Photo: Shervin Lainez

Fifteen Years Later, Lake Street Dive Is Still Evolving

Boston-based Lake Street Dive has been a band for an impressive 15 years as of this May, and their unique conglomeration of pop, soul, bluegrass and more has made them a fast favorite for listeners of many genres.

While at first glance, their crossover appeal would seemingly make them an instant hit, the band has slowly and steadily climbed to the top 10 of the Billboard 200, received critical acclaim from a whole host of outlets and toured internationally in support of 2018’s Free Yourself Up.

Rachael Price (vocals), Mike Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), Mike Calabrese (drums) and Akie Bermiss (keyboards) decided to forego any outside help and self-produce their most recent record, making it a true reflection of the band’s dynamic and skill.

Kearney explains that after being a band for that long, they looked at self-production as a way to challenge each other in a way they hadn’t before in their career.

“It was intimidating in some ways because you always rely on a producer as someone outside the band to make little decisions about the technical aspects of the record,” she elaborates. “But also, big picture elements of the record like what songs are going to be on it and what the general thrust of the album [is]. Those are often times the producer’s role. Not having a person to be the definitive decision maker was scary.”

The group surprised themselves, though, embracing the change in dynamic and each other when the going got tough.

“In the end, it was a really great flow for us. We found that working in that way, especially as a collaborative unit, was really fun. [There were] several of us on board to make democratic decisions, or at times to pass the producer hat around to another person in the band and say, ‘Look, I’m exhausted and I can’t tell which guitar part I should use. It’s your day to decide!’”

The resulting album deals with interpersonal relationships, gender dynamics and ever-so-subtly, but still effectively, politics. The songs are so catchy it’s easy to skim over the convictions present, but Kearney confirms their inclusion and lyrical subject matter were a conscious choice as they set out to create an album in the world post-2016 election.

“We were just shocked and devastated by the results of the 2016 election and the ensuing chaos,” Kearney says of the political lilt present in songs like “Shame, Shame, Shame,” for one. “At the same time, I always want to take some genuine feeling and inspiration and make it into a song that can be not just for people right here, right now, but for people that might hear it 20 years from now and are in a completely different situation – be it political or interpersonal. You want to leave some elements up to the listener to interpret the song as they would like.”

In keeping with the band’s ethos of diverse influences both lyrically and systematically, Lake Street Dive drew on an impressive list of influences on Free Yourself Up. Kearney recalls how they were able to use the collective sorrow surrounding the deaths of iconic musicians as a way to explore genres they may have otherwise not considered.

“[We said], ‘David Bowie just passed away – let’s check out his music and what he was doing.’  Tom Petty also passed away while we were in the studio, so we were listening to [his] records in the studio and going ‘Whoa, this thing is super cool that he was doing.’ It was little things, like the way the rhythm guitar was being played on a track or an improvised ambient foundation we hadn’t tried before.”

The small improvisational energies that make Free Yourself Up such a compelling record will be evident as the band embarks on a summer tour in support of the record, including the band’s stop at Wolf Trap on June 8. Kearney notes that she’s anticipating getting back on the road with The Wood Brothers, and even plans to showcase some special collaborations with the band onstage.

“They’re a really amazing band and they have an incredible bass player, Chris Wood, who I am excited –  as a bass player – to get to listen to every night. I think we have six or eight shows with them, so we were like, ‘We should take some time to get some extra special things together for those shows.’”

Whether in the studio or on the road, the band’s willingness to evolve and create together is evident in all they do. Catch them at Wolf Trap on Saturday, June 8. Tickets begin at $40 and gates open at 6 p.m. For more on Lake Street Dive, visit www.lakestreetdive.com.

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1900; www.wolftrap.org

Signature Theatre's Blackbeard

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

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 9

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

TUESDAY, JUNE 4 – SUNDAY, JUNE 7

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

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5 – SUNDAY, JUNE 30

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

THURSDAY, JUNE 13

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

TUESDAY, JUNE 18 – SUNDAY, JULY 14

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

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19 – SUNDAY, JULY 21

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

SATURDAY, JUNE 22 – SUNDAY, JUNE 23

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

Ocean Alley

Music Picks: Ocean Alley, Pink Sweat$, Nots and More

MONDAY, JUNE 3

Local Natives
This indie band hasn’t really changed much since I was in college, when I first heard them at the recommendation of several friends. While that may seem like an insult, I think there’s something refreshing about a band who doesn’t feel the need to constantly change it up, and why would you if you unlocked a near perfect formula for making emotional, enjoyable pop music? You wouldn’t, at least not for awhile. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $36. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5

The English Beat
The racially diverse group The English Beat got its start in the late 70s and early 80s as an alternative-pop band. Fronted by vocalist Dave Wakeling, the group perfects a balance of pop and rhythmic melodies, which led to mainstream popularity in the U.K. and a cult status in the United States. Their latest album Here We Go Love was released in May of last year, making it their first release in 36 years. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com

THURSDAY, JUNE 6

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers
One of the most recognized and prolific saxophonists, Grammy nominee Mindi Abair is back with her collaborators The Boneshakers. The sound vacillates between country and blues, providing twangy lyrics in between the big wind sounds. The band’s new record No Good Deed hits stores on June 28, but you’ll likely hear tunes off their latest at the Birchmere. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com


FRIDAY, JUNE 7

Davina and The Vagabonds
How often have you heard 30s music? I’d wager that the answer is somewhere between “barely” to “never.” That being said, the musical stylings of old-fashioned era specific New Orleans jazz is part of the appeal of Davina and The Vagabonds. With pianos, bass, trumpet, drums and trombone all accompanying the soothing vocals of Davina Sowers, who draws influence from legends like Billie Holiday, this band is a throwback revelation. See this quintet harness the powers of music from nearly 90 years previous. Show at 8 p.m. $17.50-$37.50. AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. NW, DC; www.ampbystrathmore.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 8

