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Glorious Gamble

DC-area native Eleasha Gamble lights up Arena Stage this holiday season.

Takoma Park native Eleasha Gamble is back at Arena Stage this winter in Oliver!

As a longtime staple of high school theater departments, Oliver! has given thousands of students their first taste of the stage life. While most look back on their stint as a chorus orphan fondly, for Eleasha Gamble, the play proved to be a pivotal role in her career.

The Takoma Park native was just a high school freshman when she auditioned for the production. “I was expecting to get an ensemble role, but I was cast as Nancy,” Gamble recalls. “It was a lightbulb moment for me, to be this little freshman kid and get this hefty role. It definitely spun me off into a trajectory that has led me to the life I’m currently living.”

That life includes a full-circle moment as Gamble steps once again into the role of Nancy for Arena Stage’s edgy, modern-day retelling of the classic tale. A little older and a little wiser this time around, Gamble brings a fuller version of the beloved character to the stage. “I told Molly [Smith, Arena Stage’s artistic director], I’m coming at it as a different person—a 35-year-old woman.”

This isn’t Gamble’s first role at Arena Stage, and, in fact, regular DC theatergoers should recognize the Helen Hayes Award-winning actress. Gamble got her start at Olney Theatre, where she began performing while still a student at The Catholic University. After graduation, she quickly made a name for herself in DC’s theater community, landing roles at Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre and even The Kennedy Center. Now based in New York, Gamble still considers herself a Washingtonian. “DC was pivotal in my artistic growth for sure,” she says. “It’s such a thriving community.” Through Jan. 3, tickets $50-$99, 1101 Sixth St. SW, 202.488.3300