Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

Hot Ticket: Awesome Con @ Washington Convention Center, 4/18-4/20/14

ACDC_Billie_PostWith the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and other movies storming out of the Marvel Studios stables, there is little question that comic books and associated media have definitely been embraced by mainstream audiences.

Which may leave us to question why hasn’t D.C. had its own comic book convention, particularly with Wizard World popping up in almost every other major U.S. city these days?

Well, we don’t have to wait any longer, as D.C. now has the locally produced Awesome Con, scheduled for this weekend, Friday, April 18, through Sunday, April 20, at the Washington Convention Center!

Awesome Con will feature guests from movies and television, most notably Billie Piper, well regarded for several seasons of Doctor Who; Cary Elwes, always memorable for The Princess Bride; Sean Astin, who played a hobbit in the trilogy Lord of the Rings; and many others. I personally may be most excited by Dirk Benedict of the A-Team and the original Battlestar Galactica.

Representing the literary world, Awesome Con will host guests such as award-winning science fiction author Timothy Zahn, who is responsible for 10 Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, including seven novels featuring Grand Admiral Thrawn: the Thrawn Trilogy, the Hand of Thrawn duology, Outbound Flight and Choices of One. Awesome Con also will feature more than 200 artists, including the likes of George Perez and John K. Snyder III.

Of course, Awesome Con will feature a large floor of more than 100 dealers and exhibitors, serving up a large amount of comic books and science-fiction merchandise. It also has an impressive number of panel discussions, including Q&A sessions with your favorite celebrities and chats on everything from tabletop gaming to improv comedy to surviving the zombie apocalypse (honestly).

Check out the full schedule to see all of your options, and hit the exhibitor floor between sci-fi speed dating and quizzing Doctor Who creators about the show. (I’d rather queue up for Ms. Piper myself!) Some VIP tix are still available!

Awesome Con
The Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mount Vernon Place NW
Washington, DC 20001
Friday, April 18-Sunday, April 20
Friday 3-8pm; Saturday 10am-7pm; Sunday 10am-5pm
$30-$200
All ages

Adventures, Education, Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Get Out & About, Life in the Capital, The District, Throwback Thursday

We Love Future Friday: 04/11/14

New Bus Rapid Transit proposal from 2010
Yeah so this week’s Throwback Thursday got a tad hindered by me deciding to take the entire day off to enjoy yesterday’s GLORIOUS-ness. I mean who could resist the temperature, the sun, the light breeze, the blossoms, the flowers, the birds…..I could go on and on, but you know exactly what I’m talking about. To remedy the situation I’ve come up with 5 posts that can seriously help shape the future of your DC weekend.

In that spirit, it’s been real hard to find a futuristic photo of DC that doesn’t have the Capitol exploding or zombies running down Pennsylvania Avenue tearing out entrails, so I ran with a vision of DC-VA-MD rapid bus transit routes. This proposal, from WAY back (cough 2010), would have buses “act somewhat like rail in that vehicles would make few stops and run between them fairly quickly. It would most resemble the Metro lines that are currently on or near freeways, since these stations would be close to the freeway and therefore more like park and ride lots with potential for development rather than serving commercial corridors as underground Metro lines do.” Alas, I don’t see this happening, but it does propose a pretty awesome hypothetical DC transit system. Silver line, why hast thou forsaken us?!!!!

Without further adieu, here are 5 articles that should shape your future DC plans – be they not already be predetermined….think on that peoples and Neil deGrasse Tyson!

  1. IMHO the concert of the weekend is The Sounds at the 9:30 Club, and Mickey tells you why in his recent Love Letter To The Sounds.
  2. The weekend is gonna be packed with tourist and have beautiful weather, so here’s our reco on where to escape to in Getaway: Sherpardstown, WV
  3. With spring comes new, of-the-season alcoholic beverages and Aaron’s throws down some ideas for you with Top Drink Picks for Spring.
  4. Get off the tourist beaten path with a hidden DC springtime gem that has serious history. Monumental: White House Rose Garden.
  5. This evening I literally heard another person lament the height limit in DC, so knowing that this will inevitably come up…again….and again….and again…..get your facts straight with DC Mythbusting: The Height Limit. This way you can speak eloquently the next zillion times someones brings it up.
Adventures, Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, The District

2014 DC March Madness Champion: Capital Weather Gang

2014 DC March Madness Champions
Congratulations to you, Capital Weather Gang, you DC weather of weather people, you forecasters among meteorological forecasters, you are the WeLoveDC 2014 DC March Madness Champions.

