Not long ago, I found myself in a conversation with Ari Roth, the artistic director of Theater J, about… well, I’ll save that for another blog post. But our conversation led me consider the environment in which Ari and Theater J produce plays. The theater is located in a thriving Jewish Community Center in DC. There are all sorts of community-centric activities happening all throughout the building, only a small portion of which involve the theater. There’s a fitness center, there are classes, there are special events. There’s a clearly defined community and lots of reasons for the members of that community to gather and interact. In other words, Theater J lives up to the Never Be Dark phenomenon that I and many others have been trumpeting for some time now just about as well as any theater I’ve ever encountered.
In the middle of all that activity, Theater J works very hard to meet the intellectual and entertainment needs of the JCC’s members (and of the larger DC community). Ari has proven to be a champion of new play development, year after year. His theater produces high-quality work with incredible consistency, and the plays that appear on his stages engage with critical and challenging issues that are already coursing through the minds and hearts of his audiences. He’s not just producing plays he likes; he’s producing plays he likes that tell stories that are vital to his community, which makes him an outstanding example of the kind of audience-centric theater practitioner I very much wish there were more of.
All of which is to say: thank you, Theater J. I’m a big fan.