Curtain Up – DC Small Theatre and Performance Spaces

By Rosalye Settles, Host Committee Member

Washington, DC is a theater town offering a range of cultural experiences for all audiences. Playwrights, directors, and actors have long recognized the City for its variety of stages where everyone can find the best seat in the house. DC theaters have been hailed by Variety and The New York Times for staging daring and thought-provoking productions. Many theaters have been the recipient of prestigious Helen Hayes Awards. August is somewhat of a hiatus for the theater community, but several venues offer entertainment options during the 2018 SAA Joint Annual meeting. Below are a few suggestions.

Arena Stage

The theater located on the Southwest waterfront is well known for showcasing new plays and playwrights. Founded in 1950 by Zelda Fichandler and Edward Mangum, Arena was one of the first regional non-profit theaters in the U.S. and a pioneer of the regional theater movement. Arena was one of the first regional theaters to transfer a production to Broadway. Its production of 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 1976, Arena Stage became the second theater outside New York to receive a special Tony Award for theatrical excellence. Most recently Arena’s production of Dear Evan Hanson went on to win the 2017 Tony Award for Best Musical. The world premiere musical Dave adapted from the Oscar nominated film runs from July 13 until August 19. Arena has an expansive view of the river and offers dining options before performances. The theater is a short walk from Metro’s Green line Waterfront Station.

Folger Shakespeare

Folger Theatre performs innovative productions designed to forge strong connections with modern audiences, continuing the lively legacy of William Shakespeare. While Shakespeare’s plays are central to its mission, Folger Theatre has produced a variety of other classical works, as well as new plays related to the Folger collection or inspired by Shakespeare. Since 1991 lead by Artistic Producer Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre has received 154 nominations and 30 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in acting, direction, design, and production.

The Folger will be sponsoring a showing of the animated Disney film The Lion King, billed as Bard in the Park – Lion King on August 16. The showing will be projected on the big screen in Canal Park at the Capitol Riverfront. (the Disney film was influenced by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet). This classic animated movie tale begins at sundown. Canal Park is located at 200 M Street SE and is within walking distance of the Metro Green line Navy Yard station.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – Millennium Stage

Kennedy CenterDC’s iconic theater is well known for world-class performances and is home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. This summer the Center will be staging the 2016 Tony Award-winning revival of The Color Purple and Lin-Manual Miranda’s mega Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton. Hamilton tickets are sold out. But, all is not lost. You can still experience the Center’s architectural grandeur and enjoy a performance on its Millennium Stage. The Center hosts free performance 365 days a year at 6 p.m. as part of its “Performing Arts for Everyone” program. Millennium Stage features a broad spectrum of art forms, from renowned and emerging local, national, and international artists.  No tickets are required, though seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Since 1999, each daily performance has also been broadcast live over the internet to millions on YouTube, Facebook Live and the Kennedy Center’s own website. The Millennium Stage has been hailed as “a cultural institution within a cultural institution” by the Washington Post. The Center offers a free shuttle from Metro’s Foggy Bottom Station.

If you would like to experience some local cultural performance, be sure to take a look at DC Theatre Scene for the most up to date events in DC.  Curtain Up!

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