Studio Theatre partners with Planet Word Museum for new comedy play ‘English’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'English' (Part 1)

When two eloquent D.C. institutions team up, you should hang on their every word.

That’s the case with the new play “English,” running now through March 12 at Studio Theatre in Logan Circle in a special partnership with Planet Word Museum.

“This is not a play that wears its topical events very loudly, but to give a sense of what it’s like to decide you have to leave your country because you can’t make the life you want to there — that’s a space of tenderness and pain,” Studio Theatre Literary Director Adrien-Alice Hansel told WTOP.

“Funny people making hard choices is what I would say.”

Written by Iranian-American playwright Sanaz Toossi, the play is set in the spring of 2009 in Karaj, Iran where four adults study for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which is the key to their green card, medical school admission or family reunification. A comedy of miscommunication ensues over a serious of lessons and word games lost in translation.

“[Toossi] is a comic at heart and believes very deeply, especially as an Iranian-American writing this play in 2017 just as the Muslim ban was getting started, I think in that moment she was like, ‘I want to put the people that I love — the people of the Iranian diaspora — on stage with their full sense of humor and how hard it is to live your life in translation.'”

Beyond the play, Planet Word is hosting a free virtual Q&A on Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

“Adrien and the playwright Sanaz Toossi are going to join us and talk through the themes of the play and the artistry and how the play was written, trying to express these ideas of identity and language, which was so closely related to our mission and goals in the museum,” Planet Word Director of Education Caitlin Miller told WTOP.

It’s a symbiotic relationship between Studio Theatre, which used the pandemic for a huge renovation, and Planet Word, which opened at the historic Franklin School in 2020.

“We’re excited by the chance to connect with experts,” Hansel said. “Planet Word is a whole, beautiful museum about the details of language, but also the complexity of what’s spoken and unspoken in the ways that we communicate. It’s a chance to connect with word nerds!”

Register to attend the free Planet Word virtual event here.

Learn more about the Studio Theatre play and tickets here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'English' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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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