Photo: Erica Lauren

Chris Farren Brings Bombastic, Dark Pop Songs To Songbyrd

Chris Farren likes playing with people’s expectations, whether it’s at a live show or on social media. He titled his new album, the riotously fun, Born Hot, which features a self-portrait of himself in a topless, 1980s action star “come hither” pose. But listen to the songs on the album like “Search 4 Me” or a track like “Songs For Teenagers” – which he wrote with his first band, Fake Problems – and the seductively sunny melodies give way to existential yearning and choking melancholy. This constant dance is the balance between levity and gravity; joy and pain; light and dark, that make Farren such a captivating songwriter and performer.

He’s been on the road for 14 years now between his solo career, Fake Problems and the beloved Antarctigo Vespucci, which he co-leads with Jeff Rosenstock. He is bringing all of that experience on the road to Songbyrd Music House on February 3. We caught up with him on the road in January, between shows in Chicago and Michigan, to talk about his love for pop music, touring solo and the hilarious crime of using backing tracks at a rock concert.

On Tap: It seems like you’ve always had this pop and punk-ish sound going throughout your music. What about that sound resonates so strongly with you?
Chris Farren: I’ve just always been writing pop songs. I was just obsessed with good pop songwriting. I love the 60s girl groups and stuff like that. I’ve always gravitated toward more pop music because I find it to be, sometimes it just feels like it’s the best to convey an emotion, for me at least.

OT: I’m glad you brought up the girl groups because a parallel I see in your work is that your music is very earnest and bright and happy, but also there’s darkness and melancholy.
CF: Yeah, I’ve always really liked that juxtaposition in music in general. That’s how a lot of things are or that’s how a lot of people are. A lot of people can be sunny and bright on the outside, but not feel very good on the inside.

OT: Do you feel like that’s something your audience picks up on?
CF: I do. I think the people who truly get what I’m doing definitely pick that up. I think maybe a casual listener might not understand that or might not pick that up or might think my whole thing about “being great” – they might take that at face value. But I think once you dig maybe just a little deeper you get the picture of what I’m trying to do.

OT: And when you’re playing live on this tour – including in DC – you are actually playing solo just you onstage right?
CF: I play alone onstage. I play to backing tracks and I have a lot of visuals and I have a synthesizer.

OT: Is it easier to tour like that as an independent musician or is there something freeing you find by doing that?
CF: It is technically easier to tour like that in some ways. In some ways it’s actually very difficult. It’s definitely not a placeholder for something else; like it’s definitely the thing I want to be doing. I have Antarctigo Vespucci, which is kind of like the band I can be in and I get my ya-yas out in that way. And then doing my Chris Farren stuff, like this is just exciting to me. I’m sure there are people who do a version of what I do or I’m doing a version of what they do but it’s something I rarely see, especially in our community. It’s kind of exciting to have a unique thing. And it’s really exciting to be able to figure out how to do all the stuff that I do onstage, because I’m not really a naturally technical person. I’m not really a natural anything, honestly! It takes a lot of effort and work to figure out how to sync up visuals to my backing tracks or how to even make backing tracks. I don’t necessarily have a brain for that kind of thing, but I wanted to do it and I think that drive to want to do it forced me to figure out how to do it.

OT: What was the drive for you to want to do it?
CF: Just to kind of do something a little different. When I started playing under my own name I was playing acoustic and I did that for maybe a year. I just felt bored with myself. I didn’t think – I didn’t feel like I was thriving in that kind of setup. Obviously, there’s a lot people who can do that very well and I think I was ok at it, but I just knew it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing. I wanted to do something that was more bombastic and filled up the room more with light and sound.

OT: To take it back to the girl groups: you had to figure out how to be your own Phil Spector.
CF: That’s right; without murdering anybody.

OT: Well, yes, yes.
CF: [Laughs.]

OT: And going back to what you were saying about standing out: It feels pretty sacrosanct in any kind of rock community to even mention the phrase “backing tracks.”
CF: I know, I love it!

OT: That’s what those big, sell-out pop stars do!
CF: I know, it’s great! It’s funny. I definitely – I can sense, like if I’m opening for somebody, like if it’s not my crowd, I can sense that there is a little bit of that thought. But by the end I have obliterated it. For the most part. I think.

