Almost exactly a year ago I showed up to a reading of Cristina Bejan’s play, which she hosted at a friend’s house near Dupont Circle. I was there because I’d responded to her post on a DC theatre listserv calling for a director, and I was looking for something to direct. The play’s appeal was obvious from its premise: four roommates living in a group house in DC.
Stories about DC were having a moment - they still are - with House of Cards on Netflix and Alpha House on Amazon. Cristina was writing about an as-yet untapped corner of that world: the occasionally jaded, often idealistic, sometimes naive young people who slave at the nonprofits, climb the political ladders, organize the ubiquitous networking happy hours, and more while struggling with what every young person struggles with - their careers, their love lives, and trying to grow the hell up.
On opening night we sold out, and I told Cristina that I expected we’d sell out every show. I remember her looking at me with this sort of humbled perplexion, like that would be a long shot. Not only did we sell out all five originally planned shows, but half-way through the festival organizers asked us to add a sixth show, at a venue twice as large, which we also sold out.
It was about half-way through that run when I realized that Districtland needed to become a TV show, and I wanted to be the one to lead it.
Have you ever had that feeling when you’ve stumbled across an idea, and you feel like you’re the only one who truly realizes how great the idea is? That was me half-way through the Fringe festival. A local theatre critic had written something to the effect that Districtland, with its DC archetypes and insider humor, would never appeal to anyone west of the Beltway. I remember reading that and then I remember thinking, “Damn - that is so colossally wrong.”
I could excuse the critic for his nearsightedness. After all, that, too, is a particular Inside-the-Beltway affliction, just like a number of other anthropological-Millennial-phenomena which the play humorously and poignantly documents. It’s actually quite easy, living in DC, to forget that the young professionals who are here essentially running the government and much of its surrounding political apparatus are a lot like young professionals elsewhere: idealistic, entitled, earnest, smart, overeducated. Except these young professionals have been invested with a unique and enormous responsibility: being at the center of American, if not global, politics.
Districtland, in my opinion, was always best suited as a TV show. The play unfolded sort of like a TV show might - episodically, flowing from one vignette to the next. Yet it only scratched the surface of possibility when it came to exploring the curious, exciting, dispiriting world that is Washington DC. I can’t wait to see where these characters end up, and how they can provide a window beyond the usual Beltway politics. The show I’ll be developing next year won’t be a show about the mechanizations of insider politics - it’ll be about the dreams, ambitions, and challenges of making it in the world, when your world is Washington DC.
Starting in January, I’ll be adapting the play into a pilot episode and then pursuing every option available to get the show funded and made. The characters Cristina created have so much more to say, and I am looking forward to bringing that story to the screen, with your support and encouragement.