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Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater today announced that the recipient of the 2023 Beth Newburger Schwartz Award will be its outgoing Artistic Director Molly Smith, who will retire in June 2023 after 25 years’ stellar service to the company. This signature honor will be bestowed on Smith at the Arena Stage Annual Gala, a one-night-only celebration to be held at the Mead Center for American Theater on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit arenastage.org/gala.

The Beth Newburger Schwartz Award celebrates a female leader who betters the community in which she lives and works through her own unique strengths and talents. The award was first presented in 2016 to Arena Stage Board Chair Beth Newburger Schwartz, followed by Arlene Kogod in 2017, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2018, Nina Totenberg in 2019, and Ambassador Melanne Verveer in 2022.

“Molly’s expansion of Arena Stage over the past quarter century not only provided the impetus for the new Southwest Wharf waterfront, but changed the face of regional theater in America,” said Beth Newburger Schwartz, longtime Arena Stage Trustee and award namesake. “She exemplifies a Washington woman who has made outstanding contributions to the Arts, and I cannot think of a recipient who more thoroughly embodies the leadership and service qualities we look for in Awardees.”

Rather than a traditional seated dinner, the Gala will feature a pre-show reception with refreshments at multiple locations within the Mead Center, which was designed by Bing Thom Architects to bring the company’s three stages under one roof; its construction was one of Smith’s signature achievements. Following the reception, Arena Stage will present a one-night-only performance on its iconic Fichandler Stage that is a lookback at Smith’s 25-year-long career at Arena, showcasing artists with whom she worked during her tenure.

The star-studded tribute performance will reunite many of Smith’s longtime artistic collaborators, including Co-Director and Choreographer Parker Esse (Arena’s Catch Me If You CanNewsies; Broadway’s Fosse), Co-Director Charles Randolph-Wright (Arena’s American ProphetBorn For This: The BeBe Winans Story; Broadway’s Trouble in Mind), and Music Director William Yanesh (Arena’s Catch Me If You CanDave), as well as featured guests Tony Award® nominee Kate Baldwin (Arena’s The Music ManSouth Pacific; Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!), Kurt Boehm (Arena’s American ProphetCarousel), Will Burton (Arena’s My Fair LadyThe Music Man; Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate), E. Faye Butler (Arena’s CarouselOklahoma!), Edward Gero (Arena’s Angels in AmericaThe Originalist), Meg Gillentine (Arena’s CabaretDamn Yankees; Broadway’s Fosse), Nehal Joshi (Arena’s Catch Me If You CanThe Music Man; Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera) Tony Award® nominee Brad Oscar (Arena’s CabaretDamn Yankees; Broadway’s The Producers), Kristyn Pope (Arena’s Anything GoesOklahoma!; Broadway’s Irving Berlin’s White Christmas), Maria Rizzo (Arena’s Anything GoesFiddler on the Roof), Nicholas Rodriguez (Arena’s CarouselOklahoma!; Broadway’s Company), and Tony Award® nominee Kathleen Turner (Arena’s The Year of Magical ThinkingMother Courage and Her Children; Broadway’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

“I am honored to receive the Beth Newburger Schwartz Award, joining a legacy of celebrated female leaders whom I admire,” said Smith. “And I cannot think of a better finale for my 25 years with Arena than this special Gala. It will be a celebration of all we have accomplished together as a community, filled with memories and achievements—and, of course, performances!—from the past two-and-a-half decades.”

Smith came to Arena Stage from Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, which she founded and ran from 1979 to 1998. Under her leadership, Arena has brought more than 200 productions to life, championing the work of countless emerging and established playwrights. Her directorial work has also been seen Off-Broadway at 59E59 in New York, Portland Center Stage, Canada’s Shaw Festival, The Court Theatre, The Old Globe, Asolo Repertory, Berkeley Repertory, Trinity Repertory, Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, and Montreal’s Centaur Theatre.

The one-night-only celebration honoring Smith’s indelible contributions to Arena Stage, the greater Washington, D.C., theater community, and American regional theater is led by Gala Chairs Jan Adams, President and CEO of JMA Solutions and Arena Stage Trustee; Martha Dippell, immediate past President of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; and Danny Korengold, Chairman of Ourisman Automotive of Virginia and Arena Stage Trustee.

Lead Benefactors for the 2023 Arena Stage Annual Gala are Anonymous Artistic Director FundDecker Anstrom and Sherry HiemstraDanny Korengold and Martha Dippell, and Ourisman Automotive of Virginia.

Proceeds from the Gala will support Arena Stage’s efforts to commission and develop new work, a pillar of Smith‘s legacy.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater
1101 6th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

Event Schedule
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
5:00 p.m. Private Sponsor Cocktail Reception
6:00 p.m. Pre-Show Reception
8:00 p.m. Award Presentation and One-Night-Only Performance

An after-party with dessert and dancing will take place following the award presentation and performance.

Ticket Information
Single Patron Ticket: $1,200

  • Access for one (1) to the pre-show reception
  • One (1) seat at the award presentation and performance
  • After-party invitation for one (1)
  • Complimentary valet parking for one (1)

Sponsorship Opportunities
Diamond Sponsor: $50,000
Executive Sponsor: $30,000
Gold Sponsor: $12,000

For more information on ticket or table purchases, please contact Maria Corso at 202-600-4025 or [email protected].

For more information on sponsorship opportunities or corporate sponsorship packages, please contact Shayla Hines at 202-600-4030 or [email protected]

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