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The 2019-2020 Performing Arts Guide: 30 Must-See Shows

Performing arts season is in full swing, and with it comes our staff picks for some of the most interesting and buzzworthy shows of the 2019-2020 season – from daring theatre productions and robust film festivals to contemporary dance and riveting opera. We also picked the brains of three directors and a playwright about their respective upcoming productions at some of our favorite theaters including season openers Doubt at Studio Theatre and Everybody at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Though our city’s performing arts scene is too expansive to capture in just one list, we’re confident that we’ve put together a solid rundown of works that will resonate with arts enthusiasts across the District.

FALL

NOW THROUGH SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6

Cabaret

Directed by Shakespeare Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Alan Paul, this Tony-winning classic musical set in 1929 Berlin follows novelist Cliff, who finds himself swept up in the life of the cabaret. Bunked at Fräulein Schneider’s boarding house with bawdy emcee and provocateur Sally Bowles, unexpected relationships form – including one between their landlord and a Jewish fruit seller. The score features classics such as “Willkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Money.” Tickets are $37-$85. Olney Theatre: 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Rd. Olney, MD; www.olneytheatre.org

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Washington Improv Theatre Road Show
Washington Improv Theatre’s company performs alongside featured comedic ensembles like I Don’t Know Her, Goodison and Bring Back the 90s. Every night offers something new and exciting, as the lineup changes and different guests take part. Therefore, no two performances are ever the same. Tickets are $18. DC Arts Center: 2438 18th St. NW, DC; www.dcartscenter.org

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12

Taffety Punk Presents Riot Grrrls: Othello
Don’t miss an all-women production of Shakespeare’s Othello starring Danielle A. Drakes in the titular role and Lise Bruneau as Iago. The women of Taffety Punk Theatre Company began the Riot Grrrls theatre project as an activist reaction to the lack of gender parity on DC stages. Directed by Kelsey Mesa, this production includes all the tragedy and excitement of the Bard’s play including swords, daggers and murder, performed by some bad-ass actors. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop: 545 7th St. SE, DC; www.chaw.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6

Michael Rapaport
Outspoken, opinionated and very New York, Michael Rapaport will make his first visit to DC Improv this fall, bringing a flair for the dramatic while comedically complaining. He’s worn various Hollywood hats with stints as an actor, podcaster and producer, but his true calling has always been on the stage, raising his voice and yelling jokes directly in your grill with the kind of apathetic humor only a lifelong Knicks fan could possess. Various times and ticket prices. DC Improv: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.dcimprov.com

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6

Atlas Presents Dance: Cafe Flamenco
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, dancers from FuriaFlamenca Dance Company offers a fun evening of cabaret-style entertainment. Led by artistic director Estela Vélez de Paredes, dancers will perform traditional flamenco dance. Guitarist Torcuato Zamora will provide live music. Tickets are $20-$30. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27

Bentzen Ball
It’s the 10th anniversary of the Bentzen Ball, Tig Notaro’s collaboration with Brightest Young Things and perhaps the funniest weekend in the District. This year, Notaro’s recruited the likes of Maria Bamford, Pete Holmes, Jamie Lee and the New Negroes (featuring but not limited to Baron Vaughan of 30 Rock, Jaboukie Young-White, a.k.a. one of the funniest people on Twitter, and musician/comedian Open Mike Eagle). There’s even more to be announced, including a very special guest who will join Notaro herself onstage. Times vary. Festival tickets $154.20, individual show tickets also available. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.brightestyoungthings.com

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22

Disney’s Newsies
Based on the true story of New York City’s newsboys going on strike in the summer of 1899, Newsies was a hit movie before going on to Broadway in 1992, capturing a Tony Award for best score. With songs like “Carrying the Banner,” “King of New York” and “Seize the Day,” it’s easy to understand why. The musical boasts music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein. For Arena’s production, Edward Gero plays Joseph Pulitzer and Erin Weaver plays Katherine. Tickets are $66-$115. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10

SOLE Defined
As the inaugural Dance Place Artist-in-Residence, SOLE Defined, is set to turn their bodies into percussive instruments of the utmost versatility. Whether through tap dance or loud thuds caused by their bodies bouncing off each other and their surroundings, this Maryland dance theatre will translate global rhythms into a powerful, expressive art form. 8-10 p.m. on Saturday, 4-6 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets $25-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Roadshow with Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith
From the front of a gas station to the mall to Hollywood to Hollywood again? Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are returning to the big screen this fall as Jay and Silent Bob in Smith’s latest film Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. To celebrate the duo’s return to the big screen, Smith and Mewes are hitting the road with a live show, where fans can peep the movie with its stars. Snoochie boochies. 9 p.m. Tickets $50+. Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse: 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA; www.arlingtondrafthouse.com

