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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.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Finding Neverland at National Theatre Hooks DC with its Cuteness

The talented company behind Finding Neverland is making a short but sweet stop at the historic National Theatre in DC. British playwright and screenwriter James Graham’s work comes to life with charming music, a dash of romance, heaps of comedy and adorable children. Though some theatre-goers may believe this musical focuses solely on the beloved Peter Pan, it’s less about pirates and fairies, and more about the inspiration behind the story’s famous playwright, J.M. Barrie, portrayed by a charismatic Jeff Sullivan.

Sullivan enchants the audience immediately with the opening monologue/introduction in Act I, and his gentleness and playfulness with the young actors is fun to watch. One of the easiest things to enjoy about this show is the connection between Mr. Barrie and widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons.

Sylvia’s son Peter, Barrie’s inspiration for the Peter Pan character, begins as the most mature of his brothers, portrayed as book-smart with a no-nonsense attitude. However, Peter eventually begins to indulge in the silliness that his siblings and Mr. Barrie provide. Collectively, these five characters hammer in the main theme of imagination with the performances of “Believe,” “Play” and the entirety of “The Dinner Party” scene, which gave the audience a good laugh, from the stuffy characters’ behavior to messing with a toupee.

It’d be foolish not to mention one of the musical’s main scene stealers, Charles Frohman, Barrie’s demanding producer, played hilariously and gruffly by Conor McGiffin. McGiffin doubles as Captain James Hook as well – the character who stems from the dark side of J.M. Barrie’s personality. Both characters McGiffin plays are loud, obnoxious and comedic, so all eyes and laughs are on him when he’s center stage.

The Disney magic, if you will, appears through the dreamy production and set design features, such as light projections, shiny fairy dust and twinkling starry nights. Some of J.M. Barrie’s imagination/dream scenes in the musical involved members of the company impressively choreographed in sync with both the music and the projections, which added to the musical’s creative strengths. A favorite subtlety of mine was seeing the cloud scenery change as time went on.

The entire cast is full of bright energy that keeps you smiling  throughout. There’s even a live dog that plays the Llewelyn Davies’ pet who gives the audience “oohs,” “aahs” and “aaws” at every appearance.

In addition to the show being a visual masterpiece, it’s clear the cast means business when it comes to the elegant singing moments, especially Sullivan’s graceful tenor voice married with Ruby Gibbs’ (the female lead character, Sylvia) stunning, lyrical vocals. Even the terribly precious young boys shine in perfect harmony during their performance of “We’re All Made of Stars.”

From the humor to the heart-warming and emotional moments, Finding Neverland is a musical that will resonate with any audience. See the musical at DC’s National Theatre now through Sunday, March 23. Tickets available at www.thenationaldc.org.

National Theatre DC: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thenationaldc.org

2018-2019 Performing Arts Guide: 25 Must-See Performances

Scattered among the hustle and bustle of DC’s bureaucracy, there are creative hubs of everyone from singers and actors to directors and writers, practicing day by day to give you exceptional shows this performing arts season. From upscale date nights at the Kennedy Center to intimate performances at Signature Theatre, we’ve collected some of the most enticing and need-to-know shows for lovers of the stage.

This year, there are the usual themes of love and Shakespeare adaptations, but have you ever seen Shakespeare set in a 1980s Manhattan dive bar where the love is as fluid as the music? Gender-bending and upbeat, you can catch Illyria at Gunston Arts Center. Or stick a little closer to the classics at National Theatre with the heart-fluttering magic of Finding Neverland, based on the Academy Award-winning film. We’re also excited for DC comedy this season, including Bentzen Ball returning this month with a wonderfully diverse lineup of the funniest voices out right now.

If you’re missing your summer vacation, you can catch a wave with Arena Stage’s Anything Goes, set on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean and starring Disney Channel’s Corbin Bleu. True crime nerds and future lawyers won’t want to miss the behind-the-scenes investigative journey of Netflix’s Making a Murderer at Lincoln Theatre. This season’s stories are like a bouquet of Edible Arrangements: completely enticing and with a performance for everyone. Don’t wait to pick your treat!

October

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18

Illyria
This WSC (Washington Shakespeare Company) Avant Bard production set in the 1980s is a colorful and music-heavy tale where gender is an afterthought. Illyria is freely adapted from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a story in which seemingly straight characters fall in love with someone despite their projected gender identity and not because of it. Ezra Tozian will be playing Viola in her cross-dressing performance as Cesario, taking the act to another level as a performance within a performance. What are the subtle mannerisms that she’ll take from gender to gender? What is it about Viola and Cesario that their admirers will fall in love with? The titular Illyria dive bar in Manhattan will intertwine the lives of multiple identities, all while bumping the music of love. Gunston Arts Center’s Theatre Two: 2700 S. Lang St. Arlington, VA; www.wscavantbard.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20 & FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27

Trevor Noah
You have no excuse to miss one of the fiercest names in comedy this fall. The South African comedian and The Daily Show host will make multiple appearances at DAR Constitution Hall in October, where he’ll continue to use his platform to discuss race and social justice in his home country and here in the U.S. We can’t think of a better way to round out your weekend than with Noah’s wit and wisdom. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25 – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28

Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival
Comedian Tig Notaro has curated three nights of comedy just for DC. First up is Phoebe Robinson, from HBO’s 2 Dope Queens and Netflix’s Ibiza. Stick around for Amanda Seales’ presentation of “Smart, Funny, & Black.” You’ll know Seales from HBO’s runaway hit Insecure. And I can’t wait to hear what kind of funny disaster stories will be shared during “#Adulting” with Michelle Buteau and Jordan Carlos. Unfortunately, the exuberant jokester Jonathan Van Ness (of Queer Eye fame) is already sold out. You can still enjoy performances by the previously mentioned though, as well as Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. I love the idea of a festival full of diverse talent who are passionate about bringing their comedic style center stage. The Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9

Billy Elliot
Ballet. Coal mining. Labor strikes. Following your dreams. An infectious soundtrack, courtesy of Sir Elton John himself. What do all of these things have in common? They’re all part of the iconic tale of the boy who loved to dance, coming to Arlington’s award-winning, intimate space at Signature Theatre. The singalong tale will run through the holidays, providing the perfect opportunity to show DC’s magnificent productions of classic theatre to your houseguests. Or sneak out and enjoy this feel-good, toe-tapping tale on your own. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

Anything Goes 2

November

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23

Anything Goes
As the SS American carries away its passengers from London to New York, it also sails a little secret across the ocean. There’s a passionate love stowed away between Billy and the countess Hope Harcourt. She’s meant to get married to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (please pronounce in your snootiest voice – it’s probably an accurate descriptor of the character). Of course, Billy doesn’t have the riches, but he does have determination and that has to count for something, right? He manages to get some fellow passengers on board (ha) with his mission, and the rest is for you to find out. I’ll be rooting for Billy mostly because he’s played by a familiar face, Disney Channel’s own Corbin Bleu. Arena Stage’s Fichandler Stage: 1101 Sixth St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5

Inside Netflix’s Making a Murderer
The documentary series centered on Steven Avery’s wrongful conviction of sexual assault and attempted murder at the age of 23 offers a deeper dive into the stories from the lawyers in the courtroom with him. Avery spent 18 years in prison before his exoneration, only to be convicted of another murder two years after his release. Anyone who gets a thrill from cold cases will love this discussion, with time for audience questions. Attorneys David Rudolf and Jerry Buting will share the ins and outs of their work on the cases, reminding us all that true crime stories aren’t just tales for our entertainment. These cases are the culmination of investigation, interviews, anxiety and a search for truth spanning decades. The in-depth event will be moderated by NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. The Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11

Comedy Get Down
Four of the biggest names in comedy – Eddie Griffin, George Lopez, D.L. Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer – reunite to bring their individual comedic talents to one night of comedy at MGM Theatre. The incredibly accomplished lineup returns for two nights of laughs after their wildly successful, sort-of-scripted (but always real) series based on the 2017 version of the tour aired on BET. No matter your preferred brand of comedy, you’re guaranteed a good time at one of these performances. The Theater at MGM National Harbor: 101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; www.mgmnationalharbor.com

