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Ryan Hunter Mitchell (left) and David Cabrera (right) // Photos: Trent Johnson

Be Kind, Recline: SUNS CiNEMA Still On-Air

The On-Air sign hovering to the left of the door is off.

There are no films scheduled for the middle of a Tuesday, and standing on the sidewalk just beyond the red carpet and ropes that lead to the entrance, it’s hard to tell if the lights are on inside. The navy blue awning jutting from the pink bricks reads “SUNS CiNEMA” in vibrant cherry letters. Those words also hang on a large vertical sign in sight line for cars whizzing by.

The theater’s size isn’t indicative of the typical cinemas you’re used to – especially not the ones having a tough summer after an explosive start thanks to Avengers: Endgame. Rather, this building in Mount Pleasant once housed a cell phone store on the floor level with an apartment upstairs. Now, it belongs to movies and cinephiles.

Suns Cinema’s first showing came in 2016 after years of planning and crowdfunding by owners David Cabrera and Ryan Hunter Mitchell. Cabrera is on the short side, with curly dark hair and an extremely easygoing demeanor. Mitchell is tall and lanky with straight, long hair and thick frames; he looks like a mix between the best skater you’ve ever seen and every thrifter who swears they get their shirts from Goodwill.

Posters line both sides of the entryway. On the left is the original screening room, but now it’s used more regularly as a bar. The space contains several movie references, from zebra-adorned wallpaper as seen in Royal Tenenbaums to obscure newspaper clippings lauding a Polish auteur. The new and improved theater is directly above, even though it used to be just a guy’s living room.

The lights were indeed on earlier, as both Cabrera and Mitchell are clearing chairs from a screening held the night before. On Mondays, the first-floor room operates as it had for three years prior, but on the other nights, the upstairs space is center stage. With an operation so niche built on screening foreign art films, classics with cult followings and B movies, Suns is not only surviving but expanding and evolving – further proving that the city’s appetite for obscure films and unique experiences is only growing, just like the theater itself.

“We never imagined more than this size, and we still don’t,” Mitchell says. “We wanted to recreate the model of showing our friends movies.”

The allure of Suns is definitely the spectacle. There aren’t rows of stadium seats bolted to the floor or giant soda dispensers that look like they’re from the future. Instead, the appearance is distinctively dive-ish, with low lighting accompanied by a simple beer and cocktail menu. The seating is an assortment of beach and patio furniture interspersed with antique-looking theater seats. During screenings, people are in close quarters out of necessity – there aren’t empty showings very often at Suns.

“So, why should we exist?”

Michell asks the question rhetorically, shifting in a barstool.

“An element of that is a bar – it’s fun and social,” he continues. “You’re definitely experiencing a movie differently when you’re dealing with people in a place that’s cool to hang out and [you can] have intermission discussions. We’re kind of a one-stop shop for all of that.”

Cabrera and Mitchell tag team coming up with themes each month. The duo also edits, cuts and promotes trailers for films on the schedule. July’s focus is Creature Features, with movies like 1954’s original Godzilla, Troll Hunter, The Fly and the first two Alien flicks. There are few recent releases here, and the only blockbusters you’ll see are decades old.

“Maybe come for something you like, but also watch a trailer for something weird,” Mitchell says. “Hopefully, people come and think, ‘Okay, there must be a reason they picked this movie I’ve never heard of.’ And sometimes they aren’t worth seeing.”

Cabrera laughs, admitting they’ve promoted movies neither had seen and upon watching, became “horrified.” That’s part of the risk with this structure. When the friends set out to establish their own movie theater, they did so with a rough sketch of a business plan and literally no idea how to reach out to distribution companies.

“We kind of figured it out as we went along,” Cabrera says. “Figuring out distribution was very challenging, especially because there isn’t a tutorial or a website you can look up with how-to’s for owning a movie theater. We just got lucky.”

Even for single showings, dealing with distributors can be an expensive process – one that’s becoming pricier still. But most tickets at Suns costs about $8-$10, far less than mainstream admission. Bar sales help offset some of the more notable features (this is where the new second floor comes in). Since officially opening on May 11, the first floor now remains a bar on Tuesdays through Sundays.

“The charm of Suns was that it’s a bar and a small space, but that business model created a lot of confusion for people,” Cabrera says. “When your bar hours on a weekend are contingent on the length of a film, if you show a little bit of a longer movie, [then] people show up popping the door open at 10 p.m. and awkwardly leave like, ‘Oh, okay.’”

Outside of the Blade Runner-themed drink station tucked away in the corner, the second floor feels more like a traditional theater setting when compared to its downstairs counterpart, including elevated seats toward the back, dark walls and a larger screen.

“We’ve definitely been able to accentuate and play up the two roles separately,” Mitchell says of the dual bar-theater setup. “The constant flux was confusing. You couldn’t, like, shake a cocktail during the movie.”