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17

Rent
The 20th anniversary production of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning musical returns to the National Theatre. Based on a reimagining of Puccini’s “La Bohème,” the musical follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven New York City artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With a memorable score, the show is a rollercoaster of emotions and one of theater’s most lauded musicals of the past two decades. Tickets are $54-$114. National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thenationaldc.com

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24

8th Annual Film Festival: REEL TIME AT GALA
The GALA Hispanic Theatre will take storytelling from the stage to the screen as the famed company produces the 8th iteration of its Latin American film festival, focusing on Bolivia, Mexico and Brazil. From classics to contemporary works, the movies shown over the course of the event will provide viewers with a glimpse of the vast amount of stories from around the world. Times and ticket details to come. Gala Hispanic Theatre: 3333 14th St. NW, DC; www.en.galatheatre.org

WINTER

THURSDAY, JANUARY 9 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2

Sheltered
America didn’t get involved in World War II until the later stages, so when Hitler began his assault on Jewish people in Europe, it wasn’t uncommon for new stories to get buried beneath the fold. Sheltered takes place in 1939, during America’s stint of inaction, at a cocktail party that turns into a political and moral debate, as a couple attempts to make a decision that could save the lives of suffering children the world over. You might be wondering, what’s the debate? Well, as you’ve likely experienced in the past few years at cocktail parties and family holiday dinners, bringing up politics (no matter how life or death) often causes tension. Times and dates vary. Tickets $30-$69. Theater J: 1529 16th St. NW, DC; www.theaterj.org

TUESDAY, JANUARY 14 – SUNDAY, MARCH 1

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Directed by Aaron Posner and starring 2019 Helen Hayes Award winner Regina Aquino and theater veteran Brian Mani, the Bard’s comedy is a story of marriage, jealousy, wealth and lies. The plot follows Falstaff, whose dubious plan to woo Windsor’s wealthy housewives is met with hilarious retaliation when the women devise a plot to teach him a lesson. Come experience the reason this show is often described as William Shakespeare’s more satirical. Tickets $27-$85. Folger Theatre: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Presents Charlie Chaplin’s Legacy: Classical Music in Film
Perhaps the first king of comedy, the British Charlie Chaplin pioneered silent humor before talkies were en vogue. Beyond his diminutive frame and slapstick antics, Chaplin was a riveting story teller, using every aspect of a film to form an entertaining and often thoughtful narrative. Without quips and monologues, Chaplin couldn’t joke his way through a story, heightening the importance of an impactful score. To celebrate what would be Chaplin’s 130th birthday, the BSO will pay homage to his use of music. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets $35-$90. Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, Maryland; www.strathmore.org

SUNDAY, MARCH 1 – SATURDAY, MARCH 21

Washington National Opera: Samson and Delilah
This sensual grand opera tells the story of Samson, who has everything it takes to free the enslaved Hebrews from the Philistines. But when the bewitching Delilah seduces Samson into revealing the source of his physical power, his faith is tested. With music by Camille Saint-Saëns and libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire, the story is told in French with projected English titles. Directed by Peter Kazaras, the show stars J’Nai Bridges as Delilah and Roberto Aronica as Samson. Tickets are $45-$299. Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11 – SUNDAY, MARCH 29

Inherit the Windbag
Americans are way too into debates. No, not the ones held at schools and universities between teams of intellectuals. I’m talking about the hot take, punditry BS that is so rampant in society and pop culture that the people famous for these pseudo acts of discourse are more parody than their parodies. In 1968 liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley met for a series of televised debates which wet society’s appetite for debate, conflict and arguments. Playwright Alexandra Petri is set to reprise the infamous debate, with satire and guest appearances from past and present. Times vary. Tickets $20-$65. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

SPRING

MONDAY, APRIL 6 – SUNDAY, MAY 3

There’s Always the Hudson
In this Woolly Mammoth production, revenge is a dish best served on time, especially when you have a pact. Sexual abuse survivors Lola and T are running up against the clock, as their deadline for getting revenge on everyone who’s ever “f–ked with them” fast approaches. Unwilling to let the truce between them fall to the wayside, these two escalate their respective plots for retribution by unleashing the pent up anger on a fearless adventure. Tickets are $20 to $64. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22 – SUNDAY, MAY 17

