The Arsonists


  • by Max Frisch
  • In a new translation by Alistair Beaton
  • directed by Michael John Garcés
  • Two hours, with no intermission

now extended thru october 14!

The world may be starting to burn, but George Betterman has it all under control. He’s a respected member of his community with a loving wife and a flourishing business, so surely the arsonists will spare him. As an upstanding citizen, he’s even happy to do his civic duty by opening his home to two new guests… but when they start filling his attic with drums of gasoline, will the fire hit too close to home?

Written as a reflection on the rise of both Nazism and Communism, The Arsonists has uncanny new relevance today in light of the rise of populist nationalism around the globe. For Woolly’s incendiary take on Max Frisch’s classic comedy, artistic director Howard Shalwitz makes his long-awaited return to the Woolly stage, lighting the fuse on the theater’s 38th season.

Join us after every performance of The Arsonists for a community conversation: a chance to investigate what will surely be a play worth digging into!

Featuring company members Colin K. Bills, Michael John Garcés, Tim Getman, Kimberly Gilbert, Misha Kachman, Jared Mezzocchi, Ivania Stack, Emily Townley, and artistic director Howard Shalwitz

The Arsonists is made possible by a generous grant from The Roy Cockrum Foundation.

Please be advised that this production will contain cigar smoke, fog, strobe lighting, and sudden loud noises.

Woolly does not offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any questions about content, contact our box office at (202) 393-3939.

"The stark, high-relief image of an everyman refusing to acknowledge the fuse burning under his nose will probably keep THE ARSONISTS glowing in mind long after you’ve seen it."

Washington Post

"This play is perfect"

MD Theatre Guide

"THE ARSONISTS can't be beat"

Broadway World

"THE ARSONISTS is a superb conflagration"


"Never a dull moment"


"THE ARSONISTS is not about the arsonists. It is about the rest of us, and how we come to let them into our homes and our lives."

DC Theatre Scene


DC Metro Theatre Arts

"Timeless political satire"

The Guardian

"A remarkable piece of theatre that is starting a blaze of conversation all across Washington"


About the Playwright: Max Frisch

MAX FRISCH (1911–1991) (Playwright) was a Swiss dramatist and novelist, noted for his depictions of the moral dilemmas of 20th-century life. Frisch's works focused on problems of identity, individuality, responsibility, morality, and political commitment. His use of irony is a significant feature of his post-WWII publications. Frisch's play Santa Cruz (1947) established the central theme found throughout his subsequent works: the predicament of the complicated, skeptical individual in modern society. One of Frisch's earliest dramas is the morality play Nun singen sie wieder (1946; Now They Sing Again), in which Surrealistic tableaux reveal the effects caused by hostages being assassinated by German Nazis. His other historical melodramas include Die chinesische Mauer (1947; The Chinese Wall) and the bleak Als der Krieg zu Ende war (1949; When the War Was Over). Reality and dream are used to depict the terrorist fantasies of a responsible government prosecutor in Graf Öderland (1951; Count Oederland), while Don Juan oder die Liebe zur Geometrie (1953; Don Juan, or The Love of Geometry) is a reinterpretation of the legend of the famous lover of that name. Frisch’s later plays include Andorra (1961), with its theme of collective guilt, and Biografie (1967; Biography), which deals with social relationships and their limitations. Frisch's early novels Stiller (1954; I'm Not Stiller), Homo Faber (1957), and Mein Name sei Gantenbein (1964; A Wilderness of Mirrors) portray aspects of modern intellectual life and examine the theme of identity. His autobiographical works include two noteworthy diaries, Tagebuch 1946–1949 (1950; Sketchbook 1946–1949) and Tagebuch 1966–1971 (1972; Sketchbook 1966–1971). His later novels include Montauk: Eine Erzählung (1975), Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän (1979; Man in the Holocene), and Blaubart (1982; Bluebeard). He was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1986 and passed away in 1991.

About the Translator: Alistair Beaton

ALISTAIR BEATON (Translator) is regarded as one of Britain’s top political satirists. He was born in Glasgow and educated at the Universities of Edinburgh, Moscow and Bochum, graduating from Edinburgh University with First Class Honours in Russian and German. He speaks fluent German, Russian and French and in 2007 his translation of The Arsonists by Max Frisch was staged at the Royal Court Theatre. He is a well-known voice on BBC Radio 4, having presented several series of Fourth Column as well as a number of other programmes including The Beaton Generation. He appears on programmes as diverse as Any Questions, The News Quiz, PM, Quote Unquote, and The Today Programme.

Alistair also wrote the award-winning television film A Very Social Secretary about the David Blunkett affair, launching More4 in 2005. This was followed in 2007 by the Channel 4 film The Trial of Tony Blair, winner of the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for Best Single Drama and nominated for a BAFTA. He is the author of the hit West End play Feelgood, which won the Evening Standard Best Comedy Award in 2001 and has since had successful runs in America, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Estonia, Finland and Hungary, among many other widely produced plays.

