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Arena’s Molly Smith, others in theater community join gun-control march

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Molly Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage, remembers exactly how she felt when she first heard news of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.: “It was as if the unthinkable had happened.” Her partner, American Indian activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy, said, “Somebody needs to do a march,” and Smith realized who those somebodies needed to be. “Within the next day, we decided that we needed to lead a march, to get people together to make this happen.”

The resulting March on Washington for Gun Control (which has no affiliation with Arena Stage, Smith said she’s doing this “as a private citizen”) will take place on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. It “is absolutely focused on legislative change,” said Smith, rattling off the list of what she hopes the rally can help achieve: “Reinstating the assault weapons ban, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring background checks, focusing on gun-safety training and outlawing bullets that shatter in the body.”

The march begins at the Reflecting Pool on Third Street NW and ends by the Washington Monument. Its expected cost is $49,000 (for the sound system, stage, first-aid tent, some advertising, water and more); Smith estimates they’ve raised just over half that so far. Excess money will go toward an organization that “is focused on gun legislation,” Smith said. The march is co-sponsored by One Million Moms for Gun Control, Trinity United Church of Christ, Foundry United Methodist Church and the Washington National Cathedral.

D.C. Council members and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will attend, Smith said, along with the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior pastor of Foundry; Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D); Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard; and Shannon Watts from One Million Moms for Gun Control. Thousands of people have pledged on Facebook to participate. Signature Theatre Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner has organized a group of performers from area theaters who’ll be singing “Imagine,” and D.C. theater staple Nova Payton will sing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

The rally will continue with a 3 p.m. performance of “Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People” at Georgetown University followed by a “theater action” to support gun control at 5 p.m. staged by NoPassport theater alliance. That event — produced in collaboration with Theater J, interdisciplinary arts ensemble force/collision and Twinbiz — will be at Georgetown University’s Gonda Theatre and features new work by playwrights including Matthew Paul Olmos, Neil LaBute, Jennifer Maisel and Caridad Svich, who is spearheading the project.

“The plays aren’t necessarily about action but [are] about emotional responses to the tragedy in Newtown and other tragedies,” said John Moletress, founder of force/collision. “It’s not just about protestation.”

Smith said the response, especially from the theater community, has been overwhelming. “What I’ve really found is that people have really moved into a moment where they are saying: enough.”

For more information about the March on Washington for Gun Control, go to facebook.com/GunCtrlMarch.

On directing while dating

“It’s like any relationship,” says Michael Innocenti of his co-direction of “Cabaret” at the Keegan Theatre with Christina A. Coakley. “There are times when you have to fight for what you think is right. You have to be willing to debate. And then there are other times when you have to compromise and relent, mainly so that she can continue to want to sleep with me.”

Okay, so technically this co-directionship is not “like any relationship,” because it is like the out-of-office relationship Innocenti and Coakley have enjoyed for five years: a romantic (and often professional) partnership.

Although a person, if inclined, could point out how such a pairing could lead to disaster — “I think he should enter stage left.” “I’m not feeling stage left.” “Well what are you feeling?” “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me, since you seem to know everything.” Etc. — but Innocenti and Coakley insist that’s not the case.

“I would imagine if you weren’t in a personal relationship and doing this, it would be a different type of tension,” Innocenti said. “You can’t go home, calm down and realize you still love each other and want to make each other happy.”

Both Innocenti, 32, and Coakley, 26, have long histories with Keegan. Innocenti has worked there for seven years, by his count acting in 20 shows and production-managing more than 50. Coakley has been at Keegan since 2007, working on 20 productions as a stage manager and assistant director. “Cabaret” is the fourth show she’s directed. Both are executive staff members at Keegan.

For “Cabaret,” they agreed from the start not to “put too much director concept into a show,” said Coakley, because doing so “is not respectful to the production itself. [But] we also want to be original and have our own thoughts and ideas infused into the production.”

Innocenti and Coakley know that there are some in Theaterland who think the standard slate of musicals ought to be shelved more often in favor of newer works. “But we know there are large swaths of the population who have never seen these shows live,” Innocenti said. “They do speak through the generations. There’s a group of people who’ve never seen it. Why ignore it?”

Saturday to Feb. 23 at 1742 Church St. NW. 703-892-0202. www.keegantheatre.com.

Cheaper way to Studio gala

Studio Theatre’s annual gala will feature a special guest: master sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay, who is creating a show for the occasion. Tickets could set you back anywhere from $450 to $25,000 unless you score one of the 100 tickets that Studio is selling to the general public for $100 a pop. One ticket gets you into the show and the afterparty (dancing, drinking, mingling). Call 202-332-3300 if you want in; first come, first served.

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