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Here are the best events around town. By Heather Rudow
Ruby Rose performs at Echostage this weekend. Photo courtesy Moki Media.


THEATER: Dogfight continues its run at the Keegan Theatre. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Peter Duchan, the musical follows a trio of Marines during the Vietnam War. But it’s not your typical heading-to-war story. The group is in the midst of a cruel contest: Who can snag the most unattractive date? Of course, nothing goes according to plan. (The show’s directors, Christina Coakley and Michael Innocenti, are getting married onstage after the September 5 show.) $35 to $45, 8 PM.

MUSEUMS: Photojournalism meets fashion at this month’s Phillips After Five at the Phillips Collection. Expect classy cocktails by Stir Bartending Co. mixologists, Saks Fifth Avenue beauty and fragrance stations, and music by “Fashionista DJ” Heather Femia. In addition to the typical gallery discussions, attendees will learn about upcoming fall trends from models and fashionistas. $12, 5 PM.


FILM: Outdoor movie season is not over yet thanks to the Columbia Heights Initiative. Tonight they’re screening Ghostbusters at Harriet Tubman Elementary. The first film in Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd’s trilogy is getting a reboot starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Let’s hope Gozer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man stay home for this one. Free, dusk.

FESTIVAL: September 4 through 13, the Kennedy Center presents Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media. The festival celebrates the symbiotic relationship between music and skateboarding through hand-painted skateboard deck exhibits, live music by the likes of DC punkers Loud Boyz, and “open skate sessions,” where skateboarders can show off their skills on a bowl especially commissioned for the Kennedy Center. Free, 6 PM.

MUSIC: Ruby Rose has long been a popular actress and model in her native Australia, but as Piper’s smouldering love interest in the newest season of Orange is the New Black, she’s earned a whole new fanbase in the US. She’s playing a DJ set at Echostage tonight, which promises to be equal parts dance-worthy and swoon-worthy. $25, 9 PM.


BOOKS: It's the best event for DC book nerds: the National Book Festival. Festival-goers can attend authors talks, pick up signed novels, and discover writers they may have never heard of. The author list is pretty expansive, but highlights include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, National Book Award winner Louise Erdrich, and Mexican activist, poet, and author Homero Aridjis. Free, 9 AM.

THEATER: The weekly webcomic A Softer World started in 2003 and earned a reputation for its deeply funny and ironic comic strips. Though photographer Emily Horne and writer Joey Comeau no longer work on the project, Rorschach Theatre has taken its essence and turned it into a play called Truth & Beauty Bombs. The play will run at Atlas Performing Arts Center through October 4, but this week you can check out the "pay what you can" performances. Tickets are only available at the door or by phone. Pay what you can, 8 PM.


THEATER: Brian Feldman’s #txtshow returns to the American Poetry Museum at the Center for Poetic Thought. Feldman plays a character named txt, and each performance is different from the next: Shows are based on audience requests delivered via Twitter. $20, 7 PM.

MUSIC: Spread out a blanket, bring some snacks, and ease your way into the long weekend with Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, who play Wolf Trap’s Filene Center. The fast-fingered musicians offer something for everyone, with songs that have touches of jazz and even heavy metal. $35 to $65, 8 PM.

Posted at 10:27 AM/ET, 09/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Yep, the Kennedy Center installed a half-pipe. By Emily Codik
Photograph courtesy of Museum Hack.

Washington’s glut of ambitious millennials may be great for the tax base, but they challenge cultural institutions looking to lure future benefactors. Here’s what the places are trying instead of black-tie galas.

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Posted at 06:00 AM/ET, 09/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Step inside this shipping container, and you can start a conversation with someone from Tehran, Herat, or Havana. Photo by Elizabeth Bick.

Imagine stepping inside a shipping container and coming face-to-face with a live feed of a stranger inside another container in Tehran. Thanks to audio-visual technology, that's exactly what you can experience September 10 through 15 during the NextNOW Fest at the Clarice.

These so-called "Portals" operate like wormholes, connecting people in Washington to people in cities like Herat, Afghanistan or El Progreso, Honduras. A translator stands on the opposite end, enabling a 20-minute conversation between two people who live in completely different parts of the world. Inside these gold-painted containers, though, they might feel like they're in the same room.

Prompts serve as ice breakers: "What would make today a good day for you?" or "Where do you feel safest?" It sounds like an introvert's worst nightmare, but that's usually far from the case. "People come in quite nervous," says Amar Bakshi, the DC native who created the project. "They come out saying it flew by. It was unlike any other experience they've had before."

Bakshi, a former Washington Post reporter, launched the project in December 2014 with the hope of enabling conversations between people who wouldn't typically meet otherwise. Even though interconnectivity has never been easier, Bakshi says, social media can ensconce people in a closed network, rather than introducing them to strangers. Portals use technology to accomplish the exact opposite--to connect people instead of alienating them.

