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The Scottsboro Boys

Stage and Screen: May 2018

THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 20

Snow Child
Arena Stage adapted Eowyn Ivey’s Pulitzer-finalist novel, The Snow Child, for the stage with the world-premiere musical Snow Child. Facing the loss of their unborn child, Jack and Mabel move to Alaska from Pennsylvania to restart their life together. During a long, hard winter, the fissure between them grows until it seems impassable. But everything changes once a wild, mysterious girl visits them from the dark woods that surround their small cabin. Matt Bogart, starring as Jack, wants audiences to deeply contemplate Snow Child’s themes before they leave the theater. “I hope that audience members will see some of their own life experiences reflected in this piece, and that we are successful in reiterating what is taught in these old folk tales,” Bogart says. “This folk tale has to do with the impermanence of nature – how nature can sweep in and change your life, how losing a child can change your life, and how gaining a child, whether it’s born into this world or if you create it in your mind, becomes [a form of] healing.” With Alaskan folk music, a puppeteer and a winter wonderland set, you’ll find yourself alongside Jack and Mabel as they struggle in the Alaskan wilderness. Tickets are $65-$80. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 27

1984
In this captivating adaption of George Orwell’s 1984, the crushing realization of a dystopian future is inescapable. In a world with an authoritarian government monitoring every action, expression and thought of the masses, individualism is crushed and challenging the established regime leads to torture, prison and death. Be careful what you think. Big Brother is watching. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15-$45. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

WEDNESDAY, MAY 2 – SUNDAY, MAY 6

Hamlet
For the first time since 2007, the legendary Royal Shakespeare Company returns to the Kennedy Center to tell the age-old tale of searing tragedy, murder and revenge. After a student is called home from university to find his father brutally murdered, he sets out on a mission to expose the truth on a journey of madness, murder and lost love. Rising star Paapa Essiedu makes his debut in the U.S. with his lead role in Hamlet. Tickets are $39-$129. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SATURDAY, MAY 5 – SUNDAY MAY 27

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now
Father and small business owner Hank struggles to keep his legendary rock club open in 1992 Chicago. As Hank refuses to confront the reality of where rock music is heading, his daughter starts dating a rising DJ star, forcing her father to acknowledge the truth of a different era. Explore themes of family troubles, affection for a bygone decade and the pure awesomeness of 90s rock with the DC premiere of The Undeniable Sound of Right Now. Tickets are $35-$45. The Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

SATURDAY, MAY 12 – SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Saint Joan
Focused on Joan of Arc’s simple, illiterate, village-girl nature, George Bernard Shaw takes a different approach in telling this classic tale of martyrdom. Instead of portraying her as a witch, a saint or a heretic, Shaw emphasizes her individualism during her journey to liberate France from English control after over 100 years of war. Only four actors play over 25 roles in this engaging, bare-bones production, which The New York Times described as “irresistible” and “a force of nature.” Tickets are $35-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 E Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

THURSDAY, MAY 17 – SATURDAY, MAY 26

Spook
Just an hour before his scheduled execution, ex-police officer Darl “Spook” Spokane is to give a live televised interview from death row. Convicted for murdering five of his fellow officers during what they call the “Morning Roll Call massacre,” Spokane is to explain himself with the entire country watching. There’s a catch: this will be the first time he’s uttered even a single word in three years since the mass shooting. You’re going to want to hear what he has to say. 8 p.m. all dates. Tickets are $20. Logan Fringe Arts Space: 1358 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.capitalfringe.org

TUESDAY, MAY 22 – FRIDAY, JULY 1

Camelot
Amongst magical forests and castles of grandeur, four-time, Tony Award-winning musical Camelot explores the struggle for civilization and goodness in a society that’s accustomed to violence and hate. It is one leader’s integrity, courage and empathy along with his Knights of the Round Table that will change the course of history. With a doomed romance and an incredible score on top, this musical has won the hearts of theatre enthusiasts for generations. Tickets are $59-$118. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

The Scottsboro Boys
Along the lines of Kander and Ebb’s iconic musicals Chicago and Cabaret, the Tony Award-winning duo delivers yet another breathtaking musical. The Scottsboro Boys is a critique on racism and injustice in the South, revealing the true story of nine African-American teenagers who were falsely accused of a crime, quickly tried and sentenced to death in complete disregard for due process. Nominated for 12 Tony Awards, this musical transforms a disgraceful moment in American history into a platform for change. Tickets start at $40. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

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

Lucky Steals Show in Waiting For Godot

Hope and despair, slapstick comedy and profound philosophical musings, each are abound in quick succession in Samuel Beckett’s iconic and mysterious play Waiting for Godot.

