Theatre Washington Profile: There's No Place Like Home
By Manny Strauss
Playwright Ken Ludwig’s plays and musicals have been staged throughout the world. Stars who have appeared in his plays over the years include Carol Burnett, Lynn Redgrave, Alec Baldwin, Joan Collins, Robert Goulet, Mickey Rooney, Hal Holbrook, Dixie Carter, Frank Langella, Anne Heche, Otto Schenk, Kristin Bell, Tony Shalhoub and Justin Bartha. He has received Helen Hayes Awards, a Lawrence Olivier Award, and several Tony nominations. He considers the Washington area an artistic home, but it hasn’t always been that way for the long-time Washingtonian.
In a 1995 article in The Washington Post (after international success with Lend Me a Tenor and Crazy for You), Ludwig shared his desire for the Washington area to be more of an “artistic home.” During the next 16 years, that wish gradually became a reality.
Ludwig credits Holly Twyford and the late Robert Prosky with triggering this evolution. Before Ludwig’s Shakespeare in Hollywood premiered at Arena Stage in 2003, he directed a reading with Twyford and Prosky at The Kennedy Center’s annual Page-to-Stage festival. During the question and answer session following the reading, Twyford (according to Ludwig) articulated a sensitivity regarding established playwrights who do readings in the Washington area but whose premieres end up in New York or London. Ludwig, knowing he fit that description, responded, “Hey, that’s not by choice . . . Nobody around here is asking to do my work. I’d love to work around here.” Prosky spoke up and said Arena should produce the play -- and they did -- with Prosky starring.
Since then his work, including many world premieres, has been presented at Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, Round House Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center, and (currently) Adventure Theatre. In addition, he serves on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library, home of Folger Theatre.
While Ludwig has written with a teen audience in mind before (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), his current world premiere production of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at Adventure Theatre is his first foray into theatre for the very young (Adventure Theatre’s audience is for ages 4 and up). He speaks of Adventure Theatre in superlatives, stating, “Everything about it is welcoming and friendly. They bend over backwards to accommodate the playwright and to accommodate the piece . . . I work with great theatres all over the world (from The Old Vic to the Haymarket to wherever) and I am telling you this is just run beautifully and it’s a pleasure to work there.”
It sure sounds like Ludwig is pleased that Adventure Theatre is his home for the Holidays.