1st Stage, Alex Levy, Arena Stage, Cabaret, Dani Stoller, DC Theatre, Doubt, Hair, Keegan Theatre, Kennedy Center, Maria Rizzo, National Theatre, Old Wicked Songs, One Man Two Guvnors, Paul Scanlan, Shakespeare Theatre, Signature Theatre, Take Me Out, The Good Counselor, theatreWashington
Many people are unaware that Washington, DC is a theatre town. As a theatre town, there is more to its theatre scene than big performing arts centers, like The Kennedy Center and Arena Stage, or Tony Award-Winning theatres, like Shakespeare Theatre or Signature Theatre. While many people may have also heard of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, recognized for producing contemporary new plays that sometimes go on to Broadway, or the National Theatre, known for presenting major touring musicals, most have not heard of our area’s smaller professional theatres. There are many, many options, all listed on theatreWashington’s website, but of these, two have come to mean a lot to me: Keegan Theatre and 1st Stage.
Since discovering 1st Stage and Keegan Theatre in the DC area, I have been spreading the word about these two small theatres producing ambitious plays and musicals that take advantage of their intimate spaces. 1st Stage is located in a strip mall in Tysons, Virginia, and Keegan Theatre is located off of Church Street near DuPont Circle. Although you could walk or drive by both theatres and not even realize they are there, both have been making a splash on the DC theatre scene for some time, earning many Helen Hayes Awards nominations and winning several Helen Hayes Awards over the years.
Keegan Theatre began nearly two decades ago. My first performance there was Working in 2011, and since then, I have been back for every show I could catch. In 2013, Keegan’s stunning production of Cabaret ignited my love for the musical and the careers two young actors in the DC area, Paul Scanlan and Maria Rizzo, who thankfully I had seen in previous shows and initially had attended a performance to see their takes on the famous roles of the Emcee and Sally Bowles respectively. Meanwhile, this past spring, Keegan’s daring, sold-out production of Hair may win several Helen Hayes Awards next year. Because of the theatre’s success, Keegan now owns the building that houses their theatre, which is under renovation to make the accommodations more comfortable, useful and accessible. As soon as this theatre is ready to produce its next season, I’ll be there.
1st Stage is newer to the DC theatre scene as it is less than a decade old. Nonetheless, the theatre is amidst some exciting changes, with the opening of a Silver Line metro station down the street from the theatre and the start of a new Artistic Director, Alex Levy. I first learned this theatre existed (only five minutes from where I live) in 2012 when I saw Flora the Red Menace. I was incredibly impressed by the talent I saw on stage, particularly that of the lead, Dani Stoller, backed by strong off stage support. Since then, like with Keegan, I have seen every show I could there. The past two holiday shows have garnered great success for the theatre: Altar Boyz and Noises Off. This fall, the theatre embarks on a bold season, featuring Take Me Out, One Man, Two Guvnors, Doubt, a Parable, Old Wicked Songs, and The Good Counselor. I recommend you get your tickets to their forthcoming season early, especially if you want to see the comedy coming to the theatre over the holidays, One Man, Two Guvnors.
Both of these theatres have been making an impact on the DC theatre scene since their founding. I look forward to seeing how Keegan Theatre and 1st Stage evolve as they “grow up”.