Arena Stage last week announced a new $42,000 endowment -- the Thomas C. Fichandler Management Training Fund -- that will be used to train interns at the theater. The fund was a surprise retirement gift to Fichandler, who cofounded Arena in 1950 and served as its executive director until April 1 of this year.
Helen Hayes, Sir Oliver and Lady Marjory Wright, Arena producing director and cofounder Zelda Fichandler, arts impresario Patrick Hayes and Washington Post drama critic emeritus Richard L. Coe were among the hundreds of people who were on hand to pay tribute to Fichandler following Thursday's opening night performance of "The Taming of the Shrew."
A half-hour video highlighting Fichandler's life and career in American theater was shown, after which a representative from City Councilman Tom Wilson's office read a proclamation by the City Council, congratulating him on his accomplishments.
Zelda Fichandler called Thomas Fichandler "one blessed with the opportunity and ability to give gifts." She then turned the podium over to Arena Stage acting company member Stanley Anderson, who announced the endowment "to honor and perpetuate your extraordinary standards of theater management."
Thomas Fichandler was given a scroll that contained the names of those who had made cash gifts to the fund -- primarily members of Arena's staff, acting company, board of trustees and friends and colleagues who have worked with him during his 36-year career.
"I'm practically speechless," said Fichandler, appearing genuinely overwhelmed by the outpouring. "All I can think of is: Why did I wait so long to retire?
"I've gotten more than I've given," he continued. "I've loved every minute of it."
After the ceremony, guests adjourned to a large open tent on the Arena lawn for a light midnight dinner and, not coincidentally, the first public tasting of beer produced by Washington's new Heurich Brewery. It was a section of the original Heurich Brewery, which folded in the mid-1950s, that Arena used as its second home (dubbed the Old Vat in humorous deference to Britain's famous Old Vic theater) from 1956 to 1961.
Two new Broadway productions will have tryouts next season at Baltimore's Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. "Smile," a new Marvin Hamlisch musical based on the 1975 movie about the world of beauty pageants, will kick off the Mechanic's 1986-87 subscription series in late September. The book, lyrics and direction are by Howard Ashman, who made the same contributions to "Little Shop of Horrors."
A revival of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" is to follow and will star recent Academy Award-winner Geraldine Page and John Lithgow. Direction will be by Brian Bedford, last seen in "The Real Thing."
Three touring productions that will make four-week stops at the Mechanic were also announced -- "The Tap Dance Kid," "Cats" and "Singin' in the Rain."
Two plays to be announced will make up the balance of the theater's seven-play season -- one less than the current season. A spokesman for the Mechanic cited the high production costs of next year's plays, particularly "Cats," and a desire to keep subscription prices down as reasons for the cut. The Mechanic had 21,000 subscribers this season and 76 percent of them have already renewed for next year, the spokesman said.
Michael Kahn, the newly appointed artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger, will hold auditions June 19 for Actors Equity performers in the Washington-Baltimore area who have a background in classical theater. Next year's season will consist of four (yet to be announced) plays, three of which will be by Shakespeare. Those interested should send photos and resume's to Sally Bailey, assistant to the artistic director, the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger, 301 East Capitol St. SE, 20003.
Odds and Ends
Producers are working on transforming the movie "Arthur" into "Arthur: The Musical" for a fall 1987 Broadway opening, according to a report last week in The New York Times; no word yet on who it would star . . . Thursday's preview performance of the American National Theater production of Sophocles' "Ajax," which opens Saturday at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, will be signed for the hearing impaired; TTY number is 254-3906 . . .
Opening this week: Thursday, Sam Shepard's "True West" at the New Arts Theatre; Monday, Dario Fo's "Mr. Buffo," a one-man spectacle of music, mime and acrobatics, at the Kennedy Center's Free Theatre.
"Christmas on Mars" and "New York Mets" have been extended through Aug. 2 at the Woolly Mammmoth.