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Shakespeare’s late comedy comes to life in this energetic production. By Jane Horwitz
Ian LeValley (center) as Alonso, King of Naples, and his men in The Tempest at Olney Theatre. Photograph by Stan Barouh.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s summer Free For All became an indoor event years ago, so if you have a yen for the Bard al fresco, head up Georgia Avenue to Olney Theatre Center, where they’re doing a bang-up job with The Tempest through August 3.

Shakespeare under the stars—or, at Olney’s opening night on July 19, under clouds and scattered raindrops—has a certain something that doth heighten the drama or the comedy. That’s not merely because the actors must speak louder, even when miked (it’s live outdoor theater, so the mikes and speakers can and do sometimes cut out)—it’s just the open-air expansiveness and fun of it all. 

The Olney production, directed by Jason King Jones, sparkles with antic energy, and while it breaks no new ground interpreting Shakespeare’s valedictory (1611) comedy, it affords plenty of space for the gorgeous poetic musings of the exiled magician Prospero (an authoritative Craig Wallace), who declares in Act IV that “Our revels now are ended,” and that “We are such stuff as dreams are made on/and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” He (and Shakespeare) looks back at his life on this enchanted island and uses his magical powers (i.e., creativity) to bring resolution to it all.

Olney Theatre Center’s touring company of young professional actors, the National Players, is entering its 66th season. The cast of this production comprises veterans of long-ago National Players tours, as well as actors from the most recent one. All the generations gathered for The Tempest on Olney’s Root Family Stage do fine work. Director Jones keeps them all pretty much on the same page stylistically, which is crucial.

Scenic designer Charlie Calvert’s backdrop of white umbrellas, opened, with handles pointed toward the audience, looks simple but has visual pop and echoes the play’s opening storm. Low-tech effects include cables strung across the stage to send other umbrellas floating skyward, or on which to hang sea-blue bolts of cloth as ocean waves in the magical tempest Prospero stirs up to shipwreck his enemies on his island. Late in the play, a trio of giant puppets appear as mythical spirits. 

Prospero, as he explains to his daughter Miranda (Leah Filley), was once the duke of Milan. When she was an infant, he was deposed by his jealous brother Antonio (Paul Morella), who conspired with Prospero’s nemesis, Alonso, King of Naples (Ian LeValley). Prospero and Miranda survived the overthrow, unbeknownst to their enemies, with the help of a wise elder, Gonzalo (Alan Wade). Safe on the island, Prospero practiced his magic with the help of his books and a sprite, Ariel (Julie-Ann Elliott, in a silver dress lined with fairy lights) to do his bidding. The only other inhabitant is a human-monster hybrid, Caliban (Ryan Mitchell, all in green, his face mud-caked), the son of a witch. Prospero keeps Caliban in shackles, as he once tried to interfere lustfully with Miranda. 

In many contemporary productions of The Tempest, Caliban becomes a metaphor for British colonial exploitation or slavery. This staging leaves that interpretation alone, and Mitchell plays the role more for laughs than anything deeper—one reason Olney can recommend the show for ages eight and older. 

Wallace, his hair white and his voice resonant, digs into Prospero’s anger at his enemies. Near the end, when Prospero decides to abjure his magic and forgive them (like another late play, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest is all about forgiveness and redemption), Wallace shows clearly what it costs Prospero to do the right thing. 

Low comedy in Shakespeare can be a tedious enterprise if the perpetrators try too hard. The buffoons in this staging have a pretty light touch with the play’s extended and surprisingly funny drunk scene: A butler from the ship, Stephano (Dan Van Why), and the jester Trinculo (Jacob Mundell) get roaring drunk with Caliban. Actor Adam Turck, in a couple of smaller roles, has an assured presence and the ability to round out a character with few or no words.

Part of Prospero’s grand plan is to create a love match between his daughter Miranda and Ferdinand (Alexander Korman), son of the King of Naples. He is positive the two will fall instantly in love (they do), but he lets father and son, stranded separately, each think the other is dead for a good while before he reunites them at the end. 

