Shelly Lynn Walsh, Peter Michael Jordan, Chris Clark, and Sarah Hinrichsen // Photo: Matthew Murphy

Parrot Heads Rejoice: Escape to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at National Theatre

With a song catalog that features party staples such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Come Monday,” “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” and the anthem “Margaritaville,” Jimmy Buffett is considered a musical legend and the poster child of the island escapism lifestyle.

That same fun, laid back attitude has been captured in Escape to Margaritaville, a musical based on the songs of Buffett, which made its Broadway debut in 2017 where it wowed critics and audiences alike.

The National Tour of Escape to Margaritaville will play the National Theatre starting tonight through October 13, under the direction of Amy Anders Corcoran.

With a book by Emmy Award winner Greg Garcia and Emmy nominee Mike O’Malley, and 20 classic and new tunes by Buffett, the show’s story follows Tully (played by Chris Clark), a part-time bartender and singer who falls for a career-minded tourist named Rachel (Sarah Hinrichsen). In the land of Margaritaville, people come to get away from it all, but often stay after discovering something they never expected.

Hinrichsen saw the show during its Broadway run two years ago and really fell in love with it, coming out of it singing the songs like most of the audience did.

“It’s just a fun show and it was a good time,” she says. “When you’re a performer, you always look if there’s a track you could play, and I thought Rachel was really interesting and something I would enjoy. In the month’s following, I would get texts from my friends saying that it would be a great part for me, so when the tour was casting, I went in.”

She describes Rachel as “a workaholic, who may come off as aggressive, but is really just so focused.” The character is passionate about a project she’s working on where she’s trying to power a light bulb with a potato and creating energy from a volcano that’s on the island.

“When she meets Tully, he teaches her about balance and how she can have a strong work life and also one of fun and letting go,” Hinrichsen says. “It lets people see that they can blend two important parts of their life and you can have it all.”

Although not a die-hard Buffett fan, the actress knew many of his popular songs and had eaten more than once at the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant.

“So, I wasn’t a Parrot Head per se,” Hinrichsen says. “Our Tully though, Chris Clark, has this crazy story about how his dad went to a Jimmy Buffett concert two days after he was born because he couldn’t stay away. I’m not on that level, but I am definitely a big fan.”

During the musical, Hinrichsen gets to sing “It’s My Job,” and duet on “Three Chords,” an original tune created for the show where her character learns to play the guitar. She also takes part in numerous group numbers and other duets as well.

“The thing about his music is that it transports you to a place, and he’s such a storyteller that it really feels like a state of mind, like you’re on a beach or on an island,” she says. “You can’t sing these songs not smiling.”

The daughter of a director and actress, growing up in the Los Angeles theater scene, Hinrichsen jokes that she never had any other option but to become a performer and is thrilled to be doing her first national tour.

One of her favorite parts of Escape to Margaritaville comes early in Act 1 when the cast sings “Fins” and they encourage audience participation.

“As any Buffett fan knows, it’s a song where you put your hands in the air and show your ‘fins,’ and we always can tell the mood the audience is in based on the number of fins we see, and knowing they are with us,” she says. “It’s a night of fun and people shouldn’t be afraid to sing along and join in.”

The show also stars Shelly Lynn Walsh, Peter Michael Jordan, Rachel Lyn Fobbs, Patrick Cogan and Matthew James Sherrod.

Escape to Margaritaville plays the National Theatre until October 13. Tickets are $54-$114. For more information, visit thenationaldc.com.

The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-628-6161; www.thenationaldc.com

The Tempest at Synetic Theater

Stage and Screen: October 2019

THROUGH SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20

The Tempest
Originally premiering in 2013, Synetic is bringing back its unique take on The Tempest. Join the sorceress Prospera, played by Synetic co-founder Irina Tsikurishvili, as she creates a sea storm that gets out of hand. As a part of their Wordless Shakespeare series, The Tempest is brought to life through movement and a 1,200-square-foot pool flooding the stage. Water is a powerful element in this magical play of enemies, deception and vengeance. Tickets are available in the “splash zone” with ponchos provided. Various dates and times. Tickets $19-$60. Synetic Theater: 1800 S Bell St. Arlington VA
www.synetictheater.org

