Photo: Susan Green
Photo: Susan Green

Interactive ‘Digital Eye’ Explores Modern Privacy

Blind Whino’s Digital Eye exhibit celebrates National Cyber Security Awareness Month and primes patrons for Halloween with its eerie portrayal of free speech and privacy dilemmas.

During the hour-and-a-half-long opening last night, sponsored by 13 arts and cultural institutions (some local and many from overseas), actors imitated the familiar conflicts, both real and theoretical, that haunt people in the age of the Internet.

The acts spanned the sociocultural spectrum: a woman wearing a burka, aglow behind a laptop, at the back of a pitch black stage pleading for her bodily rights; a mother castigating her daughter after discovering obscene behavior on her phone; and a man facing interrogation for possessing the “last secret in the world.”

Although the performers consistently broke “the fourth wall” by occupying their audience’s personal space, they hardly tiptoed around the issues. Instead, the audience was bombarded with worst-case scenarios, such as a T-shirt displaying an elderly man’s name and address and an “EverythingLeaks,” in which the entire country’s personal information is released to the public.

The effect was unsettling; one couldn’t help feeling exposed. This was especially true when a web camera, at first focused on a group of fictional millennials trapped in a pristine apartment, turned its eyes on the crowd.

The final display in the exhibit was a game show, featuring lighthearted categories such as “Who Do You Trust?” As teams competed, they learned how companies such as Amazon, Google, Uber and even Disney have taken advantage of our unguarded information. As the game came to a close, the contestants were left with one last message.

“We want you to be the only person who owns your personal information,” the host declared.

Digital Eye also runs tonight at 6 and 8:30 p.m. For more information and tickets, visit here.

Blind Whino: 700 Delaware Ave. SW, DC; 202-554-0103; www.blindwhino.org

Photo caption: Eva Wilhelm, Victoria Reinsel and Alex Piper in Making Plans, directed by Samantha Wyer Bello

Illustration: Courtesy of Arena Stage
Illustration: Courtesy of Arena Stage

DMV Native Makes Arena Stage Debut in ‘The Pajama Game’

Northern Virginia native Gabi Stapula used to see shows at Arena Stage, and dreamed of one day performing professionally in the building. She even attended the theater’s summer academy for younger actors while in high school.

“I knew they brought in really high caliber actors, and that it was a place I wanted to work one day when I got enough training,” she says.

Stapula is now getting that chance, playing Mae in the Tony Award-winning musical The Pajama Game, running from October 27 to December 24 on Arena’s Fichandler Stage.

“I had done The Pajama Game in college, and it’s a show that is near and dear to my heart because it is just so fun,” Stapula says. “And I knew that Parker Esse, the show’s choreographer, would bring a new spin to all the dances. And he is re-choreographing all of these traditional numbers you are used to seeing, and I was so pumped to hear that.”

Stapula had first met Esse at Arena while at the summer academy, but at the time, she was mainly a ballet dancer.

“He was showing me the ins and outs of what musical theatre is, and meeting him changed my trajectory of what I wanted to do. I was going to go into more of the ballet world, but he completely upturned me – and now I’m doing musical theatre.”

Esse actually gave Stapula her first professional job at the Merry-Go-Around Playhouse in upstate New York, and she performed there in shows such as Crazy For You, West Side Story and Saturday Night Fever. Although she’s carved out a nice career for herself in New York, The Pajama Game is Stapula’s first professional role in the DC area.

“I mainly did stuff at my dance studio when I was growing up here, so this will be my first time,” she says.

And it would probably be easier to list the shows when there won’t be a big crowd of friends and family attending, as folks from her high school, dance studio and hometown are ready to flood the theater.

“Those are the people who shaped the way I am, and they finally get the chance to see post-college Gabi and everything that they worked toward with me come to fruition. It means a lot that they are coming out for support.”

The first time she performed in Pajama Game, she played Gladys, but this time she’s tackling the role of Mae, a feisty member of the factory’s union grievance committee who supports the union president perhaps a bit too much.

“What I like about Mae is that she’s so unapologetic,” Stapula says. “She doesn’t care what other people think and she’s such a strong woman. You don’t get to play those characters usually in such an old-book musical. She’s also so goofy, and I get to see the world of this musical through a different eye.”

With a book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, the story follows Sid Sorokin and Babe Williams in a battle-of-the-sexes romance that soars with seductive dance numbers like “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.” Tim Rogan and Britney Coleman play Sid and Babe, respectively.

“I just watched Tim and Britney do one of their love numbers in rehearsal, and their chemistry is off the charts,” Stapula says. “This is a big musical with a lot of dance numbers, and I think audiences are going to love it.”

Directed by Shakespeare Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Alan Paul in his Arena Stage debut, The Pajama Game also stars Broadway legend Donna McKechnie (Tony winner for A Chorus Line), as well as Broadway veterans Nancy Anderson, Eddie Korbich and Blakely Slaybaugh.

“Just being there with Donna McKechnie is the coolest thing ever,” Stapula says. “Her aura in the room is amazing. The talent that they’ve brought in for this cast is spectacular.”

With her dream of working at Arena about to be realized, Satpula is considering sticking around the area and seeing what opportunities come.

“I would love to do more work in DC. I have fallen in love with what DC has to offer.”

The Pajama Game runs from October 27 to December 24 at Arena Stage. Click here for more information.

Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; 202-554-9066; www.arenastage.org

Photo: Courtesy of Folger Theatre
Photo: Courtesy of Folger Theatre

Folger’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ Strips Down Legendary Romance

Scandal‘s Olivia and Fitz weren’t the first power couple to reign over an empire in it’s waning days. Shakespeare knew that even centuries later, people would gather to watch the drama of love, passion, betrayal and politics with oversized glasses of red wine, which is why he wrote Antony and Cleopatra as a blueprint.

Folger Theatre opens its 2017-2018 season on Tuesday, October 10 with Shakespeare’s historical drama about the love affair between the queen of Egypt and Rome’s most famous soldier. Told in the round, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the home life of these two lovers in the first-ever Elizabethan venue in North America. Director Robert Richmond (of last season’s highly successful Timon of Athens, Othello and Henry V) directs Cody Nickell and Shirine Babb in the title roles of a play that’s about the story behind the headlines.

“He really wants to see these people at home,” Nickell says. “He wants [the audience] to see into their personal lives.”