So loose ends loop themselves into bows, and ill feelings (mostly) melt away as Prospero begs the audience to release him from his trials with their goodwill: “As you from crimes would pardoned be/Let your indulgence set me free.” 

This Tempest isn’t free—for those older than ten, anyway—but it is a bargain and a treat.

The Tempest is at Olney Theatre through August 3. Running time is about two hours, 40 minutes, with one intermission. Tickets ($20; free for children ten and under) are available online

Posted at 02:45 PM/ET, 07/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
An art show with booze and pancakes and a free seminar on 3D printing. By Jason Koebler
Head to Penn Social on Thursday for an art show with all-you-can-eat pancakes. Image via Shutterstock.

Monday, July 21

FILM: Screen on the Green starts tonight with a screening of The Karate Kid (the one with Mr. Miyagi, not with Jaden Smith), which you may remember from your childhood or from the many subsequent screenings of it on the Disney Channel. Now’s your chance to see it on a 20-by-40-foot screen with 15,000 of your closest friends. Free. 7 PM.

Tuesday, July 22

HAPPY HOUR: Brightest Young Things and New Belgium Brewery will be at Bar Pilar for the Gratzer happy hour, featuring a new, smoky summer beer based on the ales knights drank back in the medieval age. There’ll also be a caricature artist giving away free drawings, and $5 New Belgium beers during the event. Free. 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

Wednesday, July 23

3D PRINTING: Don’t know anything about 3D printing? Now’s your chance to learn: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is hosting a crash course on 3D printing where you can design your own jewelry—in this case, a bracelet—and have it printed out on the library’s new printer. Free. 7:30 PM.

TRIVIA: The National Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard hosts its every-once-in-a-while trivia night. This week, the theme is “American Cool,” which I’m sure you know lots about. Each question will be about someone featured in the gallery’s exhibit by the same name, which is open through September 7. Free. 6:30 PM. 

Thursday, July 24

PANCAKES: Some people like pancakes in the morning; others like them at night, with booze and a bunch of art. If you fall into the latter camp, check out Penn Social’s Pancakes and Booze Art Show, featuring an all-you-can-eat pancake bar, live body painting, works from more than 50 local artists, Penn Social’s games, and of course a fully stocked bar. $5. 8 PM.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter

Posted at 09:55 AM/ET, 07/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Public backlash and concerns from DC environmental officials put Mia Feuer’s exhibit on hold. By Benjamin Freed
"Antediluvian," as it would have appeared in the Anacostia River this fall. Rendering courtesy of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

UPDATE, 3:10 PM: The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities says Mia Feuer's mock gas station won't be going in the Anacostia River after officials from the District Department of the Environment voiced concerns that the exhibit could interfere with efforts to clean up the distressed waterway.

Sarah Massey, a spokeswoman for the commission, says the decision was reached ahead of a letter issued Thursday by a coalition of environmentalists and rowers opposing the installation of Feuer's composition, which was scheduled to be part of the upcoming 5X5 Project, a collection of public art scattered throughout the District.

"We're responding to the issue of the toxicity in the riverbed," Massey says. "We have to do things that are responsive to the public good."

The arts commission's director, Lionell Thomas, met with Department of the Environment Director Keith Anderson about Feuer's exhibit "yesterday or this morning," says Anderson's spokeswoman, Donna Henry. Henry says their conversations were more technical and would have likely addressed permitting issues.

Although Massey says the arts commission still "stands behind" Feuer's faux gas station and wants it to appear somewhere in the District, the reaction—even from another city agency—is not that startling.

"This artist is controversial," Massey says. "Controversy and dialogue is something one would expect with her work. We are looking to relocate."

