Light of Healing Hope Foundation Launches

November 3, 2011

On Oct. 14, Susan and Michael Pillsbury welcomed friends to their stunning Georgetown home to celebrate the launch of Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave’s Light of Healing Hope Foundation. Her prayers on 9/11 led Alexandra to write three books of poetry that have been given as gifts to the 9//11 survivors’ families, military families and those experiencing personal tragedy. She has now founded The Light of Healing Hope Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to providing inspirational books as gifts in hospitals to bring hope to patients and their families. After Alexandra thanked everyone for their support, a patient spoke of the gift packages as “a reminder of what is good in the world.” Alexandra closed her remarks with a quote “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” [gallery ids="100334,108622,108638,108627,108635,108632" nav="thumbs"]

Brussels and French-Speaking Belgium to Celebrate Gastronomy in 2012

The Alliance Française in DC hosted an Oct. 13 reception showcasing next year’s celebration of Belgian gastronomy. Annette Choynacki, Director of the Belgian Tourist Office in New York, came here to herald Brussels-US cooperation for the upcoming events which will start this Christmas and continue throughout next year. She proudly introduced the Executive Chef at the Belgian residence, Jan Van Haute, who won first prize at the 2010 Embassy Chef Challenge and served as a jury member this year. He described Belgium as a crossroads featuring “French food with German portions. “ He said “what we lack in sun, we make up with food. Guests departed with a bag of Belgian temptations from Rob “The Gourmets’ Market” in Brussels. [gallery ids="100335,108653,108637,108649,108645,108642" nav="thumbs"]

American-Russian Cultural Foundation Cooperation Council’s Giants of Science Gala

Ambassador of the Russian Federation and Mrs. Sergey Kislyak hosted the American-Russian Cultural Foundation (ARCCF) for a special evening on Oct. 12 at the Giants of Science Gala celebrating Benjamin Franklin and Mikhail Lomonosov, who initiated scientific exchange between the two countries. The black tie event was highlighted by a performance “Eavesdropping on “Mike and Ben’” performed by no less than Justice Antonin Scalia and ARCCF Board Chair James Symington. Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Dr. G. Wayne Clough received the annual Foundation Award. Since 1992 ARCCF has promoted American-Russian relations through education, art and cultural exchanges. [gallery ids="102424,121801,121793,121808,121813,121819,121825" nav="thumbs"]

Warhol’s ‘Headlines’ Brings Out the Headliners

The pop artist was also a pop editor. Andy Warhol’s serious playfulness with the tabloid media, news and society makes newspaper editors smile with art lovers. Friends and admirers got a chance to do just that at a Oct. 5 trustee dinner for the National Gallery of Art exhibit, “Warhol: Headlines” in its East building. [gallery ids="100339,108683,108679,108675,108662,108671,108667" nav="thumbs"]

Grand Opening Castle Hill Cider

Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, Virginia celebrated our Grand Opening on Oct. 2, 2011. We were graced with locals and celebrities from around the Commonwealth of Virginia ! We poured our four ciders called Celestial, Terrestrial, Gravity and Levity!
We are located on a 600-acre estate that has a prominent position in America’s political, artistic and culinary history and we have recently renovated and introduced The Barn as a premier venue for weddings and large events. To arrange for group tastings or schedule an event please contact Castle Hill Cider at 434.296.0047 [gallery ids="100342,108699,108692,108696" nav="thumbs"]

The Love BallNovember 2, 2011

November 2, 2011

A fetching canine proffering a red rose graced the invitation to this year?s Love Ball with the question ?May I have this dance?? Who could refuse? The annual event took place on Oct. 22 at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda to benefit the Montgomery County Humane Society. It is the county?s only full-service, pubic shelter which each year helps nearly 9,000 potential pets, farm animals and wildlife. Sue Palka of Fox5 emceed the evening which included a cocktail reception, seated dinner, silent and live auctions, and dancing. Canine guests particularly enjoyed a doggie bar and potty area sponsored by Johnson?s Landscaping conveniently located in the parking garage.

Craft2WearNovember 2, 2011

The Smithsonian Women?s Committee held the Craft2Wear Advance Chance Party at the National Building Museum on Oct. 21. The weekend exhibit featured jewelry and wearable art by 40 artists previously juried into the Smithsonian Craft Show. Guests enjoyed first chance shopping enhanced by wine and hors d?oeuvres with music by the L?Enfant Ensemble. The evening was highlighted by David Muir, Weekend Anchor of ABC World News and Correspondent for the ?Made in America? series, honoring exhibitors who exemplify the finest ?Made in America? wearable art. The event is produced by the Smithsonian Women?s Committee to support education, outreach and research within the Smithsonian Institution.