Even with the bar open on most nights, the passion for these two is the experience they’re able to provide while movies are on the big(ger than a TV) screen. They aren’t mixologists or “cocktail-ologists,” as they say, although Cabrera does make a kick-ass drink.

He begins to pour shots of Malört as we speak. He’s standing behind the bar thinking about the specifics of his transformation from a casual moviegoer into a hardcore fan of the artform, and now an owner of a business whose life blood is fellow film enthusiasts. He thinks it was probably college, but then second guesses where he even stands on the pendulum of cinematic fanatics, figuring he’s not much different than anyone else who puts a DVD in and pushes “play.”

“[In 2007], I watched Breathless, which is a [Jean-Luc] Godard French new-wave movie, then this Czech movie called The Loves of a Blonde. I watched those within a week based on people’s recommendations. That made me curious about what else was out there and kind of created a new paradigm for me of movies as a broader medium. They could be this or this or this.”

Mitchell echoes the sentiment, adding how influential clerks behind the counters at video stores were for him. He also notes his affinity for punk music and B movies. He keeps up with blockbusters and popular films on a regular basis, but both tastes have grown tremendously out of necessity.

Suns wasn’t their first foray into curation.

In 2011, the influenced became influential as Cabrera and Mitchell began inviting swaths of friends for standard “movie nights.” With a blank wall, a bed sheet and a $300 projector bought on Craigslist, the pair hosted themed parties each requiring a certain level of participation from guests – whether it be contributing a pot of pasta for an Italian feature or margaritas for an art film from Mexico.

“You’d meet people on The Hill who were into indie music or who worked in bars, and we were friends with a lot of those people,” Mitchell says. “We’d invite them over for movies. It was a very unpretentious film club – not even a film club.”

The parties were natural. They had smart friends who shared interests in other forms of art, so why not share eclectic movies, too?

“I noticed we had a lot of friends who were really articulate and understood a lot about music,” Cabrera adds. “There was a language and an understanding to that. There didn’t seem to be that with movies in DC. If I would spend time in New York and you’d [name] a director, everyone’s like, ‘Oh yeah, totally.’ There’s more of a common knowledge because everyone has been exposed to it, whereas here it didn’t seem like that was the case as much.”

As they explain the lineage of Suns, it’s obvious not much has changed for either in this regard. Cabrera still suggests movies to patrons and Mitchell still has a day job as a hairstylist in the neighborhood, popping in and out to help. The two still do most of the work around the shop and bear all the responsibility for their triumphs and stumbles.

Suns Cinema is the ultimate living room for 30 or so people to get excited about movies, complete with a full bar and popcorn machine. Cabrera and Mitchell act as your guides before, after and during intermission, each vacillating between a Blockbuster employee of the month and friendly neighborhood bartender. How many films where a wild idea turns into a success story have they seen? Undoubtedly countless and probably in several different languages. But Suns Cinema isn’t a fictional place like the video store in Be Kind Rewind – it’s real life.

“I don’t think either of us had some dream of owning a movie theater,” Mitchell says. “The mission statement has stayed the same. The original idea is that we would put a sheet on our wall and invite our friends and anyone else to come watch movies that we thought were kind of cool.”

To learn more about Suns Cinema and their “kind of cool” movie showings, visit http://www.sunscinema.com.

Suns Cinema: 3107 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; www.sunscinema.com

Swan Lake by the American Ballet

Stage and Screen: Aziz Ansari, Swan Lake, Aladdin and More

THROUGH JULY 14

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
In 1930s Chicago, Arturo Ui would stop at nothing to become the next tyrant. Ui would’ve been just a stranger you met on the street, a neighbor in your local market; but influenced by greed, money and power, he conquered the cauliflower industry. Playwright Bertolt Brecht’s clear depiction of a modern-day Hitler is renewed in this production directed by John Doyle. Times vary. Tickets $25-$45. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

TUESDAY, JULY 2

Aziz Ansari:  Road to Nowhere Comedic Tour
After a fall from grace following a sexual misconduct allegation in early 2018, comedian Aziz Ansari will return to the public eye in his first tour since the controversy. His argumentatively contentious allegation has created a new discovery in his comedic expression. Ansari uses his witty, sarcastic and socially progressive charm to push the conversation forward. The set will highlight his life after public scrutiny and what lies ahead for him as a public figure. There’s no doubt all seats will be filled, laughs will be heard and questions hopefully answered. This is the official return of Aziz Ansari as a comedic artist. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $30. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org/constitution-hall

TUESDAY, JULY 9

Pilobolus
Dance company Pilobolus continues to push the limitations of human physicality through performance art. Using the medium of poetic movement, this group continually challenges their bodies, whether stretched, bounded or morphed together, to better create a versatile view of humans in the physical form. Join in this interactive performance as they create a unique narrative using the only thing they came in with: their bodies. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $29-$69. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

