Arena Stage’s Female Force

by Editorial
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SEATED (left to right): Life Trustee, philanthropist, and building namesake Jaylee Mead, Artistic Director Molly Smith, namesake of the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle Arlene Kogod STANDING (left to right): Trustee and co-chairwomen of the Opening Committee Michele Berman and Beth Newburger Schwartz (Photo by Joseph Allen)

Deep and dangerous in the American spirit, is how Artistic Director Molly Smith, describes Arena Stage. The first racially integrated theater in Washington, Arena opened its doors in 1950 and has remained committed to producing and developing the best in classic and modern American productions. Smith, who took over as artistic director in 1998 after founding and then leading the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska for the previous 19 years, has made Arena Stage a community for American voices with next generation educational programming, a new play institute, and a research center.

It’s warmer below the Mason-Dixon Line than in Juneau and Smith’s “perseverance” paid off. After a decade of talking about renovations, she decided Arena had to move “into the next century” and broke ground on its new 200,000-square-foot waterfront home in January, 2008. A national and international search for an architect led to the hiring of Bing Thom, who designed the new Arena Stage with the same free spirit it was founded upon. Come fall 2010, Smith says, “the cradle (and all the rest of it) will rock.”

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