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Want to be a tech pro? Check out these local meet-ups and conferences. By Michael Gaynor
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

1. General Assembly’s Intro to the DC Startup Community

When: About twice per quarter.

Where: 1133 15th St., NW.

What: Introduces neophytes to the people, companies, investors, and events crucial to the area’s tech ecosystem.

2. DC Tech Meetup

When: Monthly.

Where: Varies.

What: Hundreds-strong events at which start-ups do product demos; also open-mike session to share job opportunities.

3. Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Titans Breakfast Series

When: Four to five times a year.

Where: Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner.

What: Early-morning speaker series that in its long run has hosted Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, and Bill Gates.

4. Fosterly Collaborate Conference

When: Once a year.

Where: Varies.

What: Private- and public-sector innovators gather for two days of speakers, workshops, pitch practices, and more.

5. DC and NoVA Nightowls

When: Two to three times a month.

Where: Various co-working spaces.

What: Entrepreneurs and techies meet to work on personal projects in after-hours sessions that stretch past midnight.

This article appears in our May 2015 issue of Washingtonian, in our Tech Titans feature.

Posted at 12:22 PM/ET, 04/29/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
John Mulaney talks about how the school's improv group helped launch his career. By Shane Mettlen
The cast of John Mulaney’s sitcom: Elliott Gould, Zack Pearlman, Nasim Pedrad, Mulaney, Martin Short, and Seaton Smith. Photograph by Matthias Clamer/FOX.

In August 2000, John Mulaney, a Catholic kid from Chicago, arrived at Georgetown, and a week later he was accepted into the school’s fledgling improv group, cast by fellow comedian Nick Kroll. He would soon follow Kroll to New York, sleeping on the elder comic’s couch while he hit open-mike nights. That trail led him to an Emmy-winning stint writing for Saturday Night Live—and to Mulaney, a sitcom debuting October 5 on Fox. Besides Kroll and Mulaney, Georgetown has become a breeding ground for off-kilter, quick-witted comics: Mike Birbiglia, Funny or Die’s Owen Burke, comedy writer Brian Donovan, and Parks and Recreation’s Alison Becker. Mulaney, now 32, talks about Georgetown as a comedy spawning ground.

Why do you think Georgetown’s improv group has been such a career launcher?

When I was there, it kind of felt like the only game in town, at a school that didn’t have a ton of theater. They’ve since built a huge performing-arts center we’d have loved to have. But it was just a very funny group of people—I’m surprised more people I did improv with didn’t go into comedy.

So with little else in the way of performers, you were the outsiders?

In retrospect, we were pretty much just left alone. We sold tickets—the money covered us and the children’s theater; we didn’t have to ask for grants. If I had gone to an NYU or an Emerson that had a lot of performing arts, it would have been very different.

Did that self-sufficiency carry into your career?

It definitely helped doing standup early on. We would do shows at the coffee shop at Georgetown’s Lauinger Library and have to set up chairs, so in New York it seemed natural to just walk into a bar and ask to do a show. There’s the idea that if you want to do a TV show, you have to make one—you can’t wait for someone else.

How does Washington compare as a comedy town?

DC Improv is really good, and in the past few years the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse has turned out to be an awesome venue. When you have two central hubs like that, a lot of young comedians can get stage time, and that’s what makes a comedy town.

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 08/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A rundown of interesting exhibits, live music, and hands-on crafts. By Vicky Gan
A dozen galleries, including Hillyer Art Space, keep their doors open late for First Friday Dupont. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Once a month, the following business districts, parks, and cultural centers stay open late for “art walks”—allowing visitors to go from gallery to gallery to look at what’s on view and chat with artists. At the free events, you can enjoy refreshments and sometimes special activities such as contests, music, and dance.

First Friday Dupont

Expect crowds for Dupont Circle’s art walk, a three-decade tradition that spans a dozen modern and contemporary galleries. Each space has its own vibe: Studio Gallery recently booked a violinist, while Toolbox hired a deejay. Visitors often end the evening at Hillyer Art Space, which closes later than the other galleries, at 9 (and has a suggested donation of $5). Keep an eye out for tie-in happy hours and deals at bars and restaurants along the way; Circa and Duke’s Grocery recently hosted after-parties.

When: First Friday of every month, 6 to 8.

