Arena Stage announces robust lineup for September reopening

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Arena Stage (Part 1)

Live in-person performances will return to D.C.’s Arena Stage in September.

The 72nd season will mark a return to the stage after a year of virtual presentations.

“Arena is definitely roaring back!” Artistic Director Molly Smith said. “The Earth is shaking beneath our feet as the world shifts on its axis once again and welcomes us back to the theater. Our 2021/22 season is a unique combination of champagne and soul. … This has been a year of soulful introspection, but, yes, we need the bubbly overflowing with a big, fun musical too.”

Here’s a look at the upcoming 2021-2022 season:

‘Toni Stone’ (Sept. 3 – Oct. 3, 2021)

The season kicks off with Lydia R. Diamond’s “Toni Stone,” based on the true story of the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues. Pam MacKinnon directs this inspiring story that shines a light on one of history’s greatest trailblazers. For a special one-night-only event in September, “Toni Stone” will be simulcast to the center field videoboard in Nationals Park.

‘Celia and Fidel’ (Oct. 8 – Nov. 21, 2021)

In October, Eduardo Machado’s “Celia and Fidel” will make its return after being forced to close on opening night in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Arena’s seventh “Power Play” imagines a conversation between Cuba’s most influential female revolutionary, Celia Sanchez, and its most notorious political leader, Fidel Castro, in a contest between morality and power.

‘Seven Guitars’ (Nov. 26 – Dec. 26, 2021)

In November, Tazewell Thompson returns to direct August Wilson’s fifth cycle play “Seven Guitars.” Infused with deep and soaring blues rhythms, this heartfelt classic follows the cycle of life, love, pain, suffering and joy of seven lives who are reconnected following an untimely death. Arena has produced nine out of the 10 plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle.

‘Change Agent’ (Jan. 21 – March 6, 2022)

Arena’s eighth “Power Play” makes its premiere in the new year with “Change Agent.” This provocative tale, written and directed by Craig Lucas dramatically conjures celebrated, controversial and unsung figures in American history surrounding pivotal events in the 1960s.

‘Catch Me If You Can’ (March 4 – April 17, 2022)

Based on true events and the hit film by Steven Spielberg, Corbin Bleu returns to step into the role of the notorious con man Frank Abagnale Jr. Directed by Molly Smith, this high-flying musical sensation features the hit songs “Don’t Break the Rules”, “Live in Living Color” and “Doctor’s Orders” with a cool jazz score packed with glamour and charm for the entire family.

‘Cambodian Rock Band’ (April 12 – May 15, 2022)

In the spring, Arena will kick off the first North American tour of Lauren Yee’s acclaimed play “Cambodian Rock Band.” This darkly humorous, electrifying work tells the story of a father and daughter as they confront the legacy of the Khmer Rouge. A thrilling mystery meets a rock concert in this passionate story about survivors, family and the enduring power of music.

Step Afrika! presents ‘Drumfolk’ (May 31 – June 26, 2022)

Next summer, Step Afrika! presents “Drumfolk,” a rhythmic storytelling of the history of African-American percussive traditions inspired by the Stono Rebellon of 1739. Africans lost the right to use their drums, but the beats found their way into the bodies of the people. It’s the first of three productions in a three-year partnership between Arena Stage and Step Afrika!.

‘American Prophet: Frederick Douglass in His Own Words’ (July 15 – Aug. 8, 2022)

The season wraps with the world-premiere musical “American Prophet: Frederick Douglass in His Own Words.” Powered by Douglass’ own writing, Charles Randolph-Wright directs soaring new melodies by Grammy winner Marcus Hummon for a daring and heart-stirring musical that dramatizes Douglass as a young, fierce abolitionist and distinguished orator.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Arena Stage (Part 2)

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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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