Molly Smith Celebrates 15 Years at Arena Stage
With the official opening of Eric Coble's dangerous new play The Velocity of Autumn tonight, September 18 at 8:00 p.m. at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, the occasion marks Artistic Director Molly Smith's 25th project to direct for Arena Stage and is the first of three projects she will direct in the 2013/14 season, including Kathleen Turner in Mother Courage and Her Children and the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright's Camp David.Building on 15 years with the company, Smith is steadfast in her focus on American plays and artists.
"We continue to be absolutely thrilled to have Molly as Arena's artistic director and visionary leader," comments Arena Stage Board Chair Beth Newburger Schwartz. "She is clearly one of the most fabulous directors working in theater today. Her unwavering commitment to artists and our community and her focus on maximizing Arena's ability to contribute to the future of American theater inspires confidence and excitement not only here in Washington but in theaters across the country. We can't wait to see what she does next."
"It has been my pleasure to work with Molly over the last four years," adds Executive Producer Edgar Dobie. "I admired her commitment to American writers and new work from afar and have grown even more in awe as we have worked together. Arena Stage is an artistic home for so many artists because of Molly's leadership."
Smith has been instrumental in leading the reinvention of Arena Stage, focusing on the creation of the Mead Center for American Theater and positioning Arena Stage as a center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Smith is a great believer in first, second and thiRD Productions of new work and has been a leader in new play development for more than 30 years, during her time at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska-the theater she founded and led for 19 years-and at Arena Stage.
Her focus on American voices has made Arena Stage the largest theater company nationally dedicated to American plays and artists. Smith has a passion for the gold-standard musical and a drive to re-invent them in the theater in-the-round. She helped launch the American Voices New Play Institute featuring residencies for playwrights including Amy Freed, Katori Hall, Samuel D. Hunter, Lisa Kron, Charles Randolph-Wright and Karen Zacarías, as well as the local writers' initiative Playwrights' Arena and a robust commissioning program.
During her time with the company, Arena Stage has workshopped well over 100 productions, produced 22 world premieres, staged numerous second and thiRD Productions and has been an important part of nurturing six projects that went on to have a life on Broadway. Some of her Arena Stage directing credits include: My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Oklahoma! (top grossing show in Arena's history featuring a return engagement due to popular demand), South Pacific, Moon for the Misbegotten, How I Learned to Drive and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
"I remember when I interviewed to become artistic director and I had the inspiration to focus on American work," reflects Smith. "Can it have been 15 years ago? Much has happened in our country during that time, which makes this focus even more powerful than it was then. Who are we as a country? What are our passions and obsessions? What is the American personality and how can theater show us who we are today and who we might become? I am thrilled by the wonderful audiences who come to Arena to explore these questions with us and the artists who are drawn to work here."