Pro Bono help lets children soar in D.C.

The D.C. Children’s Law Center held its 10th Annual Helping Children Soar benefit at the Kennedy Center, Sept. 21. The rooftop get-together honored CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, M.D., and law firm Covington & Burling for work in raising awareness and improving the lives of underserved children. One good example: When a slow-moving agency or apartment manager gets a letter from a law firm, things happen quickly. A father of three girls, Gupta, who has reported from such disasters as the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan, said he tells patients, “I treat your child as my child.” Gupta recalled a phrase he heard in Sudan: “A miserable place is where a child’s smile is never returned.” We like to think it is never like that here. [gallery ids="99267,104331,104329" nav="thumbs"]

Opera Camerata 2010

On Oct. 8, The Opera Camerata of Washington, now in its 20th anniversary season, presented Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow at the Chancery of the Embassy of Austria. The operetta featured Elisabeth Turchi, José Sacín, Jesús Daniel Hernández, and Jennifer Matthews with dancers from the Ballroom Dance Company of Washington, D.C. Roger Riggle directed the production and Maestro Stephen Czarkowski conducted the orchestra and chorus. Princess Selene Obolensky and Countess Gertrude d’Amecourt were front and center enjoying the performance. [gallery ids="99265,104324" nav="thumbs"]

Thelonious Monk Awards

It was a glorious evening of song at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 4 as the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition and Gala Concert paid an all-star tribute to the Great American Songbook. A who’s who of jazz legends was hosted by Thelonious Monk, Jr., Herbie Hancock, Phylicia Rashad and Billy Dee Willliams. Aretha Franklin could not be present to accept the Maria Fisher Founder’s Award but Gladys Knight was a wow replacement. The finalists were world class. French-born Cyrille Aimée placed third, Charenée Wade of Brooklyn second, and winner Cécile McLorin Salvant of Miami garnered a $20,000 scholarship and Concord Music Group recording contract. She held her own with the pros as she sang the opening lines of the Blue Skies finale. [gallery ids="99264,104323" nav="thumbs"]

Honoring Michael Kaiser

The American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation chaired by The Honorable James Symington celebrated Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser for his commitment to the arts of Russia at a benefit gala held at the Embassy of the Russian Federation on Oct. 7. The program included remarks by Ambassador Kislyak, “godfather of détente” Donald Kendall, arts patron Adrienne Arsht and special guest Maestro Valery Gergiev, Artistic and General Director of the Mariinskiy Theatre in St. Petersburg. The cultural presentation featured ABT Principal Veronika Part as the Dying Swan and an aria from Eugene Onegin performed by Aleksey Bogdanov. Funds raised will be used to prepare the exhibition in Russia entitled The Tsar and the President: Liberator and Emancipator. Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln. [gallery ids="99263,104325,104319,104322" nav="thumbs"]

Spirit of Georgetown

The spirit was alive and well as Niloo and David Howe hosted supporters of the Georgetown Ministry Center at their hidden treasure of a home on October 14 to honor the Reverend Stuart Kenworthy of Christ Church, Georgetown. Georgetown Ministry Center is a non-profit social service organization assisting the homeless. The evening also saluted the 95th birthday of Georgetown doyenne Frida Burling. Lauded as "a man of faith a source of strength, wisdom and peace," Rev. Kenworthy, surrounded by his family, hailed the "connectiveness" of the Goergetown community, "a village in one of greatest cities in the world." Guests delighted in the temptation-filled buffet and libations provided by Serendipity3 and Potomac Wine and Spirits. [gallery ids="99262,104314,104320,104317" nav="thumbs"]

“From Place to Place”

A screening of the film on foster care "From Place to Place," was held at St. John's Church parish hall on September 30. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend introduced the program, hosted by Mary Bird and Felicia Stidham. Townsend said these young adults-who must leave the system after turning 18-"need an advocate for foster care."

DC Jazz Festival Gala

The DC Jazz Festival held its Annual Benefit Gala at the Embassy of Italy to celebrate the Festival and to benefit its education programs. [gallery ids="99260,104315,104309,104312" nav="thumbs"]

Fashion Fights Poverty

Fashion lovers gathered October 15 for this year's cutting edge presentation "Raw," which celebrates fashion as not just a way to protect from the elements, but a way to show one's creativity and personality. [gallery ids="99259,104307,104304" nav="thumbs"]

Donors Preview Georgetown Library Transformation

Over 100 private donors poured through the Georgetown Neighborhood Library on Oct. 5 for the first major preview of the dramatically improved library. The event also celebrated the library's 75th anniversary and was hosted by the DC Public Library Foundation, which launched the Georgetown Recovery and Restoration Fund shortly after the 2007 fire. [gallery ids="99266,104330,104327" nav="thumbs"]

