Iron Cages // Photo: Farrah Skeiky

With “Present Tense,” Photographer Farrah Skeiky Brings DC’s Vibrant Music Scene To The Front

If you’ve been to a punk, DIY, or house show recently, you might have been in the midst of local creative and photographer Farrah Skeiky. Her list of accomplishments runs long, and the common thread between them all is a devotion and dedication to DC’s famed music scene as it currently exists. Born of a desire to share that this city is as vibrant as ever when it comes to music and creativity, Skeiky’s first solo exhibition, Present Tense, opens at Transformer on January 18. To get to the heart of her work, which is at once a celebration and a call to action, On Tap spoke to Skeiky about her process and the progress she hopes drawing attention to live music in the District will bring.

On Tap: Present Tense is your first solo exhibition, and on your site it said the exhibition aims to “fight… the notion that this section of DC counterculture exists solely in the past.” As a music photographer, when did you first catch wind that there was an idea that counterculture was a thing of the past?
Farrah Skeiky: I love shooting all kinds of music. One of my favorite shows I shot this year was Lizzo. In 2018 I shot Blood Orange – obviously there’s a lot of national acts that I really, really love. But people kind of know and herald DC as a very important place to when it comes to music, but people really talk about it in the past tense, right? They talked about Minor Threat, Fugazi, and Bad Brains – all important bands. I’m never going to disagree about that.

And their contribution to music is obviously great, especially in punk music and the culture around it. Conversations about straight edge, veganism, benefit shows – all that stuff is really important, but it’s still going and it never really stopped. So for me, highlighting the bands and the people that are part of the present tense, where it gets its name from – this concept of people talking about DC as a place that used to have really cool bands and used to have really cool shows. And I was standing there talking to people who are saying these things, and I’m thinking, “But I was just at a great show last night, where three out of the four bands were local bands that are currently active or are in all these big bands currently playing reunions.”

I hate when people talk about this place in the past tense, when I’m in the middle of it and it’s active and it’s vibrant and people from all over the city bring all sorts of different stuff to the table. 

OT: What proved, to you personally, that it was alive and well? Was it a specific moment or a culmination of your experiences?
FS: [It] as kind of just a culmination [of everything]. I moved from Seattle to the Maryland suburbs [when] I was 15 and that’s not a fun move, to go from a very cool city to the suburbs. You’re kind of just getting into who you are and how you can use the world around you at that age. [So I] moved across the country, from one Washington to another. I really was not excited, but knowing that DC had this rich history that was still very much active, with really great independent music shows, all ages [and] culture, which is not common in a lot of cities – that was really important to me.

I feel like I watched it from afar, just like a lot of other people do in this country who are excited about punk music, but you don’t always realize it when you get there and [can] be part of it. So it wasn’t one specific [moment]. I think it was just, I realized I was going to more and more local shows and I was really excited about all of these local bands and what they were doing and I’m like, “well these are the bands I want to be taking more photos of.”

OT: Did you get exposed to photography and the local scene as a teenager in the suburbs of Maryland or was that something that happened as your career progressed?
FS: I never really thought that photography would play such a large part in my life. I got a camera when I was 16. I got my Canon Rebel XS. I was already engaged with art in school and playing music. I’ve played in jazz band and orchestra, and I thought that that was going to be how I engaged with music, by playing it in that class. It wasn’t really until my friends’ bands were playing something like the rec center or in a battle the bands [where] I was like, “I’ll bring my camera,” and or my friends said, “It would be cool if you brought your camera.” Live photos were always more interesting to me than any still one. I can capture people in that emotion and kind of show you how it felt to be there, rather than just tell you – I’m not good at words. I would rather show you how it felt to be there than tell you. That’s what I got really excited about. So it was probably 17 or 18 when I really started becoming excited about music photography.

OT: I’m guessing you had a rather large amount of photos to sift through for inclusion in this exhibition what criteria did you apply to capture this goal?
FS: It’s really hard because there’s a Present Tense book that’s coming out in February and that’s a couple photos of…almost every DC the band I’ve captured over the last five or six years. And that’s that book. The show was really hard, because it’s 16 pieces, I didn’t want to repeat bands and I wanted to get kind of a wide range. There are some from 2015 and 2017, and the most recent photo is from about three months ago. 

I didn’t want it to just be hardcore bands, and didn’t want it to just be photos of singers, because it’s very easy to catch [them] because they’re moving around the most. I tried to shoot photos of every member of the band when I’m shooting a show, so everybody has a photo of themselves. There’s also like, not just straight forward hardcore punk bands in there, but also bands that are more DIY or indie rock as well.

I wanted a little bit of genre diversity and having a kind of range. This isn’t just photos from 2019, there are photos from like 2015, when I really started shooting punk in DC more seriously. Before I was doing that, I was on and off the house photographer rotation for IMP for a long time and I kind of consciously made the decision to say, “Okay, I’m going to step back from that a little bit and focus more on local bands.” 

OT: Any particular favorites that are part of the exhibition you’d like to share?
FS: There’s kind of a lead photo that I have as part of this show. I think it was at Damaged City Fest, of this band called Sem Hastro. So in the photo, the one guy is choking the other guy. I love that photo because I feel like it’s a great little encapsulation of what DC punk and DIY has been in the past few years. Both of those people in the photo came to DC from other countries and participated in the punk culture here. 

Sem Hastro // Photo: Farrah Skeiky

So [in the photo,] the one doing the choking came from Japan was studying art at the Corcoran for four years. His band is still active, on and off, where he still lives in Japan, but he comes back to DC when they tour the States. The person singing came to DC because DC punk bands were playing in Brazil, and kind of made this super group of some of the Brazilian punks and some of the DC punks. The transient nature of DC is sometimes not the worst thing in the world. All these bands still have an impact here, these people still have an impact here. They’re still part of it, even though they’ve gone back to Brazil to Japan. They still made their mark and their contribution to it, so that’s one of my favorites. 

There’s also one crowd photo in there that I really love. My roommate is in it, and everybody’s expressions were just very sincere. Some of them are a little bit goofy. We’ve all had photos where we’re like,  “Damn, that’s what I looked like at that show? That’s the face I was making?” and there’s humor in it. Like you can’t take yourself super seriously in that moment when you look ridiculous.

OT: What do you hope those who view your exhibition gain from it?
FS: I want people to know that this is something happening right now. When people have this idea that punk and DIY is something that used to happen here, [and] when people were making important decisions about development and changing neighborhoods and changing venues and people access spaces and content, what your barrier of entry is, they’re not considering [music] because they’ve got it in their heads that it used to happen here. If it doesn’t happen anymore, they’re not making room for it. The reason that scenes and communities – two different things – can struggle in a city like DC is because they’re not getting enough support because they’re not being taken seriously.

That’s a big part of it. Smaller venues close, bigger developers come in, and the nature of it changes who’s controlling the booking of bands in the city. A lot of stuff is happening. Even smaller venues will book through Live Nation, which is so trippy to me. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in the context of this, that means that a lot of local folks who have been here and are actively doing this thing [and] are left out of the conversation, because people are not doing their homework and realizing these people exist.