Under Richmond’s direction, the text has been stripped back to focus on the love between the titular characters as they struggle to keep their relationship alive in the world of politics, power, war and deception. First performed in 1607, the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra follows the story of the two lovers from the time of the Sicilian revolt to Cleopatra’s suicide. After the assassination of Julius Caeser, Mark Antony finds himself as one of the three rulers of the Roman Empire.

During his rule, Antony falls madly in love with Cleopatra, who is often regarded as one of Shakespeare’s most well-rounded female characters. As their love grows, (historically, the pair had three children), so does the pull of their responsibilities, and the two test where each other’s loyalty lies – with their empires or with one another.

“This is more than just a play about politics,” Nickell says. “This is a play about relationships. This is a play about people trying to connect.”

Folger’s upcoming production marks Babb’s third time playing Cleopatra, and her first time acting alongside Nickell. Her Cleo is a woman that the audience recognizes – ambitious, and scared to admit that she’s vulnerable and in love.

“Everyone usually comes into the theater expecting to see this icon – to see this temptress, this seductress, this woman who is set up to be this kind of siren,” Babb says. “I just wanted to make sure that every time I come to her, I see her first as a woman – not even as a queen.”

Nickell is excited to explore what Antony, the aging Roman soldier, desires.

“I don’t know what power he wants necessarily,” he admits. “‘I wish had the power to just be with her, I wish I could fix the Roman Empire.’ I don’t think he’s got the power that he wants – he’s struggling. What does he really want to do?”

Nickell and Babb bring a playful friendliness to the magnetic relationship of Antony and Cleopatra, one that reminds the audience of the excitement of falling in love, of sharing those small intimate moments – like that first electric touch, or the stomach flips from brushing back your lover’s hair, and that mix of excitement and fear if what is happening is forever, or just for right now.

Ultimately, this stripped down production of Antony and Cleopatra is about “life getting in the way of life,” as Nickell puts it. Over 400 years later, people are still struggling with the same things that Tony and Cleo battled in their personal lives: how to find and keep true love in the face of a civilization destroying itself right in front of our very eyes.

Antony and Cleopatra runs from October 10 to November 19 at Folger Theatre. Tickets are $35-$79. For more information, visit here.

Folger Theatre: 201 East Capitol St. SE, DC; 202-544-7077; www.folger.edu

Photo: Courtesy of George Mason University's Center for The Arts
Photo: Courtesy of George Mason University's Center for The Arts

Spend a Romantic Evening with Tango Buenos Aires

Tango Buenos Aires brings sensual moves to Northern Virginia on Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14 with their performance of The Spirit of Argentina, a journey through the transformation of one of the most famous dance styles in the world performed to the classical compositions of Carlos Gardel.

French-Argentine singer, songwriter, composer, actor and central figure in the history of tango, Gardel died tragically in a plane crash at the height of his career, making him even more immortal in tango culture.

We caught up with Tango Buenos Aires Owner/Artistic Director Rosario Bauza about what to expect from the two performances, at Hylton Performing Arts Center on October 13 and George Mason University’s Center for the Arts on October 14.

On Tap: What does tango mean to you?
Rosario Bauza: The tango is passion, but above all things is the embrace that surrounds us.

OT: What are your favorite stories to tell through tango?
RB: My favorite story is when I work with people with different abilities and through the tango, their music and dance combines with the world and art.

OT: How is tango evolving now? How are you bridging the gap between tradition and staying fresh?
RB: I think the secret is in the history of its past, and to keep it fresh in the present. And then, why not to the future?

OT: What’s the secret to performing a great tango?
RB: First, [have] a very good professional write the script, then a very good development of that script to the stage. The secret is to put all the feeling and professionalism; this is what I do with my different tango shows [and it’s] extremely successful.

OT: Tango is iconically Argentinian. Do you ever infuse influences in your dance from the cities that you travel to and perform in?
RB: The tango is iconic of Buenos Aires, therefore of Argentina. In 1991, I went with Tango Buenos Aires to China. At that time, it was not the China we see today. After a month of having gone, I read in a newspaper in Argentina that in Beijing, the Chinese were practicing tango in the public squares after having seen our performances.

OT: What are you excited about on this current tour of Tango Buenos Aires?
RB: Much of the history of this show is the life of Carlos Gardel, an icon of tango. In Argentina, they call him “the voice of tango.” I am excited that in this Tango Buenos Aires, we have Gardel and two of the countries I love: Argentina and the USA.

OT: What should the audience expect from Tango Buenos Aires if this is their first time seeing a performance? What about for those that have seen a past performance?
RB: Those who will see Tango Buenos Aires for the first time, I think they will never forget it. I am sure they will want to practice tango dance. Those who have seen a past performance will see a new version since I renew Tango Buenos Aires every three years. Tango Buenos Aires is the official name of the show, [and] the subtitle is the story that we developed – in this case, historic Carlos Gardel.

Tango Buenos Aires’ The Spirit of Argentina is in Hylton Performing Arts’ Merchant Hall on October 13; tickets are available here. The October 14 event is at George Mason University’s Center for The Arts; purchase tickets here. Also, a beginners’ tango class is available prior to the Friday night performance; sign up here

Hylton Performing Arts Center: 10960 George Mason Cir. Manassas, VA; www.hyltoncenter.org 

George Mason University’s Center for The Arts: 4373 Mason Pond Dr. Fairfax, VA; www.cfa.gmu.edu 

Photo: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company
Photo: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company

Shakespeare Theatre Unleashes a New Star in ‘The Collection’

To kick off the 2017˗2018 season, Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) Artistic Director Michael Kahn revisits the ambiguous and darkly comic world of playwright Harold Pinter. The program of two one-act plays, at STC’s Lansburgh Theatre through October 29, explores the complexities of marriage and infidelity.

Pinter wrote The Collection and The Lover early in his Nobel Prize-winning, 50-year career, and both contain Pinter’s signature silences and weighty pauses – as well as the “angry young man” character he’s known for. The Collection also introduces audiences to a first-time actress who’s clearly destined to be a star – Dante’s Beatrice, a.k.a. Sweet Bea – a small, long-haired white cat.

“Michael Kahn was very keen to get a Persian,” says STC Publicist Amy Hughes, “because that was the cat written into the play.”

To find the perfect feline, a call went out on social media and through email, and several cats (eh-hem, owners) responded. Staff had a great time “auditioning” each one, but Sweet Bea was the obvious choice. For the audition, the fluffy eight-year-old kitty met Lisa Dwan, the actress playing Stella.

