Thirty hours, spread over a minimum of eight days. Six-hundred and fifty dollars. And, a gluteus maximus in tip-top physical condition.
All three will be required of theatergoers who plan to take full advantage of the groundbreaking festival of August Wilson's plays being launched this week at the Kennedy Center.
The festival will be the first time that all 10 plays in Wilson's century cycle will be performed in the same place and can be seen within a month's time - crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the playwright's contribution to American letters.
But no one is pretending that a certain can-do spirit won't be needed for average theatergoers to experience this cultural treasure in its entirety.
You might think of it as the theatrical equivalent of a decathlon, with its own intensive training regimen.
"August Wilson's plays richly reward any effort that the audience makes," says Kenny Leon, the festival's artistic director.
"In terms of craftsmanship, of poetic language, of character development, August Wilson stands shoulder to shoulder with Arthur Miller, Chekhov and Shakespeare. In fifty years, people are going to look back and say: `A great writer lived among us.' "
Of course, there's no rule that theatergoers must see all 10 plays, which chronicle the African-American experience during each decade of the 20th century. Each drama (there are no comedies) stands on its own, and, as might be expected, the majority of attendees have purchased tickets to just one or two shows.
Unlike most plays, where tickets are sold in a range of prices, all seats for August Wilson's 20th Century cost $65, with no discounts offered for a series purchase.
Ticket sales nonetheless have been strong. By the middle of February, all available seats had been snapped up to two productions: the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences, and Radio Golf, the last show in the cycle.
August Wilson's 20th Century is the current example of the new and ambitious approach taken by the Kennedy Center under the helm of its current president, Michael M. Kaiser. He's not content to merely stage intriguing productions; instead, Kaiser is using the Kennedy Center's deep pockets and high profile to further scholarly discourse about prominent American artists and the masterpieces they create.
"The Kennedy Center is our national theater, and we take our curatorial role very seriously," Kaiser says.
"There's a rationale behind everything we do that resonates beyond the audiences who come to our performances. For instance, when we held our Stephen Sondheim Festival in 2002, we wanted to explode some of the myths that have arisen around his work," such as that the musicals are cold and unemotional.
In Wilson's case, performing all 10 plays in rotation will yield insights that would be missed when the works are viewed piecemeal.
"What is inherent in each play is how August Wilson saw the whole 20th century evolve," Kaiser says. "It permits audiences to experience the full arc of his vision."
Even before Wilson died of liver cancer in 2005, at age 60, theater troupes across the country were trying to figure out how to stage the 10 plays as a group.
But, the pragmatic difficulties were formidable. Full productions gobble up lots of money and time.
The only solution, Kaiser and Leon decided, was to mount staged readings, which are far less work-intensive.
Rehearsal time would be limited to 10 hours, as opposed to roughly 160 hours for a full-fledged regional theater production.
All actors will be required to hold scripts, regardless of how well they know the lines. No show can have more than two props. And each of the 77 characters has just one costume.
Once the ground rules had been established, they hired seven directors and 41 actors, many of whom play multiple roles.
When the festival first was announced, some big names were associated with it. But two of the most prominent - Phylicia Rashad and Baltimore native Charles Dutton - both have dropped out. Rashad will appear on Broadway instead in an all-black production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by her sister, Debbie Allen.
Dutton is making a movie, and was unable to reschedule the shooting to permit him to star in Fences.
Tracie Thoms will appear as planned as Black Mary in Gem of the Ocean, and Louis Gossett Jr. will take over as Troy in Fences.
"We wanted to put together an ensemble of talented actors, not a star system," Kaiser says. "The star is August Wilson."
Some theatergoers have an insatiable appetite for Wilson's tales.
David Greer, a 71-year-old trial attorney from Dayton, Ohio, is one of about 100 audience members who has purchased tickets to the complete cycle.
A longtime jazz fan, Greer first was introduced to Wilson's work in the mid-1980s, when he saw a notice for the Broadway opening of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Ma Rainey was the mother of the blues, and the show borrows its title from one of her most famous records.
"I thought, `Wow, that's really interesting,' I've got to see that, " Greer says. "And, so, off I went to New York, not knowing August Wilson from George Bernard Shaw."
Thus began a lifelong obsession. Greer now spends much of his spare time hopping around the country attending productions of his favorite modern dramatist.
"Wilson's plays are really poetic and gripping," he says. "They reflect the world the way it really is: as a difficult, but fascinating place."
Still, Greer cheerfully admits that some acquaintances think he's a little nuts. He didn't get many offers from friends eager to join his Washington expedition.
"My wife," he says, "is the only one crazy enough to go with me."