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On Stage: Inclusive-theater troupe scores a wacky winner

In-person show is augmented by a second, online offering
Some of the cast members in ArtStream's production of "Outta Time" present a musical number.

It was three years ago this very month that ArtStream’s Northern Virginia theater troupe was revved up and ready to go with its two new shows.

And then? COVID.

The Nannie Lee Center in Alexandria, where those March 2020 performances had been slated to have taken place, last weekend provided the backdrop for the 2023 ArtStream outing, marking the 17th season of productions for the inclusive-theater company.

It’s part of an innovative effort where adults with developmental disabilities are guided as they develop a theme, characters and the plot line for musical productions.

“They spend all year coming up with the show,” said ArtStream board member Robert Holden, whose daughter Jenny has been participating for a decade.

Making its debut on March 17 was “Outta Time,” a clever romp directed by Mark Mumm, set in the late 1950s and centering around the disappearance of a prom queen and her replacement by a real queen from centuries ago.

The machinations of a witch; battles between a reporter and a detective; and even an encounter with the mysterious “time lord” who can send you forward and back are all part of the experience. Plot twist: milkshakes make an appearance, saving the day.

(“It’s best not to overthink this kind of thing,” one character recommends as the hour-long performance reaches its twisting-and-turning climax.)

The show runs for a second weekend, and at the March 26 matinee performance, there also will be a screening of “Outta the Woods: A Not So Grimm Story” created online and featuring a second cast from the same Northern Virginia ArtStream troupe.

“Zoom presents challenges that are so unique,” said Elizabeth Cronin, who directs the show, which mashes up some Brothers Grimm fairy tales. “Can you imagine staying focused for two hours on a Zoom rehearsal, let alone every week? Our actors do it without the blink of an eye.”

(After the March 23 screening in Alexandria, “Outta the Woods” will make its premiere online on April 6.)

Since its first show in 2007, ArtStream has presented more than 320 performances both in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland. Some of the performers have more than a decade’s worth of experience in classes and on stage with the organization, including Suzan Basoglu, Jenny Holden, Greg Hoppe, Lukas Antony McCormick, Tammy Kiser, Chelsea Murray, Frank Stephens, Merry Casillas, Kelly DeRoy, Christie DiPlacido, Lauri Ann Kehoe and Eric Niedringhaus.

Like any other troupe – from Broadway to community theater – ArtStream learned to bob, weave and roll with the COVID punches to make sure the shows went on.

After hoping against hope that the 2020 productions (“Song of the Rainbow Warrior” and “Ships Away”) could be presented in person, that year’s efforts were transitioned into online alternatives. A year later, performances remained pre-recorded, but there was a gathering to watch a screening at the Alexandria Drive-In Theater.

Last year, Synetic Theater in Crystal City played host to the first in-person production since the pandemic, while another show was filmed in advance and screened during the in-person events.

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For information upcoming performances, including the current Northern Virginia shows and a cabaret production set for May 8, see the Website at The suburban Maryland troupes will be presenting their spring productions in May (Gaithersburg) and June (Silver Spring).