Get Steeped with Fairmont

November 21, 2011

Fairmont hotels declared Nov. 12 as an “official” day to pay tribute to all things tea. “Get Steeped with Fairmont” was celebrated around the world with signature “Tea-quila” cocktails in Dallas and a multi-cultural tea celebration in Maui. Diana Bulger, Area Director of Public Relations for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, chose to honor protocol expert Carole Margaret Randolph at a tea with friends. Carol, who teaches modern manners and protocol to children, teens and adults, often holds classes at The Fairmont. Diana said that Carole “gracefully turned little girls and boys into charming young ladies and gentlemen, teaching them how to become comfortable in any social situation while using perfect manners and silverware.” Executive Sous Chef Ian Bens and Executive Pastry Chef Aron Weber prepared delicious tea delicacies. Guests departed with a Fairmont bone china tea cup and saucer made in England. [gallery ids="100384,111222,111234,111227,111231" nav="thumbs"]

Knock Out Abuse

A bevy of beauties were accompanied down the stairs to the Ritz-Carlton ballroom on Nov. 10 by elegantly attired gentlemen and then greeted by the very unattired splendor of denizens of “muscle beach” in keeping with the evening’s St. Tropez theme. Cheryl Mari and Jill Sorensen founded Knock Out Abuse (KOA) 18 years ago to raise funds and awareness for victims of domestic violence in our area. Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown was recognized for his commitment to the cause. Tireless advocate Jaci Wilson Reid served as the 2011 Chair. Andrea Roane of WUSA9 emceed the program which honored attorney and author Linda Fairstein, a leading legal expert on crimes against women and children, with the 2011 Legend Award. Lynne Zink ran the live auction which included escapes to Nantucket, South Africa, St. Thomas and Egypt. Performing artist Donna D’Cruz entertained as gentlemen arrived from Fight Night. KOA has raised upwards of $7 million towards ending the cycle of domestic violence.
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“A Song for the Horse Nation”

In the pictorial lexicon of American history, there is perhaps no image more potent and quixotic than the archetype of the Native American on horseback. From Walt Disney to J.M. Barry, the lure of the American Indian’s intimacy with these deeply spiritual and powerful creatures has inspired imaginations for generations.

But horses as we know them today didn’t get to the Western hemisphere until Columbus brought a herd of 25 over on his second voyage to the new world in 1493. From this first handful of animals, the lives of Native Americans changed forever. From the way they traveled and hunted, to their celebration rituals and ceremonies, to new artistic expressions and traditions that continue to this day, horses quickly became an indispensable component of Native American life. In their newest exhibit, “A Song for the Horse Nation,” the National Museum of the American Indian takes us deep into the bond between our native citizens and the Horse Nation.

Walking through the exhibition, there are more words and artifacts than you can wrap your head around. But even as you process the first pieces of information, something makes itself clear very quickly: as a culture, American Indians are abundantly thoughtful people. Most of the artifacts and artworks on display in the exhibition have very utilitarian functions, from saddles to headstalls for horses, to basic clothing and housing. And yet everything is executed with a fine and personal sense of style, beauty and aesthetic that recalls some of the great artistic movements of the Common Era. You see the vibrant, earthy color palette of the impressionists, the sophisticated, stylized flatness of the Byzantines and the hieroglyphic narrative of the ancient Egyptians.

Native American culture is well known for its distinct visual language, which seems to have naturally enveloped the Horse Nation upon its introduction into their society. They became expert in fabricating horse gear for hunt and for war while transforming this equipment into a unique level of art.

Some of the most beautiful displays are of the horse masks, used in wartime and in peace to adorn the animals. Made of materials such as owl feathers, hide, buffalo horn, porcupine quills, brass tacks, ermine and even sinew, these masks are haunting and dreamlike, and you can imagine how utterly transformative these head coverings would be if, say, it was charging toward you in battle or part of a ritual dance ceremony.

But perhaps the most significant way that horses transformed Native American life was in their ability to hunt. Before horses, buffalo hunting on the Great Plains was a risky, exhausting and arduous job. Hunters had to track them on foot, and the process involved many men and took days of planning. But on horseback, a lone hunter could bring down a buffalo by himself and with relative efficiency. Furthermore, since tribes could travel farther, access to resources was expanded and people were better fed. As such, they acquired more time for art, spirituality and philosophy.

