“Amsterdam at the time was supposedly this incredibly enlightened place, at the forefront of progressive thinking,” Strain said. “And yet in that community, Jewish people, while given more freedoms than probably anyplace else in the world at the time, were still living under an oppressive eye.” Even among his own people, Spinoza’s nonconformist view of religion led him to “be condemned, be considered dangerous.”
Today, he said, “I think we all think we’re living in a very progressive, open, free-thinking society.” Yet, “I think we’re all ultimately afraid of thinking outside the box, and I think the play really gets at that idea. We still consider ideas that are very challenging to the norm to be very frightening.”
“New Jerusalem” sold out when it was produced at Theater J in 2010, and many people from the original cast and crew, including director Jeremy Skidmore, are returning. Cast member Eliza Bell moved to Australia and has been replaced with Colleen Delany. Spinoza’s love interest, Clara, was played by Lauren Culpepper, who’s currently in “Really Really” at Signature Theatre. Clara will now be played by Emma Jaster.
Feb. 29 to April 1, 1529 16th St. NW, washingtondcjcc.org/
Arena looks ahead
Arena Stage’s 2012-13 season will center on the themes of change and transformation, Artistic Director Molly Smith said.
“I think it’s where some of the most powerful dramas are,” Smith said. The other focus of the season is class. “Oftentimes in America, people talk about how there aren’t class divides in America. But there are and have always been.”
The season will open in late September with “One Night with Janis Joplin” in the Kreeger Theater, featuring a number of Joplin’s iconic songs. “My Fair Lady” will be the season’s second show, scheduled for November in the Fichandler Stage.
A world-premiere co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre, “Pullman Porter Blues,” will open in late November. “Pullman” takes place on a train headed to New Orleans from Chicago on the night of the championship prizefight between Joe Louis and James Braddock. A blues band will be onstage for the 14 songs, a mix of original numbers and classics.
“Good People,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay Abaire, is about a single mother facing eviction who reunites with a now well-to-do ex. It will open in the Kreeger Theater next February. Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of“Metamorphoses,” based on Ovid’s mythologies, will also open in February.
“Mary T. & Lizzy K.,” a world premiere commissioned by Arena, will open in mid-March 2013 in the Kogod Cradle. The titular women are Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, the freed slave Elizabeth Keckley, and the play is the first commission of Arena’s American Presidents Project.