In your first round versus the Swachos at American Ice, you showed poise, control and desire. Your Elite Eight game proved a tough and combative match against the #1 seed DC Music Scene and despite the haters and naysayers you pulled off the upset. Which didn’t give you much time to rest up and strategize for your match up against the much loved Half Smoke at Ben’s. But despite its chili cheese goodness, this hot dog could not hold off your appetite for winning. In fact, it probably fueled your fire, as you entered the Championship match against the National Gallery of Art. Who would have known you’d curbstomp those paintings and sculptures, but you did, and you did it with the utmost respect for the Fine Arts.

So congratulations again and the 2015 season begins today.

Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, The District

2014 DC’s Championship Match – Cast Your Vote

Untitled

The Championship game is upon us. The Capital Weather Gang and National Gallery of Art have both been going strong since the tournament kick off and have bested some top seed favorites. It will be very interesting to see who pulls off this win and takes the crown as the 2014 DC March Madness Tournament Champion. You’ve got until 11:59pm tonight to cast your vote.

#8 Capital Weather Gang: This gang of weather nerds is the area’s go-to team for (mostly) accurate news and information on the region’s weather. Actually, it’s really one guy surrounded by a bunch of weather-loving people – but to us, they’re the Gang. They do their own forecasts, analyze models, insert physics, and use their own knowledge in formulating forecasts that are more often than not, right on target. They update their blog on WaPo with reader photos and comments, stay on top of updates during big weather events, and are highly interactive. They’re clear without being condescending; they answer all your questions without your even asking. They tell you what they know and what they don’t. They know they’re not perfect and aren’t afraid to admit when they’re wrong. Best of all? They show you how the science is relevant and uncover its beauty for all to enjoy.

VS.

#14 National Gallery of Art: A perennial powerhouse, the National Gallery isn’t just one of the finest museums in DC, it’s one of the finest in the world. It’s easy to lose yourself in the West Wing’s (no, not THAT West Wing) collection of Dutch masters, although my favorite works in the building are the Rodin sculptures. Ride through the tunnel to the East Wing and take in a Matisse and some Calder mobiles and you’ve got yourself a lovely day. This year’s news sees the National Gallery potentially taking over the Corcoran’s collection (subject to approvals, of course) so expect a higher seed next year if that goes well (and if we repeat this idea).

Adventures, Entertainment, Essential DC, Get Out & About, History, Life in the Capital, The District, Throwback Thursday

We Love Throwback Thursdays: 04/03/14

Washington Navy Yard circa 1950

With the groundbreaking of The Wharf, this week’s We Love Throwback Thursday takes a gander back at this rapidly developing Southwest corner of DC. The above photo captures Navy Yard as it existed circa 1950, and looking at the Google, things really haven’t change much from the exterior which, as a fan of refurbished buildings, I’m digging. If you haven’t been down to Navy Yard recently, definitely get there, as a ton is going on.

  1. Get the history behind this neighborhood, learn about its character and see how it’s changed since Shannon covered it back in 2009 with We Where Live: Southwest Waterfront.
  2. Exposed DC is up and running until April 6th at the Longview Gallery. Tom has the details in We Love Arts: Exposed DC Opens Tonight.
  3. Yards Park is on the top of Katie’s Best Picnic Spots in DC. Check that spot and others out for weekend picnic plans.
  4. Been to Bluejacket Brewery? Get to know their Beer Director in Fashion Plate: Greg Engert of Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
  5. Break your gym rut, challenge your core and cure your fear of heights with Trapeze School in DC: What More Can I Say?