THOUGH SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27

Pride and Prejudice
Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation brings a fresh take to the beloved story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet wants her five daughters married, including the headstrong Elizabeth. When rich, handsome, but standoffish Mr. Darcy moves in, Elizabeth and the Bennet family are forever changed. In a time where class rules society, can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy ever see eye to eye? Various dates and times. Tickets $35-$50. Next Stop Theatre Company: 269 Sunset Park Dr. Herndon, VA; www.nextstoptheatre.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3

Escaped Alone
Making her Signature Theatre debut, Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone is not what it seems. DC actress Holly Twyford directs this tale of three old friends and a neighbor having afternoon tea in the garden. Through their mundane conversation, it becomes clear there is a horror that lives in each of these women. The frightening undertones allow for cutting humor as well as an eerie sense of doom. Various dates and times. Tickets $40-$90. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington,VA; www.sigtheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9 – MONDAY, OCTOBER 14

Broadway Center Stage: Footloose
Based on the popular film starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose is dancing its way to the Kennedy Center. This musical is about a small town that outlaws music and dancing, and the teen who fights these unfair changes. Musical numbers include hits such as “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boys” and, of course, “Footloose.” The show has a star-studded cast including three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Lu and four-time Tony Award nominee Judy Kuhn. Various dates and times. Tickets $59-$175. Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Let’s do the Time Warp again! Join the Sonic Transducers, DC’s one and only Rocky Horror shadow cast, as they lip sync and act alongside the cult film. This midnight showing is an interactive movie experience. Purchase a $1 prop bag filled with rice, confetti, hot dogs and other items to throw. Other ways to get involved include yelling call backs at the screen and dressing up in costume. 11:59 p.m. Tickets $10. Landmark’s E Street Cinema: 555 11th St. NW, DC;
www.landmarktheatres.com

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17

The NoSleep Podcast: Live for Halloween
“The NoSleep Podcast” began in 2011 and has been scaring listeners ever since. Beginning with people sharing their frightening tales on the forum website Reddit, “NoSleep” is once again hitting the road and bringing the horror with them. Coming to DC just in time for Halloween, “NoSleep” will share stories never heard on the podcast, accompanied by a live score performed by Brandon Boone. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $20. The Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; www.themiracletheatre.com

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17

Little Shop of Horrors
In this musical comedy written by Howard Ashman with music by Alan Menken, Seymour discovers a strange plant that soon becomes famous. He names the plant after his crush and coworker, Audrey. Just when everything seems to be going right, Seymour discovers that Audrey II can talk and is craving blood. Human blood. Come to Skid Row to see the six-foot plant puppet that is Audrey II. Various dates and times. Tickets $25-$55. Constellation Theatre Company: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.constellationtheatre.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19

Mystery Science Theater 3000
Named as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME” in 2007, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is coming live to a theater near you. Currently on the Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour, creator and original host Joel Hodgson and his robots will be riffing some of the best, worst cheesy movies. This is Hodgson’s final tour, so don’t miss the chance to see the hit Netflix show in person. Various dates and times. Tickets $59-$99. National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. DC; www.thenationaldc.com

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27

RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE: Werq the World Tour 2019
Get ready to werq! After taking DC by storm last year, The Werq the World is back again. Join your favorite queens from the VH1 series Rupaul’s Drag Race, including Aquaria, Detox and Valentina, who will be pulling out all of the stops in the biggest drag production ever produced. With stunning queens, dancing, lights and projections. This is live drag like you’ve never seen it before. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $52-$162. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10

What to Send Up When it Goes Down
Coming to four stages in the DMV before it’s Woolly Mammoth run, What to Send Up When it Goes Down is sure to provide several conversation-provoking performances throughout October. Written by the author of Is God Is, Aleshea Harris, this play, pageant, ritual is “first and foremost for black people, but non-black folx are welcome if they are prepared to honor this.” As a response to racialized violence, this story of black empowerment is told through colorful vignettes. Using theatre, music and dance, actors and audience members will come together to reflect, cleanse and heal. Various dates and times. Tickets $20-$29. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St.
NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

Down In The Reeds Brings Healing and Hope Through Music

DC’s newest music festival is more than simply a music festival. The word “festival” itself may conjure images of dancing, drinking and reveling with music in the background – and that’s all well and good. But what if there was a way to do this and explore more of why music serves as the backdrop for these joyous connections?

