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202Creates Helps District Connect Arts Community

Three years ago, a month became a movement for the DC creative community.

“There were so many things coming to the forefront of the creative community,” says Angie Gates, director of the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME). “It started out with the intent to highlight our diverse and vibrant community. The original [idea] was to have the month of September be the main focus of highlighting our creatives. What we quickly realized after year one was: we can’t stop.”

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser established 202Creates in September 2016 to celebrate the city’s creative economy and culture, with input from the DC’s OCTFME, Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Office of Planning and Economic Development. What began as a designated month of events has since transformed into a relationship between the local government and its luminaries including fellowships, studio space and networking opportunities.

“To know that the mayor and the community are behind the creatives speaks to the climate of where we are and [the community’s] understanding of the arts in the District,” says local musician James Poet of indie group FutureBandDC. “There’s such a melting pot of creatives in the area. There’s so many visual artists and filmmakers and [musicians]. They’re part of the pulse of the community. It makes sense for the city to come in and make sure we have a voice and platform.”

Though the idea rapidly outgrew 30 days, September still holds significance for 202Creates. This year’s kickoff event on August 29 at Eaton DC will promote art installations, musical performances, dance activations and more. Other festivities included in the celebration are Art All Night on September 14, the DC Radio Anniversary event on September 19, and the 202Creates Month closeout event on September 28 featuring Poet and his band.

“I think 202Creates is a staple in DC,” Poet continues. “It’s the go-to for creatives in providing a platform for us to elevate our talents. They’ve created this platform to support the creativity community in all its functions, and we definitely wanted to make sure we support this initiative.”

The 202Creates community has grown because of the city’s willingness to increase support and provide a foundation for people looking to get their foot in the proverbial creative door, Gates says, mentioning the OCTFME television and radio stations.

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” Gates says. “I fondly refer to DC as the capital of creativity. Not only have [we] had an impact here in the District, but nationally people are [recognizing] what we’re doing here.”

And this form of support isn’t limited to people in the entertainment industry or people who deal in traditional mediums like photography or painting, as the city also considers practices like cosmetology and cooking to be artistic expressions that fall under 202Creates’ purview.

“It wasn’t so much about the government as much as this is how the government can help you find a creative pathway to the middle class,” Gates says. “What it really does is highlight the different resources and platforms that we have as a government that we can provide our creatives. It’s really about the creatives having a seat at the table and showcasing the talents of the city.”

Three years in, she says there are still people just learning about 202Creates and its programs, whether it be artists-in-residence or the coworking office on 200 I St. Through installations and social media, the movement has touched all eight wards of the District, unearthing and shepherding talent in a supportive manner.

“I think it would be a travesty if we didn’t grow each year,” she says. “When you have other artists and other things to spark your creativity around you, you start to expand and grow and develop. That’s the beauty of it all: to look at where we were in 2016 and where we are today.”

So how can locals gain access to these resources? Gates says it’s as easy as sending an email via www.202creates.com, but she’s also fielded pitches in person and over Instagram.

“We’re asking everyone to just come out and meet us,” she continues. “We have an open-door policy at our studios. The goal is to make sure our creatives can work closely with us. The main thing is to get engaged once you’re here and familiar with it.”

For a list of participating 202Creates Month events or for information on the initiative, visit the website at www.202creates.com or www.entertainment.dc.gov. Follow along with the community on Instagram @202Creates.

Photo: Jati Lindsay

Kennedy Center Arts Summit Explores The Human Journey: Creating the Story of Us

On April 29 the annual Kennedy Center Arts Summit created space for leaders in the arts and arts advocacy to address the difficult questions surrounding the role of the arts in an unjust world. The theme of this year’s symposium, The Human Journey: Creating the Story of Us, invited the dissolution of traditional boundaries between artistic disciplines and between the “arts world” and the “rest of the world.”

Storytellers from all walks operating as catalysts for change within a dramatic variety of arenas convened to redefine what even a story is – A technology? An art form? A breathing thing all its own? – and to consider why it matters here and now.

Words spoken aloud, words heard, narratives propelled forward into the space in a room, into the air, are driven by voices – and that is what gives them power over paper.

In a series of roulette-style interviews punctuated by musical performances, the first half of the day-long summit proved just that. The format alone attested to the power that can be wielded by being in charge of a narrative – as each session’s interviewee became interviewer for the next panelist, the dynamic shift in the person, progress and direction a story can take was on display.

Snap Judgement’s Stephanie Vu, who uses the awareness of this power to combat Complex PTSD, asked the audience to consider “how does the experience shift when you go from the interviewer to the interviewee, even when you’re interviewing yourself.” She continued, “giving of self is part of the process of unfolding a story.”

Hip-hop and rap artists, poets, podcast producers, PhD sociologists, musicians, educators pushed on each other and themselves to place art in dialogue with dominant narratives told in the public, and within the self, to identify the parts of our tangled stories that we do and don’t share, and to consider how the process of creating a new story is like stitching together disparate wounds to emerge with a stronger whole.

