Complicated, passionate and difficult, John Quincy Adams was a brilliant diplomat, ineffectual one-term President and congressman known for his eloquence, arrogance and integrity. This unique, highly-theatrical play by award-winning playwright Aaron Posner (Stupid F**king Bird) imagines key confrontations between JQA and some of America’s most dynamic figures: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, his own father, John Adams and more. At once provocative, haunting and hilarious, this power play challenges the way we think of our country, our government and ourselves.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces the world premiere of Aaron Posner’s JQA, recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. The first of Posner’s plays that is not adapted from an existing work, JQA shines a spotlight with humor and care on an ineffectual presidency, the idea of government and how a society lives in relationship to it, and the American experiment as it continues to evolve.
Directed by Posner as well, JQA runs March 1 through April 14, 2019 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.
Each member of the four-person JQA cast embodies the persona of the title character at some point throughout the play and, in addition, performs the roles of several other historical American figures. Returning to Arena are Jacqueline Correa (Arena and Guthrie Theater’s Native Gardens) as JQA/Abraham Lincoln/Louisa Adams and Eric Hissom (Arena’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; American Repertory Theater’s The Tempest) as JQA/John Adams/Henry Clay. Making their Arena debuts are Phyllis Kay (Trinity Repertory’s Macbeth, Lend Me a Tenor) as JQA/George Washington/Abigail Adams/Louisa Adams and Joshua David Robinson (Off-Broadway’s X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, The Convent of Pleasure) as JQA/Frederick Douglass/Andrew Jackson.
JQA is generously sponsored by the David Bruce Smith Foundation, Sue Henry and Carter Phillips and Susan and Steven Bralove, and is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.
JQA is the sixth commission to debut as part of Arena Stage’s Power Plays, an ambitious initiative commissioning and developing 25 new plays and musicals from 25 writers over the course of 10 years. With Power Plays, Arena Stage focuses Washington, D.C.’s unique theatrical voice on politics, power and ideas of America, amplifying the theater’s role as a national center dedicated to American voices and artists, located in the heart of the nation’s capital.
The massive undertaking features one story per decade, beginning with 1776 through present day, and builds on the tremendous success of previous Arena Stage commissions and Power Plays, including Lawrence Wright’s Camp David, John Strand’s The Originalist, and Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Sovereignty.
“Arena’s Power Play initiative –to commission 25 plays from 25 writers covering America’s history by decade –is bringing some fascinating stories to light,” explains Artistic Director Molly Smith. “Aaron Posner has an impressive career adapting stories for the stage, and now he has created something totally new. The story will follow John Quincy Adams along the path of his life and distinguished career – and remind us of the energy and fire of this American experiment called democracy.”
“John Quincy Adams is a fascinating figure who has only recently become more understood and appreciated,” shares Posner. “He was a unique and complicated figure – a truly brilliant man and yet a largely ineffective politician whose political life pre-and post-presidency was far more distinguished than his time as president. Our sixth president, he knew and worked with every president and important American from Washington to Lincoln. His life and times have a lot to tell us about where we are today – and how we got here.”
Posner continues, “As we are seeing every day in absolutely graphic ways, our relationship to our government matters. It is not theoretical. It is practical and important. Here in D.C., the government touches nearly every part of our daily lives. But there is so much that we take for granted. Hopefully this play will nudge people to re-think some assumptions.”