Elf the Musical

December

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

Elf The Musical
Everyone’s favorite modern Christmas classic hits the stage just in time for the holiday season. In case you’ve never seen Will Ferrell’s magnum opus (just one gal’s humble opinion), this absurd and endearing comedy sees an orphaned boy raised in the North Pole by elves venture to the Big Apple in search of his father during the most wonderful time of the year. A night of wholesome, wintry laughs is guaranteed. I’m so excited I could cram 11 cookies into my VCR. Olney Theatre Centre: 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Rd. Olney, MD; www.olneytheatre.org

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

The Panties, The Partner and The Profit
German playwright Carl Sternheim is an unsung hero in the art of satire. Playwright David Ives and Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) are bringing meditations on the middle class to the U.S. with this adaptation of Sternheim’s trilogy of plays about the Mask family – this time set across America and spanning the 1950s to the 1980s. In addition to bringing this adaptation stateside, Ives will collaborate with STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn for the final time as he rounds out his 30-year role with the theatre company. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre: 450 7th St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 6

The Play That Goes Wrong
This is a classic case of whodunnit that will make you…laugh? The play’s premise has a group putting on their own play, The Murder at Haversham Manor, and the cast is about as great as if your uncle wrangled his five kids and your grandmother together to perform at the holiday party. The murder mystery is less thrill and suspense, more bizarre and meant to make you cry of laughter rather than fear. The production describes itself as the illegitimate Broadway baby of Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python, and satirizes the idea of a terribly untalented production of actors through purposeful missed lines and breathing “corpses.” Fire extinguishers put out a person – not a fire – and doors hit actors and fall off the hinges entirely. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

Nell Gwynn

January

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17

Twelve Angry Men
The American justice system exists in tumult, and this classic play shows us that it has been in that state for a long time. For those of you who somehow made it out of a high school government class without watching the movie adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, the story follows 12 men who are identified only by their juror numbers as they contentiously deliberate the fate of a young Hispanic boy accused of killing his father. Race, justice, age and community are examined in this classic and evergreen story. Ford’s Theatre: 511 10th St. NW, DC; www.fordstheatre.org

SUNDAY, JANUARY 20

Step Afrika! 25th Anniversary Celebration
Traditional stepping has origins in South Africa and has since made its way into American pop culture and the traditions of historically black fraternities and sororities. Despite centuries-old history, Step Afrika! is the first professional stepping company. Combining influences from other dance forms, their high-energy and heart-pumping performances tell a story through stomps, claps and synchronized techniques. Though their moves seem on par with Olympic-level gymnastics, some dances are impressively elevated when performed in business wear – belts, vests and all. This year’s performance is special in more ways than one for the company, as 2019 commemorates 25 years since President Nelson Mandela’s election. $34-$75. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

TUESDAY, JANUARY 29 – SUNDAY MARCH 10

Nell Gwynn
At first blush, this is the tale of the life and times of one of King Charles II of England’s many mistresses: the titular Nell Gwynn. Dig deeper and you’ll find a glimpse into the transformative history of women breaking boundaries while cracking jokes. Nell is caught heckling performers at a play, and instead of being cast out for her behavior, it leads her to be one of the first women cast as a player in the King’s company. This eventually finds Nell in the arms of the King, but her personal journey is more captivating than any love story. If someone in 17th-century England can concede that women – even ones who heckle – are funny, we can surely stop arguing about that today. Don’t miss Nell’s remarkable ride this winter. Folger Theatre: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

BLKS

February

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4 – SUNDAY, MARCH 3

BLKS
Sex and the City has a way different meaning for Octavia, a New York City native who had a serious STD scare. Like any rational 20-something undergoing a stressful, possibly life-changing trauma, she decides she’ll need the help of her best girlfriends, June and Imani, to navigate her next steps. The trio experience much of what you’d expect when gallivanting around the city after dark: interactions with attractive men and women whose words and personalities ruin any romantic and sexual pursuit. The way the girls’ encounters interact with their identities is a prominent message in this production. They’re women, they’re millennials and they’re black – and even though they’re close, this one night has them jumping over hurdles that will either strengthen their bond or completely break through it. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8 – SUNDAY, MARCH 10