Enter Down in the Reeds, taking place on Saturday, October 19 at The Parks at Walter Reed. You’ll surely hear great music at this inaugural event, but chances are you’ll be deeply moved to explore more of the ways music positively impacts the human condition.

“I have been a huge believer in the healing power of music from my own personal experiences, but I also felt that embracing the topic of healing through music involved too much of a focus on spirituality,” explains Chris Naoum, co-organizer of the festival and founder of DC music initiative Listen Local First. “From speaking to folks, I realized that healing through music is as much spiritual as communal and all experiences are unique to oneself. That understanding really helped push the theme of this festival out into the open.”

Naoum and his partners grouped with Grammy winner Dom Flemons, formerly of Carolina Chocolate Drops and perhaps best known as “The American Songster,” to help bring this powerful concept to fruition. Though Flemons won’t be performing at the festival, he’s serving as co-organizer and using what he calls his American Songster stamp, which places emphasis on the communal connection music has among people from all walks of life.

“Healing was the key thing Chris explained to me as being the goal for the festival, which was something a little bit different than I was used to,” Flemons explains. “Most of the time, music festivals are for a good time, a party, for everyone to just enjoy themselves over the weekend. But with this festival, they’re really trying to make an effort to put out some positive energy and create a positive space that will hopefully reverberate through the community.”

Of course, there will be performers sharing healing with festivalgoers just through their incredible talents. One such musician is Aaron Abernathy, a pianist and soul singer fully engaged in the DC music community. On each of his three studio albums, Abernathy deals with different forms of healing and growth, making the Cleveland native and Howard University graduate a natural fit to join the lineup of Down in the Reeds.

“I really pride myself and my band in bringing good energy and uplifting people through music,” Abernathy says of his slated performance at the festival. “I’m into that vibration – making people want to get up, dance, smile, see our energy and know that our energy will rub off. It’s always good to come back and give back to the community who gave me a start.”

More literal elements of healing are incorporated in Down in the Reed’s programming as well. Naoum and team tapped Artis Moon Amarché, known as the “Boundless Eclectic,” who passionately guides people to be empowered by their own growth and healing through multidisciplinary practices – music included.

“Music is everything,” Amarché says. “It has been part of the fabric of society I’m sure since early human existence. Music has the power to heal people, both on the physical and metaphysical level. I work with music and sound in an intuitive way. My sound baths are sort of like a concert you listen to laying down with your eyes closed, but there is more at work. Deep restoration and transformation take place during these sessions. Part of what I’m providing is a safe, held space for people to be with themselves, sometimes guided in specific reflection and contemplation.”

Amarché will open the main stage of the festival and bless it and the grounds in “a performance that combines music, performance art/movement, energy healing [Reiki], meditative vibes and ceremony.” She’ll also sell handmade art and jewelry alongside daughter Adobe and offer 15-minute Reiki sessions throughout the day.

No matter how participants connect to music as a powerful source of peace and healing, they all add to the tapestry of creativity that will unfold at this new and innovative festival. Each person who elects to come will also bring their own intimate connection to music with them, adding to the festival experience and hopefully deepening their relationship with music in the process.

Don’t miss Down in the Reeds on Saturday, October 19 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the Parks at Walter Reed, located at 1010 Butternut St. NW, DC. While admission is free, a donation of $10 is suggested to ensure all participants are compensated and the festival can continue its mission in the future. For the full lineup and more information, visit www.downinthereeds.com.

Interviews with participants and co-organizers were edited for length and clarity. To read the full interviews, check out www.ontaponline.com/down-in-the-reeds-interviews. For more on each interviewee, see below.

Aaron Abernathy: www.aaronabernathy.com
Artis Moon Amarché // The Boundless Eclectic: www.theboundlesslife.net
Chris Naoum // Listen Local First: www.listenlocalfirst.com
Dom Flemons // The American Songster: www.theamericansongster.com

Photo: Robyn Von Swank

Maria Bamford on Relatable Material, Consistent Comedy and Bentzen Ball Debut

Maria Bamford is doing well.

Aside from being so funny it’s almost unbearable, the comedian has also made a name for herself discussing the intricacies of daily life with mental illness – perhaps what she is best known for to casual fans and longtime comedy devotees alike.

The fine line between grace and acceptance paired with the absurdity of life in one’s own complicated brain that Bamford toes in her work has elevated her from funny person to relatable human as she carries a comedic torch for mental health issues.

