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Here are the men and women who have helped transform Washington into one of the nation’s liveliest centers for the performing arts

Plácido Domingo. Photograph of Domingo courtesy of Washington National Opera

They are the wizards, the people who make things happen on stages and in nightclubs, concert halls, and other performance spaces. They’re seldom in the spotlight themselves. But they bring their eye, ear, baton, management skills, and sometimes checkbook to venues all over town.

James and Esthy Adler


The Adlers have sponsored productions at such theaters as Arena Stage, Round House, and Theater J.

Sylvia Alimena

Music director, Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, Friday Morning Music Club Orchestra, and McLean Orchestra

The busy conductor is also a French-horn player with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Fabian Barnes

Founder and artistic director, Dance Institute of Washington and Washington Reflections

The former Dance Theatre of Harlem soloist has helped give hundreds of DC children a chance to dance.

Ysaye Barnwell

President, Sweet Honey in the Rock

Founder Bernice Johnson Reagon left Washington’s signature a cappella group in singer Barnwell’s able hands.

Calvin Cafritz

Chair of the board, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation

The Cafritz Foundation is a major funder of arts organizations.

Karma Camp


Many major musicals and opera productions have the stamp of Camp.

Mary Cliff

Host, WAMU’s Traditions

The host of the area’s longest-running radio show devoted to folk music, Cliff is a goddess to folk fans.

Anne Corbett

Executive director, Cultural Development Corporation

Flashpoint, a DC gallery and performance space for emerging theater groups, artists, and performers, is a Corbett creation.

Melvin Deal

Founder, African Heritage Dancers & Drummers and African Heritage Dance Center

Deal is the granddaddy of African dance in the region.

Plácido Domingo

General director, Washington National Opera

With Domingo at the helm, the WNO has attracted world-class talent and world-class benefactors.

J. Freedom du Lac

Pop-music critic, Washington Post

Rock fans follow his blog as well as his reviews in the Post.

Yvonne Edwards

Cofounder, Knock on Wood Tap Studio

Known as Washington’s “tap lady,” Edwards has taught and nurtured tappers for 61 years.

Paul Gordon Emerson

Artistic director and cofounder, CityDance Ensemble

In addition to teaching, choreographing, and directing his contemporary-dance company, Emerson runs one of the area’s leading educational-outreach programs.

Susie Farr

Executive director, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland

Farr has a beautiful complex with theaters for intimate performances as well as grand concerts to showcase the university’s acclaimed music school and other talent.

Charles Fishman

Executive director, Duke Ellington Jazz Festival

Dizzie Gillespie’s former manager is determined to make DC a jazz mecca and to honor its famous native son Duke Ellington.

Scott Fortier

Founding artistic director, Catalyst Theater Company

Fortier produces daring new works that make the big boys sit up and take notice.

Janet Alexander Griffin

Artistic producer, Folger Theatre

Griffin has a knack for finding what’s new in what’s old, whether it’s manuscripts, music, or plays.

Sidney Harman

Chair, Harman International Industries

Harman is the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s $19.5-million angel.

Luis Haza

Music director, American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras

The longtime conductor, a violinist with the NSO, has led many orchestras and arts organizations in the area.

Seth Hurwitz

Owner, 9:30 Club

Hurwitz, with sidekick Lisa White, attracts top talent and gives up-and-comers a start at one of the hottest live-music venues in town.

Bob Israel

Jazz promoter

The longtime booker for Blues Alley also leads jazz bands and plays brilliant trombone.

Allyson Jaffe

Manager and co-owner, DC Improv

Booking acts for her club and for other large events, Jaffe is at the center of the comedy scene.

Mike Jaworek

Manager, Birchmere and Iota Club & Café

Jaworek covers the musical waterfront. If folk, blues, and roots artists are in town, they’re playing at the Birchmere.

Terrence Jones

President and CEO, Wolf Trap Foundation

Jones is committed to new works and to enhancing the reputation of the only national park devoted to the performing arts.

Ernie Joselovitz

Founder, Playwright’s Forum

Joselovitz is father figure, fundraiser, and head cheerleader for the forum, which offers classes as well as information on playwriting opportunities.

Michael Kahn

Artistic director, Shakespeare Theatre Company

Kahn stages productions at two theaters and is expanding the company’s repertoire far beyond the Bard.

Michael Kaiser

President, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Kaiser has wrangled money from a tightfisted Congress to upgrade his aging building. He loves dance, and the center’s dance programs have never been stronger.

Jon Kalbfleisch

Musical director, Signature Theatre

Jon K. is Washington’s music man. He’s had 18 Helen Hayes Award nominations and won four, and he has guest-conducted the area’s symphony orchestras.

Norma Kaplan

Division chief, Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division

Arlington County is the best local-government incubator for the performing arts, and Kaplan is the mother hen.

