Taste of Roaring Twenties at Dumbarton House

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Steve Rochlin of Picnic Theatre Company. Photo by Katherine Schwartz.

This Wednesday, June 12, through Friday, June 14, area residents can venture to 2715 Q St. NW from 6 to 9 p.m. for a taste of the Roaring Twenties. Transformed into Jay Gatsby’s mansion, Georgetown’s historic Dumbarton House will host an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” presented by Picnic Theatre Company.

Dumbarton House serves as the headquarters of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, a membership organization that seeks to preserve the historic property, promote the culture of the surrounding community and increase awareness of the nation’s early history.

The Federal-period mansion has provided a whimsical venue for Picnic Theatre Company, a group of “Washington professionals by day and thespians by night,” for nine years.

Commenting on the company’s devoted members, Steve Rochlin, director of the upcoming “Gatsby” production, said: “We have this incredible cast with this amazing diversity … a few of them actually were professional actors. But as far as what they do in their day jobs, they’re all incredibly high-powered D.C. professionals. We have a number of prominent reporters: one reporter for the Washington Post, for example, a couple of executives at the Atlantic, a couple of very high-powered D.C. lobbyists and some senior executive branch officials.”

Rochlin himself is CEO of a consulting firm, Impact ROI. But, he said, despite the team’s presumably packed schedules, “We do this because it is both a passion and the way we give back. All the proceeds go to charity.”

Half of the proceeds go toward the preservation of Dumbarton House, while the other half benefits Courage for Kids, a program providing lower-income children with necessary school supplies.

The group puts on two plays a year at Dumbarton House, one in June and one in November, presented in the garden and the ballroom, respectively. The productions are done on a “shoestring budget,” with simple staging and, in June, the audience on picnic blankets, as the group’s name suggests.

Despite the minimalist style, however, the experience is rich with engagement. Not only do the actors interact with the audience, breaking the fourth wall on occasion, but attendees are encouraged to come in costume, transported in this show to the Jazz Age upon arrival.

In the age of Netflix streaming, Rochlin believes “there’s a real hunger for this kind of production.” A refreshing alternative to our screens, it also provides support to worthy causes. And the company is mindful of the time commitment: performances typically last between an hour and an hour and a half, avoiding any potential “three-hour theater marathon.”

Ultimately, the night is “just a really lovely experience. People are able to network, socialize, enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy a good story,” he said. Food and cocktails are offered at 6 p.m. and the performance begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit dumbartonhouse.org.

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