Posted April 5, 2012
Washington Stage Guild Celebrates 25th Anniversary Season
The Washington Stage Guild, a professional Equity theatre, located in the Nation’s Capital, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season. Founded in May 1986 as a professional company of theatre artists dedicated to producing literate, challenging works in a collegial and supportive atmosphere, the Stage Guild’s founding artists and administrators made a conscious choice at the outset to begin producing as an Equity company, in contrast to some other D.C. area theatres, which began as non-union organizations before embracing a relationship with Actors’ Equity. The founding Stage Guild company members were about half Equity and half non-Equity back in 1986. Operating under an SPT contract since its inception, the Stage Guild takes pride in having been instrumental over the last twenty six years in many emerging actors and stage managers receiving their Equity cards and doing their very first Equity shows. Of particular interest to Equity members may be the fact that the Stage Guild for numerous years hosted many an area Equity Liaison Committee meeting, as well as a number of Equity Annual Membership meetings in their first Washington, D.C., home at 9th and G Streets, N.W. and the current chair of the Washington, D.C./Baltimore Liaison Committee is a founding company member of the Stage Guild.
Led by Founding Producing Artistic Director John MacDonald, himself an Equity actor as well as a director, the Stage Guild quickly established itself as an indispensable component of the D.C. area theatre scene. The Washington Post hailed the company’s first year by saying, "Like the goddess Athena, the Washington Stage Guild sprang forth fully armed this season," and shortly thereafter The Washington Times described the young company as "the most intelligent theatre in town." Over the last 26 seasons in numerous different locations, the Washington Stage Guild has produced over 80 productions, half of them area premieres. The company produced the American premiere of Brian Friel’s Making History, as well as three other Friel plays over the course of their history.
The company has also earned a reputation as one of the world’s pre-eminent presenters of the plays of George Bernard Shaw. The Shaw plays the company has produced range from the well known CANDIDA, ARMS AND THE MAN and MAJOR BARBARA to the lesser known TOO TRUE TO BE GOOD and YOU NEVER CAN TELL. In the ’97-’98 season, the company presented Shaw’s MAN AND SUPERMAN – including the Don Juan in Hell sequence – a glorious three and a half hour long evening that delighted Shaw fans. In 2009, the Guild produced a bill of two Shaw one act plays at Catholic University of America in D.C. in conjunction with that year’s International George Bernard Shaw Conference.
The Stage Guild’s second most produced playwright after Mr. Shaw is Hungarian Ferenc Molnar, author of such Stage Guild hits as THE GUARDSMAN, THE PLAY’S THE THING, and A TALE OF THE WOLF, as well as this season’s American premiere of the playwright’s HUSBANDS AND LOVERS. Also seen on their stage over the years are three of T. S Eliot’s plays (MURDER IN THE CATHERDRAL, THE COCKTAIL PARTY, and THE FAMILY REUNION) and several of contemporary playwright Michael Hollinger’s works, including a very well received production of his Opus in 2007.
The Stage Guild has received critical acclaim, honors and awards, including numerous Helen Hayes Nominations and Awards, Theatre Lobby Awards, and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington's Business Volunteers for the Arts recognition award for outstanding artistic and management growth. Three World Premieres received Helen Hayes nominations for The Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play, demonstrating the Guild's additional commitment to new works. One of the Theatre Lobby award citations read, "The community is enriched by your productions of modern classics..."
The Guild began its history by reviving the performance tradition at one of Washington's oldest theatres, Historic Carroll Hall at 924 G Street, NW (since redeveloped into an office building), and by pioneering the return of resident theatre to the then moribund downtown area. In its thirteen seasons on G Street, the Guild attracted theatre-goers from across the country back to downtown Washington with area premieres and long-overdue revivals of the sophisticated, thought-provoking work at which the company excels. Awards and acclaim for the company's work have acknowledged its high quality, while audiences in the region have become devoted to the sophisticated, witty plays of ideas and argument the Stage Guild produces. When the city lost Carroll Hall as a Downtown theatre, part of its cultural life for over 140 years, The Washington Stage Guild left Downtown and spent a number of years as a guest company, participating in the exciting rebirth of the 14th and U, NW area, a move which was faithfully followed by the company's supporters. On 14th Street, the company introduced our audiences to the burgeoning community there, and attracted the lively young crowds familiar with the area to its productions, a fact commented on by Peter Fay of Around Town on WETA-TV: "It’s almost as if we could move Washington Stage Guild anywhere and it’s the Stage Guild, it’s still the particular feeling that they bring to a play." For the past three seasons, the company has been resident at the Undercroft Theatre at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, back in the neighborhood where they first began producing in Carroll Hall back in 1986.
In 2008, the company endured the sudden death of Founding Artistic Director John MacDonald. The Board of Directors and the artistic company determined to continue the tradition of producing eloquent plays of idea and argument, passion and wit – plays from all periods of world drama enacted by a classical ensemble with a contemporary sensibility – rare plays, well done! Current Artistic Director, Bill Largess, and Managing Director, Ann Norton – both proud AEA members themselves – are busy planning for the 2012-2013 season. The Stage Guild’s current production of G.B. Shaw’s WIVES AND WITS (a double bill of Village Wooing and Overruled) runs through May 20th. Check out the Washington Stage Guild’s web site at www.stageguild.org and attend a performance next time you are in D.C.! Happy Anniversary, Stage Guild!
Washington Stage Guild’s 25th Anniversary Season:
WILDER SINS BY THORNTON WILDER
The Washington premiere of Wilder’s “Seven Deadly Sins” plays.
Thornton Wilder, whose insight and compassion in Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth made him one of America’s most beloved playwrights, turned late in life to a series of works that are as extraordinary as his large-scale masterpieces. In portraits of ordinary people whose failings affect themselves and those around them, Wilder, by turns comic and serious, never fails to surprise his audience with the cosmic implications of the commonplace. Pride, Sloth, Wrath, and Avarice will take the stage, and their cousins will be offered during the run as a reading.
AMELIA BY ALEX WEBB
The world premiere of an epic Civil War romance.
The Stage Guild’s 25th anniversary is also the 150th of the Civil War, and this world premiere celebrates the one while acknowledging the latter. Playwright Webb was inspired by the true story of a woman whose determination to find her wounded husband led her to the horror of the Andersonville prison camp, and has created a vividly theatrical epic as Amelia’s quest spans a country in turmoil.
HUSBANDS & LOVERS BY FERENC MOLNÁR
The American premiere of Molnár’s kaleidoscopic look at sex, the immovable object.
Hungarian playwright and bon vivant Molnár, author of such Stage Guild hits as THE GUARDSMAN, THE PLAY’S THE THING, and A TALE OF THE WOLF, offers a wry and wise look at the many ways women and men in love can drive each other crazy. Lies may deceive and the truth may hurt, but in this roundelay of comic miniatures, it’s not always clear which is which, or even whether one is better than the other! Husbands and Lovers is a tasting menu of playlets bitter and sweet, salty and sour.
WIVES & WITS BY GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
The Washington professional premiere of GBS’s stereoscopic look at sex, the irresistible force.
Since 1986, The Washington Stage Guild has built an international reputation for its productions of the brilliant and inimitable works of George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Prize laureate, Oscar winner, and one of talk radio’s “most evil men of the 20th century.” Having ended last season with one of his thorniest, most political plays (The Apple Cart), the Stage Guild turns to Shaw at his most puckish and least polemical. Overruled & Village Wooing, plays from either end of his long career, offer GBS the chance to laugh at love, lovers, and life itself.