And with seeds planted during the morning, afternoon breakout sessions took a deeper dive, pushing participants to examine intentionality, authorship and intersectionality; pursue the idea of “radical listening”; and discuss strategies for generating stories, both personal and communal.

Theatre artist Kaneza Schaal reminded Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra, a 16 year-old member of 826DC who is struggling to keep the oral histories of her family alive, that “the world is built of stories” and that in telling hers, she is “building an entire ecosystem.”

Earlonne Woods, formerly incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Bay Area artist Nigel Poor, started the podcast Ear Hustle when Earlonne was still within in the prison system. Woods encouraged the audience and his fellow panelists to let conversations happen: let stories emerge, let yourself tell your story. In essence, he told us, there is more than one side to every story, and there is more than one layer to every character.

James L. Knight Foundation’s Victoria Rogers questioned the role of patrons of the arts – if storytelling is a technology, who has access to it and who decides who gets that access?

And finally, Princeton sociologist Betsy Levy Paluck gave us scientific evidence for the power of storytelling. Stories, she says, can motivate war, but they can also drive its resolution. In a study that explored the rolls of mass media in the Rwandan genocide, Paluck showed just how intimately and biologically stories bind us on a deep neural level.

Ultimately, if we use that bond to do good, the art we create within and of ourselves can actually change the world.

The Kennedy Center Arts Summit is an annual one-day convening to investigate the power and potential of the arts, for more information visit here.

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

Photo: Francisco Campos-Lopez

A Q&A With Washington Performing Art’s Jenny Bilfield On The Portals Of Art and More

Jenny Bilfield was once told to work as a receptionist and luckily for the DC area, she ignored this request. Instead, the President and CEO of Washington Performing Arts listened to the impactful women in her life telling her to be ambitious, develop a powerful work ethic and to channel her experiences along the way.

At the helm of the local art organization, Bilfield has steered toward community and education programs, ensuring people receive the same inspiration and motivation as she did in her formative years. We talked to Bilfield about her love for all things art, her trials and tribulations in the professional world and why it’s important for young people.

On Tap: How did you get your start in the arts?
Jenny Bilfield: I started playing the piano by ear when I was three, and composing when I was 10. I was the only person in my family with artistic ability, but my mother loved the arts, especially contemporary art, music, theater and so we attended everything. I’m sure my very early exposure and encouragement conditioned me to be open to a variety of art forms, sounds [and] environments.

OT: Why is art important to you and when did you know you wanted to have a career in the field?
JB: For me, the arts provide portals to history, emotion, experience, human understanding; they enlighten, engage, inspire [and] educate. I have learned so much through the work of great artists. Artists have an arsenal of tools to synthesize and express the complexity and beauty of our world in ways that engage the heart and mind, afresh. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts from the time I was pretty young – I decided when I was around 17 or 18, that I preferred making music happen (promoting and programming it) more than I liked the solitary confinement of a practice room. An internship coordinating a Beethoven Festival on Long Island one summer, clinched it for me.

OT: What are some of the biggest challenges you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
JB: I started working in 1985 in New York City – 20 years old, right out of college. I encountered a number of challenges early on: the assumption, from prospective employers (male) that I was going to work only until I met a man and got married. In addition, I was told I needed to choose a path, marketing, fundraising, PR, programming, etc., and that my desire to lead or run an organization was both unrealistic and hasty; organizational leadership wasn’t a track, they insisted. It took me a few years to actually run an organization, but I did have very interesting roles before I got to that point: coordinating special projects and programs for Merkin Concert Hall, working as Philip Glass’s assistant, etc. Several organizations I worked for early on weren’t especially large or stable, but I learned by doing and took some pretty important risks in order to develop my leadership chops and operational capacity across all areas of management and programming. I also developed a strong stomach for the organizational volatility that comes with working for a small institution.

OT: What are you most proud of achieving in your career? How do you set goals, and what are some that you’re working on now?
JB: A great question and opportunity to walk down memory lane! I am proud of the expansive work I’ve done on behalf of living composers – founding the New Music Orchestral Project and bringing 40 new works to life through performances and reading sessions; my leadership role at Boosey & Hawkes during, which I developed composer-focused initiatives and catalog acquisitions, partnerships that measurably grew our composers’ profiles, work and opportunities globally (and our overall catalog) while generating new revenue for the company to currently at Washington Performing Arts, developing programs (connecting mainstage, community-engagement and educational) that have provided artists with transformative platforms for their most special projects and facilitated deeper connections with audiences. I do this alongside a great team and with strong board support, and find it incredibly powerful to curate programs in DC, drawing upon the cultural resources and partnerships in this city. Those partnerships have enabled us to shine a spotlight on key themes and moments in American history – something we are aiming to do more of.

OT: What advice would you give to women pursuing careers in the arts?
JB: Personal advice: as you consider a life partner, be sure that the person you’re with is fully invested in your career and your success [because] this field requires a high level of work, life integration and if you’re on a leadership path there will be many demands placed upon your time. Professional advice: develop quantitative skills and be comfortable with data and numbers, even if you don’t expect to be a CFO or Marketing/Development Director. If invited to join a board, join the finance or governance committee; if you have experience in this area, you will be steps ahead of your peers whether you oversee programming, education or operations.