“They bonded really nicely,” says Sweet Bea’s mom, Susan Galbraith.

The story follows a young marriage in jeopardy, and Stella’s husband Bill is determined to confront the man he believes to be his wife’s lover. As Stella’s furry companion, the cat accompanies her human while the drama unfolds, adding a touch of glamour while sitting regally on a velvet sofa.

“Harold Pinter has a certain understanding of women and their potential menace,” Galbraith explains.

When I met Sweet Bea in her dressing room, she made quite an impression. Her wide eyes and soft, flowing fur paired with the irritated flick of her tail and a low growl emitted (after being held too long) certainly seem to fit the character requirements. The cat has participated in rehearsals and will appear onstage in every performance of the play.

“Michael Kahn has always seemed quite happy with [her],” Galbraith says.

While Sweet Bea may look like she comes from the world of commercial modeling, her life has not been easy.

“This is a rags-to-riches story,” Hughes says.

Sweet Bea is a rescue “found down the spout, in a drain [with] no fur,” Galbraith recalls. “She was left to starve, so she was stunted. No one wanted her. They said, ‘Please take this cat; she’s probably not even going to survive.’”

Her petite stature makes Sweet Bea a great fit for the play, as she easily passes for a kitten.  According to Galbraith, the feline star has always wanted to embody a Pinter woman, and is full of alluring mystery.

“She credits her rough childhood, seduced and then abandoned, for the truthfulness she hopes audiences will appreciate.”

Galbraith has big ambitions for the tiny white ball of fluff, adding, “She would like to be considered for the evil cat role in any James Bond remake.”

And, always a professional, “She wants to thank Michael Kahn for first discovering her talent, and her wranglers, Susan and Duane.”

All joking aside, the decision to incorporate an animal into a stage play is bold, and bolder yet is the director’s choice to ensure the playwright’s instructions are followed literally by casting a live cat. Sweet Bea is by all accounts rising to the challenge.

Although, Galbraith says, “She’s becoming a bit of a diva.”

The Lover and The Collection run through October 29 at STC’s Lansburgh Theatre. Tickets start at $59. Learn more at www.shakespearetheatre.org.

STC’s Lansburgh Theatre: 450 7th St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org

 

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day In The Life: Signature Theatre’s Gardiner Brothers

Signature Theatre is a unique space among DC area theaters for a myriad of reasons, and chief among them are the pivotal roles played by twin brothers Matthew and James Gardiner. Each has their own history with the theater spanning more than a decade; Matthew has worked at Signature for 11 years, currently as the associate artistic director, and James has transitioned from acting in Signature productions to spending the past four years as deputy director of creative content and publicity. We caught up with the pair about what Signature means to them, how DC’s theatre scene has shifted and what it’s like to work with your sibling.

On Tap: You each represent a different side of the house at Signature. How do your teams work together?
James Gardiner: I came into this as an artist, and over the last four years, I’ve learned what necessarily works as an artist doesn’t necessarily work to sell the show. But I think I also am able to marry both things. It’s a delicate balance.
Matthew Gardiner: It’s very funny to watch when marketing wants something to happen, and James is on their side but artistic is not. James is always the mediator. He’s always the one who comes in and tries to convince us because we trust James [and] they trust James.
JG: This sounds like two warring factions…
MG: I find that human interaction of, “How do I get what I want?” so fascinating. That’s why I’m a director. How do I manipulate James into doing my bidding?
JG & MG: [Both laugh]


James Can’t Live Without
(According to Matthew)
Orioles baseball
His Netflix account
Final Cut Pro X
Broadway Sirius XM
His wonderful twin brother, Matthew


OT: James, what role does video play in your day-to-day at the theater?
JG:
I do all of the marketing content as far as TV commercials, trailers, online [and] B-roll. Five years ago, the content theaters were putting out in the DC area was not good, and I just thought we weren’t doing a great job of capturing our shows and presenting them to the world. MG: James is being a little bit humble about this, but before what he has done in terms of video for theatre in DC, people would put out videos, but they were, “We set a camera up in the back of the theater and we pressed record, and here are five clips from the show.” James has made it very dynamic, and he’ll probably deny this, but I have watched other theaters in DC try to emulate that over the past few years.

OT: What was it like to go from the black box theater on Four-Mile Run to your current location?
MG: I assisted on several shows there, and that was a magical space. There’s so many wonderful things about this building, but there are so many things that are harder about it because in magical little Shirlington Village (Shirleyville by day, Shirley Vegas by night, as we call it), you can’t get away with the sh-t that you can at a bumper plating garage that’s a little sketchy. You’re like what dark, crazy sh-t can we get away with in this [space]? Anything. Whereas here, people come up and they’re like, “When are you doing Annie?” Never, we’re never doing Annie. Sorry. And if we did do Annie, it would not be the version of Annie you’d want to bring your children to.


Signature Theatre DIL 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Matthew’s Signature Must-Haves
Dreamgirls Barbie
Director notebook
“Questionable/Sensible” stamps
“You Are a God Damn Magical Unicorn” notecard
Finishing the Hat (a music theatre lover’s bible)


OT: How have you watched the theater grow over the past decade?
JG: Eric [Schaeffer, Signature’s cofounder and artistic director] and Matthew throw something into [every] season that just defies expectations to keep our audience…
MG: …surprised, on its toes. His desire is always for the season to feel diverse and eclectic.
JG: Anytime something starts to feel comfortable, it feels wrong. If something feels formulaic, we push against it, which I think is good. I think it’s healthy. I think it’s what keeps this building creative, and keeps our staff happy and engaged.

OT: What have been some of your proudest moments at Signature?
MG: What’s so cool about Signature is that it’s one of the few larger theaters in DC that doesn’t have a set seating configuration, and so we’ve been really trying and pushing to use the space in more dynamic ways. I’ve seen that start to happen over the past couple of years, not just in my work but in Eric’s work, and we really push other directors to do that as well. In a world that’s so hungry for entertainment to be right at your fingertips, how do we make it more dynamic?
JG: What’s exciting to me and what I’m most proud of is when our marketing follows that strategy of engaging [our audiences]. I’m proud of when we think outside the box, [and] when we do daring, new work.