James Kimsey

Founding CEO and chair emeritus, AOL

The billionaire has donated millions to the Kennedy Center. He’s chair of the Washington National Opera and on the executive committee of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Robert and Arlene Kogod


The Kogods are major donors to several theaters including the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

Jane Lang and Paul Sprenger

Founders, Atlas Performing Arts Center

Their H Street, Northeast, venue gives emerging artists a place to shine.

Liz Lerman

Founding artistic director, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

Lerman has been heralded all over the world for having knocked down barriers of age and size for dancers.

J. Reilly Lewis

Founder and music director, Washington Bach Consort

Lewis not only directs the Bach Consort, one of the best chamber groups in the area; he’s also a master keyboardist and music director of the Cathedral Choral Society.

Peter Marks

Theater critic, Washington Post

His review is the first to be read after opening night, and his raves drive ticket sales.

Lucy Bowen McCauley. Photograph of McCauley by John McCauley

Lucy Bowen McCauley

Artistic director, Bowen McCauley Dance

The dancer and choreographer’s Arlington-based contemporary company is considered one of the area’s best dance troupes.

Jaylee Mead


Mead and her late husband, Gilbert, have donated millions to build and support local theaters, including $35 million to Arena Stage.

Hugo Medrano

Artistic director, GALA Hispanic Theatre

With an international reputation, Medrano and his wife, Rebecca, acquaint audiences with the richness and diversity of Spanish and Latin American plays.

Bob Mondello

Theater critic, Washington City Paper

The longtime critic is a trusted voice for theatergoers.

Neale Perl

President, Washington Performing Arts Society

As the area’s impresario, Perl brings performers representing every genre of music and dance to local stages.

Carla Perlo

Founder and director, Dance Place

The teacher and choreographer is committed to bringing modern dance to audiences of all ages and cultures.

Jim Petosa

Artistic director, Olney Theatre Center

The Olney board asked its longtime director to reconsider his decision to step down—and he did. He’s sticking around to continue directing thought-provoking plays.

Eliot Pfanstiehl

President and CEO, Strathmore Hall Foundation

Strathmore is the house that Pfanstiehl built: He lobbied for funds from the state and the county, lured the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to his splendid new concert hall, and kept the mansion intact for chamber music, art shows, teas, and weddings.

William Reeder

General manager, George Mason University Center for the Arts

Reeder—dean of the university’s arts school—has made GMU a major arts destination.

Blake Robison

Artistic director, Round House Theatre

Now in his third season at Round House, Robison has built a solid base audience in Montgomery County.

Ari Roth

Artistic director, Theater J

Both a playwright and a director, Roth produces works that relate to the Jewish experience, but he interprets his mandate broadly with increasing success.

Eric Schaeffer

Cofounder and artistic director, Signature Theatre

Best known for staging Sondheim musicals, Schaeffer has given Signature great access: It’s the first regional theater given the rights to produce the musical Les Misérables.

Mike Schreibman

President and executive director, Washington Area Music Association

The longtime music producer helped found the association in 1984 to promote the city’s music scene. Now every local musician wants a Wammie award.

Stephen A. Schwarzman

Chair, Kennedy Center

A Wall Street wizard, Schwarzman is president Michael Kaiser’s great hope for modernizing the aging center.

Norman Scribner

Artistic director, Choral Arts Society of Washington

Scribner has made this one of the nation’s top cities for choral music.

Robert Shafer

Artistic director, City Choir of Washington

After more than 30 years at the helm of the Washington Chorus, the conductor and educator is now leading a new ensemble.

Howard Shalwitz

Cofounder and artistic director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Shalwitz doesn’t shy away from the wacky and weird, and he often brings new works to light. After his premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone, the play moved to New York.

Victor Shargai

Chair, Helen Hayes Awards

The local theater-awards program celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2009. Shargai is a major donor and mainstay of the local theater community.

Dick Smith

Manager, Westminster Presbyterian Church Jazz Nights

The jazz vocalist and former Redskins defensive back is one of the chief organizers of the city’s sizzling jazz scene.

Molly Smith

Artistic director, Arena Stage

Smith has attracted a diverse theater audience with a mix of American classics and works celebrating the African-American experience.

Janet Stanford

Artistic director, Imagination Stage

Stanford, along with Imagination Stage founder Bonnie Fogel, has pioneered acting programs for children with disabilities and offers great productions for young audiences.

Paul Tetreault

Producing director, Ford’s Theatre

When the historic theater reopens in February after a 16-month renovation, Tetreault will have a bigger and better canvas for his great American vision.

Stanley Thurston

Artistic director, Children of the Gospel Choir and Men and Women of the Gospel Choir

The commanding choral director leads the way in gospel music, showcasing some of Washington’s top voices, young and old.

Septime Webre

Artistic director, Washington Ballet

The director and choreographer has heightened the company’s profile and outreach as he celebrates ten years with the city’s revered ballet troupe next spring.

Joy Zinoman

Founder and producing artistic director, Studio Theatre

Zinoman, often working with Studio Theatre 2ndStage artistic director Keith Alan Baker, uses her multiple stages to produce edgy new works, some by top playwrights such as Tom Stoppard.

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