- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2000


Arena Stage is reclaiming the Old Vat Room, a downstairs rental performance area, for a series devoted to the development of new American plays.
The series, called "Downstairs in the Old Vat Room," will be led by Arena Stage's new artistic associate, Wendy C. Goldberg. It will include readings, solo performances and studio productions at the theater, 1101 Sixth St. SW.
"As we celebrate the past 50 years of Arena Stage, it is important that we continue to focus on our future, presenting new work by new playwrights, particularly when it attracts an audience diverse in terms of age and race," Ms. Goldberg says. "Next week is just a taste of things to come."
Starting Thursday, the series will feature the works of four female playwrights through readings (productions with few or any props and actors basically sitting behind music stands).
"Breath, Boom," written by Kia Corthron and directed by Lenora Pace, enters the world of girl gangs in what is described as a "redemptive new work." It will be staged at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The next night will feature "China Doll (The Imagined Life of an American Actress)," also at 8 p.m. Written by Elizabeth Wong and directed by Tom Prewitt, the satiric take on 1920s and 1930s Hollywood depicts movie icon Anna Wong navigating "industry" politics.
"Gloria's Galen," written by American University theater professor Caleen Sinnette Jennings and directed by Lisa Middleton, will be presented at 8 p.m. Oct. 21. A description of the play says the audience should "sense a mystical presence at work" as three generations of women attempt to reunite as a family.
The concluding play, "Typhoid Mary," has Mary Mallon making a whirlwind of turn-of-the-century New York City. Written by Bridget Carpenter and directed by Ms. Goldberg, it will be produced at 8 p.m. Oct. 22.
Tickets to all readings cost $5 and may be bought through the theater's Web site (www.arenastage.org) or by calling 202/488-3300. Free coffee will be served.
"Each of these women [is] established, yet up and coming," Ms. Goldberg says.
Her own directing credits include "Life in Refusal" and "Tomorrowland" at Theater J in Washington and involvement in new-play development programs, workshops and other activities at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, New Dramatists in New York and Playlabs at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. She has a master's degree from the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California in Los Angeles.
"Downstairs in the Old Vat Room" will hold another reading series in January, featuring playwrights from graduate school programs. In spring, the program will focus on artists with whom Arena Stage already has worked.
These include Culture Clash, the Los Angeles-based group that did "Radio Mambo" at Arena Stage last year and plans to return to gather material for a performance dedicated to Washington; Maurice Hines, the star of last season's hit "Guys and Dolls," who plans a workshop about a project concerning Ella Fitzgerald that he will direct; and Arena Stage Associate Artist Rebecca Rice, who will use the Old Vat Room as a venue for her Southwest Project, an oral history-based performance that will examine past urban redevelopment in Southwest, the theater's neighborhood.
Interact Theatre Company, which had been renting the Old Vat for the past three years for some of its productions, still will do a Christmas show there, Interact General Manager Celia Wolfe says.
"We just had a rental agreement with Arena Stage, so it wasn't really us moving out of the Old Vat," Ms. Wolfe says. Interact is based in McLean, so it prefers venues in Virginia, she says.

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