When the Shakespeare Theatre Company hosts its Harman Center for the Arts 10th Anniversary Gala on October 15 at Sidney Harman Hall, it will mark more than 30 years of the theatre’s history and strong ties to the Middleburg region.
Now in its 31st season, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, originally named the Shakespeare Theatre at Folger Shakespeare Library, opened in 1986 with a production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by current Artistic Director Michael Kahn, who has received numerous awards and accolades. Over the next six years, Kahn’s leadership grew STC from a start-up theatre with fewer than 1,600 subscribers, to a lauded arts organization. This rapid growth ultimately necessitated a 1992 move into the 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre located in D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood—an area which, at the time, was in need of an economic boost.
In 2007, STC expanded once again and opened Sidney Harman Hall, which features 774 seats and a flexible stage that can accommodate theatre, dance, music, and film. The Shakespeare Theatre Company has produced and hosted more than 150 productions, entertaining more than 2.5 million audience members in its two theatre spaces and has been honored with numerous awards.
“It is a world-class theater,” said Upperville resident Landon Butler. He and his wife, Carol, are chairing the upcoming gala. “Performances include some of the top talents in the world,” Butler added.
There are many residents in the Middleburg area who serve on the board and support the Theatre as season ticket subscribers and donors and, thanks to supporters Beth and Wayne Gibbens, Kahn has spoken at the Middleburg Forum. The Shakespeare Theatre Company has become so popular that carpools have been created. “It is certainly worth the drive,” said Butler, who has been a supporter for many years.
“I can’t say enough great things about this theater,” stated another Upperville resident, Anita Antenucci, who is also a board member. “The Shakespeare Theatre Company is not only known for its widely acclaimed Shakespeare productions,” explained Antenucci. “They have also performed groundbreaking productions of modern classics that have received worldwide acclaim, including Michael Kahn’s re-edit and direction of return to the stage of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude.”
One resident of the Middleburg region, in particular, has had a major influence on the breadth of artistic programs at STC. “Clarice Smith has been instrumental,” Antenucci said. “Not only has she sponsored productions, but she also recently worked with Michael Kahn to create two series; one for plays to be matched in pairs and performed in repertory, and another to allow up-and-coming directors their first mainstage Shakespeare production.”
Shakespeare Theatre Company productions have been invited to the world’s largest stages. STC productions included China’s first Shakespeare Theatre Festival and Stratford-upon-Avon and the Athens Festival in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an amphitheater that is over 1,850 years old. Recently, Headlong’s production of 1984 was presented at the Lansburgh Theatre before its Broadway production that opened this summer, and STC’s 2016 co-production of The Secret Garden is now playing at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, Texas, and is slated for a Broadway run in the future.
The STC’s prestigious William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre (Will Award) has been given to recognize and provide encouragement to leading actors and directors who dedicate some portion of their careers to the production of classic theater. Will Award recipients to date have included Julie Taymor, Stacy Keach, John Hurt, F. Murray Abraham, Sir Ian McKellen, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and many more.
Actress Laura Linney is this year’s Will Award recipient, and she’ll be present at the gala to receive the award for her contributions to classical theater in America. A former student of Michael Kahn’s at Juilliard, Linney has a long and illustrious career of artistic achievements. For her critically acclaimed performances across theatre, film, and television, Linney has been nominated for four Tony Awards, three Academy Awards, a BAFTA Award and five Golden Globe Awards and won a SAG Award, National Board of Review Award, two Golden Globes and four Emmy Awards. She holds two honorary Doctorates from her alma maters, Brown University and The Juilliard School.
The annual gala raises funds for the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s numerous education and community outreach programs including District Shakespeare, Text Alive! FREE WILL, and the annual Free For All. Every year, more than 35,000 children and benefit from the Shakespeare Theatre Company through comprehensive school, training, access, and audience enrichment programs.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company received the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award® during its 25th Anniversary Season. The Regional Theatre Tony Award® honors a non-profit, professional regional theatre that has displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally.
One of the country’s most prestigious cultural honors, the Helen Hayes Awards, celebrates outstanding achievement at professional theatres throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Since 1987, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has won 97 Helen Hayes Awards and earned 398 nominations.
In January 2013, Artistic Director Michael Kahn was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame, which honors Lifetime Achievement in American Theatre. Kahn was selected for his over 25 years as the visionary leader of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, his work as director of eight Broadway shows, and his tenure as the Richard Rodgers Director of the Drama Division at The Juilliard School.
The Harman Center for the Arts 10th Anniversary Gala will begin at Sidney Harman Hall with a world-class performance of theatre, opera, dance, and music; and it may feature some surprises. Guests will then enjoy a three-course dinner and dancing at the spectacular National Building Museum.
To purchase tickets or sponsor a table, contact STC’s Director of Special Events, Amanda Herman, at HCAGala@ShakespeareTheatre.org or 202-547-3230 ext. 2330. For more information, please visit www.shakespearetheatre.org/support/special-events/hca-gala/.