OT: Did you get any advice from someone when you were first beginning your journey?
JB: From two men – advice to work as a receptionist at an organization for several years and then apply for another entry level job within the organization; I did not take this advice. From several women: be ambitious, prepared, develop a good work ethic and use my experience.  This advice, I did take. I had quite a number of anti-role models, and quite a number of true role models. It’s important to meet and speak with a lot of people to see, hear what resonates.

OT: How is Washington Performing Arts working to empower women in the workplace and on the stage?  
JB: Our leadership team is 50 percent women (we have many on the wider staff, in fact), with a similar proportion on our board and junior board. We have a dynamic women’s committee too – and some of the most well-established, respected women in our field got their early start on the staff of Washington Performing Arts. On stage, we seek to foreground talent across many musical genres and styles and have found ample opportunities to highlight women – as performers, curators, composers, artists in residence.

OT: Why do you think arts education is important in schools?
JB: First and foremost, because I think arts exposure and participation enables us to access what is ambiguous, personal and very human in ourselves. The reason it’s important to have arts education within the schools (versus only as an extracurricular) is that when it’s included during the school day – as part of the curriculum – it becomes an educational priority, on par with other subjects. Whether its value is measured by social and emotional development of our children or by improvement in behavior or math skills, the arts can have a powerful impact.

OT: What excites you most in the DC arts scene right now?
JB: I really like my colleagues who are leading peer institutions and have found an abundance of creative, collaborative opportunities. Many of our institutions are committed to new work, arts education, and to forging meaningful relationships with community-based artists and organizations – social responsibility alongside a commitment to artistic excellence. So, it’s an interesting time to be in Washington as both artist and audience member.

For more information about Bilfield or Washington Performing Arts, visit www.washingtonperformingarts.com.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Photos: Courtesy of 10 creatives // Illustration: Trent Johnson

The Artistic, The Inspiring and The Fashionable: 10 Creative Female Forces in the District

With a record number of women running for president in 2020 and the largest number of women in a congressional freshman class yet, 2019 is shaping up to be the Year of the Woman in politics. Much less hyped in DC’s media, however, are the strides made by women in the arts. That’s why for our Women’s Issue, On Tap chose to highlight 10 outstanding women from the areas of performing arts, fine arts, wellness and empowerment, and style. From Strathmore’s CEO to one of Rihanna’s stylists, meet the badass ladies responsible for expanding a culture of inclusivity and women empowerment in the city.

PERFORMING ARTS

Photo: Margot Schulman

Photo: Margot Schulman

Monica Jeffries Hazangeles
President and CEO, Strathmore

Monica Jeffries Hazangles began her artistic journey when she first joined choir in elementary school, but focused her vision after falling in love with arts management as a graduate student during her time with the Friends of Chamber Music in Kansas City, Missouri.

From there, she joined American University’s Arts Management program in DC then Strathmore, where she’s served as president since 2011. In September 2018, she added the title and responsibilities of CEO to her repertoire. While serving as the Strathmore’s president over the years, Hazangles formed her personal worldview on the importance of the arts, believing they are “elemental to who we are as people.”

“[The arts] give us expanded ways to express ourselves,” she says. “They elevate, enrich and transform us. It is our job to make them as accessible as possible to the residents of this region and state. If arts are within reach of everyone who wants to access them, we will ensure that generations grow up believing the arts are essential.”

Her advice for finding authority and voice as a woman in the arts is “to demonstrate that there are many ways to lead and to be creative.”

“Women can be extremely effective in demystifying leadership.”

Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Rebecca Ende Lichtenberg
Managing Director, Studio Theatre

Rebecca Ende Lichtenberg left Theatre J last October to join Studio Theatre as its new managing director. Although she is only 37, Lichtenberg has already made a splash in DC’s performing arts scene over the past eight years; moving to Studio Theatre gives her the chance to shine on a bigger stage, so to speak.

Studio Theatre’s Queen of Basel, showing from March 6 to April 7, focuses on empowering women by flipping the script on a play rooted in misogyny. The play is a modern, Latinx-focused retelling of Miss Julie, which tells the story of a woman who kills herself because a man told her that was the only way to escape the burden of their premarital rendezvous. Playwright Hilary Bettis’ version, complete with actual female character development, is sure to be devoid of the outdated, sexist themes of the original.

“Hilary’s take on [the play] is born from how sick the misogyny of his original made her feel, so she actively counters that with a production that is a Miss Julie without unexamined misogyny,” Lichtenberg says. “That’s why we’re proud to present Queen of Basel. It’s a take on Miss Julie that is empowering, told from a prismatic Latinx perspective, and most importantly, is unexpected.”

For dates and tickets to Queen of Basel, visit www.studiotheatre.org.

Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Seema Sueko
Deputy Artistic Director, Arena Stage

Seema Sueko says in the grand scheme of things, she does theatre to build successful communities; but there is a deeper, underlying layer of her passion.

“Nothing beats the excitement and electricity of being in a rehearsal room with fellow artists and discovering the truths of a character’s arc or the truth of a piece of text,” she says. “We are discovering what it means to be human. It is powerful and it is humbling.”