Concert Round Up, Entertainment, Get Out & About, Life in the Capital

April 2014 Concert Round Up

This chick knows exactly how I feel about the shows going on in DC this month. KA-POW! Our music scene is always strong, but this month it’s on steroids or GHG or whatever Lance Armstrong was doping with. Yeh, some shows are sold out, but don’t be disheartened because there are a ton of options still out there and Mickey, Rachel and I have got your covered. And BTW, if a show you want to see is sold out, don’t be defeated. Nothing worth having ever came easy ;).

After the jump: The Sounds, TRUST, Boy George, The Dreamscapes Project, I Break Horses, and LOADS more. Continue reading

Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, History, Legacy articles, Life in the Capital, The District

2014 DC’s Final Four – Cast Your Vote

2014 DC March Madness Bracket

Great Goo-Ga-Moo-Ga! The #1 seed – The DC Music Scene – suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Capital Weather Gang. Was the wretched, stay-at-home and batten down the hatches, “why is it snowing at the end of March?!!” weekend weather to blame? Who knows. In the other Elite Eight matchups, Ben’s Half Smokes said “adios” to Lauriol Plaza, Food Trucks trucked over the Annual DC Sports Playoff Collapse, and NGA told the Repeal Day Ball to sober the f*&k up!

The Final Four matchups pit the Half Smoke at Ben’s against #1 seed killers the Capital Weather Gang, and the National Gallery of Art against Food Trucks. It’s food versus meteorology and food versus culture. Get your votes in by April 5th. Vote early and vote often.

#6 Half Smoke at Ben’s: The half smoke, DC’s own sui generis special hotdog, is a marvel, but cover it in lightly spicy chili, with yellow mustard and white onions and you have this amazing diner classic that has dominated the DC food landscape for decades. Having it at the counter at Ben’s on U Street (there is really only one Ben’s, despite what the marquee says in Arlington and at National), with the happiest staff in DC’s restaurants putting on the best of a show? There are few DC things I love so much as going to see Mo and his cadre of amazing people behind the counter. The best part? they’ve all got perfect pitch, and they’re not afraid to sing along with the classic R&B jukebox there. Sit at the bar. Get some cheese fries to go with. You will regret nothing.

VS.

#8 Capital Weather Gang: This gang of weather nerds is the area’s go-to team for (mostly) accurate news and information on the region’s weather. Actually, it’s really one guy surrounded by a bunch of weather-loving people – but to us, they’re the Gang. They do their own forecasts, analyze models, insert physics, and use their own knowledge in formulating forecasts that are more often than not, right on target. They update their blog on WaPo with reader photos and comments, stay on top of updates during big weather events, and are highly interactive. They’re clear without being condescending; they answer all your questions without your even asking. They tell you what they know and what they don’t. They know they’re not perfect and aren’t afraid to admit when they’re wrong. Best of all? They show you how the science is relevant and uncover its beauty for all to enjoy.

#4 Food Trucks: Long gone are the days when lunch meant the same old deli/buffet or chain sandwich shop offerings day in and day out. Food trucks have taken over. Literally, have you seen Franklin Park at noon? These culinary delights on wheels bring street food fare from all corners of the world, giving us sweet sweet access to arepas, kabobs, lobster rolls, decadent mac n’ cheese, ice cream sandwiches, curries and beyond. Food trucks make lunch an ever changing adventure, as you never quite know what your options are until you roll up to the various food truck congregation points, see the players and make your elections. This is an invaluable source of inspiration and elan during the work week that keep your spirits and/or tastebuds alive. Lunch will never be the same in DC.

VS.

#14 National Gallery of Art: A perennial powerhouse, the National Gallery isn’t just one of the finest museums in DC, it’s one of the finest in the world. It’s easy to lose yourself in the West Wing’s (no, not THAT West Wing) collection of Dutch masters, although my favorite works in the building are the Rodin sculptures. Ride through the tunnel to the East Wing and take in a Matisse and some Calder mobiles and you’ve got yourself a lovely day. This year’s news sees the National Gallery potentially taking over the Corcoran’s collection (subject to approvals, of course) so expect a higher seed next year if that goes well (and if we repeat this idea).

Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Photo by Scott Suchman.

The cast of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Photo by Scott Suchman.

Although Broadway musicals throughout history have been written about a tireless myriad of topics and events, few plot lines seem weaker or less full of suspense at the onset than The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. With the entire storyline centering on the events at a Midwest American spelling bee, the only initial enthusiasm for the show seems to be in wondering who the winner will be. Yet despite the fact that the entire plot really is exactly what it seems to be—contestants competing in a small-town spelling bee—The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a work of musical genius and one of the most amusing and entertaining shows I have ever seen.

The cleverness of the show lies in its complex simplicity. The plot is simple, with the audience knowing that as the show progresses, each of the contestants will be eliminated from the competition until there is only one winner. But book writer Rachel Sheinkin and composer/lyricist William Finn have added a wonderful layer of complexity to the show by leaving the audience asking more than just “who will win,” but also “what will cause the others to lose”, “how did the contestants come to be at the spelling bee in the first place”, and “how will this one event shape the remainder of the contestants lives (if at all)”. To be answered through short musical vignettes woven in between the actual bits of competition, and to all be done in a way that is uproariously hysterical is sheer brilliance. Continue reading

Adventures, Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, Special Events, The District

DC’s 2014 Sweet Sixteen – Cast Your Vote

WeLoveDC_SweetSixteen_2014
In the spirit of March Madness, we’ve decided to create our own Sweet Sixteen bracket to find out who (or what) you think should be DC’s 2014 champion. Culled from a rather large author submitted list, these sixteen contestants represent the heart and soul (and headslaps) of our fair city. We’ve randomly paired them up in eight killer match ups where you get to decide who makes it to the Elite Eight. Voting goes until tomorrow night (the 27th at 12am) with the next round opening up on the 28th.

#1 The DC Music Scene: The 9:30 Club, Black Cat (mainstage and red room), DC9, Rock N’ Hotel, U Street Music Hall, Gypsy Sally’s, Patty Boom Boom, Echo Stage, Flash, DAR, The Hamilton….I could and should go on but there are just WAY too many awesome DC music venues to list. You want an intimate show? You got it. You want a sell out ~20,000 person experience? Done. You want to get your dancing sweat on in a darkish, light parade? Boom! And it’s not just that they’re great places to see music, it’s that they bring in an utterly fantastic array of acts. On any given night, there are nationally known groups, up-and-comers, awesome cover bands and true indie artists showing us their stuff. What. To. Choose?!!!! Did I mention that the venues have awesome food and drink, and that they’re staff are some of the coolest people in DC?

VS.

#16 Swachos at American Ice CompanyThe concept is a simple one, but it’s the execution that makes this salty bar favorite into something that I crave. The house-made queso is rich but not too thick, the jalapeños are spicy, but not overwhelming, and the house pickle brine they’re steeped in has just the right balance of sugar and vinegar to bring out their playful flavor. And then the pork. Oh the pork. The shredded pork is the king’s crown atop this marvelous plate. Wash it down with a DC Brau Citizen and a Bulleit Rye pickleback, and you have my favorite bar meal in the entirety of the city on a warm spring day on their patio. This is a reminder that simple can be good all on its own, when executed with diligence and care.

Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Loveland

Loveland at Arena Stage

(Ann Randolph in Loveland Photo: Teresa Wood)

As she struts up and down the imaginary aircraft cabin on the stage of Arena’s Kogod Cradle, Franny Potts (Ann Randolph) achieves a level of adorkable that dates back before Zooey Deschanel put on a pair of plastic frames. I’m not talking about today’s awkward yet cute look, I’m talking about an unfiltered mouth passionately spouting out factoids about America’s National Parks. I’m talking about a mouthful of adult braces and the lisp it causes. I’m talking about proudly and unabashedly being a dork because you love it and you don’t care what everybody else thinks.

The protagonist in Randolph’s Loveland reminded me of Molly Shannon’s Sally O’Malley character on SNL, down to Franny’s black stretch pants. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Potts spoke about her love of kicking, stretching, and kicking while shouting, “I’m 50!”

