Performing Arts: Coming to Arena Stage

by patrickmccoy

The 2013-2014 season brings 10 productions, including four world premieres, to the stage. 

The 2013-2014 season marks the fourth year at the Mead Center for American Theater. (Photo by Tony Powell)

Arena Stage has worked hard to establish itself as one of the premiere theatre venues in the Washington area. Whether they are presenting traditional theatrical works or groundbreaking productions, the company is maintaining its level of high respect in the arts community for the integrity that it brings to the stage. Just this week, Arena Stage announced 10 productions for the company’s 2013-2014 season, which will mark Arena’s fourth year at the Mead Center for American Theater.

“Perhaps it’s because of the anniversary of the Civil War that you’ll find our season is soaked in history,”says Artistic Director Molly Smith. “As a young person, it was impossible to memorize the dates of historical events, but boy—when I heard a story about a person’s life being moved and shaped by history, I got it. Somehow the arc of history—the demands of history—are acted out in sharp relief with many of the human stories we’re telling next season, from the Civil War battlefield to Camp David to contemporary stories about our lives today.”

Among the body of productions are four world premieres, including “Love in Afghanistan” by American Voices New Play Institute Resident Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright, “Camp David” directed by Molly Smith as part of Arena Stage’s American President’s Project, Liz Lerman’s theatrical dance piece “Healing Wars” featuring narrator Bill Pullman, and Tectonic Theater Project’s production of “The Tallest Tree – A Portrait of Paul Robeson” written and performed by Daniel Beaty.

Below is a complete listing of shows for the 2013-14 season, as seen on Arena Stage’s website:

“One Night with Janis Joplin”
Created, written and directed by Randy Johnson / Starring Mary Bridget Davies
A co-production with Pasadena Playhouse and Milwaukee Repertory Theater
June 21–August 11, 2013 in the Kreeger Theater
Get ready to relive the summer of love! Back by popular demand, One Night with Janis Joplin returns to rock Arena Stage for another round of “exhilarating” (Washington Post) performances packed with classic songs like “Piece of My Heart, “Summertime” and “Mercedes Benz.” Mary Bridget Davies “brings the house to its feet” (Washingtonian) as one of America’s greatest rock ’n’ roll originals, and “delivers no-holds-barred vocal fire through one classic song after another” (TheaterMania).

“The Velocity of Autumn”
Exclusive Pre-Broadway Engagement
By Eric Coble / Directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith
Starring Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons and two-time Tony Award winner Stephen Spinella
September 6–October 20, 2013 in the Kreeger Theater
In a simple Brooklyn brownstone, 79-year-old Alexandra lives a solitary existence with her fleeting memories and enough explosives to take down most of the block. At an impasse with her family over how she should spend her autumn years, Alexandra’s long-absent son enters as a most unlikely mediator, to try and save his mother’s life as much as his own. Funny and sweet, aching and revelatory, this perceptive play reveals both the fragility and ferocity of life. Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons (Bonnie and Clyde, Roseanne) and two-time Tony Award winner Stephen Spinella (Angels in America) make their Arena Stage debuts.

“Love in Afghanistan”
World premiere by Resident Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright
October 11–November 17, 2013 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle
From resident playwright Charles Randolph-Wright (Blue, Cuttin’ Up) comes a daring world premiere drama set to take audiences on a thrilling, romantic adventure in a chaotic land. Meet Duke and Roya, two fantastically different people discovering love in the most unlikely of places: war-torn Afghanistan. One, an emerging hip-hop artist, the other, a high-level Afghani interpreter, both fight to navigate the pitfalls of romance amid the cultural land mines of religious differences and political unrest.

“Tappin’ Thru Life”
Created by and starring Maurice Hines / Directed by Jeff Calhoun
A co-production with Alliance Theatre and Cleveland Play House
November 15–December 29, 2013 in the Kreeger Theater
Broadway legend and Tony Award nominee Maurice Hines (Sophisticated Ladies) returns to Arena Stage to tap us through his incredible 40 years in show business. With song and dance, Hines pays tribute to his brother, Gregory, and the singers who have inspired him, from Frank Sinatra to Lena Horne. To help bring the history of American tap to life, Hines brings The Diva Orchestra, an all-female nine-piece big band. Get ready to laugh, smile and tap your feet to the infectious song and dance of Maurice Hines!

