Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater Announces the 2010/11 Inaugural Season for New Three-Theater Campus

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With more than 45 projects in homecoming season, Arena Stage returns to campus as a national center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater.

Rendering of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater (Rendering by Bing Thom Architects)

The moment we have been waiting for has arrived—we are heading home

Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith announces the D.C.-based pioneering theater company’s 60th season filled with award-winning artists and projects to celebrate the grand opening of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. The 2010/11 inaugural season includes eight full productions, seven presentations from the National Endowment for the Arts New Play Development Program and public readings from all 30 of Edward Albee’s works, totaling at least 45 projects produced and presented by Arena Stage in the inaugural year at the Mead Center. With the opening next fall, Arena Stage will fully become a national center for production, presentation, development and study of American theater.

“The moment we have been waiting for has arrived—we are heading home,” shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. “After 11 years of planning and two and a half years of construction, the beautiful new Mead Center for American Theater will be ready to welcome audiences and artists this fall.”

The new campus includes the renovation of the two existing performance spaces, the Fichandler Stage and the Kreeger Theater, and the creation of the 200-seat Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle—a venue dedicated to cradling risk surrounding new or radically re-envisioned productions of American theater. The three theaters are supported by a centralized lobby and box office, state-of-the-art technical and costume shops, light and airy rehearsal halls, open education spaces, increased concessions and a café, a terrace overlooking the Potomac River and for the first time in Arena Stage’s history all artistic, educational and administrative departments are united under one roof.

Smith continues, “Throughout the last two years, thousands of audience members have been part of the Arena Restaged festival of American voices while we’ve been away from our Southwest, D.C. campus. Many shared in our tremendous artistic successes along the way, including three productions developed at Arena Stage moving to Broadway. I am deeply grateful for everyone’s loyalty and am eager to share what is next—a season of ambitious shows and esteemed artists to celebrate our 60th anniversary in our breathtaking new center for American theater.”

From the grand opening musical of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!," to the world premiere of the Arena Stage commission of Marcus Gardley’s "Every Tongue Confess," to the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama "Ruined" by Lynn Nottage, the season showcases the depth and breadth of American theater. It also features the work of today’s leading directors including Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman (Broadway’s "Metamorphoses") helming an enchanting production of "The Arabian Nights."

Additionally, the season will include an unparalleled tribute to the nation’s greatest living playwright, Edward Albee. Arena Stage will simultaneously feature presentations of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" directed by Pam MacKinnon (Arena’s "A Delicate Balance") and the riveting drama "At Home at the Zoo." These productions are but a part of Arena Stage’s Edward Albee Festival, a three-month celebration of this American giant’s contribution to the world stage. During the festival, all 30 Albee works will receive public readings, utilizing every performance space within the Mead Center.

Arena Stage is currently in negotiations for two exciting productions not featured in this announcement, as part of the eight-show season, including the production that will reopen the Kreeger Theater. An announcement about these productions will be made at a later date.

The American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage will feature presentations from the seven inaugural selections of the National Endowment for the Arts New Play Development Program (NEA NPDP). These readings will take place in the Kogod Cradle. The Institute was designed as a center for the research and development of effective practices, programs and processes for new play development in the American theater. For more information about the NEA NPDP visit

Outstanding New American Play Selections:
"The Brother/Sister Plays" by Tarell McCraney
World Premiere: April 24 – June 21, 2009, McCarter Theatre
"Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" by Rajiv Joseph
World Premiere: May 10 – June 7, 2009, Center Theatre Group

Distinguished Development Project Selections:
"I've Never Been So Happy" by Rude Mechanicals
"Agnes Under the Big Top" by Aditi Kapil, Lark Play Development Center
"Happy End to Everything" by Lloyd Suh, The Children's Theatre Company
"Detour/South Bronx" by Claudia Rankine, The Foundry Theatre
"Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven" by Octavio Solis, California Shakespeare Theater

For the first time in Arena Stage’s history all community engagement education programs will also take place and be produced in the Southwest, D.C. campus, and will no longer operate out of the company’s second location at 14th and T Streets in Northwest. Programs including the annual Student Playwright’s Project and Voices of Now will have featured performances in the Kogod Cradle.