The Heiress
It is an unfortunate worldwide truth that money cannot replace the love of another person. Catherine Sloper, the heiress in question, is a prime example. She’s been raised in 1840s New York and is monetarily wealthy but poor in affection. Any shred of her father’s warmth has been guarded since her mother died during childbirth – and she’s never been one with many admirers. She’s socially awkward – much more relatable than inherited wealth – and not obviously beautiful. Catherine has long learned to be complacent with what she has, until a cute guy takes interest in her and she finally feels the adoration she’s missed her whole life. This live love story may or may not make you cry. Arena Stage’s Fichandler Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 – SUNDAY, MARCH 3

Finding Neverland the Musical
With just a bit of faith, trust and pixie dust, playwright J.M. Barrie gave us the classic, dreamy tale of Peter Pan and Neverland – a sweet escape from bedtimes and lecturing fathers. Finding Neverland the Musical offers a behind-the-scenes look at Barrie’s inspiration, introducing the real George, Michael and Peter in his life. Just when Barrie stopped believing, he met the family that sparked the magic he needed in his own career as a writer. There’s something heartwarming about the story that sprouted imagination in so many children being born from the real make-believe games of young boys. If there’s anything that connects us all through time and geography, it’s our longing to see more than what appears and create new worlds. Don’t miss the spectacular reimagining of the story behind the story. Tickets $54 and up. National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.findingneverlandthemusical.com

Queen of Basel

March

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26 – SUNDAY, MARCH 31

Vanity Fair
Playwright Kate Hamill takes William Makepeace Thackeray’s “novel without a hero” to the stage with new eyes for the character’s complex, vivacious inner lives. This adaptation sees good friends Amelia and Becky make their way through the world in a society that’s unforgiving to women regardless of appearance, wealth or status. At the heart of Hamill’s take is the beauty and strength of female friendship that allows the women to overcome the patriarchal boundaries that attempt to restrict them. And while the original novel was written in the mid-1800s, the story is just as relevant today. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6 – SUNDAY APRIL 7

Queen of Basel
Anyone rich and famous on the Sunshine State’s coast is partying away for the week-long Art Basel. It seems like a high point for Julie, whose father’s savvy hotel property investments got her the extra star treatment in a swanky room. She’s engaged, it’s her hotel and nothing can go wrong. But before the party ends, she’s single again and stuck in a tight space with hotel employees. Julie learns of the other side of Miami from Floridians who live in the slums – still the luckier side of the coin compared to Venezuela, where employee Christine fled from political dangers. Julie never expected to celebrate Art Basel hiding from her loved ones, but what she gains from speaking with Christine is more valuable than what a price tag can note. Tickets $20-$80. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

SATURDAY, MARCH 9 – SATURDAY, APRIL 6

Hands on a Hardbody
This new take on a truly American experience deals with relationships, immigration, transportation and more. Ten Texans from all different walks of life vie for a truck in a “hands on a hardbody” contest in the hot summer sun. As they fight for a new set of wheels, this off-the-wall environment brings truths about the contest, each contestant and their community to light. Based on a documentary of the same name that premiered in 1997, the story feels every bit as relevant more than a decade later. Tickets begin at $52. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

Grand Hotel

April

THURSDAY, MARCH 28 – SATURDAY, APRIL 20

Columbinus
It’s been 20 years since the Columbine High School massacre, and tragically, the United States has not seen improvement in keeping students safe from school shootings. A new wave of teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are continuing to push the fight forward. This docudrama comes at a compelling time to remind us all of where we started, and how it hasn’t gotten better two decades later. Among all the difficulties and growing pains that characterize “teenage angst,” it’s unimaginable to feel the way the Columbine and MSD students did. Columbinus combines real interviews from the time of the shooting with survivors, the parents and others in the community. For those involved in the debate or who are passionate about reform, this is likely to generate new discussions on the matter. 1st Stage: 1524 Spring Hill Rd. Tysons, VA; www.1ststagetysons.org

