SCENA is Washington's premier cultural institution for the dramatic arts. We bring the best in international plays to DC, stimulate cultural exchange between local and international artists, and nurture original material for the stage. Founded in 1987 under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert McNamara and Managing Director Amy Schmidt, SCENA produces an annual season of plays, enjoyable special events, and a Workshop Series aimed at developing bold new plays from around the globe. Ultimately, SCENA plays a highly unique and vital role in the Washington theater community by presenting creative, exceptional international plays that are second to none.
Since 1987, SCENA has produced outstanding live theatre in Washington, DC and Europe. We have staged hundreds of classic European plays as well as modern new works by emerging playwrights from countries near and far. In 1989, SCENA laid the groundwork for regular participation in international theatre festivals by taking touring productions to Edinburgh, Scotland, Italy, and Slovenia (the former Yugoslavia). Achievements of distinction include SCENA's highly-acclaimed 1990 "Festival of Plays" by Samuel Beckett mounted in collaboration with the internationally renowned San Quentin Drama Workshop. Plus we staged the 1991 East European Rep, which examined themes of freedom and the break-up of the Communist Empire through the dramatic works of Czech President-playwright Vaclav Havel and Slovene playwright-novelist Drago Jancar.
A successful innovation of the 1994-1995 season was the inauguration of SCENA Press with the publication of Swiss playwright Thomas Hurrlimann's The Envoy and Otho Eskin's play Duet. European producers took notice of SCENA's talent to produce great international theatre. SCENA has represented the United States at the Slovene "Bosrtnikovo Srecanje" in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000, and 2002. Directors McNamara and Schmidt served as official cultural observers at the "Witold Gombrowicz festival" in Radom, Poland in June 1995 as a preliminary step toward a Polish-American collaboration in the 1996 SCENA Festival. Further, SCENA's 1995 overseas "Roadshow Tour" to Slovenia and Croatia netted the traveling company a "Best Actor" Award at the IT&D Theatre Festival in Zagreb. In 1996, Robert McNamara was awarded the prestigious "Kennedy Center Fellowship of the Americas for Directing."
SCENA's 1997 staging of Euripides' powerful anti-war targedy Women of Troy, set in a rape camp in Bosnia, was widely hailed as one of the year's "Top Ten" by Washington's own "City Paper". In 1998, SCENA celebrated Samuel Beckett's 92nd birthday at the Embassy of France with the first ever workshop staging of his first play Eleutheria. Three key highlights that year included the area premiere of British actor/playwright Steven Berkoff's Greek (a scatological retelling of Oedipus Rex), the 100th anniversary celebration of Bertolt Brecht's Jungle of the Cities by noted Berlin director Gabriele Jakobi, plus the world premiere of Otho Eskin's play about French poet and iconoclast Arthur Rimbaud, Season in Hell.
In 1999, SCENA produced a highly successful "Beckett Festival" that showcased 13 of Samuel Beckett's most dynamic plays with encore participation from the San Quentin Drama Workshop. Acclaimed actor Rick Cluchey was featured in Beckett's own staging of his masterpiece, Krapp's Last Tape. Also on tap was a German version of Beckett's Das Letzte Band featuring German actors and directors from the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus.
In 2000, SCENA continued its modern day explorations of the Greek classics with the first installment of "The Euripides Trilogy", Elektra. In 2001 SCENA staged an innovative production of Beckett's Radio Plays at the renowned Corcoran Gallery of Arts featuring an exciting ensemble of actors complemented by live music. Parts two and three of "The Euripides Trilogy" Orestes and Iphigenia in Tauris were presented to wide critical acclaim featuring noted Greek actress Ioanna Gavakou. In the 2002 season, SCENA celebrated the life and work of German-language playwright George Tabori in the "Tabori Festival" with a workshop of his irreverent farcical play about a young Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, plus four of his other works including The Brecht File. In 2003-04, SCENA staged the Washington area premiere of Mark Ravenhill's controversial play Shopping and F***ing. SCENA also toured three plays to the famous Maribor Theatre festival in Slovenia including Julie by DC's Otho Eskin based on Strindberg's Miss Julie), Letter to Orestes by Greek playwright Iakovos Kambanellis, and a revival of Wallace Shawn's play The Fever, which subsequently toured Berlin.