Loveland is a semi-autobiographical tale of humor, love, and loss. In this one-act, one-woman play, Randolph is awkwardly hilarious, occasionally endearing, and is very comfortable in her pair of stretchy pants.

Continue reading

Entertainment, Life in the Capital, Music, Night Life, The District, We Love Music

We Love Music: NO. @ DC9 – 03/20/14

NO

Try to Google “NO.” and you’ll have a hard time finding this LA – Echo Park specifically – based rock group. But keep looking (hint: add “Echo Park”,) the extra 5 seconds of typing/navigation will land you with a band that, after their performance at DC9 last Thursday night, is a strong contender for my artist of the year.

I stumbled across this relatively unknown indie rock group after returning home from another concert and mindlessly turning on my basic cable TV while I fixed myself some noms. Unfortunately, Carson Daly was on. Fortunately, NO. had just begun their set.

Continue reading

Entertainment, The Daily Feed, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Beaches

Alysha Umpress as Cee Cee (left) Mara Davi as Bertie (right).  Photo by Margot I. Schulman.

Alysha Umpress as Cee Cee (left) Mara Davi as Bertie (right). Photo by Margot I. Schulman.

For a number of years, Broadway musicals based on their respective movies have been a staple on the Great White Way. In fact, more than one-third of the musicals currently on Broadway were films before they were ever stage productions. While some of these live adaptations fare very well with audiences, producers often find that taking a beloved film, musicalizing it, and then putting it on stage is a risky venture. One of the major reasons new productions are put through a series of workshops and premieres before opening on Broadway, in fact, is to gauge the potential success it will have and to edit and make changes along the way.

Signature Theatre has been instrumental over the years in assisting these budding new shows find footing by producing their world premieres in its Arlington facility, with almost 40 productions to date, including their current musical, Beaches. Based on Iris Rainer Dart’s 1985 novel, which the 1988 film with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey was adapted from, Beaches follows two friends through a 30-year friendship. One a brash performer, the other a WASP-y blueblood, these seemingly different women forge a powerful companionship when a chance meeting on the beach as young girls in the 1950s leads to a lifelong friendship that tests the bonds of sisterhood and shows the strength of friendship. Continue reading

Entertainment, Essential DC, Special Events

Share Your DC with LiveArt in a Day

logo w sponsors and date

Get ready to share your love for DC. On Saturday, April 5 at the Anacostia Arts Center, We Love DC is joining collaborative theater company LiveArtDC in holding the first annual LiveArt in a Day. We want your ideas to help create this unique presentation of five 10-minute plays that will be written overnight by local playwrights, rehearsed the next day, and performed twice that night only.

LiveArt in a Day will feature two performances of the plays, at 7pm and 9pm, in addition to three sets by local bands The Iris Bell, South Rail, and Clarence Buffalo, and a silent auction. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. All proceeds from the evening will benefit LiveArtDC (that rhymes with “Give Art DC”), a DC-based company of artists who believe in the power of collaboration to create engaging stories for theater. You may have seen their inaugural show I Heart Hummels at the Capital Fringe Festival. Now it’s your chance to join in the collaborative fun.

During the LiveArt in a Day event, plays will explore the sites, personalities and events that make DC the special place it is. But, we need your ideas to make it happen.

What are your quintessential DC experiences, the stories that make living here so unique? What locations or personalities would you want a play built around? How about that time you entered the annual High Heel Race? Or pelted an ex at the Dupont Circle Snowball Fight? Proposed at the DC World War I Memorial? Cried at the Eastern Market fire? Sat next to Kojo Nnamdi at the Kennedy Center? Started a family in Brookland? Shadowed Ian MacKaye at the Black Cat? There are so many possibilities. From simply telling us your favorite landmark or your favorite local character, to sharing more complex stories, we want to hear them all.

Share your ideas on We Love DC in the comment section below with Leave a Reply, or tweet your ideas with hashtag #liveart24 to @liveartdc. We’ll select the most promising and creative ideas for the LiveArt in a Day playwrights to choose from, and they’ll craft their plays from your themes.