See Chris Farren at Songbyrd Music House on Monday, February 3. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $13-$15. For more info on the show, visit here.

Sonbyrd Music House: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; 202-450-2917; www.songbyrddc.com

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Next To Normal Anything But Normal At Kennedy Center

DC theatergoers are in for a real treat as the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, Next to Normal, visited the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, bringing a tale of how mental illness takes a toll on a suburban family.

With the original Broadway director, Michael Greif, taking the helm in this inspiring and informative tear-jerking production, onlookers are sure to feel admonished at the deadly cycle of depression.

Leading the all-star six-person ensemble is Emmy and Tony Award nominee Brandon Victor Dixon (Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, Shuffle Along) as Dan and Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones (Dear Evan Hansen) as Diana.

Dixon personifies a grief-stricken father whose avoidance tactics prove detrimental to his family. However, as the all-American Dad, he uses his broad register to capture audiences in a musical spell.

Jones delivers an illustrious vocal performance most comparable to Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in Grease mixed with Stevie Nicks, showcasing a dynamic range from whimsical ballads to heartfelt songs during her character’s spurts of mania.  

Dan and Diana have been married for more than 16 years and have battled varying degrees of mental illness within their family. Though their time together is riddled with trauma, their love nearly trounces every setback.

The couple is an eccentric and quirky pair that uses coarse language that proves refreshingly candor. Continuous sexual innuendos, some quite literal, are expressed creating a necessitated comedic cloud of relief.

Set to contemporary music, Next to Normal is fresh, daring and required viewing. Similar to that of the Broadway hit RENT (also directed by Greif), this performance splendidly uses ballads and rock music to hone the dark truths of psychosis.

Several elements are done right, beyond the perfectly executed score and vocal prowess. But I must say, the five-member band, optimally positioned behind the two-level scaffolding, will cause you to leave the theater exhausted from the excessive foot patting, body-rocking music that earned the Tony Award for Best Original Score.

Filled with a multitude of timely social themes, Brian Yorkey’s masterpiece will have you questioning your stance on how to best treat patients coping with bipolar disorder and more.

Several avenues are considered to offset the symptoms brought on by trauma but at what cost? Big pharma, shock therapy and hypnotherapy are all referenced during the nearly 2 hour and 20 min production, all introducing another layer of complexity to an already crowded experience.

As Diana visit with her doctor, a cascade of pills is administered to counteract the constant cycle of depression and anxiety. To no surprise, this path to healing is quite turbulent, which marks a downward spiral leading to rock-bottom, where only enlightenment can be gained with hope for a better tomorrow.

To best prepare for the emotional journey that is Next to Normal, pack some tissue. Between the music, artistic emoting and the general plot, sniffling will surely be uncontrollable during this viewing experience. 

Next to Normal is showing through Monday February 3 at the Kennedy Center. Tickets are $79-$189 and can be purchased here.

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

Holly Twyford as Williamina, Laura C. Harris as Henrietta and Nora Achrati as Annie // Photo: Scott Suchman

Ford’s Theatre Explores Leavitt Sisters In Silent Sky

Since January 24, Ford’s Theatre has carried the baton of diverse art with feminist American milestone Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson.

Illuminating and reversing the extensively egregious track record of marginalized people playing significant roles in scientific discoveries (as well as many other disciplines), while receiving little credit nor accolade is a well-fitted practice in this historic theatrical space. 

Set just a decade after the turn of the 20th century, as women successfully demand to exercise their right to vote, Gunderson explores the sisterhood of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt and musician Margaret Leavitt; where the dichotomy of science and religion, and science and art conflict and agree, building the foundation for this partially fictional, yet historical tale.

Seema Sueko is taxed with coxswaining this drama mere months after directing, The Right to be Forgotten at Arena Stage. Sueko debuts at Ford’s Theatre with source material The San Francisco Chronicle deems, “sheer magic.”

“I grew up on the Hawaiian Islands,” Sueko shares in a Ford’s Theatre blog post, recalling her connection to this project and her motivation to tell an authentic story. “From a young age, I learned about Polynesians looking to the stars to navigate the oceans.”

