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Washington area theater reviewer folds Potomac Stages Web site

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By Jane Horwitz
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

After eight years of reviewing every theatrical event on Washington area stages, marathon theater lover Brad Hathaway is closing his Web site, PotomacStages.com.

Hathaway and his wife, Teddie, a Capitol Hill staffer who is retiring next year, plan to move to a houseboat in Sausalito, Calif., and start a new life near their adult children. Before they leave, Hathaway will review plays for online and print publications and work on a couple of nontheatrical projects.

The California-born Hathaway, 65, was a Hill staffer, too (that's how he met Teddie), until he retired in the late 1990s and began writing about theater. He reviewed for online sites such as the now-defunct theatre.com and for Northern Virginia's Connection newspapers.

He launched PotomacStages.com in 2001, with Teddie as webmaster. After about three years, the site's expenses were covered by advertising. Hathaway said their free e-mail update went to about 3,000 subscribers a week.

Hathaway intended to cover all productions -- Arena Stage, dinner theater, community theater and everything in between (with frequent jaunts to Broadway). He's an unapologetic booster of all Washington area stages.

"It never occurred to me that there was a reason to draw a distinction between community theater and professional theater," Hathaway said. "It's true that professional theater has more resources to throw at things . . . but there have been some absolutely astonishingly marvelous evenings of theater in community theater."

He cited the Hard Bargain Players in Accokeek and their 2006 "Floyd Collins" and the Arlington Players' 2004 production of "The Miracle Worker."

"I'm much too positive to be a critic," Hathaway said. "I'm a reviewer, and my job is to tell my readers what's good about the show and what kind of show it is and, if necessary, tell them what's wrong with it."

But he doesn't accentuate the negative: "Out of the 2,000 shows I have reviewed, I can count on the fingers of one hand those that had absolutely nothing good about them."

As a musical theater "freak," Hathaway said, high points for him came with the Kennedy Center's 2002 Sondheim Celebration and multiple shows at Signature Theatre.

He also spent a year helping to organize the 2008 Theatre Critics Association conference, which was held in the Washington area and attended by about 135 out-of-town reviewers. Observing them in a Q&A with actors George Hearn and Chita Rivera after a performance of "The Visit" at Signature made the always cheerful Hathaway even cheerier.

"I sat there watching the critics come to the conclusion that this is a fabulous theater town," he said. "There was a great deal of pride for me in that."


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