Young Playwrights' Theater has hired a full-time executive director after nine years of juggling administrative and fundraising tasks between its artistic and program directors, Karen Zacarias and Karen L.B. Evans.
Kevin Kruse (pronounced CREW-zee), who arrived a couple of months ago from the BoarsHead Theatre in Lansing, Mich., says he's thinking about ways to expand the reach of the nonprofit company, which offers playwriting and literacy programs to D.C. schoolchildren.
One of his aims is to build "a program that is more broadly available to any kid who wants to write a play," not just the children in schools that offer YPT programs. He also says he wants to raise the company's visibility.
"There are a lot of people, even though we're nine, 10 years old, who have never heard of us," he says. "We need to . . . bolster our public performance component." He envisions a national stage for YPT -- perhaps with a CD-ROM to give other school districts tools to "replicate what YPT does."
An Ohio native in his mid-forties, Kruse has worked at regional theaters and festivals, including the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, the Capital Repertory Company in Albany, N.Y., and the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
Kruse says he took the job because of YPT's mission and the "bundle of energy" that is YPT founder and playwright Zacarias. (Zacarias's new play, "Mariela in the Desert," will have its premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre early next year.)
YPT presents several examples of its students' best work in a yearly "Youth or Dare" tour at schools and community centers. The tour lands at the Kennedy Center's free Millennium Stage on Oct. 28. YPT's annual fundraiser performance is Thursday at the Carnegie Institution.
Rorschach's Political Ink Blot
Scrappy, experimental Rorschach Theatre will present a free staged reading of Tony Kushner's anti-Iraq War playlet, "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy," Monday at 8 p.m.
At 12 pages, the script, in which first lady Laura Bush is the central character, runs just a tad longer than its title. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Kushner ("Angels in America," "Slavs!," "Homebody/Kabul") never writes without a sociopolitical agenda beneath his poetic prose. He took a blistering jab at the Reagan era in "Angels" and at the schism between the West and Central Asia in "Homebody/Kabul," written before 9/11.
In the new work, he takes on U.S. military incursions. A not-unsympathetic and profoundly thoughtful Laura Bush (played by Helen Hedman) visits Heaven, where she intends to talk to dead Iraqi children about her beloved "The Brothers Karamazov." Instead, she finds herself musing about sin and war. Rick Foucheux will play the angel who presides over her visit. The children will be represented by empty chairs.
"Tony Kushner really fits our aesthetic. . . . He's simultaneously relevant and timeless. He's metaphysical but grounded," says Randy Baker, Rorschach's co-artistic director. "What's really fascinating about the play is how he dramatizes Laura Bush and how he makes her this strange and complicated character."
"Only We Who Guard the Mystery" was published last year and has been presented across the country -- most famously at a MoveOn.org benefit in New York on Aug. 2. A companion piece, "First Lady Fights Back!," also was performed then; Rorschach is awaiting Kushner's permission to use it as well.
Director Steven Carpenter "would love to think that there were going to be people who support the Bush administration that would come to see this." But, he concedes, "the name Tony Kushner is going to set off a warning bell that [the play] is not going to be very sympathetic to conservatives." The post-show discussion will make room for other opinions.
The reading will take place at Casa Del Pueblo, 1459 Columbia Rd. NW.
After its ongoing tour of Ireland performing Sam Shepard's "True West," Arlington-based Keegan Theatre will put on that play to launch its new season in a new 400-seat space. Old Town Theater in Alexandria is a renovated, multi-use entertainment venue that began life in 1914 as a vaudeville house. Keegan had been performing at the Clark Street Playhouse and at its original home in Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington.
"True West" (Nov. 18-Dec. 19) will be followed by J.M. Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World" (Feb. 10-March 13, 2005), Warren Leight's jazz-focused hit, "Side Man" (May 5-June 5), and Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" (July 11-Aug. 21).
A fundraiser for Keegan and the Old Town Theater will be held Saturday evening at the theater. Tickets are $30. Visit www.keegantheatre.com or www.oldtowntheater.com.
* Theater Alliance kicks off its Pangea Projects on Sunday, presenting workshop performances of five brand-new plays at the H Street Playhouse: "Sky Girls" (Oct. 24-25) by Jenny Laird; "Radio Free America" (Oct. 31-Nov. 1) by Allyson Currin; "Vox" (Nov. 7-8) by Randy Baker, based on Nicholson Baker's novel; "Red Suspenders" (Nov. 13-15), a musical with book and lyrics by Charlene James and music by Alvin Smithson; and "Montana 1948" (Nov. 21-22), adapted by Michael Kramer from Larry Watson's novel. Call 800-494-8497 or visit www.theateralliance.com.
* Studio Theatre Secondstage continues its Russian Readings project, presenting 10 contemporary works by Russian dramatists tomorrow through Sunday. Call 202-332-3300 or visit www.studiotheatre.org.
* The Lobster Boy Revue is presenting its Halloween Spooktacular at Chief Ike's Mambo Room on Friday and Saturday nights. Visit www.lobsterboy.net.