Before there was The Performing Knowledge Project there was The Sanctuary Theatre, Inc.
The theatre was founded in 1984 in the old sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church (now, Casa del Pueblo). During its first six years, the theatre produced a wide variety of shows, from an opening show, Jesse and the Bandit Queenby David Freeman, to a host of internationally significant plays such as Ti-Jean and his Brothers by Derek Walcott, Fanshen by David Hare, and The Tree Climber by Tawfiq al Hakim. The theatre left that space in 1989, but the space still carries its name.
In years past The Sanctuary specialized in producing culturally significant, yet under-recognized plays and playwrights from around the world. During the theatre’s first vibrant decade, the theatre earned a small, but national reputation. Then, it shifted activities to mostly educational theatre, for many years working at CentroNia, a multicultural learning center for families and children, and then at The New School of Northern Virginia where Michael Oliver founded The New School Theatre, producing more than two dozen plays, directing his students in ten.
While The Sanctuary still produced the occasional show between 1990 and 2007, its Capital Fringe production of The Fate of a Cockroach, another script by the famous Egyptian playwright Tawfiq al Hakim, marked the theatre’s returned to Washington’s theatre scene. It followed with a revival of Bag Lady in 2009 and then Bag Ladies, Bodies, Poems, a multidisciplinary event which featured two one-woman shows, four poets, and two documentary films. The theatre had rediscovered its stride. It was a much shorter one than the one it used during its heyday, but it still promised many surprises and challenges, for both Michael and Elizabeth its co-founders but to its audiences alike.
The biggest surprise was the 2010 initiation of The Performing Knowledge Project: Finding Narrative in Knowledge, Giving Voice to Words. Fusing the goals of performance with the goals of education, The Project began creating original interdisciplinary performance-pieces, opening Embodying Poe: Poetry in Performance at the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, a widely acclaimed production which put The Sanctuary back on the cutting edge.
Its next venture, another interdisciplinary piece, was Legal Tender, a performance of nine flash fiction pieces by Elizabeth Bruce. Song of Myself: the Whitman Project opened at the Fringe Festival in summer 2014.
The Sanctuary Theatre can be reached at [email protected]