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(Richard A. Lipski - The Post)

Theater 101

Michael O'Sullivan | Washington Post Staff Writer  |  Updated 07/14/2010

The Washington area is thick with theaters, so we've put together this guide to help the novice sort out the local scene.


Ford's Theatre

Washington, DC

Recently restored, the theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot is not just vastly more comfortable and audience friendly. It also aims to make its mark artistically, with a mix of crowd-pleasers such as "Little Shop of Horrors."


Olney Theatre Center

Olney, MD

With four performance spaces of varying sizes (one outdoor stage, a barnlike historic hall, a state-of-the-art contemporary house and a small black box), the theater doesn't have a single niche.


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Washington, DC

This massive complex overlooking the Potomac River has seven stages (nine if you count the two free Millennium stages in the Grand Foyer) and is one of the best places to catch world-class talent such as Cate Blanchett, appearing in "A Streetcar Named Desire."


Round House Theatre

Bethesda, MD

Performing out of its six-year-old theater in downtown Bethesda and a satellite black box in Silver Spring, Round House features a 400-seat space notable for its wide stage (best viewed, for lovers of good set design, from the balcony). Known for often provocative adaptations of literary works, Round House can't be dismissed as a purveyor of bland, suburban entertainment.


Shakespeare Theatre Company - Harman Hall

Washington, DC

Why is the company, which also performs at Lansburgh Theatre, so good at making the greatest works in the English language accessible to a mass audience? Artistic director Michael Kahn attributes that to recruiting the best talent from around the world -- onstage and behind the scenes -- and to the theater's longer-than-usual rehearsal periods and previews.


Signature Theatre

Arlington, VA

Winner of the 2009 Tony Award for regional theater, Signature is known for reinvigorating shows from the musical-theater canon, as well as producing newer works. From the light show under the stairs to the people-watching in the lounge-like lobby, the space crackles with what artistic director Eric Shaeffer calls "creative energy."


Studio Theatre

Washington, DC

Studio, which began as an acting conservatory, features four smallish theaters, none of which puts the audience very far from the actors. "We want audiences to see them cry and laugh," says artistic director Joy Zinoman.


Woolly Mammoth Theatre

Washington, DC

It's hard to imagine, but the enfant terrible of Washington theater, known for edgy, new material, is turning 30 years old this season.


Synetic Theatre

+ Multiple Locations

Fusing original music, dance drama and a little text, the young company -- which has no permanent home -- has a way of telling stories that makes it one of the hottest tickets in town. Synetic performs its brand of intensely physical, very nearly wordless theater at the Rosslyn Spectrum, the Lansburgh Theatre and the Kennedy Center's Family Theater.


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