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New and Noteworthy


CurtainUp/DC/ New & Noteworthy, updated May 15, 2013
The 2012/2013 season is winding down, the Helen Hayes nominations and awards have been distributed ( ) and inboxes are filled with brochures and announcements for the 2013/2014 season.

Arena Stage ( has just announced that the amazing tap dancing Manzari brothers, John and Leo, who hale from the same quadrant of D.C. as Arena, Southwest, will be working with their mentor Maurice Hines on a new show, Tappin’ Thru Life, premiering November 15 to December 29, 2013 in the Kreeger Theater at Arena.

Casting has been announced for Arena’s first production of 2014. Kathleen Turner is to head the cast of Mother Courage and Her Children, running from January 31 to May 9, 2014. The Brecht drama is one of the few plays on Arena’s roster for the 2013-2014 season that is not a world premiere. The Velocity of Autumn by Eric Coble, will open the season September 6 to October 20, 2013, prior to going on to Broadqay. Estelle Parson and Stephen Spinella as a feisty 79-year old and as her son head the cast.

Also premiering are Love in Afghanistan, where opposites attract, according to playwright Charles Randolph-Wright, who is currently “in residence” at Arena. Dates for that show are October 11 to November 17. 2014 begins with Tectonic Theater Project’s premiering The Tallest Tree in the Forest, Paul Robeson’s biography, by Daniel Beaty, directed by Moises Kaufman. Dates: January 10 to February 16, 2014. Camp David, by Lawrence Wright, takes a look at President Jimmy Carter’s attempts to get Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to reach some agreements concerning the Middle East. That too is a world premiere, running from March 21 to May 4, 2014.

Benedick and Beatrice, as clueless as ever, in Much Ado About Nothing, originally directed by Ethan McSweeny, with additional direction by Jenny Lord, opens the Shakespeare Theatre’s 2013/2014 season in the Sidney Harman Hall ( Other Shakespeare plays to be performed that season are Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, in repertory, March 25 to June8, 2014, as well as Measure for Measure, September 12 to October 27, 2013. Director Keith Baxter returns to direct The Importance of Being Earnest, November 21 to December 29, 2013. The season ends with Noel Coward’s Private Lives, May 29 to July 13, 2014.

Across town, at the Folger Theater, Romeo and Juliet, directed by Aaron Posner opens the season, October 15 to December 1, 2013. Two Gentleman of Verona follow. The Folger Theater, a replica of the wooden-O, is housed in the Folger Shakespeare Library, the greatest repository of works by William Shakespeare in the world. The 1623 First Folio, for instance, is always on view. Also in its collection are items that relate to Shakespeare such as The Robben Island Shakespeare, that was signed by prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, while in that jail in the 1970s. Mandela’s signed his name in the Julius Caesar portion of the tome.

Speaking of exhibits . . . While New Yorkers have not uniformly loved Richard Nelson’s Nikolai and the Others at Lincoln Center, Washington is reveling in a stunning exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced With Music,” features original costumes, set designs, paintings, drawings and film clips, including Rudolf Nureyev’s stunning performance in The Afternoon of a Faun. Both Nelson’s play and the NGA’s exhibit make real such characters as George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky. The exhibit, whose only U. S. venue is Washington, closes September 2.

While competitive for Washington-based actors, audiences, and funding sources, Washington’s theatres also collaborate. Studio Theatre’s Artistic Director David Muse has worked at Shakespeare Theatre, Signature Theatre’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer most recently directed a joint-production with Ford’s Theatre, and this trend continues. During Signature Theatre’s 2013/2014 season, the Shakespeare Theatre’s Artistic Director Michael Kahn will direct the world premiere of Paul Downs Colaizzo’s Pride in the Falls of Autrey, at Signature, October 15 through December 8, 2013. Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill is set in the ‘burbs where all is not what it appears to be. Last season, Colaizzo’s Really Really was a huge hit off-Broadway and at Signature. Meanwhile, Signature’s annual homage to Stephen Sondheim arrives May 21 to June 30, 2013. This year’s choice Company, a personal favorite.

Winner of the most entertaining play title of the current crop: Stupid Fucking Bird, Aaron Posner’s take on Chekhov’s The Seagull. Yet another premiere, at Woolly Mammoth, May 27 through June 23, 2013. Next season Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit is up September 9 to October 6, 2013, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate, November 4 to December 1, 2013. The latter is written by an African-American playwright who saw many plays at Woolly while he was growing up in Washington. br>

Next up at Theater J is Jacqueline Lawton’s play, The Hampton Years, about Viktor Lowenfeld, an Austrian Jewish refugee who taught artists such as social realist Charles White and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett at Virginia’s Hampton Institute during the 1940s. br>

At Ford’s Theatre, One Destiny, a 35-minute play about Washington during the American Civil War and, more specifically eyewitness accounts of what happened at that theatre the night President Lincoln was shot, runs from June 11 to July 6, 2013. . br>

The Kennedy Center is planning an International Theater Festival from March 10 to 30, 2014. Companies from England, South Africa, Canada, Kuwait, France, Israel, Scotland, China, Mexico, Chile and, yes, the United States, are heading this way. Most notable are the Handspring Puppet Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Israel’s Nalag’at Theater Deaf-Blind Acting Ensemble in Not By Bread Alone and Peter Brook’s Theatre des Bouffes du Nord’s The Suit. Meanwhile, there’s Showboat, directed by Washington National Opera’s newish Artistic Director, Francesca Zambello, till May 26 and Ferenc Molnar’s The Guardsman, newly translated by Richard Nelson, and directed by Gregory Mosher, May 25 to June 23. Followed by the Tony-winning revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, June 11 to July 7, and the touring company of mega-hit The Book of Mormon, from July 9 to August 18. In October, Little Dancer, with books and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty, with direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, has its world premiere. It is the story of the little girl who posed for sculptor Edgar Degas. That lovely sculpture is at the National Gallery of Art.

The Center has plans and hopes for a $100 million expansion that would add rehearsal space and educational facilities. The Center’s chairman, David Rubenstein, has donated half the amount. Target date for breaking ground is 2016 with completion in 2018. br>

For many people, especially theater people, there is nothing more depressing than a dark theater. Washington’s National Theater, opened in 1835. It narrowly escaped the wrecker’s ball several times and was beautifully restores, with an aqua and gold interior designed by Oliver Smith, in the 1970’s. The Kennedy Center ran it for a while, so did the Shuberts but as of Fall, 2012, they too are gone. Over the last three years, the theater hosted touring companies for 24 weeks only. One got the impression that because of its status as a non-profit with low rent and minimal overhead it was cheaper to keep the theater dark.

The 676-seat theater was taken over several months ago by Chicago-based JAM Theatricals and Philadelphia’s SMG, an entertainment and convention venue management company. If/Then, a new musical will premiere there November 5 to 24, 2014 will have its world premiere at the National prior to opening on Broadway in March, 2014. Idina Menzel heads the cast. Music by Tom Kitt; book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey; direction by Michael Greif.

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