THURSDAY, JULY 11 – SATURDAY, JULY 13

American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake
This timeless ballet classic involves a love story combining magic, romance and tragedy to tell the tale of Odette and Prince Siegfried. Based on reputation, American Ballet Theatre’s rendition has continually exceeded expectations, providing majestic movements in gracious unison that have left audiences in awe for generations. Under the choreography of Kevin McKenzie, Wolf Trap hosts this romanticized depiction of an essential classic. Starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$80. Filene Center at Wolftrap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

THURSDAY, JULY 11 – SUNDAY, JULY 14

UrbanArias: Juliet Letters
Elvis Costello’s Juliet Letters was drafted to create several musical interpretations of Shakespeare’s famed character Juliet. Filled with passion, despair and betrayal, UrbanArias will perform a series of narratives by Costello and Brodsky Quartet in a cabaret setting. The show features characters ranging in age and backgrounds to provide a dynamically dramatic performance to pay tribute to some of Shakespeare’s best written work. Thursday to Saturday shows at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets $47. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, Virginia; www.sigtheatre.org

THURSDAY, JULY 18

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 11 Tour
The Emmy winning RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to strut its stuff for the 11th season, and the starring queens don’t plan on stopping any time soon. The queens, dragged in style and grace, are once again ready to head down the runway and put on a show. Make sure your wigs are secure and edges laid, because this show is going to be one for the books. They are coming to break necks! Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $37. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Disney’s Aladdin
Come enjoy the hit Broadway musical Disney’s Aladdin, as it graces the JFK’s center stage. From the producers of The Lion King, comes the magic fairy tale of a young lad and his Genie. Tony Award-winning James Monroe Iglehart gives a performance of a lifetime bringing nothing but comedy, beauty, and magic to the stage as Aladdin’s very own Genie. So strap in your magic carpets, grab a lamp and be ready to discover a whole new world. Times vary. Tickets start at $39. Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SUNDAY, JULY 21

DC Improv: Murder Mystery Comedy Show
Die Laughing Productions is back in DC with another night of comedic fun. Taking it back to the 90s with “Hit Me ‘90s One More Time,” this show features comedians involved in a narrative pitting their characters against one another for the hottest concert ticket of the year, Ace of Base. This fun-filled night will have you laughing out of your seats and enjoying nostaligc flashbacks, all while trying to uncover a murder mystery. Come out and celebrate the 90s with the DC Improv group, and just maybe you’ll make it out alive! Starts at 7 p.m. Tickets $19. DC Improv Comedy Club: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.dcimprov.com

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Hello, Dolly!’s Analisa Leaming Provides Podcast Aimed at Motivating Artists

Broadway legend Betty Buckley is currently starring as the titular role in the national tour of Hello, Dolly!, playing at the Kennedy Center through July 7. The classic musical, with a book by Michael Stewart and songs by Jerry Herman, tells the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a middle-aged marriage broker in 1880s New York City, who navigates a colorful collection of characters in search of love. 

One of those characters is Irene Molloy, played by Analisa Leaming, whose Broadway resume includes stints in School of Rock, The King and I and On The 20th Century. She was also the understudy for Irene on Broadway, going on about a dozen times. 

When she got the call to do the national tour, she, her husband and dog packed up the car and began traveling from place to place. 

“I love that this show is light and fun and joyful,” Leaming says. “With everything going on in the world today, we get to be that two-and-a-half hours of joy every night.”

Being on Broadway was always something Leaming knew she wanted to do. In fact, when she was in sixth grade, her teacher inscribed in her yearbook, “I know I’ll see your name up in lights some day in Hollywood,” and she asked him to scratch the last part out and put “Broadway” instead.

Although her first Broadway show –  Rebecca – was cancelled the night before rehearsals started, and it took three years for her to get another chance, she stayed busy doing regional and Off-Broadway shows. 

In addition to her theater work on stage, Leaming is also passionate about promoting mindfulness and sustainability for artists who work in what can often be a stressful field. 

In that vein, Leaming hosts a podcast, “A Balancing Act,” which features conversations with other working artists about how to navigate the industry and create balance and happiness as a performer. 

“What happened to me with Rebecca is kind of like someone who gets drafted by the NFL, and [then] hurts their Achilles and doesn’t get to play; it’s that level of disappointment,” Leaming says. “It had been this thing I had been dreaming about my whole life. When it was taken away, I had to do some deep searching and what I found is that as artists, it’s very easy to wait for things to happen.”

She explains that includes waiting for calls about roles and always comparing yourself to others.

“I went on my search inward and I just had to share it with others so I created this podcast,” Leaming says. “What I found talking with other artists is that we all share these same fears. These are things that we don’t often talk about. It’s been very helpful.”

Among her guests have been Rebecca Luker, Gavin Creel and John Tartaglia. Tony winner Jessie Mueller will be on soon.

