We live in an age of easily available images so the idea of an image capturing something unknown is deeply compelling. 

Unknown Soldier, a poignant musical tale from Daniel Goldstein and Michael Friedman, makes so much sense to be told at Arena Stage. Because we reside in our nation’s capital, our military neighbors are also resident in our community. While the story takes place in upstate New York, the loss and discovery of the characters may find deep resonance in our Southwest Washington community. Perhaps even more so at this moment in time when military forces are actors in so many real-life stories on the international stage.

The idea of unknown, forgotten, or fallen soldiers has a deep impact and our job as theater makers, and friends and neighbors, is to keep those memories alive. Added poignancy is that composer and co-lyricist Michael Friedman’s passing occurred shortly after the premiere of this piece, and Daniel Goldstein continued to champion their story.

In appreciation of our military friends and families, a number of years ago Arena started a tradition of hosting military families as our guests for dinner and a show during the Thanksgiving weekend. After a pandemic pause, we are delighted to restart that practice in a new way. This spring, we will host Military Night, with dinner and a performance of Unknown Soldier. This event remains a way to give thanks for the personal and professional sacrifices of our esteemed military. It is also a very special community affair. Luke’s Wings, Access Housing, VA Medical, and USO assisted in distributing tickets and quite a few of our Wharf neighbors and theater peers donated to support a raffle to benefit the attendees.

This season we are also delighted that the Boeing Corporation has sponsored a Voices of Now ensemble of young artists from military and veterans’ families. Voices of Now is a devised theater program in which ensembles of young people work together to create autobiographical and physical theater pieces posing significant questions relevant to the artists and their communities. Voices of Now’s goal is to create positive change within the artists’ communities by engaging in dialogue centered on the unique life experiences of the participants. There are eight to ten local ensembles annually, and Voices of Now has traveled internationally nine times (India twice working in four cities each time, Croatia four times, as well as projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Peru, and Ukraine). More than 2,000 artists have had their lives changed by their Voices of Now experience over the last decade, and having a military-focused ensemble has been a long-time goal. Much appreciation to Boeing for helping us to reach that goal.

May the journey of discovery in Unknown Soldier provide you a window into your memories and mysteries yet to be explored.

Perry Sherman in Playwrights Horizons production of Unknown Soldier. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Headshot of Edgar Dobie by Cameron Whitman