New Ford’s topper skeds classics

Facility has drawn financial, political support

WASHINGTON — Paul Tetreault assumed the helm of Ford’s Theater here earlier this year with a pledge to elevate the venerable institution’s programming. He hopes to do just that with an upcoming season that will include Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” and Carson McCullers’ “The Member of the Wedding.”

Tetreault, the 41-year-old former head of Houston’s Alley Theater, succeeds Frankie Hewitt, the dynamic entrepreneur who single-handedly revived the house and produced more than 150 shows before her death last year at 71.

Under Hewitt’s 32-year reign, the facility drew broad financial and political support, including an annual fundraiser that is broadcast nationally and attended by the U.S. president. She also had hits with shows such as “Godspell,” “Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Tetreault aims to build on Hewitt’s legacy with an eye toward a more consistent product. To prove the point, he has signed director Mark Lamos to stage a 50th-anniversary production of “The Matchmaker” and Marshall W. Mason to helm “Wedding,” supported by top-drawer creative teams. He plans to assemble top talent for the shows, but not necessarily stars.

The season also includes Ford’s annual staple, “A Christmas Carol,” although Tetreault promises a new adaptation with a new score by Mark Bennett. Matt August will direct. In addition, political comedian Mark Russell will make a two-week stand in January. The season ends with Deaf West’s “Big River” in a two-month co-production.

The season “will demonstrate the theater’s new commitment to showcase prodigiously talented writers, directors and actors who create compelling theater that helps define and explain who we are as Americans,” Tetreault says.

He also unveiled a new membership program called Friends of Ford’s Theater, which aims to provide the advantages of a subscription series but with more flexibility. A $50 membership enables Friends to receive the advantages of a series without committing to certain nights, seats or a full season. They also receive advance notice of ticket sales, discounted tix for specific performances, a quarterly e-newsletter and invitations to members-only events.

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