Sueko’s current production, The Heiress, runs until March 10 and has some juicy bits of truth in store for the audience. Playwrights Ruth and Augustus Goetz based The Heiress on Henry James’ novella Washington Square, the inspiration for which he found through a piece of gossip. After Sueko finished assembling the design team for the play, she noticed she had unintentionally hired a cast of people who all identified as women, which she thought fit perfectly.

“Once I realized that, I could see how all-female design team allows us to build on the legacy of growing empowerment of this story from gossip to stage.”

The Heiress runs through March 10. For information regarding showtimes and tickets, visit www.arenastage.org.

Arena Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

FINE ARTS

Photo: Courtesy of Marcella Stanieri

Photo: Courtesy of Marcella Stanieri

Marcella Stranieri
Illustrator

Marcella Stranieri has always loved to draw. She’s kept a journal of her thoughts, ideas and drawings ever since she was little, and often finds loose scraps of paper covered in doodles and observations in her pockets and bags.

“These two idiosyncrasies, drawing and writing, collided with each other a few years ago when I quit smoking,” the DC-based illustrator says. “My hands were itching for cigarettes all the time. It was driving me nuts, so I started drawing out my ideas instead of writing them to keep my hands busy. I loved it so much, so I decided to start an Instagram for them.”

Now, her Instagram page @marcella.draws has more than 46,000 followers and is still growing. She finds inspiration for her sarcastic pen and paper line drawings in her daily experiences with friends, family and strangers alike. She’s found a lot of support from both men and women on Instagram and has noticed men commenting that they relate with her drawings, even the particularly “girly” ones.

“I like that people are slowly realizing that the default relatable thing does not have to be masculine. Men can relate to women the same way that women have been relating to men for the past few millennia.”

To see the latest artwork from Stranieri, follow her on Instagram @marcella.draws, and visit her website www.marcelladraws.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Brown

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Brown

Lauren Melanie Brown
Founder, Fashion Grunge

Freelance photographer Lauren Melanie Brown created Fashion Grunge, an online platform dedicated to art, fashion and music of the 90s grunge era, in 2008 when she was living in New York City.

“The era of blogs was starting, and I was uninspired in my day job and wanted a place to talk about my favorite era of music and fashion,” Brown says. “Now Fashion Grunge has become an international platform for artists to contribute work and music related to the grunge aesthetic as they see fit. It’s great to get so many global perspectives while also tying in nostalgic culture.”

As a woman of color, Brown says she’s always trying to uplift marginalized voices and experiences on her platform.

“I always encourage people of all identities to contribute to the Fashion Grunge platform, whether it’s in traditional images or essays to express inner thoughts. I think visibility is the key for appreciating and educating about minorities. I consciously use my reach online to show not just a singular notion of what you can be and express.”

To read Fashion Grunge, visit www.fashiongrunge.com. For more information about Brown, visit www.laurenmelaniebrown.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Tati Pastukhova

Photo: Courtesy of Tati Pastukhova

Tati Pastukhova
Co-founder + Managing Director, ARTECHOUSE

Nearly a decade ago, Tati Pastukhova and Sandro Kereselidze created Art Soiree, a DC-based organization dedicated to uplifting and curating contemporary artists and their work. As technology advanced, the pair quickly realized the lack of space for artists who work with new wave digital mediums. That’s where ARTECHOUSE comes in. The “art space dedicated to showcasing experiential and technology driven works” also houses the first augmented reality bar in the U.S.

“Technology has expanded our abilities as humans to interact with what we are given and that includes our imagination and expression in arts,” Pastukhova says. “The new forms of art that will emerge through technology will allow viewers to be a part of the storytelling and of the creative processes, enabling them to curate their own experience of art, unique to themselves.”

In early spring, ARTECHOUSE will feature an installment titled “In Peak Bloom,” showcasing works of art based on DC’s famous cherry blossoms from an all-female cast of creators.

“We believe in treating everyone equal and part of that is not creating a differentiation or highlighting one individual or group over the other. It is important to highlight [the fewer number of women in arts and tech] in hopes of inspiring the current and future generation to enter these fields.”

To learn more about Art Soiree, visit www.artsoiree.com, and for more information about ARTECHOUSE, visit www.dc.artechouse.com.

ARTECHOUSE: 1238 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; www.dc.artechouse.com

WELLNESS + EMPOWERMENT

Photo: Wendy K. Yalom

Photo: Wendy K. Yalom

Kimberly Pendleton
Women’s Empowerment Coach

As a women’s empowerment coach and women’s studies professor at the University of Maryland, Kimberly Pendleton helps women realize their full potential through online and in-person courses, workshops and programs. She started her personal business of women’s empowerment coaching when she was finishing her PhD. Now, Pendleton helps over 200 clients from around the globe to strengthen their personal relationships, find out who they are and drop baggage.

“My premium program UNCOVER has helped women recover their relationships, find love and most importantly, feel at home in themselves,” Pendleton says.