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
By Todd Kreidler / Based on the screenplay by William Rose / Directed by Kenny Leon
November 29, 2013–January 5, 2014 in the Fichandler Stage
Broadway and Arena Stage favorite Kenny Leon (every tongue confess) returns to direct a new adaptation of the beloved film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. A progressive white couple’s proud liberal sensibilities are put to the test when their daughter, fresh from an overseas romance, brings her African-American fiancé home to meet them. Personal beliefs clash with the mores of the late 60’s in this warm and witty exploration of family and culture and knowing which of them has the greater hold on our hearts.

A presentation of the world premiere production of Tectonic Theater Project’s “The Tallest Tree—A Portrait of Paul Robeson”
By Daniel Beaty / Directed by Moisés Kaufman
January 10–February 16, 2014 in the Kreeger Theater
Bursting with soulful music and poetic storytelling, The Tallest Tree—A Portrait of Paul Robeson combines the theatrical talents of award-winning artist Daniel Beaty (Emergence-See!) with acclaimed director Moisés Kaufman (33 Variations, The Laramie Project). Discover the true story of Paul Robeson, hailed as the ‘best known black man in the world’ for his incomparable singing and acting, brought low by accusations of disloyalty to America. Backed by a live band, Beaty brings “his signature wit, grit and piercing lyricism” (New York Times) to more than 20 characters, asking the question, how does a man remain an artist when his soul cries out to be an activist?

“Mother Courage and her Children”
By Bertolt Brecht / Directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith
Starring Academy Award & Tony Award nominee Kathleen Turner
January 31–March 9, 2014 in the Fichandler Stage
Tough-as-nails matriarch Mother Courage profits off the very war that steals her children from her one by one. But will the cost of war be higher than she’s prepared to pay? Artistic Director Molly Smith helms this unique in-the-round staging of Brecht’s powerhouse anti-war play fusing politics, satire and music into an epic theatrical experience. Kathleen Turner returns to Arena Stage after her sold-out run of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins to star in the mother of all roles.

“Camp David”
World Premiere by Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright / Directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith
March 21–May 4, 2014 in the Kreeger Theater
Sixty-two miles north of Washington, D.C., nestled in Catoctin Mountain Park, lies the clandestine retreat known as Camp David. For 13 tumultuous days, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn host Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in an attempt to create the impossible: peace in the Middle East. How could such a massive thing be done in such a short amount of time? Artistic Director Molly Smith directs the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright’s incredible new play based on incredibly true events. Camp David is part of Arena Stage’s distinctive American President’s Project, which investigates the lives and legacies of our nation’s Presidents and their families.

“Smokey Joe’s Café”
By Jerry Leiber and Matt Stoller / Directed by Randy Johnson
April 25–June 8, 2014 in the Fichandler Stage
Staged by Randy Johnson, the visionary behind One Night with Janis Joplin, Smokey Joe’s Café transports us to the Golden Age of Rock, Rhythm and Blues showcasing nearly 40 popular hits from Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Bursting with infectious tunes like “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion #9” and “On Broadway,” it’s no wonder this electrifying show received seven Tony Award nominations and became the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. Get ready to raise the roof at Smokey Joe’s Café!

“Healing Wars”
World premiere created and directed by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Liz Lerman
Featuring Bill Pullman
June 6–29, 2014 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle
A pioneer in the world of contemporary dance, Liz Lerman’s newest theatrical dance piece explores the experiences of the healers tasked with treating the physical and psychic wounds of battle. Joined by Bill Pullman (Independence Day, 1600 Penn), an ensemble of dancers represent medics and soldiers from the Civil War to today. Called “the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art” (Washington Post), Lerman’s work has been performed throughout the U.S. and abroad. After 34 years as founding artistic director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Lerman presents her singular aesthetic to audiences in this exciting world premiere about how we experience and recover from war.

Plays, artists and dates are subject to change. Call 202-488-3300 or visit for ticket information. 

Recently named among the Forty Under 40 for his contributions to arts and humanities, Patrick D. McCoy received a B.M. in vocal performance from Virginia State University and an M.M. in church music from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va.  He has contributed arts and culture pieces to CBS Washington, The Afro-American Newspaper and the newly published book, “In Spite of the Drawbacks” (Association of Black Women Historians), which includes his chapter on legendary soprano Leontyne Price.  McCoy  has interviewed some of the most acclaimed artists of our  time, including Renée FlemingDenyce Graves, Norman Scribner, Julian Wachner, Christine Brewer and Lawrence  Brownlee.   Listen to these interviews and others  at Blog Talk Radio. McCoy may be reached via email at and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.

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