Coming up: Studio Gallery presents the work of students and faculty in the Corcoran College of Art & Design’s printmaking program, June 25 through July 19.

Frederick’s First Saturday goes beyond art, with everything from parades to restaurant deals. Photograph by Douglas Via.

First Saturday

This gallery walk in Frederick is part of a daylong slate of activities that vary each month. Arts and crafts and music draw families in the afternoon; evenings see young adults and couples strolling down Market Street. Don’t miss the workshops at Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center or giveaways—such as handmade ceramic flower magnets—at the Potters’ Guild. You can make a night of it with special deals at restaurants and retailers; a few shops even have their own galleries, hosting different artists each month. On a summer day, downtown Frederick can get up to 25,000 visitors for its art walk.

When: First Saturday of every month, 3 to 9.

Coming up: “I ART Downtown Frederick,” a celebration of local art, coinciding with the 21st annual Frederick Festival of the Arts, June 7.

Art Walk in the Park

The former Glen Echo amusement park houses galleries, studios, and workshops in its Art Deco pavilions. In and around the Arcade Building, you’ll find artists working in glass, painting, photography, pottery, and silversmithing, along with group exhibits in the Stone Tower and Popcorn galleries. The night ends with social dance and live music at the Spanish Ballroom or Bumper Car Pavilion, for a small fee. This art event attracts an older crowd because there aren’t kids’ activities.

When: Second Friday of the month, May through October, 6 to 8.

Coming up: On June 13, enjoy demonstrations of silversmithing and kiln-formed-glass techniques, two photography exhibits, and a contra dance.

Those inspired by the Torpedo Factory’s art night can buy art supplies there. Photograph by Joelle Phillips.

Second Thursday Art Night

Old Town’s Torpedo Factory is an indoor arts village with 82 studios, six galleries, two workshops, and an archaeology museum on its three levels. Located on the Alexandria waterfront, the art center—in a former Navy munitions factory—celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Check out the enamel art, fiber creations, photography, and ceramics by local artists as well as the largest gallery, the Art League, which includes an art-supply store. Each month features a different discipline—June’s is sculpture—with live music in the main hall and demonstrations throughout the space.

When: Second Thursday of every month, 6 to 9.

Coming up: “The Alexandria Community Art Library— a 40th-anniversary exhibit in the Target Gallery exploring the Torpedo Factory’s history through artifacts and oral histories—runs May 31 through July 13.

2nd Saturday Art Walk

Explore the 55-acre grounds of Workhouse Arts Center, a converted prison in Lorton that joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. In six studio buildings, the campus supports more than 100 artists who are on hand to talk about their work. Some 200 to 400 visitors attend each month. Every studio showcases the work of its resident artists, while the largest facility, housing the McGuireWoods and Vulcan galleries, curates larger monthly exhibitions. Kids and pets are welcome to play on the outdoor quad, which hosts a summer concert series.

When: Second Saturday of every month, 6 to 9.

Coming up: At the ice-cream social in July, $20 gets you a bowl handmade by an artist, plus ice cream and toppings.

Bethesda Art Walk

You might start by entering from the Metro tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue, which showcases the work of 12 local artists. Galleries on the route exhibit painting, sculpture, tapestry, and ceramics. You can meet artists in their workspaces at Studio B and tour new juried exhibits every month at Waverly Street Gallery, founded in 1993. The free Bethesda Circulator stops near all seven galleries.

When: Second Friday of every month, 6 to 9.

Coming up: Gallery B exhibits winners of the 2014 Bethesda Painting Awards, a juried art competition for local painters, June 4 through 28.

Third Thursday Open Studios

Located outside the Brookland Metro, Monroe Street Market’s arts walk is just that: a promenade flanked by two buildings housing 27 art studios. Since January, the mixed-use development has hosted monthly open-studio nights, with artists coordinating demos, workshops, and classes. Highlights include Stitch & Rivet, a handmade-accessories studio, where guests who paid $5 recently crafted leather bracelets, and the ARTillery, which lends tools for art projects.

When: Third Thursday of every month, 6 to 8.

Coming up: Decorate costumes for children in hospitals—they wear them during performances of the theater nonprofit Only Make Believe—in Studio 1 on June 19.