UNCOVER, a 10-week program focusing on inner awakenings through embodied practices and coaching exercises, has a $1,237 price tag, but Pendleton says the high cost of service is supportive of the “high level of energy and training” that goes into her work.

“I do believe in paying women for their labor and valuing their knowledge, especially in areas that bring soft skills and social/emotional intelligence to the forefront. I also have seen that when women invest in themselves at an edge that makes them feel a little nervous, they show up for themselves in a different way and experience more rapid transformation.”

Pendleton also offers some complimentary services including #MeToo workshops, an e-newsletter and Roadmap to Romance, a free week of video trainings on self-love, empowerment, and relationships available at www.roadmaptoromance.com.

For more information about Pendleton and the services she provides including UNCOVER, visit www.kimberlypendleton.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Leah Beilhart

Photo: Vanessa Baioni

Leah Beilhart
Founder, Behold.Her

Leah Beilhart wanted to be a professional soccer player, but that all changed after one service trip to the Czech Republic from Germany.

“It was the first time I saw a photograph of myself and cried,” she says. “The amount of sweat, mud and joy across my face was priceless. It changed my life and made me decide that I wanted to give that same pleasure to another human being.”

Over the next several years, Beilhart built her portfolio, reputation and skills as a freelance photographer before landing in DC.

“Portraiture became my main game and eventually the catalyst for Behold.Her when I found myself in DC wanting to create an environment where women could feel carefree and less filtered.”

Behold.Her, now in its third year, began as a portraiture and conversational series, but soon blossomed into a project series captivating a community of women and celebrating its diverse racial, cultural, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds.

“The biggest things we focus on is self-worth. We want women to focus completely on listening and sharing. Self-development takes a lot of energy. Most women leave emotionally depleted, but at the same time re-energized to approach life a little differently or feel less alone.”

Beilhart says Behold.Her is working toward a Self Worth Conference at the end of the year. Each quarter of 2019 will have its own theme: self-worth, sexuality and consent, money and guilt, and finally, community and relationships. All four themes will be combined at the multi-day, self-focused conference for women.

For additional information about Beilhart, visit her website at www.leahbeilhart.com. For details about Behold.Her and its various programs and conferences, visit www.beholdher.co.

STYLE

Photo: Alison Beshai

Photo: Alison Beshai

Frederique Stephanie
Freelance Stylist + Consultant

From Belgium to the Middle East, France to Ireland and England to DC, Frederique Stephanie has trotted the globe as a freelance stylist and public relations consultant. Freddie, as her friends call her, has worked as a stylist for celebrities like Rihanna, Drew Barrymore, Alexa Chung, Lily Allen and Pixie Geldof. But the biggest highlight of Freddie’s career was working on the Adidas Originals campaign featuring David Beckham, Snoop Dogg and Noel Gallagher, among other big names. Style is important to Stephanie, and always has been. And while she is definitely stylish, she says she’s not a fashionista.

“Style is a better word,” she says. “It is a reflection of my unique complexity as a human being.”

Stephanie decided to move across the Atlantic when she saw the growth potential for the DC creative market. She says her success in the nation’s capital comes from her unique background and perspective.

“I’m a black girl with Caribbean roots raised in Paris, but who spent most of her life in London. The DC creative scene needs more variety and different point of views. The city is changing and so will the industry standards as people start pushing boundaries.”

Now working as a PR consultant for Eaton DC, a collective of culture, media, hospitality, wellness and progressive social change, Stephanie says it’s “one of the most significant projects [she’s] ever worked on.”

“[Eaton DC] is the perfect platform because of what it stands for and the impact it already has on the city. They are doing incredible work, which is essential in the current [social and political] climate.”

To see what’s stylish to Frederique Stephanie, follow her on Twitter @frederique_s, and check out her blog, www.thepopuphouse.com.

Photo: Matt Spivack

Photo: Matt Spivack

Jai Lescieur
Stylist + Creative Director

Jai Lescieur recently moved to DC from London where she began her career as a styling manager and creative consultant. She worked on a variety of projects that included assisting on a shoot for Vogue China, working on a documentary about David Beckham, customizing outfits for a British TV show and getting published in British Vogue. Now, Lescieur works closely with Lauren Melanie Brown at Fashion Grunge and continues to freelance as a stylist.

“I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what DC has to offer and I am excited to continue exploring the city,” she says.

Her love for fashion and art stems from a childhood spent in Mexico City, where her mother would dress up even when she wasn’t going out and her father would wear pants tailored from curtains just because he loved the fabric so much. Now that she’s grown, Lescieur finds inspiration from powerful women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michelle Obama who are exploring different kinds of fashion while in the public eye.

“I love how they are changing the conversation of how women are viewed by what they wear. Although some people will always unfairly criticize powerful women for what they wear, these women are showing that fashion can also be a symbol of their empowerment.”

For more information about Jai Lescieur, visit her website at www.jailescieur.com or follow her on Instagram @jai_stylefactory.

Artwork: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company

STC Opens 2018 Season with Slapstick Farce The Comedy of Errors

The gang is back together may not be the first phrase that comes to mind when describing a collective of esteemed players teeming with talent who’ve reassembled for Shakespeare Theatre Company’s season opener. But when speaking with director Alan Paul about his casting decisions for The Comedy of Errors, it sounds more like a family reunion than a formal process.