As their lifestyles now permitted more time for temporal liberties, Native Americans forged unbreakable bonds with the Horse Nation. Plains tribes embraced the horse as a brother in spirit and a link to the supernatural realm, embodying it with beauty, energy and healing powers in ceremonial objects representing these connections. Dance sticks on display in the exhibition were once carried by warriors in ceremonial dances, decorated symbolically with such flourishes as brass bells and eagle feathers.

With the arrival of horses, new ideas in design and ornament circulated through Native trade routes from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. And while some things were acquired through trading with the Spanish, Native craftsmen largely made their own devices. From saddles, bridles and cinches, to whips and ropes, each tool, as seen in this exhibit, took on a remarkable level of craft and spirituality. Blending a variety of international influences—Spanish saddles, eastern beadwork, traditions of family and tribal identity—Native artists created a rich new visual art form.

The status of women also improved as a result of the Horse Nation. Horses helped lighten the workload, and women gained more time for creating art and enriching their society. Women’s arts, such as beadwork and ornamenting hides with porcupine quills, flourished.

The issue of Native identity continues to resonate today, as Native people across the country seek to claim the future on their own terms. Ushering in Native American heritage month this November, “A Song for the Horse Nation” shines a light on the soul of the American Indian’s national community and invites us in to experience it ourselves. It is difficult to encapsulate everything within this exhibition, but as a whole, it resonates with the strength and beauty of a stallion.

“A Song for the Horse Nation” is on view at the National Museum of the American Indian through Jan. 2, 2013. For more information visit the museum’s website:
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The Maternal Side of Robert Aubry Davis

Culturally speaking, Robert Aubry Davis is big.

If this city ever appointed a minister of culture, someone who represents what it is to be a Washingtonian to the world, Davis would be perfect for the job. He’s already been doing it, unofficially but regularly, for decades.

Generous to a fault with his voluminous knowledge about all things cultural, be it medieval lutes, lines from the poetry of John Keats, or folk music both modern and anonymous, Davis is the cultural promoter par excellence. The longer he lives, the more he knows and does, and the Washington cultural scene is all the better for it. Of course, there are some people, having just been exposed to a flood of Davis erudition, that walk away exhausted.

Somewhere, sometime, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ve heard the name Robert Aubry Davis. Maybe you’ve heard him on “Symphony Hall “and “Pops,” the classical channels on Sirius XM. He’s also program director for the folk channel “The Village.” He produces and hosts “Millennium of Music,” now in its 33rd year on public radio. For the past 26 years, he has been the erudite and personable host of “Around Town,” a forum of Washington area critics discussing all manners of local art on WETA. You can also find him cajoling, guilt tripping, and congenially prodding for donations at WETA’s pledge drives.

His manner is at once imperious but outgoing, partly because he is a large man who speaks English with an unquiet voice that elongates vowels and nails consonants with precision. What you’re really getting is his enthusiasms, his expertise, and his ravenous hunger to explain and learn at the same time. At some point, he just bowls you over.

As an arts writer, I do a little cultural stuff myself, and one thing I know is that wherever I go, more often than not Davis is there too. Whether it’s an exhibition opening at the National Gallery of Art, opening night at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the opera or a 12th century lute performance, David is there.

He’s also a very brave man, by my way of thinking. Drop by Shirlington sometime during the run of Signature Theater’s holiday production of the musical version of John Waters’ “Hairspray” (Nov. 21 – Jan. 29), and Davis will be there. But you might have trouble recognizing him.

Davis is playing Edna Turnblad, the large, nervous, overly protective mother of the hit Broadway musical, which won eight Tony’s in 2003.

“I thought Robert would be perfect for the part,” said Signature Artistic Director and founder Eric Schaeffer. “He has a personality, he has charisma, everybody knows him, it’s a great part—I think that would appeal to him.”

In an interview with announcing the casting, Davis said, in true form, “Eric Schaeffer, has, like a tomb raider of old, decided to wake the sleeping thespian long buried in my breast.”

“To tell you the truth, I thought, No,” he said. “I haven’t been on stage since, I don’t know, college—which was a long time ago. I thought this was crazy. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could do this. But still, starting with rehearsal, waiting to go on, doing the day-to-day work, it’s a little frightening.

