Spooky Action Theater's Board of Directors announces that Richard Henrich has retired as of September 5, 2022 after 18 years as Founding Artistic Director of the company. The Board thanks Richard for his years of leadership and dedication to produce work that deepens the connection between actors and audience at Spooky Action Theater.
Additionally, the Board has hired Gavin Witt to serve as a Interim Artistic Director through the next several months, to assist the company as begins to envision its continuing path forward as a unique part of the DC area's world-class theater community.
A native Washingtonian with longtime ties to the area, Gavin Witt comes to Spooky after most recently serving for nearly 20 years as Resident Dramaturg and Associate Artistic Director at Baltimore Center Stage. In addition to teaching locally at Peabody/Johns Hopkins and currently at Towson University, he has worked nationally and locally as a developmental director and dramaturg on scores of new plays, readings, and workshops.
Gavin Witt states "For years now, I've loved the notion of this company's name--with its suggestion of Wonder and Possibility within a rigorous structure--as it coincides with mission and vision. Now, over the next several months, I'm looking forward to joining with Spooky's board, staff, and passionate stakeholders from DC's vibrant theater community to help the company imagine their way forward in exciting new directions."
The company will next present Jordan Harrison's Maple and Vine, directed by Stevie Zimmerman, starting September 29 and running until October 23, 2022. Further 2022-23 season productions and new play development projects will be announced at a later date.
Floyd L. Norton, Spooky Action Theater Board Chair
Check out all the great events happening at Spooky Action Theater and in the Community!!
8/24 - Chalk Art w/ Amnesty International - In solidarity w/ the Ukraine
9/12 - New Works in Action - What Are You Looking Forward to...Again?
9/19 - New Works in Action - What Are You Looking Forward to...Again?
9/24 - Art All Night
9/24-10/9 - Celebrate Theater Week with Us!
9/29-10/23 - Performance: Maple and Vine Directed by Stevie Zimmerman
10/2 - Maple and Vine - Theater Talk: Theater Reviews and More
10/9 - Maple and Vine - Theater Talk: Meet MV's Director, Stevie Zimmerman
Our New Works in Action Play Reading Series
Spooky Action Theater invites you to our "New Works in Action Program"! Our program provides you the chance to see never performed full-length plays that push the boundaries of reality with stories too big to fit in a living-room. Imaginative plays telling a human story in a magical way. These plays represent some of the best talent Washington has to offer. Come join us as as we experience some of Washington DC’s best directors and most talented actors in creating an exciting and fulfilling experience.
Check Back In August For Reading Information + Tickets!
Spooky Action Theater is pleased to announce the addition of two new staff members, Matty Griffths, our new Production Manager, and Paul Marengo, our new Community Engagement Manager.
Matty Griffiths is a freelance, actor, director, producer, and scenic carpenter, first introduced to the DC theater scene in 1999. Since his introduction, Matty has been involved in countless productions wearing many crew hats. Adding to his experiences, Matty was formerly the Founder & Executive Director of City Artistic Partnerships and Associate Artistic Director of Actors Theater of Washington.
“Super excited to be taking on an expanded role at Spooky. It is a difficult time, but I feel my experience married with my history of building sets here, the last number of seasons, aligns perfectly to have a serious, positive impact on productions going forward, Matty added.” We are glad to have Matty who will bring a fresh perspective and enhance the overall experience for our patrons. You will be able to check our Matty’s work Maple and Vine, our production taking place from September 29th to October 23rd.
Paul Marengo is a nonprofit professional with over 27+ years experience bringing a wide range of knowledge to his work. Twenty of those years took place in DC, one of the most challenging and competitive fundraising environments in the country. Paul will be in charge not only of fundraising efforts, but also educational initiatives and marketing. “My hope is to ensure that we offer something for all our stakeholders while making sure that we provide programming that is diverse as well as inclusive, Paul said.” Please take a moment to welcome Paul and Matty as they bring Spooky Action Theater to a level never seen before!
Staff Changes at Spooky Action Theater
The Board of Spooky Action Theater has placed Artistic Director Richard Henrich on leave of absence. Richard’s artistic duties will be shared among the current staff along with our new Production Manager. As part of its ongoing Strategic Planning, the Board will conduct a performance review of our Artistic Director, our staff and our productions. We believe this Strategic Planning review will create and put in place effective policies, procedures and staffing that will ensure a welcoming environment for all.