Salvation Army Luncheon

Now in its 62nd year, the Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon and Fashion Show drew an elegant crowd to the Ritz-Carlton Washington on Oct. 19. Mistress of Ceremonies Pamela Brown of ABC7/WJLA-TV and New Channel 8 termed it “Washington’s compassionate fashion event.” This past year over 62,000 individuals were assisted in our area at a time when the need for food donations rose 47%. Fashion Show Chair Carmen Stull said that “giving to the less fortunate enriches our lives.” Jay Parker and Ellie Weilenmann received awards for their dedicated service. Guests enjoyed a perfect fall luncheon as well as fashions presented by Saks Fifth Avenue Chevy Chase.

‘A Bright New Boise’

October 31, 2011

For sophisticates, the very hip, cool and urban trendy, there are so many targets in Samuel Hunter’s “A Bright New Boise” (now at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre through Nov 13) to feel smug, snarky and snide about that it could have been a buffet of satire, enough material for a lifetime of Bill Maher monologues.

We gave religious zealotry of the way-out-there-waiting-for-the-Rapture-and-Apocalypse kind. We have corporate dullness and the intellectually empty space of places like Idaho, interrupted only by malls and truck stop traffic. We have a central character so bland that he could disappear easily in a crowd, if only there were crowds to disappear into.

So what does Hunter, a gifted writer and observer, do with this material? He showers it with a deep and imaginative empathy, even love, for the characters he’s created, characters that live in a world very much reflective of our hard-scrabble, economically harrowing times. Hunter makes his play—set in a Hobby Lobby store in Boise, Idaho—a kind of microcosm of the way quite a number of Americans live today—on the edge, hanging by broken nails, embracing the outer limits of apocalyptic faith, trying to find the inner creative flame to ward of the dullness of the days while thinking about the end of days.

At its center is a guy named Will, the new guy in town, who just applied for and got a low-paying job as a clerk in the local Hobby Lobby store, specializing in selling the equipment for arts and crafts things to do—buttons, cloth, paper, paint and none-such. It’s not a big place, and the people we see are Will, vaguely religious, hugely ordinary in his checkered shirt and blue jeans, smart and a little mysterious; Pauline, the branch manager with a tainted heart of gold and a potty mouth; Anna, sensitive, abused, halting, hungry and eager for attention and a little knowledge; Leroy, an in-your-face artistic type who makes obscene T-shirts which he wears to work; and Alexis, a quiet high school kid with secrets and talent.

The characters bump against each other in the employee lounge, sometimes used by Anna to hide out in and read and by Will to work on a blog that’s becoming a novel and has fans on the worldwide web. The story he’s writing is very much like the “Left Behind” novels that were about the end of days and the humans left behind, a very popular Christian series, especially so among Evangelists.

Will—if it weren’t for his secrets and the fact that he’s looking for the son he gave up to be adopted, and for his embrace of the rapture – would pass for the most ordinary, nicest of guys, the kind of guy that for no reason at all goes postal. But Woolly regular Michael Russotto has a gift for making the ordinary seem special—Will is at turns kind, talkative, a good listener, speculative, and haunting as he confronts his past and the pain of never escaping it, erasing it and starting over.

Russotto underplays him to the point that Will is like someone in a video, an old family movie, easy to be around, difficult to know, and when his frustrated, bleeding soul comes up for air, it’s a shattering moment.

Everybody in the cast is affecting—there’s no dissing the characters, the way they live, what they say, especially Kimberly Gilbert, who’s own special gift as an actress has always been to make the sometimes more than mildly weird seem oddly affecting and attractive, and she puts it good use her in a full-bodied portrait of Anna.

Will’s life is a mess, and it’s accentuated by his surroundings, his ruinously fumbling attempt at reunion with his son, the stifling routines and weirdness of the Hobby Lobby. The employee’s lounge is never ever distant from a television monitor which routinely runs a maddeningly dull monotone-voiced in-house video featuring the Hobby Lobby founders handing out tips and news, oddly interrupted occasionally by bursts of videos showing graphic medical procedures, which nobody seems to able to eliminate.

Much of “A Bright New Boise” is sharply observant and funny, without being in any sense an exercise in cheap laughs. Much of it, more importantly, is dark and incredibly sad. You can see how Will’s (and the others’) endless days of monotony might lead to the end of days, might lead him to embrace that annihilation with a raging scream that breaks hearts.

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Audra McDonald Makes Magic at WPAS Season Opener

October 26, 2011

Audra McDonald touched hearts at the Washington Performing Arts Society’s opening season event at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Oct. 4. Her exquisite delivery, breezy comments—thank you for telling me where to find the nearest Chipotle—and grace captivated her listeners. She shared that her young daughter was a definite critic having daunted her at age three with “mommy your singing makes my ears cry.” No one else shares that sentiment as Audra has just finished a Boston run as the immortal Bess in Porgy and Bess, scheduled later this year for Broadway. Her rendition of Adam Gwon’s I’ll Be Here from Ordinary Days in tribute to the losses of 9/11 left few dry eyes. WPAS’s staunchest supporters segued for a lovely dinner at the Roof Terrace and tributes to the evening’s star. [gallery ids="100331,108577,108598,108582,108594,108587,108591" nav="thumbs"]