The anticipation in the air was palpable as the cast and crew of Unknown Soldier gathered with Arena Stage staff for the first rehearsal of what promises to be a heartwarming musical experience. The energy in the room was filled with excitement, setting the stage for a journey that transcends time and taps into the depths of family history.

Unknown Soldier features a book by Daniel Goldstein, music by the late Michael Friedman, lyrics by Goldstein and Friedman, and direction by Trip Cullman. The poignant story follows Ellen Rabinowitz (portrayed by Lora Lee Gayer) as she stumbles upon a photograph of an anonymous soldier in her grandmother’s (played by both Kerstin Anderson and Judy Kuhn) keepsakes. This discovery sets in motion a sweeping, elegiac musical that takes the audience on a compelling journey to unearth the secrets of Ellen’s family’s past while simultaneously charting her future.

During this rehearsal, we got to hear from Daniel, Trip, and Arena Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif.

Hana: “It is such a joy to be able to support this work. I want to say thank you to Danny Goldstein and Trip Cullman for bringing this show to D.C. audiences. I know it is a true labor of love for you, and you’ve been on this journey for a long time.”

Danny: “This is the third production that we’ve done of Unknown Soldier…Michael [Friedman] came across this story about this amnesiac soldier in World War I and how the search to find out who he was became this long journey of his recovering from war.…We’re so grateful to Arena for having us. It was the only place I thought of bringing the show…We’re going to have a beautiful run here.”

Trip: “There’s a lot of emotion associated with this show for me and Danny. I met Michael [Friedman] when we were both 18 years old…we hit it off immediately and he became my best friend. And I met Danny pretty much at the same time when we were at Williamstown Theatre Festival as little baby directing interns…[Michael] was truly a one-of-a-kind mind and extremely brilliant artist.

“What’s special to me about this piece is that he’s really known for his brilliant satirical energy, for instance if you look at Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Unknown Soldier is earnest, in the most extraordinary way. And it has this lyricism and breadth of musical emotionality that he as a person would have hated…What is so extraordinary for me is to have located the vulnerable side of him, the emotional side of him in his music…I’m just so grateful that I get to do this again in D.C. It’s an immense privilege to get to revisit this very beautiful piece of writing.”

As the rehearsal concluded, leaving a buzz of excitement in its wake, it was evident that Unknown Soldier is poised to be an unforgettable production at Arena Stage. The journey has just begun, and we hope you come along with us. Get your tickets now!