A Word About Summer Theater Programming in DC

Are we drowning in yet? Half the town’s theater-goers have left on vacation and between Fringe (which has started), Source (which will be closing), CATF (in Shepherdstown) and Studio (multiplex), Olney (multiplex), Rorschach (season in a summer), Signature (workshops), Shakespeare (juggernaut), Woolly (Fringe Central, 2nd City), there’s a surfeit, wouldn’tya say?

We’re all feeling it. Will there be that much more of the same next season? Source will be shorter. Our SPINOZA play, NEW JERUSALEM, can’t move from its June-July 2010 slot, though we looked into it for a second. There will be less, in the years to come, not more, alas. It’s a great time for artists to get the work out, that’s for sure. But we’re robbing Peter to Pay Paul with audience. Fringe is unquestionably an asset to this city and to its independent artists. It was always meant as rebuttal to institutional theater dominance in town. Theater J partnered closely with Fringe in 2007 with our own Middle East Festival. But we weren’t close enough in proximity, unlike Woolly, and so we competed (not unsuccessfully) rather that drew from Fringe’s energy. We promised ourselves to approach the festival differently from then on. Alas, summer’s the right time for a sprawling festival, but there are only so many that this region’s culture-goers can support at one time.

The good news is that success spawns success. Let us hope for more successful summer seasons from festivals and theaters large and small. More after theater parties and bonhomie. If we can continue growing new audiences for theater, and for summer theater-going, the artistic possibilities will continue to increase. The bad news will be long-haul retrenchment which, I fear, is where the numbers are pointing us. Time will tell. As will audiences.