Director of Artistic Programming at Arena Stage Robert Barry Fleming on ‘Blue Viola’ Playing Tomorrow and Sunday

Michael: Introduce yourself to our readers, and tell us the kind of work that you do.

 Robert Barry Fleming. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage.
Robert Barry Fleming. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage.

Robert: I work to realize the artistic vision and mission of Arena Stage in our practical day-to-day business and operations, so primarily I serve in a supervisory capacity to all dramaturgical, literary, and casting activities, lead season planning and facilitate all the artistic initiatives, programs, and artistic-related production elements assuring the standard of excellence Arena is known for is upheld.

You’re approaching your one year anniversary as Director of Artistic Programming at Arena Stage! Congratulation! What has surprised you the most about the job? 

How essential advocacy for the artistic vision of the work and the artists we engage is and how much strategic planning among multiple departments it takes to successfully run a vital organization such as Arena Stage.

Tell us a bit about Blue Viola, and its producing company, UrbanArias.

Blue-ViolaIt is a short contemporary opera about a missing viola of great worth, a surprising discovery that is revealed about the precious instrument and the disparate lives that are touched by the recovery efforts.

To those who may not be familiar, explain the Kogod Cradle Series at Arena Stage. 

It is an Arena Stage initiative intended to support artists, visiting companies, and emerging ensembles with the development of a new work.

What is the value of nurturing local playwrights through the Kogod Cradle Series?

It gives us a chance to give back to an artistic community that has given us so much and expand our collective imaginations about what we define as theatre.

Contemporary opera may seem like an oxymoron to many casual theatre-goers; what makes opera a unique and interesting form of performance?

That the narrative is motored on a grand to mythic level and subjectively informed by complex musical elements as well as words contributes to how wonderfully engaging the form can be to theatre goers.

How does Arena Stage choose the works that will be presented in the Kogod Cradle Series? What kinds of new works jump out at you and make you say “Wow”? 

We send out a request for proposals and artists apply and work is reviewed and chosen based on the strength of the applications. Work that is challenging in form and/or content usually gets our attention.

Is it interesting to see where plays end up, that have been featured in the Kogod Cradle Series? Have any come back to Arena as fully-staged productions?

It is very exciting to see the work produced throughout the greater Washington DC area and across the country. Our season selection process is a very different affair unrelated to this program’s main focus which is to offer artists a developmental opportunity and hopefully contribute to the study and our understanding of best practices in  supporting and nurturing the creation of new work.

UrbanArias’ Blue Viola plays on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 8 PM and Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 7:30 PM in The Kogod Cradle at Arena Stage –  1101 Sixth Street, SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.