This article appears in the June 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:32 AM/ET, 05/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A new exhibition explores how the two painters and friends influenced each other. By Sophie Gilbert
The National Gallery explores Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. Photograph of “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair” by Mary Cassatt courtesy of National Gallery of Art..

History hasn’t typically interpreted Edgar Degas as a feminist, but the French painter’s relationship with American artist Mary Cassatt—the subject of the show “Degas/Cassatt,” opening May 11 at the National Gallery of Art—reflected a true respect and kinship. “One thing that’s nice about him is that he never thought about her in terms of being a woman painter,” curator Kimberly Jones says. “I think he just thought of her as a painter.”

Although Degas was a decade older and of a different nationality, in many ways he identified with Cassatt—whom he knew well and worked with—more easily than he did with other Impressionists. Both came from wealthy families and were well educated, and they eschewed the landscapes many other Impressionists painted in favor of focusing on the human form. Says Jones: “The story is that when he saw her art for the first time, he said, ‘Here’s someone who feels as I do.’ Neither one was accustomed to compromising in their art or in their personal lives.”

Researching the two artists’ relationship was a challenge because Cassatt burned all her correspondence before she died and Degas never kept his. His influence on Cassatt is generally accepted, but Jones and conservator Ann Hoenigswald delved deeply into the works they left behind to look for evidence that she was similarly influential on him. “It was a back-and-forth, and she was certainly the much more experimental figure when it came to etching,” Jones says. “Often she was going into completely new territory and he was looking at what she was doing and emulating her. I hope that when people see the show they’ll understand that she was absolutely his equal.”

Photograph of “Two Studies of Mary Cassatt at the Louvre” by Edgar Degas courtesy of National Gallery of Art.

Through October 5;

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:23 AM/ET, 05/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The 33-year-old opera singer and DC native is making it big in 2014. By Sophie Gilbert
“I think of singing almost like ministering,” says Soloman Howard, who is in the Washington National Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. Photograph by Roy Cox.

When he plays the sorcerer Sarastro in the Washington National Opera’s production of The Magic Flute, May 3 through 18, Soloman Howard will mark a high point in a very Washington success story: The 33-year-old bass grew up in Southeast DC and later this year makes his debut with the Metropolitan Opera and the Los Angeles Opera.

“I tell people that I was born in this city and the Washington National Opera gave my career the chance to be birthed here as well,” he says. Howard started singing in church at age three and first considered going professional at seven, when his uncle gave him $50 for performing in a Howard University fashion show: “I thought, ‘Wow, if I can make $50 every time I sing, that’s what I want to do.’ ”

At 13, he joined the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Children of the Gospel Choir, which took him on his first international trip, to Spain. A scholarship got him to Morgan State, where he played football and began performing opera, later training as a soloist at the Manhattan School of Music. Three seasons ago, Howard auditioned for the WNO chorus, prompting former artistic administrator Scott Guzielek to ask him where he’d been all this time. A few weeks later, Howard auditioned for then general director Plácido Domingo. During his time as a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program member, Howard has traveled to Russia and performed in the WNO’s Show Boat and Don Giovanni as well as the world premiere of Approaching Ali. 

“I think of singing almost like ministering, because I grew up in the church,” he says. “I hope to continue to have a voice that can take people to another place.”

Tickets ($25 to $305) at

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:08 PM/ET, 05/06/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The actor/director discusses his hip-hop spin on the classic fairy tale at Imagination Stage. By Sophie Gilbert

Paige Hernandez—shown with Mark Hairston—plays the lead in Cinderella: The Remix, a girl who wants to be a deejay in a place where it’s illegal. Photograph courtesy of Imagination Stage.

Actor/director Psalmayene 24 completes his trilogy of hip-hop shows for young audiences with the world premiere of Cinderella: The Remix at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage. The show stars Paige Hernandez, who also choreographs, as a girl who dreams of making music in a world where girls are shut out. Written by Psalmayene 24 and featuring original music by Nick Hernandez, the show runs through May 25. Here’s a conversation with the creator and director.

Where did the idea for a hip-hop retelling of Cinderella come from? 

I was thinking about what would be a good follow-up to my last show, P.Nokio, and got the idea for a trilogy. I looked at my first two plays and saw that Zomo the Rabbit was an exploration of the past and P.Nokio looked at the present, so I thought about what could serve as a vibrant future for hip-hop culture. What’s lacking right now is a multitude of strong and progressive female voices, so I thought I would focus on that challenge. At the core of Cinderella is transformation and dreams coming true, so those were the seeds I started with.