Pink Sweat$
Everything about Pink Sweat$’s music is scaled back. His production is minimal, his vocals are subdued and his lyrics are as subtle, sweet and seductive as his favorite beverage: Coke & Henny. The Philadelphia takes the moniker to new levels in all his appearances, often clad in various shades of pink whether he’s rocking track suits, sweaters or an astronaut suit. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

MONDAY, JUNE 10

Lazy Bones
Far from Lazy, this DIY indie pop band is still new to the scene, only forming in 2017, but that doesn’t mean their music sounds inexperienced. In such a short time, this group has opened for genre standouts such as Charly Bliss, Wolf Parade and Diet Cig, putting them on equal footing with some of the best indie rock groups going. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Show is free, but a $7 donation is recommended. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475-2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

TUESDAY, JUNE 11

Nots
This four-piece punk band from Memphis, Tennessee makes sporadic sound good. The music is breakneck, all fueled by an unflappably pulsating bassline and a chant-like vocal method. While the music is fun to listen to (or headbang to) in a car, there’s no doubt that this kind of sonic wave is more enjoyable in person, preferably front row. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $10-$12. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475-2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com


THURSDAY, JUNE 13

Will Varley
Will Varley began is career in London performing at open-mic nights blending personal storytelling and ancient folk traditions. Varley signed with Xtra Mile recordings after self-releasing two studio albums in 2015. Varley’s latest album “Spirit of Minnie” was released in February of last year and touched on a lot of political undertones. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $32. DC9 Nightclub: 1940 St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

FRIDAY, JUNE 14

An Evening with Star Kitchen
Star Kitchen features bassist Marc Brownstein from The Disco Biscuits, drummer Marlon Lewis (Lauryn Hill and John Legend), guitarist Danny Mayer of the Erik Krasno Band and keyboardist Rob Marscher of the Addison Groove Project. Star Kitchen will take you beyond the universe giving you an improvisational performance of funky, R&B music. Doors open at 7 p.m.Tickets $15. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 15

Ghost-Note
Percussion-based group Ghost-Note draws their influences from artists such as James Brown, J Dilla and Herbie Hancock as well as West-African and Afro-Cuban sounds. Their sound can be described as a mix of hip-hop, jazz, EDM and rock. Their latest studio album, “Swagism” featured heavy-hitting beats rich in instrumental sounds. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$20. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

MONDAY, JUNE 17

San Cisco
“Heartbreak never sounded so good,” is the way San Cisco describes their brand of indie pop quartet describes their more moody tunes. The band generally keeps the sound light and bouncy, but that doesn’t mean the subject matter can’t deal in the serious. With synths, dynamic thumps and appealing vocals, this Australian outfit is one not to miss. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $18. Black Cat DC: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

TUESDAY, JUNE 18

Kikagaku Moyo
This Japanese outfit is all about their honoring their psychedelic forefathers. Harnessing all the powers of trippy guitar riffs that can leave your mind wandering and pondering and thinking and blinking. Listening to Kikagaku Moyo (Japanese for geometric patterns) is not dissimilar to taking in a piece of art in a gallery, you need to take time past the initial glance and truly take in the work in totality. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19

Flasher
Listening to DC’s own Flasher is like hearing music in a time machine. No matter how new the release, their music contains a timeless classic appeal. From shoegaze to punk, the band has carved out a niche in the local scene, and are often mentioned as some of the city’s best. 2018’s Constant Image provided a look into their inner anxieties and how they overcome them via music and art. Doors at 9 p.m. Tickets $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 21

Ariana Grande
Grande’s “Thank U, Next” single provoked a nostalgic feeling for millennials with inspiration from romantic comedies such as “Mean Girls” and “Legally Blonde.” The video highlights the importance of self-care during heartbreaking situations. “Thank U, Next” delves into the theme of heartbreak with the death of rapper ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and the ending of her engagement to actor Pete Davidson. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $175. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW,DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Sizzy Rocket
Las Vegas native, Sizzy Rocket pulls influences from the punk-rock genre with a mix of catchy pop lyrics. Rocket released a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Girls” in 2014 which became a viral hit and then later released her debut single “I Wanna Rob.” Her latest EP “Mulholland” features catchy lyrics of pop love songs with instrumental beats. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 22

Ocean Alley
Ocean Alley hails from the Northern beaches of Sydney, Australia and have been described as having a sound perfect for cruising down the coast or hanging out at the beach.There sound is considered a mix of modern reggae and alternative rock with influences from artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H. St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

THURSDAY, JUNE 27

Faye Webster
Atlanta native and Indie artist Faye Webster comes from a family of musicians with her grandfather being a bluegrass guitarist and her mother being a former guitarist and fiddle player. Webster’s sound is a mix of country and pop melodies. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10-$12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NE, DC; www.dc9.club

FRIDAY, JUNE 28

Rich the Kid: The World is Yours 2 Tour
Atlanta native, Rich the Kid has appeared on tracks from The Migos and Kendrick Lamar blowing away the trap music scene. Head of Rich Forever music, Kid’s sophomore album The World is Yours 2 debuted in March and features some of the biggest artists in hip-hop such as Big Sean, Nav and Takeoff. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets $27. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

Brian Miller and Jason Maringola // Photo: Trent Johnson

Streetsense Cultivates Neighborhood Hospitality

Bars are more than the drinks they serve. Behind the beer, cocktails and spirits is the lay of the land, the setting, the vibe. It goes without saying that without good product, any establishment will falter, but a backdrop that melds with its culinary offerings will only serve to heighten the experience for the customer.

One way to achieve this elevated interior ambiance is by allowing professionals to take over, because it’s often not as simple as taking the ideas from your brain and putting them into practice.

That’s where Streetsense comes in. The company is described as an experience-focused design and strategy collective, and has continually delivered spectacular interior architecture on an international level. You’ve likely seen their decadent design around the District, including at Ivy City’s Coconut Club, Shaw’s The Dabney and Penn Quarter’s Daikaya, to name a few.

Coconut Club // Photo: Rey Lopez

One step into their Bethesda office and you’re greeted with a number of creatives all huddled up, sketches adorning drafting boards, posters lining the walls and retro knick-knacks placed throughout the space. And while the Streetsense office has a certain feel, the company’s aesthetic is as diverse as their extensive roster of clients.

“We do more than just design and we think differently because we actually understand the analytics and demographics of our areas and bring people to the table,” design director of interior architecture Jason Maringola says.

Variables for the Streetsense process include the typical timeline, budget and service, but one goal that never wavers regardless of scope is the team’s ability to connect with the client. This can mean traveling to South Carolina and visiting dive bars or hopping on an international flight to tour dojos in Japan.

“There are a number of restaurant projects I’ve worked on where we’ve gotten to travel with the clients to really dig in beyond mood boards, Pinterest and Instagram and figure out what they’re trying to draw from,” says Brian Miller, senior design director of interior architecture of Edit Lab at Streetsense. “We want to know how they think people get together over food and drinks, how people socialize, about how communities are oriented around those concepts.”

Daikaya // Photo Nikolas Koenig

This part of the process is what has always driven Miller and Maringola, who both grew up with a strong unwavering desire to work in architecture. As a child, Miller’s family moved around from town to town and he took note of buildings commanding attention. And for Maringola, even at an early age he’d memorize floor plans of homes his parents toured, sketch them out and offer critiques.

The collective childhood wonderment of all things hospitality design is reflected in their day-to-day, including the neverending goal of getting inside the brains of bar and restaurant owners to render artistic mockups that reach beyond visually interesting interpretations of what could be pretty or trendy. Instead, Streetsense seeks to establish a dominant thematic concept able to operate as a focal throughline. From there, they’ll determine one clear option with secondary layouts.

“I think we try to drive an approach that’s not to get us excited or the client excited, but about the people walking in the door of that business,” Miller says. “What’s going to make a really good experience for them? Is it a quiet night out? Is it a birthday?”

Maringola adds that their design isn’t really for the client. And while discussing the looks and feels of their babies, striking a balance between doing something personal and artistic is the toughest part of the process.

“Our clients are taking a risk, they’re putting a lot of money out to create a space and to trust us. The most rewarding thing for a client to tell us is that it’s better than they imagined. Most clients aren’t visual, so when they see the space and people interacting in the space, it goes from night to day. Then, they realize we really created something unique for the community,” Maringola says.

Moxy Atlanta // Photo: courtesy of Moxy

Some of the clients they work with aren’t backed by a corporate entity with limitless coffers, Miller says. When dealing with mom and pop shops, decisions are made with an understanding that livelihood could be on the line.

On the flip side, with larger clients, out of towners might require an entire education on the culture of a location or neighborhood. What makes this particular area unique? What does it need? For this, Streetsense sets up tours and activities to help the companies learn about their future clientele.

“The work our studio does [is] with extremely neighborhood driven places,” Miller says. “Clients look to us for that understanding, and some of our more exciting projects are when we get to work on a lot of places within a small area. This allows us to kind of create an ecosystem like [we created] in Blagden Alley.”

Big or small, Streetsense’s interior hospitality designs craft unique experiences for visitors. And with backdrop details such as lighting, theme and decor under their supervision, our favorite restaurants, coffee shops and bars can do what they do best; serve you.

“I always think of it as production design for a movie,” Miller says. “If that setting isn’t right, you know it’s not right.”

“But, the big thing is we could do all the beautiful design in the world but if the food sucks, service sucks, whatever we do won’t mean a thing,” Maringola says laughing. “That’s the catalyst.”

To learn about Streetsense, visit www.streetsense.com.

The Bygone // Photo: Maxine Schnitzer
Photos: Jennifer Chase

Don Ciccio & Figli: Taste the Amalfi Coast at this New Ivy City Bar

Don Ciccio & Figli’s herbal liqueurs were born in Italy’s Campania region, thousands of miles away from their new home in Ivy City. But walk into the distillery’s new Bar Sirenis, and you’ll be awash in the colors of their Italian seaside home.

“We wanted to do something that would bring people to the Amalfi Coast,” says Don Ciccio’s owner and master blender Francesco Amodeo, who revitalized and dusted off his family brand in 2012 and started reproducing his decades-old recipes (some go back to the 19th century) in one of DC’s hippest neighborhoods.

Features of Bar Sirenis include white- and azure-patterned tiles, turquoise chairs, and deep blue walls offset by the white bar top and tables. And then there’s the lines of colorful bottles waiting to be savored. For Amodeo, the bar’s design evokes a morning sunset in his childhood home, albeit with the sleek industrial touches expected of an urban distillery.

The bar opened this April as part of the company’s new production distillery, pouring a variety of products from bitter amari of roots and spices to fruit and citrus creations made with ingredients like limoncello, prickly pear and mandarin orange.

Guests are recommended to start with a complimentary tour and tasting, including a rundown on the entire lineup of spirits on a thermometer from bitter to sweet. The next step is cocktail exploration in Bar Sirenis, where bartenders educate consumers and guide them through the best ways to incorporate Don Ciccio & Figli’s unique spirits into drinks.

“We wanted to capture people sitting down and watching the bartender make [the cocktail], asking questions about the application of it and really taste it in person,” Amodeo continues.

The menu is anchored around three classic Italian refreshments: the spritz, the negroni and the Americano. Working from those bases, guests can choose the bitter liqueur they enjoy the most from the tour and tasting and use that as the star of their drink. Bartenders on staff will then adjust the vermouth, other ingredients and ratios for the perfect flavor profile. Amaro delle Sirene, for example, typically calls for a Spanish dry vermouth, while Luna amaro works best with a traditional Italian red vermouth.

Hopefully, visitors will leave a little more familiar with this category of spirits, empowered to mix up some creations at their home bar.

As an added bonus, the Ivy City location is ideal for visiting other DC distillers and brewers. It’s across the street from One Eight Distilling, a short walk away from Atlas Brew Works, Republic Restoratives, New Columbia Distillers and City Winery.

“We really wanted to give our guests and our longtime regulars something that’s really beautiful and they can enjoy even more,” Amodeo notes.

Visit www.donciccioefigli.com for current tour times and bar hours.

Don Ciccio & Figli and Bar Sirenis: 1907 Fairview Ave. NE, DC; 202-957-7792, www.donciccioefigli.com

Photo: courtesy of Danielle Sauter

Insta Fashion In The District

DC’s sense of style has improved a ton over the last decade. While there are still those confined to the rigid rules of offices – meaning pencil skirts and blazers, and not always in the best fit – a lot of locals have begun to display their creative side through garments and fabrics. Though some of this is just an organic change in mindset, there have been tastemakers in the District using their own sense of style to lead the charge. We talked to a few of the many stylish people in the city and asked about the life of an influencer, where DC’s trending and the feedback of their Insta followers.

Photo: courtesy of Cory Luckett

The Fashionable Man
Cory Luckett

On Tap: When did you start your blog? What sparked that decision, particularly with DC in mind?
Cory Luckett: I probably started five years ago, and the reason why I started was because my aunt told me I should. My aunt was talking to me about my interests, and how I enjoy clothes. One day, she was like, “You should start a blog,” and I immediately figured it was a good point.

OT: How do you differentiate between things you’re sponsoring and things you just enjoy?
CL:
I try not to differentiate at all. I try to keep everything as organic as possible. I try to make it appear to the outside audience like everything is authentic, because ultimately it is. I’m not going to take a sponsorship I’m not going to wear from a company I don’t like. Just because I got free shoes, it doesn’t mean I’m going to post about [them]. If there’s shoes that I’m getting paid to promote that I really like, and if there’s shoes that I bought at a boutique that I really enjoy, the posts for those are going to be very similar. I’ll shout out both companies. I want to show that I like these things, and I always try to mix it up.

OT: How much research do you do before putting together outfits?
CL:
I don’t do much. I dress through observation, and my style is based on things that I like that I see people wearing. It’s really just my personal sense of style.

Follow Luckett on Instagram @the_fashionable_man and check out his blog at www.thefashionableman.com.

Photo: Pablo Reyes

District of Chic
Elisabeth Pendergrass

On Tap: How would you describe DC fashion?
Elisabeth Pendergrass:
I’ve always thought of it as a melting pot, in a way. There are a lot of international people that have moved here, and it’s a transient city so you get influences of Southern style and New England preppiness and an urban element as well. It depends on where you are, but it’s not like New York because you just don’t have the [same amount] of people. It’s fairly diverse and it’s definitely more than just suits.

OT: What kind of feedback have you gotten since embarking on this journey?
EP:
At the beginning, there was a little bit more negative feedback because you’re putting yourself out there, [but] nothing that was ever enough to make me feel like I made a mistake. I’ve definitely discovered this supportive community through it and met some incredible, creative people through the years. There’s definitely been great feedback from readers, and it’s always really encouraging.

OT: Do you go through waves of trends?
EP:
I’m just always looking at trends. If it’s a beauty or fashion trend, I put a lot of work into it. The most intensive work I do that people don’t see is photo editing in [Adobe] Lightroom. That’s what I spend the most time on. That, and writing content. I try to be very thoughtful.

Follow Pendergrass on Instagram @districtofchic and readher blog at www.districtofchic.com.

Photo: courtesy of Danielle Sauter

Blonde in the District
Danielle Sauter

On Tap: How did Blonde in the District begin?
Danielle Sauter:
I started Blonde in the District in 2014 as a creative outlet with the goal to encourage women to look at style as a tool to boost self-confidence as it had done for me.

OT: What are some things about DC’s fashion scene you’ve noticed since starting your blog?
DS:
DC fashion has come a long way from when I started my blog. I’m seeing more people having fun with what they wear – as it should be – and breaking outside of the whole DC stigma of professional wear. I used to think DC style was stuffy, but I’m happy to see it changing. I think DC style influencers have had a huge impact in shaping DC’s fashion scene for the better.

OT: How much experimentation do you go through when piecing together outfits?
DS:
I do love to experiment with trends, but I won’t wear something just because it’s on trend if I don’t love it. I spend a lot of time putting together outfits, especially if it’s for a styled shoot. I always put thought into what I wear each day. You never know who you’re going to run into, so it’s best to be prepared.

Follow Sauter @blonde_inthedistrict and check out her blog at www.blondeinthedistrict.com.

Photo: courtesy of Anchyi Wei

Anchyi Adorned
Anchyi Wei

On Tap: What inspired you to start displaying your style?
Anchyi Wei:
I’ve always had people stopping me to ask about my outfits, but what really kicked this off was my coworkers taking photos of what I wore to work every day and putting them on a Tumblr [account] called “Anchyi at Work.” After a couple years, and with much encouragement from local bloggers, I started to transition that into my own blog [and] Instagram.

OT: How much does the work culture of DC play into its fashion scene?
AW:
It is still conservative and practical overall due to the nature of most of our workplaces. Plenty of people love what I wear but say they can’t get away with it on a daily basis. I work as a contractor in a federal agency, and I definitely stand out. If we collectively all take “workwear” to another level and incorporate more creativity, I don’t see why it can’t become the norm.

OT: What’s your favorite part of keeping up with the fashion world?
AW:
Putting together outfits is the most fun part of the whole process of content creation. I generally don’t do too much research but already have an idea for styling based on trend reports, street style and runway images I’ve came across. If I’m stuck about an item, I’ll Google “street style” to get some ideas.

Follow Anchyi Wei on Instagram @anchyi and read her blog at www.anchyiadorned.com.

A Costume Conversation with Trove Founder Kelly Carnes

Photo: Caitlin Beam

“Halloween doesn’t hold the monopoly on dressing up.” DC-based Kelly Carnes, founder of the new virtual store Trove Costumes, is extremely enthusiastic about accurate costumes. Her new e-market is set to launch this month and will offer people a vast database of rentals, with elaborate costumes for anything from themed parties to cosplay-friendly conventions. In the lead-up to the store’s opening, we chatted with Carnes about how there’s no excuse not to wear costumes, how their staying power goes beyond October 31 and how pop culture fashion affects her everyday wear.

On Tap: What made you want to start Trove Costumes?
Kelly Carnes: I think the power of play is transformative and Trove will make costumes accessible to everyone. People can make money renting out their own costumes or save money by renting other people’s costumes, giving them greater access to this creative, empowering medium.

OT: What would you tell people that may be skeptical about dressing up for a convention or movie premiere?
KC: Costumes are empowering. One of the beautiful things about the cosplay community is how inclusive it is. Every kind of body and ability can be celebrated. There’s particularly strong representation by cosplayers of different ability, in part because assuming the qualities of a character you admire and respect can make you feel more powerful.

OT: How often do wardrobes from pop culture inspire your personal style on a day-to-day basis?
KC: A lot. I’m wearing Deadpool leggings right now! I find so much creative expression in curating and donning elaborate costumes to bring a character to life that to then put on “muggle clothes,” as we say, makes me feel like Superman putting my Clark Kent glasses back on. I don’t feel fully myself. Living this costume lifestyle has made me far more bold in my style choices.

OT: What are some of the elaborate costumes people can look forward to on Trove?
KC: It will serve as a platform for people to exchange directly with each other. But as its founder and best customer, I will certainly be renting out my extensive wardrobe on Trove! I have a list of almost 300 costumes and accessories I’ll be listing in my wardrobe, which include some of my most valuable and elaborate pieces.

For more information on Trove Costumes, visit www.trovecostumes.com.

Photo: courtesy of Bold Rock

Summer of Seltzer: Introducing the Fruity Flavors of Bold Rock’s Hard Seltzer

Virginia’s favorite cider brand is hitting us with a whole new level of refreshing. Bold Rock is releasing their new hard seltzer, delivering a clean, effervescent taste with all-natural ingredients at a mere 82 calories per can with a 4 percent ABV. Now if that isn’t great news for this summer of hard seltzer, I’m not sure what is.

Bold Rock’s release includes two flavors, grapefruit and cucumber melon, and they’re already working on phase two with a handful of more flavors heading into 2020. We asked Bold Rock Director of New Business Development Lindsay Dorrier about the inspiration behind the simple, clean, summer-themed label design.

“We wanted to note the healthfulness and create something that looked light and refreshing to reflect the contents of the can,” Dorrier says.

Virginians and Washingtonians alike have reached for the perfect sweetness of a Bold Rock Hard Cider where they can find it in local bars and restaurants, but the seltzer packs crispness and delight like none of their other ciders have.

The very first thing you’re going to notice is that 1 gram of sugar per serving, which makes a huge difference,” says head cider maker Ian Niblock. “Next, you’re going to notice how light and refreshing it is, and without having that sugar, it’s a totally different apple blend. It’s not going to be super acidic. It’s really well-balanced and super smooth.”

Toward the end of last summer, the Bold Rock team saw an opportunity to craft something innovative in the seltzer space. 

“We’re the only seltzer on the market, as far as I know, that gets the alcohol from apple and not a fermented sugar solution or something like that,” Niblock explains. “We had the added challenge of trying to make it clear and white and not look and taste like cider. That product development took a lot of time and was ultimately really rewarding.”

After working on it for 10 months, Dorrier is proud and excited to debut the new taste this summer.

“You’ve never tasted a cleaner finish than what you get with the seltzer, which is a testament to the quality of ingredients that we’re using and the way we’ve been able to approach the innovation process,” he says. “Side by side with some of the other options out there, there’s really no comparison because of how clean and superior our finish is.”

Whether hard seltzer is just a trend or the new normal, it’s definitely captured the hearts of non-beer drinkers and health-conscious consumers.

“The health stats are resonating both with younger and older consumers,” Dorrier says. “We’re hopeful that our product will place with people that care about what’s put into their bodies [and] want something low cal, low sugar, [and] made with all-natural ingredients [and] real fruit as the foundation.”

The grapefruit and cucumber melon flavors of Bold Rock Hard Seltzer will be available in local grocery chains across Northern Virginia starting June 10 with plans to expand to independent retailers in the District soon.

For more information, visit www.boldrock.com.

Photo: Deb Lindsay

Crafty Cocktails

It’s not always what’s on the inside that counts, and these craft cocktails are living proof. Whether it be ornately etched glassware, literary inspiration or food accompanying the rims of the glass, these drinks provide something both enjoyable and tasty to imbibers.B

Photo: courtesy of Dirty Habit

Black Oleander at Dirty Habit

The Ingredients: Tanqueray Gin, Bols Genever, acai, blackberry, fromager ash, citrus earl grey foam
The Design: Flowers, foam and fun color – this summer creation from Dirty Habit’s Drew Hairston is a triple threat of delicate design elements rolled into one refreshing drink. Plus, the intricate etching on the glass provide a perfect home to all of its refreshing ingredients. 555 8th St. NW, DC; www.dirtyhabitdc.com

Photo: courtesy of Truxton Inn

The BFG at Truxton inn

The Ingredients: Infused Brooklyn gin, cucumber, mint, peppercorn, Q tonic
The Design: Inspired by Roahd Dahl’s book of the same name about a big friendly giant, this drink is served in a goblet that gives you a full view of the peppercorn, herbs and citrus that color this literary cocktail. Plus, you can customize the liquor to mixer ratio by adding your desired amount of Q tonic. 251 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.truxtoninndc.com

Photo: courtesy of The Mirror

Classic Daiquiri at The Mirror

The Ingredients: Light rum, fresh lime juice, simple syrup
The Design: Jeff Coles, The Mirror’s co-owner and head barkeep, explains that this classic cocktail is served in a sherbet glass, providing an example of Bohemian crystal from the Checz Republic. The delicate glass adds a twist of elegance to any drinking experience with a style of etching called Queen’s Lace and a beautiful gold rim. 1314 K St. NW, DC; www.themirrordc.com

