It started at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was a big -- if controversial -- hit in England, had a critically acclaimed concert staging in New York and now it's in D.C. for its official American east coast premiere. Jerry Springer: The Opera! (July 23-August 17) is the most ambitious undertaking yet from The Studio 2ndStage, with 34 performers and a live band. When an episode of his trashy talk show ends in violence, the Jerry Springer character ends up in Hell to mediate a dispute between Satan and Jesus.
Everyone else may be fleeing downtown's summer heat this month, but theatergoers will be heading to Penn Quarter and environs for the fifth annual Capital Fringe Festival (July 10-27). The Fringe features more than 600 individual performances involving over 200 companies in 30 venues, some of them unconventional. Capital Fringe promises creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performances, including non-traditional presentations encompassing theater, dance, music, poetry, and even puppetry in the un-juried festival.
Rorschach Theatre rolls out the world premiere of Dream Sailors (Georgetown University's Davis Lab Theater, July 17-August 17), an episodic drama from Calvin Hovde in which four friends make a grim discovery in a basement and must return to "the dark landscape of their dreams." The play debuts in four parts, with a new hour-long play premiering each week and all four running together the final week. But wait, there's more from Rorschach. Specifically, Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, playing July 13-August 10, at Georgetown's Gonda Theatre.
The American Century Theater takes us back to those tense days on October, 1962 when the United States and The Soviet Union "stood eyeball to eyeball" with nuclear war hanging in the balance over Soviet missiles in Cuba. The Titans (July 18-August 16) is the first full-fledged production of Robert McElwaine's historical drama, focusing on the war of wits between President John F. Kennedy and U.S.S.R. Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
More recent history is explored at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater as The Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival presents the edgy drama Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter (July 19-27). After returning from a difficult tour of duty in Iraq, wounded Marine Sergeant Jenny Sutter finds herself without the body and mind she once knew. The eccentric inhabitants of a makeshift community give her the homecoming she needs before returning to her previous life.
It was a smash at Ford's a few seasons back, but if you missed it, Big River (July 2-22) is playing the Historic Stage out at Olney Theatre Center in a production from their touring National Players troupe. This is the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn, focusing on Huck's escape from his brutal father and his evolving relationship with escaped slave Jim as they raft down the Mississippi.
Elsewhere around town, Keegan Theatre showcases the musical story of Don Quixote, The Man of La Mancha (July 10-August 16), at Church Street Theater. Quotidian Theatre Company has Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece Long Day's Journey Into Night (July 11-August 10) at Bethesda's Writer's Center. And Defending the Caveman (July 9-27), the longest running solo play in Broadway history, is at the resplendent Bethesda Theatre, offering "a prehistoric look at the battle of the sexes."