December 23, 2009

Brief Thoughts on the Year in DC Theatre

RIP Journeyman Theatre Ensemble and Catalyst Theatre, well before their time. JTE got a Helen Hayes nom in '06, and Catalyst took Best Ensemble for "Arturo Ui." Several factors, particularly the economy, contributed to their demises. There are likely a few similar small companies that are on life support, many of which have also done solid work in the recent past. Some other companies are resorting to safer choices, known quantities, more musicals, and jobbed-in shows. With some exceptions, innovative productions are more likely to be seen at Cap Fringe.

A few fortunate companies have managed to distinguish themselves even in this climate, most notably Constellation Theatre and Forum Theatre, graduating to the mid-to-upper echelon of the theatre scene and establishing Mr Dove and Ms Stockman as the next generation's Shalwitz and Zimmerman. Kudos also to Landless Theatre, another small company that seems to be making strides in attracting the holy 35-and-under demographic. American Century put together some solid productions this year, particularly "Seascape" which was the best thing I've seen them do.

One hopes to see Washington Stage Guild, in limbo for nearly 2 years preparing for their new home and dealing with the passing of their founder and artistic director, back in action. Similarly, Washington Shakespeare Company is preparing to move to the new space in Rosslyn next fall, although it will require a sustained fundraising effort both to move there and to stay.

Lots of theatre companies are hunkering down in the wake of the economy, focusing on their core company members. Consequently a lot of actors that could count on steady work are suddenly finding themselves rather unemployed, filling their days understudying, doing readings, producing Fringe shows, and seeing other peoples' shows. Or just me.

Best shows I saw this year: Arcadia (Folger), Crazyface (Constellation), Seascape (American Century). I'd probably include a couple Forum shows if I was actually able to see them =)

What I don't particularly like is how the Post and CityPaper, in their theatrical year-in-review articles, listed a "Worst Of" list along with their "Best Of". Really, what is gained by "Worst Of's?" Of course, I speak as a co-director of a play that was included in the Post's "Worst Of" list in '08. Considering what we went thru in getting the show together (as a last-minute replacement for another cancelled show), all the cobbling together, all the compromise, all the crap reviews, tiny audiences, sweltering conditions and the fortune we lost on it, the Worst Of listing was just another kick to the ribs, six months after the corpse had been buried. Maybe this is atypical of the other "Worst Of's", or maybe not. Still, enough already.