The mission of Arena Stage is to produce plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit. With the 2010 opening of the Mead Center for American Theater, Arena is now a leading center for the production, presentation, development, and study of American theater. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith & Executive Director Edgar Dobie, Arena's new play development activities include readings, workshops, commissions, world premieres, and critical second and third productions – all designed to support the work of playwrights, build audiences for new work, and advance the field.
Our society faces a compelling responsibility to teach young people to be creative, solve complex problems, and communicate effectively to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive global economy. Despite this, home to powerful institutions and wealthy individuals, Washington, DC is also home to thousands of students without the opportunity to experience arts education. Arena’s Community Engagement program helps young learners meet that demand.
With contributions to Arena’s annual fund and Next Stage Campaign, the Foundation has bolstered the artistic offerings of Arena Stage and created a forum for dialogue and discovery at the Mead Center.
The Next Stage Campaign secured the grand reopening of the Mead Center for American Theater, the largest and most technically-advanced theater campus in the nation’s capital. The Center includes the renovated 683-seat in-the-round Fichandler Stage, the renovated 514-seat fan-shaped Kreeger Theater, and the 20-seat Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, a brand new oval shaped theater with flexible seating designed to encourage experimentation.
Arena Stage now attracts approximately 300,000 audience members annually from across the metro area, with 30% of the theater’s constituents residing in DC and the remainder divided equally between Maryland and Virginia. Building an audience that reflects Washington’s rich ethnic and cultural communities, Arena has been particularly successful in attracting African-Americans (15-20%) and youth (10-15%).
The Foundation has also supported the Donald & Nancy deLaski Education Center, which is designed to provide a space for K-12 education outreach as well as life-long learning. The Center houses activity space and a classroom for arts education and professional development workshops through Arena’s Community Engagement program, which touches 20,000 students and lifelong learners annually.
About the Artistic Director
Molly Smith has been a passionate leader in new play development for the past thirty years, both at Arena Stage and at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, the theater she founded and led for 19 years. Over the course of her fifteen seasons as Arena’s Artistic Director, she has focused the repertory on American Voices, making Arena the largest theater in America to exclusively produce American writers. She founded Arena’s Downstairs New Play Series, which has read and workshopped more than sixty plays, half of which have gone on to full productions.
Ms. Smith has commissioned or championed numerous world premieres, including Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive and Mineola Twins, Charles Randolph-Wright’s Blue, Zora Neale Hurston’s lost American play Polk County, Passion Play, a cycle by Sarah Ruhl, and Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations. Her directorial work has also been seen at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Shaw Festival, Trinity Repertory Company and Tarragon Center Theatre, and includes classics such as South Pacific, Anna Christie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Smith has served as Literary Advisor to the Sundance Theatre Lab and Banff Playwright’s Colony, hosted the new play conference “Who Needs New Plays?” and formed the Arena Stage Writers Council, comprised of leading American playwrights. An avid traveler, Ms. Smith brings artists of international renown to work at Arena Stage and has served as a member of the Board of the Theatre Communications Group and the Center for International Theatre Development. She has directed two feature films, Raven’s Blood and Making Contact, and received Honorary Doctorates from both Towson and American Universities.