This fact is widely unknown to most Americans, similar to that of the work and impact of Henrietta. However, while unfamiliar, the added knowledge is quite invaluable when considering how it enhances our understanding of the cosmos. So much, that to raise awareness of Henrietta’s work and to inspire future women scientists, former president Barrack Obama, during his last term, released a short video praising the astronomer.

For knowledge sake, Henrietta’s work in the Harvard Observatory was nothing short of groundbreaking. After discovering 2,400 new variable stars, “Leavitt’s Law” was formed, enabling future scientists to measure the distance between galaxies and map the Milky Way and so much more.

Silent Sky effortlessly transcends time, Sueko explains, “all plays exist in the period they’re set, in the time it was written, as well as in the time we produce it, and that’s fantastic.”

Though a fictional account, Gunderson’s work considers the various encounters most plausible for the period, giving new breath to an old world. 

“What Gunderson is able to do in the play is take us back to a period over 100 years ago, but from a modern point of view. It feels very accessible,” says Laura C. Harris, who plays Henrietta in the forthcoming play.

Plagued by a patriarchal misogynistic society, Henrietta’s road to discovery was littered with countless obstacles. Nevertheless, her determination to learn and work prevailed.

Gunderson has conceived a narrative where theatergoers can attest to the gender inequities lived by Henrietta, and subconsciously see  how prevalent they are today.

In an interview with the Austin Playhouse in Austin, Texas, Gunderson expressed, “We are still in the unfortunate rut of under-opportunity and under-representation for women in the sciences and tech. Women aren’t asking for special treatment, we are showing how special we already are and always have been. We’re not asking anyone to let us participate, we are exclaiming that we have participated in discoveries, breakthroughs and wild achievement all along.”

The religious difficulties faced by Henrietta were sourced from her sister, Margaret, played by Emily Kester. Sueko explains, “The two sisters looked up to the heavens, and see two completely different things. For Henrietta, she wants to understand the science of all the sky, and Margaret sees the pearly gates and God. [Henrietta] is risking the heaven that her sister believes in, to find the heaven she wants to study.”

One of America’s most prominent playwrights, Gunderson has made a name for herself, as she maintains an aptitude for innovating intricate stories that encompass romance, science and history, and with Silent Sky, she pushes the envelope further.

“When someone comes to see this play, they will leave having a rich understanding of what [Henreitta] and her colleagues did,” Harris exclaims. 

Silent Sky is showing at Ford Theatre until February 23. Tickets range from $22-$72 and can be purchased online at here.  

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

Your Smith // Photo: Erica Hernandez

Your Smith Brings Latest Tour To Songbyrd Record Cafe And Music House

Your Smith (Caroline Smith) brings her In Between Plans tour to DC this Thursday for a sold out show at Songbyrd. The Minneapolis native released her first EP, Bad Habit in August 2018 followed by her second EP release, Wild Wild Woman in September 2019. Inspired by the “Minneapolis Sound,” Smith’s style of music is a blend of funk, pop and R&B. In 2018, Caroline changed her name to Your Smith, a re-branding of her identity as a laid-back, risk-taking performer.

“Forever reinventing myself, forever pushing the boundaries of what I can’t do into what I can, I may change, I may explore. But I promise through it all, I will always stay myself, I will always be writing these songs for you, and you will always have Your Smith,” Smith said of the name change back in 2018. 

With the name change came a sense of freedom and refreshment in her music. Your Smith is care free and cool with an edginess that doesn’t care what others think. While Smith only has two EPs out, she’s written over 100 songs since moving to LA.

“I really firmly believe that sometimes you just have to write songs to get to the songs that you want to write. I didn’t know they were going to be 80 songs, assuming I keep 20 of them, but I said “keep going” and kept writing,” Smith commented to Atwood Magazine about her songwriting.

You can feel the variation between songs in her EPs as well. Each of Bad Habit’s songs are different, from the Cheryl Crow-esq “The Spot” to the R&B feel of “Ooh Wee.”

“I wrote these songs after this freedom I experienced in my life, which was alongside of developing Smith as a character, but it was also me giving up this idea that I was going to please everybody on my team, and in my publishing, that maybe I was going to write a song that wasn’t going please them enough to be top 40, or something.”

Smith’s latest EP brings plenty of variation in her writing as well.

“This is an anthem for the wild woman that lives inside us all, begging to be let out…” she said of the EP. Thursday night at Songbyrd she’ll bring a memorable show to DC, get there early for a good spot. Doors open at 7 p.m. and show starts 8 p.m. For more information about the show, click here.

Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; 202-450-2917; www.songbyrddc.com

Grace Potter At The Anthem

Grace Potter performed the DC leg of her Daylight tour on Saturday, January 25 at The Anthem. Photos: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: Greenwich Entertainment

Citizen K Delivers Captivating History Lesson On Former Oligarch

Alex Gibney’s Citizen K documentary is the story of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Russian oligarch now exiled in London after serving 10 years in a Siberian prison. Khodorkovsky’s own words drive this enthralling narrative about post-communist Russia. Gibney, whose previous work includes Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side and The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, is no stranger to tackling complexity and contradiction. The talking heads in this film are few – mostly people in the immediate Khodorkovsky business and legal circle, and longtime BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith and The Moscow Times founder Derk Sauer. That, perhaps, is one reason why the film’s efforts to explain Moscow politics at times come up against the (Berlin) Wall of Western analysis.

Citizen K begins in 1991, during Boris Yeltsin’s first term as president of the Russian Federation. The Union has come undone, and the economic order of the day is capitalism. Khodorkovsky, whose parents were both engineers, grew up poor – under communism, engineering was not one of the well-remunerated professions. Earning his first paycheck at 14, building a chemistry lab in his house, and with a self-professed love of “things that explode,” the young Khodorkovsky is ready to bank on the rise of capitalism. He starts Russia’s first commercial bank, his sole entrepreneurial “guide” in the form of a book called Commercial Banks of Capitalist Countries. So, how did he get the seed money for it? Enter vouchers. Fashioned after Western economic boost programs, these vouchers were “sold as golden tickets to escape the dead end of communism.” Add in some pop-propelled propaganda flair, including a song whose refrain goes, “Vou vou voucher: friend of privatization measures,” and these vouchers, worth $40, could be traded, exchanged for cash or used to buy shares in newly-privatized state enterprise. Khodorkovsky bought a lot of those vouchers from everyday folks, ones Derk Sauer rather derisively calls “naive,” who sold them for less than their worth. Sauer remarks little on the fact that the economic crisis at the time was fertile ground for this exploitation and speculation.

Khodorkovsky acquired dinosaur-age-equipped, mammoth-sized oil company YUKOS next, modernized it and became Russia’s richest man, in a pantheon of seven other oligarchs who combined owned more than 50 percent of Russia’s wealth. Citizen K makes the argument that these oligarchs were instrumental in putting Putin in charge, but they were unable to predict his ambitions would lead away from privatization and toward re-entrenchment of state ownership instead. And while the other oligarchs left Russia when it became apparent that they would be arrested on whatever charges were expedient, Khodorkovsky, defying the counsel of everyone around him, insisted on staying: “I don’t value life that much to exchange it for losing respect.”

Charged with tax evasion on hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian oil in his first trial, and with stealing the very same oil he didn’t pay taxes on (the absurdity will not escape you), Khodorkovsky is sent to prison. In 2013, coinciding with the Sochi Olympics, Putin pardoned and released him, after a 10 year sentence. 

The strength of Citizen K lies in its portrait of a complicated man who lived (and ruled) through the Wild Wild West stage of Russia’s post-communist years. Whether “gangster capitalism,” as Gibney describes it, is still du jour is questionable, but there is little doubt about Khodorkovsky’s unique worldview as a “reformed” oligarch interested in ideals and willing to put his life (in prison, he went on two hunger strikes to advocate for others) behind his principles. Gibney tackles showing what “transition” looked like for all of the former communist countries with great aplomb and delivers a thoroughly engrossing history lesson.

Want to watch Citizen K? The film is being screened at Landmark’s E Street Cinema. For more information on the film, showtimes and tickets, visit here.

E Street Cinema: 555 11th St. NW, DC; 202-783-9494; www.landmarktheatres.com/washington-d-c/e-street-cinema

Photo: Cuisine Solutions

What Is Sous Vide? An Explainer On The French Cooking Method

You’ve probably heard the term “sous vide”. You’ve even most likely eaten food that was cooked “sous vide” without knowing it. In lead up to the International Sous Vide Day Celebration brunch at Conrad Washington DC on January 26, we put together an explainer with everything you need to know about sous vide.

What is it? 

Sous vide is French for “under vacuum,” which describes a cooking technique in which food is vacuum-sealed, then slow cooked in hot water. The International Sous Vide Day festivities coincide with the birthday sous vide’s greatest pioneer, Dr. Bruno Goussault. 

Why does it matter? 

The cooking method allows for food to cook at a precise temperature to enhance flavors and maintain moisture, consistency and nutrients that are often lost during conventional cooking techniques. Meats are extremely tender due to the slow cooking process and, since the food is vacuum sealed, there is minimal processing and preservatives needed to keep it fresh. Also, because the scientific technique is precise, the risk of overcooking or under cooking the food is almost zero. 

Cuisine Solutions, headquartered in Northern Virginia is the global authority on sous vide cooking – they have pioneered, perfected and popularized this innovative slow cooking technique that has been adopted by chefs from around the world. Big names such as Thomas Keller, Mark Miller and Daniel Boulud have worked with Cuisine Solutions in developing their own sous vide recipes. Even locally, a number of chefs offer up sous vide items on the menu.

The sous vide technique is also used in making cocktails – whether to infuse liquors with flavors or to use fruit, vegetable peels and seeds to make flavored syrups. For example: The peels and insides of a butternut squash or the trimming from a pumpkin, that would normally go unused, can be put through the sous vide technique to get an intensely flavored liquid used to enhance other dishes. 

Sous vide prepared items are gaining popularity worldwide and can be found in school programs, airlines and cruise ships, hotels, restaurants and retail locations, including major retailers such as Starbucks and Costco (look for the sous vide egg bites!). 

Where to try it? 

You’ll see sous vide items labeled on many restaurants across town, but you can also experience it at home by purchasing from My Cuisine Solutions. They offer a number of options – I especially love the 72-hour short rib, vegan chili, mushroom risotto and butter chicken. The coconut chai oatmeal is also delicious! 

You can also learn more about the French roots of this technique while enjoying innovative cuisine and craft cocktails prepared by Cuisine Solutions acclaimed chefs at the International Sous Vide Day celebration brunch on January 26 at the Conrad Washington DC Estuary restaurant. It’s going to be fantastic – special guest chef Kyle Connaughton of SingleThread Farm in California, which earned three Michelin Stars in 2018, is among the group of talented culinary innovators showcased at this brunch along with local chefs like Estuary’s Bryan Voltaggio, Unconventional Diner’s David Deshaies, DBGB Kitchen’s Nicholas Tang, Equinox’s Todd Gray and more.

The afternoon begins with a culinary experience featuring artful drinks, created by incorporating sous vide techniques, passed appetizers and concludes with brunch at Estuary, showcasing a number of food stations spotlighting signature sous vide proteins, as well as sous vide creations prepared by DC’s leading restaurants. 

International Sous Vide Day Celebration is on January 26 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Tickets for this event are all-inclusive, priced at $125 per person and are available for purchase here. All proceeds from this event will benefit Careers through Culinary Arts Program

Conrad Washington DC: 950 New York Ave. NW, DC; 202-844-5900; www.eventbrite.com

Photo: John Hogg

Gregory Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre Creates International Empathy At The Kennedy Center

As dancing bodies twist and move across stages, cultures intertwine and churn to create bitter-sweet pieces of art. While speaking with Nhlanhla Mahlangu, musical director for Gregory Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre in South Africa, Mahlangu commented on the complicity of speaking through a colonized culture.

“We are constantly evolving every day. My big thing at the moment is [that] I’m interested in the music that started as our colonial response but became our heritage.” 

South Africa has a long and troubled history with Dutch and British colonial forces, and creating art through a tampered history is undoubtedly challenging. However, the Vuyani Dance Theatre has beautifully crafted Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro, a poetic performance that will soon be shared with DC audiences at the Kennedy Center on January 24-25

Mahlangu concerns himself with the potentially problematic art of building upon this culture as he questions whether South African music communicates the cultural tragedy of colonization or reaffirms the practice by preserving protest songs. 