OT: What productions in the 2017-2018 season are you looking forward to most?
MG:
This production of A Little Night Music [through October 15] is one of my favorite things I’ve ever see Eric direct, and such a remarkable accomplishment for so many DC artists that are involved. I think that it’s a really beautiful production of a show that I haven’t seen done well often, and I feel like I can say that because I had nothing to do with it.
JG:
I’m very excited about Light Years. I fell in love with the band Eddie From Ohio in college; my roommate was obsessed with them. So when Eric said that he was approached by one of the band members from Eddie from Ohio about a musical I was like, “What, what, what, what, what?” I just love when we bring in writers that are just over the moon excited to be working on a new musical, and Robbie [Schaefer] is one of these people. I can’t wait to see audiences experience it because it doesn’t feel like a musical. It’s got Robbie’s unique voice.
MG: [Next] spring, I’m doing a musical based on the Matthew Sweet album from the 90s, Girlfriend. The album tells the story of Matthew Sweet’s relationship with this girl, and Todd Almond took the album and made it about two boys living in the Midwest in the 90s [with] no gay role models anywhere to be seen. But he doesn’t change a single lyric of Matthew Sweet’s album. And then Crazy for You. I grew up on the films of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly, and that is why I loved musical theatre. I haven’t been given a chance to direct a true MGM Hollywood musical, and so to be given the chance to do that, and imagine it in this space, is exciting to me.
JG: That’s my favorite thing too, whenever anybody’s like, “Oh, they’re doing Crazy for You? That old workhorse?” But then we do those shows and people are like, “Ohhhh.”
MG: I just think it’s funny when you
hear that. You’re like, “Have you all been to enough Signature shows to know that it’s not going to be the standard Crazy for You? [Editorial note: The brothers said Crazy for You in complete unison]. Alright, I guess not. Well, we’ll show you.” [Laughs].


Signature Theatre DIL 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

James’ Signature Must-Haves
Canon 60D
GoPro Hero4
USB flash drives
H5 Handy Recorder
Eric Schaeffer’s book My Signature Story


OT: What’s it like working together full-time?
MG:
I love having him here. We’re very bullheaded, but I think we also balance each other and help balance our departments. We defend each other and we defend the art, but we also defend other people in this building.
JG: When I was an actor and Matthew was directing, we ended up working together. And the whole time, it would work really great, and then in one moment, we’d be at each other’s throats. The other actors were like, “Jesus Christ, he’s really nasty to you.” But I didn’t see it that way. He just wasn’t sugarcoating things. He knows what he wants, and I’ll push back if I disagree. That was our relationship when we were little kids, too. We have the ability to fight, fight, fight, and then two minutes later, everything is totally fine.
MG: That’s just the way we operate [both laugh]. His wife will look at us and say, “I don’t understand you. You all were so mean to each other two minutes ago.” [Laughs] Well, we got it out.

OT: Signature’s team seems like a family in many ways, with familiar faces popping up in multiple productions throughout the seasons. What’s it like to work so closely, and often, with local actors and the rest of the creative team?
MG: The pool of talent here is smaller, so when you find somebody that you connect with as an artist and think is super talented, you cling to those people. You see that in DC everywhere because people are fighting for the talented people.
I think that it’s rare to have the opportunity to work with a group of actors as if they’re a company, and nobody is in a company here at Signature, but there is sort of an unspoken company of actors that we look out for and admire, and that we want to see in interesting, dynamic roles.
JG: And [these actors] are a joy to work with. A lot of people are talented, but the people that always jump out at me are the people that have awesome personalities. I want to have a drink with that person; I want to hang out with that person.


Matthew Can’t Live Without
(According to James)
Bravo TV
A sensible winter jacket (purchased annually)
His iPhone
The 1987 rom-com Overboard starring Goldie Hawn
Spotify


OT: What goals do you have for Signature in the next few years?
MG:To keep creating experiences that not just tell stories, but create full, interactive, involving experiences for their audience. I want to see audiences out of their seats. Those are the most exciting things to me.
JG: I think we’re a leader in new works and in the creation of new works, but I think we could be even better and could go even further in challenging ourselves. I want to see our audiences get larger and our subscription numbers get bigger, and just engage audiences in new ways.

OT: How do you think DC theatre is changing, and what impact is it having locally?
MG: It’s gotten better and more professional, and the work that every theater is doing is more interesting. And the fact that there’s so much great theatre only makes what we do better. There’s a very healthy competition and fight, which is necessary. To survive as an organization and as artists, you need that. I think we all challenge each other.
JG:
I think the growth of DC theatre, and theatre in general across the country, is redefining what theatre is. There’s ways that we can defy expectations and do something completely different, and I think you’re seeing that a lot in New York [and] in DC.

Learn more about Signature Theatre’s 2017-2018 season at www.sigtheatre.org.

performing arts guide

Performing Arts Guide 2017

DC is one of the country’s top hubs for theatre, with more professional theaters and productions per year than most major cities save a few (not sure we can ever compete with NYC, but one can dream). Even still, our city strikes a near perfect balance between superb performances at iconic venues to edgier, more daring works at up-and-coming spots carving their own niche in local theatre. As the 2017-2018 theatre season heats up, we decided to not only pick out some of this fall’s most unique productions but also to expand our annual roundup to include other standout lineups in the performing arts – from standup and improv to dance and opera. Read our list of performances worth checking out between now and the end of the year, plus a few spots with ongoing programming in comedy, hip-hop and even burlesque.


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26

An Act of God
In this sinfully hilarious comedy, God inhabits the body of David Javerbaum of The Daily Show – and boy, does he have a sh-t ton to say to us messed up mortals. Never without his loyal archangels, Michael and Gabriel, God delivers a new set of Ten Commandments so you can stop sweating so much in church. All jokes aside (for a moment anyway), Javerbaum is a 13-time Emmy Award winner. The New York Times calls An Act of God, “a gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind.” There has never been a more pertinent time for humanity to be the butt of a skewering joke or two, so don’t miss the chance to die laughing at our sins. Tickets start at $40. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4 – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6

The Effect
You know the gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, mildly nauseous feeling you get when you know you’ve fallen for someone hard? What if you were told that feeling was only a side effect of a medication? Connie and Tristan are subjects in a medical trial for antidepressants. When they fall in love, differentiating between love and chemicals becomes increasingly difficult, especially in a situation that involves doctors, the tricky ground of acclimating to new medications and big pharma to boot. Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $20-$45. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15

