Power Plays | 25 new plays | 10 years

Arena Stage's Leadership on the Power Plays Initiative

  • Molly Smith

    "Power and politics are the red meat of Washington, D.C. We eat, sleep and drink politics here from early morning coffee to late night conversations. Every city has its own language, its own nuances, its own history and our language is politics. D.C. audiences are hungry for these stories, and there is no other place in the country where these plays could have such an impact. There is no better time to launch this massive commissioning cycle, the largest in Arena’s history. The more we understand our American stories of politics and power, the more informed we become as a democracy."

     Molly Smith, Arena Stage's Artistic Director 

  • Edgar Dobie

    "Our Power Plays initiative ties directly into Arena Stage’s mission of nurturing new plays and presenting work that reflects America’s diversity and challenges and honors the founding principles of our organization set down over six decades ago. We have test driven the idea with several stakeholders and already received meaningful support. As a manager, I love the 10-year arc, which allows us to plan with confidence and set audacious goals for the organization."

    Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage's Executive Producer

The Five Cycles of Power Plays 

Power Plays will encompass five cycles: Presidential Voices, African-American Voices, Insider Voices, Musical Theater Voices and Women’s Voices. Commissioned projects will focus on topics including Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt.

Plays about exceptional presidents and remarkable events in their lives.

Plays that herald African-American stories in our country’s history and politics.

Plays that delve into an exclusive perspective on the complex workings of American institutions or cultures.

Musicals that celebrate political ideas and events.

Plays that shine a spotlight on women in our country’s political life.

Power Play Commissioned Playwrights

  • Bob Banghart

    Bob Banghart has been performing throughout Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest since the mid-70s. He co-founded the Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Jazz and Classics, which are annual weeklong festivals in their 43rd and 30th years, respectively. He began composition work with the 1991 Perseverance Theatre production The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, directed by Molly Smith, and has since scored over a dozen theater productions, an opera and numerous independent TV shows and films. Recent works include The Little Prince directed by Katie Jensen, Metamorphoses directed by Dave Hunsaker and the opera Hansel and Gretel directed by Henning Hegland. Bob lives in Juneau, Alaska with his wife, Laura Lucas, and dog, Jasmine.

    Bob wrote the music for Arena's 2018 production of Snow Child with fellow commissioned artist Georgia Stitt.  


  • Nathan Alan Davis

    His play Nat Turner in Jerusalem received its world premiere at NYTW in the fall of 2016 and was a New York Magazine Critic’s Pick. In 2015, his play Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea received a Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citation and was produced in five cities in a NNPN Rolling World Premiere. His play The Wind and the Breeze received the 2016 Blue Ink Playwriting Award and was selected for Cygnet Theatre’s inaugural Finish Line Commission. Nathan is a theater lecturer at Princeton University, a Usual Suspect at NYTW and a 2016 graduate of Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. He received his M.F.A. from Indiana University and his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois.

  • Eve Ensler

    Eve Ensler is the Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, performer and author of the Obie Award-winning play The Vagina Monologues, which has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve’s plays include Necessary TargetsO.P.C.The Good Body and Emotional Creature. Her books include Insecure At Last: A Political Memoir and The New York Times’ bestseller I Am An Emotional Creature. Her latest critically-acclaimed memoir is In the Body of the World, which she adapted, debuted and performed at American Repertory Theater directed by Diane Paulus. Her play Fruit Trilogy was performed at the Women of the World Festival and The West Yorkshire Playhouse. Eve is founder of both V-Day, an almost 20-year-old global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over $100 million, and One Billion Rising, a global mass action campaign in over 200 countries. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.”

  • Jacqueline E. Lawton

    Jacqueline E. Lawton's plays include Intelligence, Anna K, Blood-bound and Tongue-tied, Deep Belly Beautiful, The Devil’s Sweet Water, The Hampton Years, Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Noms de Guerre. She has received commissions from Adventure Theatre-MTC, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House and Theater J. Her play Cinder Blocks was published in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press). A 2012 TCG Young Leader of Color, she is an alumna of the National New Play Network (NNPN), Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena and Center Stage’s Playwrights Collective. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. She received her M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow.

  • Kenneth Lin

    Kenneth Lin's plays Warrior Class (TCG Edgerton New Play Prize); Fallow (Barrymore Nomination for Outstanding New Play, Brown Martin Philadelphia Award); Intelligence-Slave and Po Boy Tango (TCG Edgerton New Play Prize); said Saïd (L. Arnold Weissberger Award, Princess Grace Award); Life On PaperAgency* and Genius In Love have been seen at theaters throughout the country, including Second Stage, Alliance Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Alley Theatre, People's Light, South Coast Repertory, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Marin Theater Company and East West Players. He is the creator of a new limited series, American Way for USA Networks, and is a staff writer on Netflix's House of Cards. Commissions include Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Rep, Wilma Theater and Arena Stage. Residencies include Ojai Playwrights Conference, Ucross Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lark Playwrights Workshop, Interstate 73, New York Stage and Film and McCarter Playwrights Retreat. He attended Cornell University, Fulbright Scholarship, Yale School of Drama.

  • Craig Lucas

    Craig Lucas' plays include RecklessBlue WindowPrelude to a KissThe Dying GaulPrayerFor My EnemyThe Singing ForestOde To Joy and I Was Most Alive With You. His screenplays include Longtime CompanionThe Secret Lives of DentistsPrelude to a Kiss and The Dying Gaul. He wrote libretti for The Light in the PiazzaAn American in Paris and Two Boys (opera). He directed the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza, Harry Kondoleon’s Saved Or Destroyed and Play Yourself, as well as the films The Dying Gaul and Birds of America. Awards include NY Film Critics Best Screenplay, Sundance Audience Award, Excellence in Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters as well as three Obie Awards.