The upcoming production of Maple and Vine, originally scheduled for spring 2020, and postponed several times due to the pandemic, will go ahead during this time with a cast, design team and crew that has been contracted since well before the current concerns became public. The Maple and Vine team’s desire is to see this exciting project through to fruition after so many disruptions and to do so in the creative and cooperative environment that is at the heart of our work as theater makers.
Turning illusion into reality through Japanese storytelling, puppets and graphic novels
Tennessee Williams wrote over 30 full-length plays and more than 35 one-act plays that were published or performed by the time of his death in 1983. Since then, 36 of his plays have received posthumous premieres, 12 of them at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown. This year is no exception. Produced by Spooky Action Theater and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Williams' short play The Lady from the Village from Falling Flowers has its World Premiere at the festival between September 26-29. Beforehand, this one-act play, never been staged or even published before, will have three preview performances at Spooky Action on September 21.
"The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers shares with an audience that an illusion becomes real whenever and wherever a story is convincingly told, says David Kaplan, Curator, and co-founder of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. "How such illusions work preoccupied Williams for the next forty-five years. It’s helpful to see the magic (and charm) of story-telling set out so clearly, without the obscuring bravura of a sophisticated writer’s craft."
It seems that the play was written in the spring of 1935 when Williams was a student a the University of Missouri, but there is no record of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers being submitted for class. The manuscript cover page states, “The title is suggested by the name of a character in Lad Murasaki’s ‘Tale of Genji.’” The source material, written by Murasaki around 1020 in archaic Japanese and popularized in the 1930s by Arthur Waley’s English version, prompted Williams’ imagination to soar. The story of the Lady is Williams' own, graced with quick-witted humor and a true flirt’s love for a dramatic reversal.
"When I read it for the first time, I tried to imagine what would frame the text as a folk play, thinking this would set off its silliness enough that a performance could pass on a serious idea: the illusion of beauty becomes a transient reality when a good story is told," remembers Kaplan. "The Japanese kamishibai, storytellers with pictures, seemed a good match for the material. When I mentioned this to our publicist, Hunter Styles, who had worked in Washington theater, he said 'I know THE person who can make this happen'. And he did: Natsu."
On Natsu's hands, The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers becomes an innovative event that mixes Japanese kamishibai style street theater with storytelling performers.
"This play is a playful study of, or homage to, Japanese Heian-era literature with William’s own added flavor," describes Natsu, who is working with Spooky Action after receiving two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven. "We have created an intimate spectacle (designed for small audiences) borrowing vocabularies and conventions from kamishibai (Japanese street storytelling performance with illustrated placards), puppetry, and comics/graphic novels."
Definitely, an event not to be missed!
Spooky Action Theater announces 2019-2020 Season
Reality is something we make up as we go along, and this season laughter lights the way.
"Our modern American plays show characters unmoored from the habits of convention -- characters whose simple acts of daily life become deft improvisations," says Artistic Director Richard Henrich. "We follow their daring exploration, guided by humor and by heart. And at the end of the day, we realize now is always the right moment to reinvent the world."
Spooky Action opens its season with two preview performances of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers, a recently discovered and never before produced or published play by Tennessee Williams. We present this one-act before it travels to Provincetown for a world premiere at this year's Tennessee Williams Theater Festival (September 26-29). Falling Flowers is directed by Natsu Onoda Power, winner of two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven at Spooky Action last year. This innovative event mixes Japanese kami-shibai style street theater with storytelling performers. Subtitled “A Japanese fantasy,” The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers has its head in the stars and both feet on the ground. It’s a punchy send-up of love, the perils of first impressions, and our earthly attempts to touch something eternal.
In November, we proudly host the DC premiere of Life and Death with Washington Improv Theater. The show stages a fully improvised funeral based on the final wishes of a member of the audience. Life and Death with Washington Improv Theater uses comedy and drama to explore the human experience of death and our desire to see how others will remember us after we shuffle off this mortal coil.
"Plays as funny and moving, as wonderful and weird as The Realistic Joneses, by Will Eno, do not appear often on Broadway. Or ever, really."
The New York Times
2020 begins with the Washington premiere of The Realistic Joneses, by critically acclaimed playwright Will Eno, directed by Gillian Drake, Spooky Action Theater’s New Works in Action Program Director. In this "humane, literate and slyly hilarious" play (New York Times), two couples find they share a lot more than their last names. Ever stumbling towards meaningful relationships, humor caps their encounter with an unsettling truth that lies just below the surface
"I have wanted for a long time to write a play about mortality and how we grapple with that. What I hope is that through these four characters, who have very different responses to the big, big things in life, people will find something recognizable as they go through their days," says Will Eno.
