The Keegan Theatre, a young Arlington-based company committed to performing at least one Irish play each year, is about to turn the tables and bring a bit of American drama to Ireland.
On Friday, 21 members of the cast and crew of Keegan's June production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" will head for Galway, where they'll perform Tennessee Williams's classic work at the Town Hall Theatre early next month.
"There's no way I could take an Irish play there and try to do it. They'd laugh me off the stage. But I can take an American production there," said Artistic Director Mark Rhea, who will reprise his role as Stanley Kowalski.
Guest-directed by Shakespeare Theatre staffer Steven Scott Mazzola, "Streetcar" received wildly mixed reviews when it ran at Arlington's Gunston Arts Center earlier this summer. There was mostly praise, however, for Amy McWilliams's Blanche DuBois.
McWilliams's husband, rock musician Steve, will take his band, the Toronados, on the trip to play gigs around Galway. The theater's scenic designer, George Lucas, will take his own artwork to exhibit there. And Rhea will take his Texan parents to hunt for their Irish roots. "My great-great-grandfather might've been a friend of an incredible playwright or writer or musician," said Rhea. "It's very exciting."
Rhea had always planned for Keegan to take a play to Ireland but figured it wouldn't happen for years. His new executive producer, Alice Carron, was the sudden catalyst. She traveled to Ireland several times, made contact with the Town Hall Theatre people, showed them a tape of "Streetcar" and clinched the deal. Rhea hopes to reverse the exchange by bringing a one-character play, "The Derry Boat," here during the Irish Arts2000 festival in January.
Keegan Managing Director Sheri Herren has said the theater is still raising money to cover the Ireland trip, which is being financed in part by the Galway theater. Call 703-757-1180, Ext. 3, or check out its Web side at www.keegantheatre.com.
A Swimming 'Peter Pan'
That crocodile with the ticktock in his tum-tum will get much more stage time than usual in the poolside version of the musical "Peter Pan," opening Thursday for four nights at the Prince George's Community Pool in Mount Rainier. "There are times where the crocodile swims from the shallow end to the deep end, and just lingers, which is quite dramatic," said director Annie Williams. The croc's costume is part boogie board to facilitate the swimming.
In fact, all the actors must be able to stay afloat: "This is the only play where they have to pass a swimming test as part of their audition," Williams said. The Indians will swim across to attack the pirates, who'll eventually walk the plank (i.e. diving board) right into the chlorinated "ocean." (There are plans for guest pirates to walk the plank, too, including Mount Rainier Mayor Fred Sissine and Police Chief Alice Holmes.)
"Peter Pan" was Williams's brainstorm--a nod to her adopted Mount Rainier home and the nonprofit, member-owned pool. She recalled her student days in San Diego, helping produce musicals at the famous zoo there and how she performed on a stage placed over the seal pit ("Oh, the smell of fish!"). A California transplant who's worked in theater and television there and at Source's Washington Theatre Festival, she prevailed upon a mix of professional and amateur actors and technicians to volunteer for "Pan." Some 30 kids will also take part.
Johnna Schmidt, a veteran of experimental theater in San Francisco and New York, will play the boy who never grows up. Helen Hayes Award nominee Dan Covey will do the lighting design and Charter Theatre, Olney, Source and Gallaudet University's drama department have contributed technical equipment, sets and costumes.
Calling this a "do-it-yourself, seat-of-the-pants, borrowed-and-begged" production that was seeded by a tiny P.G. County grant, Williams said that she's banking on help from local businesses and ticket sales ($6 to $10) to cover light rentals and script royalties.
She once spent a season as an associate producer on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." This is definitely not that. The "Peter Pan" information number is 301-699-1819.
Washington Jewish Theatre (which performs at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville) will begin its 1999-2000 season with "The Adding Machine" (Oct. 5-24), a fresh look at Elmer Rice's 1923 play about dehumanizing technology. This began as a workshop production at the University of Maryland, where WJT's artistic directors, Brette Goldstein and Ben Fishman, once studied. Next they'll present an original piece, "Vaudeville: Humor on the 20th Century Stage" (Nov. 30-Dec. 19). Source's Joe Banno will guest direct Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera" (Feb. 5-27). The season will conclude with "The Interview" by Faye Sholiton in a co-production with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. A world premiere, the play looks at how two women of different generations are touched by the Holocaust. It will run March 8-9 at WJT and March 12, 14 and 16 at the museum. WJT will also present four sets of cabaret evenings. Call 301-230-3757.
* Washington Stage Guild will hold a yard sale Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its soon-to-be-former performance space in Carroll Hall (924 G St. NW). They're offering "shagadelic costumes, funky props, assorted kitchen stuff, odd furniture." Some of it's very odd. Need a Greek pillar? Call 202-529-2084.
* "Courting Chris," a new comedy about online romance by Sam Schwartz Jr., has opened at the Church Street Theater (1742 Church St. NW) and runs through Sept. 12. It's directed by Jeff Keenan, who guided a comic, poignant "My Night With Reg" there last season. Call 1-800-494-8497.
* Georgetown Theatre Company will enact scenes from Goethe's dramatic poem "Faust" Saturday at the Goethe Institute, 814 Seventh St. NW, when the institute honors the German poet's birthday with drama, poetry and music. The "Faust" scenes will run on a devilishly precise schedule, from 12:20 to 4:10 p.m.
* Arena Stage has announced that 1998-99 was the most "financially successful season" in the regional theater's 49 years. According to Arena's stats, the first season under Artistic Director Molly Smith, with her focus on American plays and new work, brought in 230,000 ticket buyers, who spent $5.9 million at Arena's box office. The theater also announced substantial increases in donations and grants from private individuals, corporations and foundations.