Imagination Stage

Imagination Stage

Imagination Stage is the largest and most respected multi-disciplinary theatre arts organization for young people in the Washington, DC region.

Its year-round professional shows for families and classes, performance opportunities, outreach programs and summer camps for ages 1-18 are informed by a core belief in making the arts inclusive and accessible to all children, regardless of their physical, cognitive or financial status.


Imagination Stage is a family arts center that nurtures young people of all abilities through participation in professional theatre and arts education experiences.


Imagination Stage nurtures the creative spirit, inherent in all children, by using theatre to open hearts, inspire minds and ignite imaginations. Imagination Stage is a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit, tax-exempt, cultural and educational organization which does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic or national group, gender or disability.

The Facility

Imagination Stage’s 40,000 square-foot (about 3,800 m2), state-of-the-art facility was designed by the internationally-renowned architecture firm Wood + Zapata, Inc., with interior design by Gensler and construction by Forrester Construction, Inc.

Its architecture is unique and beautiful, with a striking copper, limestone and glass façade, plus artist designed terrazzo floor and cherry wood finishes inside. Artists represented include Heidi Lippman (terrazzo floor), Mary Ann Mears (outdoor sculpture), and Steven Weitzman (sculpture). The building, located on the street level of a 700-space public parking garage, is handicap accessible. It includes two theatres, six education studios, a digital media studio and the Just Imagine Café and Shop.


Imagination Stage was founded as BAPA (Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts) in 1979 in response to the urgent need for arts education for young people. Seventeen children enrolled in the first class. In 1985 BAPA began offering summer programs at American University, Washington, DC.

In 1987 the Arts Access program (now known as AccessAbility Theatre) was started for children with physical and/or cognitive disabilities followed, two years later by the Deaf Access Program for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The company was renamed Imagination Stage in 2001 in anticipation of its move to its downtown Bethesda theatre arts center in 2003. Imagination Stage has grown from a handful of children in a single classroom to a full-spectrum theatre arts organization, with nationally-acclaimed programs for children who are deaf (Deaf Access) and children with physical or cognitive disabilities (AccessAbility Theatre).

The Maryland State Department of Education awarded a contract in 1997 to provide professional development training in Maryland schools and to keynote MSDE's Summer Institute of Arts Integration Practices. The Biotech initiative was started that same year, and BAPA commissioned "The Cutting Edge", a play which focuses on the issues surrounding genetic testing, The Cutting Edge began touring regional high schools and other community venues. BAPA was awarded the Lockheed Martin Award for Excellence in Arts Education.

The Imagination Stage professional children’s theatre opened in 1992 at White Flint Mall. Woodbine House Press published "Wings to Fly: Bringing Theatre Arts to Children with Special Needs", a book written by BAPA staff in 1993. In 1995 the Deaf Access Company received nationwide publicity featuring on CNN's Headline News and in "The Washington Post".

In 2002 the Deaf Access program was awarded the 2001 VSA Arts/MetLife Cultural Access Award and was featured in "Best Practices for Innovation in the Arts" published that spring. The U.S. Department of Education commissioned a paper on the IQ professional development initiative for teachers. Construction began on Imagination Stage in downtown Bethesda. "Strange Intelligence", the third play in the biotechnology series, was piloted in area high schools. "Working Wings!", an advocacy play focusing on issues faced by the employable disabled, is presented on Capitol Hill by the Wings Company of the AccessAbility Theatre program. "Dreams to Sign", a book chronicling the development of the Deaf Access Company, published and available in a book/video package.

Two years later, in 2004, Imagination Stage Founder and Executive Director, Bonnie Fogel, was named a "Washingtonian of the Year" by the Washingtonian magazine. AccessAbility Theatre Program was awarded a $278,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Education. Imagination Stage received its first-ever Helen Hayes Award nomination when Toni Rae Brotons was nominated for her performance in "Junie B. Jones & A Little Monkey Business".

This was followed by two Helen Hayes Award nominations in 2005, including a nomination for Charles Way, writer of "Merlin and the Cave of Dreams" for the prestigious "Charles MacArthur Award for Best New Play or Musical". Imagination Stage founder and executive director, Bonnie Fogel, was named a "Montgomery College Arts Star". The U.S. Department of Education awarded the Deaf Access Program a third consecutive grant, this one in the amount of $330,000.

Original Scripts

The following scripts have received their World Premières at Imagination Stage.
*"Looking for Roberto Clemente", by Karen Zacarias, Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
*"Perfectly Persephone: Little Greek Myth", by Kevin Kling, World Premiere, April 2005, directed by Janet Stanford
*"Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood", Book, music and lyrics by Joan Cushing, Based on the book by Mike Artell, World Premiere, February 2005, directed and choreographed by Michael Bobbitt
*"Merlin and the Cave of Dreams", by Charles Way, World Premiere, June 2004, directed by Mary Hall Surface
*"Miss Nelson Has a Field Day", Book, music and lyrics by Joan Cushing, Based on the book by Harry Allard, Illustrated by James Marshall, World Premiere, December 2003, directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
*"Junie B. Jones & a Little Monkey Business", Book, music and lyrics by Joan Cushing, Based on the books by Barbara Park, World Premiere, June 2003, directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
*"Cinderella Eats Rice & Beans", by Karen Zacarias, Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
*"Aladdin's Luck", by Janet Stanford, Lyrics by Andrea Dodds, Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
*"Below The Horizon": Written by Mary Waters, Music by Michael Dombrow, Directed by Nikki Kaplan

External links

* [ Imagination Stage]

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