New play tells stories of Metro red line riders at Dupont Underground

Media Credit: Courtesy of Ryan Maxwell Photography.

“Use All Available Doors” is a play that takes place in one red line train, while characters come and go after riding for a few stops each.

A new play speaks directly to those who have struggled with Metro closures and delays.

“Use All Available Doors,” a play that will run at Dupont Underground through May 6, takes place on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s red line. Playwright Brittany Alyse Willis said the show is presented as a series of vignettes as passengers ride from one end of the line to the other – from Glenmont to Shady Grove.

The play takes place on one train, while the characters come and go through scenes after riding for a few stops each. The cast features one actor playing the train conductor, Sherry, while the other seven actors in the ensemble are cast as different passengers. The play follows Sherry as she attempts to write a eulogy for her mother’s funeral, while the other scenes act as “piecemeal” to show the larger themes of the play about life, Willis said.

While the show references realities of the red line – from hour-long delays to train fires – Willis said there are more “magical” elements to the production that elevate it from your usual commute. Some scenes include dancing and fight choreography, a parade and other moments that might seem uncanny when you consider the train is traveling through the business districts of D.C.

“There’s a lot of fun stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily find on a normal trip down the red line,” Willis said.

Willis said the play took about two years to write and they have been working with the production team at Pinky Swear Productions, a feminist theater production company, since the fall. Casting finished in February, when they began tweaking the show and script.

The setting is slightly nostalgic because the play is stationed in an older model of Metro cars that has since been decommissioned. As a more recent District resident – only becoming a full-time Metro commuter in 2013 – Willis asked multigenerational D.C. families about their relationships with the city, along with their connections to public transit and the red line specifically, to prepare for the script.

“I think it helps that we have a lot of feelings about the red line en masse,” they said. “There definitely is an attitude about the red line specifically that is really fun to engage with.”

Willis has previously had their plays produced in D.C., Chicago, Texas and Massachusetts. They worked as a company member for a theater group in Dallas before they started writing plays in 2013. This is Willis’ first time putting on a show at Dupont Underground, an old streetcar station turned art exhibit and theater space. They said challenges come with this type of space, but it ultimately allows for a site-specific storytelling experience that is more improvised and interesting.

“Sometimes what that means is that something even more interesting happens because we are confined, so we have to think differently than we might have the first go around,” Willis said.

While Willis said they get just as “frustrated as anyone else” by delays and cancellations on the Metro, there was a balance of good and bad when it comes to using public transportation.

“I feel more tied to the people of D.C. that I see on the Metro than I do to the Metro itself,” Willis said. “I think that the play is about that.”

Tickets for “Use All Available Doors” are $20 for students and seniors, and $35 for regular admission. The show plays at Dupont Underground at 19 Dupont Circle NW through May 6.

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