Material for her new special includes marriage and religion – “my favorites,” she notes – and other topics she’s been known to ruminate on. But mental health leaves the spotlight, as she’s been in a place of healing lately.

“I have run out of material,” Bamford says of her mental health-focused work. “That’s a blessing, and yet that’s been a cash cow. I’ve worked my way out of a job, but that’s okay. It’s better to make less money and feel fantastic.”

When someone shares about one specific – and intense – aspect of their lives, it’s easy to box them in and not look outside that one facet. When I ask Bamford if she feels she’s had a hand in the necessary sea change around mental health conversations, she’s quick to remind me of the others who paved the way – Jonathan Winters in the 60s, for example.

While she’s certainly opened channels for better and funnier conversations around the topic today, Bamford has kept busy over the years with plenty of other topics and projects, too. She’s been subject and star of the well-loved Netflix series Lady Dynamite, lent her pipes to voice-over acting, and even done advertising, something she says she will most likely pass on in the future.

“[Ad agencies] pay you a lot of money for a reason: that you will not have strong opinions about things in public. And I love to have strong opinions in public, unfortunately.”

She says there are certain things she chooses not to do anymore.

“I have a semi-retired lifestyle. It’s lots of standup, [which] is a wonderful schedule for somebody who’s on antipsychotics. I get a good 12 hours of sleep every night.”

She has, however, been hard at work on her new special. With some comedians capitalizing on timely topics, there’s something reassuring about seeing a creative force like Bamford focus on consistent themes. It’s proof that some parts of the human condition will never go away – and will always be funny. She says she’ll use the bulk of the material from her new one-hour special at Brightest Young Things’ beloved comedy festival Bentzen Ball later this month.

“I took about three years to write [the special], and I address the usual topics that I’ve always addressed. I don’t seem to change over time, unlike most human beings. Some people say, ‘Oh, I’d like to transform and become new and different and better than I was.’ Not me.”

Though semi-retired, Bamford is still in high demand. She’s been at the top of the Bentzen Ball team’s wish list since the comedy festival’s inaugural run 10 years ago. Bamford quips that it’s probably just been a decade-long scheduling conflict, as she’ll “go anywhere.” She really means that – her display name on Twitter reads, “I’m probably available!”

“I’m an attainable goal of a comedian,” she states. “It’s weird that it hasn’t worked out before because I’m available, usually.”

It might be fate that’s leading her to Lincoln Theatre’s stage to kick off this year’s Bentzen Ball, though. She’ll be joined by her friend and frequent collaborator, fellow comedian Jackie Kashian, who performed at the first Bentzen Ball a decade ago.

“We’ve been friends for over 20 years now,” Bamford says, speaking in great admiration of Kashian’s work. “She started doing comedy a few years before I did in Wisconsin, and she’s always been a headliner in her own right. She’s been on Two Dope Queens and Conan, and she has two great podcasts.”

Bamford speaks with excitement for her Bentzen debut, saying it’ll be unbelievable to fill up the venue.

“If we show up within a half hour of showtime and have our hair combed and are pleasant, I think that that’s really going to be the surprise,” she laughs.

When you take into consideration the cosmic coincidence of Kashian’s prior appearance at Bentzen, Bamford’s relationship with her and the fact that Bamford is perhaps the biggest win for this year’s festival lineup, you could consider their appearance alone an achievement. But given Bamford’s lasting reach – and willingness to share her story openly and hilariously, regardless of what aspect of her story she’s telling – it’s sure to set the tone for an incredible 10th run of the comedy festival.

Maria Bamford kicks off the 10th annual Bentzen Ball with Jackie Kashian on Thursday, October 24 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Theatre. Tickets are $35. For more on Bentzen, visit www.brightestyoungthings.com/bentzen-ball-2019.
To find more of Bamford’s work, visit www.mariabamford.com.

Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; 202-888-0050; www.thelincolndc.com

Photo: Tony Powell

Right to Be Forgotten Sparks Healthy Debate

To err is human. To forgive? Well, that is a lot harder with the Internet around, cataloging our every misstep and reminding us years later of actions we might rather forget.

Derril Lark was 17 when he developed a crush on a girl at school. Awkward and nerdy, he followed her around for three months, causing her stress and trauma before a school official intervened and Lark stopped. That was the end of it until a blog turned Lark into a meme, exaggerating his offenses and making him the posterchild for a male predator. Lark is not free of blame, but neither is the monster that the Internet makes him out to be.

This is the premise of Sharyn Rothstein’s new play Right to be Forgotten, with a world premiere coming to Arena Stage on October 11. When Rothstein, whose previous writing credits include numerous plays and USA Network’s Suits, started researching in 2014, the European Union had just granted its citizens the right to ask tech companies to remove search results related to their name – aptly named the Right to be Forgotten.

“I was so taken by the name of the law itself,” Rothstein says. “It’s so striking and the opposite of what we usually want. I mean, who wants to be forgotten?”

The more Rothstein investigated the issue, the more its complexities surfaced. Who decides what lives online and who should have the power to remove potentially damaging content? Tech companies? The government? You?

“This is a clear case of the technology we’ve created not always working with humanity,” Rothstein continues. “Mistakes we make when we were young that we hopefully learn and grow from can now follow us for the rest of our lives and define us.”

The issue is an especially sticky one in the United States, where the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech is a foundational part of our national identity and where, to date, tech companies have faced minimal government regulations. Where does society draw the line between protecting people’s right to privacy and the right to free speech?

“A lot of discussion comes down to: could we ever have a Right to be Forgotten law in this country that wouldn’t violate the First Amendment?” Rothstein asks hypothetically.

It was these issues that attracted Seema Sueko, deputy artistic director at Arena Stage, to the play.

“As soon as I read it, I knew it was the right match for Arena,” she says. “It deals with such big, complex issues around democracy, freedom of speech and privacy.”

Sueko’s gut told her that she needed to direct the play.

“I love shows that I don’t have all the answers to at a first read.”

Rothstein channels the intricacies of the topic into the fictional story of Lark, who is not meant to be a completely sympathetic protagonist.

“He did a bad thing,” Rothstein says. “There’s no getting around that. But I hope this show highlights all the complexities of both his predicament being stuck as the monster for all time, and the girl that he followed being stuck by the Internet as a victim for all time.”

John Austin, last seen at Arena Stage in Kleptocracy, plays Lark.

“Derril has internalized a lot of guilt for his actions,” Austin says of his character. “He lives with this constant uncertainty of what’s true and what’s untrue because once something is put online, it becomes its own reality.”

Rothstein and Sueko think Right to be Forgotten will generate heated conversations as audiences leave the theater.

“My goal will be that the audience bounces back and forth in their opinion and that they can see, hear and feel the arguments on all sides,” Sueko says.

But the play studiously avoids taking a stand on whether or not the U.S. should enact Right to be Forgotten protections.

“I take every stand in the play,” Rothstein laughs, noting that her characters have strong opinions on all sides of the debate. “What I hope is that the audience comes out of this play having thought about this issue that I don’t think enough of us have thought about in this country.”

Don’t miss Right to be Forgotten at Arena Stage from October 11 to November 10. Tickets start at $40-$95. Learn more at www.arenastage.org.

Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC;202-488-3300; www.arenastage.org

Photo: Scott Suchman

Ford’s Theater Brings August Wilson’s Masterpiece to Life with Fences

By the end of Fences, August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece now playing at Ford’s Theatre, we know a lot about Troy Maxson: his hard-scrabble Southern childhood, his stint in jail, and his time as a star in baseball’s Negro Leagues. We know that he is a liar, a cheater and sometimes, a thief. We know that he is consumed by bitterness and convinced that life didn’t give him a fair shake.

But what we don’t know is whether or not we like him.

Audiences will find him captivating and hang on his every word of this brilliantly penned play. And just like Troy’s wife Rose, whose years of loyalty Troy spits on with one selfish act, or Troy’s son Cory, whose life Troy derails before it has really started, it’s easy to be drawn into Troy’s orbit, despite its ruinous impact.

Troy Maxson is one of American theater’s great tragic heroes. The success of any production of Fences hinges on finding the right actor to tell the story of this former baseball star who now scrapes by as a sanitation worker in segregated 1950s Pittsburgh. In Ford’s production, Craig Wallace proves himself the ideal performer to fit the role.

As Troy, Wallace portrays a complicated man who holds us spellbound for the nearly three hours he is onstage, entrancing us with every story and monologue. This performance is a crowning achievement in Wallace’s already long and successful career.

Wallace is joined onstage by six other consummate actors as Troy’s friends and family. With director Timothy Douglas (who has directed nine out of the ten plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, documenting African American life in each decade of the 20th century), they breathe glorious life into what is some of the most beautiful and natural dialogue ever written by an American playwright.

Erika Rose shines as Rose Maxson, Troy’s wife of 18 years, who grows throughout the play, eventually becoming a hero in her own right. Rose conveys a simmering intensity; when confronted with the truth of her husband’s betrayal, she gives her own share of masterful monologues that are a joy to watch.

Justin Weeks burns as Troy’s youngest son Cory, who grows from frustrated teen to responsible adult before our very eyes. Doug Brown (as Jim Bono), KenYatta Rogers (as Lyons Maxson), Jefferson A. Russell (as Gabriel Maxson), and the two young girls who alternate the role of Raynell Maxson (Janiyah Lucas and Mecca Rogers) all contribute to the production’s success.

Part of the joy – and the sorrow – of Fences lies in watching these characters interact with Troy, at first merely satellites, trapped in his orbit but eventually, finding the strength to launch out on their own, as they retreat from the corrosive effects of his self-destruction and forge their own destinies.

If you haven’t seen Fences before, this production is a great introduction to the genius of Wilson. If you are a seasoned Wilson vet, you will find that Ford’s iteration successfully taps into the pure beauty of Wilson’s work. Through Douglas’s direction, Wilson’s dialogue is so natural, so endearing, his characters so consistently fleshed out, that you immediately feel a kinship with the characters onstage.

Though his character’s lives may be drastically different than yours (and in my case, they are), Wilson’s genius lies in his ability to tap into the universal humanity in us all. The fact that he did so through the lens of African American life that had – until his arrival – been deplorably absent from American stages, makes his accomplishments as a playwright one of the most important in the history of American theater.

Lauren Helpern’s scenic design features a two-story projection of 1950s Hill District Pittsburgh that feels almost too dilapidated and dystopian but, set against the cozy brownstone in which the Maxsons live, clearly drives home the point that Rose – and Troy – worked painstakingly over many years to forge a comfortable home. The soft touches of a flowered curtain poking out of the kitchen window or the shadow of a lone tree falling on the brick rowhouse (lighting by Andrew R. Cissna) hint at Rose’s grit and dedication to her family.

And then, of course, there’s the fence. Troy has been building it throughout the show at Rose’s request. “Some people build fences to keep people out, other people build fences to keep people in,” Troy’s friend Bono tells him near the end of the play.

And that’s one of the great gifts that Ford’s Theatre’s production of Fences offers audiences: The opportunity to reflect on how we, as individuals, react to adversity.

We don’t need to like Troy Maxson, but witnessing his story allows us to ponder his choices and the choices we all face as humans.

August Wilson’s Fences runs at Ford’s Theatre through October 27. Various dates, times and prices. Run time is three hours including one fifteen-minute intermission.

Ford’s Theatre: 511 10th St. NW, DC; 202-347-4833; www.fords.org

"Lucid Motion" by Rhizomatiks // Photo: courtesy of ARTECHOUSE

ARTECHOUSE Provides View of Art’s Future

Walking into the Lucid Motion exhibit at ARTECHOUSE, I felt like I had stepped into a video game. The main room featured three floor-length screens that projected a video of images showing movement and lights that reflected onto the black floor. The multi-colored bars bounced on the walls in time with each piano note, a futuristic figure danced, drawing out her movement as shapes and fragments of light followed her.

As the name suggests, ARTECHOUSE is a house of art and tech. The space provides a platform for groundbreaking and experimental artists to get their work in front of an audience. Co-founder Sandro Kereselidze says the exhibits are very much a “collaboration” between the space and the artists. Having three locations in the United States, “Lucid Motion” by Daito Manabe x Rhizomatiks Research is the latest exhibit here in DC.      

Manabe is a Japanese designer, programmer and DJ. Launching his company, Rhizomatiks Research in 2006, Manabe now serves as co-director. Similar to the mission statement of ARTECHOUSE, Rhizomatiks attempts to push the boundaries art through his use of technology. This is Manabe’s first solo exhibition in the U.S.

In addition to the main room and its looping video projection, the exhibit featured two others offering authentic interactive experiences. To my right, a thick black curtain exposed a space that featured a large screen showing what appeared to be groupings of glowing, colorful shapes and black lines. As I moved, the configuration moved with me, creating a vaguely human figure on the screen. Despite mirroring my movements, the shapes and lines were still tied to the beat of the music from the main room. 

To my left offered four more screens for audience interaction. All were similar experiences of lines and shapes, blurring into multi-chromatic colored figures, 3-D depth cameras capturing movement and depicting an alternate world. 

Manabe also made use of Augmented reality, or AR, taking computer-generated images and bringing them into the real world. While games like Pokemon Go has made use of this technology used, I had never considered that it could be used to create art.     

My favorite part of the exhibit came when I was handed an iPad in a room with objects sitting atop black tables. A dancer brought to life by AR twirled around the keys of a soundboard, stepping on the keys and creating sound.

Some of the objects were 3D printed specially for the dancer’s movement. Black posters hung on the wall – and when exposed to the iPad, the silhouette of the dancer appeared. She was connected to white lines like a marionette doll, fading in and out, while the lines continued to move. 

The exhibit isn’t the only part of ARTECHOUSE to explore augmented reality. Its bar is the first in the United States to feature this technology. Drinks and cocktails at the bar are served with an image on a coaster or sometimes on the food. With the ARTECHOUSE app, the audience can then scan that image and interact with it. In addition to using AR, the bar also themes its drinks based on the current exhibit. For Manabe’s work, Japanese ingredients were used and a human figure inspired by the silhouette was chosen for the glass.

Manabe’s work was unlike any art exhibit I had experienced before. It shows the future of what dance and art can be in a space like this. The blend of technology and creativity produces an experience that is both entertaining and interactive for audiences of all ages.

“Lucid Motion” runs through December 1. Tickets range from $8-$20. For more information on the gallery or the exhibit, visit here.

ARTECHOUSE: 1238 Maryland Ave SW, DC; www.dc.artechouse.com

Sixth in the Sixth Culture House DC Anniversary Party

On Tap Magazine and DC Fray joined forces to celebrate Culture House DC’s sixth anniversary in Ward 6, kicking off the first week of Map Glover’s “Save The Seed” exhibit. Guests caught a glimpse of vibrant local arts and culture through the lens of visual and multimedia artists, music curators, musicians and other creatives with access to food trucks and a cash bar. Featured artists included Maps Glover, Domo, Mane Squeeze, The Mixxtress and GIRLAAA. Photos: Nick Moreland Photography

202Creates Helps District Connect Arts Community

Three years ago, a month became a movement for the DC creative community.

“There were so many things coming to the forefront of the creative community,” says Angie Gates, director of the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME). “It started out with the intent to highlight our diverse and vibrant community. The original [idea] was to have the month of September be the main focus of highlighting our creatives. What we quickly realized after year one was: we can’t stop.”

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser established 202Creates in September 2016 to celebrate the city’s creative economy and culture, with input from the DC’s OCTFME, Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Office of Planning and Economic Development. What began as a designated month of events has since transformed into a relationship between the local government and its luminaries including fellowships, studio space and networking opportunities.

“To know that the mayor and the community are behind the creatives speaks to the climate of where we are and [the community’s] understanding of the arts in the District,” says local musician James Poet of indie group FutureBandDC. “There’s such a melting pot of creatives in the area. There’s so many visual artists and filmmakers and [musicians]. They’re part of the pulse of the community. It makes sense for the city to come in and make sure we have a voice and platform.”

Though the idea rapidly outgrew 30 days, September still holds significance for 202Creates. This year’s kickoff event on August 29 at Eaton DC will promote art installations, musical performances, dance activations and more. Other festivities included in the celebration are Art All Night on September 14, the DC Radio Anniversary event on September 19, and the 202Creates Month closeout event on September 28 featuring Poet and his band.

“I think 202Creates is a staple in DC,” Poet continues. “It’s the go-to for creatives in providing a platform for us to elevate our talents. They’ve created this platform to support the creativity community in all its functions, and we definitely wanted to make sure we support this initiative.”

The 202Creates community has grown because of the city’s willingness to increase support and provide a foundation for people looking to get their foot in the proverbial creative door, Gates says, mentioning the OCTFME television and radio stations.

