I am delighted to welcome you to Arena Stage as your new Artistic Director! I am so grateful for the incredibly warm welcome I’ve received since joining the iconic Arena Stage family. I look forward to getting to know you throughout the season.
While still relatively new to residency in Washington, D.C., I am familiar with our capital city and the myriad ways politics are woven into every aspect of life. Helicopters, motorcades, and government shutdowns have a distinct and specific impact here that are mere reverberations in other parts of the country.
The indomitable spirit of our city is representative of the hope, grit, joy, and dreams that stretch from coast to coast. In taking the mantle of this incredible theatrical institution, I begin with the fundamental question of “Who are we that make up this Capital (two states and a district!)?” What stories intrigue, challenge, delight, and inspire us? In programming, how is the work meaningfully reflecting the existential questions of our collective humanity while honoring the specificity and diversity of our lived experiences? How is the work galvanizing and inspiring people to action? Answering the call of these questions is essential to serving our mission and reflecting the full spectrum of the American Spirit.
Molly Smith understood answering the call should also harken joy, hilarity, and unassailable truth. Through the lens of the comedic and the familiar, we are able to most openly face our vulnerabilities and hypocrisies in service of our humanity. Nothing in the theatrical cannon more fully delivers on those points than a good farce. Most people can get behind a farce about the White House, regardless of political persuasion. In POTUS, we tackle the power dynamic between men and women and the lengths to which we will go to protect the legacy of the leaders we follow.
In the dedication of this play, Selina Fillinger frames the journey as a tribute to “Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Shirley Chisholm…and every other woman who’s ever found herself the secondary character in a male farce.” No men appear onstage, but their presence, proclivities, and perceived power are ever-present.
In this city of infinite possibility, where everything is seemingly negotiable, and every negotiation impacts millions—where and how we draw our moral lines of complicity are food for fodder. Selina’s world exemplifies this question as we romp through one extraordinary day in the West Wing, pushing us from the ridiculous to the sublime.
There is a future where the faces of history are not only the men (and one day, women) who were vaulted to the top job but include the vast teams of people that form the network— and safety nets—for leadership to thrive. What a fantastic space to hold this story—Arena’s iconic Fichandler Stage. It is a theater founded by a bold visionary woman who understood the power of the theater-in-the-round placing every audience member in the story. We see each other physically while posed questions challenge, delight, and illuminate our world. We become a community for these brief hours and hopefully extend part of that community into the rest of our lives.
What a gift to begin my adventure with you on this wild odyssey into the annals of Selina Fillinger’s imagining of our political machine at work. Thank you all for the warm welcome and joyful support of Arena Stage. Buckle up, my friends, we are in for quite the ride!