It’s ‘Valerie Wilson’s World’ at the Jefferson

February 23, 2012

The Book Room of The Jefferson hotel was the ideal setting to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Valerie Wilson Travel and for the author to introduce her latest travel book “Valerie Wilson’s World: The Top Hotels & Resorts, Second Edition” at a Feb. 15 cocktail reception. Dubbed a “power broker” in the industry, Travel Weekly ranked her New York-based firm the 29th largest U.S. travel management company. As a heart attack and bypass survivor, Wilson is committed to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative ,which is receiving a portion of the proceeds from book sales. [gallery ids="100506,118292,118287,118275,118281" nav="thumbs"]

Maslenitsa at the Russian Embassy

Maslenitsa, Orthodox Mardi Gras, was celebrated on Feb. 17 as The Ambassador of the Russian Federation and Mrs. Sergey Kislyak welcomed guests with bliny and other traditional Russian fare. Vladimir Tolstoy was Honorary Chair of the evening, which benefits the mission to help the neediest of the Russian Orthodox Cathedrals of Saint Nicholas and St. John the Baptist. The evening with entertainment by the Samovar Russian Folk Ensemble and dancing to Four Season Dance Group included a silent auction, raffle and great support for preserving ethnic ties and national traditions. [gallery ids="100512,118823,118817,118804,118813" nav="thumbs"]

P Street Pictures on O Celebrates Its Relocation with a Proclamation

After many years on the east side of town, it was a true celebration on Feb. 9, as Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans attended the grand reopening of P Street Pictures on O. Loyal customers delighted in the new space. Evans, calling himself “a big patron,” read a unanimously passed ceremonial resolution honoring “a Georgetown institution” by declaring Feb. 9 “P Street Pictures day in the District of Columbia.” He queried where the proclamation might be framed as Judy Schlosser basked in the company of her husband Larry Enten and their son Michael, who had come down from Brooklyn for the occasion. [gallery ids="100502,118164,118147,118160,118155" nav="thumbs"]

Wacky, Whimsical Tea for THEARC

It was a Willy Wonka world as families enjoyed child-oriented festivities and high tea at the Four Seasons Hotel Feb. 12 to honor the success of THEARC, Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus, which provides cultural, educational, health and social services to underserved children and families in Southeast Washington. Eleven nonprofit organizations participate, including the Levine School of Music, the Corcoran Gallery and the Washington Ballet. Eun Yang of NBC-4 Washington was honorary chair and Bank of Georgetown lead sponsor. [gallery ids="100503,118209,118201,118194,118187,118178,118225,118170,118232,118237,118161,118244,118218" nav="thumbs"]

3rd Georgetown Arts Show Gets Its Close-up

The third annual Citizens Association of Georgetown art show debuted with a Feb. 16 reception at the House of Sweden at 2900 K Street, N.W. “Georgetown ARTS 2012,” sponsored by […]


In addition to current offerings as well as the O’Neill Festival with all of its main attractions and special events, the spring leading up to summer offers a treasure trove of new and old plays all over the region. Here’s a look at some of the more alluring and interesting, as well as entertaining, bets coming soon to a theater near you:

“Brother Russia” — How about a rock musical about Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the mad monk and evil influence on the Czar of all the Russias who helped fuel the Russian Revolution? Signature Theater artistic director Eric Schaeffer, never one to shy from a challenge, takes a show being put on by a rag-tag Russian troupe putting on rocking versions of classic works by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But this time they’re featuring their star, impresario and inspiration, Rasputin, the mad monk. With music by Dana Rowe and lyrics by John Dempsey — the creators of popular Signature hits “The Fix” and “The Witches of Eastwick” — Schaeffer is directing another world premiere. John Lescault will star as the infamous rocking monk. “Brother Russia” will be performed at Signature’s MAX Theatre March 6 through April 15.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” — I know, I know, sounds sappy, but we say it isn’t so. Who doesn’t like Charlie Brown and Peanuts and Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang? An enduring musical returns to the Olney Theatre Center this week and runs through March 18.

“1776” — A must-see, not only for all those conservative folks in the country who claim first-name friendship and knowledge of our founding fathers but for those of us who don’t. All factions are bound to be surprised to find that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and others were: human, very. This musical, a classic often done but always fresh, centers around the meeting of the delegates to the Second Continental Congress, as they decided whether to leave the British Empire, while Jefferson, missing his wife badly, writes the DOI. Great, adult, political and musical fun, this production, directed by Peter Flynn with an assist from Jennifer Nelson, opens at Ford’s Theater March 9 and runs through May 19.

“Crown of Shadows, the Wake of Odysseus” — a world premiere by Jason Gray Platt, fits nicely into the literary bent evident lately at the Round House Theater in Bethesda where Blake Robinson will be directing this play, a modern version of what happens to the family Ulysses left behind while on his long journey home from Troy. April 11-May 6.

“New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656” —Despite the long title, this is a compelling piece of theater. Ask anyone who saw it at Theater J in 2010. The play, by the versatile and eclectic playwright-director David Ives (“Venus in Fur”), is directed by Jerry Skidmore and stars Alexander Strain as Spinoza, the ardent 16th-century proponent of rationalism and brilliant absolute philosopher who is facing excommunication from his Jewish community. The production is accompanied by discussion, a companion play-in-progress called “Spinoza’s Solitude.” It also features Michael Tolaydo repeating his Helen Hayes-nominated performance as Spinoza’s mentor. February 29-April 1

“Petrushka” and Basil Twist — World famous, stylish, edgy and outrageous puppeteer Basil Twist is having quite a time for himself in Washington. Twist, regarded by the Creative Capital Foundation as one of the most “ambitious and imaginative” puppeteers in the world, is re-imagining “Petrushka,” the Ballet Russe production about a clown, a Moor and a ballerina at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre, March 16 through 25. Then, from April 4 through May 6, Twist teams up with cabaret star Joey Arias to tell the story of a drag queen in the Garden of Eden at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre — “Arias With a Twist.” Oh, and just for fun, Twist will perform in a 1,000-gallon water tank at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kogod Theatre March 29-31.

“Sucker Punch” — This one could provide a knockout hit for Studio Theater. It’s a new play by Roy Williams, deemed one of Britain’s finest playwrights by the Guardian newspaper, and it’s a first production for one of Williams’s plays in the United States, directed by Leah C. Gardiner with fight choreography by Peter Pucci. This U.S. premiere is about two black brothers trying to box their way to world fame in the Margaret Thatcher era. February 29-April 8.

The Tamings of the Shrews — There are not one but two “Taming of the Shrews” on tap, one in which Katarina gets to yell, and one in which she does not. Synetic Theatre, the stars from Georgia will perform its wordless version at the Lansburgh Theatre, March 29-April 22, and the Folger Theatre concludes its season with the more traditional — words by William Shakespeare — version, May 1-June 10.

“Spamalot” — The nutty knights of Camelot return to Washington in their slightly altered (via Monty Python) forms in Monty Python’s “Spamalot” the 2005 Best Musical of 2005. March 13-18 at the Warner.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”—Judith Viorst’s much beloved children’s and family book becomes a highlight of Adventure Theater’s 60th anniversary season, directed by Gail Humphries with music by Shelly Markham and starring Broadway’s Sandy Bainum. March 2-April 9.
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Washington National Opera’s Spring Season

Cosi Fan Tutte — Mozart’s dense, stylish, comic opera called by one critic a “mix of comedy and psychological pain.” Directed by English giant theater-opera man Jonathan Miller, starring Elizabeth Futral, Renata Pokupic, Joel Prieto, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, William Shimell and Christine Brandes. February 25-March 15.

Nabucco — Verdi’s rarely done opera about an epic royal family battle for power in the ancient world with the Babylonian king, Nabucco (aka Nebuchadnezzar, he who defeated and enslaved the Jews), in the foreground. Lavishly directed by Thaddeus Strassberg, with WNO Music Director Philippe Auguin conducting and Franco Vassallo and Csilla Boross debuting for the WNO in the starring roles. April 28-May 21.

Werther — Considered to be Massinet’s finest work about the young poet Werther (of Goethe fame) who falls in love with the beautiful Charlotte in a doomed love affair. Italian tenor Francesco Mell stars as Werther with mezzo-soprano Sonia Ganassias as Charlotte. Chris Alexander directs, and Emmanuel Villaume conducts. May 12-27.

Angela Gheorghiu in Concert — The famed Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu performs in concert March 7 at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House with a program of selections from operas by Mozart, Massenet, Puccini and others. Part of this season’s Placido Domingo Celebrity Series.

Diva Light: An Evening with Deborah Voigt — The noted Wagner singer takes a break from “Sturm und Drang” and performs songs from the Great American Songbook with Teddy Tahu Rhodes (who is also in “Cosi,” accompanied by the WNO Orchestra, conducted by Ted Sperling. Also part of the Domingo series, March 17.