It’s hard, and we kind of need to shout our existence a little bit more so that we can maybe be part of this conversation, so we’re not constantly looking for a space and not having space to make things happen. We’re also like resilient folks. So if the show needs to happen in a house, our show needs to happen in a house. We’ll figure it out. We’re not gonna stop doing what we’re doing just because the new development and new DC isn’t making way for us. We’ll find a way. But wouldn’t it be cool if people knew we were here and supported our existence?

Present Tense runs through February 29 at Transformer, Wednesday through Saturday from 12-6 p.m. and by appointment. Skeiky’s work featured in the show is also up for sale. Her book Present Tense: DC Punk and DIY, Right Now will be released on February 22. For more on the exhibition and its programming, visit here.

Transformer: 1404 P St. NW, DC; www.transformerdc.org

Photo: Joan Marcus

Fleabag’s Enduring Brilliance Lies In Its One-Woman Show

If you’ve been paying even an iota of attention to mid-winter award shows, you’ve probably noticed a few newcomers starting to look familiar. While Phoebe Waller-Bridge is no newcomer to theater or television, her domination of awards shows like the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild definitely is. 

For those who have followed her Amazon show Fleabag since its first season released in 2016, long before the streaming wars took over,  you know these accolades were well deserved long before season two rolled around late last year. It took time for the show to catch on, but everyone has been abuzz about this past season, hence the plethora of awards Waller-Bridge and company have taken home. 

Maybe it’s Andrew Scott’s character Hot Priest, the aforementioned race to make the best bingeable content, or the other cast members who get much more screen time (I’m looking at you, Sian Clifford, a.k.a. Claire. Plus, If we can’t have season three, can we have a Claire spinoff?) that made larger audiences take note. But to truly understand why the show was always destined for acclaim, awards or not, we need only to look at its source material. 

Not long after season two hit Amazon Prime’s streaming service, it was announced that Waller-Bridge would be performing a final run of the one-woman play in London’s West End. The play, originally appearing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013, provided the basis for season one. 

Capitalizing on Fleabag fever, NT Live broadcast and syndicated the play throughout the U.S. And post-Emmys, Globes and the like, nationally acclaimed theatres such as DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company hosted another broadcast of the last hurrah on stage on January 15, 17 and 18.

While seeing that final early-fall run would have been the stuff of dreams for even the most casual theater fan, the filmed version is still electric. It’s quite a feat to capture an audience, completely on your own, for a full hour and twenty minute span, and in this case, not even in a live setting. But, Waller-Bridge does just that, aided only by sparse voiceovers to set the scene.

It’s perhaps not even fair to say that they set the scene, although the sound design is done incredibly well. Waller-Bridge’s immaculate writing and knack for no-holds-barred, intimate dialogue serves as the magnet attaching every ounce of your attention to her. 

Even more so than when you watch the show, you’re constantly playing mental gymnastics with yourself as to whether you love or hate this character. Fully on her own on the screen, you are forced to confront the fact that warmth, humor and an immense, almost overwhelming at times, capacity for love exists in the same body of a woman who makes terrible, self destructive choices that hurt others but ultimately herself.

And that’s where the magic of the play (and by proxy, the show) lies – in its ability to confront the incongruities of human nature, particularly in female characters, on stage or screen. While I doubt the average person has behaved in manners as extreme as a few that Fleabag does, you can still most likely envision times when you exhibited similarly conflicting behaviors. 

Fleabag’s ability to make us confront – and accept – our capacity for bad and good (which is sometimes arguably even more difficult) is simply part of finding our way in the world. Waller-Bridge’s source material makes that message shine through, and is a must-see for anyone who loves the show, or just great theater. 

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Michael R. Klein Theatre: 450 7th St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Wanda Hernandez, Catherine Lopez, Ingrid Ortega and Vanessa Fuentes // Photo: courtesy of Creating Casa

Placing Latinxs On The Marquee: Creating Casa Celebrates Diversity In DC Art

DC has an incredibly vibrant art scene, from the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, to the small independent galleries and pop up shows, art is seemingly everywhere. Yet despite that, the women of Creating Casa couldn’t help but notice that there was a strong lack of representation of Central American, Latinx art in DC.

They were determined to change that.

Together, the group has organized pop up art shows and art exhibitions featuring up and coming Latinx artists, as well as spoken at numerous panels about being Latinx creatives in the District, ensuring that the Central American Latinx perspective is both seen and heard. Their latest project takes things even further by making it a truly collaborative community effort. The project “Siempre Aqui,” asks for photo submissions of everyday life memories of growing up in the DMV. These photos will then be considered for a two-fold project, including wheatpasting, and an immersive gallery experience.

Read on to learn more about the brilliant women of Creating Casa, and their mission to highlight and celebrate the Latinx diaspora in DC!

On Tap: Who are the faces behind Creating Casa? Do you each have a specific role, if so, what are they?
Catherine Lopez: I am a first generation Salvadoran-American born in Falls Church, VA. My professional background is in public health, but at the center of what I do is the role of community. From translating documents for my parents or family members [at] a young age to working with vulnerable immigrants or teaching children of immigrants, I have seen the need to create space and give voices to those who feel they do not have one. My interest in the arts has a very similar core and I find my role in Creating Casa aligns nicely with this. My role includes that of supporting and coordinating our programs, fundraisers and continuously searching for funding along with supporting the rest of the team in our endeavors. 

Wanda Hernández: Similar to many of my colegas from Creating Casa, I was born in Arlington, VA to Guatemalan immigrants – shoutout to my beloved parents Elda and Julio – and grew up in the neighboring Falls Church. My professional background is in museums and I am currently pursuing a PhD in American Studies at the University of Maryland. I have found that my lived experiences shape all of what I do professionally as an educator, curator, scholar and cultural organizer. Creating Casa allows me to artistically explore questions that formulate about identity and belonging, which often leads me to be the one that researches and connects with artists, galleries and other like-minded organizers. 

Ingrid Ortega: I create our graphics, event flyers and post to our Instagram (@creatingcasa). As a team, we are committed to expand Latinx dialogue through all art mediums by representing and empowering emerging underrepresented artists in the DMV area. That is a passion we all share. We, as a team, work very collaboratively and we’ve never defined roles. We all have our strengths and we utilize all our strengths to make our events a reality!

Vanessa Fuentes: I am a second-generation Salvadoran-American born in Arlington, VA. I am passionate about my involvement in the Latinx community. 

OT: What made you come together to create ‘Creating Casa’?
IO: It came out of frustration, really. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed a lack of Latinx representation, specifically Central American in the DMV area. Since 2018, I’ve seen a positive change. I knew something had to be done about the lack of representation of Latinx people, but I didn’t know what. I always dreamt of curating an art show featuring Central American artists in the DMV area. I had no idea where to even start, but I knew who to call – Wanda Hernandez. Wanda listened to this idea, provided input and ended the conversation saying, “I’m 110 percent in.” A week or two later, I told Catherine Lopez and Vanessa Fuentes about this idea, and without any hesitation – they wanted to be apart of it, too.

For almost a year, we had meetings at NorthSide Social, countless phone calls and a very “poppin” group chat. We came to be because of the passion and love we have for our community. Our first self-titled art show, “Creating Casa,” was so special to us, our guests, the artists, etc. 