About the Director: Michael John Garcés

MICHAEL JOHN GARCÉS (Director) is the Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, where he recently directed California: The Tempest by Alison Carey. He has directed Lights Rise on Grace by Chad Beckim, We Are Proud to Present… by Jackie Sibblies Drury, The Convert by Danai Gurira, Oedipus el Rey by Luis Alfaro, and two plays by Craig Wright, Grace and Recent Tragic Events. Other recent directing credits include The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia and Wrestling Jerusalem by Aaron Davidman at Intersection for the Arts in San Fransisco and Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill. Work presented in the Washington DC area in the past year includes red, black and GREEN: a blues by Marc Bamuthi Joseph at the Kennedy Center and Placas by Paul Flores at Gala Hispanic Theatre.

Meet the Cast

REGINA AQUINO (Anna) is thrilled to be making her Woolly Mammoth debut. A DC area native, she’s trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Studio Theatre Conservatory, and Manhattanville College Purchase, NY. In her 14 years acting in DC, she has performed at many theatres including The Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, Theater Alliance, Studio 2ndStage, Synetic Theater, Rorschach Theatre, Catalyst Theater, and Discovery Theater.  Favorites credits are: Red Light Winter (dir. Joy Zinoman) at Studio Theatre, Where Words Once Were (dir. Colin Hovde) at The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences, Brainpeople (dir. Catherine Tripp) at Rorschach Theatre, brownsville song (b-side for tray) (dir. Paige Hernandez-Funn) at Theatre Alliance, and Dog Sees God (dir. Keith Alan Baker) at Studio 2ndstage, which earned a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Best Ensemble. She can next be seen at Lincoln Center in her NYC debut for a remount of The Kennedy Center TYA’s Where Words Once Were and at Studio X as Tong in Vietgone. Regina dedicates this performance to Brian Smith, whom she married on this very stage.

AKEEM DAVIS (Chorus) is from Miami, Fl, and is a graduate of Florida State University. Based in Philadelphia, Akeem was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for his work as Lancelot in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s production of District Merchants (2016). Regionally, Akeem has credits at South Coast Repertory Theatre, People’s Light and Theatre Company and InterAct Theatre Company, among others. Akeem has been nominated for 3 Barrymore Awards (Philadelphia) and was the 2015 recipient of F. Otto Haas Emerging Theatre Artist Award. Akeem is a proud man of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

PETER HOWARD (Chorus) returns to Woolly after appearing in We Are Proud to Present… in 2014. Peter is a founding member of the Los Angeles-based Cornerstone Theater Company, working as a performer, playwright and director in collaboration with dozens of urban and rural communities since 1986. With Cornerstone, he has appeared in world premieres by Luis Alfaro, Sarah Ruhl, Erik Ehn, Naomi Iizuka, and Michael John Garcés, among many others. He recently directed the premiere of Julie Marie Myatt’s participatory play about volunteerism, fellowship, as part of Cornerstone’s Hunger Cycle.  Peter’s regional theater credits include the Mark Taper Forum, Long Wharf, Yale Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, the Guthrie and South Coast Repertory. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Peter attended Harvard College and received an MFA from the University of Virginia.

TIM GETMAN (Joe Smith) has worked onstage for over 15 years in the Washington/Baltimore area, recently seen in Copenhagen at Theater J, Kiss at Woolly and Hand to God at Studio. He has also been seen at Arena Stage, Everyman, Folger Theatre, Rep Stage, Round House, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre, and Center Stage, among others. At Woolly, Tim has also appeared in The Unmentionables, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Detroit, Appropriate, Zombie, and The Nether. Recent television credits include The Men Who Built America and Veep.  He holds a BA from Macalester College and Trinity College, Dublin.

KIMBERLY GILBERT (Billie Irons) is a DC Theatreverse resident since the year two thousand. Here at Woolly she has rocked in Cooking With Elvis; Big Death Little Death*; Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis; The K of D*; Measure For Pleasure; Boom; Fever/Dream*; Clybourne Park; The Vibrator Play; A Bright New Boise; Mr. Burns*; You For Me For You*; Stupid Fucking Bird*; Marie Antoinette (Helen Hayes Award- Lead Actress Resident Play); and Women Laughing Alone With Salad*. She has also proudly played with Taffety Punk (company member), Round House, Theater J, Studio, Fords, The Folger, Forum, Metrostage, The Kennedy Center, Mosaic, Scena, and (ye olde) Source Theatre. She is a proud graduate of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy For Classical Acting, and has been a Woolly Company Member since 2006. (*world premiere)

JOSÉ JOAQUÍN PEREZ (Chorus) Selected New York Theatre: In a Word (Lesser America at the Cherry Lane), Fish Men (INTAR), Crude (Black Lab), My Mañana Comes (Playwrights Realm- Drama Desk Nominee), Adoration of the Old Woman by Jose Rivera (INTAR), Drawn and Quartered (INTAR), American Jornalero (The Working Theater), FIT by Neil Konegisberg (Summer Shorts 4), so go the ghosts of mexico (La Mama Etc.). Selected Regional: Arm and the Man (Triad Stage), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Woolly Mammoth- Helen Hayes Award Nominee), Oedipus el Rey (Woolly Mammoth). Selected TV/Film: Taken (NBC), Where is Kyra? (with Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland), Amok (Winner 2015 UK Film Festival), Quedate (available on HBO GO and HBO NOW). BFA from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. Proud member of the 52nd Street Project.

