypsy.

The Book of Mormon, the demand for which crashed the Kennedy Center’s website multiple times when tickets when on sale last year, won outstanding visiting musical, along with the trophies for supporting performer (Samantha Marie Ware) and lead actor (Christopher John O'Neill).

Round House Theatre's revival of Glengarry Glen Ross also nabbed three awards for resident plays, including director Mitchell Hébert, lead actor Rich Foucheux, and best ensemble.

No single production dominated the field, but Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Stupid F**king Bird, a cheeky riff on Chekhov’s The Seagull, won two of the biggest prizes with outstanding resident play and outstanding new play or musical for playwright Aaron Posner. The show’s title, which doesn’t actually include asterisks, clearly delighted presenters, who emphasized its middle word.

Along with a more convivial atmosphere, this year’s Helen Hayes Awards put a premium on efficiency. Hosts Ed Gero, currently in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Henry IV and Donna Migliaccio, who is about to star in Signature’s Threepenny Opera, were more timekeepers than witty schmoozers.

The ceremony, cut up in to three “acts,” allowed winners only 30 seconds to give their thanks, lest they risk being sung off by the on-stage chorus of Sam Ludwig, Rachel Zampelli, and Ashleigh King, who broke into The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell,” whenever someone ran over, like Dawn Ursula, who won outstanding supporting actress for her work in Woolly’s The Convert.

Only Victor Shargai, TheatreWashington’s longtime chairman until last October, was allowed to speak at length when he was presented with a Helen Hayes Tribute, a segment that included a video message from Angela Lansbury. “I thank Helen with all of my heart for doing this,” Shargai said, his shirt unbuttoned down to his sternum.

Adele Robey and Julia Robey Christian, the founders of the Anacostia Playhouse, were also presented with a special leadership award for opening their theater in Southeast DC.

The new, speeded-up format of the Helen Hayes Awards turned the annual event from a formal ceremony into more of an extended cocktail party that falls on the most important date on the local theater community’s calendar. But people liked it, and it was a good test run for next year, when TheatreWashington splits the awards between unionized and non-union shows, but tries not to double the length of the event.

Posted at 02:48 PM/ET, 04/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
“Brief Encounter” at Shakespeare, Brecht at Signature, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” at Arena, and much more this month. By Sophie Gilbert
See the musical Hair at Keegan Theatre, plus plenty more in town this month. Photograph by C. Stanley Photography.

OPENING THIS MONTH

At Shakespeare Theatre, Cornwall, England’s Kneehigh theater company presents Brief Encounter. The show—acclaimed in London and New York—is inspired by both Noël Coward’s play Still Life and its 1945 movie version, Brief Encounter, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Through April 13.

At 1st Stage is Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, a black comedy about the buzz generated when a Hollywood filmmaker descends upon a sleepy Irish town. Through April 20.

Arguendo, a co-commission by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, New York’s Public Theater, and two other institutions, depicts a 1991 Supreme Court decision on public nudity following a case filed by two Indiana strip clubs, as imagined by the New York theater company Elevator Repair Service. Arguendo “is so wittily inventive that it makes you think that the Elevator Repair Service might as well have a go at the Pittsburgh phone directory next,” the New York Times said. April 1 through 27.

Round House Theatre presents Two Trains Running, August Wilson’s drama exploring life in an African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh. April 2 through 27.

At MetroStage, John Vreeke directs The Thousandth Night, a spin on the Scheherazade story, about an actor in 1943 France who attempts to get a stay of execution by playing 38 characters from The Arabian Nights. April 3 through May 18.

The 89-year-old actor Hal Holbrook returns with Mark Twain Tonight, his one-man show about the American writer, which he first performed 55 years ago. At National Theatre April 4 and 5.

At Round House Silver Spring, Snow Angel, David Lindsay-Abaire’s 1999 play, set in Vermont during a blizzard, is this year’s Sarah Metzger Memorial Play, staged by high-schoolers in memory of a local theater student who died in a car accident. April 4 through 12.

Local actor Tom Story makes his directorial debut at Studio Theatre with Moth, a dark play by Declan Greene about two teens who fall into despair after being bullied at school. April 9 through May 4.

Olney Theatre reprises Once on Thus Island, the 24-year-old musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Rocky) about a girl on a Caribbean island who tries to bring a community together. April 9 through May 4.

The second play in Theater Js Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival is Golda’s Balcony, William Gibson’s play about Golda Meir and her journey from immigrant to teacher to prime minister of Israel. Tovah Feldshuh, a Tony nominee for the Broadway run, stars. April 10 through 27.

Psalmayene 24 presents the final installment of his hip-hop trilogy at Imagination Stage in Cinderella: The Remix. The play reimagines Cinderella as a wannabe deejay and musician in a world where girls are shut out. April 12 through May 25.

At Folger Theatre, Fiasco Theater, a small New York company, premieres its newest production, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. “Fiasco . . . reminds us what theater, at its simplest and most powerful, is really for,” New York magazine wrote. April 17 through May 25.

