The Good News Starts Here

Our production of HONEY BROWN EYES, Stefanie Zadravec’s searing drama about Christians and Muslims mixed up in each other’s lives during the early months of the 1992 Bosnian war, was given the Helen Hayes Award’s Charles MacArthur Prize for Outstanding New Play on Monday night, bringing Theater J its first ever Helen Hayes trophy after 17 years and some 40 nominations. As Sam Cooke might say, “It’s been a long time coming…” You can read a nice piece about it here on DC Theatrescene and you can read Stefanie’s acceptance speech, which she asked me to deliver in her absence, at the end of this posting.

The other good news, sure to make all of Washington happy for at least the next 15 months, is the public roll-out of our new 2009-10 season. The clipped version of it all is in today’s Washington Post. And it’s posted in a little bit longer form on our website.

Soon to follow in tomorrow’s posting will be chatty insights into why each and every mainstage production or special limited engagement run will be crucial to the cultural well-being of Greater Washington. And fun for the Jewish community as well!  Yes, it’s been a time of intense debate within our community as the voluminous comments from our recent Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival reading presentation can attest. The 2009-10 season will go a long way toward bringing some uplift, some shared common experience, and some inspiring role modeling about persevering and overcoming mortal divides within a community of artists and co-religionists.  And yes, we’ll still be mixing it up, pushing some envelopes, but our penchant for constructive, even “healing” dialogue, will pertain as much to ourselves and our divided community as it will to our encounters with neighbors both here and abroad. Stay tuned for more chirpier chatter about what promises to be our most fulfilling season ever.

Oh, and finally, our first Pay What You Can Preview for THE RISE AND FALL OF ANNIE HALL begins tonight at 7:30 — continuing tomorrow at the same time with performances over the weekend and opening Sunday night! Our playwright’s in town. Our tech is finished and the show is looking TRANSPLENDENT. That’s a shout-out to anyone who’s ever seen the film ANNIE HALL.   You’ll see how it’s actually a shout-out to a shout-out in the play, and if you enjoy the doubleness of that reference, you’ll really enjoy our new world premiere comedy!  And if you’re not so impressed, know that Sam Forman is funnier than I am. And that we all can’t wait to present the piece in front of our first DC audience tonight!

Oh yeah, and here’s our Helen Hayes Award acceptance speech…

HELEN HAYES AWARDS ACCEPTANCE FOR THE CHARLES MacARTHUR AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY

Stefanie is unable to be here tonight because she’s presiding over her most recent world premiere; the birth of twin sons Colin and Martin. So we salute her on this Year of Magical and Miraculous Deliveries.

Stefanie has asked that I share these sentiments with you – but before I do let me express, on behalf of Theater J, special thanks to Victor Shargai and Linda Levy Grossman (wonderful friends) and all the good people who work so hard at the Helen Hayes Awards to promote our cause here in DC and try their absolute hardest to make all of us feel great about the work that we do.

This is Theater J’s first Helen Hayes Award ever and we share this award with our playwright, with all our other playwrights (nominated and un-nominated) over the seasons, who’ve worked so hard to create beautiful lasting art that’s taken flight on our stage.

Stefanie writes:

The award means so much, as this is the city in which I grew up in and first experienced theater, and started working in years ago.

I would also like to thank Theater J for supporting new works by new writers. It is important, especially in these hard times, for theater communities to continue to reach out and bring new voices out to keep our theater current and evolving. To Jessica Lefkow for finding, championing and executing the vision of this play as its director; all the designers and wonderful actors who (although not recognized here) did amazing work, unforgettable, chilling and honest performances.

And the wonderful Kate Navin at Abrams Artists Agency.

Finally, Stefanie and Theater J both want to acknowledge what we all know: That’s it’s not about winning, losing, or recognition: it’s about creating a culture (as we all have done here in DC) that allows us to do our work bravely, fearlessly, and with uncompromised commitment. Washington is a welcoming town, and it is pushing theater artists forward as never before. Because of what the Helen Hayes Awards has helped to grow, it is a very good thing to he a produced playwright in the nation’s capital. Let us work to make this ever more true.