The official opening celebrations will begin with a Homecoming Celebration October 24, 2010. This will be a free open house for the public to explore the brand new Mead Center. There will be complimentary tours of the facility and performances happening throughout the day. The following night, Monday, October 25, 2010, Arena Stage will hold the official opening gala celebration. More details on both events will be shared at a later date.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater 2010/11 Play Descriptions:

Music by Richard Rogers /Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II / Directed by Molly Smith
October 23 – December 26, 2010 / in the Fichandler
Directed by Arena’s own Molly Smith, "Oklahoma!," the “great American musical” ("The New York Times") comes to the home of American theater. Set at the turn of the 20th century, "Oklahoma!" tackles issues of class, culture and convergence between farmers and cowmen in this rugged frontier. Laurey, a lively girl who runs her aunt's farm, is courted by two very different young men. Her journey to find the man of her dreams and the satisfaction of settling down with the right one mirrors the journey of the territory toward progress, community, and eventual statehood. Hailed as “a masterpiece” ("New York Post"), this Tony Award-winning classic musical by famed theater duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II is “one of the landmarks of the 20th century theater” ("Houston Chronicle").

"Every Tongue Confess" – Arena Stage commission and world premiere
By Marcus Gardley
November 9, 2010 – January 2, 2011 / in the Kogod Cradle
In the backwater town of Boligee, Alabama, the summer heat is rising higher, driving the townsfolk to distraction and conjuring the spirits of the past to walk the earth. Wrapped in the combustible music of a Deep South juke joint and the sweat-soaked gospel of a revivalist church tent, intergenerational stories of loss and redemption collide. Playwright Gardley blends ancient myth with magical realism, Biblical allegory with the local T.V. news to create a fiery theatrical furnace in which some will be saved, some will be purged and the truth cannot escape.

Production to be named at a later date
December 10, 2010 – January 23, 2011 / in the Kreeger

The NEA NPDP New Play Festival
January 17 – 30, 2011 / in the Kogod Cradle

"The Arabian Nights"
Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman
Adapted from The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night
In association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and
Lookingglass Theatre Company
January 14 – February 20, 2011 / in the Fichandler
In ancient Baghdad, a courageous young girl postpones her execution by weaving magical tales for the troubled king. Genies and jesters, lovers and thieves spring to life from Scheherazade’s imagination—allowing her to win the king’s heart even as she secures her freedom. Tony Award-winning director and playwright Mary Zimmerman ("Metamorphoses") celebrates the wonder of storytelling and the redemptive power of love in this “exhilarating, imaginative theatrical escape” ("Variety") that Chicago magazine calls a “feast for the eyes and ears.”

The Edward Albee Festival—Winner of three Pulitzer Prizes and three Tony Awards, including the 2005 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, Edward Albee is our nation’s greatest living playwright. In a never-before salute to this American giant, all 30 of Albee’s works will either receive a full production or a public reading, utilizing every performance space within the Mead Center.

Edward Albee’s "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Part of the Edward Albee Festival
February 18 – April 3, 2011 / in the Kreeger
You’re invited for drinks with George and Martha. As wickedly hilarious today as when it first shocked audiences, Virginia Woolf is an ingeniously funny play that packs a helluva wallop. What starts as verbal sparring at an impromptu cocktail party, devolves into a no-holds-barred battle of wits and wills. With brilliant writing and some of the greatest characters ever created for the stage, Albee set a new standard for American theater with this sharp, vicious Molotov cocktail of a play.

Edward Albee’s "At Home at the Zoo"
Part of the Edward Albee Festival
February 18 – April 17, 2011 / in the Kogod Cradle
American master Edward Albee has outdone himself once again with a riveting new drama that expands on the one-act that launched his career 50 years ago, "The Zoo Story." In this meticulous and nuanced look at the lives of three New Yorkers, an everyday conversation between a husband and wife takes an unexpected turn into dangerously personal territory. The revelations and confrontations catapult them from their delicately balanced world onto life-changing paths. With the intensity and honesty for which Albee is known, "At Home at the Zoo" reveals the cutting truth about the razor’s edge of our humanity.

By Lynn Nottage / Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright
April 22 – June 5, 2011 / in the Fichandler
In war-torn Congo, Mama Nadi keeps the peace between customers on both sides of the civil war by serving everything from cold beers to warm beds. Inspired by interviews conducted in Africa, "Ruined" was the most honored play in 2009, winning the the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as Best Play awards from the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Obie, New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Outer Critics Circle. This searing play is an engrossing and uncommonly human story told with humor and song, revealing the immeasurable loss and hopelessness of war, yet finding affirmation in life and hope.

