Imagination Stage to Present MISS NELSON IS MISSING! This Summer

Performances begin June 29.
By: Chloe Rabinowitz May. 15, 2024

Imagination Stage to Present MISS NELSON IS MISSING! This Summer

Imagination Stage, the metro DC region’s largest professional theatre for young audiences and leader in positive youth development through the arts, will conclude its ‘Greatest Hits’ season with composer/writer/lyricist Joan Cushing’s Miss Nelson is Missing!, running June 20 – August 10, 2024, with weekday and weekend matinee performances. The musical, commissioned by Imagination Stage and originally produced in 2001, is directed by Janet Stanford.

The show is based on the beloved book by Harry Allard and James Marshall about the children of Horace B. Smedley Elementary School, room 207, who are not just badly behaved–they’re the “worst kids of all!” No matter what their sweet and caring teacher Miss Nelson tries, they simply won’t listen. Fed up with their behavior, Miss Nelson leaves her class in the hands of dreaded substitute teacher Miss Viola Swamp, infamous for bringing “woe to those who misbehave.” Terrified of “the Swamp,” the kids must work together and with Detective McSmogg to find their kindhearted teacher and win her back. The show is best for ages 4 and up.

Tuneful and hilarious, this Imagination Stage original has been a hit at theatres from coast to coast. In a 2008 Washington Post piece about the 100th production of Miss Nelson Is Missing!, Celia Wren wrote, “…it’s easy to see why the show has so many notches on its belt. It brims with conflict and drama, without being scary; it balances the perspectives of its zany adult and obstreperous child characters; and it revels in sly comic touches.”

Well known for her political satirical revue “Miss Foggybottom and Friends,” Cushing had not written for children before Stanford convinced her to write Miss Nelson is Missing! That first show was the start of something major: Cushing went on to write five more shows for Imagination Stage and several for other theatres. Along the way, she collected critical and popular acclaim, awards, and over 400 total productions. 

Director Stanford, who is stepping down from her full time role at Imagination Stage on May 31, says “I love the journey the kids take from being self-indulgent and ill-behaved to recognizing their responsibility in creating a really big problem that they now need to solve.” Stanford will focus on physicalizing this normally internalized journey: “The kids will be pushing the boundaries of their known world, literally expanding their horizons, as they take to their roller skates and scooters to search for Miss Nelson.” 

Stanford is excited to work with her talented cast, and is especially delighted that the accomplished Emily Kester gets a chance to shine in the title role; “Emily has been in several  shows at Imagination Stage, and if there is anyone who can be scary and not-scary at the same time, it is Emily.” Kester just completed the run of At the Wedding at Studio Theatre.

Joining Stanford on the creative team are Tony Thomas (Choreographer), Debbie Jacobson (Music Director/Orchestration), Milagros Ponce de Leon (Scenic Designer), Max Doolittle (Lighting Designer), Jeannette Christensen (Costume Designer), Andrea “Dre” Moore (Props Designer), and Kevin Alexander (Sound Designer). 

The acting ensemble includes Emily Kester as Miss Nelson, Jimmy Mavrikes as Pop Hanson/Mr. Blandsworth/Detective McSmogg, and Tyler Dobies, Justine “Icy” Moral, Graciela Rey, and Theodore Sapp as Miss Nelson’s students.  Samantha Leahan is Stage Manager. 

The ‘Greatest Hits’ series has celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Imagination Stage’s beautiful building in downtown Bethesda. Imagination Stage will announce its 2024-2025 season in June.

Weekday and weekend matinees for the general public are Tuesdays through Saturdays and some Sundays, including some special performances (listed below). The full calendar is here. Tickets are $12 and up and may be purchased online at, in person at Imagination Stage’s box office, or via phone at 301-280-1660. Group rates are available for parties of 10+. 

Special Performances

Meet the Actors offers a chance to say hello and pose for pictures with members of the cast following these performances:
June 29 at 10:00

July 6  at 1:00

July 13 at 4:00, this is also Pride Day

July 20 at 4:00
July 27 at 4:00 

August 3 at 4:00

August 10 at 1:00

Industry and Educators Night is a pay-what-you-will event for theatre makers and education professionals to attend with or without children on Monday, July 22 at 7:00