MeanGirls Image            When the outside world thinks of our fair city, the automatic thought nowadays is monuments, America, and of course, our newest crazy downtown neighbor, and rarely is someone shouting “theatre!”

            However, there is an increasing trend turning the tide. Recent productions such as Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away that begin their journey in Washington and transfer to Broadway are turning artistic eyes on The District. Especially now that the cohort includes Tina Fey’s Mean Girls currently in-residence at the National Theatre.

            We pondered why this is so and what it adds to our theatrical street-cred, so we asked some community members about their thoughts and what it means for the future of the city’s artistic reputation.

            “DC has a long history of being an out-of-town try out,” says Neal Racioppo, who is Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Director of Marketing and Communications. According to him, DC as a first-run for plays and musicals goes as far back as the 1960’s.

            When it comes to the appeal of the city, “producers realize that DC is a really smart city with people who love culture and who love the arts,” Racioppo said.

            “There’s something to seeing a Broadway show that is big and amazing, and that has its own purpose, but in terms of inspiring you, DC does that so well,” says actor Samuel Edgerly, who got his start in the region and is now in A Bronx Tale in New York.

            Not only does DC’s theatre scene push out Broadway-quality content, but the community also fosters high-caliber talent, like Edgerly, who referenced passionate storytelling and higher risk-taking as what sets DC apart from New York’s commercial appeal.

            “Actors in DC can learn from great people, and get the credits and the experience they need here because regional theatre gives them the chance to play the great roles before the challenge of taking on Broadway,” said Racioppo.

            This is evident in the increasing number of actors who work at local theatres including Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, and Signature Theatre, who go on to snag leading and supporting roles in New York in recent shows such as The Play that Goes Wrong and Groundhog Day The Musical.

            Whether its shows in development, or actors who are building their performance chops with every show they book, Washington continues to move up the artistic ranks. It is clear that the city’s upward trajectory as an arts incubator is gaining momentum with every season. Before buying that train ticket to see that show you heard of on 42nd Street, think about going local because the next show you see could be another Next to Normal.


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