This fall, things will come full circle for a theater company that was nurtured right here in Arlington. The Keegan Theatre, which has mounted the majority of its shows in various Arlington venues from the basement of the Mount Olivet United Methodist Church on North Glebe Road to the Theatre on the Run on South Four Mile Run Drive, has announced that they will become the full-time theater company in residence across the river in the Church Street Theatre in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
In the meantime, Arlington audiences have one last chance to sample a Keegan offering without crossing the Potomac. This weekend will be the last of a three-weekend mini-festival of short plays under the title "Acts of Love." The festival is the work of Keegan’s "New Island Project" — a unit of the theater company that specializes in presenting its works in a minimal setting. It has used the small black-box facility of the Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division, the Theatre on the Run.
The mini-festival began with a staging of A.R. Gurney’s two-character play "Love Letters." Then, last weekend, they offered the world premiere of a one-act play titled "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by company member Megan Thrift. Peter Finnegan played a lonely young man downing a few beers in a neighborhood bar about to shut down permanently due to financial hard times. Ashley Faye Dillard was the bar-owner/bar-tender who finds in him a kindred spirit. The play opened to a full house in the 85-seat theater.
The final offering of the three-play mini-festival plays in the Theater on the Run this Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. It is another premiere by a company member, Joe Baker whom Keegan followers have watched grow from a cute carrot topped kid in the first-ever Keegan production to the tall, lanky, long-haired young man he is today. "False Romance: An Intergalactic Farce" is an expanded version of his "When Jason Met Maggala." When it ends its three-night run, Keegan’s 12-year run presenting plays in Arlington may also be at an end.
Ever since 2004, Keegan has split its productions between Arlington venues and the Church Street Theatre, an atmospheric brick building built in the mid-19th century as the gymnasium for the college prep Holton Arms School. It was converted into a theater in 1975 and now seats 125 before a stage surrounded by the exposed brick walls. It was here that Keegan began despite its Arlington roots with its very first production back in 1997 because they felt they needed to "introduce themselves" to the greater Washington theater community in a D.C. location. Their "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" was well received and then they followed it with a superb production of Brian Friel’s "Translations" in the basement of the Mount Olivet Church.
This was the start of a run that saw the company mount over 40 productions in Arlington. The Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington County, which has been so instrumental in making Arlington theater-friendly, has supported Keegan over the years and many of the venues the company used have been county owned and operated houses.
The Keegan can be chalked up as another success of the county’s Arts Incubator program.
Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a Web site covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.