Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: The National Players Close Out Their Season at Olney

The troupe brings Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun."

National Players: A Midsummer Night's Dream -- Photo: DJ Corey Photography
National Players: A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Since last fall, a group of theater artists have been literally taking the show on the road: traveling around the country as a theater troupe performing distinct plays in repertory.

Billed as “America’s longest-running touring company,” National Players was founded shortly after World War II as a way to expand the reach of American theater — chiefly, by “prioritizing areas with limited access to theater.”

Each year, a different ensemble of up-and-coming young artists set out for a 10-month cross-country journey characterized as “an entirely self-contained and self-sustaining tour” because every player takes on multiple roles, both on stage, as an actor, and off, as a crew member — be it a stagehand, technician, wardrobe handler, or truck driver, to name just four essential jobs.

During their travels, they also stop to teach theater-related courses to students of all ages and backgrounds. And each year’s final performances take place in the 1938 Original Theatre at Maryland’s Olney Theatre Center.

Next week, the company’s 72nd season concludes with two classics: Shakespeare’s lighthearted magical romp A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Danielle Drakes, and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the groundbreaking 1959 play that shed light on issues of discrimination and racism in American housing, directed by Christopher Michael Richardson.

The plays will be performed by the Tour 72’s ensemble of Jordan Essex, Savannah Gomez, Ariya Hawkins, Max Johnson, Melanie A. Lawrence, Lorenzo Miguel, Walter C.A. Riddle, Taylor Ryan Rivers, and Sabrina Lynne Sawyer, with Phillip Snyder the Tour 72 stage manager.

“I’m really looking forward to welcoming the players home and seeing these two shows now that the actors have been living in these roles for over nine months,” says Jason King Jones, artistic director of the Players and senior associate artistic director at Olney. “It’s an opportunity for area audiences to see some of the best up-and-coming actors in the region who have truly mastered these plays.”

National Players: A Raisin in the Sun -- Photo: DJ Corey Photography
National Players: A Raisin in the Sun — Photo: DJ Corey Photography

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Tuesday, May 31, and Wednesday, June 1, followed by A Raisin in the Sun Thursday, June 2, and Friday, June 3.

Showtime is 7:45 p.m. every night.

Olney is at 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Md.

All performances are pay-what-you-can.

Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.nationalplayers.org.

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