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Meet new menswear designers at Jack Rose and try rare Scotch at Ri Ra. By Jason Koebler
Try rare Scotch at Ri Ra on Thursday. Image via Shutterstock.

Monday, September 15

BIKE: Slow Roll is a group bicycle ride that originated in Detroit—where it now has 3,000 weekly riders—and has made its way to DC. It’s a bike ride for those who think other ride-alongs are a bit too gung ho or intense—everyone can go at their own pace, and it’s all for fun. The ride starts and ends at Bluejacket, which is a great place to grab a drink and meet some new people. Free. 7 PM.

Tuesday, September 16

DANCE: U Street Music Hall hosts Melbourne’s Benjamin Stanford, a.k.a. Dub FX, a beatboxing/electronic music artist who earned his popularity by busking around the world. In that vein, his live show involves mixing everything live while jumping around the stage, rather than standing behind a laptop—which, these days, feels pretty revolutionary for an electronic music artist. Dance appropriately. Tickets ($15) are available online. 9 PM.

Wednesday, September 17

FOOD: Lost Society hosts Rock the Rooftop, in which appetizers are half off and you’ll get a free bottle of wine with the purchase of two entrées, which is a pretty good deal. It’s also a nice spot to take in the last days of (official) summer. 6 PM.

STYLE: Art of Style at Jack Rose aims to introduce stylish dudes to the people behind DC’s male-fashion-focused startups. Sample Scotch as you get grooming tips, check out some new pieces, and otherwise figure out how to up your wardrobe game. You should probably come looking pretty sharp. Free. 6 PM.

Thursday, September 18

SCOTCH: Georgetown’s Ri Ra hosts the Distilled Truth, which lets fans of brown liquor sample two rare bottles of Scotch and other whiskeys, each in different types of glassware. Why? Because, once and for all, you’re going to learn why different drinks are served in different glasses, even if you have to drink delicious Scotch all night to do it. Small plates are provided. $50. 7 PM.

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

Posted at 10:05 AM/ET, 09/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A new exhibit showcases the largest predatory dinosaur ever discovered. By Michael Gaynor
A life-size Spinosaurus replica is on display outside the National Geographic Museum. Photograph by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.

When the dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum closed this April to undergo a $48 million renovation, Washingtonians lost a valuable provider of their Jurassic fix. That exhibit won’t be finished until 2019, but fear not, dinosaur obsessives—today the National Geographic Museum opens its own exhibit featuring a prehistoric carnivore so ferocious that scientists now say it could tear the Smithsonian’s puny Tyrannosaurus rex to pieces.

“Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous” showcases a 50-foot-long skeletal model of its eponymous dinosaur, crafted after the discovery of new fossils found in the Moroccan desert and painstaking analysis of past remains and records. It’s the biggest known predatory dinosaur ever, nine feet longer than the largest T. rex on record. Sure, the two species were separated by about 35 million years—but that doesn’t mean we can’t fantasize about a good ol’ fashioned dino brawl, as the makers of 2001’s Jurassic Park III did when they had them square off in that oft-ignored sequel. (For the record, Spinosaurus won.)

But just as impressive as Spinosaurus’s power is how paleontologists found it. That story is also told in National Geographic’s exhibit, beginning with German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach’s naming of the new species in 1915 after its fossils were uncovered in Egypt.

Stromer displayed the find in a Munich museum. An outspoken critic of Hitler, he tried to have his specimen moved to a safer place during World War II, but the museum’s Nazi director refused. The bones were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in 1944, and Stromer, who also lost two sons in the war, sank into obscurity.

After that, the tale wends from a Milanese museum to the black market fossil bazaars of Morocco as paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim hunted for the most important cache of Spinosaurus fossils since Stromer’s time. “A dinosaur detective story,” Ibrahim called it. The National Geographic Museum’s skeleton is a composite based on the Moroccan bones uncovered last year, smaller remains scattered in museums around the globe, and records of the original Egyptian dig for Spinosaurus more than 100 years ago.

Photograph by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.