OT: I love how passionate you are about highlighting and bringing focus to the Latinx creatives in the DMV! Do you think that DC area Latinx artists are under-represented?
WH: Absolutely. In high school I wanted to be a fashion designer. However, I thought, “What are the odds that I’ll make it as a fashion designer?” So, in college I decided to pursue fashion merchandising, which I saw as much more practical but I ultimately dropped that major because it did not fuel me. I think that growing up in a working-class, immigrant family, as well as a first-generation Latina in college, I was looking to pursue something that was likely to give me a job. I think this strays Latinxs and other people of color away from pursuing a career they are truly passionate about, which leads to the overall underrepresentation of Latinxs in the industry. 

OT: Who are your current fave local Latinx creatives?
CL: Luis Peralta del Valle is at the top of my list. I was introduced to him as we were planning our first show. I think he has paved a way for himself and has created avenues to showcase his work throughout the DMV area.

IO: I believe we’re all fans of Luis Peralta del Valle! C’mon! His art alone is so breathtaking, but if you’re fortunate enough to talk about his art with him – you’ll seriously be blown away. We [Creating Casa] were very fortunate to have him featured in our first show back in March 2019. 

WH: I cannot disagree with Catherine or Ingrid. Luis is amazing. He’s been such a guiding light for me as I entered the DC art world. To mix it up a bit, however, I am really excited about Cielo Félix-Hernández. They’re currently in school in Richmond, VA, however, I hope they make their way back to the DMV after graduation. Also, I have to shoutout two amazing women: DJ Beleza and J’Nae Morrae.

On Tap: How did the concept of your current project, “Siempre Aquí” come about?
WH: The idea behind “Siempre Aqui” came about right after our first show. Upon attending the show a friend of the collective, José Centeno-Melendez, shared photographs of himself when he was young in the 90s. They depicted him visiting the national monuments for the first time and busting a piñata on the sidewalk for a birthday party in Hyattsville, MD. I thought, “Wow! How many of us have pictures just like this?” We wanted to create a huge photo album, if you will, of our experiences in the DMV. And from there, the show began to evolve. 

If you would like to submit to the “Siempre Aqui” project, click here. Creating Casa will be accepting submissions until January 18. For more information on their initiatives and future projects, follow them on Instagram @CreatingCasa.

Best of 2019: Our Staff’s Favorite Music, Memes, Sports Moments and More

2019 was a long year. So many things happened. TOO many things happened, if you ask me. Let’s all slow down in 2020. With new memes taking over the Twittersphere every day, history-making sports moments, and more binge watchable shows than ever, it can be hard to round up your year in retrospect. To help jog our collective memories, On Tap and Fray staff reflected on their favorite things that happened this year, so you can come with us on this journey of reflection on this wild ride of a year.


Monica Alford, Managing Editor

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
I like old things.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
See above.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
There’s too many to name but at this moment, the two that stand out are Bloc Party at The Anthem (nostalgic vibes and adorable concertgoers) and Beck // Cage The Elephant at Merriweather (high production value, insane amount of talent onstage, epic thunderstorm).

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
I don’t know much about sport ball but I was very proud of the USWNT win.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Thamee and Kith/Kin for incredible meals // experiences (Thamee for authentic cuisine and mom-and-pop feel, Kith/Kin for insanely good flavors and the personal touch of Chef Kwame chatting with and checking on his guests).

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Too many to name but off of the top of my head, Mrs. Fletcher (mini-series) on HBO was phenomenal.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Jojo Rabbit because it was surprising, delightful and so tastefully done.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
The OT team joining the Fray family and continuing to kick ass in media and across departments.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Being acquired by and becoming part of the Fray family (weird = fantastic in this instance!)

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Anything M.K. sends me (help me, I’m old!)

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
The new look and vibe of our print and digital media, coming in hot in 2020 and continuing to kick ass!


Maggie Awad, Marketing Director

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Freaking Out,” by ARIZONA and then every remix since, including Matoma.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?

IDK, I definitely didn’t have a big music year in 2019.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?

ARIZONA at 9:30 Club, while the venue is always perfect, the band just gave the performance of their life. They went hard in the paint and it was hands down the best gig of 2019 for me.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?

Nationals winning the World Series!

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Ugh, I’m hesitant to share this gem, but then also feel obligated to support this business. I love Benitos Place in Shaw. It’s not new, it’s not fancy, but damn is it good. It’s a little Honduran spot with the best pupusas, tacos and carne asada platter. In the summer, you can sit outside on their picnic table and sip margs in cactus glasses. CACTUS GLASSES. Need I say more?

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Schitt’s Creek or Kim’s Convenience – those Canadians kill it.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Does every Lifetime, Hulu, Netflix, Hallmark Christmas movie count?

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
I MET KANYE WEST AND NEVER GONNA FAIL! I also joined the Fray team AND I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc!

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Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Can’t think of anything weird, but would like to shout out the best book of 2019 for me was a tie between Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl and American Royals by Katharine McGee. Entirely different genres and love them for different reasons.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Nancy Pelosi clapping, Ok Boomer, I don’t know who needs to hear this but, I’m gonna tell my kids, Kombucha Girl.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
More traveling, more reading, more of everything. Oh and The Killers on tour again with a new album.


Sandrika Berthias, Event Manager

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Sexy Tropicale” by Claudio Capeo. I discovered this new artist from a podcast and I really love his style.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Mana at Eagle Bank Arena. Always a great show, great songs, great ambiance.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
U.S. won the women’s soccer World Cup.

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Money Heist.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I need to catch up on the movies but I went to see Abominable with my son. It was a very cute movie [for] kids and adults. We both cried.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Climbed Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala, its elevation is 13,045 feet.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Realizing I am an empath. I physically feel people’s emotions. Not easy, but the realization of it changed my life.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Make sure to be 100 percent present with my family and friends. Continue my personal and professional development to be the best person I can be.


Rhiannon Bunek, Permit Administrator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Tebrikler” by Merve Özbey

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Manga by Mayra Andrade – Chill and unique vibe that’s perfect for the work day.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
David Helfgott at Hagia Irene in Istanbul. The venue is an ancient Byzantine Church with amazing acoustics and lighting. The whole atmosphere was both spiritual and eerie.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
A February match between Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş (our rival), where we were behind but rallied in the last half to tie the score.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Nothing beats fresh figs in the summer in Turkey!

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Jack Ryan

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Defiance (not new, but watched it on Netflix this year). It’s based on an incredible true story that I had never heard of before.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Moving half-way across the world and getting settled in DC!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
A toss-up between finding a small scorpion in my kitchen and witnessing burger restaurants giving their customers black gloves to wear while they eat. Weird.

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Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Baby Yoda.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Exploring DC!


Carter Hering, Operations Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“7 Rings” by Ariana Grande. Made me want to become more of a boss ass bitch.

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend. It hit all the notes for me. So great to listen to.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
CJ Chenier at City Winery. Amazing New Orleans jazz and it was so fun all around.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Nats winning the WORLD SERIES

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Proper Burger at Dukes Grocery was the best burger I had all year. Holy cow was it good. The frozen rum and coke at Tiki TNT. We all are aware of my love for Thrasher’s Rum. The spiced rum is just so good. Atlas Brewing Oktoberfest beer. Bad boy was so crisp and yummy.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Mindhunter was crazy good. Love the influence of David Fincher.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I mean Avengers: Endgame was just a freakin’ blast. Going to the theater on my off day and watching it at a 10 a.m. showing was great. Rocketman was/is better than Bohemian Rhapsody.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Moving twice [and] getting a job here, then getting a promotion here at Fray.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Zion broke his shoe.