“Because it’s not a weekly podcast, I have plenty of time to edit and so I invite people to be as vulnerable as possible and if they want something taken out, I can totally do that, and I think that has helped create some really honest and emotional conversations,” she says. 

Now in its third season, Leaming originally did all the interviews in person, but being on tour, most of the interviews are recorded over the phone.

“I talk to these incredible people and learn from them and it helps me stay on my own path of where I want to be,” she says. “This is my way of changing my corner of the world.” 

“A Balancing Act” not only hears the stories of these artists, but gets tips on how they reduce stress and cope with the challenges that come with pursuing and maintaining a Broadway career. 

“What I’ve learned is how imperative it is for artists to have other things that we love and are actively doing, and being a more balanced person,” Leaming says.   

See Leaming in Hello, Dolly! at the Kennedy Center through July 7. Showtimes vary and tickets are $49-$159. For information about the show, visit here. Podcast episodes of “A Balancing Act” are available here

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

Awa Sal Secka (Shanti), Kevin McCallister (Caesar), Chris Hoch (Blackbeard), Christopher Mueller (Jake), and Lawrence Redmond (Samuel) in Blackbeard at Signature Theatre // Photo: Christopher Mueller

Blackbeard Costume Designer Helps Pirate Live His Best Life

For Signature Theatre’s world premiere of Blackbeard, the cast and crew has to look magnificent. The famed pirate, upon learning he is wanted by the British Army embarks on a fantastical journey across the globe to raise an undead-pirate army from the depths of the sea. To fully depict this fantastical spirit, costume designer Erik Teague was able to create a variety of colorful and outer-worldly outfits for this show, and he spoke to On Tap about his experience working on the production before the show begins its run on June 18.

On Tap: What brought you into costume design?
Erik Teague: I was that weird kid who loved comic books and movies, still true today, but the oddball component is that I really enjoyed opera. I thought I wanted to be an opera singer. As I studied, my love of music never changed, and I realized the thing that was exciting about the performance was the transformation. I finally realized,  oh wait I’m just a designer, okay great!

Illustrations: courtesy of Signature Theatre

OT: Did you know the Signature team prior, if not what was the collaborative process for you in terms of creativity?
ET: This is my very first time working with the team at Signature, they are a company I have long admired because of the ambitious nature of what they do. It is always interesting to come into a different artistic family than your own, this group of people has a long history of working together. I’ve had to figure out where to fit in, but overall it has been very good, we have been able to communicate with each other well and share ideas fluidly.

OT: Why did you choose to join the team for Blackbeard?
ET: An adventure fantasy musical that centers around pirates, I thought that was super exciting, and super in my artistic wheelhouse. Meaning there would be lots of sword fights and swashbuckling and swinging on ropes, which I find very interesting. Building costumes for these types of performances has different methods than other performances where you just walk across the stage and deliver your lines. The construction methods are different, it is always exciting to find out what a performer needs to be supported to do their choreography.

OT: What is your favorite moment of the show?
ET: There are a couple of good ones, but I will say the I am pretty proud of the zombie pirate horde. We have done some highly theatrical gestures, by a couple, I mean we have created a horde of skeleton pirates who glow in the dark by using tandem puppets. Three of them can walk in a line together, I worked with Kylie Clark, a talented artist who made the puppets, and helped to get them functional.

OT: What is your favorite costume in the show, if any?
ET: Definitely Blackbeard’s two coats, they are a wonderful show in contrasts. His first coat is very distressed and lived in, and looks like it could have walked off the Pirates of the Caribbean movie set. Versus the second coat, his afterlife coat. Blackbeard is living his best life in his afterlife. He has been beheaded as per the real history. He finally becomes the myth and legend he has been trying to live up to the whole time. I gave him the opportunity to look the best, [a] red velvet coat with black beading all over it, and black Venetian lace trimming.

Blackbeard opens at Signature Theatre June 18, running through July 14. For more information and tickets visit www.sigtheatre.org.

Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; 703-820-9771; www.sigtheatre.org

Kathryn Tkel (Emmy) and Holly Twyford (Nora) in A Doll’s House, Part 2 // Photo: Lilly King

A Doll’s House Part 2 Offers Unique Characters Arcs In Round House Sequel

The radiantly captivating Kathryn Tkel lends a tearful and droll performance as Emmy in Round House Theatre’s DC premiere of A Doll’s House, Part 2, showing at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre.

Written by Lucas Hnath in 2017, A Doll’s House, Part 2 resumes 15 years after protagonist Nora, played by Holly Twyford, forswears varying degrees of commitment to achieve her version of love; freedom.

Emmy is the youngest child of Nora and in the original A Doll’s House, written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen, she is little more than a prop in the background. However, as a young adult, she provides a thoughtful voice, often challenging her mother’s perspective on life.

