The Mead Center

The Mead Center for American Theater is “the largest performing arts complex to open since the Kennedy Center.”

— Jacqueline Trescott, The Washington Post

After a decade of planning, design and construction, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater reopened on October 25, 2010. The new building, designed by Bing Thom Architects, one of Canada’s most renowned architectural firms, re-imagines this legendary theater and creates a cultural destination in Southwest Washington. With the opening of this new facility, Arena Stage is the second largest performing arts complex in Washington after the Kennedy Center and is a national center for the production, presentation, development and study of American theater.

Just as the founding of Arena Stage more than 65 years ago changed American theater, the new center secures the future of Arena Stage as both a national leader and a dynamic local treasure. The center features state-of-the-art technology and modern amenities; a centralized lobby with a vastly increased number of restrooms; readily available concessions and an onsite café; a reading area dedicated to students of American theater; easy access to all areas of the building for people with disabilities; and a beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the Potomac with the Washington Monument in the background.

Timeline and Construction Architect's Statement  multimedia Tour

"Our center will be a home for American Voices in the nation’s capital – a showcase of the broad range of work from the country’s leading and emerging artists; a birthplace for new American work; and a space to engage audiences in the history, breadth and legacy of the American theater."

Molly Smith Artistic Director

“The building is absolutely stunning. It is a magnificent and important piece of architecture that contributes greatly to the cultural landscape of Washington. It is one the best designed buildings in D.C. in the last decade.”

- Zelda Fichandler Founding Director

  • The Fichandler Stage

    • 680 seats / 10,000 sq. ft
    • Epic, four-sided auditorium, steeply raked seating tiers and bold, earthy exterior design
    • Ideally suited to large-scale classic dramas and musicals
    • State-of-the-art technical equipment and elegant new décor
    • Acoustical improvements eliminate ambient noise
    • Audience members are never more than eight rows away from the action
    View seating chart
  • The Kreeger Theater

    • 510 seats / 4,400 sq. ft.
    • State-of-the-art technology and amenities including new furnishings in deep blue colors
    • Qualities that make it one of the most artist- and audience-friendly spaces in the country: extraordinary flexibility, excellent acoustics and flawless sightlines
    • Remarkably intimate interaction between actor and audience
    View seating chart
  • The Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle

    • 202 seats / 3,400 sq. ft.
    • Technically sophisticated venue will enable Arena to continue building the canon of American work and cultivating the next generation of writers
    • Beautiful and acoustically sound, wooden basket-weaved walls in lush eggplant colors
    View seating chart

Significant Facts about Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater

  • Philanthropists Gilbert and Jaylee Mead gave the largest single gift ever to an American theater at that time with their naming gift of $35 million.
  • The Mead Center is 200,000 square feet in size, making it the largest performing arts center to open in D.C. since the Kennedy Center, which opened in 1971.
  • The cantilevered roof, tapered to a compass point and aligned with the Maine Avenue axis, salutes the Washington Monument. This heroic cantilever is one of the largest in the U.S.
  • As general contractor for the Mead Center, Clark Construction worked on average 1,500 man hours per day to stay on track for the fall 2010 opening.
  • The foundation of the Mead Center contains 14,000 cubic yards of concrete, enough to fill four-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • The design team drew inspiration from the jellyfish’s transparency when designing the new complex’s skin, which is fabricated with glass. There are approximately 370 panes, amounting to 35,000 square feet of glass that creates the “curtain wall” surrounding the building.
  • The Parallam wood and insulated glass wall design on the exterior facade was the first attempt at this type of application in the United States. Each wood column that supports the building bears 400,000 pounds of load on average.
  • The floor of the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle does not touch the adjacent walls. Instead, to ensure acoustic isolation, it sits on 20 separate isolation pads, each the size of a shoebox.
  • The building of the Mead Center was a catalyst for other development in the Southwest neighborhood. Molly Smith noted in an interview with Washington.org that Arena Stage provided a signature building and the Mead Center provided that. Arts organizations are often the catalyst for major improvements in different communities. 

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater

1101 Sixth Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20024

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