- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

As its fourth full production reaches its close, Tysons Corner’s 1st Stage is looking toward the future.

The budding theater company recently presented its final performances of Michael Hollinger’s noir-comedy “Red Herring,” a critical success that played to the largest audiences 1st Stage has seen.

But the troupe isn’t taking any breaks. It’s already in the casting and rehearsal process for the next production, a four-actor “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation titled “R&J.”

The artistic staff plans to meet in the coming weeks to finalize selections for the company’s second season.



1st Stage was created to help young local artists launch and nurture their careers.

Artistic director Mark Krikstan, a founding member, sensed that Tysons Corner needed a venue where local arts organizations and distinctive voices could thrive.

“We need a theater that works like a teaching hospital,” Mr. Krikstan says on his Web site, 1ststagespringhill.org. “Young actors - students, interns, residents - at various stages in their development as professionals are given an opportunity [to administer to] their willing, albeit nervous, patients - the audience - all the while surrounded, taught, influenced, protected by some very seasoned professionals.”

Mr. Krikstan retired as a teacher of high school theater and English in Falls Church to plan 1st Stage, assembling a crew of former colleagues and students.

It took several months to find and secure a suitable location for the theater. Mr. Krikstan and company demolished the existing structures and oversaw construction of a classroom, library and performance space that seats about 100 people.

In the meantime, they cast their initial production, a Russian comedy called “The Suicide.”

As the paint was still drying on the walls a few months later, 1st Stage made its official debut.

Public support has increased steadily. Members of the Tysons Corner community have turned out to see “The Suicide” and the ensuing three productions.

The theater staff is now looking outward to the community and forward to find ways to serve it.

David Winkler, a graduate of Marshall High School in Falls Church, is a founding member of 1st Stage and graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Communications with a degree in theater.

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