Irish acting company Druid is performing their rendition of the hard-to-interpret play at the Shakespeare Theatre Company through May 20. The metaphorical mystery in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot leaves an endless amount of room for interpretation, but Druid’s rendition is certain to keep audiences laughing as much as it will make them think.

The play tells the story of two tramps, seemingly stranded on a barren countryside road. Vladimir (nicknamed Didi, played by Marty Rea), a usually cheerful intellectual and Estragon (nicknamed Gogo, played by Aaron Monaghan), the wearier of the two. The pair bicker, play games and tell stories endlessly, while they wait for the arrival of someone named Godot. During the eager, sometimes hopeless, wait, the tone alternates between heartbreaking and hilarious.

“I think Beckett wants us to go through all the different emotions in this play. There are some very sad, emotional moments and kind of a despair at times but then he does the opposite, there’s great hope and great love and great laughs at times at ourselves and our existence,” actor Garrett Lombard says.

The two tramps, draped in shabby clothes and plagued with ill-fitting boots and itchy hats, encounter only three other characters: Pozzo (Rory Nolan), his slave named Lucky (Lombard) and an unnamed boy (Malcolm Fuller).

The tramps wonder about and at times judge Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky, who is constantly burdened with a stool, a basket, a suitcase full of sand and a rope around his neck.

“[Lucky is] a very subservient character, very low-status kind of guy, and he basically wants to please his master by doing his job of carrying his bags and giving him his coat and his stool and his whip and whatnot as best as he can,” Lombard says.

Perhaps the character most difficult to interpret in Waiting for Godot, Lucky stumbles around the stage, answering to Pozzo’s every beck and call, without saying a word – until his famous, breathtaking monologue that earned a raucous round of applause from the awestruck audience.

“He comes out with this incredible, mad, long, stream of consciousness speech, about the human existence and what we have ascertained about trying to explain this and trying to explain the universe and ends up, during the speech, almost losing his mind completely,” Lombard says.

The monologue nearly drives Pozzo, Didi and Gogo out of their minds as well.

This landmark moment makes preparing for the role of Lucky a colossally strenuous process. In addition to his monologue, the character spends most his time either hunched over or flopping down in exhaustion. According to Lombard, prepping for the character required a lot of stretching and staying in the best possible shape.

Apart from the physical aspects, the getting in the mind of the character was an isolating process, Lombard says. Lucky is constantly serving Pozzo and does deliver an enormous speech, but he never actually banters with other characters.

“It’s a bit of a lonely process. You don’t get to have the kind of fun that Didi and Gogo have in the rehearsal room. But it’s a really interesting one to work on as an actor, even if it was a little bit lonely at times,” Lombard says.

Critics have debated the symbolism of Lucky’s name, as well as his role. Some say Lucky is aptly named because unlike any other characters, he knows what his purpose is – to serve Pozzo. The name could also be sarcastic, which is in line with the play’s dark humor.

Catch the show until May 20 at the Lansburgh Threatre. Tickets start at $44 and can be purchased here. More information can be found at www.shakespearetheatre.org.

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

Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage
Photo: Courtesy of Arena Stage

Lights, Camera, Eco-Friendly Action: Arena Stage’s Solar Rooftop

For almost 70 years, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has impacted countless lives with diverse and groundbreaking work from great artists around the country. They’ve held programs, classes and events to inspire creativity and expression, reaching over 10,000 students every year through community engagement. And in February, they decided to show their love for the community by installing 1,145 solar panels on their expansive rooftop.

