Founded in 1950, Arena Stage has long been about “putting the American spirit in the spotlight” as the company tagline phrases it. What that means is that the theater produces the works of American artists, choosing plays that explore themes of American diversity, challenges, and passions. A typical season features an American classic or two, a musical or two, new plays by emerging playwrights, world premieres, and, because Arena is in the nation’s capital, a play of political topicality. Many Arena Stage productions go on to win Tony awards on Broadway, as did Dear Evan Hansen, the 2017 Tony winner for best new musical.
The theater is D.C.’s second-largest after the Kennedy Center. Officially called “The Mead Center for American Theater,” the venue’s three staging areas are the theater-in-the-round Fichandler, the fan-shaped Kreeger, and the intimate (200-seat), oval-shaped Kogod Cradle. Locals love Arena’s productions, which draw more than 300,000 of us annually.
Arena’s 2018–19 season highlights include a play about the comic genius of Dick Gregory, Turn Me Loose; a world-premiere “power play,” JQA (about John Quincy Adams); a “fearless political journey,” Kleptocracy (about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of Vladimir Putin); a Wall Street drama, Junk; and the classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes.