Shakespeare Theater's output will expand

The debut of a spanking new facility will expand the output of D.C.’s Shakespeare Theater Company beginning next season, while at the Kennedy Center, a year-long renovation of its Eisenhower Theater stage will mean a more streamlined sked in 2007-08.

The Shakespeare Theater finally gets to cut the ribbon on its 775-seat Sidney Harman Hall in October with a production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine,” featuring Avery Brooks. The new downtown theater, part of the org’s Harman Center for the Arts, looks set to become an important new venue for local and visiting arts groups. It also enables the theater to expand its sked from five to eight plays next season and offer repertory perfs, allowing auds to catch up to three plays during certain weeks.

Supported by its 450-seat Lansburgh Theater, the company’s new season will include three Shakespeares (“The Taming of the Shrew” directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman, “Julius Caesar” directed by David Muse, and “Antony and Cleopatra” staged by a.d. Michael Kahn). In addition, the theater will present George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara,” Marlowe’s “Edward II,” Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” and Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of “Argonautika.”

To meet its new obligations, the theater has increased its budget from the current season’s $15.2 million to $18 million and added 49 new full-time staffers. Its repertory perfs of Marlowe and Shakespeare are part of a campaign to expand the theater’s base to out-of-town audiences and become an East Coast arts destination.

In addition to the Shakespeare’s own offerings, the new Harman Hall will host productions next season by the Washington Bach Consort, Capital Fringe Festival, CityDance Ensemble, Dance Place, Summer Opera Theater Company, Washington Ballet and Washington Performing Arts Society.

At the Kennedy Center, next season will be highlighted by “August Wilson’s 20th Century,” staged readings of the late playwright’s complete 10-play cycle, also known as the Pittsburgh cycle. As noted earlier, the readings will be staged next March with scenery, lighting and costumes, offering a rare opportunity for auds to view Wilson’s entire epic reflection on the life of African Americans through each decade.

Longtime Wilson associate and frequent director Kenny Leon will serve as the festival’s artistic director. Other directors will include Lou Bellamy, Gordon Davidson, Todd Kreidler and Derrick Sanders. The readings will be staged at the KenCen’s Terrace Theater.

The season also will include tour stops by “My Fair Lady” and “The Lion King,” as well as a series of cabaret performances by Barbara Cook and others.

A two-week festival of arts from Japan next February will include a Kennedy Center commission of Amon Miyamoto’s “Boonah: The Musical,” a children’s tuner to be staged at the Center’s new Family Theater.

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