To Arena Stage Executive Director Edgar Dobie, being eco-friendly is one of the best ways the theater can serve their network of artists and theatergoers.

“We feel that we need to respect our relationship with our community and our environment,” says Dobie, who has been with Arena Stage for nine years. “We tell stories on our stage, and as an institution, we have stories to tell as well. One of those stories is that we want to be as efficient and respectful as possible to the resources – whether they’re environmental or financial – that are given to us.”

As part of Arena’s renovations from 2007 to 2010, the Southwest Waterfront-based space hired the late Vancouver architect Bing Thom to design a massive glass enclosure that would surround both historical theaters. He even fit a new, third theater in the enormous 200,000-square-foot design. Thom’s idea for using glass came from his environmentally conscious roots. A huge glass wall means lots of sunlight entering the space, and a natural thermal system to save energy. Dobie is certain that Thom would be thrilled with the solar panel design if he were alive today.

With their new 452.3 kW solar system, Arena Stage’s move toward a renewable energy resource is the equivalent to saving 45,231 gallons of gas annually, or taking 85 cars off the road. And to achieve their goal of producing 20 percent of their power supply purely from solar energy, Arena Stage teamed up with EnterSolar, a leading provider of commercial marketplace solar energy options in New York. Dobie says their reputable portfolio isn’t the only reason he’s thrilled to work with them.

“EnterSolar is doing great things, and we are proud to partner with them on this project,” he says. “On top of it all, I love their name. It’s like a stage direction!”

Dobie says that because they’re eventually going to save money with this new energy source, Arena Stage will most likely hire more actors and teachers in the future. Thanks to their initiative and forward thinking, this theater will not only help to save the environment but also step up their mission to bring people together through the arts.

Learn more about Arena Stage at www.arenastage.org.

Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-488-3300; www.arenastage.org

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Stage and Screen: April 2018

THURSDAY, MARCH 29 – SUNDAY, APRIL 22

Paper Dolls
This quirky and provocative karaoke musical follows the experiences of five gay male Filipino nurses in Tel Aviv who care for elderly Orthodox and Chasidic men six days a week. But instead of white Keds and scrubs, these fab male nurses don high heels and boa scarves on their day off to headline a drag show. Based on the true story behind a 2006 Israeli documentary, Paper Dolls confronts the challenges that migrant workers face while yearning for citizenship and a place to belong. This American premiere is part of the 2018 Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival and directed by veteran Broadway director Mark Brokaw. Tickets start at $20. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

FRIDAY, MARCH 30 – SUNDAY, APRIL 29

Two Trains Running
Two Trains Running examines everyday life for black Americans in 1969 as tremors of the Civil Rights Movement reach Pittsburgh’s Hill District, which was one of the most prosperous, culturally active black neighborhoods in the country in the 40s and 50s. But when the 60s rolled around, the Hill District faced a sharp economic decline. Playwright August Wilson directly comments on this regression when Memphis Lee’s diner, the center of the Hill District’s community, is slated to be demolished. Arena Stage’s website describes it best: “Confronted with the reality of a rapidly changing world, Memphis and his regular customers struggle to maintain their solidarity and sense of pride.” Tickets start at $81; check website for information on discounts. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 5 – SUNDAY, APRIL 29

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Symphonic Metal Version)
This reenactment of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel will have you headbanging so hard, your neck will hurt for days. Landless Theatre Company and British-American composer, dramatist and author Rupert Holmes come together to transform Tony Award-winning musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, into a hard rock masterpiece. Tickets are $25. Capital Fringe: 1358 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.capitalfringe.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 12 – SUNDAY, MAY 6

Witch
Strong, bold and powerful women have been feared, objectified and discouraged for many, many generations – especially when their power has challenged the status quo of that particular moment in history. Witch explores the thread that connects the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s to modern politics, examining the stories of women who have been labeled and chastised as witches throughout the centuries. This musical is sure to make you think long and hard about what it means to be a woman in the modern age, and what it must’ve felt like back then. Tickets start at $30. Creative Cauldron: 410 S Maple Ave. Falls Church, VA; www.creativecauldron.org