“I’m not sure,” he says. “They are beautiful, and they have given birth to a lot of sounds that I use today, but I’m more interested in interrogating them.”

Regardless of origin, the performers of the Vuyani Dance Theatre share beautiful interpretations of a culture that continues to evolve with grace. And although audience members might not understand the deeper messages hidden in the South African lyrics, Mahlangu believes, “It’s much better if you can’t get the words.”

“We do want the audience to evoke their own personal stories and histories and the words for me… They kill the imagination of the audience,” he says. “So I’m even happier when the audience can hear the music.”

Although the Vuyani Dance Theatre is based in South Africa and the localized subject matter, Mahlangu is a firm believer that citizens of the world are interconnected.

“The world has become very much smaller. We’re in the same ball rotating and revolving and floating in the middle of nowhere. We are all trying to figure out this life thing the same way.”

When stated in such simple terms, South Africa doesn’t seem so far away, nor do its politics and current issues. Some issues hit closer to home than DC audience members might expect. For example, Mahlangu drew inspiration for upcoming performances of Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro from South African author Zakes Mda’s novel, Cion

“Zakes Mda, who spent a lot of time in America, writes Cion. You see it all the time – he draws the parallel between American slavery and South African apartheid.”

The Vuyani Dance Theatre’s upcoming performances at the Kennedy Center will be the first time Mahlangu’s compositions have been shared in the nation’s capital, which he views as a thrilling opportunity. Audience members can expect a riveting and original show meant to connect their personal lives to a larger global story.

“The story of Cion is very important. I think it belongs to the world. It belongs to global audiences.” 

 Mahlangu’s favorite aspect of his group of performers is their generosity in bringing their own backgrounds to the stage.

“They have been generous in bringing forth their personal stories into the narrative of the work,” he says. “For me, a performance that is only about return is empty.”

His knowledge and passion for the art he creates echoed through our phone conversation from South Africa to the United States. Viewers of Gregory Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre will participate in a global event that relates stories transcontinentally. Not only does the Vuyani Dance Theatre attempt to encourage international empathy, but they succeed in making it entertaining. 

Gregory Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre will perform Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro on January 24 and 25 at the Kennedy Center. Both performances start at 8 p.m. Tickets can be found here

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

Photo: John Canery

Cupid’s Undie Run Returns To Continue Fight Against NF

It all started with a crazy idea…

That’s how Cupid’s Charity, the group behind DC’s Cupid’s Undie Run on February 8, opens their story on the website. The idea of a mile(ish) run through a DC street in the winter came from co-founders Brendan Hanrahan, Chad Leathers and Bobby Gill. The trio dropped their pants in solidarity and frolicked for charity to help end neurofibromatosis (NF), a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.

The inaugural event kicked off in 2010, and has grown since. With different sister events offered all over the country, the fundraisers have helped raise almost $20 million. To learn more about the festivities, we spoke with race director Ashley Casper about the event’s mission, what people can expect from this year and why the cause is worth the chills.

On Tap: How have the races changed since 2010? Are there any plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary? 
Ashley Casper: The inaugural 2010 event took place in DC and was a trial run to determine local interest and potential fundraising levels, bringing in more than 500 participants and fundraising more than $12,000. Since our very first Cupid’s Undie Run in 2010, we have spread awareness of NF and raised more than $18,900,000, thanks to the 107,000 undie runners and 247,000 donations that have supported more than 225 events across the country. [All] of net proceeds from our programs goes specifically towards NF research through our partner, the Children’s Tumor Foundation. The event has gotten larger over the years, but the one thing that always stays the same is our mission to end NF.

OT: What are some aspects that surprise people who sign up? Are there things participants mention to you regarding things they didn’t expect? 
AC: People often are surprised to hear that we run in undies in February, but there is a really great reason for it! We run in our undies because people with NF can’t cover up their tumors. They can’t put clothes on to feel more comfortable, so why should we? Also, while the event is pants-optional, we encourage participants to wear what they are most comfortable in. Tutus, onesies, bathrobes, costumes (we even have a costume contest!) are all encouraged. The important thing is that people show up, have fun and raise money for charity!