Your love for DC, your life in DC. All in a day. Let’s go.

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Yellow Face

Yellow Face Theatre JStan Kang, Al Twanmo, Rafael Untalan, Mark Hairston, Tonya Beckman, Jacob Yeh (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

Correction: This article originally referred to the closing date of Yellow Face as March 9. The production ended on February 23. We apologize for the mistake. 

I had Theater J’s production of Yellow Face in my crosshairs ever since they first announced it would be a part of their 2013-2014 season. It sounded like a natural follow-up show to Signature’s Miss Saigon which I reviewed this past fall. The David Henry Hwang piece is a “based on true events” biographical tale of his life advocating for Asian American actors in the wake of the “yellowface” casting of Jonathan Pryce in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon in the early 90s. With that premise I knew that racial themes would be a big part of the piece, especially when Theater J invited me to speak on a panel about the subject.

However the show was much more than I originally expected. It’s a highly entertaining yet poignant story about the Asian American struggle as an invisible minority despite their reputation as a model minority. Just as films like 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station are being touted as important films of the past year for their racial themes, I feel that the exploration of race in Yellow Face is important enough to say that this is one of the most important shows to see right now.

Continue reading

Entertainment, The Daily Feed, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin. Photo credit Joan Marcus

Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone onstage. Photo credit Joan Marcus

If a musical theatre lover were to create a bucket list, it would be a very safe bet to assume that seeing Patti LuPone or Mandy Patinkin perform live would be on the list. Both of them are Tony-award winners and legends of the stage and screen, with numerous credits to their names, so the opportunity to see LuPone and Patinkin individually on stage is enough to send shockwaves of excitement through any artistic community. To see them perform together, though, is tantamount in the theatrical community to the winning of the powerball lottery or finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. And if a person were lucky enough to see them perform together at a venue like the Eisenhower theatre in the Kennedy Center, and if it were not only every bit as good as you imagined, but even better (if that were possible), it would be a very safe bet that the bucket list would then have be retired completely, as the chance to see anything like it ever again is as rare as Haley’s comet.

Fortunately for the DC community, the above hypothetical situation is a current reality, and an amazing one at that. An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, directed by Patinkin himself with choreography by yet another Tony-award winner, Ann Reinking, and musical direction by Paul Ford, is in town for eight performances only and is worth cancelling all other plans this weekend in order to see this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: American Idiot

01 American Idiot NationalThea

The company of American Idiot (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Pop hits start and finish this stage musical version of Green Day’s American Idiot. The production, in its third U.S. tour at the National Theatre, opened strong with “American Idiot” and ended with a touching cast rendition of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” However between the curtain rise and fall is a performance that certainly packs all the moody, angst-filled energy you would expect but suffers from a story that feels too contrived to be anything more than a 90-minute live-action music video.

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Entertainment, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: A Q&A with Graham Colton

Photo Courtesy of Grandstand Media

After passing through the area to play an intimate solo acoustic show at Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, VA as part of the Buncearoo Presents series this past summer, Graham Colton returns to the DC-area this weekend to promote his newest album Lonely Ones. Colton’s efforts on his latest release are a result of working hard to push himself as an artist and collaborate with trusted friends and musicians.

Catch the DC-area installment of the Lonely Hearts Tour at Jammin’ Java this Sunday, February 23.

With the release of Lonely Ones and the tour you’re currently on, what can you tell us about your artistic reinvention and how would you describe the catalyst that encouraged you to get outside of your comfort zone?

I wouldn’t say it’s a reinvention but more of a snapshot of who I am and where I am now. My life looks and feels totally different than a few years ago and I hope it means I’ve grown a lot. I put my creative trust in my friends in Oklahoma and for the first time didn’t travel to Nashville, LA, or NY to ‘make music.’ These are some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever worked with and all of them know where I’ve come from but wanted to push me into a new space. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: We Are Proud To Present…

We Are Proud To Present Woolly MammothAndreu Honeycutt, Dawn Ursula, Joe Isenberg, Holly Twyford. Photo courtesy of Stan Barouh.