TUESDAY, APRIL 17 – SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Girlfriend
Set in a small Nebraska town in 1993, Girlfriend tells the tender, coming-of-age tale of college-bound jock Mike and self-assured but aimless Will, who are high on the rush of a first-time love filled with excitement, confusion and passion. All of these emotions and more are perfectly captured by Matthew Sweet’s alt-rock album, Girlfriend, which inspired the musical. Rolling Stone describes the play as a “rock ‘n’ roll Valentine that delivers subtle wisdom with an exhilarating kick.” Pride nights on May 11 and 18. Tickets start at $40. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18 – SUNDAY, MAY 20

The Crucible
Arthur Miller’s classic 1953 play about the Salem witch trials comes to life on Olney Theater’s stage this spring. Enter the world of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, when an unseen evil swept through the small town of God-fearing people. This is a timeless reminder of the terrible outcomes that stem from bending the truth to conveniently fit one’s political agenda. Tickets start at $59. Olney Theater Center: 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd. Olney, MD; www.olneytheatre.org

THURSDAY, APRIL 19 – SUNDAY, APRIL 29

International Film Festival
The 32nd annual International Film Festival has been expanding minds and opening eyes for the last three decades, and it’s not about to stop now. Choose from 80 films from over 45 countries over the course of 11 days at various locations throughout the city. Featured films include opening night’s Streake, about a different kind of sports star, and closing night’s Just to Be Sure, a comedy exploring the virtues and vagaries of DNA. Full schedule and ticket information available at www.filmfestdc.org.

SATURDAY, APRIL 21 – SUNDAY, APRIL 22

Another F*cking Warhol Production
The feath3r theory, a dance-theatre-media company based in New York City, is coming to the District with Another F*cking Warhol Production. This American docufiction, post-ballet theatre musical is a recreation of the unrecorded, deleted and lost footage from Saturday Night Live’s 2015 episode on love and war (“The Love Episode”). With dancers wearing brightly colored morph suits inspired by 60s fashion, this musical is just the right amount of quirky and compelling. Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

Photo: Carol Rosegg
Photo: Carol Rosegg

Trust in The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre

There’s not a moment in Ford’s Theatre’s The Wiz when you’re not exhilarated. From the instance Toto rushes across the stage to the final second Dorothy clicks her heels, the kaleidoscope of characters, colors and music inspires the audience to yelp, cheer, tap their feet, laugh and snap – it’s impossible to sit still when you’re traveling through the Wonderful World of Oz.

The Wiz, the iconic winner of seven Tony Awards, is an adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, which unapologetically celebrates black culture through it’s score of blues, soul, gospel, R&B, jazz and pop, in addition to its universal narrative. The Wiz isn’t a story about a young black girl overcoming slavery, extreme poverty or hardships. Rather, the story is about a young girl who happens to be black making friends and finding strength as she attempts to journey home after being whisked away by a tornado into a magical land.

“The beauty of The Wiz is its message that anything we already are is enough,” director Kent Gash explains in Ford’s press release. “Dorothy feels restless and stuck at home, but when the tornado comes through, it absolutely turns her world upside down and changes her perspective. Dorothy discovers she is smarter, more powerful and more interesting than she ever realized. She comes to understand that how she moves through the world can change lives. That is a valuable lesson for us all to celebrate.”

Ines Nassara shines as Dorothy. The moment she sings the first line on “Soon As I Get Home,” we know exactly who this character is. We feel Dorothy’s fear, excitement and resolve to succeed in her mission. At the beginning of the show, she’s still unsure of her bravery. By the time she helps her new friend, the Cowardly Lion (played exquisitely by Christopher Michael Richardson), discover his own strength in “Be a Lion,” you’ll be hard-pressed to hold back tears upon seeing this young woman stand with such power.

Hasani Allen emulates the same charm and lankiness as Michael Jackson in the same role as the Scarecrow, but his “Aw, shucks” sweetness is all his own. For lacking a heart, Tinman, as brought to life by Kevin McAllister, sings with all his soul about the eternal fear we all have about being unable to love, and being unlovable.