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Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
“What it do babyyy,” 30-50 feral hogs.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Going on a vacation to Scandinavia, getting in shape, finding out who Mr. Sandman truly is, trying new beers, possibly going to a concert with M.K.


Erin Hessler, Senior Marketing Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Rollercoaster” by Jonas Brothers

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Heard It In A Past Life by Maggie Rogers. I saw her at All Things Go in 2018 and since then it’s been so fun watching her take the world by storm. I even bought it on cassette tape because I drive a really old car that can still play it!

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Kacey Musgraves’ Oh What A World tour. I saw it THREE times. First, at The Anthem in January, then at Red Rocks Amphitheater when I was on vacation in Colorado this summer, and finally at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the final night because Maggie Rogers was there with her for one night only. Golden Hour was the Grammy Album at the Year, I don’t feel like I need to explain much more.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Washington Nationals winning the World Series!

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
The Medium Rare sandwich at Nationals Park. The sauce!

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
The Good Place or Love Island UK.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Captain Marvel. I watch most of the new movies I see on airplanes and I think that one was my favorite one I remember seeing.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
I decided a few years ago to travel to at least one new country every year and this year I went to two! Mexico and Iceland. I also got to return to Canada.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Seeing the Washington Nationals win the World Series.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
The sentences that started with “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”

photo: knowyourmeme.com


Julia Goldberg, Graphic Designer

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Beiber.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!. The album provided comfort at the end of a long day. Also enjoy listening to it when i’m in the art zone // sketching and whatnot.

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Beck, at Merriweather was pretty exciting. First off, I grew up listening, so it was a real treat to see him live. Also, it was the dead middle of summer and there was a torrential downpour, so everyone was just toughing it out in the storm as Beck performed. It was awesome.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
I’m not a big sports person but the women’s soccer team winning the world cup was pretty exciting. Right up there with the Nats winning the World Series.

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Hm, this is a tough one. There is a local wine restaurant by me in Arlington called Verre Wine that my best friend and I tried after the movies. Hands down, best bruschetta I’ve had in my life. We almost ordered every kind on the menu, and there are a lot.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Big Little Lies.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I don’t really see movies, but I have a lot of catching up to do. Pretty sure I saw two movies this year in theaters, Hustlers and Ford vs. Ferrari. Both were pretty good, and based on true stories.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Probably moving out and living on my own. Jumping out of a plane was pretty cool too.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Cannot think of anything so I guess that means if something weird happened, it probably wasn’t that weird or I have a terrible memory…or I just live a very normal non-weird life.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
I’m gonna tell my kids…

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Something weird to happen.


Joe Jasper, Events Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
Tones & I – “Dance Monkey”

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Wasteland, Baby! by Hozier, because I waited five years for this album and it didn’t disappoint at all, every single song is amazing. A whole mood.

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Brockhampton at The Anthem. The crowd was amazing, it was not stop jumping from the second they came on until the second they left.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Nats winning the World Series!!! Or Manchester United beating Tottenham and Manchester City in the same week.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Some delicious wines at the DC Wine Walk!!!

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Sex Education or Russian Doll, both were amazing.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Avengers: Endgame was everything it had been hyped up to be for years, I also really enjoyed Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, because I was sitting on the edge of my seat for the whole movie and there was so much build for such an amazing climax, it was awesome.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Graduating college or starting to work at Fray!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Someone climbed in through my window while I was sleeping, that was weird.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
The meme about how Gen Z’s love stupid memes or “Oh God he’s wearing airpods”

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Getting older, wiser, and making new memories! Also a Kendrick Lamar album 🤞🤞🤞


Trent Johnson, Assistant Editor

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
I don’t know…F**k it, “Old Town Road.”

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Favorite: Atlanta Millionaires Club by Faye Webster // Least Favorite: Jesus Is King by Kanye West

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
My favorite teams are generally disappointing from a championship perspective. That being said, probably James Harden’s streak of 35+ point games, because all the haters on Twitter cried about it for months.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Kith/Kin at the Wharf. It was amazing because it tasted great; I’m not a food critic.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
The answer is probably still Game of Thrones, but the last season was trash. Justice for Dany and justice for Jon actually having speaking lines beyond a few phrases. A real shame for all parties involved.

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
I mean it’s Avengers: Endgame. I’m not sure any other movie has been that hyped or anticipated since Star Wars: Force Awakens in 2015. The build up was crazy, the payoff was crazy and it’s a three hour finale of one of the longest serialized stories in movie history. Not to mention the memes like Daddy Thanos and I Love You 3000.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
I hate questions like this because I don’t structure things in a yearly way, but I guess interviewing Kwame Onwuachi was a cool experience because it felt like he blew up on a national level like two months after we spoke. Also, talking to Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt fun for me because I love their moody music.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Probably talking about the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
I really like saying “twenty-twenty,” so probably that. Saying “twenty-nineteen” was a real hassle IMO.


M.K. Koszycki, Editorial Assistant

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“True Blue” by Mark Ronson feat. Angel Olsen. Sad music you can still dance to is kind of my thing.

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow. She’s an incredible human and musician and this whole record was beautiful and hopeful and all the best things. In a close second and third would be I Am Easy to Find by The National and Reward by Cate Le Bon.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Beach House’s homecoming show at The Hippodrome in Baltimore. The venue was ornate and formal and such a cool place to have a visually stunning dream pop show. Also Bombay Bicycle Club’s first post-hiatus DC show, and The National at The Anthem.

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
The US dominating at the Women’s World Cup, once again. On the subject of #girlpower, the Washington Mystics winning the title was cool to see. And how can I forget the Nats’ world series win? Still waiting on *someone* to get their curly W tattoo.

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
The Bee’s Knees cocktail at Bresca. Served in an actual bee-shaped glass. The most Instagrammable drink at the most Instagrammable restaurant that’s delicious to boot. I will also always love the chicken wings at Cafe Saint Ex. They’re the best.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Fleabag, the second best show to ever be on TV. It’s only second-best because Twin Peaks exists. Also Russian Doll on Netflix and season two of Big Little Lies because of Laura Dern and Laura Dern ONLY.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Midsommar. Absolutely terrifying but still, in my opinion, has a happy ending. The first 15 minutes will be seared into my brain for the rest of my life. I also adored High Life and Honey Boy.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Covering SXSW. It’s always been a dream of mine to go but I never thought I’d be able to cover it, too.

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Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
I finally met a baby goat in person. I love baby goats.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
BABY YODA. And Monique saying “I would like to see it.” There are many things I’d like to see so I say it ALL the time. Also “ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.”

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
All the new music that will be released and all the shows I’ll go to. I don’t know what they are yet but I’m already excited.


Travis LeFlore, Senior Staffing Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Goodbyes” – Post Malone (Young Thug)

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy…Outstanding album, best lyrical album this year.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Justin Timberlake’s Man of Woods Tour. Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC. First time seeing Justin in person, heck of a show!

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Coaching my first NCAA National Champion.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Godfather of Harlem.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Moving to DC, starting a new career, making it through first year of marriage.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Met my coworkers, Carter and Julian lol.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Jordan crying face.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
More Life!


