Arena Stage has unveiled its complete 2020–2021 season, which, as previously announced, will kick off with the world-premiere new musical American Prophet: Frederick Douglass In His Own Words. The lineup also includes Change Agent, a new play about a pivotal moment in American history by Tony-nominated playwright Craig Lucas; Nathan Alan Davis' The High Ground, which examines the legacy of Black Wall Street; and the world premiere of Enlightenment, in which Theresa Rebeck takes on witchcraft, equality, and women’s rights in 1776.
Rounding out the programming will be a Corbin Bleu-led Catch Me If You Can, Britta Johnson's musical Life After, Pearl Cleage’s Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous, a revival of Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage's Crumbs From the Table of Joy, Mike Daisey's solo show about the climate emergency, The Change, and a Seema Sueko-helmed Rashomon.
In July, the season kicks off with the American Prophet: Frederick Douglass In His Own Words. Featuring a book by Charles Randolph-Wright (Motown), who also directs, and music by Grammy winner Marcus Hummon (who also co-wrote the book), the musical chronicles the life and legacy of human rights leader Frederick Douglass, to be played by Cornelius Smith Jr. (ABC’s Scandal, All My Children). Known as one of the greatest leaders of the abolitionist movement, Douglass was a prominent activist, author, orator, and statesman. Performances will run July 10–August 16.
In September, Rebeck will direct her new play Enlightenment (September 11–October 18), followed by Daisey's The Change (October 9–November 1).
In October, Arena Stage will present the musical stage adaptation of Catch Me If You Can, directed by artistic director Molly Smith and starring Bleu (Kiss Me, Kate) as the infamous Frank Abagnale Jr. Based on true events and the hit film, the Tony-nominated musical features a book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman. Parker Esse will choreograph, with performances set to run October 23–December 13.
Continuing the fall programming, Arena Stage teams up with Denver Center Theatre Company and Hartford Stage for Cleage's Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous. Susan V. Booth directs the comedy, scheduled to run November 12–December 20.
The new year kicks off with a production of Johnson’s Life After, a bittersweet new musical that explores the mess and beauty of loss and love, directed by Annie Tippe and choreographed by Ann Yee (January 15–February 21), alongside Fay Kanin and Michael Kanin's Rashomon, directed by Seema Sueko (February 5–March 7).
Also in February will be Whiting Award winner Davis' The High Ground, in which the legacy of Black Wall Street, a once thriving community destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa race riots, lingers in the mind of an African-American soldier. Megan Sandberg-Zakian directs the production, February 26– April 11.
In the spring, Hana S. Sharif directs Nottage's coming-of-age story set in 1950s Brooklyn, Crumbs From the Table of Joy (April 2–May 2), followed by the world premiere of Lucas' Change Agent, which will conclude the season. Directed by Smith, the new play imagines conversations between figures from American history in the 1960s who were celebrated, controversial, and unsung, but whose voices were responsible for influencing major decisions that are still shaping the country today. Performances will run April 23–May 30.
“Luscious. This is one of our most ambitious seasons yet with five world premieres, four Power Plays and three musicals,” said artistic director Smith in a statement. “This season is full of con men and saints, strong comedies and terrific dramas and so much music! It’s a joy to see our Power Play commissioning program yield such remarkable and diverse stories—from 1770s to 1920s to 1960s to right now.”
The four Power Plays, commissioned by the theatre, are Lucas' Change Agent, Davis' The High Ground, Rebeck's Enlightenment, and Daisey's The Change. Subscription packages are now on sale and may be purchased by calling Arena Stage at (202) 488-3300 or by visiting arenastage.org.