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Khaled Nabawy, Richard Thomas and Ron Rifkin in "Camp David" by Lawrence Wright at Arena Stage. (Photo by Teresa Wood)

Getting Political: Arena Stage Launches Power Plays Initiative

The program will commission and develop over 25 original plays and musicals about politics.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Arena Stage has launched Power Plays, a new initiative that will commission and develop 25 new plays and musicals over 10 years. Fittingly these plays, which will be developed in the nation’s capital, will center on politics and power, from 1776 to the modern day.

Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith describes the initiative’s focus on politics and power as the “red meat” of Washington, D.C., and stresses the timeliness of the program. “Every city has its own language, its own nuances, its own history, and our language is politics,” Smith said in a statement. “There is no better time to launch this massive commissioning cycle, the largest in Arena’s history. The more we understand our American stories of politics and power, the more informed we become as a democracy.”

The first Power Play will debut next year: Jacqueline Lawton’s Intelligence, a political thriller inspired by true events ( Feb. 24, 2017–April 2, 2017 ). It will explore the cost of deception and the consequences of speaking truth to power.

Arena also named seven playwrights whose work have been commissioned for the initiative: Nathan Alan Davis, Eve Ensler, Rajiv Joseph, Mary Kathryn Nagle, Aaron Posner, Sarah Ruhl, and John Strand. They will tackle topics ranging from Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” to Native American sovereignty, to John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt.

Power Plays rides on the coattails of previously commissioned works by Arena Stage that centered on both political figures and historic events—including John Strand’s The Originalist, which offered a rare portrayal of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and Lawrence Wright’s Camp David, which explored the pivotal 1978 Camp David Accords between President Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

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