In The Round: May 2020
In the Round with Arena's Ashley Forman and Mauricio Pita
Community Engagement staff Ashley Forman and Mauricio Pita celebrate the transformative power of devised theater and discuss how Arena's educational programming has risen to meet this historic moment.
In the Round with AARP's Edna Kane-Williams
Edna Kane-Williams of AARP explains why she is so invested in Arena's work, both professionally and personally.
Forging a Partnership Between Arena Stage and Georgetown University
“I love that Andrew contributed a program that forms a deep connection with our Washington community.”
Written by Janice L. Kaplan
Ask Trustee Andrew R. Ammerman about his long history with Arena Stage and three stories immediately come to mind.
First, Andrew recounts how, in the 1960s, he and an African American friend who shared his love of the performing arts attended performances together at Arena Stage and The Howard Theatre because they were some of the only theaters in Washington that were not segregated. “That childhood experience made a strong impression on me,” he says.
Decades later, after joining Arena’s Board of Trustees, he recalls a meeting in which Artistic Director Molly Smith asked for help forging partnerships with local universities. Andrew, who graduated from Georgetown and was a member of its Board of Regents, took Molly’s call to action as “a personal challenge.” Soon after, the multi-year Georgetown University-Arena Stage-Ammerman Family Partnership was established.
Finally, he shares that “one perk of being on the board – perhaps the best perk – is being given the opportunity to ‘intern’ at the theater.” For Andrew, that opportunity came with the 2011 groundbreaking production of Oklahoma! and again in 2014 with Fiddler on the Roof. “Watching the artistic process unfold before me in the Ammerman Rehearsal Hall, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the transformative nature of theater, as well as my family’s long history with Arena Stage,” he says, referencing the rehearsal room that is named for his parents, Josephine and H. Max Ammerman.
Josephine and Max were major donors to Arena for many decades. (His cousin Hank Schlosberg is also a generous contributor and current Emeriti Trustee.) Josephine and her seven sisters all grew up in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Georgetown, Max made a name for himself as a lawyer, real estate investor and developer of some of the area’s first shopping malls, including Tyson’s Corner and Wheaton Plaza. Married for 52 years, the couple was known for their generosity, not only to arts organizations, but also to Jewish causes and educational institutions.
Andrew was introduced to the arts from a young age. At summer camp in New Hampshire, he reveled in performing. “That is where I began to understand that the world really is a stage,” he says. His parents took him to see shows at the Shubert Theatre in New York City, where a cousin was the manager, and to London’s West End. One favorite memory is of being with his mother at the opening celebration of the renovated Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in 2010. “It was a joyful evening that lasted way past midnight,” he says, adding, “My mother was 93 at the time!”
Having previously lived in Thailand and Indonesia, Andrew splits his time today between Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. His interests continue to evolve; in addition to theater, he enjoys gardening, meditation, mineralogy and meteorology. As a lifelong learner with a longtime interest in history, culture, philosophy and theology, he values the important educational role that Arena and Georgetown play in the Washington region and beyond.
“Andrew Ammerman is a beautifully generous person, in philanthropy and in spirit,” says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. “The Georgetown Partnership is inspired because it benefits all parties – Arena connects with students and professors through programming and their talent pool, and the students and faculty see productions and interact with artists in unique ways, adding to everyone’s shared education.”
“Andrew’s creation and support of the Georgetown-Arena Partnership is both generous and distinctive,” says Arena Stage Deputy Artistic Director Seema Sueko. “His gift provides the freedom for our organization to be light on our feet and create and take advantage of mutually beneficial opportunities as they arise.”
Over the years, the gift has allowed Georgetown students to engage with Arena staff and artists including resident and commissioned playwrights, participate in master acting classes, attend productions, intern and more. For Arena, the partnership has allowed creative teams to engage with Georgetown faculty from across the campus to provide dramaturgical expertise, support the development of new work and participate in talkbacks and dialogues.
“Here at Georgetown, we’ve been honored to work with the Ammerman family for many years to strengthen our programming in the performing arts. Andrew’s longstanding commitment to the theater has made it possible for so many members of our University community to benefit from the excellent programming at Arena Stage and all the artistic expertise the D.C. theater community has to offer,” said Georgetown's President Dr. John J. DeGioia.
“I love that Andrew contributed a program that forms a deep connection with our Washington community,” says Molly Smith. “I love the flow of information and the sharing of ideas and resources. For Georgetown University and for Arena Stage, this is a fantastic partnership.”