Ibrahim’s discovery led to a number of revelations about the enigmatic creature that were published for the first time in the journal Science yesterday. The research team revealed that Spinosaurus is history’s only known semiaquatic dinosaur, adapted to spend a large amount of time in the water hunting.

They proved that Spinosaurus’s snout— long and narrow like a crocodile, not fat like a T. rex—had nostrils placed high up on the skull, so the dinosaur could breathe while its jaw was submerged underwater. And it had pressure sensors to detect the movement of nearby fish, just like a crocodile.

The team even solved “the riddle of the sail,” as University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno put it. People have argued about the purpose of the “spine” part of Spinosaurus since its unearthing. Some said it was meant to trap or disperse heat, or was used for fat storage. But Ibrahim and Sereno now believe it was used as a display—as Spinosaurus swam looking for prey, the sail would stick out of the water as a warning to other predators to stay out of its hunting grounds.

It’s clear that National Geographic wants people to get excited about Spinosaurus—the story of the new findings is on the cover of its October issue, and a PBS special will air on November 5. You can also check out a life-size flesh replica of the dinosaur in the museum’s courtyard—and, yes, there are baskets upon baskets of Spinosaurus plush dolls in the gift shop.

“Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous” runs until April 12. Admission to the National Geographic Museum is $11 for adults. Find dinosaur enthusiast Michael Gaynor on Twitter at @michael_gaynor.

Posted at 11:20 AM/ET, 09/12/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The new show has its world premiere at Gallaudet University next month. By Hallie Golden
Eight cast members from Visible Language make the sign for “I love you” at the statue of Thomas Gallaudet on the Gallaudet University campus. Photograph courtesy of WSC Avant Bard.

In Mary Resing’s musical, Visible Language, when a deaf character makes a joke about learning to “curse out” his roommate, it’s likely not everyone in the audience will be laughing. Not because it isn’t funny, but because the line will only be presented in American Sign Language (ASL).

Visible Language, set to have its world premiere at Gallaudet University’s Eastman Studio Theatre on October 21, is the culmination of an idea Resing had five years ago to create a new kind of bilingual production. She had seen plenty of plays involving both deaf and hearing actors that opted for a simple, linear translation between ASL and English. This work, on the other hand, features “two slightly different storylines—one that the deaf audience will get, and one that the hearing audience will get,” she says. The aforementioned joke made by the deaf character will only be understood by the audience members versed in ASL; at other points in the play, the reverse will be true, so that when a hearing character speaks, the lines will not be interpreted into ASL. 

“The idea was that very often in our culture, deaf people are left out of a joke when hearing people talk around them. In this case the roles were reversed,” says the show’s director, WSC Avant Bard’s Tom Prewitt. (The show is a co-production between the company and the university’s theater and dance program.) When there is interpretation, Resing wanted it to be for a reason that relates to the storyline. The result is a play that is not only a unique take on bilingual theater, but that also lets hearing audiences experience the kind of language barrier the deaf community deals with regularly from living among the hearing. 

The play, which commemorates Avant Bard’s 25th anniversary as well as the university’s 150th, includes a host of notable historical figures from the 1890s, such as university founder Edward Miner Gallaudet, Alexander Graham Bell, and Helen Keller. The plot addresses issues within the deaf community that are still relevant today, like the debate between Bell—who believed the deaf should assimilate into the hearing community through learning to lip-read and speak—and Gallaudet, who believed sign language was the best way for deaf people to attain maximum understanding when communicating and learning.

The audition process for the show took about two weeks. Candidates were evaluated on their acting and singing abilities, and hearing actors had to demonstrate their signing prowess. Since the vast majority of the characters sign, familiarity with ASL was a crucial factor in casting, though Prewitt says actors who had zero ASL experience were still considered for smaller parts, depending on how quickly they picked up signs during tryouts. 

During one particular audition, two actors had made it smoothly through the monologue and song portion, and then were given the challenge of learning signed lines in a scene between Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. After 15 minutes of working with the deaf members of the show’s artistic team, along with interpreters, the two women were asked to perform the scene in ASL while exploring the emotional depth of the characters. Though both women had very little experience with sign language, they were able to make it through the scene with only a few hiccups, and got a sample of the challenges awaiting them if cast.