Assassins Presented by Pallas Theatre Collective
It’s always a bit jarring to watch a production of this classic American musical in DC. Grounded in Stephen Sondheim’s genius lyrics and wrenching musical composition, the show tells the story of America’s four presidential assassins and five would-be assassins. The actors speak and sing directly to the audience, making the play captivating and holding you on the edge of your seat as you uncomfortably consider the “other side” of the story, and find comedy in unexpected moments. Capital Fringe’s production, directed by Clare Shaffer, is sure to be a rendition worth seeing. Tickets are $25. Logan Fringe Arts Space/Trinidad Theatre: 1358 Florida Ave NE; www.capitalfringe.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7

Sam Morril at the Big Hunt
A nationally touring comic and former intern with The Colbert Report, Morril has performed on Inside Amy Schumer, Conan and The Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert. A frequent performer at New York City indie and underground shows, Morril is bringing his jokes to Underground Comedy, and there couldn’t be a more relevant time to go see him. His Comedy Central special, Class Act, became No. 1 on iTunes comedy specials, and a popular online comedy magazine describes his ability to make the “unfunny very funny.” So ignore your real problems and go see this rising comic while he’s in the area. Tickets are $15. The Big Hunt: 1345 Connecticut Ave NW, DC; www.undergroundcomedydc.com

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12

The Price
Often overshadowed by American playwright Arthur Miller’s other works like The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, The Price tells the story of Victor Franz, a man who returns home to settle his late father’s affairs. During the Great Depression, Victor gives up his chance to go to college in order to care for his father. Years later, in an attic of a soon-to-be-demolished home, overflowing with memories and dusty furniture, Franz must come to terms with the weight of the decision he made on behalf of his father. The Price premiered on Broadway in 1968 and has been produced there four times since. Various dates and showtimes. Tickets cost $91, but check Arena’s website for Pay Your Age/Under 30 Program and student deals. Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8

Samson and Delilah
Before you rule out seeing an opera just because it’s an opera, give this one a chance. This performance tells the biblical story of Samson, an Israelite warrior who meets his downfall in the form of a beautiful woman who seduces and then betrays him. The French opera was written by Camille Saint-Saëns and couldn’t be performed until 15 years after it was written due to its “sensual” subject matter. Still not sold? The final scene is infamous for portraying a bacchanal which consists of a dance by Delilah intended to seduce Samson. You don’t have to be old and a millionaire to enjoy a damn good story. Tickets start at $54. George Mason University’s Center for the Arts: 4400 University Dr. Fairfax, VA; www.cfa.gmu.edu

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen (The Little Mermaid – the sad one) fairytale, The Red Shoes is a popular fairytale that tells the story of a woman who wants to do nothing more than follow her dream: to dance. She finds herself torn between a man who brings her fame and a man she loves. Filled with swing, waltz, ballet and all the glitz and glamour of the 40s, this drama is premiering in DC and is sure to make its way into your heart. British director Matthew Bourne has won a Tony Award for Best Director with his rendition of Swan Lake, so you know you won’t be let down when it comes to an emotional story. Show runs from October 10-15. Tickets cost $29-$129. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Antony and Cleopatra
Easily one of the most intriguing plays ever written, Antony and Cleopatra is so chockfull of sexual symbolism, it’s hard to believe the Bard ever got a reputation as highbrow. Antony is torn between his passionate affair with Cleopatra and his sense of duty – familial and military – to those who depend on him in Rome (including a wife). As if the characters and the story aren’t captivating enough, Folger will transform into a round theater with the stage in the center, offering a unique experience and view no matter where you’re seated. Pro tip: keep an eye out for the subversion of gender roles and the symbolism of the snake. You’re welcome. Various dates and showtimes. Tickets cost $35-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 East Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13

Whoopi Goldberg
This iconic actress and hilarious comedian doesn’t let herself be limited. Goldberg is a known humanitarian, author and television show host, in addition to being funny AF and the best part of every movie. This multifaceted actress is bringing her wit, charm and jokes to a night of standup at the Kennedy Center. The decorated performer is also one of the few winners of an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award), so don’t miss out on the chance to see Goldberg’s charming personality in person. Nun costumes optional. Tickets cost $49-$125. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14

Tango Buenos Aires: The Spirit of Argentina
The Andes Mountains and the Plaza de Mayo are two reasons to visit Argentina at some point in your life, but if you’re anything like me and a trip to South America is not in the foreseeable future, then mark your calendar for this. Take a trip through the evolution of tango with the dancers of Tango Buenos Aires. This isn’t a show to remind of your own two left feet, but an exploration of music and a historically and culturally iconic form of dance. And if just sitting on the sidelines isn’t your thing, join a free dance lesson before the show starting at 6:30 p.m. The lesson is free with a ticket to the show, and couples are encouraged. The show is at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30. George Mason University’s Center for the Arts: 4400 University Dr. Fairfax, VA; www.cfa.gmu.edu

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21

UrbanArias: Shining Brow
You are most definitely familiar with the crushing feeling when one of your artistic heroes says, does or is accused of doing something indefensible. Or even when someone famous you don’t like gets a pass on morally reprehensible behavior – looking at you, NFL fans – just because they’re good at what they do. People warn you against meeting heroes for a reason. But when it comes to art, we tend to make excuses for brilliant people who behave badly, as if genius is some sort of curse. This opera explores the life of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his affair and his “enormous self-regard.” Tickets cost $39-$42. The Paul Sprenger Theatre: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27

The Adventures of Peter Pan/Synetic Theater’s Vampire’s Ball
The cast, crew and producers at Synetic Theater are masters at their craft, which is to say that year after year, they take traditional productions and make them magical by removing dialogue. That’s right – body movement, choreography, music, sound, lights and raw emotions set the stage and rule the show at Synetic, creating an audience experience that is unique to say the least. In keeping with its magical, mysterious vibe, the theater will hold its 11th annual Vampire’s Ball right before Halloween. Tickets to the ball include a performance of The Adventures of Peter Pan, plus a post-show party with dancing, an open bar, and, of course, a costume contest. Tickets are $25-$70. Synetic Theater: 1800 South Bell St. Arlington, VA; www.synetictheater.org

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3

Mean Girls
You can’t sit with us! But you can sit in National Theatre to see the new musical adaptation of the now classic teen movie about friendship, revenge and navigating the perils of high school life (let’s be real, life in general), that starred post-Parent Trap and pre-arrest LiLo. With a Tony-winning director, comedy from Tina Fey, original music from Jeff Richmond (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and lyrics by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde), this has got to be even better than the movie. Mean Girls comes to National for its world premiere before heading to Broadway next spring. Tickets are $48-$108. The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thenationaldc.org