Photo: courtesy of Bourbon Steak

Fireside Chat at Bourbon Steak

The Ingredients: High West Campfire, English Breakfast Tea, walnut bitters
The Design: This smoky cocktail combination is both indulgent and refreshing, but what really sets it apart is the delivery – expect the drink to be hand-delivered to you tableside in a custom barrel. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.fourseasons.com/washington/dining/restaurants/bourbon_steak/

Photo: Deb Lindsay

Bloody Mary + Bloody Maria at El Bebe

The Ingredients: Three Olives vodka (Bloody Mary), Jose Cuervo Especial silver (Bloody Maria), house made bloody mary mix, fresh lime juice, Bebe spicy rim
The Design: El Bebe is launching two variants of the boozy breakfast classic to accompany their new brunch program. While one features tequila and the other vodka, both are served in tall, embossed glasses and flanked by none other than a mini quesadilla. 99 M St. SE, DC, Ste. 120
www.el-bebe.com

Maps Glover // Photo: Timoteo Murphy

A Day In The Life With DC Artists Making Social Impact

Living in the DMV spoils us.

We have free access to world-class art at nearly every turn. But beyond its revered and iconic collections, the District is also home to an incredible array of artists working in experimental forms, crossing disciplines, and breaking down boundaries between tradition, style, design, politics and social justice. These artists are creating and chronicling the cultural landscape of DC today. They are not just leaving their mark on the city, but are also asking us to examine our own place in it – in a multitude of unexpected ways.

Consider Northern Virginia native JD Deardourff, with works installed everywhere from overpasses to the bottom of a pool, who is helping to literally repaint the face of the city. Or Xena Ni, a designer who describes her interactive installations as “civic journalism storytelling physical sculpture lawsuit art,” and that’s in addition to her line of feminist superhero underwear. Or a performance by Maps Glover, which may as well be a portal into a whole other experience of the world you think you inhabit.

While their mediums and inspirations vary, their commitment to making a social impact will never go out of style.

Photo: courtesy of JD Deardourff

JD DEARDOURFF

On Tap: There is sometimes tension around the term “street artist” and what it means to different people. Do you identify as a street artist?
JD Deardourff: I probably would just say artist. The way I got into it was primarily as a screenprinter –  that’s sort of my go-to art form – and one of the cool things about it is a rich tradition of wheatpasting and dissemination of imagery, either giving it away or pasting it in alleys or on light boxes. I was doing it before I was doing more “corporate stuff.” I’m an artist who does screenprints, murals, paintings and collages.

OT: When you’re getting ready to start a new project, what are the main factors that you consider and what motivates your creative process? What draws you toward a new project?
JD:
I like to think of it as a “one for them, one for me” situation. Some of the work I get to do pays for me to do other projects for free. Murals and commissions are probably half the time. The other half of the time is some personal projects I’ve been working on. I had a show last year where I sold all of the artwork I had and it was also the release of my first zine, Uncanny Fantastic. It’s basically a catalog of all of the personal art that I’ve done in comic book form. I’m working on volume two of that zine, so making a new body of work, which will correspond to the pages of the zine I’m going to drop in September.

OT: It seems like your career has progressed pretty quickly. Does it have to do with DC?
JD:
It feels like I planted a shitload of seeds like five years ago and the way that they’ve built up is that they all bloomed simultaneously. For example, conversations for one mural project I’ve been working on near Hotel Hive started in 2016. Sometimes, there’ll be something that’s like two years in production and that will coincide with something where I get an email the week before.

OT: What are some of your favorite projects?
JD:
I love doing shows. Last year, a highlight was a solo show I did with CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery at Union Market. And then I’m super proud of Uncanny Fantastic. The recycling truck for the DC DPW [Depart of Public Works] has my artwork on it. This pool in Silver Spring is super cool. It’s in a building call Central. When the art direction is solid, those murals look the best.


JD CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
My family (especially my eight-year-old nephew), my genius girlfriend Kelly + my friends, but mostly just my dog Bruce
Spotify, live shows + music (The Ramones, The Clash, classic rock)
Comic books 
Actually making artwork
Pop’s SeaBar
My little field notes book


OT: Do you think that mural arts are rivaling the “high art” that DC is known for?
JD:
I think definitely it’s one of those things where this art form has gained momentum. More and more people are commissioning murals. Initially, there were more bar and restaurant-type clients and now I think it’s cool to get, for example, law firm types interested in that kind of vibe. You get more of a critical mass. I don’t know if it’s a bubble sort of situation, but it’s definitely on the uptick.

OT: How do you feel that impacts both the physical and cultural landscapes of the city?
JD:
I think it’s good. For instance, Pow! Wow! just happened in NoMa and it’s is super cool in terms of the murals making that neighborhood what it is. It’s all the flavor. I understand some people might call it art-washing or make arguments that it can be bad for the community, but I don’t feel that way. And I think those battles are kind of over. It’s creating a cool flavor that wasn’t there 15 or 20 years ago.

Find Deardourff on the web at www.deardourff.com and on Instagram @jddeardourff.

Photo: Peter Gonzalez

XENA NI

On Tap: What brought you to DC and the art space that you exist in now?
Xena Ni:
I had just finished my fellowship at Code for America and was leaving Oakland where I was living. I was just sitting on the train and intentions for the next year popped into my brain. I wanted to make weird art with people. I was keeping an eye out for that when I moved to DC. I’d been assured by one of my coworkers that there were people doing weird things in DC.

OT: And did you find them?
XN:
Yes! I’m a designer and I’ve always been adjacent to art. But it was really coming to DC and finding my dream job that gave me mental space to take my art practice more seriously. An organization that’s been really great in DC has been The Sanctuaries. I participated in one of their fellowship programs. We were learning more about how art can respond to events like protests, and also to think more about how to work with communities in a respectful way.

OT: Do you feel like the people or places or themes or issues that you’ve encountered here have guided the work or the projects that you’ve chosen in a specific way artistically?
XN:
I have met a lot more working artists or artists who are taking their practice seriously, and realized how important it is to just know and be friends with other artists who are going through the grind. Collaborations have been so energizing.