“You’ll learn from Emmy that everyone has their opinion of marriage and people are willing to stand up for their world view, whether or not it aligns with others,” Tkel purports. “There’s something about a younger woman speaking up that makes this conversation deeply important to witness.”

The characters in A Doll’s House, Part 2 are few in number, but prove powerful in the story. Including three self-identifying women and one man, the cast produces an emotional tale full of self-reflection and self-actualization. Tkel stands tall among giants, as she supports other characters played by DC notables like the aforementioned Twyford and Craig Wallace, as Torvald.

Before the performance, the main question for me was how does Tkel bring so much to the table while surrounded by veterans of the craft.

“I see many parallel narratives as a theater practitioner working on the play and as a character,” she says. “These actors and actresses have a longer history of working together, and I am the youngest actress and this is my first time working with these artists. Their characters were in the A Doll’s House.”

“Whereas my character, Emmy, is very much so removed. I have to think about how Emmy’s voice is different in the story and how she herself is different in the room,” she continues. “It’s freeing coming from a different place than others. You have more freedom to have a different take because you don’t know it’s different.”

The predominantly female cast brilliantly addresses issues found in the mid-19th century still felt today. The barriers circumventing women’s equality and independence underscore the humor that makes this play a quality hit.

“[There’s] room for women to have different opinions on stage and in the story, discussing their ideas about marriage and what it means to be a woman,” Tkel gleams.

It’s an eclectic collection of empowering perspectives that will cause the audience to question where their loyalties lie within the conundrum of gender identity and gender roles.

“It’s a very exciting play. [A] play everyone will have at stake in because it is about marriage, divorce, agency and independence for women and men,” Tkel explains.  

Further noting the very complicated societal dynamics layered with the necessary levels of vulnerability, Part 2 annihilates the boundaries of female and male normative behaviors. But where do the men factor in? How will they respond to the performance?

“I think men will like the play. Through Nora’s husband, Torvald, the writer has a lot to say about what society and women may want from men.”

Torvald, played by critically acclaimed actor, Craig Wallace, offers a strong masculine take on love and commitment, showcasing an uncommon vulnerable side.

“The play absolutely stands on its own and you’ll get so much from it,” Tkel encourages. “We’ve all had relationships and family. Whatever your history is, you will pick up pretty quickly that Nora is returning to territory that she used to be in, in a very different fashion.”

“Because the subject matter is so engaging, your own personal feeling about loyalty love, commitment and family will make you question your own view structure.”

A Doll’s House, Part 2 is simply relatable and as Tkel puts it: “Ripe for the picking.”

Round House Theatre’a A Doll’s House, Part 2 runs at Lansburgh Theatre through June 30. Tickets are $50-$61 and can be purchased at here.

Lansburgh Theatre: 450 7th St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.roundhousetheatre.org

Signature Theatre's Blackbeard

Stage and Screen: Jubilee, Blackbeard, Twisted Melodies and More

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 9

Jubilee
For centuries, the Fisk Jubilee Singers broke racial barriers internationally by entertaining kings and queens across the world. The acapella group first established themselves as entertainers at Fisk University in Nashville and used their collective musical talent to raise money for college. Tazewell Thompson’s Jubilee brings creativity and emotionally provoking music to the stage by highlighting themes of suffering, strength and endurance. Various dates and times. Tickets $92-$115. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

TUESDAY, JUNE 4 – SUNDAY, JUNE 7

Hello, Dolly!
Broadway legend Betty Buckley stars in Hello, Dolly! at the Kennedy Center this month. Acclaimed as “the best show of the year” by NPR, the musical takes audiences back to 1955 and follows the story of the matchmaker as she travels to Yonkers, New York to find a match for the half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder, played by Lewis J. Stadlen. Various dates and times. Tickets $49-$159. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5 – SUNDAY, JUNE 30

A Doll’s House, Part 2
Nicole A. Watson’s A Doll’s House, Part 1 ends with protagonist Norma Helma leaving her husband Torvald by the slam of a door. The follow-up production to this feminist battle cry opens with Helma knocking on that same door in search of closure, but she’s ultimately surprised by the reactions from those she left behind. Various dates and times. Tickets $55-$70. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

THURSDAY, JUNE 13

Kennedy Center x Frank Brown and DC Millennials with
Port City Brewing Co.
June 3 marks the first Records on the Rooftop event, the Kennedy Center’s free summer happy hour series offered in partnership with local and national partners who curate each event. The rooftop will transform into a modern lounge space with an eclectic lineup of live music featured throughout the series. Three of DC’s top DJs will set the scene mixing summery, feel-good hits atop one of the District’s most unique rooftops with brews from Port City Brewing Co. 5-8 p.m. Free to attend. Kennedy Center Rooftop Terrace: 2700 F. St. NW, DC www.kennedy-center.org

