in Washington, D.C., has received a $2.5 million challenge gift in support of a commissioning project focused on stories of politics and power, the reports.
The 1:1 matching gift from real estate investor and longtime Arena supporter Curtis T. Bell will support the first cycle of the company's project, a ten-year effort aimed at commissioning and developing twenty-five new plays and musicals. The largest commissioning project in the company's history will feature one play per decade of U.S. history, starting with the 1770s, and comprise five cycles — Presidential Voices, African-American Voices, Insider Voices, Musical Theater Voices, and Women's Voices. Seven commissioned plays, including works by Sarah Ruhl, Rajiv Joseph, and Eve Ensler, are currently in development, while the 2016-17 season features Jacqueline E. Lawton's Intelligence, the third Power Play to be staged to date, following John Strand's The Originalist and Lawrence Wright's Camp David.
"We've matured with our mission to focus on the American voice and American stories, but that can't just be projects that have already been created," Arena Stage executive director Edgar Dobie told . "At least half of what we're doing is feeding the canon. What Curt has done is given us the freedom to be courageous and ambitious in mining these veins of new work."
"We've just come out of a riveting presidential campaign, one that woke up everyone in the country about presidential elections — even those who had no interest before," said Bell. "Through Power Plays, Arena is ensuring that people who live here know the political figures and the stories that have shaped this powerful city. Through the Presidential Voices cycle, Arena is ensuring that we understand where powerful figures come from — and what they do once they get into office. For Arena, it's the role of a lifetime. I'm honored to play a small part in giving back to an organization that has given so much to me."