He started developing the idea when he traveled abroad for a Post project. While reporting in 12 different countries, including Pakistan and Venezuela, he realized his most memorable experiences occurred on the long bus rides between one city and the next, where he struck up conversations with complete strangers. Once he got back home, he began brainstorming ways to re-create those serendipitous encounters using technology. "People find connections," he says. "It's our natural tendency when we're one on one."

So far, the project has connected about 3,500 people across the globe. In April Bakshi's collective, Shared_Studios, installed a Portal at Georgetown's Davis Performing Arts Center that was connected to Herat. In June, on Woodrow Wilson Plaza, they installed one connecting DC to Herat, Tehran, and Havana.

With a reservation, participants at the NextNOW Fest can chat with strangers in Afghanistan, Mexico, Honduras, or Iran. Artists will also connect with each other for live-streamed performances at the Clarice.

Shared_Studios recently installed a Portal connecting people in DC's Woodrow Wilson Plaza with folks in Tehran, Havana, and Herat. Photo courtesy Shared_Studios.
A portal at Yale University connected New Haven and Tehran. Photo courtesy Shared_Studios.
A portal under construction in Herat. Shared_Studios counts on "Portal curators" across the globe to help with the project's logisitics. Photo by Omid Habibi.

Posted at 10:05 AM/ET, 09/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photo courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution

1. “Sōtatsu: Making Waves”

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, October 24-January 31

Photograph of Sōtatsu's "Peonies and Lilies" courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art.

Know this: Every time you sigh at the sight of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave,” an artist named Tawaraya Sōtatsu stirs in his grave. For hundreds of years, while scholars wrote volume after volume about Hokusai, Sōtatsu was almost completely ignored. But it was actually his decorative style, created in 17th-century Kyoto, that set the course for the next 400 years of Japanese art.

In the early 1900s, American art collector Charles Lang Freer unearthed the truth about Sōtatsu and purchased some of the artist’s massive gold-tinted screens. For that, Freer is now considered a cultural pioneer—Japan even erected a monument in his honor. According to James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, if those screens had remained in Japan, they’d have been declared national treasures. But that’s never going to happen: In his will, Freer stipulated that the pieces could never travel outside his DC museum, thus making this retrospective of more than 70 works a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. “If you’re going to do a major show, it has to happen here,” Ulak says.

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Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 09/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Open skate sessions are part of the Kennedy Center's upcoming festival, a celebration of skateboarding, music, and art. Photo by Len Jackson, courtesy the Kennedy Center.

Of all the sights you can see at the Kennedy Center—Broadway stars, orchestra musicians, heck, even Lady Gaga—this has to be the most surprising.

Washington's most prestigious performing arts center is installing a full-fledged skate park on its front plaza. Yes, a skate park. At the Kennedy Center.

The skate bowl, small ramps, and "skateable fixtures" are all part of "Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media," a ten-day festival, September 4 through 13, celebrating the improvisational ties between skateboarding, jazz, and art. And this is certainly the first time the Kennedy Center has ever done anything like this.

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Posted at 10:17 AM/ET, 09/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Make your last summer barbecue count this Labor Day weekend. Photograph via Shutterstock.

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Posted at 04:30 PM/ET, 08/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here are the best events around town. By Heather Rudow
Musician and author John Darnielle discusses his book, Wolf in White Van at Brookland's Busboys and Poets. Photo by Lalitree Darnielle.


OPEN MIC NIGHT: Show off your creative side at BloomBars. Everyone is allowed to perform at this open mic night so long as they’re flexing their creative muscles. Slam poets, storytellers, singers, musicians, and comedians are all welcome to take the stage; just make sure the act is appropriate for all ages. Arrive at 8:30 PM if you want to participate. $5, 9 PM.

FILM: The AFI Silver Theatre celebrates the 25th anniversary of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. In one of the rare scenarios when the sequel is arguably better than the first, the film reunites fans with the cutest little mogwai Gizmo, who accidentally spawns many Gremlins--evil critters with a penchant for causing complete and utter chaos wherever they go. Good news for fans: A third film is currently in the works. $12, 9 PM.


FILM: Who would’ve thought the origins of jazz rock can be traced back to a small group of musicians living in the English town of Canterbury in the 1960s? Romantic Warriors III: Canterbury Tales is the third film in a series about progressive rock written and directed by Adele Schmidt and José Zegarra Holder. This documentary focuses on three of the most popular bands defining this “Canterbury sound": Soft Machine, Caravan, and Gong. Stop by the Black Cat for the screening; stick around after the movie for a Q&A with Schmidt and Holder. $8, 7:30 PM.


BOOKS: You may already know John Darnielle as the singer of the indie folk band the Mountain Goats, or from his acerbic wit and staunch support of women’s rights on Twitter. Last year, Darnielle put his storytelling prowess to further use and wrote the mind-bending novel Wolf in White Van. The book--which made the 2014 National Book Award longlist for Fiction--centers on an agoraphobic video game designer whose face is disfigured. Darnielle will be in conversation with musician and writer Albert Mudrian at a Politics and Prose event at Brookland's Busboys and Poets. Free, 6:30 PM.