Original post follows:

Perhaps the most provocative piece announced for the DC government’s upcoming 5x5 public art project has, in fact, provoked a reaction. The Canadian artist Mia Feuer’s plan to build a full-scale replica of a gas station in the middle of the Anacostia River is the target of a letter issued Thursday by the a group of environmentalists and rowers who say the planned artwork would suggest it’s acceptable to pollute the river, even though Feuer’s mock gas station is designed with the exact opposite message.

“While we understand and many of us appreciate the global climate change message that the artist is trying to deliver, we are unified in our view that sinking a gas station in the Anacostia is simply the wrong thing to do in 2014,” the letter, addressed to DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities director Lionell Thomas, reads. “If the public misunderstands the art’s intended message as permission to put gas or oil in the river, the project could single-handedly set back the river restoration and undo years of effort on the part of the DC, Montgomery County and Prince Georges County governments to convince people to keep oil out of the water.”

Opponents to Feuer’s work may not relish the visual of a fake gas station butting out of Kingman Lake, an inlet of the Anacostia that separates Kingman Island from the mainland, the notion that it would erode efforts to clean up DC’s waterways seems incongruous with the rest Feuer’s portfolio, much of which has had an environmental bent. For her last major exhibition in DC, she installed a skating rink in the Corcoran Gallery of Art featuring ice made from bitumen, a byproduct of North American shale.

This fall marks the second installment of the DC arts commission’s 5x5 Project, in which five curators place works by five different artists around town. Feuer’s gas station, titled “Antediluvian,” is part of a series called Near Future, which focuses on energy and ecology. Feuer is still raising money for the project through an Indiegogo page with a goal of $30,000.

Posted at 10:24 AM/ET, 07/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Washington native on her musical roots and how she discovered the loop pedal. By Tanya Pai
Margot MacDonald, who is classically trained, creates layers of sound using a loop pedal. Photograph by Francesco Sapienza.

Margot MacDonald could be considered the modern take on a one-woman band. The Arlington native uses a loop pedal, a digital sampling tool for generating repetitive rhythms and melodies, to build songs, layer upon layer, solely out of sounds she creates, adding beatbox-style percussion and harmonizing with herself. It all makes for a performance that demands close attention—and has earned the 23-year-old 11 Washington Area Music Awards. MacDonald, who made her debut with the Washington National Opera at age ten, opens for Drop Electric at Artisphere on July 19.

Classically trained, MacDonald plays guitar and piano but began working with a loop pedal only four years ago. Asked to perform a holiday song at the Kennedy Center, she settled on “Just for Now” by Imogen Heap, an electronica-influenced indie-pop singer. “I tried the song with my band different ways and wasn’t doing it justice,” she says. Then she learned Heap had used electronic looping, so she set about to achieve the same effect. “I plugged away for two weeks before the show, trying to learn how to use the damn thing. And it totally stuck—it opened up a whole new approach to writing.”

MacDonald appears with Drop Electric at Artisphere.

MacDonald’s fourth studio album, Canvas, came out in November and includes solo tracks as well as ones with a band. She spent three weeks touring Europe and now wants to introduce a visual element to her Artisphere show: “Drop Electric is incorporating a lot of visuals and video. They’re really taking advantage of the Dome Theatre at Artisphere, which is one of the coolest places to play, so hopefully I’ll be attempting to get in on a little bit of that.”

MacDonald values her Washington musical roots, such as the “strong jazz and hip-hop vibe” at her alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which she says has infused her “indie pop-rock a-cappella-ness” with more edge. The local music scene is “unique in its diversity,” she says. “I feel a small part of many communities.”

Tickets ($12) at artisphere.com.


This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:28 PM/ET, 07/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A 25-hour party at DC Arts Center, DC Scoop, and a hip-hop bar crawl along U Street. By Jason Koebler
DC Scoop goes down on Saturday, giving you the chance to try some of the best locally made ice cream. Image via Shutterstock.

Thursday, July 17

BEER: The brewers of Devils Backbone will be at the Heurich House discussing the history of beer and showing off the home of Christian Heurich, one of the first and most important brewmasters in Washington DC. Your ticket gets you three beers from the Roseland, Virginia, brewery. Tickets ($30) are available online. 6:30 PM.

