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Beyond their love of the stage, the executive producers and artistic directors of Post Shift Theatre, a new company making its D.C. debut this month, share two things in common: They’re all recent American University graduates who work in local restaurants and bars.
“We sat down knowing we wanted to start a theater company but weren’t sure what our direction might be,” says Jordan Lee, who bartends at The Sheppard, Republic Restoratives, and Radiator. Together with her fellow executive producer Matthew Meyers and co-artistic directors Jordan Clark Halsey and Clancey Yovanovich, they decided to produce shows that involve the hospitality industry, whether by using bars and restaurants as play venues or through the subject matter of the works themselves.
This winter, for example, Post Shift will tell the story of Ada Coleman. She was the head bartender at London’s Savoy Hotel in the early 1900s and is credited with inventing the Hanky Panky cocktail. “She was the only female bartender to make it into Pre-Prohibition cocktail books,” Lee says. “But what people don’t know is that there was another female bartender named Ruth [Burgess] who worked at the Savoy Hotel. They hated each other.”
The immersive play will recreate Coleman and Burgess’ first shift working together and since it will be held in a bar (most likely The Sheppard), cocktails will be a part of the production.
If you can’t wait until winter, Post Shift’s first production opens at Republic Restoratives on August 28 at 7 p.m. It will showcase six 10-minute plays from emerging D.C. playwrights who were only given the theme of “sticks and stones.”
The suggested donation for the pay-what-you-can event is $5. The bar will open before and after the show and Lee is creating a signature cocktail for the occasion.
Republic Restoratives co-founder Pia Carusone is thrilled to host Post Shift’s first production. “It’s such a elegant, simple idea in terms of the overlap between the arts community, specifically theater, and the cocktail world,” she says. “Jordan is one of our bartenders and we’ve been watching her career flourish.”
Right now Post Shift is operating as a nonprofit but Lee has bigger goals. “We want to be a smaller, boutique theater company that’s respected and that people want to work for,” she says. They’re seeking funding through grants so they can function at a faster pace. “This is not a hobby. We want to take this far.”
“Our main goal is to emphasize equal weight to both industries even though we will be putting on plays,” Lee continues. She hopes that the productions draw in members of the restaurant industry as well as the general public. “We want to create opportunities for night-walkers to come see theater that’s created and catered to them.” Post Shift, after all, is named for the exact moment servers and bartenders clock out.
Post Shift Theatre Company, facebook.com/postshifttheatre