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The Welders-Washington's only playwrights' collective devoted exclusively to developing and producing new work-have launched their third production. happiness (and other reasons to die), a new play by Bob Bartlett, opens May 30, 2015 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Gregg Henry will direct.

Bartlett says the idea for the play came to him seven or eight years ago. "It was during the early years of the global financial crisis," he says. "I was reading about the spike in suicides, especially in Japan, and this absurd phenomenon of death by hibachi, a method of killing oneself by asphyxiation, sometimes enacted by groups of strangers who come together in a car or kitchen and light a charcoal grill and drift away."

But the prospect of writing a heavy-handed play about suicide isn't Bartlett's thing. "I've always believed that if life ever got that bad, I'd just leave and go start over someplace else, someplace where I could find some sort of happiness," he says. The pursuit of happiness and cultural expectations of the attainment of happiness - and what happens to us when we believe happiness is beyond reach - is at the heart of Bartlett's unlikely comedy about living, dying, and trying to find really good reasons for both.

Bartlett is also serving as The Welders' Artistic Director for the duration of the production, which features D.C. actors Melissa Flaim, Graham Pilato, Carlos Saldaña, Miyuki Williams, and Élan Zafir. The design team includes scenic designer Collin Ranney, lighting designer Johnathan Alexander, costume designer Gail Beach, and sound designer Kenny Neal.

"I'm beyond excited to work with Gregg and this wonderful cast and design team," says Bartlett. "Their artistry and brilliance is second to none."

happiness (and other reasons to die) will run May 30 - June 13, 2015 at The Atlas Performing Arts Center. Previews begin May 27. Tickets are available at

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