Media Contact: Peggy Kearns Dean  |  T: 571.216.5136  |  E: 

Scena Theatre presents the World Premiere of John Shand's masterpiece play, GUILT, on January 8 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

Washington, DC, December 11, 2017 — The Directors of Scena Theatre are thrilled to kick off 2018 with GUILT—a world premiere by Australian playwright John Shand directed by Robert McNamara. Shand describes GUILT as “an opera without music”, and it opens on Monday, January 8 at 8pm.

Members of the press: please RSVP to to reserve your seat for Opening Night or kindly request an alternate performance. 

GUILT draws on the trial of the priest Urbain Grandier for witchcraft in France in 1633-34. It is John Shand's response to witch-hunts of all eras (including our own), when scores are settled and innocence becomes no defense. The play also explores the nexus between sexual and religious rapture. This drama is a bold metaphor for the culture of lies, clash of religions and rejection of human rights in modern times.

In April 2014, Scena performed a staged reading series at Woolly Mammoth Theatre called "Rhythm & Rebellion." GUILT was one of the four plays included. In September 2017, Scena also staged a reading of GUILT for The Kennedy Center's annual Page-to-Stage Festival. Now, Artistic Director Robert McNamara is excited to mount a full production of the drama: "I've wanted to produce GUILT for many years. The staged readings were great and audiences received it well, so I'm happy to be able to introduce this world premiere to DC finally in a complete production."

PLOT: Set in 17th-century France and based on historical events, the play tells of the charming, clever, philandering French priest Urbain Grandier (1590-1634), who accrues male enemies and lovelorn women with equal ease. When an entire convent of nuns becomes infatuated with him he is accused of witchcraft, suggesting other motivations may be at work in cases of intolerance, xenophobia and persecution. Ultimately GUILT depicts a collision between the lives of five people who can’t tell truth from lies. It is its focus on the inner worlds of its characters that sets it apart from other works (of theatre, cinema and opera) that have dealt with these historical events. 

Press Night / Opening — Monday, January 8, 2018 (8pm). Please RSVP to 

Official Run:  Jan 11 – Feb 4, 2018 (Thur. – Sat. 8pm; Sun. 3pm)

Previews: $15 Fri. & Sat., Jan. 5 & 6 (8pm) and Sun. Jan. 7 (8pm)

Industry:  Monday, January 29, 2018 (8pm): just $10 for theatre / entertainment industry professionals with ID / credentials

Location: ATLAS Performing Arts Center 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Venue: ATLAS Performing Arts Center (Lab II)

1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Press Info: Email: 

Phone: 571-216-5136 

Press Photos: Click on Press link (at left)

Ticket Cost: $15 - $45 at  or  202.339.7993

Adults: $30 (Thurs.) and $35 (Fri. & Sat. at 8pm; Sun. at 3pm)

Under 30 / Seniors w/ ID: $25 (Thurs.) and $30 (Fri. & Sat. 8pm; Sun. 3pm)

Box Office: Click here for Tickets:


Call 202.399.7993 x2.

Actors: Nanna Ingvarsson, Danielle Davy, Ron Litman, Oscar Ceville & John Geoffrion

Designers:  Robert McNamara (Director), Natalia Gleason (Asst. Director), Anne Nottage (Asst. Director), Hannah Fogler (Stage Manager), Denise Rose (Sound), Eva Petric (Set & Costume) 

John Shand is a playwright, librettist, author, critic and musician. He was born in New Zealand, and lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia. He has published Don’t Shoot the Best Boy! – The Film Crew At Work (a book about the collaborative nature of film-making), The Phantom of the Soap Opera (a comic play for teenagers), and Jazz – The Australian Accent (about unique developments in Australian jazz). He contributed to The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz and has written about music and theatre for The Sydney Morning Herald for more than 21 years. His libretto for the oratorio Voices (about Jeanne d’Arc) was performed in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House, and he has written comedy for radio and television. He has penned some 20 plays, swimming against the tide of naturalism that he sees as beleaguering theatre. He prefers plays that lead audiences to elevated places where representations of humanity may absorb and bewitch them without them being obliged to try to forget that they are in a theatre watching actors. GUILT was developed with input from the leading British theatre practitioner Steven Berkoff. In 2017, Shand won the Arts Journalism Award at the Walkleys, the nation’s preeminent awards for journalism. His website is

SCENA Theatre brings the best international theatre to Washington, DC and stimulates cultural exchange between theatre artists, locally and worldwide. Founded in 1987 under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert McNamara and Managing Director Amy Schmidt, SCENA produces an annual season of plays, seasonally staged readings, as well as a Workshop Series aimed at developing new works from around the globe. To learn more about our mission or past stage productions, please click on About in the left menu.