by David Dower
Happy New Year, dear readers!
If you are not already planning to spend the month of January with us at The Mead Center for American Theater, get out your calendar and start clearing some room. There are so many ways and reasons to be here you really ought to just bring your sleeping bag and camp out for the month! Here's a quick list of some highlights:
1.) The Let Me Down Easy discussion series.
So, yes, you of course want to see the show. If you've not yet bought your tix do it right now before they are gone-- we're having the happy problem of selling out the shows in the inaugural season. This is another night at the theater you will never forget. I saw it last night at the first preview and the audience reaction is so strong that it's clear we've got another runaway hit on our hands. Sweet! But what you don't yet know is you are going to want to talk about this show, a lot, after you've seen it. And you'll have many opportunities to do just that. We've already announced the Sunday afternoon discussion series. Don't even bother trying to decide which one- plan on coming for all of them. They are free and open to everyone. But I'll just warn you: both Sally Jenkins and Ruth Katz make such a strong impression as characters in this show that you are going to need to talk with them. So that's two Sundays right there: January 23rd and 30th. Oh, and there's such power in the discussion of end of life care in the play that you'll have to be here when that panel happens on January 16th. Oh, and-- well you get the picture.
2.) The final image in Arabian Nights.
This is one of the shows in our inaugural season that expresses our commitment to showcasing distinct American voices from around the country. (Bonus: You can also see Mary Zimmerman's direction over at Shakespeare this month if you hurry.) At Arena you'll be seeing a piece Mary created on her home company, Lookingglass in Chicago, with many of her core actors, adapted for the round. I've seen the piece both in Chicago and at Berkeley Rep and it seems made for our Fichandler stage. She makes excellent use of the floor, for example, and it demands that the entire audience can see the floor at all times. Floor? Fich? Hello? It's also incredibly boisterous-- think about the combustion Parker Esse got out of Kansas City and Farmer and the Cowman in Oklahoma. It's like that: rambunctious, athletic, lots of different stories embedded in each moment. But the final image is going to blow you away. It's indelible. And there's not a better stage in the country to land it on.
3.) Jose Andres' new menu at Next Stage Cafe.
The cafe is already a huge success-- and, yes, we're learning as we go here since it's one of the new amenities of our new home. As Chef Andres promised from the outset, the menu will change with each change of program, so this month we say goodbye to the Wild Turkey Meatballs and Short Ribs (sigh...) and I can't wait to see what he's bringing in their place.
4.) Provenance of Beauty in the Kogod Cradle.
The entire #NewPlay Festival is going to be something to see and use up several of your days this month if you take it all in. One of the projects is actually going to take place over at Studio Theater. But I'm calling particular attention to Provenance because it is going to make very unique use of the Kogod Cradle and therefore have very limited seating. Curious about how a bus tour of the South Bronx can take place inside The Mead Center? A lot of people will be. And they won't all fit. Plan ahead.
5.) The keynote address that kicks off From Scarcity to Abundance.
Watch for the official announcement about this address later this month, but if you are at all interested in contemporary American regional theater you will want to be here for it. Wednesday, January 26th at 2pm. Can't be here in person? You'll be able to watch it live on #Newplay TV. In fact, if you're a new play geek like me, you'll be able to watch most of the events of this convening livestreamed through #Newplay TV.
6.) The reading of Heather McDonald's When Grace Comes In.
So, since there's not enough new work going on in the building this month already, and since you'd otherwise have no reason to be here on Monday, January 17th, we're doing a public reading of DC playwright Heather MacDonald's beautiful play at 7pm. Lise Bruneau, Rick Foucheux, and June (Ado Annie) Schreiner are among the actors helping us out.
7.) The sneak peeks of The Documentary Film and The New Play Map.
As part of our work managing Round 1 of the NEA New Play Development Program that is the source of the #Newplay Festival, we've been supporting the creation of both a documentary film by Robert Levi and an online, real time map of the nation's infrastructure for new plays created by Quilted. Both things will be unveiled during the Festival. New Work junkies will also get your first look at Howlround, the new online journal focusing on the new works sector of the American theater.
8.) The new lobby displays.
When you come visit us this month, be sure to wander the public areas and take a look at the costume displays. Spend some time with these items. It'll give you a whole new appreciation for what goes into making the work on stage. It may also trigger fond memories of the shows that they dressed. We make all of these pieces in our own shop and it's a highlight of the new center that we get to share them with you in this way. Like the menu in the cafe, they'll be ever in motion and each time you come you are likely to discover something new.
9.) Early registration discount for Camp Arena Stage.
If you are between the ages of 8 - 15 years, or know someone who is, this is the time to make your plans for Camp Arena Stage this summer. (Parents: the discount goes away when early registration closes...) Teenagers interested in musical theater should also explore the Musical Theater Training Academy. These programs all fill up, and with all the buzz about June Schreiner's performance in Oklahoma, you especially want to plan ahead this year!
10.) The January postings for Sub/Text.
With everything that's happening, you're going to want to spend some time on the Sub/Text pages this month. Go right now and you'll find a wealth of information about Let Me Down Easy. But you'll also find #Newplay Festival and Arabian Nights Sub/Text pages there shortly.