COMEDY: Arnez J initially dreamt of becoming a performer in a completely different realm. He was once on his way to the Harlem Globetrotters. Lucky for us, he became a comedian instead. The hilarious stand-up performer, who you may know from Shaquille O’Neal’s “All Star Comedy Jam,” headlines three nights at DC Improv. $25, doors at 6:30 PM.

Posted at 10:18 AM/ET, 08/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The museum is looking for a new space in DC, as well as outside of the District. Photo courtesy Crime Museum.

Citing a tough downtown real estate market, Janine Vaccarello, the Crime Museum's chief operating officer, announced the museum will close its doors on September 30.

"The Crime Museum’s landlord has decided to execute their rights under the lease agreement and request that we vacate the premises," Vaccarello emailed members of the Washington Area Concierge Association on Saturday. In her email, she stated the museum will close on October 1; the museum's website cites September 30 as its closing date.

She wrote the museum is looking for a new space--in DC, as well as outside of the District. However, since its landlord requested a "strict vacate timeline," the museum will be closed for an indefinite period of time.

In the mean time, fans will still have access to specific programs, such as assassinations walking tours, traveling forensics educational programs, and off-site team building.

The news was also announced on the museum's website.

Washingtonian has reached out to Vaccarello and the Crime Museum for comment.

Posted at 09:44 AM/ET, 08/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photo-illustration by Paul Spella

1. Lyn Paolo on Designing for TV’s Scandal

S. Dillon Ripley Center, September 25

Scandal wardroom and costume designer Lyn Paolo. Photo courtesy of ABC/Danny Feld.

There are plenty of reasons why Washingtonians have their eyes on the ABC drama Scandal as its fifth season premieres on September 24: Lead character Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is based on Washington crisis manager Judy Smith, and the juicy plot gives viewers a peek at the scabby underbelly of a fictitious White House. Just as satisfying as any jaw-dropping twist is Pope’s impeccable “where did she get that?” wardrobe. Lyn Paolo, Scandal’s costume designer, is the brains behind Pope’s look. She’s also responsible for shattering stereotypes about DC’s work uniforms: Gone are boxy, shoulder-padded red suits; in are gorgeous Alexander McQueen jackets and warm hues.

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Posted at 08:00 AM/ET, 08/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Grab a beer, plop yourself on the floor, and take in some classical tunes. Photo courtesy Groupmuse.

Sam Bodkin took the typical classical music experience and did away with nearly every trope. The setting? Forget concert halls. He figured there's no better way to enjoy a string quartet than sitting cross-legged on a stranger's living room floor. The vibe? He thinks it's best to listen to music as it unfolds five feet from your face. Drinking is also allowed.

As for chatting during the concert? That's one line Bodkin wasn't willing to cross. "[The music's] gotta be the focal point of the crowd's attention," he says.

In 2013, he founded Groupmuse, an online platform that connects budding musicians with hosts who want to hold happenings in their homes. It also brings together people who are looking for a new type of music experience: cheap, chill, and intimate classical music concerts. And these people, more often than not, tend to be in their 20s.

"We're trying to reconstitute the listenership for classical music," Bodkin says. "It's kind of really about giving people an unabashadly positive and substantive way to connect to members of the community."

Now Groupmuse is in 20 cities across the world, including New York, Boston, and San Francisco, and has hosted happenings in Stockholm and Berlin. In May, the concerts debuted in DC. Since then, monthly happenings have been held in group houses in Bloomingdale, Dupont Circle, and Columbia Heights.

July's Groupmuse event in Columbia Heights. Photo by Richard Walsh.

Christian Dutilh--the platform's volunteer organizer in Washington--first attended a Groupmuse this past winter at a Brooklyn studio apartment. He quickly decided to import the concept to DC. The 26-year-old, who owns a real estate and branding company by day, is convinced these concerts are as rewarding for audience members as they are for musicians. "This is me trying to get my friends into a different kind of music that they wouldn’t normally be able to explore," he says, adding, "The musicians are so wonderful, so appreciative. They never get a chance to perform in an atmosphere like this."

Here's how it works in DC: "Groupmuses" are free to host, but usually cost $10 per person to attend. Proceeds go directly to the musicians, who are typically young, classical music students at Baltimore's Peabody Institute. Concerts are BYOB. They start with an hour of conversation and mingling; once the tunes begin, audience members are expected to sit down and listen. The music is split up into two 25-minute segments, with a 30-minute intermission in between. After the show, people drink, chat, and hang out with the musicians.

On average, about 35 people attend each concert. There's no vetting process for hosts; all you have to do is sign up. "It's literally easier to host a Groupmuse than it is to host a birthday party," Bodkin says. "You just have to move your coffee table aside."

The next DC event is on Friday, September 11, in the back patio of a Columbia Heights house, featuring Baltimore Chamber Orchestra celloist Peter Kibbe--and just enough room to cram 40 guests.

Posted at 01:04 PM/ET, 08/28/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()