By 2005, SCENA continued its bold brand of live theatre in Washington, DC with an update of the classical Greek drama The Persians, a unique staging of No Exit (the riveting existentialist play by France's Jean-Paul Sartre which SCENA remounted in 2007), as well as the acclaimed world premiere of Silent Partners by Charles Marowitz. In 2006, Artistic Director Robert McNamara adapted for the stage the 1938 Orson Welles radio drama that terrified a nation: The War of the Worlds. This production received widespread praise from DC-area critics, which paved the way for its successful remount in 2010 with a new lead actor playing Welles (longtime SCENA favorite Regen Wilson). In 2009, SCENA flew in successful Irish stage and film actor Barry McEvoy to star in the lead role of Tommy in Kenneth Branagh's Public Enemy. McEvoy actually began his professional acting career with SCENA exactly 20 years earlier.The 2010-2011 season was, however, SCENA's most successful ever from an artistic and commercial standpoint. Acclaimed actor Barry McEvoy returned to DC with two more renowned Irish actors, Gordon Fulton and Brian Mallon, to perform in SCENA's Helen Hayes Awards© Recommended production of The Weir by Conor McPherson. Beyond critical praise, this show broke an all-time attendance record for a six-week run at SCENA. On the heels of this breakthrough production, McNamara staged the Washington premiere of Purge by Sofi Oksanen, a bold and brave play about sexual trafficking and abuse in Soviet-controlled Estonia. Purge also garnered a Helen Hayes Awards(c) "Recommended" distinction while generating impressive attendance. The 2011-2012 Season was one of our most challenging seasons for producing quality live theatre in Washington, DC. This season featured the official DC-area premiere of Mein Kampf by George Tabori, an emotionally powerful production of The Seafarer by Conor McPherson featuring an all-star cast, the classic and conniving Hedda Gabler by the great Henrik Ibsen, and the bold and brazen Greek by Steven Berkoff, "the bad boy of British theatre." Our successful staging of these rigorous and dynamic plays cemented our unique role as "Washington's International Theatre". For our 25th Anniversary Season, we reinvented our brand image by developing a new logo and tagline for SCENA. The new brand is a stronger representation of our deep roots in international drama. The word SCENA is Italian for "stage" and has early Latin origins meaning a "scene" in a larger play or opera. So, the inspiration for the new stylized graphic "C" in our logo came straight from the architectural designs of ancient Greek and Roman amphitheaters. Our new tagline captures our international niche in Washington as well as the powerful sensory experience of seeing a SCENA production. From powerful acting, staging, and storytelling to stimulating projections, costume design, and lighting, a SCENA production truly excites all the senses for an exceptional theater experience. Beyond entertainment, our productions will leave you thinking about the emotional conflicts and intellectual quandaries of the human condition long after you exit the Playhouse. Our "25th Anniversary Season" began in the fall of 2012 with a riveting production of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Our golden season continued with Oscar Wilde's Salome, which received critical acclaim in the Washington press. In our 26th Season we presented The Marriage of Maria Braun, a wartime tale of love and loss based on the 1979 cult production by German filmmaker Werner Fassbinder. Maria Braun featured a veteran cast including longtime SCENA favorite Nanna Ingvarsson in the title role. The remainder of our season included staged readings and the development of new works. Our 27th Season included two plays rooted in Irish culture that ran in tandem at the Atlas Arts Center: Conor McPherson's Shining City and the world premiere of Molly by DC's George O'Brien. In the fall and early winter, SCENA Theatre also presented five staged readings at various embassies and cultural institutions throughout DC. Many of these readings are being examined for future full-blown productions. The 28th Season was launched with the DC premiere of Handbag by Mark Ravenhill: a bold and brazen black comedy featuring a cast of incredibly talented local actors in their 20s and 30s. Next up is The Norwegians, a hilarious dark comedy by newcomer female playwright C. Denby Swanson. In our 29th Season, we return to our roots by staging great works in Washington and then touring them to Europe. This includes Evald Flisar's Antigone Now, which opens at the ATLAS in DC and then tours through Europe including the prestigious International Presneren Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Then we we will remount our successful production of War of the Worlds! with new cast members, and it will run four weeks at the Atlas and then tour to the famed Prague Fringe Festival and beyond. Scena will also remount Kafka's Report to an Academy in Prague featuring Artistic Director Robert McNamara. We are thrilled to present these dynamic plays to you, and we hope you will join us for several staged readings of new and classic works in between these full-scale productions. On behalf of the SCENA board of directors, we thank you for your loyal attendance, dedicated volunteering, and sincere love for sensational international plays.
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