WASHINGTON — Two of D.C.’s most prominent and progressive theater companies are in transition.
Simultaneous construction projects will provide an enviable downtown address for the Woolly Mammoth Theater Co. and a dramatic extension of the Studio Theater across town. Both projects are slated for completion in fall 2004.
New home for the peripatetic Woolly will be a posh retail and residential complex at Seventh and D streets N.W. in a blossoming area near the MCI Center. It is one block away from the Shakespeare Theater, which also has launched a building project. Woolly Mammoth’s 30,000-square-foot space will include a 265-seat theater, three-tiered lobby, offices, scene shop, classroom and rehearsal hall.
At the Studio, the wrecking ball made a ceremonial swing June 4 on the first of two adjoining buildings to be incorporated into the theater’s facility at 14th and P streets N.W. The project will include three 200-seat theaters as well as a flexible raw space, rehearsal and administration areas, an entire floor of classroom space for the theater’s acting conservatory, a rooftop atrium and an expansive lobby.
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Assisted by large challenge grants from the Kresge Foundation and local arts supporters Jaylee and Gilbert Mead, the Studio is 70% to its $11 million goal. More than $1.25 million of the kitty comes from income surpluses achieved through operations, says a.d. Joy Zinoman, who founded the Studio 25 years ago. The income results from Studio’s ability to extend popular productions without disrupting its schedule, a concept that changes the dynamics of regional theater, she says.
Woolly and Studio have much in common. Both are dependable venues for edgy and offbeat material. They share a diverse audience eager to sample new works from today’s hottest playwrights. Studio is typically the first to present popular Off Broadway fare here, while Woolly seeks plays that, according to a.d. and founder Howard Shalwitz, “take an off-kilter view of life and are stylistically and intellectually provocative, political and sexually adventurous.”
Studio’s $5 million operating budget is roughly twice that of the 23-year-old Woolly.
Could Woolly’s new $6.5 million space be too, well, mammoth for the avant-garde theater? “Absolutely not,” says managing director Kevin Moore. “The building supports our mission by maximizing seating capacity while providing the intimacy Woolly audiences expect.”
He says the space will be modeled after London’s Tricycle Theater and the Cottesloe Theater at the National. It will be designed by Theater Project Consultants, which also designed the Tricycle. Bethesda, Md.-based McInturff Architects will create it.
Woolly’s upcoming five-play sked opens with Paula Vogel’s “The Mineola Twins,” featuring Sarah Marshall, and ends with the world premiere of Angus MacLachlan’s “The Radiant Abyss,” which is commissioned by Woolly through its partnership with A.S.K. Theater Projects. The season also includes “Cooking With Elvis,” a dark comedy by British playwright Lee Hall; Tony Kushner’s “Homebody/Kabul,” a co-production with D.C.’s Theater J; and a new solo work from Latina comedian Marga Gomez called “Los Big Names.”
Studio’s next season will offer “Topdog/Underdog” by Suzan-Lori Parks; “The Life of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht, adapted by David Hare; the U.S. premiere of Peter Gill’s “The York Realist”; Caryl Churchill’s “Far Away”; and “The Cripple of Inishmaan” by Martin McDonagh. Its non-Equity Second Stage will include “Four” by Christopher Shinn and “The Who’s Tommy.”