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” Gates says. “I fondly refer to DC as the capital of creativity. Not only have [we] had an impact here in the District, but nationally people are [recognizing] what we’re doing here.”

And this form of support isn’t limited to people in the entertainment industry or people who deal in traditional mediums like photography or painting, as the city also considers practices like cosmetology and cooking to be artistic expressions that fall under 202Creates’ purview.

“It wasn’t so much about the government as much as this is how the government can help you find a creative pathway to the middle class,” Gates says. “What it really does is highlight the different resources and platforms that we have as a government that we can provide our creatives. It’s really about the creatives having a seat at the table and showcasing the talents of the city.”

Three years in, she says there are still people just learning about 202Creates and its programs, whether it be artists-in-residence or the coworking office on 200 I St. Through installations and social media, the movement has touched all eight wards of the District, unearthing and shepherding talent in a supportive manner.

“I think it would be a travesty if we didn’t grow each year,” she says. “When you have other artists and other things to spark your creativity around you, you start to expand and grow and develop. That’s the beauty of it all: to look at where we were in 2016 and where we are today.”

So how can locals gain access to these resources? Gates says it’s as easy as sending an email via www.202creates.com, but she’s also fielded pitches in person and over Instagram.

“We’re asking everyone to just come out and meet us,” she continues. “We have an open-door policy at our studios. The goal is to make sure our creatives can work closely with us. The main thing is to get engaged once you’re here and familiar with it.”

For a list of participating 202Creates Month events or for information on the initiative, visit the website at www.202creates.com or www.entertainment.dc.gov. Follow along with the community on Instagram @202Creates.

Erika Rose + Craig Wallace in Fences // Scott Suchman

August Wilson’s “Fences” Tackles Issues of Race, Identity + Family

August Wilson’s Fences offers an enduring look at the everyday struggles of black Americans through the lens of ex-ball player Troy Maxson and his complicated relationship with his family. Though the groundbreaking Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play takes place in 1950s Pittsburgh, the text has resonated with theatregoers since its run in the late 80s on Broadway and will continue to do so at Ford’s Theatre from September 27 to October 27. We spoke with director Timothy Douglas, one of the foremost Wilson interpreters, about why he’s drawn to the playwright’s work and how Fences continues to hold relevance with today’s audiences.

On Tap: Fences is a legendary production. Its Broadway runs featured both Denzel Washington and James Earl Jones as Troy, and Washington recently directed and starred in the Oscar-nominated film adaptation. Why do you think this material is so powerful 34 years after August Wilson penned it?
Timothy Douglas: August Wilson is one of the world’s great playwrights, and the play can speak and reflect [on] the ongoing relevance in and of itself and the world it exists in. It’s a milestone in inviting the intimacy of what it’s like to be black in America, so you can get a sense of that while August unfolds his own story.

OT: How difficult is the balancing act of honoring the source and adding your own personal twist to a story like this?
TD: Any well-written play, and specifically Fences, for me is like dough. I have to knead the dough and let it rest. When I come back, it expands. I can’t bring anything to Fences. I’m the conduit for which the play further expresses itself. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

OT: One of DC’s notable actors who you’ve directed before, Craig Wallace, is set to play Troy. How excited are you for him to be able to take on this role?
TD: One of the reasons Ford’s programmed this play is [because] Craig Wallace is at a point in his career where he’s ready for Troy and Troy is ready to be interpreted through him. I’m the one who holds the reigns of this great union, but I’m just there to make sure they’re speaking for each other.

OT: Throughout your career, you’ve been involved in a number of August Wilson plays. Why do you keep coming back to his works?
TD: These works will never be the definitive production because it’s impossible to encapsulate it all in one production. It’s my sixth time directing Fences, and I am just picking up where I left off and seeing how much deeper I can dig into the basement of it.

OT: This play obviously deals with race and issues around race in America. Does it mean more to you directing this play in the nation’s capital?
TD: It does. In my experience, the majority of audiences in DC are typically white and don’t know the realities of black people in America. For the first time in my life, there are more white people engaged in the curiosity of what it’s like to be black in America, so they can better perceive the material of this play.

August Wilson’s Fences runs from Friday, September 27 through Sunday, October 27. Times vary. Tickets $20-$70.

Ford’s Theatre: 511 10th St. NW, DC; 202-347-4833; www.fords.org