When Arena Stage moved into its newly expanded $135 million complex two years ago, the company aggressively courted a reputation as a national leader in the field of new American plays. Arena had erected a brand-new theater specifically tailored to producing new, riskier works, and it was the recipient of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar grant supporting seven writers whose plays would be produced at Arena. The hype was huge in Washington and throughout the not-for-profit theater world.
But by spring 2013, Arena will not have produced a single new work by any of its funded writers, all of whom will be at or near the end of their three-year residencies. And the Kogod Cradle — the state-of-the-art, 200-seat theater that helped drive Arena’s debt-inducing expansion — will have gone two years between premiering new American works.
Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith says she is comfortable with the Cradle’s programming record. The new space is “a cradle for first, second and third productions of new work,” Smith says, “and to cradle risk.” She defines “risk” broadly: as an example, Smith says it “could be if someone had a different interpretation of a classic American play. That would be a wonderful space to do it in.”