By Southwester Staff   

“Arena is definitely roaring back! The Earth is shaking beneath our feet as the world shifts on its axis once again and welcomes us back to the theater. Our 2021/22 Season is a unique combination of champagne and soul,” shares Artistic Director Molly Smith.

“The season’s productions remain rooted in Arena’s history of focusing on American plays, American ideas and American voices,” which Smith points out, “was provocative because almost no other theater in the U.S. was focused this way…and even though about a third to more than half of our artistic voices have been people of color, it is time to do more to amplify the voices of all artists to tell the stories of our time.”

What better way to kick off a season than to start with Toni Stone (Sept. 3 – Oct. 3, 2021).  Playwright Lydia R. Diamond retells the this true story of a real-life woman who who became the first female to play professional baseball in the Negro Leagues, also making her the first woman to play professionally in a men’s league in the 1950s. Against all odds, Stone shattered expectations and created her own set of rules in the male-dominated sports world.

For a special one-night-only event in September, Toni Stone will be simulcast to the center field video board in Nationals Park for up to 12,000 people to experience.

Celia and Fidel  (Oct. 8 – Nov. 21, 2021) is Arena’s seventh Power Play. Eduardo Machado recreates 1980s Cuba when the revolution has reached a crazed tipping point. Fueled by a stagnant economy, 10,000 citizens sought asylum at the Peruvian Embassy. Fidel Castro grapples with his desire to maintain power and what is best for his country. Imbued with magical realism, Celia and Fidel is the imagined conversations between the most notorious political leader and his closest confidant and political partner – Cuba’s most influential female revolutionary – Celia Sanchez.

August Wilson’s fifth cycle play Seven Guitars (Nov. 26 – Dec. 26, 2021) is the ninth of the ten plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle chronicling the Black experience in America in the 20th century. Infused with deep and soaring blues rhythms, this heartfelt classic follows the cycle of life, love, pain, suffering, and joy of seven lives who are reconnected following an untimely death. Pitting the determination for a better future against the harsh realities, ultimately leads to heartbreaking and inescapable circumstances.

In Arena’s eighth Power Play Change Agent(Jan. 21 – March 6, 2022), playwright and director Craig Lucas conjures celebrated, controversial, and unsung figures of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Cold War in an eerie resonance of the 1950’s with the current social and racial movements of today. Imagining dramatic scenes between figures from history who were celebrated and unsung, these insiders were influencers for major decisions that are still unfolding and radically impacting our country today.  

Catch Me If You Can (March 4 – April 17, 2022) is just simple fun. This is the story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a charming young conman who posed as an airplane pilot and a lawyer, then escaped police custody – all before he turned 22! This Tony-nominated musical, based on true events and a critically acclaimed film, is jam-packed with dynamic numbers such as Don’t Break the Rules, Live in Living Color, and Doctor’s Orders. (Is not a musical about con men and being conned the perfect story right now?)

Next spring, Arena will kick off the first North American tour of New York’s Signature Theatre’s production of Lauren Yee’s acclaimed play Cambodian Rock Band (April 12-May 15, 2022). A Khmer Rouge survivor returns to Cambodia for the first time in thirty years, as his daughter prepares to prosecute one of Cambodia’s most infamous war criminals. Backed by a live band playing contemporary Dengue Fever hits and classic Cambodian oldies, this thrilling mystery story toggles back and forth in time as father and daughter face the music of the past.

Step Afrika!’s Drumfolk (May 31-June 26, 2022) is a rhythmic storytelling of the history of African American percussive traditions. Inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739 and the Negro Act of 1740 in South Carolina when Africans lost the right to use their drums. Drumfolk takes audiences on a journey from the 17th century to today, revealing the hidden histories and resounding movements that transformed America. This immersive production will be the first of three as part of a three-year collaborative partnership between Arena and Step Afrika!.

In the summer of 2022, the world-premiere musical American Prophet: Frederick Douglass in His Own Words (July 15-August 28, 2022) will take the stage. Douglass as a young, fierce abolitionist and distinguished orator ignited the flame of a freedom movement that still burns today. Filled with new melodies and powered by Douglass’ own speeches and writings, Charles Randolph-Wright’s new work celebrates the revolutionary legacy of one of history’s first freedom fighters. Electrifying new songs include What Does Freedom Look Like, We Need a Fire, and A More Perfect Union celebrates the revolutionary, whose fire is needed now more than ever.

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Beginning in July 2021, Arena will also welcome some of its favorite performers back to the theater for Cabaret Nights. Patrons can enjoy a selection from Broadway to Jazz to the American Songbook.

As Arena prepares for a full reopening, priority for the safety of our artists, audiences, and staff requires  that all wear masks inside the Mead Center. Enhanced cleaning and sanitization will take place throughout the building. For superior air quality, Arena has upgraded its ventilation/filtration systems and has implemented a full digital ticketing system that will include contactless ticket scanning and digital programs. These conditions are subject to change. For the latest information, visit

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