Julian Makarechi, Player Services Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“I Said Me” – 2 Chainz

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Rap or Go to the League

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Electric Forrect Music Festival, Rothbury, Michigan. First 5 day camping festival. Phenominal

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Double Doink

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Pupusas at Gloria’s Pupuseria in Columbia Heights. First time eating them, so tasty.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Atypical

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Knives Out. It was simply a great mystery movie.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Got my first job! Yay!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
My mom (lives in Philly) has her own travel agency (check it out: DiscoverMyItaly.com!) that hosts tours in different parts of Italy and creates individual itineraries. By chance Carter’s parents (live in NC) were on my mom’s tour in Italy. None of us had any idea until our parent’s were talking about their children and it came up that both of them have kids who work at DC Fray.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Peloton Girl.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Trip To Italy


Kayla Marsh, Digital & Advertising Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
All My Favorite People by Maren Morris (feat. Brothers Osborne)

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
GIRL by Maren Morris because it was so empowering and inspiring with a hint of fun and flirtiness! What I aim to be ;)

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Brothers Osborne at The Anthem! It felt like an epic rock concert but in such an intimate space, I really connected with the artists throughout the entire show! Also – Kenny Chesney at The Anthem because I actually got there early and had a great spot in the crowd to actually see Kenny perform up-close.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
2019 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS BABY

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
I visited Ramen by Uzu quite a few times this year in Union Market. All hail the miso ramen, the perfect rainy day comfort food.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Dead To Me! Brilliant acting by Christina Applegate (who got a Golden Globe nom for it) and overall great dark humor for the witchy soul.

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Toy Story 4 – this year a beloved new animated character was born. “FORKY” This one, like the other three, really tugged on my heartstrings.

Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Getting approved for an AWESOME apartment in Alexandria that’s closer to work.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Got my car window smashed only for a thief to steal my whole makeup bag.

Favorite meme that ruled the internet this year?
All things Baby Yoda of course.

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Hitting the basketball courts with the Fray squad – it’s been a while!


Tom Roth, Senior Sales Executive

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“You need to Calm Down” – Taylor Swift

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
Whatever Taylor Swift Album that came from.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Kenny Chesney at The Anthem b/c it was the only concert I went to.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Nats winning the World Series and there wasn’t a close second.

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Succession, an amazing show. My favorite by far. True Detective, Big Little Lies, Dead to Me were all okay but not great.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Keeping my kids alive and happy. Winning multiple adult basketball leagues.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Robert bought our company and brought us down [editor’s note: up?] to DC. But it’s all working out for the best.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
The ladies yelling at the cat thing.

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Health, happiness, and lots of time with family and friends. And vacations to St. Johns, Cancun & Cape Cod.


Alison Schrank, JAX City Commissioner

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
Honestly my hype song for awhile was Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.”

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Lil Wayne and Blink 182 at Daily’s Amphitheater. Everyone was unsure if Lil Wayne was going to show up because he had missed several other shows on the tour and after like 10 mins of just his band playing, he finally came out and I was completely surprised. I typically don’t listen to much rap music, but I went to a Lil Wayne concert in college so there was some nostalgia along with it as well. We also were in the pit and made it up to the second row and the environment was just so fun down there.

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Favorite 2019 sports moment?
USWNT winning the world cup!

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
I don’t know how to pick a best one. I love eating and drinking.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Game of Thrones, Shameless, Broad City, Schitt’s Creek

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Bought a house! Turned 30 (It was a big moment in my year haha)

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Honestly, how does one choose?

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
More vacations to new places!

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Kristen Sargent, Culture Contractor

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Higher Love”– Kygo, Whitney Houston. Cover of the 1986 classic, celebrated its 33rd anniversary in Jun 2019.

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
People still listen to whole albums? OMG, I’m the worst. I listen to whatever playlist Spotify recommends for me.

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
The NightOwls at Icenhauers in Austin, TX. Local cover band, SUPER high energy. They play every Sunday afternoon. Cool back yard/ back porch vibe. Everyone drinks sangria from mason jars. If you’re ever visiting Austin on a weekend, you’ve got to celebrate on Sunday afternoon with them!

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Kona Ironman Triathlon – World Championship

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Stranger Things and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Free Solo, brought so much public awareness to vanlife and rock climbing, two things very much a part of my life. It’s cool to hear people say “oh you have a van like that guy in Free Solo?”…the movie gave people a window in to my world. So cool!

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Completing my well-being and career coaching certifications.

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Campervanning trips around Maui Hawaii and South Island New Zealand!

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Katie Seaman, Events and Promotions Coordinator

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
“Movement” – Hozier

What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
The Big Day – Chance the Rapper. SO many great collabs – Ben Gibbard? C’mon!

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Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
“Come Through” at the Kennedy Center with TU Dance and Bon Iver. So moving. The dance and the music together was seriously incredible. I had a steady stream of tears the entire time.

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
WORLD SERIES WIN! Duh. It felt like my first time truly experiencing fandom.

Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
LUCKY BUNS. Everything they introduce is incredible. I am such a huge fan and I never shut up about it. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2020. EXTRA PUMPED FOR THE UNION MARKET POP-UP!!!

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What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
Schitt’s Creek!

Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
Midsommar was so good! Also, I loved/ still love Bird Box.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Running into the DC Fray/ On Tap merger HEAD ON!

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
Traumatic experience at an *unnamed* local venue.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
Two words: Baby.Yoda. *sips bone broth*

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Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
SO excited for a new decade of growth and memories! Cheers y’all!


Anthony Towey, Head of Media Operations

What song released in 2019 defined your year?
Off the top of my head, I literally can’t name a song released this year besides “Baby Shark” (if that was even this year)

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What was your favorite album of 2019 and why?
See above 🤷🏻‍♂️

Best concert you attended this year? What was the venue? Why was it great?
Eric Church…first time seeing him since he’s been famous and first time ever going to The Anthem!

Favorite 2019 sports moment?
Mystics winning the title! Just kidding. Watching Lamar Jackson break the NFL every single game he plays.

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Best *local* thing you ate or drank this year? Where did you have it? Why was it amazing?
Harissa Carrots from Maydan. As someone who loves meat, it’s amazing how good these were. In the month long wait for our reservation, I never expected to walk out of dinner with a veggie being the most memorable thing I ate.

What was the most binge-worthy season of TV released this year, in your humble opinion?
I binge watch TV about as much as I listen to new music. The only show I binged watched this year was Succession, which came out in 2018 so maybe next year I’ll have a 2019 answer for you.

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Any favorite movies? Why does that movie stand out to you?
The Irishman. Great cast, story and all-around film that actually lived up to the hype. Also the Lion King because it’s my all-time favorite Disney movie.

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Biggest personal accomplishment of 2019?
Getting engaged! Also winning my first ever tournaments on DraftKings and FanDuel.

Weirdest thing that happened to you this year?
When we visited Madrid we unknowingly went on Day of Madrid (their Independence Day) so it was very cool being in the city for military parades and the other celebrations, but weird because it was completely unexpected by us and many of the local places we hoped to eat at were closed for the holiday.

Favorite meme that ruled the Internet this year?
I’ll get back to you on memes as soon as I figure out my favorite song and TV show

Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020 you’d like to share?
Very excited about my wedding in Cancun in December as well as continuing to up my game as a fantasy sports player!

