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sunday , january 8, 2012

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ABCDE

Arts

T H H IN E G ST T A O T N E T O H F E A T

A wow decade. Now what?


New stages, new troupes, new festivals, new energy. The second act awaits.
BY

P ETER M ARKS

n just 10 short years, Washingtons theaters have undergone a transformation unlike any in the citys history. Gleaming new palaces of drama have sprung up or been spruced up all over the region, to the tune of more than $350 million. Companies once operating out of garages or ill-fitting nooks and crannies have settled into sophisticated new digs, and some groups with deeper pockets have erected edifices that have added immensely to the citys architectural luster. Start-up troupes continue to start up in spite of the trying financial and marketing odds. Established institutions are broadening their offerings, reaching out more aggressively to younger and more diverse audiences. An expanding appetite for invention is nourishing playwrights via new workshop-oriented companies and writerresidency programs. The city welcomed an edgy annual fringe festival, as well as a revitalized nonprofit group to

Small theaters A creative force adding pizazz E2 Playwrights Knock, knock, knocking at the door E3 Bottom lines The theater community takes a hit E4 Essay Fixing the Hayes Awards to add punch E5 Hispanic theater Companies adapt to a changing culture E8 Black theater Rocky road for Chocolate Citys vanilla stages E9 Dance Local talent pool achieves a milestone E8

6 For more photo galleries and video from D.C. theater productions as well as venue information and showtimes, go to washingtonpost.com/theater.

promote the industry. The 2010 and 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners for drama, Next to Normal and Clybourne Park, had pivotal early productions in the District. Shows honed here are moving with a bit more frequency to Broadway, which, for the first time since the 1960s awarded its coveted regional Tony Award to a company from the Washington area. All in all, the past decade in Washington building on the serious playgoing tradition set in motion by Zelda Fichandler and her colleagues at Arena Stage back in the early 50s has been characterized by extremely encouraging results. So now what? This amorphous question is not posed presumptuously, nor to suggest that simple answers exist about how further to refine the gestalt of a city perpetually engaged by the performing arts. Its asked at this moment of theatrical vitality as a way of advancing a conversation about what still might be on the collective to-do list, what else might be done to nourish theater artists and, as a result, reap even more enrichment and local pride for play and musical-goers, who buy upwards of 2 million tickets a year to 80-odd companies large and small from the behemoth Kennedy theater continued on E6

ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN STAUFFER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST