After an acclaimed and wildly popular year of virtual storytelling, 4615 Theatre (winner of the 2020 John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre) will return to the stage in December with the Housewarming Theatre Festival, a sprawling celebration of the company’s Resident Artists. Featuring six short plays, an all-new interactive piece, as well as musical performances and special guest engagements, the festival will take up the entire first floor of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Audiences will be able to choose their own path for the day, moving between multiple performance spaces to take in an array of programming, all led by and featuring Resident Artists, along with other frequent 4615 collaborators. Additionally, a slate of virtual programming will be made available alongside the in-person festival.
“The inspiration for our theater’s founding was a site-specific, roving production in multiple rooms of a house, back in 2013,” said 4615 Artistic Director and founder Jordan Friend. “Our namesake is the address of that house: a reference to the thrill of using an environment to its absolute fullest, asking the audience to take an active role in telling a story, and to our belief in treating every theater-going experience like a house party.” Friend noted that the festival’s name is also a reference to that spirit, asking audiences to join with Artists in making a space feel like home again. “This feels like the perfect way to mark the start of our next chapter; revisiting our beginnings on a much bigger scale, and celebrating the community we’ve built since.”
Part of the company’s rapid growth over the past few years has included the creation of a team of Resident Artists: DC-based performers, directors, designers, writers, and more who have chosen to make 4615 a creative home. All of the works in Housewarming Theatre Festival involve at least one Resident Artist, either onstage or off, and many of the pieces are long-standing passion projects for those involved. “This festival celebrates the important work that 4615’s Resident Artists involved have accomplished in the midst of the pandemic,” said 4615 Producing Director Gregory Keng Strasser. “It celebrates their homecoming, their intellectual beauty, artistic excellence, and great contributions to the growth of 4615 and the American theater as a whole. These are folks who helped us laugh, heal, think and change both harder and smarter. I’m glad I get to share space with them!”
Audiences arriving at the Writer’s Center will spend the first part of the day freely exploring a marketplace, showcasing local businesses, other theater companies, and local creators. Alongside the marketplace will be live music, as well as a series of interactive parlor games created by playwright Charlotte La Nasa and directed by 4615 artist Dylan Arredondo. The audience responses collected during these games will be transformed into a brand-new performance piece later in the festival. After the marketplace concludes, the main event begins with a rotation of short plays and other engagements for audiences to choose from. Plays include Caridad Svich’s Blue (directed by Jordan Friend and choreographed by Caitlin Ort), Matthew Minnicino’s Human Resources (directed by Jon Jon Johnson), Amanda Zeitler’s Neverlanding (directed by Jessica Lefkow), Jordanna Hernandez’s Por Lo Que Soy (directed by Gregory Keng Strasser), and Patrick Flynn’s No, But (directed by Seth Rosenke). After the rotation concludes, all audience members will gather for the finale presentation of paper backs, a poetry-laced short play by Britt A. Willis, which digs into the complex relationship between an unnamed artist and writer. Director Stevie Zimmerman calls the piece “mesmeric” and the perfect capper to what she described as “a multi-dimensional festival.”
To ensure the safety of both audiences and artists, all patrons attending the in-person portion of the festival must wear a mask at all times when in the building and, upon entry, must provide front-of-house staff either proof of vaccination (with the final dose dated at minimum 6 weeks prior to the performance date) or a negative COVID test dated within 24–48 hours. Patrons will be notified of this policy at the time of ticket purchase as well as 24 hours before the festival date they selected. Additionally, all artists working on the production, both onstage and off, will be vaccinated. “As we return to our in-person theatrical home, it is vital that we keep the safety and security of the homes we have spent roughly the last 20 months in,” said Paige Washington, 4615’s Director of Patron Services and lead COVID safety officer.
For those who cannot attend the in-person portion of the festival for any reason, or simply would like to experience more programming from 4615, a special digital pass will be made available, which will include a slate of all-virtual offerings. “This past year, we reached an entirely new audience with our virtual wing, 4615 GO,” said Friend. “Even as we return to in-person work, we believe it is vital that we continue providing opportunities for anyone, anywhere to experience our programming.” Dates, featured performances, and ticketing information for the digital portion of the festival will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Rather than simply come back to in-person performance with a typical playgoing experience, we wanted to do something that showcases the breadth of 4615’s artists and work, and puts choice in the hands of the audience,” said Friend. “It’s also about an ask: we need our community of theatergoers to join with our artists and help us make this space feel like home again.”
The Housewarming Theatre Festival will run December 4, 5, 11 and 12, 2021, noon to 4 pm at the Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD. Festival tickets are $20, valid for one performance date, and are on sale now online. A full daily schedule, as well as information about individual performances, is available at 4615theatre.com/housewarming.
Each day, the marketplace will be open from noon to 1 pm. Audiences may arrive any time during this period. Performances and special engagements will begin in multiple spaces at 1 pm and continue until 4 pm. Audiences may see as many performances as they like, and are encouraged to stay to the end for the finale.
ABOUT 4615 THEATRE COMPANY
4615 Theatre began when a group of undergraduate theater artists staged a Jacobean tragedy in multiple rooms of a suburban home. In just a few years since, the company has rapidly expanded from backyards and basements into a thriving professional theater; a hub for both reinvigorated classics and ferociously bold new works. 4615 creates “inverted epics”: large, narrative-driven stories brought to new life in an up-close setting. The company produces curated seasons of theater, uniting wildly diverse material through shared themes, and maintains a team of Resident Artists, whose work the company is dedicated to nurturing and supporting.