Good Vibrations

What can you say about “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” the latest play by Sarah Ruhl, now at the Woolly Mammoth Theater? Well, let’s try “aaarrrg”, “yiiiii” “ooohhhhh”, “a – a — a — o”, or “oooohmygddd” with lots of !!!!!!!!. ?Can’t be sure that we’re exactly there, but you are going to hear female and male characters doing symphonic variations loudly on the human soul, heart and other body parts straining for release, with the assistance of an apparently ancient but very effective prop if you go to “In the Next Room”. And you’re likely to feel almost as good as the aforementioned characters do, even without a vibrator. ?You may even think that you know where this play is going. Silly you: this is a Ruhl play, and the rule with Ruhl is that you’re going to get ambushed at every turn with reveries, lyrical side trips, and unexpected behavior by almost all of the characters. Mind you, you do end up where you might wish to have things end up, but the illustration of the climax — all right, conclusion—of the play is a delicious surprise, in the way an unexpected and perfect gift is. ?With Ruhl, you also get a lot to mull over; it’s always almost as if she’s thought through the implication, past, present and future, of every situation and line. Ruhl gets context. This is a play that takes place near the end of the 1900’s, when electricity has just been invented and marketed by Thomas Edison as the harbinger of a new age. ? We’re in Northeast America somewhere, and Dr. Givings has electricity in his house, which fuels lamps and a dandy little device which he’s more or less invented. The good doctor uses this device — a primitive vibrator — on patients (mostly women) suffering from hysteria, a common malady in the Victorian age. With these corseted women and their sexual feelings, this is done to the point where they must have had trouble breathing. ?Mrs. Givings, a creative chatterbox whose emotional and physical needs haven’t come close to being met by her husband, has had a baby but can’t supply it with sufficient milk. The doctor is busy with patients like Mrs. Daldry, suffering painfully from the effects of too much light. She’s a bundle of nerves accompanied by her husband, a gruff, controlled man with an almost immediate eye for Mrs. Givings. Away, Mrs. Daldry goes into the next room, where Dr. Givings applies his, um, mechanism with the assistance of the implacable Nurse Annie. ?Sure enough, wonders occur after the first application, and even her rigid husband notices that her cheeks have attained a rosy tone, one he has never seen before. The implications of all this are lost on the good doctor himself, who doesn’t know he’s absented himself from his wife or that he’s giving his patients releases and pleasure, as opposed to eliciting a cure. “I ‘m a scientist and a doctor,” he says. “I’m doing good. My patients have to be sick for me to apply the cure.” ?Other things go on in the next room and in the living room, where the new electric lights flicker on and off like fireflies. Mrs. Givings and her husband have decided to hire a wet-nurse for the baby, a black woman whose last child died soon after birth. The artist Leo Irving shows a walking mood swing and personification of the artist who suffers for his art so openly, you want to slap him or seduce him. Mrs. Givings falls a little for the wild-eyed artist. Mrs. Givings insists that her husband apply the vibrator to her. “I have made a mistake,” he moans, for the first time behaving as if he’s paying attention. “This is not for healthy women.” Oh, but it is, it is. ?In some ways the plot is thick and complicated; it seems often like a really smart soap opera. But its real subjects are release, freedom, and yes, love, which are the guardian angels that hover above this play constantly. ?Over the course of the play — which is often inordinately and hilariously funny in a discomfiting way — you can see the future, and you can see how men and women are human beings of gender almost irredeemably separated by a common language, to paraphrase Shaw. ?Ruhl is of course almost something of a supernova among new playwrights — and she’s found a special home at Woolly Mammoth, where her remarkable “The Clean House” was produced five years ago. This play is her most accessible, which is a good thing by my thinking. ?At Woolly, they’ve assembled a terrific cast. None are better than Katie DeBuys as the hungry, seeking, bewitching and wanting to be bewitched Mrs. Givings, around whom everything swirls like a hurricane. She’s sharp, quick, touched to the quick, quirky, seductive, eager, angry, and totally worthy. Kimberly Gilbert as the game Mrs. Daldry adds another touching comedic role to her Woolly repertoire. It’s sometimes a mystery how Gilbert does it — she seems the best kind of actress, performing as if she doesn’t realize she’s in a play. ?Director Aaron Posner, with the critical help of set designer Daniel Conway and costume designer Helen Q. Huang, has created a world for the play to function in. Physically, it moves as fast as the words and recreates a lost world or rather reclaims it for our own times. ?Go see — and hear — what goes on “In the Next Room.” You’ll be enriched. "In the Next Room" runs through Sept. 19. [gallery ids="99195,103359" nav="thumbs"]