Founded in 1938 as a summer playhouse and relaxing weekend getaway in what was then rural Montgomery County, the Olney Theatre Center recently unveiled a summer-long performing arts slate that nods to its roots while also reflecting the current zeitgeist.
The multi-genre “Olney Outdoors” presents a range of programming that, according to the theater’s Kevin McAllister, celebrates “bringing together both our likenesses and differences in a positive light,” performed as Washingtonians of all different backgrounds and experiences “sit under the stars and find joy in our commonalities together.”
To help encourage new guests to make the trek, Olney Theatre has implemented a new First Show Is On Us initiative in which those who have never been to the campus can get four free tickets to a paid event of their choice.
Grouped across eight categories, the lineup includes Friday night revues, part of the Andrew A. Isen Cabaret Series, each week featuring two stars of Washington’s theater scene sharing the open-air Root Family Stage. Upcoming pairings include Donna Migliaccio and Nova Y. Payton (8/6), Rayanne Gonzales and Rayshun Lamarr (8/13), Greg Maheu and Vishal Vaidya (8/20), and Malinda Kathleen Reese and Alan Wiggins (8/27). Saturday nights bring Jazz@Olney with performances by some of the area’s best jazz artists including Christie DaShiell (7/31), Elijah Jamal Balbed (8/7), Akua Allrich & The Tribe (8/14), Warren Wolf & WOLFPACK (8/21), and Mark G. Meadows & The Movement (8/28). Additional paid weekend shows that first-time attendees could attend for free include Theatre for Young Audiences performances as well as faith-centered “Sing Praise!” concerts.
On Wednesday nights in August, Olney will present free showcases, two apiece, of slam poets and drag performers. Sip ‘N’ Slam is set for the first two hump days of the month, with spoken-word artists Megan Rickman Blackwood, Black Root, Regie Cabico, and Carlynn Newhouse scheduled for Part One (8/4), and Vijai Nathan, Amin Drew Law, Charity Blackwell, and Analysis for Part Two (8/11). It’s followed by two hump nights with a glittery gaggle of drag queens storming the stage including Brooklyn Heights, Betty O’Hellno, Ariel Von Quinn, and Evon Michelle on August 18, and Kristina Kelly, Vagenesis, Tiara Missou, and Echinacea Monroe pulling on August 25.
The programming takes place in and around the outdoor Root Family Stage, with guests seated distanced on blankets or in chairs, or on raised bleachers offered at full capacity for fully vaccinated or more risk-tolerant guests. (In case of inclement weather, some performances will be moved indoors to the Mainstage with up to 200 patrons spread out at less than half-capacity.)
Olney Theatre Center is located at 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, Md. Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
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