Rehearsals begin this week and will be held about six days a week for three to four hours a day. The process will not be an easy one, given how many elements must be incorporated. Along with singing, dancing, and acting, hearing actors will have rigorous training in ASL. 

Then there’s the challenge of translating the lines in the first place, as the “structure of ASL is very different from the structure of English,” says Ethan Sinnott, co-producer and set designer of Visible Language. (An example: The sentence “I am going to school” in English becomes “School, I am going” in ASL, because the subject or verb moves to the beginning of the sentence.) Not to mention that ASL, like all languages, has evolved over the years, and since this production is a period piece, its artistic team has to translate the English lines into ASL that would have been used before the 1900s. 

Despite all these wrinkles, Prewitt is excited to create a cohesive performance that he says will speak, in different ways, to all audience members. So while the first joke might go over your head, you won’t be left out for long.

Find more information about Visible Language on WSC Avant Bard’s website

Posted at 02:50 PM/ET, 09/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The reality show attempts to force Democrats and Republicans to work together. By Tanya Pai
Martin Heinrich (left) and Jeff Flake (right). Photographs via Wikimedia Commons.

Congress’s recent performance record has plenty of Americans wishing they could dump their elected representatives in a remote location and forget about them for a while. But maybe two out of 535 ain’t bad?

That’s the premise of a reality TV series premiering on the Discovery Channel next month. Called Rival Survival, the show follows Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich as they rough it for six days and nights in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean—part of Micronesia—“surrounded by shark-infested waters that mirror the seemingly treacherous terrain of the US Congress,” according to a press release from the network. Their job: to find food, water, and shelter, and presumably to learn some kumbaya way to work together despite their political differences in the process. 

Flake may have a bit of an unfair advantage: The politician reportedly spent a week in 2009 living in the Marshall Islands, eating “coconuts and a lot of crabs.” Both men also undertook the task at their own personal expense. 

Neither Flake nor Heinrich is up for reelection. Their island excursion has been condensed into a one-hour special that will air on the Discovery Channel on October 29. 

Which lawmaker would you like to strand on a desert island? Sound off in the comments. 

Posted at 11:25 AM/ET, 09/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Black Cat’s 21st birthday party, the Snallygaster beer festival, and Adams Morgan Day. By Jason Koebler
Try more than 250 brews at the Snallygaster beer festival on Saturday. Image via Shutterstock.

Thursday, September 11

MUSIC: The Hackensaw Boys usually headline the Kingman Island bluegrass festival (that’s where you know them from), but they’re playing at Gypsy Sally’s tonight, which is your chance to see them in a tiny venue. And let’s face it—when the percussionist uses old tin cans as an instrument, you want to see them in a tiny venue. Tickets ($20) are available online. 7 PM.

THEATER: Taffety Punk Theatre Company, which has a reputation for being adventurous, is staging The Devil in His Own Words, a comedic one-man show in which founding member Marcus Kyd tries to explain his motivation behind the whole being-the-devil thing. This is a revised version of the company’s first-ever production, and tonight’s show is pay-what-you-can, so it’s a good chance to see it for cheap. Tickets ($5 to $15) are available online. 8 PM.


Friday, September 12

DANCE: The H Street Red Rocks has proved to be an unlikely but welcome dance spot—let’s just say we weren’t expecting a pizza joint to host so many great deejays. This weekend, head there to see Basscamp, a deejay who makes trippy house remixes of pop songs. Free. 9 PM.

DANCE: The 9:30 Club’s back bar hosts Four Under the Floor, a house and disco dance night that was booked by the folks behind U Street Music Hall, which means you can get to know some deejays who will be probably household names soon enough. $5. 11 PM.

BIRTHDAYS: Black Cat has been around for an astonishing 21 years (it can finally drink!)—and to celebrate, the bar is throwing a huge bash, which will include comedy, seven different deejays (you’ve probably seen them if you’ve ever been to the nightclub), and performances by Spoonboy (who has worked there forever), Citadel, and Booze Riot. Most important, however, is the fact that all beer and liquor will be half price all night. Tickets ($10) are available online. 9 PM.