Can you summarize the show?

It’s about a girl who wants to be a deejay, but she lives in Hip-Hop Hollywood, where deejaying is illegal for girls. It’s the journey of this young woman who’s trying to be herself, trying to be authentic against all odds, which is something that all people struggle with. The idea of doing something you love when it’s difficult or even illegal for you to do is timely in terms of thinking about marriage equality, so that was something else I hoped would resonate.

What are the challenges in making theater for young audiences?

The main challenge is making sure you’re capturing their attention and imagination. Kids have pretty pure truth meters, so they’ll let you know if what you’re doing isn’t fun or worthy of their attention. In theater, we work with dramaturges a lot, and their job is to make sure the world of your play makes sense. In my mind, young audiences are the best dramaturges because instinctively they have a gauge for what works and what doesn’t.

Tickets ($10 to $30) at

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:13 PM/ET, 04/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here are more than two dozen outdoor fairs and festivals happening over the next month. By Sherri Dalphonse
Kids can pet little lambs at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Photograph courtesy of Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.

In addition to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival in Reston and Passport DC—a monthlong celebration in which embassies and cultural organizations open their doors—here are more than two dozen outdoor fairs and festivals this month.

April 25-May 4

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

May 2-3

Washington National Cathedral Flower Mart

May 3

Solomons Maritime Festival

May 3-4

A-RTS Rockville Arts Festival

Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

Naptown barBAYq

National Harbor Wine & Food Festival

May 4

National Cinco de Mayo Festival

May 10-11

Bethesda Fine Arts Festival

Fiesta Asia Street Fair’s five stages feature colorful performances. Photograph courtesy of the Fiesta Asia Street Fair.

May 16-18

Mount Vernon Wine Festival & Sunset Tour

Saint Sophia Greek Festival

May 17

Fiesta Asia Street Fair

Gaithersburg Book Festival

McLean Day

Potomac United Methodist Church Strawberry Festival

May 17-18

DC Dragon Boat Festival

Wine in the Woods

May 18

Taste of Arlington

May 22-25

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

May 24-25

Delaplane Strawberry Festival

Rockville Hometown Holidays (Under “Explore Rockville,” select “Events.”)

May 24-26

ViVa! Vienna!

May 29-June 1

Herndon Festival

Western Maryland Blues Fest

May 31

Maryland Craft Beer Festival

May 31-June 1

Great Tastes of Tysons

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:40 AM/ET, 04/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The country singer, whose sophomore album, “Like a Rose,” won over critics in 2013, plays Birchmere this weekend. By Sophie Gilbert

Ashley Monroe, who plays the Birchmere, says her last album “highlighted the super-sad songs I’m the best at writing—unfortunately for me.” Photograph courtesy of the Birchmere.

The invisible boundary that seems to keep country music marginalized north of the Mason-Dixon Line took a beating last year thanks to Ashley Monroe, a 27-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee, whose sophomore album, Like a Rose, received almost universal acclaim. Rolling Stone placed it at number 18 on its list of the year’s best records, while Jon Caramanica of the New York Times ranked it the third-best album of 2013, praising Monroe as “a sly singer and a vivid songwriter” and the record as “aching and sharp.”

“I couldn’t be more thankful for all the support,” Monroe says. “I really didn’t know what to expect—I just knew I had to make that record, so it was such a relief when people accepted it.”

Like a Rose includes “Used,” a subversive paean to things life has knocked around, from a favorite pair of shoes to an ancient piano to the singer herself. In the deceptively pretty “Like a Rose,” she recalls childhood trauma and broken relationships with knowing bravado, insisting none of it has touched her. “There were a lot of things I wanted to say, and I think the record showcased my sense of humor but also the super-sad songs I’m the best at writing—unfortunately for me,” she says.

Monroe is working on a new album in between performing a handful of shows, including a headlining gig at the Birchmere April 13, where she opened for Don Williams last year. “I’m definitely not replicating Like a Rose,” she says of the record. “It’s going to be different, but it’s definitely country because my voice is country and I’m country. Honesty is how I think about country music, and it’s just in my blood, I guess.”