TUESDAY, JUNE 18 – SUNDAY, JULY 14

Blackbeard
Blackbeard takes a look at English pirate Edward Thatch, who navigated by ship through the West Indies and North American colonies. The production staged entirely on a pirate ship begins with Blackbeard learning he’s a wanted man by the British army. But perhaps Signature Theatre’s website sums up the new production best: “Blackbeard and his crew of maritime marauders embark on a fantastical journey across the globe to raise an undead pirate army from the depths of the sea.” Various dates and times. $40-$84. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19 – SUNDAY, JULY 21

Twisted Melodies
This immersive one-man show performed by Kelvin Roston, Jr. takes a look at the life of 70s soul singer and composer Donny Hathaway, best known for his duets with Roberta Flack like “The Closer I Get To You.” Twisted Melodies provides a glimpse into the musician’s last days, his inner struggle with mental illness and the muses that inspired him. Various dates and times. Tickets $20-$68. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

SATURDAY, JUNE 22 – SUNDAY, JUNE 23

A Sense of Wonder
A Sense of Wonder by Dance Exchange brings a creative performance that innovatively brings science and dance together on the Dance Place stage. As always, Dance Exchange is meant to inspire change and connect people of all ages to the questions that often provoke the medium of dance and its many beautiful performances. Starts at 8 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets $15-$25. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

Kathleen Turner // Photo: Butcher Photography

Kathleen Turner Shines at Arena Stage Gala

When Kathleen Turner first came to New York as a wannabe actress, someone asked her if she could sing, but knowing there were little parts for a woman baritone, she replied “no.”

While the husky-voiced actress went on to an incredible, award-winning movie career, which included starring roles in such hits as Body HeatRomancing the Stone and Peggy Sue Got Married, (not to mention voicing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit), plus a theatre career that included Tony noms for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Turner secretly had a strong desire to sing.

So, while having lunch one day with Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, the question came out again about her singing – and this time Turner replied with affirmation. The response led to Smith casting her as the titular character in Mother Courage and Her Children in 2014, a show Turner describes “a play with singing,” rather than a musical.

This was just one of the stories Turner offered at the 2019 Arena Stage Gala, where she performed excerpts from her cabaret, Finding My Voice.

Turner is no stranger to the Arena Stage. In addition to her “singing debut,” she’s also graced the SW, DC theatre in Red Hot Patriot, The Year of Magical Thinking and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Backed by her music director Mark James on piano, Sean Harkness on guitar and Ritt Henn on bass, Turner dazzled on tunes such as “I Can’t Get You Out of My Heart,” “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home” and “Sweet Kentucky Ham.”

Before each song, she regaled the patrons with tales of her life, explaining how her dad was a foreign service officer who served as a diplomat for the State Department, and how her travels and life as a youngster led to her prolific career. She was funny and captivating throughout, proving every bit the movie star she still is.

At the Gala, Arena Stage honored Nina Totenberg, NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent, with this year’s Beth Newburger Schwartz Award in recognition of her ground-breaking reporting in the broadcast world and her continual support of the arts.

In accepting her award, Totenberg noted she was a long-time Arena Stage patron and has seen many productions over the years with her husband and friends, and looks forward to many more outstanding performances to come.

Lindsey Brittain Collins was also honored on the night, winning the Emerging Leader Award for her excellence as a young artist and her outstanding work in the community. An oil acrylic painter, Collins uses collage to express social issues of race, religion, sexuality and gender.

The Gala, which supports Arena Stage’s award-winning artistic productions and community engagement programs, was an enjoyable evening allowing theater lovers to get together, support the arts and experience Turner in an enjoyable, special performance.

For more information about this year’s Arena Stage Gala, visit www.arenastage.org.

Stage and Screen: The White Snake, John Cusack, God of Carnage and More

THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 19

The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery
The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery promises to give you “Zanni bellhops, femme fatales, hidden clues, mustachioed detectives and more!” In the tradition of classic mysteries from Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and Clue, this entertaining whodunnit ends Faction of Fools Theatre Company’s monumental 10th anniversary season. Various dates and times. Tickets $22. Faction of Fools Theatre Company: 800 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.factionoffools.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 26

The White Snake
Inspired by an ancient Chinese fable, The White Snake tells the story of animal spirit White Snake, who transforms into a beautiful woman to experience the human world. When White Snake falls in love with a pharmacist’s assistant, their illicit romance draws the ire of a villainous monk who sets out to destroy their relationship. Various dates and times. Tickets $19-$45. Constellation Theatre Company: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.constellationtheatre.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 2

The Oresteia
Adapted from the Greek tragedy trilogy, Ellen McLaughlin’s The Oresteia is coming to the Shakespeare Theatre Company. On the surface, it’s an epic story about love, betrayal, murder and revenge. But at its core, The Oresteia is a critique of human civilization. McLaughlin condenses the trilogy into one dynamic show with expert finesse. Various dates and times. Tickets $44-$118. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 9

