For 17 years, the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage festival has brought the area nothing but drama … and comedies and musicals. The three-day celebration showcases new productions from more than 60 local companies: Some are almost fully formed, ready for the curtain to rise; others are just taking their first steps onto the stage; and a few are just beginning to find their words. The public has access to it all, as well as interactive workshops, Q&As and “script karaoke,” where groups can put their own spin on words from new works. Here, three of the area’s smaller theater companies discuss the shows they’ll be bringing to the festival — and what they’ve got in store for their fall seasons.
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Sat.-Mon., various times, free
Faction of Fools
Millennium Stage South, Sat., 2:30 p.m.
What they do: Faction of Fools, based out of the Eastman Studio Theatre at Gallaudet University, specializes in commedia dell’arte, an Italian form of comedy. But it’s not all belly laughs — the company has presented commedia dell’arte productions of dramatic works like “Romeo and Juliet” and Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” In adding the dell’arte style — which often includes masked actors and broad physical comedy — even tragedies become darkly funny. “We’re looking for what these plays teach us about commedia dell’arte, and reflectively what commedia dell’arte teaches us about these plays,” artistic director Paul Reisman says.
What you’ll see at Page-to-Stage: A workshop of “The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery,” which Reisman is still writing. The 1940s-set comedy is “equal parts Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes and ‘Clue’ and all of our favorite whodunits all rolled into one,” Reisman says. Some of the scenes will be built before the audience’s eyes: “We’ll work a scene several ways to give the audience an opportunity of seeing not only the specific material, but our process as a company,” Reisman says. You won’t get the full story, though: Reisman says there will be “live redacting” of important plot points. “We want to make sure there are still plenty of twists and turns for folks come 2019,” when it premieres.
What’s up next: Before “The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery” debuts next spring, Faction of Fools will mount Shakespeare’s “Henry V” in October and a workshop of “Bravo, Zan Angelo!,” based on the children’s book by Niki Daly, in January.
Rehearsal Room 1, Mon., 5 p.m., recommended for ages 13 and up
What they do: “We are an artist-based company that cycles through a group of people, then passes the company onto a new group,” says Hannah Hessel Ratner, the company’s lead producing playwright and author of “In This Hope: A Pericles Project,” one of three works from The Welders that will appear at Page-to-Stage. The company, which stages shows in various venues like the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre and Atlas Performing Arts Center, is on its second group of playwrights; in 2020 a new group of six will take charge.
What you’ll see at Page-to-Stage: Pieces of the final three plays of the company’s theatrical season, including a workshop for one part of “In This Hope” (the play will be produced in full in November). “First, we have [audience members] write a memory of someone they love,” Hessel Ratner says. “Then we’re going to invite them to come up to a large map and place a dot on whatever place they associate with that person.” The activity ties in to themes in Hessel Ratner’s take on Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” in which the title character travels to a bunch of places and then reunites with his family. Bashful attendees need not worry: “We’re not going to make anyone stand up in front of anybody and tell their story,” Hessel Ratner says.
What’s up next: After “In This Hope,” The Welders will produce the last two plays of their Shakespeare-focused season: next spring’s “LadyM” by Rachel Hynes, in which the three witches from “Macbeth” cast a spell intended to help them understand elements of womanhood; and Annalisa Dias’ “The Earth, That Is Sufficient,” an exploration of the history of the world as told by Lucy the Australopithecus, in the fall of 2019.
Best Medicine Rep
Chinese Lounge, Mon., 4 p.m., recommended for adults only
What they do: Best Medicine — as in “laughter is the …” — is dedicated to performing new comedies in its intimate, 45-seat theater at Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, Md. “We are micro,” artistic director John Morogiello says. “We are a craft brewer for comedies.”
What you’ll see at Page-to-Stage: A limited production of Morogiello’s comedy “Die, Mr. Darcy, Die!,” about a woman obsessed with the heartthrob of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” especially the wet-shirted version made famous by Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC miniseries. “She realizes that no man she’s been dating can ever possibly live up to him, so she decides to give up on men,” Morogiello says. Nine actors play 50 different roles (and, yes, someone has to stand in for Firth), but with limited space and no wings in the Kennedy Center’s Chinese Lounge, “people won’t be moving around,” Morogiello says. “When they’re [supposed to be] onstage, they’ll stand; when they’re offstage, they’ll sit.” Stage directions will also be read out loud so the audience gets a better idea of what’s going on.
What’s up next: “Mr. Darcy” isn’t expected to take the Best Medicine stage until at least the company’s 2019-20 season. The next season starts in September with Morogiello’s “Engaging Shaw,” about the courtship between George Bernard Shaw and Charlotte Payne-Townshend, then continues in November with the company’s first musical, “The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special.” Rounding out the current season: the Voltaire-related screwball comedy “Philosophus” in January; and, in April, “Play Date,” about one fateful afternoon when kids get together to play Legos and the adults “are hanging out in the kitchen, getting drunk and having affairs,” Morogiello says.