Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Othello

Roger Payano as Othello in Synetic Theater's production of "Othello." Photo credit: Graeme B. Shaw

Ambition. Envy. Lust.

This is the triple-headed monster that drives one of Shakespeare’s most explored villians, the manipulative yet seductive Iago whose knowledge of his rivals’ secrets and fears are the keys to a devious plot. His motivation being so multi-faceted and open to different interpretations, he tends to grasp control of a play that is, after all, named for another character. It’s an issue every production has to face – do you focus on the monster or the hero?

Now through July 3 you can witness how effectively Synetic Theater tackles this issue with their take on Othello. It’s their sixth wordless Shakespeare production – I thought they had reached the pinnacle with their last outing, Antony and Cleopatra, but clearly there’s no end to the brilliance of this company when it applies its physical theater style to the Bard. Hyperbole? Head to the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater and judge for yourself.

Here Othello’s polished veneer of self-control masks a deep wound into which Iago writhes like a parasite, whereas Iago’s wound is shown to us right from the start. As they are so entwined, they are equally the focus. This is a production marked by psychic pain so palpable it made me shake. It’s also fast, frenzied and exquisite. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Bowen McCauley Dance

Bowen McCauley Dance performs to Stravinsky's Mass with the Cantate Choral Singers. Courtesy of Bowen McCauley Dance.

As a young balletomane, I was fascinated by the story of the explosive performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, performed by the Ballet Russes on a night that basically produced mass hysteria in its audience. Star dancer Vaslav Nijinsky choreographed, and apparently had to stand on a chair in the wings shouting out counts for the dancers, who could not hear the music over the outraged audience’s uproar. The music and movements were so revolutionary, the elite had a collective heart attack that erupted into a riot.

Saturday night I had the privilege of attending the world premiere of a piece by Bowen McCauley Dance, set to Stravinsky’s Mass with the Cantate Chamber Singers led by music director Gisele Becker. Stravinsky’s music is notoriously difficult, but we no longer expect the audience to scream in protest and throw punches at each other as they did that night for The Rite of Spring (though, wouldn’t that be an interesting evening at the Kennedy Center?)!  When Becker approached BMD artistic director Lucy Bowen McCauley about collaborating on a piece of music never before choreographed to, by a composer many consider impossible if not painfully hard to tackle, her first reaction was -”What have I got myself into?”

Luckily, the company was well up to the task. No riot occurred, just a beautiful evening of vibrant dance and song.

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Entertainment, Night Life, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Millennium Stage Celebrates Robert Burns

Photo courtesy of
‘Washington, DC 2010 20′
courtesy of ‘giantminispacego

Want to get away from today’s semi-unseasonal weather? The Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center is playing host to Tony Award nominee and stage-show veteran Euan Morton and the one-man show “Burns’ Night in America“.

The show commemorates the birthday (which is today!) of “Auld Land Syne” lyricist and 18th-century poet Robert Burns.

The night kicks-off at 6 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

Can’t make it to the performance? The entire show will be broadcast live via the Millennium Stage website starting at showtime.

The Features

A DC Halcyon Day

Photo courtesy of
‘Smithsonian Castle 2′
courtesy of ‘tbridge’

Sunday was just about as incredible a day as we get here in DC. Perfect temperatures, brilliant jewel-toned sky with wisps of high clouds, and colors that popped. I went out with some friends to participate in a Ravenchase Adventure, starting at Presidents Park just north of the White House. With a package full of clues and DC-specific hints and puzzles, we took off around the National Mall, from John Paul Jones to the Enid Haupt garden and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. Running from statue to statue, sculpture to exhibit, Mall to Penn Quarter, we gathered seven worksheets full of codes and clues, all to realize we were carrying the solution in our bag all along.

We ended with a late lunch at Matchbox. We walked tired back to the Metro and car, having covered 4.5mi of ground in the middle of the city; it was the part of DC we usually reserve for tourism, doing our own tourguide duty for friends from out of town. It was nice to get down to the Mall to get to some of the out-of-the-ordinary places like the Enid Haupt Garden where the views are so lovely. Seeing Jim Sanborn’s Antipodes, a very similar work to his Kryptos which is at CIA-Langley and remains unsolved, was a real treat. I had somehow missed it on previous visits, and it is absolutely amazing in person. Our clues lead us to a code for Ian’s wooden chest, but lead us into parts of the Mall we’d otherwise missed. Our day, though, was not quite yet half-done. Continue reading

Entertainment, The Daily Feed

Bowen McCauley Dance

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Alicia Curtis and Dustin Kimball in "Lucy's Playlist," Bowen McCauley Dance. Photo credit: John McCauley

 This Sunday, Bowen McCauley Dance will be performing three pieces at the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage, free at 6pm. Featuring not just the artistry and athleticism of the professional company, but the Kenmore junior company and Dance for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) as well.

