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Annual Meeting
The Play—and the Musical—Is the Thing in D.C.
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 6 page 17-17

Washington, D.C., has gained fame for a lot of reasons other than its array of theater offerings. But in fact, it is often considered to have one of the liveliest and most abundant theater scenes in the country, following only on the heels of New York and Chicago.FIG1

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In a dramatic riverfront setting, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts stages world premieres and traveling companies of plays and musicals, as well as the world's leading symphony, ballet, and opera companies. The National Symphony and Washington National Opera will have performances during the annual meeting. 

Credit: Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corporation (WCTC)

The most famous of the theater venues is the Kennedy Center, a five-theater complex that showcases pre- and post-Broadway productions of musicals and dramas, and sometimes offers world premiers of works by famous playwrights and the most respected names in musical theater. It is also the home of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera.

In early May, as in every month for the last 20 years, "Shear Madness" will be playing in the center's Theater Lab. This murder mystery takes place in a unisex hair salon in Georgetown after the murder of the concert pianist who lives above the eponymous salon. Of course, all of the people in the salon have a motive to kill the musician. Its popularity no doubt derives from its inclusion of the audience in solving the mystery. It is now the second longest running play in the United States, following only its sister production in Boston.

The symphony will have concerts on May 3 and 8, and the opera will be performing Handel's "Tamerlano" on May 4, with Washington National Opera Director Placido Domingo in one of the lead roles.

Also there are free performances every evening on the Millenium stages in the Kennedy Center lobby.

Washington is also justly proud of the nationally known Shakespeare Theatre Company, whose mission "is to present classic theatre in an accessible, skillful, imaginative, American style that honors playwrights' language and intentions while viewing their plays through a 21st-century lens." During the annul meeting the company is staging "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Expect innovative takes and several surprises.

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The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C.'s trendy Penn Quarter neighborhood mounts innovative takes on plays by the eponymous writer as well as rethought versions of plays by other classical playwrights. 

Credit: Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corporation (WCTC)

The Shakespeare Theatre has been so successful that last year it built an additional venue, the Harman Center for the Arts, a block away, which presents plays by local, national, and international companies.

One of Washington's unique theater experiences can be had at Theater J, which is part of the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center. Theater J has gained international fame for presenting new and always thought-provoking works and rethinking older ones. It describes its mission as the" development and production of new work by major writers and emerging artists exploring many of the pressing moral and political issues of our time." Its repertoire celebrates the "distinctive urban voice and social vision that are part of the Jewish cultural legacy."

During the annual meeting week Theater J will be presenting the world premiere of an innovative new musical, "David in Shadow and Light," which the theater describes as "an epic retelling of King David's astonishing trajectory from boy shepherd to superstar ruler to aging king as he wrestles with the lowest and the purest of human impulses."

Another of the city's theatrical gems is Arena Stage, which has won a Tony Award for best regional theater. This May, as part of its Arthur Miller Festival, Arena Stage will present "Death of a Salesman." On Monday evenings the theater holds readings, screenings, and lectures that will delve into other of Miller's plays. As the theaters in its Southwest Washington complex are being renovated, Arena will perform for the next year at the Forum in the Crystal City Marriott in nearby Arlington, Va. The theater is next to the Crystal City Metro stop, about a 10-minute ride from downtown.

The always surprising Studio Theater in the Logan Circle neighborhood never stages the traditional or the expected. For those staying a few days after the meeting, Studio will be presenting "The Internationalist," developed by New York's innovative theater company, 13P. The play" follows an American businessman lost in translation in this mysterious, multilingual romance."

Another of the genuine treasures of the local theater scene is Signature Theater in Arlington, Va. Signature made its reputation by restaging musicals in creative, scaled down, and often startling ways, particularly those of Stephen Sondheim, the most honored Broadway composer of the last 50 years. Each year it stages one of his musicals, and Sondheim is a trustee of the theater.

This May Signature will present one of the triad in its celebration of the Broadway composing/writing team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. The pair is most famous for writing "Chicago," "Cabaret," and" Kiss of the Spider Woman." In early May theater lovers can enjoy one of their rarely seen works, "The Happy Time." It's the story of "a world-traveling photographer, Georges Bonnard, who returns home to French-Canadian St. Pierre in search of his happy youth. Along the way, Bonnard fires up the romantic spirit of his home-town's inhabitants and tempts his godson with dreams of escape," according to Signature. The theater is a 10-minute cab ride from downtown D.C. Those staying in town until May 13 have a real treat in store—Kander and Ebb's "The Visit" will be staged and will star two-time Tony Award winners Chita Rivera and George Hearn.

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Kennedy Center
 New Hampshire Ave. at the Potomac 
 Washington, D.C.
 (202) 467-4600
 http://kennedy-center.org

Shakespeare Theatre
 450 Seventh Street, N.W.
 Washington, D.C.
 (202) 547-1122
 www.shakespearetheatre.org/about/index.aspx

Theater J
 16th and Q streets, N.W.
 Washington, D.C.
 (202) 777-3210
 http://washingtondcjcc.org/center-for-arts/theater-j/

Arena Stage
 1800 S. Bell Street
 Arlington, Va.
 (202) 488-3300
 www.arenastage.org

Signature Theater
 4200 Campbell Avenue
 Arlington, Va.
 (703) 820-9771
 www.sig-online.org

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

In a dramatic riverfront setting, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts stages world premieres and traveling companies of plays and musicals, as well as the world's leading symphony, ballet, and opera companies. The National Symphony and Washington National Opera will have performances during the annual meeting. 

Credit: Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corporation (WCTC)

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C.'s trendy Penn Quarter neighborhood mounts innovative takes on plays by the eponymous writer as well as rethought versions of plays by other classical playwrights. 

Credit: Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corporation (WCTC)

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