‘Oklahoma!’ to open refurbished Arena

Theater will also host Edward Albee retrospective

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After a prolonged drum roll, Arena Stage will celebrate the return next fall to its newly reconstructed D.C. campus, reopening with “Oklahoma!”

A retrospective devoted to playwright Edward Albee is central to Arena’s 2010-11 season, as well as a new-works festival and a staging of Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights.”

Artistic director Molly Smith selected the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic as a fitting vehicle to unveil the $125 million facelift of Arena’s Maine Avenue complex. The new base houses three performance spaces and supporting features under a single sweeping roof designed by Canadian architect Bing Thom.

Directed by Smith, “Oklahoma!” will bow Oct. 23 for a two-month run in the Fichandler Theater.

But the facility’s hidden gem will be the Kogod Cradle, the 200-seat oval theater created for newer works and experimental productions. Space debuts in November with the bow of “Every Tongue Confess,” an Arena commission by playwright Marcus Gardley. It also will host readings from the seven inaugural selections of the National Endowment for the Arts’ New Play Development Program, which Arena is administering.

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The Albee fest will include “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” directed by Pam MacKinnon; “At Home at the Zoo” (expanded from the early one-act “The Zoo Story”); and readings of all 30 Albee works. Arena will invite theater groups from throughout the country to participate.

The season also includes Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer winner, “Ruined,” to be helmed by Charles Randolph-Wright, and two other productions.

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