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Gods, goddesses, Janis Joplin and Mary Todd Lincoln fill Arena's stages

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Entertainment,Music,Barbara Mackay

Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage, has put together many challenging theater seasons, and Arena's 2012-2013 season is no exception.

"What's exciting to me is the combination of brand-new productions with some great classics," Smith said. "I think of it as American theater -- past, present and future."

The first production, playing currently, is "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins," starring Kathleen Turner. "It's about newspaper columnist Molly Ivins, written by two journalists, Margaret and Allison Engel," Smith said.

"It's perfect for the election season. Ivins was a real truth-teller, a great satirist who attacked everybody. Kathleen Turner really wanted to do this, particularly in Washington, particularly now."

Onstage
Arena Stage's 2012-2013 Season
Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW
When: Through May 26
Info: 202-488-3300; arenastage.org

The second play, opening Sept. 28, is "One Night With Janis Joplin," written and directed by Randy Johnson. "It's really a concert," Smith said. "The young woman playing Janis quite literally channels Joplin. The piece is about Joplin's relationship to powerful singers she felt fiercely about. In a sense, it's about how we stand on the shoulders of people before us."

Smith will direct the November-to-January musical in the Fichandler, "My Fair Lady," which she calls a "brilliant gold-standard musical about class." "Many Americans ignore the fact that we have different classes here," Smith said. "The Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street drew back the curtain so Americans could see how we're stratified in terms of class."

"Pullman Porter Blues," by Cheryl West, is a world premiere opening Nov. 23. "It takes place on the night of the great Joe Louis fight," Smith said, "but it's really about three generations of porters on Pullman trains."

On Feb. 1, David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People" opens. "It's a dark, contemporary comedy," Smith said, "about social class warfare. It takes place in South Boston and examines a clash between lower and upper classes."

On Feb. 8, Mary Zimmerman's "Metamorphoses" opens in the Fichandler. "It's Greek mythology, based on Ovid's poem, where gods and goddesses interact with mortals," Smith said. "We're doing it in a giant pool of water, as the original and the Broadway versions were done."

In March, Tazewell Thompson's "Mary T. & Lizzy K." opens in the Kogod Cradle. " 'Mary T.' reveals the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, a freed slave," Smith said. "It was an unusual, volatile relationship."

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