Passings: Don Cornelius and Ben Gazzara

February 22, 2012

Don Cornelius, 75

He was the cool-sounding television host with the mike and the big Afro. He created a show that was the sound of the hippest train ever running.

He was Don Cornelius, the creator of “Soul Train,” which was a lively, eye-opening answer to the long-running “American Bandstand”, but with a difference. Here was a daily dance show that brought black music, entertainers, singers, bands, performers and kids to the forefront.

Cornelius, who died February 1 of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, was hailed as providing a platform for black musicians and music, but he did a lot more than that. “Soul Train,” which ran in syndication for over 30 years, was a venue where black kids not only appeared, but were seen all across the nation on a regular basis, dancing away to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and James Brown, among many top drawer performers

More than that, the show was a kind of explosion of black popular culture—the dances, the clothes, the looks, the fads and fades and the music that rose out of the grandfather of all black popular music contributions, the blues.

The show wasn’t overtly political—it was a kaleidoscope, a positive, swinging, trend-setting regular event presided over by Cornelius, whose hair changed shape and size frequently over the years, reflecting and sometimes pacing the culture.

But it wasn’t just black kids and black entertainers who were into “Soul Train.” New white rockers like David Bowie and Elton John found a place there, too.

If the audience was primarily African American, a kind of mirror for black young people that was full of positive style and energy, it was also a window for suburban white kids who picked up every soul-flavored trend, move, and look, their hearts bursting with the sound of the streets.

Ben Gazzara, 81

“I coulda been a contender,” could have been a trademark line for the gritty actor Ben Gazzara, who died at 81 of cancer on February 3. He originated the iconic role of Biff in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway, and easily could have—and maybe should have—gotten the role in the movie version opposite Elizabeth Taylor. (But it went to Paul Newman, instead. That’s showbiz.)

What was more than show biz was Gazzara’s unique talent, style and way of being, and his list of diverse roles, some more memorable than others. Some live on in the theater memory including a stint as the George to Colleen Dewhurst’s Martha in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” (I wish badly that I had seen it, as does anybody reading that credit.)

Gazzara, the son of Italian immigrants, was born Biago Anthony Gazzara, and drifted into acting early on, becoming one of the serious acting students of his generation, studying under Lee Strasberg alongside folks like James Dean and Paul Newman.

He had a mixed career that flared up like fireworks: a Tony on Broadway for “A Hatful of Rain” (Don Murray in the movie version); a starring role in Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie”; and the role of Lee Remick’s mayhap murderous husband in Otto Preminger’s “Anatomy of a Murder,” a hugely entertaining courtroom drama, opposite James Stewart.

He had fine roles in a series of raw films by John Cassavettes, a good friend who cast him in “Husbands,” “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” and others. He also starred in “Run for Your Life,” a successful television series that ran for three years in the 1970s and paid the bill.

He had at one point pitch-black hair, a sharply angled handsome face, and a faintly sinister demeanor, which made him an ideal “Capone.” He worked—worked hard by his own description—and was married three times. His most popular film was probably “Road House,” an implausibly fun Patrick Swayze action flick in which he played the spewing, cussing, maniacal villain.

In his memoir, he alluded to have many affairs, including relationships with Audrey Hepburn, Eva Gabor and Elain Stritch, an eclectic trifecta if there ever was one. He will be missed.

3rd Georgetown Arts Show Gets Its Close-upFebruary 21, 2012

February 21, 2012

The third annual Citizens Association of Georgetown art show debuted with a Feb. 16 reception at the House of Sweden at 2900 K Street, N.W. “Georgetown ARTS 2012,” sponsored by CAG and the House of Sweden, along with other patrons, displayed a mix of visual arts treats by residents and those working in nearby studios, exhibiting varying talents of young and old, from watercolors and oil paintings to photographs and sculptures. Lively art-loving Georgetowners filled the space as they greeted friends and viewed the works of Michele Banks, Jack Bell, Leslie Bryne, Betsy Cooley, Guy Fairlamb, Karen Feld, Robin Hill, Cynthia Howar, Joan Konkel, Stephany Knight, Jane Lepscky, Dale Loy, Edward “Bear” Miller, Natalia Mokina, Elba Molina, Shaun Murphy, Lisa Neher, Emma O’Rouke, Isabella Page, Wendy Plotkin-Mates, Berit Robertson, Camilla Rudolph, Ross Ruot, Suzy Strack, Laura-Anne Tiscornia, Dariush Vaziri and Mary Wagner.? The exhibit closed Feb. 20.