XENA CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
The archive (a daily writing ritual)
My IUD (affordable healthcare and reproductive freedom make so much possible)
A clunky, squeaky, dependable Raleigh Sprite bike
Public parks (Kalorama Park, Kingman Island, Banneker)
Overflowing cart of art supplies


OT: What are a few projects you’ve worked on in the past couple of years that really stand out to you?
XN:
One that’s been really top of mind: the most recent iteration of it is called “Transaction Denied” and it is a room-sized, immersive multimedia installation, which showed at UMBRELLA in April. It tells the story of what it takes to apply for food stamps in DC and what happens when the government spends a lot of money to make the system work, but there’s not a lot of accountability and the government and the vendors dispute responsibility and as a result, thousands of people in DC either lose their benefits or face unusually long delays that are also really damaging.

OT: What did that look like, visually?
XN:
It takes abstract oppressing social issues and creates interactive, immersive big pieces to bring attention. I also wanted people to do something. People left their reactions, or their own stories on the walls of the exhibit.

OT: Where will the installation go next?
XN:
That installation is evolving. My co-artist Mollie Ruskin and I learned about a lawsuit a collection of legal aid organizations had brought against the city to seek justice for all the people who had lost their benefits or faced delays. We are now working with one of the main organizations that brought the suit, Bread for the City, and they are going to install it temporarily in their space.

OT: Any other notable projects?
XN:
I also like traditional, representational art. [This project] started off with not having any photographs of what my older relatives looked like when they were young because they couldn’t afford photography or they had to destroy when the Communists took over, and I just started drawing what I thought my grandmother looked like when she was my age. It felt like I was reclaiming my history and also underscoring that I could never actually access that history. It has morphed into this less personal project, which is drawing possible portraits from the future.

OT: How do you draw portraits from the future?
XN:
It’s like time travel in portraiture. It’s work that usually happens one-on-one with someone interested in orienting. It’s partially like a guided meditation [or] playful interview where I transport people to a scene from their possible future life. What I’ve really enjoyed about it is both what people come up with and their emotional reactions. Usually someone cries.

Follow Ni on Instagram @msknee and check out www.averyseriousdesigner.com.

Photo: Ashley Llanes

MAPS GLOVER

On Tap: You do a lot of performance art, as well as working within more traditional mediums. What drives you creatively?
Maps Glover:
DC has this electric energy that forces you to address social issues on a daily basis, and so that’s really what has kept me here and fueled my practice. A lot of my work really is a commentary about social dynamics. Where are we going? What are we trying to understand?

OT: Is that why you came back to DC?
MG:
Yes. I started making art in college and transitioned into doing things in New York. Coming back home, I wanted to see what I could contribute to this scene. There weren’t a lot of artists that were doing performance and I really wanted to dive into understanding what that felt like in DC. I felt like DC was a really good space to do it because it’s the intersection of politics and anti-establishment.

OT: When you’re approaching a new project, what are the most important factors?
MG:
Sometimes it’s a matter of what is fueling me at the time. Sometimes it’s something I feel really passionate about, or sometimes I have personal relationships with the subject, whether it be police violence or some of the work that really feels like an introspective experience of me analyzing my internal dialogue through visual interpretation. As an artist, I personally feel like it’s our responsibility to be social commentators. There are issues that may come up that we may not be fully familiar with, but to creatively explore those topics, I think that artists should try to be more fearless in taking on different spaces that don’t necessarily relate to them.

OT: In those instances, how do you get to the point of understanding something well enough to create something that you feel can open the dialogue?
MG:
I think that you should educate yourself first and foremost. At the same time, the artistic process is a learning one. It’s kind of like this experimental method and then it becomes this conversation of how does this connect to the larger picture?


MAPS CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
My sketchbook
Micron pens
Talenti mint gelato
Hugs from my very special friend
My mom’s cooking (tries to get down to her house every other week to grab a plate of food)


OT: There are times when it must be a struggle between letting this process happen and also being aware of what it means to people once you put it out there.
MG:
That happens all the time, honestly. I’m always looking for the experience that I’m having to be real and true to myself and then I just see other people witnessing that – the authentic experience that I have within myself. For example, I did an exhibition at the Transformer gallery back in October and I really wanted to create a space that was a response to the spiritual connection that I was really beginning to have a dialogue about in my work.

OT: How did you do that within the bounds of a gallery?
MG:
We had six weeks with each artist. We transformed Transformer. My religious background is Christian, so I was eventually crucified within the center of the stage. I had a friend who grew up in a cult, so she did a kind of ritual ceremony. I had a friend create a website live and DJ at the same time. It just had so many layers, and that is why I felt like the piece was successful.

OT: DC is in an interesting place in terms of what it does and doesn’t support in the arts. What do you think that looks like in terms of opportunities right now?
MG:
We need safe spaces for artists to be able to live and support themselves in a city that is continuously changing. If you don’t incorporate or consider the creatives who are part of the fabric of why people even come to this city, then what’s the point? The amount of channels and space for artists of all kinds to show is just very limited and everyone is scratching for the same resources. To get to the higher levels of creativity, people leave the city.

Learn more about Glover at www.acreativedc.com/maps-glover and follow him on Instagram @mapsglover.

Photo: Russ Rowland

Studio Theatre Unveils SHOWROOM For Summer

The summer season brings more than high temperatures to Studio Theatre. Local theatergoers can escape the waves of heat in shorts and sunglasses, ditching suits and cufflinks in Studio’s casual, four-stage space. To mirror DC’s slow season in the real world, Studio’s productions during this time of year are typically a little easier and breezier than standard theatrical fare.

Though the seasonal programing is always a little more laidback in summer, 2019 brings a sizzling new addition to Studio’s offerings: SHOWROOM. The curated lineup is set to feature one-man shows, LGBTQ performances and different kinds of karaoke.

“The idea of doing something a little more dressed down has been part of our DNA,” says David Muse, Studio Theatre’s creative director.