At Signature Theatre, Matthew Gardiner directs The Threepenny Opera, Brecht’s satire about London beggars with music by Kurt Weill. April 22 through June 1.

Arena Stage presents Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Lieber and Stoller, famous for being Broadway’s longest-running musical revue. April 25 through June 8.

At DC’s Source, Constellation Theatre’s Allison Arkell Stockman directs The Love of the Nightingale, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s 1989 play depicting the Greek myth of Philomela, who was transformed into a nightingale after an assault by her brother-in-law. April 27 through May 25.

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Posted at 12:12 PM/ET, 04/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The “New Yorker” staff writer dramatizes the events surrounding the 1978 Camp David Accords in a world premiere production. By Sophie Gilbert
From left, Camp David playwright Lawrence Wright, director Molly Smith, and actors Ron Rifkin and Richard Thomas. Photographs of Wright and Rifkin Courtesy of Arena Stage. Photograph of Smith by Tony Powell. Photograph of Thomas by Lia Chang.

It’s hard to imagine many dramatists getting access to a former President and First Lady while researching a production. But few have Lawrence Wright’s résumé: New Yorker staff writer, Pulitzer-winning author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, creator and star of the acclaimed one-man show My Trip to Al-Qaeda. So when Arena Stage commissioned Wright to pen Camp David, about the 1978 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel—premiering March 21 through May 4—he headed to Plains, Georgia, to interview Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter about the historic negotiations. (He also traveled to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Cairo to interview surviving members of the negotiating teams.)

In Plains, Wright says, “We sat in the den, and Carter was sitting on this chintz couch that matched the curtains. There were two exercise cycles in front of the television set, and some paintings he had done that reminded me of the illustrations in Goodnight Moon.” Carter’s White House communications director, Gerald Rafshoon, introduced Wright, and said he’d recently written a piece for the New Yorker about Scientology. According to Wright, Carter said, “Oh yes, I read that; I found it most intriguing,” and Rosalynn responded, “Since when do you read the New Yorker?”

The challenge with Camp David was whittling down a potential cast of hundreds of delegates. “It was very crowded,” Wright says. “Yet the truth was there were only three decision-makers and one very interesting person, Rosalynn. I thought if I could strip it down to the essentials, there’s a play.”

The four characters are Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin (Ron Rifkin), Jimmy Carter (Richard Thomas), and Rosalynn, who Wright says “had to make peace among the peacemakers.” The play recounts how over the course of 13 days, Carter, el-Sadat, and Begin negotiated the Camp David Accords at the presidential retreat north of Washington. The process was fraught with tension: Sadat and Begin reportedly refused to speak with each other directly, meaning President Carter had to relay messages. Says Wright, “Even on the last day, everything was in danger of falling apart.”

The author has been in the news most recently for his 2013 book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief. “Now there’s a play,” he jokes. The 448-page work was a finalist for the National Book Award for nonfiction. Wright shrugs off the challenges he and his publisher, Knopf, faced by reporting on the notoriously litigious institution. “There have been lots of threats, but I don’t think they’re going to follow through on any of that,” he says. “The church has plenty of other problems. I’m glad I was able to give voice to the experiences of so many people who’ve been mistreated.”

Wright wrote his first play, Cracker Jack, in 1984, followed by Sonny’s Last Shot in 2003. In 2006, after joking to the New Yorker theater critic John Lahr that he was so sick of terrorists he wanted to write a musical comedy, he scored a meeting with Lincoln Center artistic director André Bishop, who “rolled his eyes” at the musical idea but was intrigued by Wright’s idea for a one-man show based on his experiences reporting The Looming Tower.

My Trip to Al-Qaeda detailed his time among extremists in the Middle East. It ran off-Broadway and across the country and was made into an HBO documentary. “I tend to work in the realm of reality, so I feel more comfortable drawing my materials from real events,” says Wright , who lives in Austin, Texas. “People who are remarkable characters at critical turning points in their lives—that’s what plays are made of.”

Director Molly Smith estimates that Camp David has been through 24 drafts—“that’s a new play,” she says. But she also recalls being astonished when, after giving Wright notes following the first reading, he promised her a revision within an hour. “He came back and had a strong rewrite. I said, ‘How is this possible?’ He said, ‘All the work is in the research.’”

When told this story, Wright laughs. “She’s working with anguished dramatists. I’m a person who’s spent a lot of time on deadline.”

Camp David is at Arena Stage March 21 through May 4. Tickets ($55 and up) are available at Arena Stage’s website.

An edited version of this article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 03/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A Pulitzer Prize winner at Studio, a world premiere at Arena Stage, two Shakespeare plays in repertory, and much more. By Sophie Gilbert
The musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee comes to Ford’s Theatre this month. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

OPENING THIS MONTH

March 4 through 9, Broadway and London smash Mamma Mia! returns to the National Theatre, incorporating the Swedish pop group Abba’s hits with a flimsy but warm-hearted story about a girl who doesn’t know who her father is.

