Performing Arts: Welcome Home Arena Stage!

by Editorial

Celebrating its 60th Anniversary, Arena Stage has officially moved into the newly remodeled complex at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest D.C.

By Julie LaPorte

Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Since Zelda Fichandler, Thomas Fichandler and Edward Mangum first opened the doors in 1950, the Arena Stage has served as one of the nation’s leaders in presenting classic theatre as well as encouraging innovative contemporary plays. And it has acted as a cultural hub of the city, hosting some of the greatest works and greatest talents in theatre history.

After a decade of construction – during which time Arena continued presenting plays in Crystal City in Arlington and at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street NW – the Arena Stage is returning to its home on the Potomac River in Southwest D.C. Located one block from the Waterfront metro station, the Mead Center for American Theater was designed by renowned Canadian firm Bing Thom Architects. This gorgeous performing arts complex, the second largest in Washington, boasts three state-of-the-art performing spaces, a centralized lobby with modern amenities and a dedicated reading area for theatre lovers. Spurred in part by this construction, the area surrounding the theatre complex has undergone revitalization as well with the opening of new restaurants, nightspots and commercial retailers.

“It’s beyond words how it feels to be finally returning to Sixth and Maine in Southwest Washington,” says Artistic Director Molly Smith. “For the first time in Arena’s history, all staff will be under one roof, and to have this historic re-opening happen in the year of our diamond anniversary is all the more sweet.”

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been named Honorary Chairs for the reopening and yearlong inaugural season at the Mead Center and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and his wife Michelle Fenty have been named Co-Chairs.

“There could be no one better to help us celebrate Arena Stage’s new home for American theater than the President and First Lady of our United States,” said Smith. “Along with the support of Mayor Fenty and his wife, we are deeply grateful for their commitment to the arts in our country; our opening season back home would not be complete without them.”

The official homecoming festivities were at end of October and featured free performances from Oklahoma!, back stage tours, lectures, demonstrations and more. And an inaugural black-tie Opening Gala Celebration (pics below) – included cocktails, a special one-night only performance featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell and dinner.

Arena’s 2010-2011 season kicks off this October with Oklahoma!, followed by Every Tongue Confess, Let Me Down Easy, The Arabian Nights, seven full-length plays from the American Voices New Play Institute, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, an Edward Albee festival with staged readings of all 30 works, Ruined and John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.

For more information about Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater and their exciting inaugural season, visit

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