Nov 032009

Washington Business Journal

Friday, October 2, 2009  |  Modified: Monday, October 5, 2009

The Arts

…As more than 70 local professional theater companies begin their fall season, they will be joined by at least five new ones, including The Hub, theHegira, Doorway Arts Ensemble, Ambassador Theater Company and Factory 449.

For most, their first productions came after months or even years of work behind the scenes — work that in many cases started before the economic woes really hit the nonprofit world.

Those theater organizations toil long and hard, away from the glitz of the  Kennedy Center,  Arena Stage or the  Signature Theatre. Although they are professional companies, they are nonprofits that struggle to make ends meet. They pay their actors from tight budgets, operate through donated space or their own homes and rely on tiny staffs — sometimes even a single person — to lead fundraising efforts and handle administrative duties. And this year, they’ve defied the recession by growing in number.

Here is a look at the five new companies.

Ambassador Theater Company.

Ambassador Theater had been cooking in the brain of Hanna Bondarewska for years. Bondarewska, a native of Poland, where she worked as an actress, first thought she would start a Polish company but feared it might be too narrow in scope. After coming into contact with many embassies and ambassadors during her time in D.C., she shifted focus toward a culturally oriented troupe.

But before Ambassador could stage a production, Bondarewska got a bit distracted when the wife of the Polish ambassador asked her to start an interactive learning program in D.C. schools, teaching children about Poland through performances.

0354462600HaniaAugust2008klasowespotShe traveled with the children to Poland in the summer of 2008, performing at the presidential palace among other sites, before returning to the U.S. and focusing on the company’s professional mission.

“I see our mission moving forward as twofold — a company of professional actors and a group which does educational programs,” Bondarewska said.

Ambassador produced its first show, the Polish work “Out at Sea,” this June.

And Bondarewska, whose next show “Hopa Tropa!” turns the attention to Bulgaria, wants to enlarge her company so it has the ability to put on shows in the $40,000 to $100,000 range, rather than with the $20,000 budget that “Out To Sea” had.

“In a recession it is a little harder to gather money to produce shows,” she said. “But I believe if you have a good mission and good people to work with, anything is possible.”