America in the Round
Capital, Race, and Nation at Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage
by Donatella Galella
Pub Date 15 Mar 2019
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Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage was the first professional regional theatre in the nation’s capital to welcome a racially integrated audience; the first to perform behind the Iron Curtain; and the first to win the Tony Award for best regional theatre. This behind-the-scenes look at one of the leading theatres in the United States shows how key financial and artistic decisions were made, using a range of archival materials such as letters and photographs as well as interviews with artists and administrators. Close-ups of major productions from The Great White Hope to Oklahoma! illustrate how Arena Stage navigated cultural trends.
More than a chronicle, America in the Round is a critical history that reveals how far the theatre could go with its budget and racially liberal politics, and how Arena both disputed and duplicated systems of power. With an innovative “in the round” approach, the narrative simulates sitting in different parts of the arena space to see the theatre through different lenses—economics, racial dynamics, and American identity.
“America in the Round has little to no competition in terms of its historical, political, economic, racial, and cultural reach in capturing the zeitgeist of Arena Stage from its beginnings in 1950 to its current mega status. This well documented research—told from the perspective of a former employee of Arena—accords this bustling, state-of-the-art regional theatre the serious and sustained attention that its long and distinguished record commands.”—Sandra G. Shannon, Howard University
“Providing a close and nuanced reading of both the developmental history and identity negotiations of one of our nation’s most successful and celebrated theatres, Galella deftly offers a ‘real-life’ (and still current) case study from which theatre practitioners, administrators, and scholars can learn as we continue to define, activate, and fortify the potential within America’s regional theatres.”—Faedra Chatard Carpenter, author, Coloring Whiteness: Acts of Critique in Black Performance