Q&A: Kennedy Center hosts annual Page to Stage New Play Festival

August 21, 2019

Courtesy Lauren Fells

June 16, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

The next great play might be right under our noses, so get in on the ground floor.

The 18th annual Page to Stage New Play Festival returns to the Kennedy Center from Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, showcasing exciting new works in development.

“Page to Stage was one of the first iterations of the Kennedy Center pulling the curtain back to showcase and support the creative process as opposed to just focusing on the final product,” said Diana Ezerins, director of public programs at the Kennedy Center.

“Arena, Signature and a number of other theaters in the region came to the Kennedy Center [18 years ago], seeking a platform to showcase new works in development created by and for D.C. audiences.”

This year, 76 D.C.-area theaters will perform free readings and rehearsals of productions in development by local playwrights, librettists and composers.

“The only requirement is that it must be a D.C.-area playwright presenting the work in an upcoming season through a D.C.-area theater company,” Ezerins said.

“We’re all over the building, upstairs, downstairs and in every corner,” Ezerins said. “For the first year, we’re actually using the Concert Hall as one of the spaces. This is the largest year ever, [and] we are truly bursting at the seams. We’re at all the lounges; we’re at Millennium Stage; we may or may not be using a REACH location depending how things transpire over the next couple of weeks, but it is looking likely that audiences will get a sneak peek at these new spaces.”

How does the audience experience work?

“The audience is a critical part of Page to Stage,” Ezerins said. “An audience member will arrive, it’ll be a very festive, inviting environment. … They will receive a book where they can determine their own journey. … For the most part, the audience will be part of the original presentation of this work. Most have a talkback afterward that helps craft the play’s journey from page to stage.”

Don’t expect lots of sets, costumes and props — this is the kernel of the idea.

“This is all stuff in the creation process,” Ezerins said. “You will only see chairs and music stands with the scripts on the stands. They are often trying out actors at the very beginning stages, sometimes it’s the first read-through, the directors are there, so for the most part, just reading. Sometimes it’s more involved like the musicals have been rehearsed and songs performed, but it’s super bare bones.”

How are the works chosen to participate in the first place?

“All of the productions being presented have already been selected to be produced in full by a theater company,” Ezerins said. “If there is a screening process for what pieces are going to be presented at Page to Stage, it’s that they have already had a sign-on from a theater company to present it. … This is the first public presentation for all of these works and most of them will end up on stage in a fully-produced fashion over the course of the season or two or three.”

Are there any success stories from previous years?

“Theatre Prometheus did ‘Abortion Road Trip’ at Page to Stage a few years ago, then it went to the Capital Fringe Festival and caused a bit of a stir because of the controversial message,” Ezerins said. “That one stands out because it got a lot of press, but it was very successful and won an award at Capital Fringe.”

No matter your taste, there truly is something for everyone.

“We have a variety of events that represent artists from all quadrants of the city, life experiences from all quadrants of the city, and all ages.” Ezerins said. “It truly is something for everyone and represents the D.C. community quite vibrantly.”

Here is a list of this year’s participating theaters:

4615 Theatre
Adventure Theatre MTC
African-American Collective Theater (ACT)
Arts on the Horizon
ArtStream, Inc.
Baltimore Playwrights Festival
Best Medicine Rep
Bowie State University
Brave Soul Collective
Briar Road Productions
Catholic University of America
Company Lambe-Lambe
Conscience Drama Directive
Crash of Rhinos
D.R. Creative Collab
Dance and Bmore
Factory 449
Federal Theatre Project
Ford’s Theatre
Georgetown University
Guillotine Theatre Company
Happy Theater
Huemanati Artist Collective
InterAct Story Theatre
Liberated Muse Arts Group
Monumental Theatre Company
Mosaic Theater Company
Naked Theatre Company
Nu Sass Productions
One Off Productions
Pinky Swear Productions
Pipeline Playwrights
Playwrights Collaborative
Playwrights Group of Baltimore
Project 2020
Radiator Productions
Rainbow Theatre Project
Reliant Theatre
Rep Stage
Safe Streets Arts Foundation
Scena Theatre
Seventh Street Playhouse
Sir Harvey Fitz Productions
Spooky Action Theater
Synetic Theater
The Highwood Theatre
The In Series
The Indian Ocean Theatre Company
The Interrobang Theatre Company
The Law Theater Project
The Rose Theatre Co.
The Washington Rogues
The Welders
Theatre Prometheus
Three Princes Theatre
Tonic Theater Company
Too Much Damn (TMD) Theater
Transformation Theatre, Inc.
Unexpected Stage Company
Unknown Penguin
Venus Theatre Company
Voices Unbarred
Washington Improv Theater
Washington Stage Guild
Washington Women in Theatre
Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT)

Find more details on the Kennedy Center website. Hear our full convo below:

June 16, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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