|Purpose||American Plays & Playwrights|
It is located at a theatre complex called the Mead Center for American Theater since its opening in 2010 after extensive renovation; this included construction of a third small theater in a complex with two stages: one a theatre in the round and the other a proscenium style. The Artistic Director is Molly Smith and the Executive Producer is Edgar Dobie. It is the largest company in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights.
It commissions and develops new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Established in 1950, the company now serves an annual audience of more than 300,000. Its productions have received numerous local and national awards, including the Tony Award for best regional theater.
The theatre company was founded in Washington, DC in 1950. Its first home was the Hippodrome Theatre, a former movie house. In 1956, the company moved into the gymnasium of the old Heurich Brewery in Foggy Bottom; the theater was nicknamed "The Old Vat". The brewery was demolished in 1961 to make way for the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the Kennedy Center.
In 1960, the company moved into its current building complex, which was built for them. The theater company's home is near the Washington, D.C. waterfront on the Potomac River, at 1101 Sixth Street SW.
One of the founders, Zelda Fichandler, was its artistic director from its founding through the 1990/91 season. Douglas C. Wager succeeded her for the 1991/92 through 1997/98 seasons. The current artistic director, Molly Smith, assumed those duties beginning with the 1998/99 season.
Arena Stage was one of the first not-for-profit theaters in the United States and was a pioneer of the Regional Theater Movement. Arena was the first regional theater to transfer a production to Broadway; its The Great White Hope, which opened at Arena Stage in 1967, went on to Broadway with its original cast, including James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander in the lead roles. In 1973, it was the first regional theater invited by the U.S. State Department to tour behind the Iron Curtain. In 1976, Arena Stage became the second theater outside New York to receive a special Tony Award for theatrical excellence. (The first went to Robert Porterfield of the Barter Theatre in 1948.)
Renovation 2008 - 2010
A major renovation of the facility was undertaken from 2008 through 2010. The architect was Bing Thom Architects of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada who contracted Fast + Epp consulting engineers to design the main columns for the building. The Fichandler Stage and Kreeger Theater were largely untouched, but the theaters' connecting structures were demolished, including lobbies and offices. The two stages are now surrounded by a glass curtain wall and incorporated into a larger building.
A third, new small theater was added in the renovation, called "The Kogod Cradle," for new and developing productions. This new space seats 200. The new building includes an expansive central lobby and the Catwalk Cafe.
The entire $135 million complex has been renamed "Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater" in honor of supporters Gilbert and Jaylee Mead. Arena Stage re-opened for the season in October 2010; the capacity of its three theatres follows:
- The Fichandler Stage, a theater in the round, seating 680.
- The Kreeger Theater, a modified thrust stage theater, seating 514.
- The Kogod Cradle, seating 200.
The three theaters are connected by a large central lobby, and the Center includes a restaurant, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, production shops, and offices. For the first time in the company's history, all staff and operations are under one unifying roof. The three-stage theater complex is now the second-largest performing arts center in Washington, DC, after the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Current season's productions
- 2015-2016 Season
- Dear Evan Hansen, book by Steven Levenson, music and lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, directed by Michael Greif. July 10 - August 23, 2015.
- Destiny of Desire, by Karen Zacarías, directed by José Luis Valenzuela. September 11 - October 18, 2015, part of the Women's Voices Theater Festival
- Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End, by Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, directed by David Esbjornson. October 9 - November 8, 2015.
- Oliver!, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, directed by Molly Smith. October 30, 2015 - January 3, 2016.
- Akeelah and the Bee, by Cheryl L. West, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, Children’s Theatre Company’s world-premiere adaptation. November 13 - December 27, 2015.
- Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, directed by Kate Whoriskey, a co-commission with Oregon Shakespeare Festival. January 15 - February 21, 2016.
- The City of Conversation, by Anthony Giardina. January 29 - March 6, 2016.
- The Lion, written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, directed by Sean Daniels. February 26 - April 10, 2016.
- All the Way, by Robert Schenkkan, directed by Kyle Donnelly. April 1 - May 8, 2016.
- Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Timothy Douglas. April 22 - May 29, 2016.
- "Putting the American Spirit in the Spotlight". Arena Stage. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- Peck, Garrett (2014). Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-1626194410.
- Paller, Rebecca."From Alaska to DC With Arena Stage's New Director, Molly D. Smith", Playbill: Arena Stage, February 5, 1998
- "1948 Tony Award Winners". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- Bernstein, Fred A. "Washington’s Fresh Coat of Greasepaint", New York Times, 5 October 2010
- Zongker, Brett. Associated Press, "DC's Arena Stage opens $135M home with big plans", Boston.com, 28 October 2010
- Russell, James.arena-stage-135-million-d-c-revamp-makes-concrete-sexy-james-s-russell.html "Arena Stage 135 Million DC Revamp Makes Concrete Sexy", bloomberg.com, 27 October 2010[dead link]
- BWW News Desk. "Arena Stage Updates Concessions and Dining Options with Catwalk Cafe", broadwayworld.com, 10 August 2011
- Marks, Peters."Arena Stage to Expand Its Season From Eight to 10 Plays This Fall",Washington Post 10 April 2008
- Marks, Peter (February 17, 2010). "A new First Act". Washington Post. p. C1.
- Jones, Kenneth.Arena Stage Opens Its Doors to the World at Oct. 23 "Homecoming," With Alumni Stars" playbill.com, October 23, 2010
- McDonough, Kathleen."Arena Stage: So Nice to Have You Back Where You Belong!", DCMetroMagazine.com
- Zongker, Brett."DC's Arena Stage opens $135M home with big plans" boston.com, October 28, 2010
- Pressley, Nelson. "Nottage play and new rock musical among Arena Stage’s 2015-16 offerings" "The Washington Post", February 12, 2015
- "50 Moments That Shaped Washington, DC". Washingtonian Magazine. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.