Harrison Bryan as Christopher // Photo: C. Stanley Photography

Round House Theatre’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time” Highlights Neurodiversity

The expression is “walk a mile in someone’s shoes,” but wouldn’t it be easier to just to take a peek inside of their mind? That’s what Round House Theatre seeks in their production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Based on the best selling book of the same name, the play allows audiences to see inside the mind of Christopher Boone. This coming of age story about a 15-year-old boy on the autism spectrum comes to life with stunning visuals and graphics.

Christopher is extremely smart and enjoys math (or maths as they say in England, where the play takes place,) video games, his pet rat Toby and being a detective. He doesn’t like figures of speech, being touched or strangers. When accused of killing his next-door neighbor’s dog, his curious nature comes in handy. Despite his father telling him to stop snooping, Christopher discovers that this case is much bigger than he thought. 

Christopher’s story is not one that’s often portrayed on stage. Representing the neurodiverse community was not a responsibility that Ryan Rilette took lightly. As Round House Theatre’s artistic director and co-director of the play, he wanted to portray Christopher as an accurate depiction of a person on the spectrum but also show that Christopher’s story is only one of many. 

“As we started to work on it, and with every play that we do, we try to figure out what is the community surrounding that play?” he says. “What is the right audience for the play? And more importantly, who do we need in the rehearsal room to help us tell the story? In this case, it was very important to us to make sure we had teens, as well as adults on the spectrum who could give us their feedback on the play.” 

“Throughout the whole building, one of the things you’ll see is that we’ve said over and over again the phrase ‘If you’ve met one person on the spectrum, you’ve met one person on the spectrum.’ So, we have art by other people on the spectrum that is upstairs, as part of a partnership with Visarts, and clings in the windows downstairs.”

Round House’s production of the play is unique from the Broadway or West End shows in the way that media is used. While known for its projections and high sensory lights, videos and sounds, Rilette and co-director Jared Mezzocchi didn’t want to overwhelm the audience as the original production attempted to do. 

Christopher is highly sensitive to touch and sounds. To address Christopher’s sensory processing disorder, something all people on the spectrum suffer from, Rilette used red scribbles or what he calls “billows” projected on the stage to visualize what it would look like if Christopher were to be yelled at or touched. 

The characters love of computer games is also used to visualize aspects of the script. At one point the giant clear screen, serving as the background for most of the projections, becomes a game of “Tetris.” A scene where Christopher is recounting his day could be seen as mundane but is transformed into a hilarious monologue in which Christopher is a Mario-like video game character. 

“We started to go, well he’s also a gamer. There’s a scene where he’s playing ‘Tetris’ and talks about computer games and his dad says ‘you like those.’ So we thought, given that he’s a computer gamer, what if we used first-person video games as a way to show some of these ideas. What if it’s just like he’s in his own video game inside his head, which can also help with the way in which the play jumps around in time.” 

Under the direction of Rilette and Mezzocchi, actor Harrison Bryan adapted the way in which he portrayed Christopher. He focused more on who the character is as a person. Playing Christopher the second time around at the regional level, Bryan’s portrayal was humorous, passionate and showed the many multitudes of Christopher’s personality. 

The Curious Incident may not  be typically thought of as a holiday show. There is no Santa or Christmas magic. However, the play’s ability to create empathy for its characters and appeal to audience members of all ages and abilities makes it a must-see show this season. Not only does it inspire the encouragement of others but also belief in your own abilities. At the end of his journey, Christopher asks: “Does that mean I can do anything?”       

“Some people who are neurotypical, who have not dealt with neurodiverse people before, can look at them like they’re damaged. They see the disability and not the ability. I feel like the beautiful thing about what we’ve done is we’ve shown how incredibly creative and rich Christopher’s inner life is.” Rilette says. “So, I would hope that [ the audience] would go away and look at other people who are not neurotypical like they are and see them in a different way. I hope neurodiverse audiences come in and can enjoy the show and say “That’s not exactly me because everyone is different, but I believe that this is a neurodiverse person. This is an interesting person that I see parts of myself in.”   

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs until December 22. For tickets or more information, visit here.

Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; 240.644.1100; www.roundhousetheatre.org

Photo: Little Fang Photography

Machine Dazzle Puts Artistic Twist On Holiday Sauce Costumes

Being the decorator of a bonafide genius isn’t for the faint at heart. At least that’s what I imagine when considering the dynamics between Machine Dazzle and MacArthur Fellowship, unofficially known as the Genius Grant, recipient Taylor Mac, known for his genre-bending drag performances. 

Just weeks before their Holiday Sauce performance at the Kennedy Center on December 12, I spoke with Dazzle, Matthew Flower, responsible for envisioning award-winning masterpieces and costumes worn by Mac onstage, and by Diane von Fürstenberg and Cara Delevingne at the 2019 Met Gala.  

The holiday-themed performance is set to feature Mac upending traditional Christmas expectations with Dazzle, music director Matt Ray, a band of eight and NPR’s Ari Shapiro.

In the lead up to this week’s show, Machine Dazzle is the definition of booked and busy.

“I don’t have time to have goals because I’m already busy,” he says laughing.

Between shows at the Guggenheim and on tour with Taylor Mac, and a host of other engagements, time for him is truly a priceless commodity.    

Fortunately, while on location at Harvard University, co-directing and creating costumes for a queer cabaret show featuring six students who provide commentary on Harvard politics, I’m given time to hear of the artist’s thoughts on the holidays, why Holiday Sauce is a must-see and how Dazzle’s design style distinguishes from contemporaries. 

On Tap: How do you select your projects?
Machine Dazzle: Any opportunity to exercise the brain is good. I appreciate a challenge and I love meeting all these interesting people along the way and doing a project like this at Harvard allows me to do all those things. I am a yes person; I will always say yes. Unless I’ve worked with someone before and it just wasn’t great. I love new adventures and new people, but the job must be interesting and challenging. I need to be able to do what I want to do. I can’t have anyone who’s too precious about anything. There needs to be room for a layer of art, that may or may not necessarily exist in the script. 

OT: What’s novel or special about your contribution to the production on which you collaborate?
MD: I’m an artist in the realm of costume designers. What designers don’t really have is an agenda, they don’t necessarily have a story to tell. They are visual; they are engineers. An artist takes it further and tells a story and makes some social commentary. In other words, no one can tell me how to do my art. You can tell someone to make something for Bob’s character, but I bring a layer of art to the production.

OT: How do you explain the success behind your partnership with Taylor Mac?
MD: Taylor lets me do whatever I want. Never once has he told me what to do. He trusts me to bring something interesting to the table. A lot of people really love his costumes and that’s thanks to me, and thanks to him for letting me make my work. 

OT: What did Taylor Mac say when bringing Holiday Sauce to you?
MD: The first year, Taylor Mac came to me and said we’re doing a holiday show and we need two costumes. I knew that I wanted to distinguish these costumes from other costumes I’d made for [Mac] in other productions. I definitely wanted them to have a holiday flare, or my take on holiday. So, the first thing I thought of when thinking of the holiday was naughty and nice. I made one costume that was very naughty, and I made one that was kind of nice. DC’s show is different from the past two years, though, because he’s wearing four costumes this time. In addition to the other looks, I thought of two faces of the kitchen, one where you’re in the kitchen baking cookies, the other outside in a winter wonderland. 

