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.”
And, of the playwright residencies, Smith says, “There are plays in gestation now that I have hopes will end up in the Kogod Cradle.” And she also says the new theater should not be viewed strictly as a playwrights’ space.
“I would like it to also be a space where actors come in and want to do work,” Smith says. “It’s an imaginative space for artists in terms of risk-taking.”
Track the publicity back nine years and the Cradle message raised hopes of a more direct and consistent link to new works, fully staged and publicly performed. With its intentionally pregnant name, the Cradle was devised to birth original material and to protect new plays — an exceptionally delicate breed of theater, as the public is frequently reminded — from the pressure of having to fill Arena’s two bigger spaces, the 514-seat Kreeger and the 683-seat in-the-round Fichandler.
In 2004, Smith said a key reason for a costly expansion and the third theater was because Arena felt handcuffed when it came to new material. “This is where finances come in,” Smith told the Post, describing her programming choices for the 2004-05 season, when a classic, a musical and a Pulitzer winner edged out the untested works being considered. “We realized we can’t do any brand-new plays by living authors.” At that time, Smith and the staff talked about the bright future when the Cradle would set them free to stage new works.
At the moment, Kathleen Turner has sold out the Cradle, fetching as much as $143 per ticket, for “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.” The show has been as big a publicity bonanza as the company has ever seen, thanks to Turner’s tireless stumping for this monologue about the late political columnist.
But: “That’s not ostensibly what the Cradle was built for,” says Todd London, artistic director of New Dramatists in New York and author of “Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play. “That’s what the Cradle was supposed to be inoculated against.”