HOWARD SHALWITZ (George Betterman) is in his 38th season as Artistic Director of Woolly Mammoth. Under his leadership, Woolly has grown from a tiny alternative theatre to one of the most influential creators of provocative new theatre in America. Howard was the recipient of the 2014 Margo Jones Award in recognition of his lifetime commitment to new American plays, and the 2012 Distinguished Finalist for the Zelda Fichandler Award for Outstanding Regional Director. He received the 2011 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director for Clybourne Park, and was nominated in 2014 for Stupid Fucking Bird. He has appeared on the Woolly stage in Full Circle, The Gigli Concert, Lenny & Lou, The Chinese Art of Placement, The Fever, Christmas on Mars, and many other plays.  In recent seasons, he directed the Woolly premieres of Zombie: The American, Civilization, Fever/Dream, and other innovative new works. Howard has acted and directed for leading American companies including New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Arena Stage, Buffalo Studio Arena, Soho Rep, Syracuse Stage, and Milwaukee Rep. A native of Buffalo, NY, he received his BA in Philosophy from Wesleyan University and his MA in Teaching from Brown University before launching his career as an actor and director in 1976.

SUE JIN SONG (Chorus) is excited to return to Woolly Mammoth. She was last seen here in Marie Antoinette. Other acting credits include OFF BROADWAY: The World of Extreme Happiness (NYC premiere, Manhattan Theatre Club); Iphigenia at Aulis, Exit the King (Pearl Theater). DC THEATER: Smart People, Hot ‘n Throbbing (world premiere) (Arena Stage). Yellow Face, iHo (Theater J); 36 Views (Constellation Theatre). REGIONAL THEATER: A Christmas Carol (McCarter Theatre); Waiting for Tadashi (world premiere, George Street Playhouse); Shedding the Tiger (world premiere, Sacramento Theatre Company); Burn This (Syracuse Stage). FILM: Steel Town, Pipe Dream, Someone Like You. TELEVISION: 24, ER, Law & Order. EDUCATION: MFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. AWARD: “The Best of Fringe” for her one woman show, Children of Medea, at the DC Fringe Festival. Sue Jin is a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop.

EMILY TOWNLEY (Chorus) has been a Woolly Company Member since 2009. Woolly performances include HIR, The Totalitarians (2015 Helen Hayes nomination for Best Leading Actress), Detroit, A Bright New Boise, House of Gold, Maria/Stuart, Spain, Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World, and Watbanaland. Other local performances include the Shakespeare Theatre Company: Romeo & Juliet; Studio Theatre: Between Riverside and Crazy, Laugh (a world premiere by Beth Henley), Skin Tight, Rock ‘n Roll, and A Bright and Bold Design; Signature Theatre: The Mystery of Love & Sex; Olney Theatre Center: Bad Dog (2016 Helen Hayes nomination for Best Ensemble); Round House Theatre: The Sisterhood; Everyman Theatre: Our Town; Rep Stage: The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?; MetroStage: The Real Inspector Hound; The Washington Stage Guild: Pen, Tryst; Folger Theatre: The Tempest and The Gaming Table. Regional credits include The Game’s Afoot and All My Sons for Gulfshore Playhouse. Emily has appeared in multiple productions for the Source Theatre, Freedom Stage, and the Kennedy Center, and can be seen next as Maria in Twelfth Night for the Shakespeare Theatre Company. For KWC.

BAHNI TURPIN (Becca Betterman) is a guest artist from Los Angeles. An ensemble member of Cornerstone Theater company since 2005, she has appeared in many theatrical productions in the Los Angeles area with Cornerstone and other local theaters such as The Mark Taper Forum, The Kirk Douglass Theater and South Coast Repertory. Highlights include Helena in Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, Demeter in Cornerstone’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s Demeter in The City, Cleodora (Clytemnestra) in Cornerstone’s Three Truths, and Prosper (Prospero) in Cornerstone’s adaptation of The Tempest: California, The Tempest. Bahni has also appeared in many television and film roles, most recently, Criminal Minds Beyond Borders, Chance, and Code Black, and can be seen in the upcoming film O.G., starring Jeffrey Wright. Bahni is also an award winning narrator of audiobooks, winner of the Audie award for Best Solo Female Narration in 2015, Audible Narrator of the Year for 2016, and The American Library Association’s Voice of Choice for 2017. In addition to acting, Bahni is an activist for food equity in South Los Angeles, being the founder and driving force of SoLA Food Co-op, a new co-op forming to serve South LA.

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