Back in the ‘30s they called ‘em Cliffhangers. They were weekly serials that played before a main feature at the movies. They turned into serials, first on the radio and then on television evolving into the prime time episodic programs and daytime soap operas we watch now. This month you can see them live onstage as Hope Operas, DC’s only serialized theatre festival, kicks off its sixth season of “doing good by doing theatre” with the theme “District of the Damned”! Hope Operas consists of five shows that will play out episodically over the four Mondays in October with each show benefitting a local nonprofit. At the end of the night the audience votes for their favorite show and the moneys raised by Hope Operas will be distributed to the nonprofits according to how well their benefactor show did in the vote.
Last Monday was Episode One of all five shows and opening the evening was Hell is on the Red Line, a musical that’s title is not just metaphorical, written and directed by Kathleen Akerley and Seamus Miller (who also appears as a hilarious mashup of Rob Lowe and Che Guevara). The basic story is Donna (Mary Myers) and Beatrice (Caitlin Shea) are returning home from a date on the red line. We are serenaded with a song about the all too relatable woes of the red line which will seem like small potatoes by the end of the episode. Donna Maas accompanies live on keyboard as well as playing a variety of metro passengers. Hell is on the Red Line benefits The Interplay Company Band at the Strathmore who are an orchestra comprised of adults with cognitive disabilities who get the opportunity to play alongside senior high school, college and professional musicians.
Next up was The Scottish Detective, a murder mystery written by Steve Custer and Devin Gaither and directed by Adam R. Adkins. This show is one big theatrical wink and nudge as Detective ‘Mac’ Beth (Russell Silber) is called out to investigate the murder of the actress playing Ophelia in a local production of Hamlet. The cast has a great time chewing scenery as a collection of superstitious theatre stereotypes. The Scottish Detective benefits Hayden’s Heroes who raise awareness and fund for research to find a cure for Histiocytosis, a rare disease that causes organ damage and tumor formation.
Magic Cupcakes is written by Andrew Lloyd Baughman and directed by Hope Operas’ new managing artistic director, Amy Baska. Miss Amelia (Ashley Byrd) and Miss Leslie (Laura Fontaine) are a pair of enchantresses who run a cupcake shop in, ahem, Georgetown, where they sell out by 10:30 every morning. As is so often the case, Satan (Patrick Graham) is behind their success and has come to collect a human sacrifice. Luckily for Miss Amelia and Miss Leslie they have a plethora of potentials with lonely widow Mrs. Gill (Mary Suib), smarmy politico Sterling Harrison III (the always hilarious and elastic-faced Matt Baughman) and blackmailing brownie, Bonnie (Angeleaza Anderson). Magic Cupcakes benefits So Others Might Eat, an interfaith, community-based organization that offers a comprehensive and holistic approach to caring for the homeless in DC.
The InTell Heart is a bit of political intrigue by Kristy Simmons and directed by Catherine Aselford. Senator Vestible (a devious Terence Aselford) has hired a programmer to send a signal through people’s devices to scramble their brains and help him win the election. Pamela Leahigh is spot on as his foil, the all-business Senator Foyer. The InTell Heart benefits The Freedom to Read Foundation who fight censorship and defend the First Amendment in libraries and beyond.
The Curious Case of Veronica Pepperpot by Danny Pushkin and directed by Lynn Sharp Spears warns us what could happen should the Cthulhu come to DC. Veronica (Kristin Pilgrim) is having a hard time convincing the police that her place was burglarized by a tentacled alien god and his followers. The Curious Case … benefits The Magnet School and Orphanage in Kenya.
Hope Operas is a super fun evening and a great way to check out new theatre works while supporting awesome nonprofits. These folks are truly “doing good by doing theatre.” Don’t worry if you’ve missed an episode, each evening stands on its own as well as there being a “previously on” recap for each show.
Hope Operas’ website.