What Makes Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage One of the Most Impressive Historic Theatres in the Country | Playbill

Special Features What Makes Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage One of the Most Impressive Historic Theatres in the Country From the number of lamps used in Next to Normal to the number of casts Ben Platt wore in Dear Evan Hansen, we celebrate Arena Stage’s 70 years with notable accomplishments and wild factoids.
Arena Stage Nic Lehoux

This season, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., celebrates its 70th anniversary. Arena Stage has been a pioneer in the industry through commissioning new shows, presenting works in development—many of which have continued to Broadway—creating conversations through the Arena Civil Dialogues initiative, building community through its productions and events, and fostering artists’ careers through short-term residences, the year-long Playwrights’ Arena program, and the workshops and roundtables of the Actors’ Arena.

Arena is a theatrical institution that encourages engagement. It tackles challenging topics and innovative stagecraft. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a regular attendee.

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Here, we explore more impressive facts about the regional powerhouse by the numbers:


The number of individuals who come to Arena each year.


The number of square feet that makes up The Mead Center for American Theater (a.k.a. Arena Stage’s state-of-the art space), making it the largest regional theatre in D.C. The Mead Center turns 10 during the 2019–2020 season, though it took 11 years of planning to make it a reality.


The number of square feet of glass (arranged into 370 panes) that creates the “curtain wall” surrounding Arena Stage’s building.


The number of students reached by Arena’s education programs each year.


The approximate number of actors who have performed at Arena, including Kevin Kline, Corbin Bleu, James Earl Jones, Joe Morton, Debbie Allen, Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Victor Garber, and Mahershala Ali.


The gallons of water used to fill the custom-built pool for Arena’s production of Metamorphosis in 2013.


The feet of rope used for the set of Moby Dick in 2016.


The number of lamps used on set in 2008’s Next to Normal.


The number of script submissions Arena's literary department received in the last five years.


The number of seats at the Fichlander Stage, the largest of the three spaces at Arena. The Kreeger Theater seats 510 and the Kogod Cradles seats 202. Together, these Mead Center spaces make Arena the second largest performing arts center in D.C., behind the Kennedy Center.


The number of Helen Hayes Awards nominations Arena has received in its 70-year history.


The number of costume pieces worn by 17 actors playing over 60 characters in Robert Schekkan’s All The Way in 2016.


The pairs of shoes custom-designed for 2010’s Sophisticated Ladies.


The number of solar panels installed on the roof. This move toward renewable energy is equivalent to saving 45,231 gallons of gas annually or taking 85 cars off of the road.


The number of hats designed and made by milliner Deborah Nash in Arena’s on-site costume shop for the 2012 production of My Fair Lady. Eleven of those were handcrafted, most taking 30 hours of labor each.


The percent of fellows and interns who have graduated form Arena’s Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship and Internship Program who still work at the theatre. Named for the Tony Award–nominated lighting designer, over 700 people have graduated from the program.


The number of arm casts Ben Platt went through during his run of performances as Evan Hansen at Arena.


The number of world premieres that have been mounted at Arena since Molly Smith took over as artistic director in 1998.


The number of people it took to build the multi-ton bridge over the stage and seats for 2015’s Oliver!.


The goal number of plays Arena is set to produce in 10 years, according to the Power Plays mission. The initiative is the fusion of the D.C. theatre scene, melding politics and drama. The Power Plays include works in five cycles: Presidential Voices with plays about exceptional presidents and their lives; African-American Voices will plays that champion the stories of African-Americans in U.S. history and politics; Insider Voices with works that feature an “exclusive perspective on the complex workings of American institutions or cultures”; Musical Theater Voices with pieces that explore political events and ideas; and Women’s Voices with plays that highlight women’s contributions to politics. Among the commissioned artists are Eve Ensler, Kenneth Lin, Craig Lucas, Theresa Rebeck, and Georgia Stitt.


The number of episodes Arena’s podcast, Arena On Air.


The number of productions nurtured and produced by Arena that have gone on to Broadway, including Dear Evan Hansen.


The number of dogs that auditioned to be in the 2018 production of Anything Goes, starring Corbin Bleu.


The number of past Resident Artists, including Lydia R. Diamond and Ayad Akhtar.


The number of hours the live reading of the Mueller Report, Volume II lasted.


The number of plays written by Karen Zacarias, one of the most produced playwrights in the U.S., that have been staged at Arena. The Book Club Play was Zacarias first work, produced via Arena’s American Voices New Play Institute, which launched in 2009.


The number of countries reached by Voices of Now. This program works with middle school, high school, and adult artists to create autobiographical plays that investigate current social issues relevant to artists in their communities. Each season, the ensembles present their work in the Voices of Now Festival at Arena. The program has been brought to India, Bosnia, Croatia, Peru, and Ukraine.


The number of artistic directors in Arena’s history. Prior to current artistic director Molly Smith, Douglas Wager and Zelda Fichlander held tenure.


The number of Tony Awards Arena has won: Best Regional Theatre in 1976 and Best Musical Dear Evan Hansen in 2016.


Mission: “To galvanize the transformative power of theatre to understand who we are as Americans.”

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