It was inevitable that Septime Webre, who stepped down as artistic director of the Washington Ballet in June, would be back on the local arts scene soon. Earlier this year, he launched Halcyon Stage, a program that hosts performances at Georgetown’s historic Halcyon House—once a go-to place for 19th-century socialites—and will partner with Union Market for “guerrilla-style” performances. Webre spoke with Washingtonian about his new arts initiative and its packed April calendar.
How did you come up with the idea for Halcyon Stage?
The concept grew organically from the mission of Halcyon [the nonprofit parent of Halcyon Stage] to catalyze emerging creatives who are seeking a better world. We’re all about building community, so all of our programs will have two things: a fun social element—it’ll always feel like a party—and deep community engagement or educational programming built around each event to engage DC youth in the creative process.
What kinds of people and performances are a fit for it?
In planning the program, sometimes I have felt like a kid in a candy shop—creativity presents itself in so many ways, and the possibilities are endless. But I’ve tried to be pretty strict in developing threads of programming that will at once be exciting, engaging, and sexy, and also unique in the DC cultural landscape.
Do you plan on performing there yourself?
I hung up my ballet slippers years ago, but I will be directing Philip Glass’s opera The Fall of the House of Usher—based on the Edgar Allan Poe story—in June, and I will also host the no-hold-barred conversation series, New Creatives Conversations. We launched that series with acclaimed ballerina Misty Copeland this winter and had a terrific time.
Tell us about the April events.
We launch a progressive hip-hop-themed House Party [April 8]. We also launch our Cabaret Series with performance artist Joey Arias channeling Billie Holiday [April 29], NPR’s All Things Considered cohost and Pink Martini vocalist Ari Shapiro [April 22], and singer E. Faye Butler, who’s got the chops to blow the roof off of any gin joint [April 15]. And film, stage, literary icon, and general badass John Waters will talk turkey about the need to be unafraid of chaos [April 28]. It’ll be a dizzying month.
This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Washingtonian.