Zelda Fichandler, who co-founded Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. died Friday, July 29 at her home in the District of congestive hear failure. She was 91.
Ms. Fichandler, her husband Thomas Fichandler and director Edward Mangum, Mrs. Fichandler pulled together the money to buy the old Hippodrome Theater on Ninth Street NW. Originally founded as a for-profit theatre, Arena evolved under Mrs. Fichandler’s leadership into a nonprofit operation that has become one of the most influential regional theaters and his home to many plays that have graced the Broadway stage.
The theatre reached many historic milestones. In 1973, Arena Stage became the first regional theater selected by the State Department to present U.S. plays in the Soviet Union. Arena Stage became the first troupe outside New York to receive a Tony Award for general excellence in 1976. It also welcomed all races at a time when many theatres were still segregated.
Mrs. Fichandler grew up in Washington and graduated from Cornell University graduate with a degree in Russian language and literature. She enrolled the master of fine arts program at George Washington University .