VARIETY: The Encyclopedia Show DC is back after the Dunes closing temporarily made things a bit hectic. This time, it’s at Busboys and Poets on Fifth and K streets, Northwest. The topic this week is “corruption,” and the show features a former 60 Minutes producer, a hypnotist, a burlesque dancer, and a musician. $8. 8:30 PM.

Friday, July 18

JAZZ: Jazz in the Garden continues with jazz trumpeter Tom Williams, a Baltimore native who spent eight years playing in various US Army bands and has performed at the Kennedy Center. As always, the Sculpture Garden will probably fill up, so get there as early as you can, especially if you plan on eating. Even if it’s packed, you should be able to score some sangria or beer. Free. 5 PM.

FILM: Union Market’s drive-in movie series is back for the next four weeks. This week, the market will be screening Judd Apatow’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is much like most of his films in that it’s pretty vulgar and very hilarious. The film will be projected on the three-story wall of the market, all your favorite food will be there, and you don’t actually have to drive up—if you walk or bike, it’s free. $10 per car. Food and games at 6 PM, film at 8. 

MOONSHINE: The Tennessee State Society is hosting an event called When the Sun Sets, the Moonshines, which is exactly what you expect it to be—there will be unlimited George Dickel whiskey cocktails most of the night, lots of Southern food, and raffle prizes. Tickets ($25) are available online. 8 PM.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: The Smithsonian Castle’s Alice in Wonderland-themed party (inspired by our Best Of party this year?) is sold out, but there are supposed to be plenty of tickets available at the door, as long as it’s not raining). Dress up as your favorite character from the book, drink craft cocktails designed for the event, and dance the night away. Tickets ($20) are available online. 8 PM.

Saturday, July 19

ART: A quarter century ago, DC Arts Center opened with a 24-hour party. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, it’s upping the ante with a 25-hour party starting at 7 PM and running through Saturday evening (so really, do this Friday or Saturday—what a sweet bonus!). Any artist will be able to display their work at the center, and it’ll be for sale until that artist leaves. The whole thing culminates with a big party Saturday night, complete with a deejay, booze, videos, and more. $10. 7 PM.

ICE CREAM: Union Market hosts DC Scoop 2014, the biggest ice cream party of the year. You’ll get to sample ice cream from 12 local and national purveyors, along with pizza and Luke’s Lobster rolls, there’ll be an ice cream eating contest and raffles, and one scoop will be named king of the cream. Free. 1 to 4 PM.

BURGERS: Speaking of food contests, the space at 945 Florida Avenue is hosting the DC BRGR Bash (not to be confused with BGR, of course). It’s a grill-off between some of Washington’s best chefs, and for every slider sold, 50 cents will be donated to the Children’s Inn. There’ll also be a beer garden featuring DC Brau and Atlas Brew Works, lawn games, and live music. Tickets ($22) are available online. 1 to 6 PM.

Sunday, July 20

YELP: Yelp celebrates ten years of doing its whole crowdsourced reviews thing with a party at the Anacostia Arts Center, featuring doughnuts, steak, tacos, oysters, cake (yeah, it’s an eclectic mix of restaurants), fancy drinks, live-painting stands, candy, massages, a photo booth, a “flower bar,” music, dancing, and “more free stuff than you can imagine.” It’s probably going to be a good time. $10. 4 PM.

CRAWL: Spend your Sunday doing the Hip “Hop,” an every-once-in-a-while bar crawl near U Street that travels both between bars like Solly’s, Lounge of 3, Newtown, Pure, and Duffy’s. Each bar will play a different era of hip-hop and will have different drink specials. Make sure to pour one out at Solly’s, where the theme is emcees who have died. Tickets ($10) are available online. 2 PM. 

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter

Posted at 11:40 AM/ET, 07/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
“Traveler” at the Hirshhorn explores the Italian-American sculptor's genre-bending works. By Tanya Pai
Photograph of “Sal Cragar” by Salvatore Scarpitta.