While the four leads of the show prove wonderful, The Wiz is a musical that needs a strong ensemble cast. Ford’s production delivers, and when the show reaches its peak after Evillene melts away with “Everybody Rejoice” – an exuberant song celebrating freedom and new chapters – you can’t help but revel in the joy onstage.

This production of The Wiz is a delight for any pop culture fiend. There are call-outs to Jackson 5 dance routines, Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece RevelationsWakanda, Coming to America, Flavor of Love (Flava Flav’s VH1 dating show), Paris Is Burning, Grace Jones, Prince and Purple Rain, and of course, some moonwalking thrown in for good measure.

This is a story about having the courage to trust in yourself – trusting your smarts, trusting your heart, trusting your bravery and, finally, trusting in your spirit.

The Wiz runs at Ford’s Theatre through May 12. For more information about the show or details on times, dates and tickets, click here.

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

Photo: Scott Suchman
Photo: Scott Suchman

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Give Depth to STC’s Hamlet

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may have famously failed to play upon Hamlet as a pipe, but at Shakespeare Theatre Company, they firmly fingered all my stops. The production is STC’s latest take on Hamlet, at Sidney Harman Hall through March 4, and it is one which I cannot recommend enough.

At the theater, I speak with Ryan Spahn and Kelsey Rainwater, who play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respectively. The two delve into their characters (down to their course of study at Wittenberg), regale me with stories of the side jobs actors work and explore that je ne sais quois that makes this Hamlet great. The readily apparent distinction of their Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is that Guildenstern is a woman, but the more salient distinction is the complexity of their take; though it is cool that Guildenstern is a woman, because why not?

“We had to figure out what we were going to do,” Spahn tells me, “because the trap of this duo is that they can be clowny, and only that.”

To give greater depth to their characters, they took their time in mining the duo’s relationship with Hamlet.

“At first I thought we were just good friends who had fallen out of touch,” Spahn continues. “But then as it developed, I [came to] feel like we were really good friends. But we were also jealous of him because he had it so easy because he comes from such wealth.”

“And we did not,” Rainwater adds for emphasis.

Spahn and Rainwater have a way of picking up where the other leaves off. Spahn continues.

“So we had 10 or 12 years of friendship with him where that [tension] grated on us.”

Rainwater adds, “We understood each other in a way which Hamlet never understood us. It did start out like we’re all chums, we’re all on equal footing. But then once outside of school, we realized that that’s not it at all, that we don’t belong in his world.”

Spahn says that’s also the tricky part with this plot point.

“We’re all just friends, so why turn on [Hamlet]? For us, we realized we’re almost angry at him because he had it so easy. Even if no one in the audience can tell, it grounds us and our path in something that we very much need to do.”

Rainwater agrees.

“This is our chance for success – finally.”

Spahn tells me that they draw on personal experience for the part.

“I think we can just relate to this as actors and artists. When you have close friends or loved who skyrocket to success, or even something so simple as you wanted a job and someone else got it…you deal with jealousy so easily in this field, that anytime I can use it onstage helps me in my real life to not feel it. You can get it out. I think we talked about that.”

He turns to Rainwater and she nods. I follow up by asking them what they studied at Wittenberg with Hamlet. Rainwater laughs and goes first.

“I like to think I studied philosophy. Like Hamlet’s really good at this, at philosophizing, so maybe I should try, and then I took the class and realized I was way over my head.”

Spahn responds deadpan.

“I assumed we did something like poli sci, [something] that was really general so that when we graduated, people were like, ‘What do we do with you? You have no skills.’”

It turns out that this is not far from the truth in Spahn’s case. In New York, he applied to a temp agency and was told he had no skills. Still, the interviewer invited him in for an hour to see if he could figure out how to work an office phone. He went in and could not.

“I went home and I was like, ‘Well that didn’t work.’ I eventually went back to school, but I never went back to a temp agency.”

Spahn and Rainwater speak openly, and it’s this clarity that marks their acting. Michael Urie plays Hamlet in a similar vein. Spahn and Rainwater describe this as the contemporary style that’s popular right now.

