Sharif has plans for theatre in D.C., all based on her love for the performing arts scene here.
We spoke with 11 of D.C.’s performing arts professionals to learn more about how they set the scene. Check out the rest of the roundup here.
“We need everyone at the theater,” Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif says, her sincerity obvious in her voice.
Sharif is new in her role at Arena Stage, and she arrives in D.C. with an impressive career directing, developing new plays and fostering community engagement at major theaters across the country. We caught up with her about Arena Stage, theatre in D.C. and her thoughts on the current state of theatre.
District Fray: What drew you to Arena Stage?
Sharif: When I was 19, I wanted to be the artistic director of Arena. It has been one of the landmark theaters in our country for almost 75 years. Zelda Fichandler, its founder, was a visionary, one of the mothers of the regional theater movement. It was the first integrated company at a major theater. For the last 25 years, Molly Smith has been an extraordinary leader and inspiration to so many in the field. It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of these iconic women.
What role do you see theatre playing in D.C.?
D.C. is one of the great theatre cities in our country. I’m really interested in what it means to make art where the zeitgeist of our nation is really being influenced and affected, particularly at this moment when we are thinking about what our field and communities need. I’m excited to build on the impact of the D.C. theatre scene.
What is your take on the current state of the American theatre?
I remember recently telling my board in St. Louis, “We’re not going back to 2018, when we didn’t have to worry about ticket sales and how artists are treated.” The world has changed. The future and sustainability and thrive-ability requires us to have equity baked into the DNA of organizations, for artists and audiences. We have to find a way to be fundamentally relevant to the communities we serve.
What does that look like?
We have a mandate to serve the widest cross-section of our community. That means there’s something for everyone, but not everything for everyone. What’s not your cup of tea is someone else’s. The entire spectrum of American voices belongs on the stage. Arena has a history and commitment to developing new plays [and] future iconic voices of the American theatre. We want to honor artists and invite audiences into meaningful, long-term conversations.
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