“It confirms what I already knew but not so viscerally,” he said. “Something like this, a theater piece itself, is hard, hard work. It’s unbelievably hard. It reconfirms my respect for everyone involved in theater and for the group of people who are doing this with me and helping me. They’ve been incredible. And I am enjoying myself.”

“Hairspray,” for the uninitiated, is a story that originated from the eccentric mind of world renowned filmmaker John Waters, a Baltimore native, who made a movie version that served as the source material for the ensuing musical. It’s about a spunky, plus-size Baltimore teenager named Tracy Turnblad who wins a spot on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local teen dance show a la American Bandstand. But as the promo suggests: “Can a plus-size trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program’s reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a television show without denting her ‘do’?”

And can Tracy’s mother Edna overcome her own shyness and insecurity—she hardly ever goes outside—and join her daughter in the spotlight?

And there’s one more thing. Edna is written to be played by a man. And in this case, Davis is that man.

Davis will be walking in the high heeled footsteps of some formidable men: the late, acclaimed drag queen Divine from Waters’ original cult film, the gravelly-voiced Harvey Fierstein, and superstar John Travolta, who played Edna in the film version of the musical.

“But I didn’t just want to go up there and pretend to be a woman in big clothes,” Davis said. “I think Edna is a wonderfully maternal person who’s always had trouble with being comfortable in her own skin, with her size, in ways that her daughter doesn’t. I can relate to that. I’m a big person—tall, extra weight—and everybody who’s extra-large or heavy always has to find a way to deal with that… It’s not as difficult for men, but our culture has thin as a kind of ideal for women. So I looked at the maternal side for one thing. My wife and I have two children, and that lets me get a little into my maternal side, which is pretty strong. My son says that he sometimes thinks he has two mothers.”

Of course, this being Robert Aubry Davis, it won’t be Edna 24-7. He will still provide the narration for “A Celtic Christmas” at Dumbarton Methodist Church in Georgetown, (Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11) as he has for several decades. As music goes, it’s not quite so rarefied as the Gregorian chants that he plays on his radio program, but it’s another display of his passion for old music.

Edna, on the other hand, is a display of something else entirely: a willingness to take on a challenge with gusto and a boundless curiosity for the human heart on display. If experience is knowledge, than Robert Aubry Davis is learning something new under Edna’s makeup, and as is his wont, he’s sharing it with us.

For more information visit
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Holiday Performance Preview

In Washington, we already have a year-round treasure trove of performance venues and offerings.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Christmas holidays prove it, as the D.C. area performance atmosphere becomes downright intense, it’s a true trove of riches.

The holidays are a time for Washington performing arts venues—from the large-scale Kennedy Center or Music Center at Strathmore, to theaters, to smaller arts centers like the Atlas and H Street Playhouse, as well as cultural centers, embassies and churches – to concentrate on serving up Christmas-themed music, plays, songs and dances. We will be up to our mistletoes in Nutcrackers, Scrooges, sugarplum fairies, Christmas carols, Christmas music, Santas and reindeers.

But the holidays are also a time for many area arts venues to serve up something festive and family oriented, big and splashy and entertaining, which may have very little to do with Christmas per se, except for the simple fact that during the holidays, people like to be entertained, lavishly and simply, with heart and feeling.

And even in the holidays, there will always be performances for the cerebral, the agnostic, and perhaps a simmering Scrooge or two among us. Those also will be served by our theaters, as they do the year round.

Herewith, an eclectic preview of what to watch for, relish, anticipate and take a chance on during these holiday days and nights.


‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’

This year, the American Ballet Theater and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie bring their own version of “The Nutcracker” to the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, with new choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, with sets by Richard Hudson of “The Lion King” fame, a cast of 100 dancers and a live orchestra. Dec. 8 through 11.

Septime Webre will stage his and the Washington Ballet’s version of “The Nutcracker” at the Warner Theater. This production will also have the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker Orchestra. Dec. 1 through 24. Previews at the THEARC Theater in Southeast D.C. Nov. 25 through 27.

