In a swift pivot, Arena Stage has recently announced an upcoming season that reflects their commitment to compelling, dynamic work packed with drama, humor, music, and first-class storytellers. The five-production season, including two world premieres, one Power Play, and two musicals, will not begin until January 22, 2021. The company plans to prioritize the safety of its staff, artists, and audiences when they reopen the building and theaters. “Our North Star remains the health and well-being of our employees and artists. Equally, it is our duty to adhere to all health authority directives in creating a safe place for our patrons to gather and enjoy a production,” says Executive Producer Edgar Dobie.
With this line-up, Arena Stage continues its commitment to strong representation of women and artists of color. The first three productions, Celia and Fidel, Seven Guitars, and Toni Stone, were previously scheduled in the 2019/20 Season but were cut short due to COVID-19 restrictions. Musicals American Prophet: Frederick Douglass in His Own Words and Life After will round out the season.
“We are a theater that focuses on American plays, American ideas, and American artists. The double impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have made us, as Americans, more introspective than before,” reflects Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. “It’s a time for looking deeply inward. We need a combination of soulfulness and joy—Arena’s season offers both thought-provoking and joyful projects that provide a powerful antidote to this moment in time. The season is full of soul and champagne, with energizing stories and soaring music.”
The season opens in January with Arena Stage’s seventh Power Play, Celia and Fidel. Originally produced in the 2019/20 Season, Celia and Fidel opened and closed on the same day because of the pandemic. Written by Eduardo Machado and directed by Molly Smith, this captivating story follows Fidel Castro’s rise to power, Celia Sánchez, his political partner and closest confidant, their fight over the children of the revolution, and the future of a nation.
Toni Stone, the “must-see play” (Theatermania) based on the real-life first female athlete to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues, will receive its Washington premiere in March. Award-winning playwright Lydia R. Diamond and director Pam MacKinnon tell the vibrant story of Stone’s life as she throws curveballs both on and off the field.
Longtime Arena favorite Tazewell Thompson returns to direct August Wilson’s Seven Guitars starting in April. The untimely death of a gifted blues guitarist forces seven friends to reunite unexpectedly. Wilson’s fifth play in his American Century Cycle is the culmination of Arena’s August Wilson Festival, celebrating the noted playwright during Arena’s 70th Anniversary Season.
The world-premiere musical American Prophet: Frederick Douglass in His Own Words, co-written by award-winning playwright Charles Randolph-Wright (Arena’s Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story, Broadway’s Motown the Musical) and Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter Marcus Hummon, will open in May. Randolph-Wright directs this powerful musical about one of the most notable human rights leaders and impassioned agitators who changed the course of history with his own revolution.
The final show of the season brings the exciting new voice of acclaimed young Canadian composer Britta Johnson. Her compelling musical, Life After, directed by award winner Annie Tippe (Octet), makes its East Coast premiere in August. This award-winning work explores the messiness of loss and the complexities of love, when a young girl unravels the secrets of her recently deceased father.
Subscription packages are now on sale and may be purchased by calling the Arena Stage Sales Office at 202-488-3300 or by visiting arenastage.org. All current subscribers will be contacted by the Sales Office to discuss their options and confirm their show selection.
For more than 70 seasons, Arena has been a home for exhilarating theater, dynamic artists, and meaningful programs and events. Even with a closed building, Arena continues to innovate and engage audiences and artists by going virtual with a full and robust roster of creative online programs. The Looking Forward Season continues with weekly and monthly events including Molly’s Salons, Broadway dance classes, Master Classes, Civil Dialogues, an Artists Marketplace, Facebook watch parties, and two world-premiere films, May 22, 2020 and Inside Voices: a film by Arena Stage’s Voices of Now ensembles. Arena’s Community Engagement team has continued to connect with young artists through its virtual camp, the new audition intensive, and its Voices of Now ensembles. To learn more about the Looking Forward Season, visit: arenastage.org/lookingforward.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacts the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made on the Arena Stage website.