Love’s Labor’s Lost
In this early Shakespeare comedy, a young king and his three companions swear off women in order to focus on their studies and fasting. However, when a princess and her female companions arrive, the young men find it increasingly difficult to deny their lustful desires. Directed by Vivienne Benesch, Love’s Labor’s Lost is a delightfully witty, amusing and timeless tale. Various dates and times. Tickets $42-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

WEDNESDAY, MAY 1 – SUNDAY, JUNE 2

The Children
The protagonists of The Children, a couple of retired physicists, live in a remote cottage on the British coast. They live a simple, modest life in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, carefully conserving their resources to get by. But a surprise visit from a former colleague upends the couple’s lives, revealing old secrets with catastrophic consequences. The Children is loosely based on the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. Various dates and times. Tickets $52-$65. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

SATURDAY, MAY 4 – SATURDAY, MAY 25

God of Carnage
The 2009 Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage was originally a French tale but has been translated due to popular demand. The play centers around a feuding set of parents who meet after their children clash in a playground altercation. What begins as a civil conversation devolves into a jarring confrontation between the parents and ultimately their own partners. Various dates and times. Tickets $50. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

TUESDAY, MAY 7 – THURSDAY, MAY 9

The Chibok Girls: Our Story
Few girls have captured the world’s attention like the Chibok Girls. In 2014, 273 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from a school in the town of Chibok, stirring international outrage and widespread protests in Nigeria. In a predictable fashion, the world seemed to forget about the kidnapped girls just as quickly as they’d learned about their disappearance. Renegade Theatre’s The Chibok Girls: Our Story is a reminder in the form of testimonial theatre. The event also features Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author Wole Soyinka and is part of CrossCurrents, a “citywide biennial festival that highlights innovative artists from around the world who are harnessing the power of performance to humanize global politics.” Begins at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $20. Davis Performing Arts Center: 37th and O Streets NW, DC; www.georgetown.edu

THURSDAY, MAY 16

John Cusack, Plus a Screening of High Infidelity
John Cusack is recognizable from a ton of movie roles, but perhaps none are as iconic and memorable as Rob Gordon, a music connoisseur and record shop owner searching for love in the classic rom-com High Fidelity. Throughout the film, Gordon muses on his past relationships and the sobering realities of love and companionship. Cusack himself will discuss the film in person and take questions from the audience following the screening at the Warner Theatre. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Show at 7:30. Tickets $49-$150. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC;www.warnertheatredc.com

Photo: Roy Rochlin

Daveed Diggs of “Hamilton” Talks Career-Spanning Work at Sixth & I

Rapper and actor Daveed Diggs called the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, and spaces like it, “empathy gyms” – where audiences use live performances to work on how to negotiate feelings in real time.

In Monday’s wide-ranging onstage interview by NPR’s Ari Shapiro to celebrate the synagogue’s 15th anniversary, Diggs, whose mother is Jewish and father is African-American, discussed his career, including his latest role in the play White Noise and life after Hamilton.

“Daveed’s artistic choices mirror the multifacted nature of his talents and his personal background,” said Sixth & I Executive Director Heather Moran. “Offering colorful and provocative art at the intersection of race, culture and identity, Daveed Diggs embodies the essence of what Sixth & I stands for.”

Diggs won a Tony and a Grammy in 2016 for his dual part as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton. While Diggs made his entrance to the song “Guns and Ships” from the musical – the conversation focused on his hip hop group Clipping and more recent work, not just the founding-father themed phenomenon.

He performed “Something in the Water” from the soundtrack of Blindspotting, the 2018 movie he wrote and starred in with friend and collaborator Rafael Casal. Mutual friends introduced the two and set them up on a “rapper playdate” shortly after college and they have been creating music and art together since, Diggs said.

He dismissed the idea of dividing his career into pre- and post-Hamilton eras, instead saying his spot in the musical was actually “part of a very long progression.”

At first, working on the musical was just “doing a piece of art with my friends,” he said. “It felt very small until the whole world wanted to see it.”

“What Hamilton did for me, more than anything else, was allow me to keep working in the way that I’ve always been working but making money off of it,” Diggs said.

He had been writing raps and doing plays with his friends for as long as he could remember, “and nobody cared, and then Hamilton happened and everybody cared.”

Days after wrapping up his three year stint as Lafayette and Jefferson, Diggs said he flew straight to play a teacher in the movie Wonder. He later had roles in Black-ish, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the upcoming small screen adaptation of Snowpiecer.

“I just wanted to keep doing things that I have never done before,” Diggs said, so film and TV were the logical next steps.

But Diggs has also found his way back to the stage – although he emphasized he was looking to do another play, not musicals, as Hamilton was a unique scenario.

His latest role is Leo in Suzan-Lori Parks‘ White Noise that opened last month off-Broadway. The piece tackles how two interracial couples who are longtime friends deal with the aftermath of Leo getting attacked one night and brings up intense racial discussions.