There’s no cast of hundreds in the Puppet Company Playhouse production of “The Nutcracker” but there’s plenty of imagination. Nov. 25 through Dec. 31. Check the Puppet Company’s website for more information at

The Ford Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is an adaptation by Michael Wilson and is directed by Michael Baron. Edward Gero, one of the great mainstays in the firmament of Washington stage stars returns as Scrooge. For more information, go to Nov. 18 through Dec. 13.

‘Black Nativity’

A most welcome event is the Theater Alliance’s production of Stephawn Stephens and Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity,” a re-telling of the Nativity from an African American perspective, which features gospel music, griot-style storytelling and dance at the H Street Playhouse. Dec. 3 through 31.

‘’Twas the Night before Christmas’

Adventure Theater, on its 60th anniversary, is presenting the world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” “Night” is directed by former Round House Artistic Director Jerry Whiddon and stars Gary Sloan. The artistic director of Adventure Theater is Michal Bobbitt. Located at Glen Echo Park. Nov. 18 through Jan. 2.

‘The Santaland Diaries’

The Shop at Fort Fringe, headquarters for the Fringe Festival turns very Christmasy with the staging of “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello, performed by Joe Brack and directed by Matty Griffiths. It’s the tale of Christmas that’s elf-centered and it’s considered a cult classic. Dec. 1 through 24.


The Kennedy Center

The National Symphony Orchestra enters the holiday with a classic classical program under the baton of NSO conductor Christoph Eschenbach, with Midori on violin playing Britten’s Violin Concerto at the Concert Hall. Dec. 1 through 3. There’s also the traditional NSO’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Dec. 15. The annual Messiah Sing Along, which is free and held in front of the Concert Hall takes place Dec. 23. The line begins at 6 p.m. Singing begins at 8 p.m.

Performances at the Millennium Stage include the 36th Annual Merry Tuba Christmas Dec. 7; a performance of Christmas music by local stars Last Train Home Dec. 20; Holiday Vaudeville Dec. 29 and 30; and the All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam.

The NSO Pops Orchestra accompanied by the Canadian Tenors in “A Perfect Gift.” Dec. 8 through 11.


The Music Center at Strathmore features a number of Christmas musical events. Skaggs Family Christmas on Dec. 1 features country and bluegrass performer Ricky Skaggs and his extended family. The 5 Browns Holiday Show featuring the renowned piano group will be featured Dec. 2.

The Embassy Series gets a Christmas feel for its second “A Luxembourg Christmas” at the Embassy of Luxembourg in a gala night of music performed by the Quattro Corde String Quartet. Call 202-625-2361 for information or tickets. Dec. 1 through 3.

The Dumbarton Concerts series celebrates the season with “A Celtic Christmas” with The Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton Celtic Consort. Readings by Robert Aubry Davis Dec. 3 and 4 at 4 pm, Dec. 10 at 4 and 8 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. at Dumbarton Church.

The Folger Consort celebrates the holidays at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre with performances of “O Magnum Mysterium,” which features Christmas music from 16th Century Spain. Dec. 9 through 18.

The Christmas Revels, one of Washington’s most popular annual holiday events, will present “Andalusion Treasures,” a brave performance celebration of the fountainhead of tolerance that existed in Andalusia in Spain 1,000 years ago. Guest artists Trio Sefardi and Layali El Andalus will celebrate Arab-Andalusian and Sephardic music. “Andalusian Treasures” will be performed with a cast of 75 Dec. 3 through 4 and 9 through 11 at the George Washington University Auditorium.

The Washington Bach Consort will perform “Christmas in Leipzig” at the National Presbyterian Church Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. Included is a Bach Orchestral Suite and Cantata, and works by Kuhnau and Telemann.
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Don’t Do What We Did Book Signing

November 17, 2011

Don’t Do What We Did is a Conversation About Online Dating With an Ex-Not-Quite Couple Who Met on the Internet. Michelle Y. Talbert and Ricardo Kingsbury, two seasoned online daters, interview one another and others to uncover the secrets to online dating success. In the book they discuss everything from profile pictures to sex and safety. They share their mistakes and the stories of people from around who have participated in online dating.