OT: Are the holidays a special time for you?
MD: My birthday is during the holidays, it’s December 30.  People would always say, “Oh, no! You got cheated!” But they had it all wrong. When I was a child maybe it felt like that, but the truth is it’s the best time of year to have a birthday because everybody is in celebration mode. It’s a beautiful time of year to do anything. I’m not a religious person, I don’t believe in God. I believe the god is the self, the highest self-possible. We have the universe we have each other, we have microcosm and we have macrocosm. I believe in the winter solstice. I believe in the changing seasons. In the darkest day of the year, which lends itself to the season of giving, when people are in need. That’s what I think about during the holidays. [However] I love certain rituals and traditions. I love the decorated tree, I love leaves, I love lights, I love caroling, I love the onslaught of winter and preparing for the next year. It’s a really great time of year to have a party!

OT: What’s makes Holiday Sauce different from other seasonal productions?
Machine Dazzle: We keep building the show, every time we tour, we make it bigger and better. Plus, we’re bringing it to cities that we’ve never been to before. No one in DC has seen it before. There’s a choir in it and we want the choir to get bigger. I want the scenic elements to get bigger. The costumes are going to change and get bigger and better. It’s going to be more of an extravaganza. 

OT: What’s the secret sauce that has your audience or following growing with each additional year?
Machine Dazzle: You just have to keep coming back to see. It’s like the people who go to see the [Radio City] Rockettes show every year. It’s not that different every year. But you still go. They do it every year and people live for it. And if you can go and look at that every f**king year you can go to our show which is actually changing and getting better. 

Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce is showing at the Kennedy Center in the Opera House on December 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39-$129 and here.

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

Madeline Rothman // Photo: In His Eye Photography

District Clay Center Provides Holiday Shoppers With Pottery Bonanza

During the holiday shopping season, do you ever stop and think about who created the items you’re purchasing? Over the weekend, District Clay Center held its holiday pottery sale, where local ceramic artists displayed their handmade wares. Beautiful vases, delicate ornaments, earrings and necklaces, just to name a few, were for sale. With each artist showcasing their own unique style, there was definitely something for everyone on your shopping list. 

I had the chance to meet and chat with one of the artists at the event, Madeline Rothman. She is one (of three) of the Artists In Residence at District Clay Center. The Artist in Residence Program is year long, and gives the artists a stipend, studio space, clay to create and a solo exhibition at the end of her year.

Rothman, a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, says of her experience at District Clay, “The studio is sort of run by the people who use it, which is unique. There is a lot of trust and respect within all of the artists to make sure everything is getting done and running smoothly. This is the kind of environment that clay requires and is also why I love it so much.” 

“The community is so accepting and supportive.”

The space definitely has a warm familial feel to it. The holiday sale was my first time visiting District Clay, but I truly felt right at home. You could definitely sense the feeling of community, as fellow artists mingled and shared laughs as they set up their tables. As I walked around and explored the plentiful goods for sale, I was really happy to see such a diversity in style and goods at an excellent price point.

When I stopped by Rothman’s table, among her gorgeous, larger pieces of colorful pottery for sale, there was a section of equally beautiful espresso cups (or shot glasses… pick your poison) for sale, with proceeds from those directly benefiting District Clay’s nonprofit program Community Clay. 

“I have been teaching as well as trying to raise money to grow our program and hopefully be able to give even more students an opportunity to learn and make art,” she says. “It is extremely rewarding after a class ends [and] how excited the students are to return.”

The District Clay Center partnered with ArtReach GW (George Washington University) to create a free clay class for children in the Southeast part of DC. The classes are held at THEARC: Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus.

“A lot of these students in Ward 7 and Ward 8 neighborhoods don’t have access to many art opportunities, especially with clay.”

Naturally, I took a couple home with me, as well as some other incredible goods from the local artists at District Clay. As I headed home, I was filled with joy at the knowledge of how my holiday purchases would directly benefit my local community. That to me is the pinnacle of the holiday spirit.

For more information about District Clay Center and its future events, visit here. To see a gallery of the event, click here.

District Clay Center: 2414 Douglas St. NE, DC; www.districtclaycenter.com

District Clay Center Holiday Sale

The annual District Clay Center Holiday Pottery Sale was a two-day event featuring art by local artists. Photos: In His Eye Photography

Paintings by Christine Olmstead on display at Latela Curatorial // Photo: Sloane Dakota Tucker

Five Art Destinations Changing DC’s Creative Scene

Looking for some new or unique places to experience art in the District? Check out our picks for where to enjoy DC’s thriving arts scene, from galleries and pop-ups to programs and workshops.

Latela Curatorial Explores New Spaces

Latela Curatorial is an art consultancy with a focus on women artists and the feminine aesthetic. While they’ve held exhibitions of artists’ work at their Brookland studio and office since 2015, they’re transitioning into installing work in larger spaces and finding ways to bring local creatives and their visions to big projects.

“We’ve been refining where we want our projects to go from here on out, focusing on that feminine, delicate, vulnerable, energy-transcending type of narrative from a female artist perspective,” says founder and director Marta Staudinger.

The Brookland-based space just celebrated a successful showing at Superfine Art Fair, and Staudinger and her team are now thinking of ways to build on that energy.

“We introduced several local female artists [at Superfine],” she continues. “Where my interest for 2020 lies is in proposing that booth [at Superfine] as a teaser for a much bigger exhibition that we could do [where we] work with larger institutions.”

Check out Latela’s website to learn more about its artists, exhibitions, and procurement and installation work, and peek your head into the new Avec apartment building on H Street soon for a glimpse of Latela artists’ work.

“We’re super excited to do procurement on that scale,” Staudinger adds of the residential art project. “Nothing is mass-produced. It’s all original art.”

Latela Curatorial is providing spaces all over DC with artwork that’s more than just beautiful – it resonates.

716 Monroe St. #27, NE, DC; www.latelacuratorial.com

The Omi Collective’s Hydrated Womxn Pop-Up

The DC Arts Walk and Edgewood Arts Center is hosting “Hydrated Womxn,” an interactive media exhibition, healing arts residency and holiday bazaar curated by the Omi Collective on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through December 22. The central idea is to create a space at the Brookland location where people can relax and recharge while surrounded by creativity.

“We’re challenging people to think about what nourishes them,” says Omi Collective Curator and Creative Director Sanam Emami. “Someone can come in during art lounge hours and step into our joy.”

Resident artists are multidisciplinary, communicating through art, poetry, music and more. Each weekend will explore a different theme with events, performances and workshops meant to leave attendees feeling inspired, centered and creatively hydrated – alongside thoughtfully curated offerings for sale from local artists.

“It’s about the process, not the product,” Emami says.

EWBA Store, Brookland Arts Walk: 716 Monroe St. Studio 1, NE, DC; www.theomicollective.com

Hemphill Fine Arts Moves to K Street

Hemphill has been an integral part of the art community in DC since opening in 1993, and has built a reputation for working with collectors and art aficionados of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. The gallery represents a variety of contemporary artists working in sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, with recent exhibitions from Julie Wolfe, Hedieh Javanshir, Rushern Baker IV and James Britton.

Now, the gallery is preparing for a big move in January. Director Mary Early says the move “is a dramatic change from our space of the last 15 years on 14th Street in Logan Circle, where we were located on the third floor of a historic building.”

“That location required a little extra from visitors,” she says. “The effort to seek out and find us, the desire to pursue.”

