Arena Stage Shines Again

It's been more than two years in the making. On Saturday, a staple of Washington's theater community comes back to life.

Arena Stage will unveil its remodeled and expanded Mead Center for American Theater.

A glass curtain now reflects the resurgence of the performing arts at the new 200,000-square-foot theater.

"This new building provides the platform and the resources for us to celebrate what is a new mission,” said Arena Stage’s managing director, Edgar Dobie.

For 50 years, Arena Stage had a home at the corner of Sixth and Maine Avenue SW. Two separate theater buildings there are now wrapped in glass and under one roof.

The $135 million renovation updated the flagship Fichandler Stage and the adjacent Kreeger Theater to meet 21st century theatrical needs.

"The two theaters that existed here before had separate lobbies, but there's a common lobby,” said Dobie. “There's also a new theater space."

The new Kogod Cradle is an intimate 220-seat, oval-shaped space the theater's directors plan to use to support new and developing plays.

Tucked away beyond the performances spaces are state-of-the-art rehearsal space and classrooms that will cater to grad students studying American theater and schoolchildren, including young playwrights who will compete to grace the Mead Center's stages.

"It's narrowed down to a handful that are produced and they're produced with actors that are paid," said Dobie.

Arena Stage's mission doesn't end with advancing the performing arts and promoting American theater.

The center's new café, adorned with polished rock and catered by celebrity chef Jose Andres of Washington's Jaleo restaurant, will open to theater-goers and eventually the general public.

"It's going to anchor, I think, a lot of really important new development in Southwest and the Waterfront," said Dobie.

A sign this new complex hopes to be the beginning of a renaissance for the community it calls home again.

Arena Stage's grand opening celebration Saturday will feature a series of free performances and exhibits from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The new theatrical season kicks off on Nov. 4 with the musical "Oklahoma!"

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