Saturday, September 13

BAR CRAWL: Dupont Circle hosts the Bright-N-Pint bar crawl, which I think is a pun, but I can’t figure it out. In any case, wear neon, snap on some glow necklaces (provided), and head to Front Page, Rumors, Madhatter, Sign of the Whale, Public Bar, and several other Dupont institutions for a day of specials and debauchery. $15 online, $20 at the door. 3 to 11 PM.

MUSIC: One of DC’s best local music blogs, All Things Go, is throwing its biggest event yet: the first-ever Fall Classic at Union Market. The lineup includes Future Islands, Haerts, Tove Lo, Bear Hands, US Royalty, and lots more, which is a lot of bands to see for $50. Tickets are available online. Noon to 10:30 PM.

BEER: DC has a lot of great beer events, but Snallygaster at Yards Park is maybe the most anticipated, and with good reason: Its name is based on a mythical sea beast similar to a hydra. Why? Who cares? You can sample more than 250 rare and delicious beers, listen to music by !!!, Brett, and the Pug’s deejay (what?), and the beer is curated by DC’s go-to beer guru, Greg Engert of Bluejacket and ChurchKey. There’ll also be food from Red Apron Butcher, GBD, Hill Country, TaKorean, and lots more. Tickets ($30) are available online and include $25 worth of food and beer. 1 PM.

STORYTELLING: Have you been diligently attending all the city’s storytelling events? Take things to the next level with the Story League Masters Championship, which is a “search for the funniest story in the East.” It features winners of the Moth (NYC), First Person Arts (Philly) and Story League (DC) competitions; the winner gets $500. Tickets ($15) are available online. 9 PM.


Sunday, September 14

FESTIVALS: It’s Adams Morgan Day, one of the oldest and largest neighborhood street fairs in the city. Florida Avenue and Columbia Road will be shut down, restaurants and bars will open sidewalk outposts, and you’ll find two stages of live music, a dance plaza, an art gallery, and thousands of people. Free. 11 AM to 7 PM.

MUSIC: He’s long since ditched Meg and struck out on his own, but Jack White still certainly knows how to rock. He plays songs from the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and his own solo projects, and Merriweather is a great place to see him to close out the summer. Tickets ($40) are available online. 6 PM.

COMEDY: Wonderland Ballroom hosts free comedy every Sunday night, featuring local comics. It’s a nice, low-key way to wrap up your weekend. Free. 7 PM.


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

Posted at 10:40 AM/ET, 09/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
She’ll play the title role in the musical “Gigi.” By Tanya Pai
See Vanessa Hudgens onstage at the Kennedy Center next year. Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.

Love Broadway musicals? How about the Disney flick High School Musical? Lucky you: Next year the two collide when Vanessa Hudgens, the female lead in the film that brought Zac Efron to the masses, stars in Gigi, having its pre-Broadway at the Kennedy Center in January. 

The KenCen production is a reimagining of the story, which is based on a 1941 novella and has been adapted twice for the stage—a 1951 version starring Audrey Hepburn, and a brief Broadway run in 1973. There was also a 1958 movie version starring Leslie Caron, which picked up nine Academy Awards. Heidi Thomas’s new adaptation features songs from the movie that were cut from the stage version, as well as several added to the score for the ’70s version. 

“We absolutely fell in love with Vanessa, and we know audiences will, too,” said the show’s producer, Jenna Segal, in a press release. “She has a huge worldwide following, and it’s easy to understand why, once you see her on stage.”

Gigi is at the Kennedy Center January 16 through February 12, after which it heads to Broadway. Tickets go on sale October 1 at 10 AM through the Kennedy Center's website. 

Posted at 02:50 PM/ET, 09/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Featuring a House of Cards alum. By Tanya Pai
Carrie—and her headscarves—return to your TV screen on October 5. Photograph by Kent Smith for Showtime.

This week, Showtime released a new two-minute trailer for the upcoming fourth season of its Emmy-winning spy drama Homeland. In addition to Claire Danes in a headscarf, a gloriously bearded Mandy Patinkin, and one seriously ginger baby, the clip features Corey Stoll taking a break from his role—and his awful wig—on FX’s The Strain to play a much-less-hirsute possible double agent. 