The experience of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 starts as soon as you walk onstage. Yes, onstage. In another effort to explore integrating the audience further into the experience of Woolly’s 34th season (earlier in the season Woolly split the house in half for productions of Detroit), audience members are ushered into the house through the backstage. Drinks are served in the wings and there is a set of risers where patrons can enjoy the show from the back of the stage looking into the house. The new seating configuration for We Are Proud to Present… is very much theater-in-the-round. Placing the audience all around the actors also makes sense for a show where the actors are going back-and-forth between acting in a show and revealing the process of putting on the show. It’s a level of meta-physical that is beyond simple Frank Underwood-like asides.

Jackie Sibblies Drury’s piece isn’t really about the African history lesson described in the title but rather the process of telling that story, and how even true stories can be influenced by the people who tell them. It is within that process that We Are Proud to Present… finds both its most comedic and strikingly powerful moments.

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Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Peter and the Starcatcher

Joey deBettencourt as Boy and Megan Stern as Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher.  Photo by Jenny Anderson.

Joey deBettencourt as Boy and Megan Stern as Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

Before actually seeing it at the Kennedy Center, all I knew about Peter and the Starcatcher was that it was somehow tied into the Peter Pan story. A look at the cast list, however, revealed only one familiar character, Smee (Captain Hook’s legendary sidekick), but no Peter, Wendy, Nana, and certainly no Hook. I also knew the show had won five Tony awards in 2013 during its Broadway run. What I didn’t know was how brilliant and funny it was, how innovative it was, or how incredibly directed it was, leaving me only to question why it didn’t win all the Tony awards. It was certainly worthy of it.

Although it starts out a bit like a Shakespeare play, with the audience just trying to figure out the world in which the show is set, who is who, what is what and how the poetic language is to be interpreted, mere minutes are all that are required to become lost in the fanciful and magical world of creativity. Based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, writer Rick Elice, directors Roger Brees and Alex Timbers, and a slew of phenomenal designers including Donyale Werle (set), Paloma Young (costumes), Jeff Croiter (lights), and Darron L. West (sound) have envisioned a production so innovative that it’s hard to imagine ever having to sit through any other play without being unimpressed. Continue reading

Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Violet

Erin Driscoll as Violet with Kevin McAllister and James Gardiner in the Ford’s Theatre production of the musical “Violet,” directed by Jeff Calhoun. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Erin Driscoll as Violet with Kevin McAllister and James Gardiner in the Ford’s Theatre production of the musical “Violet,” directed by Jeff Calhoun. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

When the entire plot of a two-act show centers around the emotional scars present due to a very large physical scar and said scar (or even hint of it) is not actually present on the face of the leading character, who spends more than two hours on stage focusing solely on the fact that the invisible scar ruined her life, I have a hard time being sympathetic. When the same character continues to verbalize how ugly she is and then repeatedly and ignorantly insults an African-American man, who is always kind to her, for his physical appearance, I have a hard time respecting her. When she then engages in a sexual fling with his white army buddy who is cruel and disrespectful to her, and Act I ends with her naively believing that she has found love in this meaningless one-night stand, I have a hard time understanding her.

In Act II, when the protagonist’s deceased father appears to her in a vision of sorts to aid in her emotional healing and all she does is blame him for making her ugly (it was his loose axe blade that caused her physical deformity in the first place), I have a hard time even liking her. And then, after both the vision of her father and her journey to a faith healer fail to heal her physical or emotional scars, she is met at the bus station by the two servicemen who both profess their love to her. When this happens, with no explanation why the cruel man has changed his tune or why the kind man would want to be with a woman who has been so awful to him, I have given up.

Such was my experience with Violet at Ford’s Theatre. Although most of my criticism stems from blaring gaps and issues with writing team Brian Crawley and Jeanine Tesori’s script and director Jeff Calhoun’s failure to clarify some of these issues, the decision to not give actress Erin Driscoll, who plays the 25-year old Violet, the massive scar around which the entire show revolves meant that from the opening moment of the show, I was dismayed. Continue reading