“It feels like a family of people,” he says. “I think the secret of the show is that when you get people that know each other, as well as this group knows each other and has that level of comfort and trust, it’s so much easier to be funny and collaborate.”

STC’s associate artistic director saw the remounting of this early Shakespeare comedy, also part of the company’s 2005-2006 season, as “a joyful way to bring back a lot of people that I have loved and that have been important to the audience.” Paul is particularly sentimental about the start of this season as it marks artistic director Michael Kahn’s last one with the company after 32 years. To him, it only seemed fitting to bring together some of the actors Kahn handpicked over the years to celebrate his storied career.

Paul’s production of The Comedy of Errors, at Lansburgh Theatre from September 25 to October 28, is a madcap comedy about identical twin brothers who have been separated. One brother goes on a seven-year journey to find the other, and ultimately all hell breaks loose in some absurd cases of mistaken identity. While meant to make you laugh, the director says the premise of the play is actually not funny.

“If you think about the need to find your other half, it’s an extraordinary way to begin the play,” he says. “There’s such a depth to it. I hope I capture something that is deep and real about what happens to these people, because I think the end of the play should make you cry. I just feel that underneath the comedy of this play is something really real that motivates it.”

Paul’s connection to the play goes one level deeper, as he too is a twin. He says the remarkable thing about twins is you’re always at the exact same level of development as another person. Even now as adults, he and his sister understand each other in a way that’s completely foreign to the outside world.

“It’s such an interesting play, and I think I understand it on a deep level because I’m a twin. The dramaturg [Dr. Drew Lichtenberg] who helped me put the script together is also a twin. So we have two sets of twins working on the show.”

Beyond the twin coincidences, another unique element of this remounting is Paul’s desire to make everyone in the play “a little bit more mature” than the last time around. He’s also drawing from his experience directing A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for STC several years ago, as both plays are based on works by ancient Roman playwright Plautus and include elements of slapstick and even vaudevillian humor.

In Paul’s version of The Comedy of Errors, the players will navigate chaos in 1960s Greece. He’s asked composer and lyricist Michael Dansicker to write a half-dozen songs for the show; in the past month, they’ve been collaborating on a song for both the opening scene and the courtesan, as well as a big number for the different policemen in the show.

Perhaps the only part of the Bard’s comedy he’s not changing is his lead, Gregory Wooddell. The seasoned actor and STC-affiliated artist played the same role of Antipholus of Syracuse for the company more than a decade ago, but he says his approach this time around will be fresh.

“One of the reasons I’m drawn to doing the role again after 13 years is that I feel like I’ve grown as an actor,” Wooddell says. “I’m personally excited to attack it with a lot more experience and wisdom under my belt. I think I’ve got new ideas, and I think I can bring a greater clarity to the role and the language.”

He describes the play as a classic comedy, with a straightforward plotline that’s very accessible to an audience that might normally shy away from Shakespeare. The actor also loves the fact that he’s getting paid to tap into his silly side on a daily basis.

“It’s a treat to be able to work on a play like this where you get to show up for work and try to get people to laugh. But as wacky and madcap as it can get, we have a really accomplished cast that I can’t wait to work with.”

Wooddell and Paul both mention the bad rap the comedy sometimes gets, often disregarded as a lesser play for being one of Shakespeare’s earlier works.

“There’s a sensibility about the play that it’s unsophisticated, and I disagree with that,” Wooddell says.

Paul agrees, saying that the fifth act of The Comedy of Errors is just as perfect, whole and deep as the fifth act of Twelfth Night or The Tempest.

“I hope what I can evoke in the show besides the humor, which will be there, is that the play has elements of what you see later on in [Shakespeare’s] plays about families coming back together,” the director says. “It is about the need to belong to a family and what length you will go to make yourself whole by finding your family. That’s the whole thing and the whole satisfaction of it. It’s a theme that Shakespeare came back to all the time.”

From universal themes to a 90-minute, no-intermission run time, Paul is crafting a production to engage millennial theatergoers as much as any other audience. Most importantly, though, he’s hoping to give us a much-needed break from the outside world.

“For all of us that go home and turn the news on every night and have to grapple with the chaos of this modern world, I want to give the audience 90 minutes of just pure joy to forget about all the nonsense going on today and just have a good time.”

The Comedy of Errors runs from September 25 to October 28 at STC’s Lansburgh Theatre. Tickets are $44-$118.

Check www.shakespearetheatre.org for details about special nights and discounts.

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

Photo: Courtesy of Wentworth Galleries

KISS Guitarist Paul Stanley Shows Artistic Flair

Members of the KISS Army know singer and guitarist Paul Stanley designed the iconic logo that has represented the rock band since the early 70s before rising to prominence and selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

But what many might not realize is the legendary rocker behind such hits as “God of Thunder,” “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City” is just as comfortable with a paintbrush as he is with a Washburn guitar.

“I started painting about 18 years ago,” Stanley says. “It really started out as a stream of consciousness and a way to purge while I was going through a tumultuous time in my life. I never planned on showing any of my work. It was for myself.”