Bowen McCauley is the only dance company in the area to provide free weekly classes for people with PD, artistic director Lucy Bowen McCauley having received training and certification from the originators in New York – the prestigious Mark Morris Dance Group. This Sunday class participants will perform a piece called “If I Can’t Dance,” accompanied by folk singer Grace Griffith.  

“On this small stage you will see a huge show,” says Lucy, “involving the young, the old, the disabled, the professional, with live musicians and all for free.” Sounds pretty uplifting to me after a dreary grey week. Head out to the Kennedy Center this weekend and enjoy.

Entertainment, Special Events, The Daily Feed

CityDance: Latitude

City Dance Ensemble, photo credit Paul Gordon Emerson

City Dance Ensemble, photo credit Paul Gordon Emerson

CityDance Ensemble has just returned to their DC homebase from tours in the Middle East and Chile, and are settling into the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre for two performances this Thursday and Friday at 7:30pm. “Latitude” features contemporary works by Artistic Director Paul Gordon Emerson, Choreographer-in-Residence Christopher K. Morgan, and others from Brazil, Chile, and Israel.

This year they were awarded the DC Mayor’s Award for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline, no small feat. They even run an early arts outreach program teaching dance to kids across DC. Dancer Magazine calls them “breathlessly innovative.” Go see why.

The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: DC Hip Hop Theater Festival

Photo courtesy of
‘Grand Analog @ The Reverb’
courtesy of ‘blurasis’

The DC Hip Hop Theater Festival (HHTF), beginning today and running until July 11, will host a plethora of events and performances that integrate hip hop and theater, and address the socio-political issues relevant to the hip-hop community.

The kick off performance, AM Radio Live Art & Performance, begins tonight at 7pm at The Library Salon.  The show pairs DJs and painters to create 7′x5′ compositions in front of the live audience. Performance goers will watch as the artists combine to create pieces from beginning concept to finished product.  This will definitely be an inspirational show, breaking down the craft to its core.  Afterwards, hit up the Open Night Party at Marvin’s and take in various DJ’s spinning hip hop music from around the globe.

Here’s a little taste of the HHTF.

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Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Alex Mills as Puck in Synetic Theater's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Photo credit Raymond Gniewek, courtesy of Synetic.

Blending both breathtaking physical control and hypnotic emotional projection, Synetic Theater is the bright star of the Washington arts scene. Seriously, if anyone ever yaps on and on to you about DC having nothing to offer in the way of brilliant theater, get them to the current production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and dare them to say so afterwards. This is both a beautiful and hysterical night out. For a company known for dark tragedy and breaking hearts, they also prove themselves more than capable of splitting your sides.

Right from the start Synetic puts their signature wordless stamp on a play most of us know well. The fairies are powerful, pagan and exotic. In a perfect twist on the plot, Puck becomes the orphan that Titania and Oberon fight over, instead of it being some nameless child, and that battle is a glorious dangerous display of both the physical and the magical. The thwarted young lovers are discovered drinking away their sorrows with a bottle of Jack. They go from sadly tipsy to athletically audacious on a dime – there are some frighteningly daredevil toss-and-catch fights. The goofy “rude mechanicals” are a hodge-podge of leather and denim. There’s even a delightful nod to the Marx Brothers with a pianist in a Chico hat (and was that a riff from “A Night at the Opera” maybe? brilliant job as always by composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze). Not to mention a hilarious parody of Synetic’s past Shakespeare productions. You have to love a company that can make fun of itself. Continue reading

Entertainment, Music, Special Events, The Features

Wynton Marsalis jazzes up the Kennedy Center

Photo courtesy of
‘Sketches of Gill Evans’
courtesy of ‘vitelone’

The affection was clearly mutual:  hundreds of arts advocates stood on their feet, applauding wildly for a full ten minutes. Jazz virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, flanked by a five-man band, stood staring back at them, tears streaming down his face. He has just spent an hour weaving the tale of music, art and American cultural identity, rendering all present effectively speechless. 

Last night at the Kennedy Center, Marsalis gave the Nancy Hanks Lecture, the evening component of the 22nd annual Arts Advocacy Day, organized by Americans for the Arts. The lecture was established to honor Nancy Hanks, former President of Americans for the Arts and chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, and has featured many of the bright lights of the arts, including Maya Angelou, Dr. Billy Taylor and Robert Redford

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