Production to be named at a later date
May 6, 2011 – June 19, 2011 / in the Kreeger

Subscription packages are now on sale and may be purchased by calling the Arena Stage Sales Office at 202-488-3300 or by visiting

*Plays, artists and dates are subject to change.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater
Just as the founding of Arena Stage 60 years ago changed American theater, the new center will secure the future of Arena Stage as both a national leader and a dynamic local treasure. The center features state-of-the-art technology and modern amenities; a centralized lobby with a vastly increased number of restrooms; readily available concessions and an onsite café; a reading area dedicated to students of American theater; easy access to all areas of the building for people with disabilities; and a beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the Potomac with the Washington Monument in the background.

The Fichandler Stage
683 seats / 10,000 sq. ft
“The Fich” stands as an extraordinarily unique theater space.

  • Epic, four-sided auditorium, steeply raked seating tiers and bold, earthy exterior design
  • Ideally suited to large-scale classic dramas and musicals
  • State-of-the-art technical equipment and elegant new décor
  • Acoustical improvements eliminate ambient noise
  • Audience members are never more than eight rows away from the action

The Kreeger Theater
514 seats / 4,400 sq. ft.
A fan-shaped space with a modified thrust stage.

  • State-of-the-art technology and amenities including new furnishings in deep blue colors
  • Qualities that make it one of the most artist- and audience-friendly spaces in the country: extraordinary flexibility, excellent acoustics and flawless sightlines
  • Remarkably intimate interaction between actor and audience

The Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle
200 seats / 3,400 sq. ft.
A unique, oval-shaped intimate theater with flexible seating and the latest technical capabilities, built to support the birth and nurturing of new and developing plays.

  • Technically sophisticated venue will enable Arena to continue building the canon of American work and cultivating the next generation of writers
  • Beautiful acoustically sound, wooden basket-weaved walls in lush eggplant colors

“Our center will be a home for American Voices in the nation’s capital—a showcase of the broad range of work from the country’s leading and emerging artists; a birthplace for new American work; and a space to engage audiences in the history, breadth and legacy of the American theater.” – Molly Smith, Artistic Director, Arena Stage

“The building is absolutely stunning. It is a magnificent and important piece of architecture that contributes greatly to the cultural landscape of Washington. It is one the best designed buildings in D.C. in the last decade.” – Zelda Fichandler, Founding Director, Arena Stage

“The design of Arena Stage was inspired by Molly Smith's desire for ‘a theater for all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit.’ Together we have created a home for American theater that will allow audiences to interact not just with the art, but also with each other. We are convinced that the positive energy that will come from this building will send ripples–not just throughout S.W. Washington but throughout the region and artistically even further.” – Bing Thom, Lead Architect, Bing Thom Architects

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is “the largest performing arts complex to open since the Kennedy Center.” – Jacqueline Trescott, The Washington Post

Significant Facts about Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater:

  • The $125 million multipurpose campaign to build Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is one of the largest in the United States for a regional theater. Philanthropists Gilbert and Jaylee Mead gave the largest single gift ever to an American theater with their naming gift of $35 million.
  • The Mead Center is 200,000 square feet in size, making it the largest performing arts center to open in D.C. since the Kennedy Center, which opened in 1971.
  • The cantilevered roof, tapered to a compass point and aligned with the Maine Avenue axis, salutes the Washington Monument. This heroic cantilever is one of the largest in the U.S.
  • As general contractor for the Mead Center, Clark Construction works on average 1,500 man hours per day to stay on track for the fall 2010 opening.
  • The foundation of the Mead Center contains 14,000 cubic yards of concrete, enough to fill four-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • The design team drew inspiration from the jellyfish’s transparency when designing the new complex’s skin, which is fabricated with glass. There are approximately 370 panes, amounting to 35,000 square feet of glass that creates the “curtain wall” surrounding the building.
  • The parallam wood and insulated glass wall design on the exterior facade is the first attempt at this type of application in the United States. Each wood column that supports the building bears 400,000 pounds of load on average.
  • The floor of the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle does not touch the adjacent walls. Instead, to ensure acoustic isolation, it sits on 20 separate isolation pads, each the size of a shoebox.
  • Located at 1101 Sixth Street, S.W., Washington, D.C., the facility is only one block from the Waterfront (SEU) green line Metro stop.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Managing Director Edgar Dobie, Washington, D.C.-based Arena Stage is the largest theater in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights. Founded in 1950 by Zelda Fichandler, Thomas Fichandler and Edward Mangum, Arena Stage was one of the nation’s original resident theaters and has a distinguished record of leadership and innovation in the field. With the opening of the new Mead Center for American Theater in fall 2010, Arena Stage will be a leading center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Now in its sixth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 200,000. For more information please visit


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Kirstin Franko
Arena Stage
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