“You’re trying to be in the moment,” Rainwater says, “to listen and to respond to what’s given to you.”

“There’s less showmanship,” Spahn adds.  

This contrasts with the acting of Keith Baxter, who plays the Grave Digger, the Player King and the Ghost. Baxter once acted alongside Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight, and his style is more performative and gestural (re: classical).

Spahn says having such different and cross-generational styles of acting is something director Michael Kahn was intent upon. And it works. According to Spahn, it works because of the cohesiveness of the company. He cites that cohesiveness as the source of the play’s success, too.

“One of the most successful things we did – particularly because there are so many different acting styles – is getting a cast of 20-25 people in the same play that you believe actually know each other; that they’re performing in the same style of production. Often you’ll see things and it feels like suddenly we’re in a different play, and this one doesn’t feel that way, and that’s a hard thing to do. I think it speaks to how well this company gets along.”

“We party all the time,” Rainwater says, though the bro voice she adopts and the way she laughs says otherwise. Spahn picks up what she’s saying though.

“We’re sort of all really into each other. Even Keith Baxter knocked on our door last night at 12:15 in the morning and was like, ‘I was having dinner with somebody and they liked the play. G’night!’” he says, putting on a sabled English accent.

The play is one which I’m sure my editor would prefer I’d quit gushing about at this point, but there is so much about it which recommends itself. The use of technology is subtle and fluent. The actors, and in particular Michael Urie, are funny. The whole is captivating and convincing. And Hamlet only runs through March 4, so you better get your tickets ASAP. For tickets and more information, visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.

Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; 202-547-3230; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Stage and Screen

Stage & Screen Events: August 2017

RUNS THROUGH SUNDAY, AUGUST 20

Thurgood
This one is for American history buffs and fans of justice. Starring Brian Anthony Wilson as Thurgood Marshall, this one-man show is part biography, part legal drama. Think documentary in the first person, except instead of just entertainment, you’re getting an intimate look at one of the most important legal cases in American history: Brown v. Board of Education. Various show times and dates. Tickets start at $55. Olney Theatre Center: 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD; www.olneytheatre.org

SATURDAY, AUGUST 5

Homeward by Ari Shapiro
You may be used to hearing him on NPR’s All Things Considered, but you’ve never heard him like this. As a journalist, Ari Shapiro is no stranger to reporting facts about foreign places in turbulent times. Hear songs that tell stories at Shapiro’s cabaret show. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the first show and 9 p.m. for the second. Tickets cost $30-$50. AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.ampbystrathmore.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 11

The Juniper Tree and Bastianello
If you think dramatizing story time with voices and accents is essential, this event is for you. These renditions of the fairytale “The Juniper Tree” and Bastianello, a collection of old Italian stories, turn beloved stories into family-friendly opera. Show times and dates vary. Tickets cost $32-$88. The Barns at Wolf Trap: 1635 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

TUESDAY, AUGUST 15 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8

A Little Night Music
If love triangles are too simple to entertain you and you prefer romantic plots that more closely resemble a tangled pair of earphones, don’t miss the chance to see this classic musical. Set in Sweden in 1900, several characters – including a married virgin, a formerly glamorous actress and a sexually repressed student –attempt to navigate their complex relationships. Featuring famous scores like “Send in the Clowns,” this beloved show runs through October 8. Show times and dates vary. Tickets cost $40-$89. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

SATURDAY, AUGUST 19

David Sedaris
The author behind Santaland Diaries brings his brilliant storytelling and hilarious observations to the DC area this summer. Whether you’re a huge Sedaris fan, or just love a good story but have no time to read, you don’t want to miss hearing his intimate and often hysterical narratives in person. Elf costume optional. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $25-$55. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

THURSDAY, AUGUST 24 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith
If you’ve ever wished you lived through the roaring 20s, here’s your chance to travel back for an evening. Pay your dues to the Empress of the Blues at this musical celebration of the iconic Bessie Smith. If her music isn’t reason enough to attend, her dramatic and larger-than-life story certainly is. Devil’s Music reimagines the night Bessie and her band were turned away from performing at a whites-only venue. Show times and dates vary. Check www.atlasarts.org for ticket prices. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