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5

Metro Tap Roots
There is nothing quite like the sound of taps clicking and shuffling lightly across the stage, or across the concrete, or anywhere, really, to set the rhythms in your soul to moving. Now in its third annual showing, Metro Tap Roots is a celebration of the DC area’s vibrant and rich history of the art of tap dancing. This year, Roots will be performed in collaboration with renowned African-American poet Nikki Giovanni. The show is inspired by Giovanni’s children’s book, The Grasshopper’s Song: An Aesop’s Fable Revisited. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4 – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2

Top Girls
Keegan Theatre is a hidden gem among DC’s playhouses. Surrounded by brownstones and tucked away on a narrow, tree-lined street, the venue has a magical way of transporting you to another world even before a show begins. Keegan is known for its unique and challenging productions, and Top Girls should be top among them. Directed by Amber Paige McGinnis, Top Girls is as relevant now as it was when written in 1982. According to Keegan’s website, “the play presents complex questions about a feminism which mimics aggressive, oppressive behavior and success which can only be achieved by abandoning family ties to force a way to the top.” Tickets are $35-$45. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5

Kevin Smith
Do we really have to write a lengthy litany of reasons for you to go see Kevin Smith? Probably not, but we’re going to pontificate anyway for the sake of gratuitous self-gratification, and because we really enjoy Mr. Smith. Basically, the man is a creative force of nature, stemming from his 90s hit Clerks, which sparked his celebrity and his film career. The homemade movie about dudes shooting the sh-t in a gas station kicked off his filmography and then sprawled into multiple movies set in his “View Askewniverse,” podcasts, television shows and of course, his live standup. Well, I guess it’s not technically standup, but it’s titled “An Evening With,” which is sort of misleading because it sounds like something you’d put in your calendar for a Tinder date. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s not the case (Smith is married, ladies), but hanging out at the Lincoln while Smith says cool sh-t sounds good enough for us. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. The Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12

Dance Metro DC
Since 2005, Dance Metro DC has been committed to a mission of strengthening and supporting the field of dance in our region – advocating for artists, promoting exhibitions, and educating and providing a network for dancers from all disciplines. This fall presentation continues that mission, showcasing the work of dance artists that have been commissioned by the organization. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31

The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens
Chicago’s legendary comedy troupe The Second City is bringing Christmas to the Kennedy Center like never before. Twist Your Dickens is the perfect show to wipe away any holiday blues that may come your way. You’ll meet new versions of the characters from Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, and won’t be able to think of Scrooge, Tiny Tim or the three spirits in the same way again. Audience participation will round out this parody, so be ready to join in and become a part of the satire. While all in good fun, the show is recommended for ages 16 and up. Tickets are $49-$69. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12 – WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13

Hip Hop Nutcracker 
If you feel like getting into the holiday spirit, but are tired of seeing the same shows year after year, this one is for you. Hip Hop Nutcracker gives whole new meaning to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” with a cast of a dozen all-star dancers spinning the turntable on this Christmas classic. Jaw-dropping hip-hop choreography, special guest MC Kurtis Blow, an onstage DJ, electric violinist and digital scenery bring Tchaikovsky’s score and the story of Clara and her nutcracker to new light in a contemporary urban setting. Tickets are $28-$58. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31

An Irish Carol
Opening your presents right after midnight or waiting until everyone is done with brunch, copious amounts of eggnog or a total lack thereof, buying ugly sweaters for the pup or detangling the cat from the Christmas tree – everyone has their own versions of holiday traditions. And this year, Keegan Theatre needs to be on the agenda. Set in modern times, An Irish Carol tells the familiar story of a man who puts material success ahead of everything else and must rethink his life when faced with voices from the past. So, ditch the crowded malls playing Mariah Carey on loop and add a new routine to your holiday season. Showtimes and dates vary. Tickets start at $35. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21 – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23

Judah Friedlander at DC Improv
You may know him from 30 Rock or Wet Hot American Summer, but even if you don’t know who Judah Friedlander is, if you don’t even like comedy shows (who are you, anyway?) and even if – perhaps especially if – your soul is black and no humor penetrates it, don’t miss the opportunity to see this master comedian at work. He is the World Champion of comedy. He was a strong contender for the 2016 presidency. He wrote a book about how great he is. Basically, when he gets here, he’s going to out-DC the city in a hot minute, and will make you pee-laugh while doing it. Tickets are $20. DC Improv: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.dcimprov.com

ONGOING

Big Duo Improv Comedy Night
This monthly improv comedy show brought to you by comedy duo Big No No is the kind of lowkey laugh that even the staunchest of comedy haters can enjoy. In the chill atmosphere of everybody’s favorite coffeehouse/bar/hipster hang Colony Club, Big No No’s Sam and Michael (who have been working their own two-man routine since 2013) gather two new comedy duos each month for a themed show before rounding out the evening with their own skit. It’s a really nice reprieve from the real world. Go for the laughs. Stay for the friendship. Free. Colony Club: 3118 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.colonyclubdc.com

Fantasie Fridays at SAX
Enter through reclaimed, gilded church doors into a world of decadence and debauchery (irony not to be missed), and find yourself in a tiny Versailles. The SAX is two floors of ornate adult wonderland catering to the art of cabaret where, “beginning with dinner, the evening slowly gathers energy as guests are treated to continuous live entertainment, where ballet meets burlesque meets Cirque de Soleil.” On Friday nights, a cast of aerialists, pole performers, belly dancers and more take the stage to create a phantasmagoric evening where the lines of the real and the imaginary blur. Fridays; inquire for more details. SAX DC: 734 11th St. NW, DC; www.saxwdc.com

Hip-Hop at the Kennedy Center
One of the most iconic performing arts centers in the country is providing a space for hip-hop artists and lovers to celebrate everything hip-hop culture. On November 5, enjoy the Words, Beats and Life competition, an event dedicated to breakdance and graffiti. If breakdancing is going to end up with you breaking something, show up for In The Beginning, a silent dance party that is free and doesn’t require tickets. If Throwback Thursday is your favorite day of the week, then don’t miss the chance to hear music of hip-hop trailblazers who helped define the culture as we understand it today. Various dates and showtimes. Ticket prices vary. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

Underground Comedy
The Big Hunt is one of DC’s oldest and most popular “dive bars.” And if you take a deep dive down into the establishment’s basement (affectionately known as “Hell’s Kitchen”) on a Wednesday through Saturday night of any given week, you’re guaranteed at least a laugh or two with your cheap beer and bottom shelf liquor when Underground Comedy, “DC’s premier independent comedy production company,” takes over the mic. Wednesdays and Thursdays are reserved for the best of DC’s standup comedy community, while Friday and Saturday shows feature comedians from around the country, including national headliners. Ongoing Wednesday through Saturday, tickets run from free to $15. The Big Hunt: 1345 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.undergroundcomedydc.com

Photo: Carol Rosegg
Photo: Carol Rosegg

Ford’s Theatre Presents ‘Death of A Salesman’

It had been a while since I last had the chance to see a show in the grand yet intimate space that is Ford’s Theatre. Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, at Ford’s through October 22, was a treat, and I must insist that you see the classic play.

