Les Miserables in rehearsal / courtesy The Theatre Lab
We stepped into the large theater at Calvary Baptist Church on 8th Street and made our way to a seat. Deb Gottesman was instructing a varied chorus of old and young on the rehearsal process and what to expect from the night. My husband – a seasoned actor himself – turned to me and asked, “Is this a class?”
Yes and no. It’s Theatre Lab – an independent, nonprofit school for the dramatic arts. It’s also home to a new production of Les Misérables – hence my husband’s confusion. This was a rehearsal, a class, and a performance all in one.
Dress rehearsal of Theatre Lab’s Musical Institute for Teens Production of Rent / Photo by Paul Oberle
Founded by Deb Gottesman and Buzz Mauro, The Theatre Lab’s mission is to transform lives through theater by making training accessible to everyone, regardless of age, income, or experience level.
The Theatre Lab leads programs and classes ranging from beginner to professional level. They also develop numerous initiatives for marginalized populations within DC, including giving out more than $78,000 in scholarships to disadvantaged students each year.
Perhaps most notably, The Theatre Lab’s Life Stories program teaches people from typically marginalized populations like incarcerated and at-risk youth, seniors, critically ill children, and homeless women in recovery to create original dramatic works based on their real-life experiences.
On November 12, DC’s Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts celebrated 20 years at its annual Cabaret Benefit. For the organization’s anniversary, founder Deb Gottesman was kind enough to talk with me about The Theatre Lab’s progress over the last two decades.