Though perhaps best known in Italy, where he spent two decades at the start of his career, Salvatore Scarpitta grew up in Los Angeles and taught for many years at Baltimore’s Maryland Institute College of Art, where his students included Jeff Koons. With “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler,” opening July 17—one of the only shows in a major US museum dedicated to his works—the Hirshhorn hopes to introduce a new audience to his genre-bending art. “One of the reasons the title ‘Traveler’ seemed apt is that he’s in between—between Italy and America, between generations of artists, between painting and sculpture,” assistant curator Melissa Ho says. “He doesn’t fit neatly into any art-historical categories.”

Scarpitta was born in 1919 in New York City and went to LA’s Hollywood High School before moving to Rome to attend the Accademia di Belle Arti. He graduated in 1940, not long before World War II broke out. Scarpitta was placed in an Italian internment center for nearly a year and a half, eventually escaping and making his way to Allied-controlled territory, where he joined the Navy, serving for a time as a “monuments man,” helping catalog and recover works of art stolen by the Nazis. When he returned to America, he rekindled a boyhood fascination with sprint-car racing, a homegrown sport akin to a less polished NASCAR that grew out of dirt racetracks across the US. (He even owned a sprint-racing team for a time.)

That fixation can be seen in several of the 19 works in “Traveler,” including a series of paintings incorporating cast-off bits from vehicles and the full-scale sprint cars that he began building later in his career. “Sprint cars are artisanal in a way, made by enthusiastic individuals who aren’t going to make a lot of money,” Ho says. “Scarpitta saw a parallel—strangely, because they come from such different backgrounds—between the people racing and artists.”

The works in “Traveler” span the late 1950s through 2000. Among the early creations are shaped canvases, which hang like paintings but have the 3-D nature of sculptures, taking “what is normally invisible, neutral support and using that as the material,” according to Ho. One of the last sculptures Scarpitta created before his death in 2007—a sled pieced together from found objects, called “Cot and Lock Step n. 2 Cargo”—represents another way humans move themselves from one place to the next but also the final journey: the transition from life to death and what may lie beyond. Says Ho: “Knowing he created it not in great health, it feels like a work referencing mortality, like images from Egyptian art of a sledge transporting a soul to the afterlife.”

July 17 through January 11; hirshhorn.si.edu.


This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 07/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The museum’s new app lets you play curator. By Tanya Pai
Curate your own exhibit with a new app from the Phillips Collection. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

You can use your phone to order lunch, deposit checks, and videoconference with someone across the world. But the Phillips Collection is aiming more highbrow: The museum has launched a uCurate app that lets users arrange their own virtual art exhibitions. The app, developed in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibit “Made in the USA,” lets aspiring curators arrange 52 works from the collection as they see fit, as well as choose wall colors and add their own comments to the information panels that accompany each painting. They can then upload their gallery to the Phillips’s website to share with other art enthusiasts.

The app adds another layer to the museum’s “every piece a conversation” philosophy. “uCurate allows visitors to design their version of ‘Made in the USA’ and, like Duncan Phillips, create deeply personal displays of works that spark visual conversations,” says exhibit curator Susan Behrends Frank in a press release. 

“Made in the USA,” featuring works by Alexander Calder, Richard Diebenkorn, Edward Hopper, and more, is on display until August 31, and the uCurate app is available for iPhone and Android. 

Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 07/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This one-man show explores the public and private lives of its titular character. By Tanya Pai
Roger Guenveur Smith in Rodney King at Woolly Mammoth. Photograph by Patti McGuire.

What’s the human cost of social progress? What happens to a person who all of a sudden is thrust to the forefront of the national conversation, whose entire life becomes a metaphor for a cause? 