TUESDAY, APRIL 2 – SUNDAY, MAY 12

Grand Hotel
Berlin in the 1920s was a precious period of creative and economic prosperity. What better way to peek into the lives of Berlin’s personalities than visiting a hotel? The Grand Hotel sees many swinging its doors and booking rooms, causing lots of mix-matches to collide and mingle – like the ballerina who jetés into the hotel and has unlikely interactions with a bookkeeper, as well as a typist and a baron. This musical will feature some special performances including discussion nights, a pride night and a performance with open captioning. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24 – SUNDAY, MAY 19

Oslo
This three-hour play is based on the true story of a husband-and-wife diplomat team who, unbeknownst to the proper channels, organized instrumental meetings between Israel and Palestine during the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s. As the conflict between those two countries rages on nearly 25 years later, this play provides eloquent insight into a very real and very modern attempt to solve one of the most complicated conflicts in human history. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

Capture

May

WEDNESDAY, MAY 1 – SUNDAY, JUNE 2

The Children
Two retired nuclear physicists live on an island and require stringent routines to get through each day. They’re seemingly making it work, surrounding themselves with healthy food and yoga practice – despite the fact they’re living in a post-apocalyptic world in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. The couple’s calculated days are brought to a screeching halt with the unexplained appearance of a former coworker, who comes bearing a nasty nosebleed and an even nastier secret. A slow-burning meditation on humankind’s responsibility as stewards of the earth, there couldn’t be a better time to experience this critically acclaimed modern tale. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, MAY 15 – SUNDAY, JUNE 16

Sooner/Later
With To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and other rom-coms dominating the film industry, it’s still unlikely to follow the dating life of a woman who is the single mother of a teenage girl. We usually view the story solely from the teen perspective. This production gives Gilmore Girls vibes, with the charming closeness of a mother and daughter who have a friendly, supportive relationship rather than a strictly parent-child one. But enter one more character who kind of disrupts the dynamic: the man, the love interest, the newcomer. Mosaic Theater Company describes its production as navigating the pains and pleasure of romance, marriage and parenting with a “metaphysical twist.” You’ll want to watch this play sooner rather than later (ha). As a lesser-heard type of story, Sooner/Later needs support to get more stories like it onstage – and maybe you can even bond with your own mom at a performance. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.mosaictheater.org

FRIDAY, MAY 17 AND SUNDAY, MAY 19

An Evening of Verdi
The Maryland Lyric Opera has brought numerous works to the DC area since its founding in 2014, and its 2019 season will be no exception. The opera’s talented cast brings the works of famed Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi to the Music Center at Strathmore’s halls. The performance is the perfect outing for opera lovers or those just being introduced to the craft. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

Photo: Doug Hamilton

Give In to The Temptations

The latest in the line of anthology musicals, Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations opened its month-long stint at the Kennedy Center on Thursday night. Written by Kennedy Prize winner Dominique Morisseau, directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, Motown’s most legendary act is once again thrilling a packed house.

Morisseau’s Detroit roots are on display as she frames Motown’s rise alongside that of the auto industry, as African-Americans from the South arrived in Motor City in search of work, bringing music with them. Through The Temptations, Morisseau tells the story of the musical revolution accompanying this migration; a uniquely African-American chapter of the great American story.

Guided by the earnest narration of Otis Williams (Derrick Baskin), the group’s level-headed but extraordinarily driven leader, the audience is taken on a journey from the Temptations’ origins on the streets of Detroit all the way to the top, featuring 31 songs throughout the two-and-a-half hour show.

Instead of settling for being a good-time singalong, Ain’t Too Proud also plumbs the dark depths that accompanied The Temptations’ meteoric rise and classic sound. Between showstoppers like “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” “Just My Imagination” and the titular “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” Morisseau explores the tension of a group trying to navigate personal strife and turbulent times.

While much of the conflict centers around the internal, personal tension between the steadfast Williams trying to maintain an egalitarian group dynamic (and his own family) over the protests of spotlight-hungry showman David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes), the show also examines how The Temptations were viewed by the country at large, and the irony of their status as a crossover hit. In particular, the calculated business decision by Berry Gordy (Jahi Kearse) that the group avoid overt political messaging drove home the idea that appreciation from white audiences did not necessarily mean acceptance from white society. This added complexity elevates Ain’t Too Proud above otherwise similar jukebox musicals.