"Maple and Vine is piquantly funny, cleverly executed and darkly playful."
The New York Times
Spooky Action's 2019-2020 season concludes in the Spring with Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison, directed by Stevie Zimmerman. Big City dwellers Katha and Ryu have become disenchanted with their 21st-century lives. The harder they try to figure out what happiness looks like, the more elusive it becomes. Then they meet Dean, from a idealistic community that exists in a permanent state of 1955. They forsake cell phones and sushi for cigarettes and Chicken a la King, taking on new identities that challenge who they thought they were and who they might become. How far will they go -- how far would you go to alter your life in the pursuit of happiness? Speaking about his fictional Society for Dynamic Obsolescence, Harrison says, “The notion that less freedom could make you happy is a morally problematic idea... I’m hoping that the audience thinks, ‘I would never do something like that... Or would I?"
Spooky Action gives playwright Sarah Ruhl's powerful play The Oldest Boy its first DC production
The Oldest Boy was the first script playwright Sarah Ruhl wrote after she had twins. At the time – her son and daughter are now nine – she had to deal with the question of separation every day.
"Every day they take a new leap and do something slightly dangerous, so you’re wrestling with your sense of wanting to protect and keep them and your sense that they need to grow and develop and become their own person,” said Sarah Ruhl in a 2014 interview for American Theatre magazine, when the play had its premiere in New York.
The Oldest Boy was inspired by this question of separation and by a story her babysitter once told Ruhl, the story of a friend whose child was recognized as a reincarnated lama. In the play, staged for the first time in DC by Spooky Action Theater, the nuclear family and the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism come into conflict when an American mother and Tibetan father learn their little son may be much, much more than he first might seem. From the family living room, Buddhist monks guide the way through story, dream, dance and ceremony to Dharamsala, India. There, in a monastery courtyard, we step beyond past, beyond the present – to be touched by the soul of The Oldest Boy.
"I have long been an admirer of Sarah Ruhl's work and feel very fortunate to work on this play about life, death, what it means to be a parent, to lose a parent, to be a child, and to gain greater enlightenment on the knowledge that our children belong not to us but to the world," says director Kathryn Chase Bryer, recipient of a 2018 Helen Hayes Award.
In the Washington DC premiere of The Oldest Boy, the cast will feature Franklin Dam, Steve Lee Matthew Marcus, Stefany Pesta, Jenna Sokolowski, Al Twanmo and Rafael Untalan. On stage, the Oldest Boy will be a puppet designed by Matthew Pauli.
"There are big ideas in this play, and exploring them with this fantastic cast and with Spooky Action's Artistic Director Richard Henrich is a wonderful opportunity," celebrates the director. "Spooky Action produces plays that explore life through a lens of magic and abstract realism, and I am happy to say that The Oldest Boy is the perfect example of this mission. This play is the perfect blend of people who are grappling with the human condition that we all recognize and identify with, but Sarah Ruhl chooses to tell her story with a sense of theatricality and magic that will thrill and delight audiences."
The production design team includes Vicki R. Davis (Set Design), David Crandall (Sound Design), Julie Cray Leong (Costume Design) and Max Doolittle (Lighting Design). Tuyet Thi Pham, who received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance in The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, will be working with Kathryn Chase Bryer as Movement Director and Music and Cultural Consultant.
THE OLDEST BOY
A Play in Three Ceremonies
by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
Featuring Franklin Dam, Steve Lee, Matthew Marcus,
Stefany Pesta, Jenna Sokolowski*, Al Twanmo* and Rafael Untalan*
*member of Actor's Equity Association
Spooky Action brings to DC for the first time Korean playwright Hansol Jung's masterful Among the Dead
In a recent interview for American Theatre magazine, South Korean playwright Hansol Jung confesses that everything she has written so far has been inspired by three well-known plays: Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel, and Ruined by Lynn Nottage. The inspired writing of her play Among the Dead opened the doors of the playwriting program at the Yale School of Drama for Hansol Jung, and this same inspired play will now be staged for the first time in Washington DC by Spooky Action Theater.
“I am excited to introduce our Washington audience to this exceptional young Korean playwright, whose work is now being recognized on a national scale," says Spooky Action Artistic Director Richard Henrich. "The play carries us through perilous memories on a spirit quest to a final homecoming that is heart melting in its simplicity and depth of feeling. I hope our audience will be surprised, delighted and moved by this story as much as I am!"
