- Associated Press - Friday, August 6, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - The upcoming theater season takes on a presidential flair as Barack and Michelle Obama become honorary chairs at Washington’s Arena Stage.

This year marks the inaugural re-opening of the facility, renamed the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. The not-for-profit regional theater complex has gone through extensive renovations since 2008.

The yearlong festivities kick off with a black-tie gala on Oct. 25 that includes a performance by Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell. The Obamas are expected to attend.

The theater hosted the developmental run of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Next to Normal” before it came to Broadway.

Along with the Obamas, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty and his wife, Michelle, were named co-chairs.

Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith says the support of both couples emphasizes a seminal moment for the future of American theater in the Washington area.

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