Inevitably, friends and family would pop over to his house and ask about the artwork, not realizing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was the master behind them.

“It was about 15 years ago when a gallery owner first asked me to exhibit, and I was pretty leery of it because I never had that in mind,” he says. “Curiosity got the best of me, and low and behold, people were taking some of my pieces home. I was surprised and thrilled.”

There was so much love for his artwork that Stanley decided to put it on display more regularly. This month, his work will be showcased at the Wentworth Gallery’s two DC area locations: Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda on September 14 and Tysons Galleria on September 15.

“These are works from my entire career. It’s interesting to see the journey, so to speak. I’ve always made the rule with painting – just like everything in my life – that there are no rules. I paint from the heart and the soul.”

His collection includes paintings, mixed media, limited edition prints and hand-painted acrylic sculptures at a wide range of price points.

“I’ve had no schooling and I’m really not interested in the intricacies of documenting what I see. I’m more interested in creating an impression and letting the viewer see what they do. The one thing that all my work has [in common] is an abundance of color. I believe the more color, the more you are designing who you are and how you see the world.”

The Starchild – Stanley’s KISS persona – understands that many of those interested in his art are fans of the band, and he expects a great deal of KISS Army members to attend. But he’s also attracting those in the art world and establishing himself as something of a critical darling.

“I would be foolish to claim that KISS fans won’t come, and I welcome that and want that,” he says. “Still, the larger pieces ultimately are being acquired by collectors and many know nothing about KISS or don’t like KISS. I’m thrilled to see a piece go from the gallery to someone’s wall.”

The top collectors of Stanley’s art will have a chance to join him for dinner after each gallery show.

Paul Stanley will be exhibiting his art at Wentworth Gallery in Westfield Montgomery Mall (7101 Democracy Blvd. Bethesda, MD) from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, September 14 and from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, September 15 at Wentworth Gallery Tysons Galleria (1807 U. International Dr. McLean, VA).

Admission is free, but RSVPs are highly suggested due to the expected large turnout.

For more information and pricing inquiries, visit www.wentworthgallery.com. To learn more about Stanley’s art, visit www.paulstanley.com/artwork.

Photo: Courtesy of Terry Fator

America’s Got Talent Winner Terry Fator Brings Winston and Friends Nat Harbor

As the winner of the second season of America’s Got Talent, ventriloquist and singing impressionist Terry Fator captured the hearts and funny bones of millions of viewers. After, he catapulted his notoriety into one of the biggest Las Vegas deals in history—a five-year deal at the Mirage worth nearly $110 million.

Once the initial contract was over, the resort signed him again and again, and Fator has been performing regularly in what is now called the Terry Fator Theatre for almost a decade.

“Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t expect a deal like this to come along,” he says. “It wasn’t long before this that I was performing at people’s homes or just doing a set in a small venue. Never did I think that something like this would come along.”

Of course, Fator credits his menagerie of “puppet friends” with helping him get to such a place. Be it Winston, the impersonating turtle; Emma Taylor, the little girl with the big voice; or lounge singer Monty Carlo, the ventriloquist knows the audiences’ love for his characters is what has propelled him to career heights.

“I’m coming up on my 10th year at the Mirage and every year I add characters and try to do something relevant to what’s going on,” he says. “For instance, when David Bowie passed away, I always wanted to do something with Bowie and Bing Crosby coming together, and I already had Bing in my Christmas show, so I invented a Bowie puppet so they could sing ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ I let inspiration decide what I am going to be creating.”

Although he comes up with the ideas, he admits he’s no craftsman so he hired what he considers to be the best of the best puppet makers to help his friends come to life.

“Most of my puppets are made by the same people who work for the Muppets, and that’s the pinnacle,” Fator says. “Steve Axtell is one of the top in the world, and he does more of the latex. Then there’s Chance Wolf who is new to the business and his stuff is incredible. I find the top talent and the best.”

On September 6, Fator and his puppet friends will be coming to the MGM National Harbor, where the audience can expect his trademark impressions, storytelling, singing and maybe even a little dancing.

“I have a lot of new stuff. I’m always updating and changing characters and routines, so even if someone has seen me before, it’s going to be a different show this time around,” Fator says. “One of the most characters I do now in my Vegas show that I just started bringing on the road is my Donald Trump.”

While this might seem a bit dicey in the DC area, Fator shies away from politics and just has fun with the character.

“Whether you love him or hate him, you will leave not knowing what side of the aisle I am on,” he says. “He’s a big character. I don’t make fun, I have fun. You’re guaranteed to laugh.”

Fator first learned the art of ventriloquism as a fifth grader after checking out a book on the subject from his school library. Not long after, he won first prize at a church picnic for his first live ventriloquism act.

Last year’s America’s Got Talent winner was 12-year-old Darci Lynne, a young ventriloquist who Fator helped mentor on her journey to the top prize.

