Heard on the Hill

Arena Stage Honors G.K. Butterfield

North Carolina Democrat receives theater’s American Voice Award

From left, Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith, North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield and executive director Edgar Dobie before the Thursday night show. (Cameron Whitman/Courtesy Arena Stage)

When Arena Stage honored Rep. G.K. Butterfield before last week’s opening of “A Raisin in the Sun,” it was recognizing one of the theater’s neighbors.

“I’m right at home here in Southwest. My apartment is right across the street,” the North Carolina Democrat said. “I came to D.C. in a special election in 1994, and Southwest D.C. did not look anything like it looks right now.” 

Arena Stage honors lawmakers with the annual American Voice Award for support of the performing and other fine arts, as well as art education.

Butterfield, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was recognized for his active support of the annual congressional art competition.

That contest for high school students attracted unusual controversy last year when a piece of artwork depicting relations between police and residents in Ferguson, Missouri, became grounds for an extended debate that included having House lawmakers remove and reinstall the painting from the Cannon tunnel several times.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” a landmark drama by Lorraine Hansbury, debuted on Broadway in 1959. The play tells the story of a black family from Chicago’s South Side, which receives a financial windfall after the death of the family patriarch. 

This is the first time that Arena Stage has produced the play.

Butterfield received the award at a dinner that preceded the opening night of the show. He said he frequents productions at the theater overlooking the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, which is in the midst of a revival. 

“One thing that drew me to to Southwest Washington was this incredible, incredible building called the Arena Stage,” Butterfield said.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Tazewell Thompson and with a cast led by Dawn Ursula as Ruth Younger, runs at Arena Stage through May 7.

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