FRIDAY, AUGUST 25 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 27

Global Impact Film Festival
Calling all film lovers, activists and advocates alike. This one-of-a-kind festival brings days of documentaries and narratives that promise to inspire social change. This year’s films deal with a range of issues like immigration, violence, beauty and the environment. The festival also includes open panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities for filmmakers. Renaissance Marriott: 999 9th St. NW, DC; www.globalimpactfilmfest.org

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30

Merriweather Movie Nights: School of Rock
Bring blankets and lawn chairs, and come ready to watch some classic Jack Black hilarity without breaking the bank. Food is available at the venue. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Free admission. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

The King and I

Stage & Screen Events: July 2017

RUNS THROUGH SUNDAY, JULY 2

DeRay Davis
Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, DeRay Davis is said to be one of the best live shows to catch at DC Improv. His credits include 21 Jump Street, Barbershop, Jumping the Broom and MTV’s Wild ‘N Out, just to name a few. Basically, this dude is talented and funny, and you should go check him out. Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 7, 9 and 11 p.m., and Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35; VIP for $45. DC Improv: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.dcimprov.com

FRIDAY, 7 – FRIDAY, JULY 8

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert
This one is for all you Harry Potter fans out there. Join the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap as they perform every single note from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone while you watch the film in high-def – it’s sure to be a hit for wizards and muggles alike. Audience members are encouraged (and expected) to dress the part, be it your favorite character or sorting house (Hufflepuff all the way). Think of this as a drive-in movie, minus the cars. Don’t forget to bring your blankets and invisible cloaks, and settle in for an evening of entertainment. Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. with a pre-performance discussion on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $35-$58. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

SUNDAY, JULY 9

Neil Gaiman
The bestselling author of Coraline, American Gods, The Sandman and The Graveyard Book comes to Wolf Trap to “amaze, befuddle and generally delight” audiences by reading, telling stories and answering questions from the crowd. If you’re a fan, you will love this up-close-and-personal event that, by his own words, is described as a “fun and odd and not like any other evening with Neil Gaiman.” It makes me wonder what typical evenings are like with this man. Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$65. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap,org

FRIDAY, JULY 14 – SUNDAY, JULY 30

Bon Voyage! A Happenstance Escapade
If you’re in the mood for a European adventure, but your bank account begs to differ, then don’t miss this performance. Bon Voyage! follows the hilarious misadventures of a group of travelers in the 19th century who meet en route to Paris. Follow the escapades of a group of unexpected friends as they contend with catacombs, Moulin Rouge and the 1889 Universal Exposition. Various show times and dates. Tickets are $16-$26, including two pay-what-you-can performances on July 17 and 24. Round House Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org

TUESDAY, JULY 18

Tim and Eric
When I first saw this, I had an immediate flashback to my younger days when I spent hours watching this ridiculous duo do funny sh-t. Now there’s an opportunity to see them in real life, and it’s awesome. Tim and Eric’s 10th Anniversary Awesome Tour is going to be a silly night of “new spoofs and goofs, riffs and bits, [and] songs and dances.” I couldn’t even summarize this event into my own words, so I had to quote the website. Just go. 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show. Tickets are $45. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

TUESDAY, JULY 18 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 20

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I
In 1860s Bangkok, the King of Siam brings about a British schoolteacher by the name of Anna Leonowens to teach his many children and wives. Over a series of events, the King begins to fall for Anna in what sparks the beginning of a tumultuous relationship. Directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher and laden  in a timeless score, this show is not to be missed. Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $49-$159. Kennedy Center Opera House: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SATURDAY, JULY 22 – SUNDAY, JULY 23

Prakriti: The Faces of Goddess Earth
If you’re into movement pieces and getting in touch with your spiritual side, Prakriti: The Faces of Goddess Earth is for you. A visualization of the spiritual cycle from creationism all the way to liberation, this performance piece will take the audience on a naturalistic and philosophic journey of the human experience. Based on the infamous Indian classical dance form Bharata Natyam, this dance utilizes traditional speech to translate ideas across all communities by intertwining visual design aspects with dance and lyrics. Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