While the Williams, Ruffin rivalry takes center stage, each Temptation shines in his own right. Jawan M. Jackson’s Melvin Franklin, Jeremy Pope’s Eddie Kendricks, and James Harkness’ Paul Williams are each given an opportunity to lay their characters bare and fully capture the Temptations’ spirit, all while pulling off dance routines well worthy of the Classic Five.

Through their sterling catalog and Trujillo’s exquisite recreation of their iconic steps, Ain’t Too Proud both delights audiences and highlights the immense legacy the group has left for acts that followed. To borrow from one of Baskin’s monologues, the Temptations have always been greater than the sum of their parts, and DC (and soon Broadway) would do well to witness their legacy firsthand.

Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations runs through Sunday, July 22 at the Kennedy Center. Tickets start at $79; purchase them here.

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

Photo: Scott Suchman

WNO Honors Bernstein with Candide

Add the Washington National Opera to the list of those celebrating what would have been the year of the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, as it presents the composer’s notable take on Voltaire’s biting satire, Candide through May 26 at the Kennedy Center.

Featuring classic tunes such as “Make Our Garden Grow” and “Glitter and Be Gay,” this version of Candide marries a triple threat of theater, dance and opera. Bernstein wrote a piece with so many different layers, many compare it to his personal love letter to Europe.

Eric Sean Fogel is the associate director for the show, and has also served as choreographer on the project since 2015. He says the best way to describe the performance is to talk about how not to describe it.

“We start right off the bat by not categorizing the production; we don’t say it’s an opera, operetta or a musical, or a dance piece for that matter,” he says. “It’s kind of everything, and that’s how Bernstein and his collaborators wrote the piece. It’s a world onto its own.”

However, Fogel shares, what audiences can expect to see are 12 massive production numbers and a journeying piece of a young man trying to figure out who he is by exploring the world and searching for both his love and his reason.

This current production is the fifth remount of the show. It all began when Fogel would meet with Francesca Zambello the director, Jennifer Moeller the costume designer and Jim Noone the set designer, once a month for a year to slowly go through and talk through the piece to figure out how to tell the story of 13 locations effectively on stage.

“It does have a cinematic, huge sweepy feel to it that takes a lot of time to plan out scenically and costume- and design-wise,” Fogel says.  “After a year, we settled on this base look of a French warehouse that can be transformed by moving trunks and platforms into any scenario we would like — from boats in Venice to a Bavarian battlefield.”

Throughout the show, there’s also a mish-mash of different period costume pieces for the ensemble, so they could quickly put on a jacket or necklace and represent a different character in a different county.

“We decided the most facile the design could be, the more brevity we could have in the storytelling,” Fogel says. “This is a story that’s already incredibly dense, so you want to keep it moving along and not weigh it down with additional design element. It’s almost like we’re doing the stage version of ‘It’s a Small World’ because it’s such a massive journeying piece and you just want to get different flavors of all the different cultures you go through.”

The show is comprised of a company of 34 singers, actors and dancers and unlike most opera productions, everyone sings, acts and dances like a true Broadway ensemble.

DC’s own Denyce Graves plays the character of “Old Lady.” Although she’s never done a Bernstein production before this, Graves does have a history with him as when she was 14, she made a PSA commercial with the legendary composer.

“I didn’t really know who he was at the time, but of course, over the years I learned he is one of our greatest musical giants,” she says. “This being the centennial, when I was offered the role, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity. I had known the music of course, but had never seen the work and was curious, interested and excited.”

Regardless of whether people are fans of opera or theater, Graves feels people are really going to enjoy this show.

“It has a lot of the melodies that people have heard throughout the years—everyone has heard ‘Glitter and Be Gay’— and this production is so spectacular,” she says. “It’s so detailed, so funny and I the audience will have a wonderful time.

The production also features Alek Shrader as Candide, Emily Pogorelc as Cunegonde and Wynn Harmon as Pangloss, Voltaire.

Fogel believes that when audiences leave, they will contemplate how to make the world a better place.

“It’s such a beautiful message of someone finding their purpose,” he said. “It’s poignant, has a lot of heart and offers great humanity throughout.”

For information and tickets to the show, click here.

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