Tickets ($20) at

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:40 AM/ET, 04/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Seventy-five years ago, the singer performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. By Sophie Gilbert
Marian Anderson, left, shown at her Lincoln Memorial concert, is honored at Constitution Hall by the Men and Women of the Gospel Choir and others. Photograph of Anderson by Thomas D. McAvoy; photograph of Gospel Choir Courtesy of Washington Performing Arts Society.

On April 9, 1939, contralto Marian Anderson sang for 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform before an integrated audience at DAR Constitution Hall. Anderson later wrote: “All I knew then was the overwhelming impact of that vast multitude. . . . I had a feeling that a great wave of good will poured out from these people.” Says Washington Performing Arts Society president Jenny Bilfield: “Anderson was an accidental civil-rights leader. She was thrust into a national spotlight—she didn’t intend to make a statement, but a statement was made and she embraced it with dignity while delivering a performance people would never forget.”

To commemorate the event’s 75th anniversary, WPAS has organized Of Thee We Sing, a concert on April 12. Soprano Jessye Norman is the emcee. Performers include Domingo-Cafritz fellow Soloman Howard, singers Alyson Cambridge and Annisse Murillo, and a choir drawing from choral groups including WPAS’s Men and Women of the Gospel Choir, the Washington Chorus, Heritage Signature Chorale, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC, and more. The venue is Constitution Hall, where WPAS founder Patrick Hayes presented Anderson on later occasions and where she performed her final DC concert 50 years ago. The program includes a premiere commissioned by WPAS from longtime Sweet Honey in the Rock member Ysaye Barnwell as well as standards and spirituals. WPAS has worked with a number of institutions and individuals to offer 2,000 tickets for $5; DAR has donated its space for free. “You don’t have opportunities to do this kind of thing every day,” Bilfield says. “It’s a celebration of a great artist who maintained elegance and integrity as her work took on so much meaning for others.”

Tickets ($5) at

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:22 AM/ET, 04/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Shakespeare Theatre artistic director helms repertory productions of “Henry IV Parts I and II” this month. By Sophie Gilbert

Stacy Keach plays Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

A quarter century ago, Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn led a production of Richard III starring Stacy Keach when the company was at Folger Shakespeare Library. Though Keach has returned to act in King Lear and Macbeth, he hasn’t worked with Kahn since 1991, making his turn as Falstaff in the company’s repertory productions of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2—March 25 through June 8—all the more notable. Kahn directs both, with a cast including Edward Gero as Henry IV and Matthew Amendt as Prince Hal. Here’s a chat with Kahn.

How is everything going?

It’s been an exciting process of discovery with what’s going on in the scenes and how emotional and funny it is. Stacy put on his fat suit today, and the character really came alive. The young actor playing Hal uses the language beautifully and really connects with the character’s adolescent and grown-up problems. It’s been a lot of work—normally when I do a play in repertory, I do just one, but because in this case it’s the same play really, I’m doing both. Most people know Part 1 and very few know Part 2, so I’m hoping they’ll see both because together they’re one extraordinary play about what happens to human beings—family, sickness, growing up—in the most profound way.

Was there anything in particular you wanted to explore?

It’s a wonderful opportunity to get deep into human problems and emotions with a play that also has this much comedy, drama, and music. The variety of people and experiences means you have a huge amount of color to explore.

Can you talk about your design decisions?

Because it’s about the world, I wanted a circular set. And because there are so many scenes in so many places, I wanted a surround that was neutral but with enough entrances and exits, and with an elevator that could bring furniture up and down. Hopefully, everything keeps it like the big movie that Shakespeare, in a way, wrote—very cinematic in how it goes from one scene to another without stopping.

I don’t know if you’ve seen House of Cards, but a lot of people have been talking about . . .

How Shakespearean it is? All stories about people who are larger than life and immensely charismatic schemers are Shakespearean. He started it. I’m not surprised that when you get an actor like Kevin Spacey—who’s done Richard III—it seems Shakespearean.

Have you watched the show?

Some of it. I love Kevin, and I’m a great admirer of Robin Wright’s. But by the time I get home at 10 o’clock at night, the only thing I feel like streaming is a glass of wine.

Tickets ($20 to $115) at

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:18 AM/ET, 03/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()