Anacostia's got bounce, especially at the foot of the 11th Street Bridge where Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue connect. The Playhouse, relocated from H Street NE, is adding electricity to the area, showcasing new works and emerging artists.
Housed in a converted warehouse at 2020 Shannon Pl. SE, the Anacostia Playhouse shares the block with the offices of the D.C. Lottery and D.C.'s Department of For-Hire Vehicles.
The theater has been in Anacostia since 2013. "We do see people walk in from the neighborhood, once they know we're here," says Adele Robey, the Playhouse's executive director. When the Playhouse arrived in Anacostia, it was a new neighbor to a gallery and arts center operating two blocks away.
The Playhouse was linked to development on H Street, where it opened on a blighted block. My family lived on H Street before the 1968 riots that followed Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Over 30 years later the theater opened among the small and boarded-up businesses and helped to attract new restaurants and shops.
In the summer, actor and Bethesda theater owner Anya Randall Nebel had a "crew of Bethesda people coming over to Anacostia for the first time," says Robey, to see Nebel perform in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill." When I visited, I could hear voices from a rehearsal of the award-winning "Word Becomes Flesh," which was directed by Gregory Morrison (known as Psalmayene 24) and was having an encore run.
The Playhouse offers theater workshops for children. "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" will feature children and adults. A production with Restoration Stage of "The Very Last Days of the First Colored Circus" by Steven Butler is also on the calendar.
Consider a pre-theater meal if you plan a Playhouse outing. Options are limited, and many nearby restaurants close before the end of shows. Two good spots are Art-drenaline 365 Café in the Anacostia Arts Center at 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE, and Cheers at the Big Chair, 2122 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, across from the landmark Big Chair and famous for its crab fries.
I stopped in Mama's Pizza Kitchen, down the block at 2028 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, for a slice to take back with me across the river. It wasn't my first trip to Mama's. It definitely won't be my last to the Anacostia Playhouse.