These are some of the issues considered in Rodney King, Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man show currently playing at Woolly Mammoth as part of the Capital Fringe Festival. Smith, who created the show, has made something of a habit of these solo treatments: In the past he’s taken on such figures as abolitionist Frederick Douglass, baseball players Juan Marichal and John Roseboro, and Huey P. Newton, the cofounder of the Black Panther party (Newton’s story became an award-winning TV movie). In King, Smith focuses on the African-American construction worker who was viciously beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991; film of the assault and the acquittal of the police officers involved by an all-white jury led to rioting and violence in LA that resulted in the deaths of 53 people and transformed everyman King into a symbol of race relations. 

King led a troubled life both before the incident that made him infamous and after, including issues with domestic violence and substance abuse, and he eventually drowned in his own swimming pool on Father’s Day 2012. His tragic end became the impetus for Smith to develop this work, and he doesn’t shy away from the flaws of the man at the center of the story; he’s fascinated by the contrast between the real Rodney and the media-constructed one, and there’s a sense of the artist struggling to live with and understand someone else’s demons. Smith has described the piece as “a series of questions, not unlike a postmortem interview with Rodney King,” and he improvises almost all of each performance, taking on the cadences and inflections of a slam poet. It adds a fascinating layer—the audience can actually see the artist working through his thoughts and emotions and coming to new understandings—but the loose structure means the show sometimes meanders from one point to the next. 

Smith arrives at no clear answers or sweeping realizations, though the point of the performance seems more to crystallize emotions and impressions than to find anything resembling a solution to the deeply entrenched societal issues the play touches on. Still, there’s plenty of pointed criticism: Smith at various times skewers the media, the police, even the audience, following a chuckle-earning line with the observation, directed at King, that people now see him as a joke. Throughout it all there’s a constant refrain of “Right, Rodney?,” a phrase Smith delivers in tones alternately compassionate, quizzical, and condemnatory. At times, he seems to understand King deeply; at others, he’s still grasping for answers. 

The set is bare-bones, and Smith—barefoot, dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans—relies on only occasional sound and lighting effects to enhance his performance (lighting by Jose Lopez, sound by Marc Anthony Thompson). The simple staging is a smart choice, stripping away anything that would take the focus off the subject at hand. It also provides an interesting contrast with Smith’s declaration that King is the “first reality-TV star,” invoking a medium that thrives on artifice and edited-in drama. 

King’s tale is a toxic stew of race relations, the corrosive power of media, and the struggle of an ordinary person who suddenly finds himself living very much in the public eye. While Smith touches on many themes—the constancy of violence, the way vices and fates seem to pass down from one generation to the next—he steers clear of inflating King’s life to mythical proportions. Toward the end of the play, in one of the few non-improvised moments, he recites King’s famous speech, pleading to the audience, “Can’t we all get along?” It’s such a simple statement, almost childlike—but, much like its utterer, in context it becomes symbolic of so much more.

Rodney King is at Woolly Mammoth through July 20. Running time is about one hour and ten minutes, with no intermission. Tickets ($35) are available online

Posted at 11:50 AM/ET, 07/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A benefit for Screen on the Green and the Best of Washington bash at the Building Museum. By Jason Koebler
Try 60-plus of the top restaurants in the region at the Best of Washington bash on Wednesday. Photograph by ImageLinkPhoto.com.

Monday, July 14

SCAVENGER HUNT: It’s been a while since we reminded you about the existence of Mustache Mondays, an always awesome night of adventure at the Mansion on O Street. Each Monday, you’ll get the chance to explore the mansion—which has 70 secret doors, various passageways, and tons of themed rooms—with a treasure/scavenger hunt. There are prizes, snacks, a free beer from the Traveler Beer Company, and, of course, free mustaches. Tickets ($15) are available online. 5:30 PM.

Tuesday, July 15

MUSIC: The Hamilton hosts the Golden State-Lone Star Revue, an all blues and Americana music night featuring, you guessed it, musicians from California and Texas. They’ll show off different styles of roots rock and blues and then meld them all together to prove the states aren’t actually so different. Tickets ($15) are available online. 6:30 PM.