OT: What are some of the festivities people can expect aside from the race? What kinds of activities are planned? What are the ones people respond to most?
AC: At Cupid’s Undie Run, the party is as big as the one mile(ish) run is “brief.” Thanks to the support of local sponsors like DC Fray, Hot 99.5 and DCW50. The four-hour party features a DJ, a photobooth, mascots, awards for top fundraisers and a lot of energy.

OT: Have any pointers for first timers? 
AC: First, join or start a team, Cupid’s is a lot of fun with friends! There are prizes for top team fundraisers and people are very creative with team costumes. One of my favorites from 2019 was an entire team dressed as Waldo from Find Waldo. Two, layer up! Even if you’re wearing undies, you can add knee socks, scarves, hats and gloves to stay warm. Three, if your outfit does not leave room for pockets, no problem! Cupid’s offers fun awards for fundraising for NF and if you raise $250, you earn official 2020 Cupid’s undies PLUS open bar – no need for pockets.

OT: How do you all establish the goal year by year? 
AC: Our mission is to end NF and that is what drives us every year to increase fundraising and awareness. We’re always pushing ourselves to create the best event possible for our participants and increase our fundraising.

OT: Lastly, what does it mean to you to be apart of an event like this, with a fundraising angle? 
AC: It’s very rewarding to be a volunteer Race Director for the DC Cupid’s Undie Run. I have met so many wonderful people and families affected by NF, and the money we raise has a very real impact on their lives. The Foundation’s research initiatives have generated 116 pre-clinical studies that have led to 16 clinical trials. Being a part of an event that truly puts the FUN in fundraising and has such a positive impact on those affected by NF means everything to me. Every one mile(ish) we run and every dollar we raise gets us one step closer to a cure.

For more information about the race or how to get involved, visit www.cupids.org

Photo: DC Fray

Five Reasons You Need To Pickup A #FrayLife Passport ASAP

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Eager to explore the city with your friends but on a tight budget? Don’t let #FOMO get the best of you. Make fun possible with a #FrayLife Passport instead.  

Get your hands on one of the best new ways to get to know everything DC has to offer from food and drink to one-of-a-kind experiences. Here are five reasons why you need a Fray Passport.

Spend a Little, Save A LOT

Why pay full price on a night out or Sunday Funday when you can save 50 percent? There are more than $250 in savings in the Fray Life Passport with BOGOs galore. You’ll find 2-for-1 flights of rare whiskey samples at RiRa, 2-for-1 margaritas at Nellie’s, and even a 2-for-1 brunch deal at Medium Rare, just to name a few deals. 

You can even get savings on savings. Passports are $30, but you can save 20 percent by entering promo code FRAYPASSPORT20. Each offer is valued at $15-$20, so the passport basically pays for itself after one or two uses! Make memories. Save money. 

More Than Just Drinks!

Most city passport-type programs only offer deals at bars for beverages. While we love a good cocktail or brew, the #FrayLife Passport includes deals and exclusive offers on food, drinks, activities and even gym memberships. Not just your typical happy hour. 

#FrayLife wants you to see more of DC than a bar’s liquor shelf. We want you to hook you up with a discount at Topgolf and Arlington Escape Room, or help you save on workouts at Balance Gym, F45, and Pacers Run Club. Eat, drink and explore DC. 

Get to Know the DMV, Not Just DC

A #FrayLife Passport gives you the perfect opportunity to try a cuisine you’ve never had, visit a neighborhood you’ve never been to, or give that new exercise fad a try. If for some reason it wasn’t what you expected, you can at least feel good about the fact that you didn’t have to pay full price! With deals in Maryland and Northern Virginia, in addition to DC, you can get out and explore everything the DMV has to offer.

Rotating Deals, Year Round

New deals each season! There will be a summer/fall Passport as well with new offers on things to eat, drink and do in the DMV so you’ll never get bored. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Shake up your routine and use this opportunity to try something new with your friends. It’s an ideal way to impress your special someone on your next date night, and is a fantastic way to explore the city if you happen to be new here…or even if you’ve lived here for years. 

Sold on it yet? Get your Fray Life Passport now! Over $250 in savings for just $30. Did we say $30? Not so fast! Enter the promo code FRAYPASSPORT20 for 20 percent off your order. 

All orders include free shipping. Passports offers will be valid until June 30. For more information, visit www.fraylifepassport.com.

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