Life Is a Dream
What’s real and what’s not? Is destiny a thing or do we control our own narratives and fate? These questions have been at the forefront of human consciousness since, well, forever, and likely always will be. Stories that tap into these existential questions have stood the test of time, and Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s Life Is a Dream is no exception, making the rounds internationally for almost 400 years. The latest adaptation comes to the DMV by way of Synetic Theatre, as the company is set to offer a gritty look at Prince Segismundo and his father’s tale of destiny, prophecy and free will. Times vary. Tickets go on sale in early 2020. Synetic Theater: 1800 South Bell St. Arlington, VA; www.synetictheater.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 23 – SUNDAY, MAY 3

Filmfest DC 2020
DC’s most ambitious film festival returns in 2020, with 80 films from 45 countries over the course of 11 days. For people who love films and movie theaters, any opportunity to see strange, eclectic submissions from far parts of the world is a joyous occasion, and no festival in the District meets the variety that Filmfest brings on an annual basis. Whether you’re into shorts or features, comedies or dramas, English or French, there’s probably a reel you’ll dig. Times vary. Tickets available in 2020. Filmfest DC: Various locations in Washington, DC; www.filmfest.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 23 – SUNDAY, MAY 7

Always Patsy Cline
Created by Ted Swindley and based on a true story about the legendary country singer’s odd friendship with a fan from Houston named Louise Seger, the musical offers plenty of humor, great music and even a bit of audience participation. More than two dozen Cline favorites are part of the score, including “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Walking After Midnight.” With songs like those, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most produced musicals in the U.S. today. Creative Cauldron: 410 S. Maple Ave. Falls Church, VA; www.creativecauldron.org

SATURDAY, MAY 16 – SUNDAY, JUNE 14

The Blackest Battle
Another entry from DC’s foremost hip-hop theatre director Psalmayene 24, The Blackest Battle takes place in a future after African Americans receive reparations. With conflict between warring hip-hop factions, this musical’s characters struggle to wrestle with their lives while encountering love, violence and the significance of the Fourth of July. Tickets are $40. Anacostia Playhouse: 2020 Shannon Pl. SE, DC: www.theateralliance.com

SUMMER

THURSDAY, JUNE 4 – SUNDAY, JUNE 28

Maple and Vine
Were the 1950s really that great? Well, that’s what Katha and Ryu have to figure out in Spooky Action’s Maple and Vine. The play follows the two married millennials on their quest for happiness, which leads them to a community very much stuck in the John Travolta Grease-era of the world, where leather jackets and cigarettes were prevalent. This isn’t an instant turn off for our protagonists, as they receive new identities and attempt to see if the grass is greener on the oth…I mean, back in time. Times and ticket prices TBA. Spooky Action Theater: 1810 16th St. NW, DC; www.spookyaction.org

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10 – FRIDAY, JULY 3

Hatef*ck
A provocative romantic comedy between two Muslim-Americans who have nothing in common except their race. Layla and Imran are a literature professor and novelist, respectively, and clash over faith, politics and cultural clichés. Written by Rehana Lew Mirza and directed by Nicole A. Watson, the show proves that good sex doesn’t always make good bedfellows. Individual ticket prices TBA. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

FRIDAY, JUNE 19 – TUESDAY, JUNE 23

AFI DOCS Film Festival
The nation’s annual documentary film festival is beloved for showcasing the best in documentary filmmaking from both the U.S. and around the world. District Architecture Center serves as the festival’s central meeting place for guest registration, forum panels and talks, as well as a place for filmmakers and select pass holders to gather. Screenings will take place around landmark venues in DC and the world-class AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Advisory board members for the festival include noted filmmakers Ken Burns, Spike Lee and Barbara Kopple. Times and ticket prices TBA. District Architecture Center: 421 7th St. NW, DC; www.afi.com/afidocs

FRIDAY, JULY 24 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 23

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
With a book by John Cameron Mitchell and music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, this groundbreaking Tony-winning musical got its start off-Broadway and developed a cult following. The musical tells the tale of Hedwig Schmidt, an East German rock ‘n’ roll goddess who was the victim of a botched sex change operation, leaving her with an “angry inch.” Backed by a hard-rocking band, Hedwig conveys her funny, touching and ultimately inspiring story in dazzling fashion. Times and individual ticket prices TBA. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC;
www.keegantheatre.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 25 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

To Kill a Mockingbird
When an Academy Award winner adapts Pulitzer Prize-winning material, it’s likely that said adaptation would be a hit, right? Well, like some sort of literary math, Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird delivers about what you’d expect: a dramatic, gut-wrenching story that adds to the legendary characters we remember so well from the novel. Though Sorkin’s spin doesn’t deviate too much from Lee’s original framework, his creative flourishes to dialogue and added character dynamics has made this reimagined classic one of Broadway’s hottest tickets. Tickets are $49-$139. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org