Described by The New York Times as an “outraged, deeply compassionate play” and “a smart and stinging new play that delves into painful business,” Among the Dead is a dark comedy about a family broken apart by betrayed promises, and finding each other through the unlikely intercession of canned SPAM, a wartime journal and Jesus. Scenes and settings interweave between widely separated places and times (a hotel room in Seoul, South Korea in 1975, the WWII jungle battleground of Myitkyina, Burma in 1944, and Hangang Bridge in Seoul, 1950), as four characters are carried through encounters they never dreamed of and finally touch the core of who they are.
Number Four is a Korean sex-slave fleeing the Imperial Japanese army in WWII. Luke Woods is a stranded American soldier. The two form an unlikely alliance to survive, and they end up with more than they bargained for – a baby, Ana. Now a 30-year-old woman in 1975, Ana finds herself in a hotel room in Seoul, plunging into the story of Luke and Number Four through the medium of Luke's wartime journal – and some help from a bell boy named Jesus. Let’s say a lot of help from Jesus.
In the Washington DC premiere of Among the Dead, the cast will feature Kyosin Kang, Julie M*, Chris Stinson* and Nahm Darr. Kyosin and Julie have Korean backgrounds. Kyosin's parents are both Korean. She was born in South Korea and came to the United States at the age of 2.
"Even though I grew up in the States, my parents put me in Korean school on weekends when I was younger, so that I could learn the language and culture," remembers the actress. "I know bits and pieces of my Korean heritage, but stepping into Among the Dead has really brought it home for me."
The production design team includes AJ Vester (set design), Navid Azeez (sound design), Amy MacDonald (costume design) and Hailey LaRoe (lighting design).
AMONG THE DEAD by Hansol Jung
Directed by Richard Henrich
Featuring Kyosin Kang, Julie M*, Chris Stinson* and Nahm Darr*member of Actor's Equity Association
A New Play for Exceptional Times
Spooky Action Theater opens 2018-2019 Season with US Premiere about the power of theater
“Não." This is probably one of the most difficult words to pronounce in the Portuguese language. It is also one of the very few Portuguese words that Washington DC audiences will hear in Spooky Action Theater's upcoming production, the US premiere of New Guidelines for Peaceful Times by Brazilian playwright Bosco Brasil. Written in 2001 and made into a movie in 2009, after being performed in several countries around the world, New Guidelines is a high-stakes confrontation between an immigration official with a troubled history and a Polish refugee from a devastated post-WWII Europe, who is seeking a new life in Brazil.
"I wrote New Guidelines inspired by the true experience of a very well-known director who fled to Brazil from Poland after WWII. I was interested in finding out how somebody can leave everything behind and start over,” remembers Bosco Brasil, who is donating his royalties to AVSI-USA, an international NGO that supports refugees and migrants around the world. “But New Guidelines is not just about one man's struggle, it's about the struggle that all refugees and migrants experience nowadays.”
Directed by Roberta Alves (Gimme a Band, Gimme a Banana - A musical about Carmen Miranda), with Assistant Director Vivian Allvin, New Guidelines for Peaceful Times brings to the stage Helen Hayes nominated actors, Michael Kevin Darnall and Carlos Saldaña. Returning to Spooky Action after the recent The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, Darnall is Clausewitz, a Polish refugee. Clausewitz arrives in Brazil in 1945 after fleeing war-ravaged Europe hoping to start over. At his arrival, he must face Segismundo (Carlos Saldaña), a former secret police officer who is not convinced Clausewitz is really a farmer, as he claims, and hasn’t decided yet if he will let him stay in the country, or not. In a surprising turn of events, Segismundo proposes a deal: if Clausewitz can make him cry with his memories, the refugee will be allowed to stay.
The play caught the attention of one of the most celebrated Brazilian theater critics, the late Barbara Heliodora: “With the confrontation of those who 'always obey' against a 'so-called farmer,' Bosco Brasil writes a must-see play. New Guidelines for Peaceful Times shows how powerful the theater is during war, peace or terrorism.”
The production design team includes artists who have collaborated on many previous SAT productions like David Crandall (sound design) along with new local and international designers like Teca Fichinski (set and costume design) and Kyle Grant (lighting design).
NEW GUIDELINES FOR PEACEFUL TIMES
by Bosco Brasil, translated by Luciana Kez
Directed by Roberta Alves with Assistant Director Vivian Allvin
Featuring Michael Kevin Darnall and Carlos Saldaña
Get more information about our shows.