March 5 through April 13, Studio Theatre stages Water by the Spoonful, Quiara Alegría Hudes’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner about an Iraq War veteran struggling with life back home in Philadelphia. “For a drama peopled by characters who have traveled a long way in the dark, Water by the Spoonful gives off a shimmering, sustaining warmth,” said the New York Times.

March 10 through 30, the Kennedy Center presents the theater festival World Stages, an impressive showcase of performances by theater companies from around the world. Among the events: Peter Brook’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord presents The Suit, Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company (of War Horse fame) perform Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the National Theatre of China presents Green Snake.

March 12 through 30, Ambassador Theater takes up residence in the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint to stage Happily Ever After, a world premiere play by Cristina Colmena exploring the longevity of relationships.

March 13 at Strathmore, Olympia Dukakis performs in a “concert reading” of Rose, the play by Martin Sherman about a Holocaust survivor living in Florida. Dukakis originated the title role at the world premiere at London’s National Theatre in 1999 and has been performing it sporadically ever since.

March 13 through April 6, Arlington’s Synetic revisits Hamlet, the first play it staged in its Silent Shakespeare series. Paata Tsikurishvili directs; Irina Tsikurishvili choreographs and plays Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude.

March 14 through May 17, Ford’s Theatre stages The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Rebecca Feldman, Rachel Sheinkin, and William Finn’s musical comedy about a group of awkward tweens competing in a spelling bee was nominated for six Tony Awards in 2005 and won for Best Book of a Musical.

March 15 through April 12, Keegan Theatre presents Hair, the groovetastic 1967 musical about peace, free love, and counterculture.

March 18 through May 11, Signature Theatre presents the local premiere of Tender Napalm, Philip Ridley’s dramatic pas de deux about a man and woman revising their feelings for each other. London’s Guardian called the play “a frighteningly clear-eyed, viciously funny, and deeply sensual examination of the way love shipwrecks us on a desert island from which there can be no rescue.”

March 20 through April 5, the DC playwriting collective the Welders presents the world premiere of The Carolina Layaway Grail by Allyson Currin. At the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

March 20 through April 6 at Theater J, Sinai Peter directs The Admission, Motti Lerner’s Israeli homage to Arthur Miller’s drama All My Sons. The play is coproduced by the Cameri Theatre and the Arab-Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa.

March 21 through May 4 at Arena Stage, Molly Smith directs the world premiere of Camp David, New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright’s play about the Camp David Accords.

March 25 through June 7, Michael Kahn directs a repertory presentation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II. Stacy Keach—who played King Lear to acclaim at Shakespeare in 2009—stars as Falstaff, Prince Hal’s drunken companion.

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Posted at 10:32 AM/ET, 03/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The performing arts center’s new season features the return of the smash hit musical next summer. By Sophie Gilbert
Get a second chance to see Book of Mormon when it returns to the Kennedy Center next summer. Photograph by Joan Marcus.

The Kennedy Center announced its 2014-15 season this morning. Here are the highlights:

Theater
The touring production of Evita stops by in October 2014.
The KenCen premieres its new production of Little Dancer, with direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, also in October.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is your holiday musical, arriving December 16.
Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer directs a new revival of Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi before it heads to New York, opening January 17.
Tony-winning musical Once arrives for a six-week engagement in July 2015.
Smash hit Book of Mormon (which, you may remember, crashed the Kennedy Center’s website last summer when tickets went on sale), is returning for two months in the summer of 2015.

Dance
The KenCen presents Martha Clarke’s Cheri in October.
Beijing Dance Theater stops by in October.
Ballet West provides this year’s Nutcracker from December 1 through 14.
The Mariinsky Ballet performs a mixed-repertory program in January.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns in February.
American Ballet Theatre returns in March with one unnamed full-length work and a mixed-repertory program.
The New York City Ballet brings two mixed programs to the KenCen in April.
The Scottish Ballet performs A Streetcar Named Desire in May.
England’s the Royal Ballet performs Don Quixote and a mixed program in June.

Music
Joshua Bell performs in the Season Opening Ball Concert September 21.
The Washington National Opera presents Florencia in the Amazon in September.
David Zinman conducts pianist Angela Hewitt in October.
John Mauceri conducts Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton in October.
Christoph Eschenbach conducts Midori October 30 through November 1.
Steven Reineke conducts an evening with Sutton Foster in November.
The WNO stages Puccini’s La Bohème in November.
The WNO Family Opera in December is Rachel Portman’s adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.
Pianist Tzimon Barto returns in January.
Organist Cameron Carpenter performs February 4.
Emanuel Ax also stops by in February.
The WNO presents Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites in February and March.
Jason Moran performs In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959 in March.
The WNO revives Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in March.
Dianne Reeves returns in April.
Violinist Leonidas Kavakos performs in May.

The Kennedy Center also announced a festival dedicated to performing arts from Spain and Portugal. Iberian Suite: Arts Remix Across Continents will take place from March 2 through 24, and will feature theater, music, dance, and more.

Posted at 12:39 PM/ET, 03/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()