The performance started with a somber stillness in the air, as the little house suspended above the stage glowed mysteriously, and ended with a well-deserved standing ovation. Directed by Stephen Rayne, the play is as much of a masterpiece today as it was in 1949. And although the play is three full hours, you never think to leave your seat. The laughter, groans and suppressed tears – all responses triggered by the protagonist – leave you empty and in need of a hug as you exit the theater.

The truthfulness and vulnerability of every character was felt and understood. The generational concerns of lost identities, going through the motions of life feeling duped paired with a sense of inevitable failure, and the struggles of facing reality are themes that resonate with audiences and have a place in societal discourse today. Craig Wallace’s portrayal of Willy Loman, a salesman living through his last 24 hours on Earth, is chilling. The actor’s ability to seamlessly go from spouting coherently joyous or inimical tales to delusional rants with himself will give you pause.

Death of a Salesman is the epic story of a father and husband who did everything a man in the 1940s was expected to do, including have an extramarital affair, but who still grappled with the sense of feeling inadequate. He believed he gave his sons everything, and after working from the bottom of the business ladder to support his family, he expected that he would be able to depend on the success of his sons in his retirement years. This hopeful dream goes unrealized, and the reasons why are played out carefully on the three-tier stage that whimsically transports audiences from present to past, from New York to Boston. The story effortlessly unfolds as audiences witness the innocent – and not-so-innocent – mistakes made by the whole family.

While this is definitely a male-dominated story, actress Kimberly Schraf – who plays Linda, the matriarch of the family – made certain to leave her mark onstage. Battling between loyalty to her husband and her desire to maintain a united family is the dilemma that forces Linda to ferociously shout at her sons, causing the most frightening reaction. One would never expect the mousy, submissive and nurturing woman displayed to explode in such a manner. It seems evident that one’s threshold and the power of love can bring strength to the forefront. To sum it all up, Schraf’s heartfelt performance was simply that – heartfelt.

The performances by the remaining family members that carried this tale were also endearing. The slapstick comedy delivered by Happy (Danny Gavigan) and Biff (Thomas Keegan) was hilarious. Keegan and Gavigan not only played humorous 30-year-old men, but also the same character 17 years earlier. Their high energy never wavered, and the whole gamut of emotions was expressed without skipping a beat. It was sublime. It was a world in and of itself – the cast, the setting, the lighting and the sound effects, all perfectly timed and perfectly executed, make this production worth seeing.

Death of A Salesman runs through October 22. Tickets start at $25. Learn more here.

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

Photo: Daniel Schwartz
Photo: Daniel Schwartz

The Wild Party at Constellation Theatre

From beginning to end, The Wild Party is phenomenal. Allison Arkell Stockman’s rendition of Andrew Lippa’s critically acclaimed musical, at Constellation Theatre through October 29, is truly a wild party.

Set in the roaring 1920s in Manhattan, the play follows the roller coaster of lovers Queenie and Burrs’ emotions during a party in their apartment, set to jazz, vaudeville and gospel. The cast’s vocals are certainly the meat of this musical sandwich, leaving you mesmerized and under a spell.

At the performance I attended, audiences were holding onto their seats, as if the energy emanating from the stage might force them to their feet in a perfectly spontaneous dance. It was too fun and exciting of a time to keep one’s jaw hinged. All were awestruck, as the lights flickered, dancers leapt into the air and “liquor” drenched the floor.

One number that stood out to me was “Two of a Kind,” performed by Emily Zickler as Mae and Calvin Malone as Eddie. The duo’s chemistry was spot on, and they were definitely going home or to a bar next door after the show to cause more mayhem. The pair, along with the rest of the talented cast, made this production entirely convincing. However, let’s not forget the stunning costumes designed by Erik Teague; the garments donned by the cast were vibrant, entrancing onlookers.

Now to the main characters of this timeless tale of love, and the dire consequences of failing to end a romantic situation before pursuing another. Queenie, Burrs, Kate and Black do an effective job of conveying the intricate details causing jealousy and lust to surface, sending this “rager” to its inevitable, deadly end.

The two leads, Farrell Parker (Queenie) and Jimmy Mavrikes (Burrs), lack the intense sexual chemistry that propels the “two vaudeville performers in[to] a sexually potent but tumultuous relationship.” While there are sexual innuendos aplenty, making this is a perfect show for adults who appreciate the occasional crass sexual reference, the sensual desires between the two go unrealized outside of the words forced from their lips.

Despite the lack of physical chemistry, their musical and comedic talents shine through. Parker is hot! She sizzles as she lightly makes suggestive racy glances toward the audience, and motions sensually across the seemingly 12-foot-wide stage. Her voice often rings above the live band, illustrating her yearning for fresh love. Mavrikes’ portrayal of a drunken clown manages to foster empathy for an otherwise loathsome character. His comedic timing is refreshing, and his vocal range is both impressive and enduring. The two shine independently, but as a romantic duo, I’m not convinced.

Now the desire between Kate and Burrs was too real, as Kari Ginsburg (Kate) enticed audiences with her suggestive demeanor and powerful vocals. She was a delightful and hysterical addition to this much-appreciated ensemble. Black and Queenie also had a few steamy encounters that made you question their relationship once lights faded to black. The alluring lower register sung by Ian Anthony Coleman (Black) pulsated throughout the intimate theater, bringing chills and goosebumps to everyone’s skin.

It was an emotional ride, prompting laughs, claps and an unshakable desire to dance. Yes, there were rare moments when the band drowned out the singers, and a few sex scenes were more comical than genuine. However, this show provides a fine evening activity for couples and friends looking to be entertained and wowed.

The Wild Party runs through October 29 at Constellation Theatre. Tickets are $25-$55.

