Not everyone respects the suburbs. Certainly when I lived in DC, I believed rats and sirens were a prerequisite for vibrancy, the grit that settled on the window sills a crucial creative leavening. The Virginia suburbs especially were pathetic—and Fairfax County? The least cool place within a fifty-mile radius. Ironic, then, that I moved there. But some of the newest, most vibrant theater followed me out this way. Newest and coolest of all: The Hub.
The Hub Theatre was founded four years ago. Led by playwright, actor, and director Helen Pafumi and nestled in an intimate space at Fairfax, Virginia’s New School, far from urban grime or glitz, The Hub produces work as fresh as the woods that surround it. Cynical, alienating work unfolds on the stages of other theaters. The Hub produces plays that challenge and include.
“My guiding post—celebrating our common humanity,” Pafumi says. “I find that what binds us is what is best about us. While the Hub will always be willing to explore the darker parts of our nature, and while our humanity is not always beautiful, the work we do will continue to look for the redemptive qualities that bring us together.”
That aesthetic doesn’t preclude the off-beat. In fact, part of The Hub’s vitality owes to its open submission process and its willingness to produce new, compelling, and unusual plays. The theater has taken risks, doing four world premieres in four years. Those risks have paid off. This year, its first year of eligibility for the Helen Hayes Awards, The Hub has received three nominations: one for Outstanding Ensemble (for the cast of “Birds of a Feather,” a world premiere written by Marc Acito) and two for Outstanding New Play (“Wonderful Life,” an adaptation of the film, written by Pafumi and Jason Lott, and “Birds of a Feather,” about–briefly–gay penguins and celebrity hawks).
The theater, suburban or not, is cutting edge, not only in its work, but also in its work place. Pafumi, a mother herself, has a particular and rare commitment to helping actors who are parents continue to work in the theater. “I have watched many of my counterparts leave theatre because no one was willing to help with the demands of parenting. When one of our artists has kids, we celebrate it and continue to ask them to work. In addition to that, if I ask them to work with us, I also ask what we can do to make it possible—help with babysitting, move schedules earlier in the day, take needed breastfeeding breaks, find artist housing that is kid friendly, etc.”
That, too, pays off; The Hub never seems short on talent. Currently at The Hub is “John and Beatrice,” by Canadian playwright Carole Frechette. A masterpiece of a play with a wonderful two-person cast, it is well worth a drive to the leafy and—who knows?—soon-to-be-cool streets of Fairfax.