SUNDAY, JULY 23

Imomsohard
Okay, I’m not even a mom (unless you count being a mom to a constant food baby), and I want to go see this show. Imomsohard is a comedic take on motherhood brought to you by two funny mamas: Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley. Their combined show is all about motherhood – the good, the bad and the ugly (four days’ worth of dry shampoo ugly, although this totally sounds like the current state of my hair). Guaranteed to make you laugh, Imomsohard will be a ridiculously hilarious evening that shan’t be missed! Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $39-$49. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com


Reem Nadeem contributed to this article.

Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography
Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Second City’s Satire: America’s State of Disunion

Facebook fights, Twitter beefs, and the Right and Left Poles of social media have never been as bitter as they are today. It seems only fitting that comedic theatre group Second City is performing at the Kennedy Center this summer, delivering their hilarious take on America’s state of disunion.

An Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand is a collectively written, satirical look at politics in the U.S. today. The one-hour-and-45-minute show is similar to a play, with several connected vignettes and a lot of improvisation. Part of the show even includes taking suggestions from audience members.

So, who gets raked over the coals by the theatre group, known for their searing satire? According to long-time Second City actor Ryan Asher, everybody does.

“We’re actors, artists and comedians, so generally we are left-leaning, but we have a lot of fun making fun of the left as well as the right,” Asher says. “We want everyone to be able to laugh at the show; we don’t want to isolate part of the audience.”

The show’s inclusiveness is part and parcel of Second City’s overarching goal to be diverse and all-encompassing. The theatre group offers fellowships, comedy camps and opportunities for underrepresented groups in their multiple locations – Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood. And because the show was written collectively by its actors, different perspectives made their way into Divided We Stand.

“In politics, it’s mostly old, straight, gray-haired white men,” Asher says. “And that’s not a reflection of the country. I think our show is much better at having different kinds of voices from different backgrounds who are like, ‘Hey, I’m a person that exists and this is how I’m affected by the politics that are going on.’”

But the push to amplify a range of voices onstage is not unique to Second City. Angela Alise, a recent addition to Second City’s cast, says it’s been going on for awhile, and will hopefully continue to do so.

Divided We Stand is Alise’s second show with Second City; she performed in her first, Black Side of the Moon, at Woolly Mammoth in 2016.

“It was about the black experience,” she says of the show. “It was us telling stories and talking about the black voice in America, and how we’re not all a monolith – we’re not the same, there’s not a set way to be black.”

There’s no shortage of people who are angry about the issues that some of Second City’s shows deal with, and rightfully so. But taking a comedic approach to a heavy problem can sometimes be just as productive, especially when it comes to representation.

“It’s hard to be a female comedian and not be called a female comedian,” Asher says. “‘Oh wow, that woman was funny; what a f–king surprise,’ or ‘Oh wow, it wasn’t all just white people. What a surprise.’”

Representation makes a difference, but laughter does too – even though it may seem like laughing about politics is out of the question for many these days. But seeing emotions that mirror yours expressed onstage, especially in a way that has you wheezing with laughter, is catharsis. For example, Black Side of the Moon was performed just after a long, tumultuous election.

“We got here the day after the election, and I remember people seeing the show and being like, ‘Thank you,’” Alise says. “But I think that’s what comedy does. It gives you that release. And even though our show gives thought-provoking ideas about politics, it still allows people a chance to just laugh and relax for a bit.”

Theatre has been in the spotlight frequently since last year’s election. And public figures who endorse – or even advise – any side of the political spectrum, especially onstage, are bound to get some hostile reactions. Despite this, reactions to Divided We Stand have been positive thus far. Asher says she hopes politicians attend a performance in the nation’s capital.

“It’s important for them to actually look at the response that the people are giving them – [to] see what we wrote about, what the people are laughing about – and maybe they’ll get to laugh too.”

Alise added, “They probably really need it.”

So do we all.

Catch Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand at the Kennedy Center through August 13. Tickets are $49-$69. Show times, dates and tickets are available on the Kennedy Center’s website.

Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org