  • Eduardo Machado

    Eduardo Machado was born in Cuba and came to the United States when he was nine. He is the author of over 40 plays including The CookHavana is WaitingThe Modern Ladies of GuanabacoaFabiolaBroken Eggs and Stevie Wants to Play the Blues. His plays have been produced at Seattle Repertory, Goodman, Hartford Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mark Taper Forum, Long Wharf, Hampstead Theatre in London, Cherry Lane, Theater for the New City and Repertorio Español, among many others. He was formerly artistic director of INTAR Theatre in New York and has been a Professor of Playwriting at NYU Tisch and Columbia. He is the co-author of Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home and his plays are published by Samuel French and TCG.

  • Mary Kathryn Nagle

    Mary Kathryn Nagle is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She currently serves as the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. She is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. She has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. She has received commissions from Arena Stage; The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska; Portland Center Stage; and Denver Center. Her other plays include ManahattaDiamondsWaaxe’s LawSliver of a Full MoonMy Father’s BonesMiss Lead and Fairly Traceable.

    Mary Kathryn Nagle wrote Sovereignty, which received its world premiere in Arena's 2017/18 season, directed by Molly Smith. 

  • Aaron Posner

    Aaron Posner is an award-winning playwright, director, teacher and former artistic director of two LORT theaters. His Helen Hayes Award-winning play, Stupid Fucking Bird, was one of the 10 most produced plays in the country in 2015. Other plays include Life Sucks and No Sisters (both re-inventions of Chekhov), District Merchants (inspired by The Merchant of Venice), Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love) (adapted from Kurt Vonnegut), The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev (adapted from Chaim Potok), Sometimes a Great Notion (adapted from Ken Kesey) and several more. He has directed more than 150 productions at major regional theaters across the country, including Arena Stage, and currently lives outside of D.C. with his wife, actress Erin Weaver, and his amazing daughter, Maisie.

  • Theresa Rebeck

    Theresa Rebeck is a widely produced playwright on and off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. Her plays include SeminarMauritius (IRNE Award and Elliot Norton Award), Spike HeelsPoor BehaviorThe Family of Mann (National Theatre Conference Award), The Bells (William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award), Omnium Gatherum (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Bad Dates and The Understudy. In television, she is known for her work on NYPD Blue (Writer’s Guild, Peabody and Edgar Awards) and for creating the NBC series Smash. Theresa is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a Ph.D. and M.F.A. from Brandeis University. She serves on the board of PEN America and is a proud member of the Dramatist’s Guild. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Jess Lynn, and her children, Cooper and Cleo Lynn.

  • Georgia Stitt

    Georgia Stitt  is currently writing the musicals Snow ChildBlue Ridge SkyJuliette et Romeo and a large-form choral oratorio. Other shows include The Danger YearBig Red Sun (Arlen Award), Samantha Spade: Ace Detective (National Youth Theater Award), Mosaic and The Water. Albums include This Ordinary ThursdayAlphabet City Cycle (featuring Kate Baldwin) and My Lifelong Love. Her choral piece with hope and virtue (using text from President Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech) was featured on NPR and her orchestral piece, Waiting for Wings, co-written with husband Jason Robert Brown, was recorded by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Other credits include music director for 2016’s Sweet Charity (Off-Broadway), The Last Five Years (film) and The Sound Of Music Live! (NBC). She is on the Board of Directors for The Lilly Awards Foundation. www.georgiastitt.com

    Georgia co-wrote the music and wrote the lyrics for Arena's 2018 production of Snow Child with fellow commissioned artist Bob Banghart.  

  • John Strand

    John Strand's Arena Stage commissions include The Originalist, about the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; The Miser, an adaptation of the Moliére play set in Reagan-era America; Lovers and Executioners, winner of the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; and Tom Walker. Recent work includes the book and lyrics for Hat! A Vaudeville, a new musical with a score by composer Dennis McCarthy (South Coast Repertory); Lincolnesque, a dark comedy about politics and madness in D.C. (Old Globe); and Lorenzaccio, his adaptation of Alfred de Musset’s 1834 French classic (Shakespeare Theatre Company). Strand wrote the book for the musical The Highest Yellow, with a score by Michael John LaChiusa (Signature Theatre). Additional plays are The Diaries (Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); Otabenga
    (Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); 
    Three Nights in Tehran, a comedy about the Iran-Contra affair (Signature Theatre); and The Cockburn Rituals (Woolly Mammoth). Strand spent 10 years in Paris, where he worked as a journalist and drama critic, writing in English and French, and directed New York University's Experimental Theater Wing in Paris. His novel Commieland
    was published by Kiwai Media, Paris in 2013. He is currently at work on a new musical for Arena Stage and on the film adaptation of The Originalist.

    John wrote the script for Arena's 2017 production of The Originalist and the 2018 production of Snow Child.

  • Lawrence Wright

    Lawrence Wright made his Arena Stage debut with Camp David. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of nine books, including his recent Going Clear: ScientologyHollywood and the Prison of Belief. His book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 won the Pulitzer Prize, was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best nonfiction books ever written and is being adapted for TV by Hulu. He was the co-writer of the screenplay for 1998 movie The Siege, with Denzel Washington and Annette Bening, and also wrote Noriega: God's Favorite, with Bob Hoskins, for TV. He has written and performed two one-man shows: My Trip to al-Qaeda, which he performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center, and was made into a movie for HBO; and The Human Scale, which Lawrence performed in New York and Tel Aviv. His play Fallaci was staged by Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2013, and in 2015 he co-produced a documentary for HBO, Going Clear, based on his book of the same name, which won the Alfred I. du-Pont-Columbia Award and three Emmy Awards. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Society of American Historians. He also serves as the keyboard player in the Austin-based blues band, WhoDo.