A tribute to Lorraine Treanor, Washington theater’s booster-in-chief

As the curtain comes down on DC Theatre Scene, the website she edits, it's time for a standing O.

In June 2005 Lorraine Treanor, a relatively new theater-maker transplant from Chicago, who had followed her husband’s work to settle in the Greater Washington area, joined with Walter “Ronnie” Ruff to launch DC Theatre Scene (DCTS). Their goal: to bring greater attention to theater and in particular media coverage, critical lifeblood to the smaller theater companies. By the end of 2006, Lorraine was at the helm of a worthy enterprise and in 2007 DC Theatre Scene was fully incorporated.

It is in no small part due to her enthusiasm for all things theatrical that Washington has grown into the U.S. city, second only to New York, with the highest number of theater productions each year.

Lorraine Treanor in her office with Elaine Stritch, June 2020. Photo courtesy of DC Theatre Scene.

Under Lorraine’s leadership DC Theatre Scene’s coverage expanded to Northern Virginia, Annapolis, and Baltimore. She had a “field hand” or two to contribute write-ups for what was theatrically of interest in New York City and became a champion of special festivals, including Spoleto in Charleston and Glimmerglass in Upstate New York.

Lorraine imagined, designed, and managed a site that went beyond reviews of individual shows and included news, features on special artists by experts in the field, and opinion columns. She expanded DCTS theater coverage to include opera, dance, and then film.

DCTS offered the most comprehensive professional theater listings, and DCTS became the “go-to” place for people to find weekend entertainment. Lorraine also personalized the service. Many a time she would be on the phone with a potential theater customer to help find the right show for the family’s needs. She seemed endlessly resourceful and had great personal knowledge about what each theater company offered the novice theatergoer or out-of-towner.

This editor-in-chief demanded a lot of her stable of writers. She had no compunctions about telling someone that a piece went too far, was sloppily put together, or — Lord forbid — it went “too easy” on a production. She demanded rigor in the writing and always urged that DCTS writers respect the field of theater criticism and see ourselves as professionals. “That’s why your name goes at the end of a review. You give credit to everyone that worked on the production and you recognize you are also part of it. You are putting the final point to a show, and that last period says it.”

She felt that an important part of her job was mentoring young writers. When Lorraine took on covering the DC Fringe Festival in the summers, her work clearly doubled. But she thought it was important to seed new artists and theater experiments. She also thought it was a way to bring new young blood into the field of theater criticism. It was a learning experience with thrills and spills along the way, but at the annual pizza party for all the “fringers,” she sat and beamed at the happy gathering and all the achievements.

One of the most thoughtful and original accomplishments that Lorraine shared with husband Tim Treanor was the establishment of the Maker Awards. Partnering with a local theater, she and Tim made a special event of it mid-season to recognize an audience member who exemplified the passion and loyalty of a truly committed theatergoer. Winners included David Tannous (2011), Tom Holzman and Alison Drucker (2012), Linda Elyse Bryce (2013, deceased), Barbara Bear (2014), David S. Kessler (2015), Linda Carr (2016), Joel Markowitz (2017, deceased), and Alan Friedman (deceased) and Louis Altarescu (both 2019).

Even when advertising began drying up and when the tasks and coverage seemed ever increasing but with fewer resources to manage them, Lorraine worked hard to compensate writers. When COVID arrived earlier this year and the community as well as the theaters shut down and all advertising budgets dried, Lorraine pivoted as we all did and scoured the internet for worthy things to cover and encouraged us to expand our vision of performance. She never lost her zest and hope that the next best thing would be out there — and she kept us all keeping on.

Lorraine has just announced her well-deserved retirement and the shutting down of DC Theatre Scene. It’s hard to imagine how (or who) could follow her classy act.

She’s our Lorraine — and the best thing that’s been in DC theater.

If only her beloved Elaine Stritch were here, glass in hand, to bray — but we’ll have to do, along with husband Tim, who still refers to her as “My Bride”:

Everybody rise!
Rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!
Rise!

Lorraine and Tim Teanor, summer 2019, Vermont. Photo courtesy of DC Metro Theater Arts.

SEE ALSO: DC Theatre Scene to cease publication Dec 31

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Playwright, librettist, songwriter, director, theater reviewer, and actress Susan Galbraith has worked in London, Singapore, New York, Minneapolis, Prague, and Boston before settling in DC. Her resume includes working with international directors including Peter Brooks, Miřenka Čechová, and Peter Sellars; choreographer Takao Tomono; and rock-and-roll superstar Prince. After moving to Washington, she helped found Alliance for New Music-Theatre and in the past decade led the development of original works across the spectrum of music-theater including musicals and opera. For over a decade, she was also pleased to support the greater Washington theater community as a happy member of the reviewing team of DC Theater Scene under Lorraine Treanor. She holds a BA from Tufts University, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and two graduate degrees, including a Fulbright fellowship. She now lives in Kalorama with three cats, a happy Samoyed, and a most understanding partner. You can read more of her theater writing here.

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