“A Time to Remember”

November 7, 2011

It was a night to remember for those who live in fear of forgetting. On October 27th, just one block from the White House, the arts community and the medical community joined forces for Alzheimer’s Disease awareness. Dr. Dorree Lynn, celebrity psychologist and author of Sex for Grown Ups, headed the fundraising efforts at the art-enhanced event for USAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Hosted in Servcorp’s decadent Pennsylvania Avenue Executive Suites, local artists Emma O’Rourke, Zahira Truth, Akua Walker, Hannelore Thompson and Maria Santiago stood proudly beside artwork inspired by the evening’s theme, “A Time to Remember.”

Dr. Dorree spoke to guests about the intriguing and fulfilling connection she has with Alzheimer’s patients who cannot provide factual information about what they may have eaten for breakfast, but seem to display a deeper insight that may seem illogical. She shares, “It’s almost as if all the garbage fades away and only the essentials are left behind.”

Founders of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, George and Trish Vradenburg, shared the statistics and likelihood of either developing Alzheimer’s or knowing someone who has it. Also discussed: the latest Alzheimer’s research, the need for funding, the reality that a cure is closer that most imagine and the USAgainstAlzheimer’s challenge to cure Alzheimer’s by 2020.

Author and USAgainstAlzheimer’s Board of Directors member, Patrick Berry, also attended, signing and gifting guests with a copy of his latest book, “Escape from Enchantment.” Dr. Dorree’s book, “Sex for Grownups,” was given to the three lucky winners of the gift basket raffle, which also featured multiple bottles of wine and gift certificates to local DC restaurants.

The mission of USAgainstAlzheimer’s is to eradicate Alzheimer’s by 2020, rather than simply treat the symptoms. For more information about USAgainstAlzheimer’s or to learn how you can help stop Alzheimer’s by 2020, visit (
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Volta Park Halloween Party

The brightly-colored mouths stained with frosting, whirling children and chatting adults told the story. Volta Park on Volta and 33rd Streets was an sight of candy corn balloons, spider webs, cuddly creatures and coordinated ensembles.

Exxon Mobile in Georgetown hosted the Halloween Party on Oct. 31 at Volta Park. Pumpkin decorating, candy apples, coloring sheets and face painting were in abundance at four activity tables as well as a spread of juice boxes, monster cupcakes, cookies, more cupcakes and more sugar. Neighbors chatted and admired the menagerie of costumes.

New York Life’s Child Identification table was also set up in order to register tykes and create identification cards. [gallery ids="100366,110357,110388,110362,110384,110367,110380,110372,110376" nav="thumbs"]

Chamber’s Choice Awards, hosted by D.C. Chamber of Commerce, Delivers Big Surprises

November 3, 2011

The annual Chamber’s Choice Awards gala was held October 22. More than 1,300 of the Washington region’s most prominent leaders and decision-makers gathered in the Marriott Wardman Park’s Grand Ballroom to “celebrate some of the Washington business community’s best and brightest, chosen for their exceptional leadership, professional excellence, and commitment to the community,” it says in a press release from D.C. Chamber of Commerce. [gallery ids="102427,121622" nav="thumbs"]

DC hotspot Josephine

DC hotspot Josephine ( unveiled its new interior decor
to Washingtonians on Tuesday night with the launch of Belvedere Red for a
private Friends and Family preview event. Local VIPs such as Josephine
Co-Owner Alain Kalantar, Redskin Edgar Jones, Mayor Vincent Gray’s son
Carlos Gray, celebrity stylist Paul Wharton, celebrity Plastic Surgeon Dr.
Ayman Hakki, Moet-Hennessy USA’s Michelle Desrosiers, Public Bar Co-Owner
Tony Hudgins, One Lounge Co-Owner Seth McClelland, Capitol File Magazine
Editor In Chief Kate Bennett and KStreetKate’s Kate Michael among others
made a toast to the lounge’s new design.

Co-Owners David Karim and Alain Kalantar closed the DC hotspot Josephine two
months ago to revamp the interior with a chic new modern decor. The
renovation expanded the venues usable space, with the main bar illuminated
in shades of lavender, shedding an ethereal glow throughout the venue.
Miami-based designer Mark Lehmkuhl is the creative mastermind behind the
redesign, incorporating cutting edge technology and intelligent lighting
which pulsates alongside diamond shaped mirrors throughout the lounge.

Josephine (1008 Vermont Ave. NW. DC) co-launched with Belvedere Vodka’s
newest initiative, Belvedere Red. The RED partnership raises proceeds for
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