The conversations Park’s play or Shapiro’s discussion with Diggs at Sixth & I can spark are why live performances are needed in an age of so many screens and media choices, Diggs said.

“We just are all here negotiating whatever we’re talking about in real space,” Diggs said. “Places that have committed to creating these kinds of spaces are so important because they create community.”

Diggs’ appearance is a part of a larger fundraising campaign for the synagogue’s 15th anniversary celebration this year. for more on his work, visit www.daveeddiggs.com.

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: 600 I St. NW, DC; 202-408-3100; www.sixthandi.org

Stage and Screen: April 2019

THROUGH SUNDAY APRIL 28

Mosaic Theater Company ‘s Native Son
The infamous streets of Southside Chicago set the scene in this dramatic, gripping production of Native Son. Adapted from Richard Wright’s legendary novel, Native Son tells the story of Bigger Thomas. When Bigger gets a well-paying job as a wealthy businessman’s driver, a series of unfortunate episodes lead to tragic consequences. With the original version set in the 1930s, this modern adaptation incidentally reveals the deep-rooted history of poverty in Chicago. Various dates and times. Tickets $20-$35. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

THROUGH SATURDAY, APRIL 20

The Peculiar Patriot
Liza Jessie Peterson was a teacher at the notorious Rikers Island prisons for 18 years. Inspired by her experiences, Peterson brings her one-woman show to the stage, exploring the effects of incarceration on communities and a broken system that perpetuates inequality. Her character Betsy LaQuanda Ross, a self-proclaimed “peculiar patriot,” makes frequent trips to penitentiaries, visiting her imprisoned family and friends in this funny and fiercely provocative show. Various dates and times. Tickets $14-$29. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

SUNDAY, APRIL 7

The Sleeping Beauty
The famed Russian National Ballet is coming to the DMV, performing the timeless classic ballet The Sleeping Beauty. With choreography from ballet master Marius Petipa and compositions by the incomparable Tchaikovsky, this performance is sure to be a grand production. Founded in the late 1980s, the Russian National Ballet emerged in the Soviet transitional period of Perestroika. Ever since, the company has been dedicated to sharing its command of classic ballet with the world. Show starts at 2 p.m., tickets $34-$56. George Mason University Center for the Arts: 4373 Mason Pond Dr. Fairfax, VA; http://cfa.gmu.edu

TUESDAY, APRIL 9

Bob Saget
Few comedians have succeeded to crossover in the entertainment world as well as Bob Saget. Best known for his portrayal of Danny Tanner on ABC’s Full House, the versatile Saget has enjoyed an illustrious career. Nonetheless, he is and always was a comedian first. His stand-up is not what you would expect from America’s favorite dad – and with good reason: he’s not. Stepping out of the Full House shadow hasn’t been easy, but that’s exactly what Saget hopes to do in this not-so-family-friendly comedy performance. Show starts at 8 p.m., tickets $45. Sixth & I: 600 I St. NW, DC; www.sixthandi.org

SATURDAY, APRIL 13

Chelsea Handler
Known for her hilariously blunt delivery and bold blue humor, Chelsea Handler is switching it up for her upcoming Sit-Down Comedy Tour. Handler kicks off her tour in April with the release of her new memoir Life Will Be the Death of Me. In a rare display of vulnerability, she writes introspectively about childhood trauma, therapy, activism and more. The show will feature true stories from her book in an honest, stripped-down conversation. But don’t worry – her emotional anecdotes will only accompany the deeply inappropriate jokes audiences know and love her for. Show starts at 8 p.m., tickets $85-$145. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24 – MONDAY, APRIL 29

The Who’s Tommy
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Who’s legendary debut album, The Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage presents rock musical The Who’s Tommy. Starring Riverdale’s Casey Cott, Tony Award winner Christian Borle and Hamilton’s Mandy Gonzalez, the incredibly talented cast is not likely to disappoint. This semi-staged concert production boasts music and lyrics by The Who’s own Pete Townshend. Various dates and times. Tickets $69-$219. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

FRIDAY, APRIL 26 – THURSDAY, JUNE 2

Jubilee
From acclaimed playwright and director Tazewell Thompson comes an inspirational tribute performance based on the world-famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. The renowned African American acapella group broke enormous racial barriers in the late 19th century, funding the education of newly freed slaves and performing across the globe. The performance includes popular spirituals like “Wade in the Water,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” Various dates and times. Tickets $76-$125. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

TUESDAY, APRIL 30 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26

Spunk
Based on three short stories by Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston and adapted by Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe, Spunk combines elements of storytelling, music and dance. This lively production promises to entertain audiences with spirited characters and tales of love, jealousy and revenge. Set in the countryside, Spunk also depicts the African American experience in the early 20th century. Various dates and times. Tickets $40-$85. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org