Wednesday, July 16

BEST OF WASHINGTON: It’s finally time for Best of Washington, our biggest party of the year and the event you’ve been gearing up for with our periodic happy hours all around the region. More than 60 of the city’s top restaurants will be on hand serving up delicious bites, including Michel Richard of Central, Mike Isabella of Graffiato, Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s, and Bryan Voltaggio of Volt. As always, proceeds benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and there’s an open bar. Hope to see you there! Tickets ($175 VIP, $125 regular) are available online. 7 PM.

Thursday, July 17

DRINK: Screen on the Green is finally coming back next week. But seemingly every year, the film festival is in jeopardy because it’s pretty expensive to put a gigantic projection screen on the National Mall a few times a year. Friends of Screen on the Green are hosting a benefit happy hour at Hill Country—attendees get a free drink, there’ll be plenty of barbecue, and you’ll be entered to win free tickets to see 2001: A Space Odyssey at Wolf Trap. $10. 6:30 PM.

Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at jasontpkoebler@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter

Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 07/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A conversation with the comedian, in town for a show with his former Saturday Night Live costar Dennis Miller. By Tanya Pai
Photograph of Carvey Courtesy of Kennedy Center.

Dana Carvey’s six seasons on Saturday Night Live, starting in 1986, spawned many memorable characters—Garth Algar of Wayne’s World, Hans of Hans and Franz, the Church Lady—and his knack for impressions made him adept at portraying figures from Woody Allen to George H.W. Bush. Carvey reunites with another SNL alum, Dennis Miller (who has himself been a target of Carvey’s impersonations) for a show at the Kennedy Center July 12. Here’s a conversation with Carvey.

What can you tell me about the show?

Dennis is very political, and I’m political in a different way, so we’re a good juxtaposition. He’s a brilliant wordsmith—as a writer, he’s just amazing—and I jump around like a monkey puppet. I’ve been working on a lot of new things. I’m excited about my standup right now. And my Obama is working.

What’s the key to your Obama impression?

It’s hard to find leverage on Obama comedically. He’s a little like Mr. Spock—he’s not jittery. The biggest key for me is that his pauses are a visual joke: His mouth kind of goes down, he closes his mouth, and his chin goes up. He’s very good at saying something and then he’ll look off and pause, and it’s almost aggressive in a way. It’s powerful. Not a lot of politicians do that. Mitt Romney couldn’t copy that—he was going too fast; he was jumpy. But Obama’s like [imitating Obama], “Not true!” And then he just sits. It’s a rhythm thing. Audiences are more comfortable now having fun with him and his presidency. After he got reelected, I felt the audience kind of relax into the tradition of satirizing whoever’s the most powerful guy in the country at any given time. It’s like making fun of the principal in high school—you just have to.

Why do you think SNL is such an enduring success?

There’s a lot of secret sauce to it. [Executive producer] Lorne Michaels has to let these brilliant people go—and it takes years, no matter how good you are, just to learn to do it—and then he replenishes. The fact that the show is still live in a world where everything is massaged and laugh-tracked is very cool. Also, it’s the reality-show part of it—having someone as a fish out of water, whether it’s a football player or a dramatic actress, do the impossible: host a live variety show having never done it before. So it’s got a lot of elements that make it very, very potent. Lorne is very in touch with what he’s managing—all those egos and all that production and all that pressure. He’s got it down to a science. I’d often think, “Well, I guess tonight will be the first night the show’s not gonna make it. We literally are going to cancel the show.” And you’d go on when it wasn’t ready, when it didn’t work, you didn’t know where the props were. “Just go—it’s starting.” And that is the great part of it.

Do you still watch SNL?

I don’t really stay up that late anymore. I see more of it since broadband came in than I ever did before. I barely watched it when I was on. I never got the VCR thing down in the ’90s, but I’d catch glimpses of Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler. Now sketches are on the web forever.

Tickets ($39 to $125) at kennedy-center.org.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 07/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()