But the new space in Mount Vernon Square brings unique opportunities for visitors to become familiar with Hemphill artists.

“The move to K Street comes full circle to our beginnings in Georgetown in 1993, bringing us back to a first-floor space in a rapidly evolving neighborhood.”

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition will be Linling Lu’s third solo show with the gallery. Hemphill will soon be bringing visitors old and new to its home on K Street.

“We’re looking forward to getting to know our new downtown neighborhood,” Early adds.

434 K St. NW, DC; www.hemphillfinearts.com

Femme Fatale’s New Pop-Up

Femme Fatale is fast becoming a DC fixture as a pop-up showcasing women artists and entrepreneurs. Visitors can expect to find a trove of jewelry, art, prints, clothing and more. CEO Cee Smith says that Femme Fatale is starting to settle into its role in DC’s creative scene.

“We’re definitely still in startup mode, but we’ve had a chance to assess the value that Femme Fatale brings to different communities,” she says.

Femme Fatale has become well-known for its events – from craft workshops to networking parties – and for its bright and welcoming aesthetic.

“We’ve always been this hub for women not only to gather, but to learn from each other,” says Femme Fatale’s owner and jewelry designer Adriana Mendoza.

Now, Femme Fatale is taking on a more “structured type of template to create a real incubator space for women,” she says.

You’d never know that just a few weeks ago, the new pop-up was a gutted restaurant. Art is everywhere: murals, paintings behind the counter, and jewelry, accessories and textile designs for sale in the shop.

Artists are “the secret sauce of the experience of Femme Fatale,” Smith says. Her team prioritizes supporting a wide range of local creatives and especially “those who might just be starting out or who haven’t really had their voice heard,” Mendoza adds. In other words, Femme Fatale provides a great opportunity to find a unique local piece you might not see anywhere else.

401 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.femmefataledc.com

The Torpedo Factory Celebrates 45 Years

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is an icon of Old Town Alexandria. This year, it celebrated 45 years as an art institution with studios, galleries, classes taught by the Art League School, events and more.

“One of the biggest changes since the Torpedo Factory was founded is how much Old Town and the waterfront has changed,” says director Brett Johnson. “It’s become a vibrant and exciting destination, and it’s been great that the art center was a part of that change.”

Looking ahead, the art center is finding more ways to engage with the community and bring more visitors within its walls.

“City council has tasked staff to create a vibrancy and sustainability plan for the art center,” Johnson adds. “We are seeking to create an even more interactive space than what we already provide with new, hands-on experiences.”

That means everything from well-loved programs like Art Safari to newer ones like Factory Flow morning yoga, as well as seasonal events like the Holiday Market and Olde Year’s Day. On December 13, the art center will look back on the first five years of its post-grad residency program, which supports recent art grads with studio space and presentation opportunities.

105 N Union St. Alexandria, VA; www.torpedofactory.org

Globe Electric tattoo // Photo: Jeff Marsala

District Ink: A Comprehensive Guide To DC Tattoo Shops

Tattoo artists in the District are in tune with the city’s vibrant culture and can transform you into a walking canvas. While there are plenty of shops in neighboring NoVA and MoCo, this list keeps it local and sticks exclusively to the District. No matter what quadrant you’re in, there’s a talented tattoo artist near you. Read on to learn more about DC’s tattoo shops and where to get your next one-of-a-kind design.

Blui Dyimond Ink Tattoo and Piercing Studio

Blui Dyimond Ink Tattoo and Piercing Studio makes tattooing accessible by traveling to your location in the District with their unique mobile shop. Artists Money-Moe and Ty create tattoos
that reflect each customer’s personality. 4341 4th St. SE, DC; www.bluidyimondink.wixsite.com/bluidyimondink

Electric Cat Scratch Tattoos

The staff at this Shaw-based shop helps customers set realistic goals and manage expectations for the tattooing process. Customers have the option to review portfolios and choose which artist best embodies their personal taste. Check out our interview with co-owner Sarah Fendlay in this issue for the inside scoop on what makes this shop rad. 505 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.ecstattoos.com

Embassy Tattoos

Embassy’s five talented artists can accommodate any style their customers desire including traditional, realistic, Japanese and tribal. They also offer coverups and tattoo removal services. The AdMo shop’s credo is simple: we let our work speak for itself. 1762 Columbia Rd. NW, DC; www.embassytattoo.com

Fatty’s Tattoos & Piercings

Fatty’s shop walls in Dupont Circle and on H Street are decorated with original artwork by their tattoo artists. Those looking for custom art on demand will appreciate the time that these artists put into consultations. With each portfolio conveniently posted on the shop’s website, customers can choose between artistic styles with ease. 1333 Connecticut Ave. third floor, NW, DC and 516 H St. NE, DC; www.fattystattoos.com

FHK Studios

Shop owner Osei K is the talent behind FHK, specializing in vivid, one-of-a-kind freehand designs. Located near Takoma, FHK places an emphasis on the history of tattooing and describes the art as “an ancient [ritual] turned into a modern-day aesthetic” on their website. 7410 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.freehandking.com 

Freaky Needles

Freaky Needles shop owner Nagi has been tattooing DC residents since 2009, offering a variety of services from portraits to lettering. He’s known for his attention to detail and ability to transform unwanted tattoos into new works of art at his Northeast DC shop. 2210 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; follow on Instagram @freakyneedles

Globe Electric Tattoo

Stunning color tattoos and precise designs characterize Globe Electric Tattoo in Petworth. As co-owners, artist Susan Behney-Doyle provides her customers with clean linework, and Eric Doyle is skilled in Japanese-inspired tattoos. 3821 14th St. Unit C, NW, DC, www.globetattoodc.com 

Highland Ink

Sloppy linework and illegible script tattoos are nightmares that can make tattoo enthusiasts think twice about their design of choice, but Georgetown’s Highland Ink is well-known for having capable artists. In fact, customers often shout out shop owner Susie Floyd for her impeccable fonts. This shop also offers microblading, if permanent makeup is more your thing. 1647 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.highlandink.us 

Hyena Tattoo

There are several artists to choose from at Hyena including Dr. Z, who specializes in geometric designs and fine lines. The Mount Pleasant spot’s laidback vibe puts customers at ease as they work with artists to create their dream designs. 1454 Park Rd. NW, DC; www.hyenatattoos.com 

Jinx Proof Tattoos

Jinx Proof is the oldest shop in DC, and patrons note artists Tim Corun’s precision and Tad Peyton’s professionalism. In addition to the Georgetown shop’s eight resident tattoo artists, Jinx often hosts internationally known guest artists. 3285 1/2, M St. NW, DC; www.jinxprooftattoos.com 

Piercing Connect & Tattoos

Offering daily deals like tiny tattoos for $30, Piercing Connect & Tattoos is a great shop if you’re on a budget. Located by Howard University, it’s a go-to for college students. 2851 Georgia Ave. NW, DC;
follow on Instagram @piercingconnectandtattoos

Tattoo Paradise

Walking into a tattoo establishment can feel intimidating, but the staff at Tattoo Paradise in Adams Morgan is welcoming and accommodating. Artist portfolios include top-quality traditional tattoos, so if you’re looking for old-school designs and stark outlines, this spot could be your best option. 2444 18th St. NW, DC; www.tattooparadisedc.com