Five theaters in Washington, D.C., are collaborating in a program called THEatrical sELECTIONS, a series of free, politically charged play readings in the weeks leading up to the nation's presidential election.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, the Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, and Studio Theatre each will host a reading of a play which that theater feels reflects the country's current political and social environment. Selections will consider political moments from burgeoning fascism in the 1930s to partisan horse-trading in modern America.
"Theaters have a long tradition of staging performances to generate thought and discussion regarding current events," Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) Artistic Director Michael Kahn said in a press release. "D.C. has a thriving theater scene at the heart of American politics, so it's essential that our artistic community should work together to participate in the debate, looking back at history and forward to this pivotal election."
"This is the most important election of my lifetime," Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith said in the release. "How we vote will determine the direction of this great country. Theaters are places to engage and meditate. This is a brilliant opportunity to bring forward our best writers to reflect on this moment in time, through both historic and modern eyes. And then take action."
The schedule of readings follows:
Oct. 3, Watch on the Rhine by Lillian Hellman at Arena Stage. With America on the brink of entering World War II, a young American woman seeks refuge in the D.C. suburbs for her young children and her German husband, a man deeply involved in antifascist movements. But with an Eastern European guest with ulterior motives also living in their midst, tensions rise as it becomes clear that no one's safety can be guaranteed, at home or abroad. Tickets available through the Arena Stage box office, 202-488-3300 or www.arenastage.org.
Oct. 17, The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht, Shakespeare Theatre Company. A ruthless, frighteningly charismatic Chicago mobster takes over the cauliflower trade, using lies, brute force, and, most of all, Shakespearean acting. Written by Brecht in 1941 during his American exile, this play has been seen as a satirical response to Adolf Hitler's rise. But the play's portrait of how a bully becomes a ruler is as relevant now as it ever has been. Tickets available through the STC box office, 202-547-1122 or www.shakespearetheatre.org.
Oct. 24, A Face in the Crowd by Budd Schulberg, Signature Theatre. The screenplay of this 1957 film directed by Elia Kazan and starring Andy Griffith is part rags-to-riches cautionary tale, part political thriller, and part doomed romance. A Face in the Crowd foretold how mass media, celebrity, commerce, and politics would become forever intertwined in a way that was almost incomprehensible when it was written. Tickets available through the Signature Theatre box office, 202-820-9771 or www.sigtheatre.org.
"Signature Theatre is proud to join with our colleagues in reading A Face in the Crowd," Signature Theatre Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer said in the release. "It's important to bring these works to the forefront of our audience's minds as we all vote for America's future this year."
Oct. 31, The Warrior Class by Kenneth Lin, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Warrior Class centers on Julius Weishan Lee, a New York assemblyman who's been dubbed "the Republican Obama." Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants and a decorated war veteran with a seemingly limitless political career ahead of him. Then someone from his past threatens to reveal a college transgression, and Lee must decide how far he'll go to keep the incident out of the public eye. Whatever his decision, the consequences may be costly. Tickets available through www.kennedy-center.org.
Nov. 7, Ivanka: A Medea for Right Now by Joshua Harmon, Studio Theatre. With her father nearing the White House and his hateful rhetoric only getting more egregious, dutiful daughter Ivanka has had enough: She's withdrawn support from her father's campaign. In retaliation, her father vows to evict her from her luxury apartment and the country itself. Now Ivanka faces disgrace in her father's world. Can she live in exile? Where does her loyalty lie? To family or country? And what lengths will she go to in order to change the story of her family's name? From the author of Bad Jews comes a modern-day Greek tragedy about loyalty, morality, and extreme times, with backup from Omarosa, Chris Christie, and the Sisterhood of the Park East Synagogue. Tickets available through www.studiotheatre.org.
September 23, 2016