“It’s very important for me to inspire the next generation. To me, the greatest compliment I can have is to one day be watching someone on television and they say ‘my inspiration was Terry Fator.’ I feel that keeps your legacy alive,” Fator says. “I think of Edgar Bergen, who died in the 1970s, but I was inspired by him and he lives on. I feel it’s a big role of any ventriloquist to keep the art alive.”

In addition to Bergen, Fator was inspired by people like Willie Tyler, Jeff Dunham and Shari Lewis, and one of his absolute favorites was Jay Johnson, who played Chuck on the adult comedy Soap, who was never without his puppet, the wisecracking Bob in any scene.

“I was too young to watch because of the adult themes, but anytime Chuck and Bob would come on, my parents would call me into the room and I could watch, but then after it was over, I had to leave,” Fator says. “Jay is a great among greats and one of the best ventriloquists to ever be, so what a great one to inspire me at such a young age.”

At his show, Fator honors the military and first responders, and donates the profits from any merchandise sales to the Terry Fator Foundation, which supports numerous military and first responder charities. In fact, he was recently awarded the prestigious Bob Hope Award due to his continued excellence in supporting the nation’s military.

“It’s a very inspirational show and when people leave, they are going to feel on top of the world,” he says. “I just want to take people away from their problems and issues and just let them laugh and feel better about themselves.”

Terry Fator will perform at the MGM National Harbor 8 p.m., Thursday, September 6. Tickets start at $17. For more information click here.

MGM National Harbor: 101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-971-5000; www.mgmnationalharbor.com

Photo: Chris Thomas

An Art Lover’s Oasis: NOVA Fine Arts Festival

A treasure trove of unique artifacts and unexplored creations awaits each visitor at the annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival at Reston Town Center this spring. From May 18-20, visitors can connect with over 200 artists and experience the beauty of handmade wares while simultaneously supporting the festival host, Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE).

Bring $5 as a donation to GRACE and receive a 52-page booklet including information on all participating artists and coupons for Reston Town Center restaurants, retailers and businesses. Festival director and GRACE’s associate curator, Erica Harrison, says many new and exciting changes are coming to the festival this year, including an entire extra day to explore.

By adding Friday to the schedule, Harrison hopes more people will be able to come out to the festival and the artists will have more time to showcase their work. In addition, the 2018 Awards of Excellence ceremony, which honors the best artists of the festival selected by a three-judge panel, is moving to Saturday night during the festival party.

GRACE supporters and contributing artists will mingle, drink and be merry at the party as they celebrate and discuss this year’s works of art. Harrison says the best part about the night will be a live performance from Baltimore-based artist Laure Drogoul.

“I think what’s really interesting about this year is that it’s a party for our sponsors and supporters, but we’re also trying to do this whole new creative performance art,” Harrison says. “Laure has a giant sculpture called the ‘Illuminated Fountain of Extinction,’ and it highlights a lot of the animals and species that have already or are in the process of going extinct, and I’m super excited about it.”

Although the party is by invitation only, you can sign up as a GRACE contributing supporter on their website to get the invite. Festivalgoers who are more interested in daytime activities can look forward to perusing a variety of handcrafted, supremely unique works of art including furniture, jewelry, ceramics, glasswork, paintings, house wares and much more.

To artists like Christina Boy, a German-American residing in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Madison, Virginia, the festival is a great way to connect with fellow artisans and reach out to potential clients.

“Everyone has their own artistic voice, and I believe that free events such as [this festival] are important for people to be exposed to a variety of different and unique work,” says Boy, who specializes in furniture design. “In a world that is becoming more and more homogenized, festivals like this keep it fresh and different, and help individuals find their own style instead of going for the mainstream.”

This is Boy’s second time participating in the festival, and she’s looking forward to displaying her handcrafted furniture including her signature piece, “Stool 33,” as well as benches, barstools with Danish cord seats, fun side tables and more – all designed with the spirit of spring in mind.

“Shows are a great way for people to see my work in person, as I believe it is crucial with furniture for them to be able to sit and touch the actual items,” she says.

The festival also serves as GRACE’s largest fundraiser of the year, providing the arts center with over half of its annual budget of $500,000 so that it may continue opening exhibits and offering programs at no cost to locals.

“We’re trying to bring more attention to the mission of the gallery by encouraging participation and making sure everything is accessible to the whole community, regardless of income,” Harrison says. “It’s really helpful to have the festival as a starting point; hopefully, people will come back and check out GRACE’s other programs and exhibitions.”

The festival is still going strong in its 27th year, and thanks to Harrison and her team, it’s growing even stronger. She looks forward to the festival’s bright future and many improvements over the next several years so that GRACE may continue to support artists and encourage artistic engagement in an even greater way.

“What I really hope people get out of the festival is that they make a connection – either with a specific artist or by responding to a piece of work that attracts them and becomes special to them. That’s something that you can’t really do with anything but art.”

The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival runs Friday, May 18 to Sunday, May 20 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. The festival party on Saturday, May 19 runs from 7-10 p.m. and is invite only. For more information about the festival’s participating artists and details on how to receive a party invite, visit www.restonarts.org/fineartsfestival.

Reston Town Center: 11900 Market St. Reston, VA; 703-471-9242; www.restonarts.org/fineartsfestival