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Obamas to serve as honorary chairs for Arena Stage's new season

August 5, 2010 |  9:00 pm


When not attending to official duties, President Obama and members of the first family have been known to take time to attend the theater. Notable outings -- with clicking photographers not far behind -- include a Broadway production of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," Disney's "The Lion King" in London and "The Addams Family" on Broadway.

Recently, the first couple hosted an evening at the White House featuring Broadway stars performing numbers from popular musicals.

Starting this fall, the president and First Lady Michelle Obama will take their theater-going hobby to an official level when they become honorary chairs of the Arena Stage's inaugural season at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington.

The recently renovated Mead Center will serve as the company's refurbished home, with an inaugural gala scheduled for Oct. 25. The multiyear renovation of the facility was conducted by Bing Thom Architects.

It's not exactly clear what the Obamas' role as honorary chairs will entail besides the symbolic value of making an appearance on the gala evening. Given their already packed schedule, they probably don't have much free time to devote to the internal workings of a regional theater company.

But it's difficult to deny that their names on the program are worth untold amounts in terms of publicity (yes, like this Culture Monster item) and financial support from potential donors.

Michelle Obama's support of Washington's performing arts groups is well known. She has attended performances, sometimes with her husband, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Shakespeare Theatre and Ford's Theatre.

-- David Ng

[Updated: a previous version of this post contained an incorrect reference to the Arena Stage.]

Photo: President Obama and Michelle Obama at a recent event at Ford's Theatre. Credit: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images


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