Constellation Theatre: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; 202-204-7800; www.constellationtheatre.org

Photo: Tony Hitchcock Photography
Photo: Tony Hitchcock Photography

Fully Immersive Theatre: In Cabaret We Trust

As someone who has spent countless hours nestled safely in the audience during some of our city’s best theatre productions, the idea of being approached by an actor mid-performance and drawn into the plot is equal parts terrifying and intriguing. And those emotions are at least part of what artistic director Strother Gaines is gunning for with the brand new, completed-in-42-days, fully immersive In Cabaret We Trust.

At Blind Whino through this Thursday and Friday, and remounting in Dupont Underground this winter, the play follows a resistance cabaret (think burlesque dancers, sword swallowers, fire eaters, aerialists) in a populist-controlled republic run by an ultra-conservative lesbian senator. We caught up with Gaines about what inspired this production, how the story ties to our current political climate, and what audiences (and timid theatergoers like me) can expect and how they should prep for the experience. Read on for his thoughtful insight into the world of In Cabaret We Trust.

On Tap: How long has In Cabaret We Trust been in the works?
Strother Gaines: We started working on ICWT as a concept in October of 2016. This was our first stab at an immersive concept and we learned a ton from doing it. We knew right after the election that we had to put something out there, and we wanted to do it rapidly. CulturalDC awarded us the grant with 42 days [until] the preview performance. We were probably 20 percent into the story/character arcs/concept, and we had to finish the remaining 80 percent in 42 days.

OT: Were you inspired by Sleep No More or other immersive theatre productions?
SG: Oh yeah, immersive work has just fascinated me from the first show I ever saw. I was in London in 2005 and saw Tropicana presented by The Shunt Collective, and it took place in an abandoned London Tube station. The show was super weird but I couldn’t get enough of it. Sleep No More is stunningly good, and while we hope to differentiate ourselves from that (no masks, even though we thought about it), it’s absolutely a source of inspiration.

OT: Tell me more about the parallels between our current political landscape and the Weimar Republic. Why did that era seem like the right fit for this production?
SG: Today, the Weimar Republic serves as a crucial reference for exploring the problems we face in this moment. Through the lens of this historical context, our production [explores] concepts of power and control, as well as resistance and creation. We encourage the audience to share in a dialogue that takes them out of their seats and into the cabaret. While we might find it uncomfortable to examine the sins of our past, there is merit in comparing these difficult moments in our history with the decisions we face for our future. Political movements come and go, but the triumph of the human spirit remains.

OT: What led to the decision to make the ultra-conservative senator controlling the city a lesbian? How does her role impact the story?
SG: Honestly, it was a move that was inspired by my mother. My mom is a conservative Trump supporter, and she kept sending me articles about one gay guy who supported Trump. Or, “Look, here’s a black lady who says we should respect the office.” I told her, “Mom, these one-off examples don’t prove that all gays or all African Americans support Trump – or that they should.” When you have minorities involved in anything, I think tokenism is an easy off ramp when people are striving for diversity. By holding up the senator as a lesbian, we hoped to mirror the “Look, we’ve got one of those!” mindset that we’re starting to see in faux attempts at diversity and inclusion.

OT: How many actors are in the production? How were they selected?
SG: In total, we’ve got about 45 performers. They don’t all go on every single night, but through some ridiculous scheduling and fluidity to the world we built, we get as many as we can each night. We were extraordinarily lucky to have so many amazing performers be able to cobble together a super flexible casting situation so beautifully.

OT: What makes Blind Whino the right venue for this production? How does it lend itself well to this type of experience?
SG: Blind Whino was chosen for us by the Space4 program. The two venues they had open for us were Blind Whino and The Dupont Underground, where we’ll remount in February. We requested Blind Whino because it [was] easier to create a more fluid experience in a space where people were free to go [in] multiple directions and inhabit different spaces. In the Dupont Underground, we’ll have to do a lot more building to create secret spaces, private rooms and a nonlinear experience. Now that we’ve got the experience of Blind Whino under our belt, we’re more equipped to turn a linear space into a nonlinear experience.

OT: Can you give us a sense of how the actors interact with the audience, and what role the audience plays?
SG: There are lots of ways you can interact with our performers ranging from a traditional “sit, watch, be entertained” to direct questioning and storytelling with individuals. Every character has a concept of what they want that night, who they want to talk to, what objectives they want to accomplish and, “Can I use audience members to help accomplish those objectives?” If you are willing to complete tasks, deliver goods, solve puzzles, or just engage authentically and ask questions/learn more, than you can control your night in so many ways. There’s no real “standard” way to interact, and every character in the show will treat people differently based on a variety of factors. We force you to choose a side and persona and based on what you choose, you’ll get a different interaction.

OT: Can audience members actually shift the narrative or outcome through their interactions?
SG: Absolutely. The ending is up to the audience, and their final decision will be influenced [by] who they interacted with leading up to the finale. What opinions have you formed about the characters and what information do you know about each one?

OT: Any tips for theatergoers to fully enjoy the experience?
SG: Don’t stick with who you came with. It’s way more fun to go with a group and then discuss the different things you all found and discovered on your own. You’ll each get a very different experience and story, and you’ll collectively know more about the world than you would have if you’d both followed the same track. Don’t worry too much about FOMO, because there is no way you can experience it all. Yes, when you are watching the fire performers, you are missing the aerialists, the pregnancy reveal and the puzzle on the piano, but focus on what seems most appealing to you in that moment. Are you not excited by a scene? Leave and find something else. Know that you can’t see it all, and release the need to try for that before you even walk in the door.

OT: What do you hope audiences walk away with? How do you want them to feel?
SG: Our show tagline is, “May our joy be an act of resistance,” and we want people to walk away feeling excited, overwhelmed, maybe a bit confused, energized and like they want to come back to experience a new storyline next time. We hope that by making an experience unlike anything else in the DC area, that we leave our audiences feeling included and important. How you show up in the world of the cabaret directly affects what types of things you’ll experience, how people will react to you and ultimately how things shake out at the end. The same is true in the real world. If we’re passive, then things happen to us rather than because of us. I’d like people to own that they have control over what story gets told.

In Cabaret We Trust runs this Thursday, September 28 and Friday, September 29 at Blind Whino. Tickets are $45 for one, $80 for a pair. Learn more at www.culturaldc.org.

Blind Whino: 700 Delaware Ave. SW, DC; 202-554-0103; www.blindwhino.org