Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson with the American Prophet cast and creative team following the Opening Night performance at Arena Stage. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

2022 marked a return to in-person theater at Arena and across the country. While we still dealt with the reality of COVID-19, there were some wonderful moments for our cast, crew, creative team, staff, and, most importantly, our audiences. In honor of the year that was, here are 22 of our favorite monumental moments from 2022:

We received not one, not two, but THREE Edgerton New Play Awards. The award provides support for extra time to develop and rehearse new plays. Our Edgerton New Play Awards supported Change Agent, American Prophet, and the upcoming The High Ground

A new Catch Me If You Can. The high-flying (pun intended) musical Catch Me If You Can came to the Fichandler Stage with a never-before performed book from the late Terrence McNally.

How I Learned to Drive made its Broadway debut. After debuting off-Broadway in 1997, this American masterpiece finally came to Broadway this spring. Our Artistic Director Molly Smith helped develop the play at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska and directed one of the first regional productions at Arena in 1999.

To catch a thief. Frank Abagnale, the real-life inspiration for Catch Me If You Can, joined us at a performance of the musical. He’s no longer a conman (he now works preventing the kind of fraud he once reveled in), but he’s still charming as all get out.

Have a drink with us! After a pandemic-pause, we were delighted to reopen our concessions stand this spring. We’ve also partnered with Sobar to offer delicious non-alcoholic cocktails.

Soaring ballads raised our spirits. Fly, Fly Away” from Catch Me If You Can and “Children of the Same River” from American Prophet showed that everyone loves love…and a high note.

A new partnership began. We’re thrilled to be in a multi-year partnership with the innovative, electric team at Step Afrika!. The partnership began this year with their moving production of Drumfolk at Arena.

The artists of Step Afrika!’s Drumfolk. Photo by Justin Torner-University of Iowa.

A big announcement. We wouldn’t call this a *favorite* moment, but it certainly was a landmark. After 25 years of extraordinary leadership, Artistic Director Molly Smith announced her retirement at the end of the 2022/23 Season. We’ll miss her terribly, but we’re so grateful for her decades of inspiration and artistry at Arena.

Edgar Dobie received the inaugural Victor Shargai Leadership Award. Named for the tireless champion of D.C. theater, the Victor Shargai Leadership Award recognizes outstanding service and creative leadership that strengthens the region’s theater community. Edgar, Arena’s Executive Director, received the award alongside multidisciplinary artist Paige Hernandez. 

American Prophet at Nationals Park. The world-premiere of American Prophet was an extraordinary moment in Arena history, but perhaps the standout memory from that time was when part of the cast performed the national anthem at Nats Park. A stirring moment for a show celebrating an American icon.

Justice Brown Jackson at American Prophet. Ok, maybe THIS was our favorite memory of the American Prophet run. America’s first Black female Supreme Court Justice joined us twice for this musical celebrating another American trailblazer, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass.

Quilts 4 DC Statehood. During American Prophet the grand lobby was home to a gorgeous quilt display supporting D.C. becoming the 51st state. Quilts 4 DC Statehood is a project of the D.C. League of Women Voters.

Quilts 4 DC Statehood on display at Arena Stage. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

The James Earl Jones Theatre made its Broadway debut. In early September, the Cort Theatre was rededicated as the James Earl Jones Theatre. Jones won a Tony Award in 1969 for his role as boxer Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope. The production, starring Jones and Jane Alexander, began at Arena in December 1967. It was the first regional production to move to Broadway.

We brought the Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship back! After a pandemic hiatus, the Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship re-started with a renewed focus on training young BIPOC theater professionals. Fellows are with us for a full season and we’re loving their insights and energy.

Three stages, three shows! For the first time since 2019, Arena had a show running simultaneously on each of our three stages. Classic comedy Holiday, the bold and timely Sanctuary City, and My Body No Choice, a collection of brand-new monologues, showed the breadth and depth of what Arena can do.

My Body No Choice went national. Artistic Director Molly Smith commissioned the monologues of My Body No Choice as a response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We were honored and moved to see this production come to life at theaters and universities across the country, giving audiences nationwide a chance to continue the conversation on the crucial topic of bodily autonomy.

Molly became a meme. We couldn’t resist getting in on the fun with the Spirit Halloween Meme and creating a “Trailblazing Artistic Director” costume.

We were Helen Hayes Recommended! This fall Holiday, My Body No Choice, and Sanctuary City had the honor of being Helen Hayes recommended. It was gratifying to see these very different shows recognized.

Martyna Majok joined us. Fresh off a Broadway run for her Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Cost of Living, playwright Martyna Majok joined us for a talkback after a performance of Sanctuary City. We loved hearing more about the creation of this timely play about the personal cost of immigration.

Community Engagement team visited Croatia. Continuing our longstanding relationship with the State Department, the Community Engagement team traveled to Croatia this winter. At the US Embassy in Zagreb, they devised new work about the generational impact of war with young people from Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Serbia. 

Champion of Democracy Award. We were honored to be one of three recipients of DC Vote’s 2022 Champion of Democracy Award. The award recognized our ongoing work to create art that contributes to social change, including our productions of American Prophet, My Body No Choice, and Sanctuary City, as well as the Quilts 4 DC Statehood project.

We made the Washington Post Top 10. Who doesn’t love a top 10 list, especially when you’re on it? We were thrilled to see American Prophet on the Washington Post’s list of best theater of the year, including shows on Broadway and the West End! 

Those are just SOME of our favorite memories from this year. Did we miss any of your personal favorites? Drop us a comment and let us know!