NextStop Theatre reopens doors for first indoor production amid COVID-19

NextStop Theatre Company actor Curtis McNeil, seen here in “The Mountaintop,” will kick off the company’s run of “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” on June 25 (courtesy Lock & Co. Photography)

Live theater is slowly but surely making its way back to the D.C. area.

While the demands of a theatrical production schedule mean that full-scale, Broadway-style shows like those promised by the Kennedy Center can’t be expected until the fall, some theaters have managed to return to physical stages by turning to more stripped-down works that take advantage of the limitations placed on audience capacities.

Among the organizations taking that plunge is Herndon’s NextStop Theatre Company, which will perform a play on stage in front of a live audience later this week for the first time since the venue closed on March 12, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premiering at 8 p.m. on Friday (June 25), “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” is artistically bold but carries minimal risk from a public health standpoint. Each show features a single actor and will have no more than 30 people seated in the audience.

“Obviously, the decision to return to in person performances was not taken lightly,” NextStop Producing Artistic Director Evan Hoffmann said. “We felt that limiting our audience size from over 100 to just 30 was a good first step that allowed us to proceed, while also being extra careful. We are hopeful that this will be a launching pad for much bigger things in the near future.”

Here is NextStop’s description of “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” which has been performed around the world in more than 25 languages:

No set. No director. A different actor each night.

Described by The New York Times as a “playful, enigmatic and haunting show,” White Rabbit Red Rabbit is the international hit by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. Unable to leave Iran, Soleimanpour tours the world through his words with this unique theatrical experience. Receiving the script in a sealed envelope for the first time onstage, the actor and audience embark on a surprising journey where anything can happen. Veteran NextStop actors will tackle this daring and unexpected comedy that will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Hoffman confirmed that this will be NextStop’s first production inside its theater at 269 Sunset Park Drive, but the company found a variety of ways to stay busy and continue utilizing that space over the past 16 months.

In addition to offering small educational classes last summer, the theater opened for private movie screenings in September, and the company started putting on concerts in the parking lot outside later that month.

NextStop returned to the world of theater on April 30 with the online musical “First Date,” which was filmed on stage and at various locations around Herndon.

The company has scheduled eight performances of “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” each led by a different actor, concluding with Elena Velasco on July 17. The premiere will star Curtis McNeil, who was previously featured in “The Mountaintop.”

Tickets are now available through NextStop’s website for $25.

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