The first production, one-man show Every Brilliant Thing,begins on June 19, kicking off the series that includes six different pieces ranging from one-night shows like Mortified on July 13 to the extended run of Bright Colors and Bold Patterns from July 9 to 28.

The headlining productions both tackle weighty topics: Every Brilliant Thing offers a compassionate view of depression, and Bright Colors and Bold Patterns highlights assimilation and liberation, delivered by the worst wedding guest of all time.

“[SHOWROOM] is another way to do one-offs, so I thought we’d combine the two ideas in one: to continue to do something summertime festival-spirited, but instead of one performance with bells and whistles, to do a series of things,” Muse continues.

Aside from the variety SHOWROOM is prepared to offer, Studio creatives are currently in the process of transforming the Milton stage into that of laidback club including tabled seating, a bar and a vibrant aesthetic.

“We talked about the big idea, and how it should feel different than our regular season,” says Debra Booth, Studio’s director of design. “We decided they deserved a different type of space and different form of thinking because it’s not regular fare.”

Booth says the house normally requires little to no modifications, noting that keeping it clean is typically priority. However, SHOWROOM has required a complete overhaul including the removal of fixed seating to create a more open area.

“We’re creating a decking structure that turns every two rows into one,” Muse says. “On the slightly larger semi-circle, we can place a cafe and chairs. It will feel more like a hangout: part bar, part SHOWROOM space.”

Muse says SHOWROOM is another example of how diverse theatre can be. Yes, there is a time and place to wear button-downs, blazers and dress shoes, but this series isn’t meant to attract only one type of crowd.

“People associate Studio with high-stakes drama and high production value, and this is trying to set a different expectation,” Muse says. “What you’re coming to see is not setting out to be great drama with a capital D, which is not to say that there’s not terrific acting and writing. But it’s, ‘Hey, want to drop in during the summer and have a few drinks and see a show? Come here.’”

Though SHOWROOM doesn’t carry the literal moniker of “festival,” Muse and Booth feel it’s important to incentivize audiences to check out multiple productions throughout the series.

“I think the festival feeling is quite important to our thinking,”
Muse says. “The spirit is so terrific. I could see a show that’s shorter, and likely, before or after [enjoy a drink at the bar]. I can do that not just once, but several times. I think the prospect of offering that to our audience got us excited.”

And while SHOWROOM will have a distinct look and feel, the Milton stage itself will provide surprises.

“There are a couple shows that really have a real set of some sort,” Booth says. “On the other hand, some won’t have very much. It’ll change quite a bit from show to show.”

To truly accomplish this sensation, Studio put together a diverse range of productions with direct audience interaction like Spokaoke, a karaoke bar-themed show with speeches supplanting songs.

“This is the first time we’ve done this in one sense,” Muse says. “This sort of breaks the mold in what people imagine a theatre experience to be. In all of that, having some sense of show diversity, we wanted to be purposefully wide-ranging.”

Studio Theatre’s SHOWROOM performance series kicks off on Wednesday, June 19 with Every Brilliant Thing and concludes on Sunday, July 28 with the final showing of Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. Tickets to the two headlining productions are $45-$55.

For information on the full lineup including tickets and times, visit www.studiotheatre.org.

Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; 202-332-3300; www.studiotheatre.org


Photo: Stan Barouh

Every Brilliant Thing’s Alexander Strain

Studio Theatre’s SHOWROOM kicks off on June 19 with one-man show Every Brilliant Thing, starring Alexander Strain. Fresh off its run at Olney Theatre Center, the heartfelt story from playwrights Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe comes to Studio with director Jason Loewith at the helm. The play focuses on a little boy whose mother commits suicide when he’s seven years old. Growing up, he makes a list of things in life worth living for – everything from ice cream to the alphabet – as a coping mechanism. The hilarious work takes a realistic, compassionate look at depression and the human condition. As the lone man on stage, we spoke with Strain about his relationship with the character, some of the major themes and the importance of a responsive audience.

On Tap: What initially drew you to this role?
Alexander Strain: I had taken a step back from working in theatre. I had gone to grad school and gotten a degree in psychology, and in that time, I was very invested in what I was learning. I missed theatre, but I wanted it to be something I could be invested in. I thought this play was incredibly apropos with things I was learning, and I just thought it was an amazing piece.

OT: The play is about depression, but the synopsis almost posits a pretty positive way of looking at life. Was it difficult to get into the mindset of this character?
AS: It’s definitely a challenge. It’s dealing with some very difficult subject matter and dealing with it honestly. At the same time, the positivity of it comes from depression and mental illness in general as something that so many people experience, but don’t talk about. Because I was going through a psychology program and developing empathy for what this experience is, it was a bit easier for me to get into what the message of this piece [is]. I think one of the key messages of the piece is depression and mental illness in general is not something that can be brushed away by looking at the bright side. That isn’t how depression works.

OT: What are some of the hardest parts of bringing this person to life? What aspects of his mindset you actively relate to?
AS: I think one of the hardest parts is being by myself, because it involves so much audience reaction. There’s a lot of room in there for improvisation and the hardest part is to trust that it’s going to work. You need the audience to come on that journey with you. I had a lot of trepidation about this when I first started the piece, but we found that there wasn’t an audience that rejected it. For some reason, the piece and the energy I’m bringing to it really invited people in, and after that, it was easier to go on that journey.

OT: You’ve been performing as this character for some time now. Has it gotten easier to inhabit this space or more difficult?
AS: It’s easier. On paper, when you look at the show and what it asks of the performer, it seems daunting and like there’s no way it could work. It deals with very heavy topics and requires interaction and participation. There’s prominent comedic elements, and it seems like it wouldn’t work. Yet, the structure and gentleness of the piece, and the sense that it’s kind of a collective conversation as opposed to a performance piece – you realize it’s a very inviting space.

See Every Brilliant Thing as part of Studio Theatre’s SHOWROOM series from Wednesday, June 19 through Sunday, July 7. Tickets are $45-$55. Learn more at www.studiotheatre.org.

Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; 202-332-3300; www.studiotheatre.org