Every year, hundreds of service members and their families spend the Thanksgiving holiday away from loved ones. This year, a Washington theater company hosted its first turkey dinner and preview performance Nov. 25 for Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Coastguardsmen and families of deployed service members.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater invited more than 260 guests to the event. Those guests enjoyed a turkey dinner followed by their choice of two shows: Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Equivocation by Bill Cain or Amy Freed’s comedy You, Nero.
“There are so many service members and their families who can’t travel over Thanksgiving,” said Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, Arena Stage’s chief development officer. “They are basically stranded in Washington.”
Officials at Arena Stage wanted to provide a way to bridge the gap between the art industry and the military and give back to those who serve. Earlier this year, they came up with the idea to hold 130 tickets to each play for the military and planned on how to make the evening more special by combining it with a free turkey dinner.
Each branch of service received 52 tickets to the event. The tickets were given to service members in the National Capitol Region.
“I think it is unbelievably important for the artistic community in Washington to bridge the gap between the arts and the military,” St. Germain-Gordon said. “We are all neighbors.”
Many contributors funded the event and Arena Stage received a significant discount on the catering service, St. Germain-Gordon said.
Army Staff Sgt. Michael Smith said it was great for Arena Stage to take this time and give the opportunity for military families to see the plays.
“I don’t usually do events like this,” Smith said. “It was well planned and definitely something new for me.”
“The show was excellent,” Smith said after he saw Equivocation.
Arena Stage has more than 300,000 people walk through their doors each year, St. Germain-Gordon said.
“I can guess that the number of military folks coming here is very limited,” St. Germain-Gordon said. “Theater is so important because it reaches all of the human emotions and the thought of reaching service members is of high importance to us.”
She said the event was such a success that Arena Stage plans on doing it annually.