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Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival returns for 12th year

Taffety Punk company members (Brittany Diliberto)

The Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival is 12 years old. Organizers are not really thinking about a dozen years of history, though; the showcase of new works from 40-plus local theaters is all about the future. “We recognize what’s important is the next step,” said Gregg Henry, the event’s curator. “Keeping our eyes on the future, that’s the important thing.”

This year, in particular, Henry “was struck by the range of work that’s going to be here: We have theater for infants. Arts on the Horizon is coming back, and that’s a company devoted to babes in arms,” he said. “We’re really talking about the youngest possible audience members.” Get ’em young, theaters! Hearts and minds and all. Page-to-Stage also includes “anything for edgy, progressive, politically minded young audience members . . . anybody in the ­cradle-to-grave range. It’s kind of fascinating that way. I wish I could say that’s by design, [but] it’s sort of the natural occurrence. When you open the doors up to artists to showcase their work, it sort of self-selects the full range.”

As curator, Henry said that he “is looking around for companies that should be here but aren’t. Who is doing the work that’s kind of tripping triggers around the community? Where are companies who are pushing the borders, stretching the envelope? Who is out there trying new forms?”

Space is a little tight with renovations at the Kennedy Center this year so “we’re squeezing people into nooks, crannies, hither, yon; every possible corner and scheduling peculiarity has been employed to make this possible,” Henry said.

Henry remembers being “kind of shocked” at “the enthusiasm with which this was embraced by the community” in 2001. “I mean the audience, not just the insiders. . . . The general audience has embraced, fundamentally, readings. They’re coming to see performers at music stands giving a presentation of a new work. And the attendance figures were kind of shocking from the beginning.”

Henry attributes it to the “hungry minds” at work in the Washington region that “want to be entertained but they also want to be stimulated; they also want to be challenged, they also want to be posed tough questions. They want to see artists wrestling with difficult issues.”

One of the goals of the festival is to get out from behind the music stands and “find other ways besides the traditional reading format to introduce audiences to the work of these artists,” he said. Synetic Theater “basically does an open rehearsal,” for instance, and Dog & Pony D.C. does “what they call an ‘incubator salon.’ The audience will sort of have a hand in how the project turns out. . . . It’s not just that people are going to sit politely with their hands folded across their laps and watch. They’ve going to contribute. They’re going to be part of the creative process. And that’s a nice jolt.”

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Taffety Punk’s new season

Step one of determining what goes in a new Taffety Punk season: Ask the artists what they want to do. “We have a list that we are constantly adding to,” said company member Marcus Kyd. That process “takes a long time. This decision took well over seven months. . . . There’s just too many things we all want to do.” The resulting season features Taffety Punk’s first full repertory production, a new generator project from a very old story, and, as Kyd put it, “some impossible stage directions.”

“Titus Andronicus”

A Riot Grrrls Production

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Lise Bruneau

→Sept. 27 to Oct. 26

The latest in the Riot Grrrls’ all-female productions of Shakespeare, “Titus” appealed to the company’s desire to tackle plays with “more masculinity” in them, Kyd said. “For Lise, personally, she’s really adamant about not sending it up. . . . I’m excited that we’re doing it because I’ve never seen it the 100 percent tragedy that it is. When I read it, I weep.”

Staged readings of “Diamond Dogs” and more

Written by Althos Low

Directed by Lise Bruneau

In collaboration with Chicago-based Shanghai Low Theatricals,

→Mondays in February

Kyd, on why Shanghai Low and Taffety Punk are a perfect match: “Their goal is to produce things that are unproducible, which we love. . . . To us, there are no limits to what you can stage.”

“Bloody Poetry”

Written by Howard Brenton


Written by Kathleen Cahill

May 8-30

Taffety Punk’s first crack at producing two plays in repertory takes on the lives of literary figures in the 1800s. “Bloody Poetry” follows Percy and Mary Shelley, Mary’s half sister Claire Clairmont, and Lord Byron. Clairmont is Byron’s mistress because, of course, she is; guys like Byron always have mistresses. “Charm” follows Margaret Fuller, the girl in the all-boys club of Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne. “What really started taking shape,” said Kyd, “was the idea of people confronting their own delusions,” such as Fuller’s male contemporaries’ “incapacity to accept that a woman is an equal.”

“Enter Ophelia, Distracted”

Directed by Marcus Kyd

and Erin Mitchell


This is 2014’s Taffety Punk Generator Project (which previously produced “The Golem”) and features company member Kimberly Gilbert as she navigates Ophelia’s fall into insanity/the water, using the text of “Hamlet” as a guide with original music and choreography.


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