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What's on Stage in April

A look at some of Washington's major theater debuts

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, April 1, 2005;

It's no April Fool's Day joke: August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson" opens at Arena Stage on April 1. The noted playwright's second Pulitzer Prize winner centers on the history of one family, which is inextricably bound to an old piano on the verge of being sold. As always, don't forget to take advantage of Arena's many discount ticket deals. (April 1-May 15)

Anxious to take your kids to see Debbie Allen's "Dancing in the Wings"? Then you'd better leap into action as fast as you can. Some seats still remain for the April 8 evening and April 15 matinee performances of this otherwise sold-out, family-oriented show about a clumsy girl aching to become a ballerina. Written, directed and choregraphed by dancer-extraordinaire Allen and performed in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, it's one your precious little pirouetters are likely to love. Tickets can be purchased online at www.kennedy-center.org or at the center's box office. (April 8-16)

Local theater actress Jennifer Mendenhall
Local theater actress Jennifer Mendenhall
Helen Hayes Award winner Jennifer Mendenhall aims to captivate audiences again with her performance in "Electra" at MetroStage. (Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)

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One of the most significant moments in theater history had nothing to do with a stage performance. It was the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and it occurred 140 years ago this month at Washington's Ford's Theatre. To commemorate the tragedy, Ford's will host a series of dramatic readings (including Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain!") and historic retellings of the events surrounding Lincoln's murder as well as the landmark's history. Mark your calendar for April 14 and 15; the hour-long program will repeat six times each day.

"The Clandestine Marriage": Sounds like a description of the nuptials between Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, doesn't it? Actually, it's the name of a romantic comedy set in 18th-century England that opens this month at the Folger Theatre. J. Lo's not starring in it, but Washington area stage vets Catherine Flye, Michael Tolaydo and Ted Van Griethuysen are. And that's good enough for us. (April 15-May 22)

What do you get when you cross an astrophysicist, a funeral for a beekeeper and an homage to William Shakespeare's "Hamlet"? The answer is "Humble Boy," a play from British writer Charlotte Jones that's coming to D.C. courtesy of Washington Stage Guild. Performances will be held this month beginning April 21 at Arena Stage at 14th and T. (April 21-May 22)

Jennifer Mendenhall scored her seventh Helen Hayes nomination this year for her role in Woolly Mammoth's "Grace." Assuming her star turn in the upcoming "Electra" -- Sophocles's Greek tragedy about murder and revenge -- is in keeping with the talented actress's track record, she may well get an eighth nod at this time next year. To see what the Helen Hayes winner (she nabbed one back in 1989) can do, head to MetroStage beginning April 21. (April 21-May 29)

April is a big month for Woolly Mammoth. Its first production in an ongoing partnership with the University of Maryland's Department of Theatre -- Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class" (April 21-May 7) -- debuts at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center April 21. Tickets for performances during the two-week run are just $20. And while it doesn't hit the stage until May, tickets for "Big Death and Little Death" (May 10-June 12) -- the first play to be performed in Woolly Mammoth's new venue at Seventh and D Streets -- go on sale April 18. Performances begin May 10, with pay-what-you-cans on the 10th and 11th. To grab seats as soon as they become available, visit www.woollymammoth.net or call 202-393-3939.

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