This content is provided by Arena Stage.
This is a thrilling time to be telling stories that matter.
During this time of being separated from our physical theater because of COVID-19, Arena Stage is passionate about the stories we tell, the people we honor, and the voices we engage. Arena Stage’s building may be closed but we have been working overtime to contribute to the culture and radical change happening in our region.
Arena has created a locally based and sourced film, The 51st State, a theatrical docudrama created by interviewing Washingtonians for their differing opinions and experiences about the protests after the murder of George Floyd, the growing movement for racial justice and Washington’s fight for sovereignty as the 51st State. Writers did the interviews and wrote the monologues, directors directed actors to get to the meat of each 5-minute story and we filmed on location around Ben’s Chili Bowl, Woolly Mammoth and the federal city and at a private brownstone. These stories are in response to the protests after the murder of George Floyd, the growing movement for racial justice and DC’s fight for sovereignty as the 51st State.
The film features 10 monologues inspired by interviews with 11 diverse individuals (including one couple) who live in Washington, D.C. From a first-time protestor to a fourth-generation Washingtonian political scientist, to artists, an attorney, people of faith, and a retired couple moved to take part in the movement despite the COVID-19 risks, these diverse perspectives and real-life stories are vividly told and transformed into affecting narratives by 10 local playwrights. If you’re looking for a cohesion of experience—you won’t find it here. These voices are distinctive and present a real range of opinions.
We pivoted our artistic efforts and debuted LOOKING FORWARD, with a Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter online season. Looking Forward is how we will come together as a community around the powerful issues facing us today. In June, Arena Stage premiered May 22, 2020, an online docudrama that took one day in time during this historic pandemic as viewed through eyes of Washington area residents from a variety of walks of life, and Inside Voices: a film by Arena Stage’s Voices of Now Ensembles is a time capsule of the lives of over 130 young people creating art through a devised theater process. These were both powerful pieces that displayed the emotions of living in a pandemic. Docudramas are immediate and full of individual stories. Newspapers do a brilliant job of this type of storytelling and now you have an opportunity to experience this hyper-local docudrama about a city in transition through The 51st State—join us through watching the film and then go back on Arena’s site to see the other films. What an amazing and overwhelming time to live in, in the midst of a pandemic with tragedy after tragedy and yet people coming together for real and positive change.
About Arena Stage
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org