Stoll, of course, also played the manipulable, alcoholic congressman Peter Russo on House of Cards’ first season. (The actor is having a big year; in addition to these high-profile roles, he also appeared in Ryan Murphy’s made-for TV movie The Normal Heart alongside Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts.) 

While much has been said about Homeland’s decline in quality after its inaugural season—including in our WashingTelevision coverage—perhaps the return of Saul and Stoll’s always welcome presence will mark the show’s triumphant renaissance. The season-four premiere airs Sunday, October 5, at 9 PM. 

Check out the trailer below.  

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 01:20 PM/ET, 09/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
DC Bike Party's Country Club Cruise, DJ Shadow at the Fillmore, and more. By Jason Koebler
Join DC Bike Party's Country Club Cruise on Tuesday. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Monday, September 8

DANCE: An electronic-music mainstay for nearly two decades now, DJ Shadow has been releasing his at-times haunting beats since before the newest crop of EDM stars were even born. He just launched a new record label called Liquid Amber, and will presumably be playing some of his new cuts at the Fillmore tonight. $48. 9 PM.


Tuesday, September 9

COMEDY: The Last Resort comedy show, which features up-and-coming comics from all over the region, has moved to Bier Baron, where you can get one (or a couple) of hundreds of different brews to help loosen you up a bit. As always, the show is free. 8:30 PM.


Wednesday, September 10

BIKE: DC Bike Party is getting classy this week with its Country Club Cruise—wear your Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, and whatever else you might wear when you’re hitting the golf course or going to a fancy (but not too fancy) cotillion. Bonus points if you’ve got a cruiser or some other sort of bougie bike. After a few miles' ride, things end up at—where else?—H Street Country Club. Free. 7:30 PM.


Thursday, September 11

THEATER: Roger (Not His Real Name) opens at DC Arts Center this week. The one-man show stars Matthew Vaky as a conspiracy theory-believing homeless person, which will strike a chord with those of you who believe President Obama is actually a lizard person. It’s being described as a “homeless man’s House of Cards”—let’s hope it’s as dramatic and enthralling as that series. $18. 7:30 PM.


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

Posted at 09:50 AM/ET, 09/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The cult classic movie hits the stage with its ’60s score, sizzling choreography, and appealing young lovers intact. By Leslie Milk
Jillian Mueller and Samuel Pergande in Dirty Dancing. Photograph by Matthew Murphy.

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage debuted ten years ago in Sydney, Australia, far from the Catskill Mountains in New York state where the story is set and decades after most of the resorts in the “Jewish Alps” had closed their doors. But the popularity of the movie lived on (and on and on), convincing its original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein to reshape it for the theater. 

There is a certain historic irony that the production in Hamburg, Germany, in 2004 “broke records for achieving the highest advance [ticket sales] in European history.” 

But it makes sense: The show is terrific. In the National Theatre’s current production, directed by James Powell, Jillian Mueller is delightful as Francis “Baby” Houseman, the sheltered doctor’s daughter who learns more than the mambo in the arms of the hotel’s dancing instructor. Samuel Pergande smolders as Johnny Castle, the man with the all the right moves. Pergande’s background is more dance than acting, but Johnny Castle always said more with his hips than his lips anyway.

The production also features two soloists, Doug Carpenter and Jennlee Shallow, whose voices add dimension to the recorded ’60s soundtrack.

Set designer Stephen Brimson Lewis and lighting designer Tim Mitchell deserve kudos for creating magic with scrims and spots to reproduce summer in the Catskills complete with mountain views, glorious sunsets, and sudden showers. Even when the sound (by Bobby Aitken) at one point drowns out the lovers, when they are practicing dance moves in a stream (behind a scrim with sounds of rushing water), the effect is charmingly comic.

Bergstein bows to political correctness by injecting a scene where the staff and guests listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and take up a collection for the Freedom Riders. In the summer of 1963, the Catskill mountains echoed with the sounds of “Hava Nagila,” not “We Shall Overcome.” Even Baby Houseman, who wants to save the world, is focused on Southeast Asia, not the American South.

But why quibble over facts in light of glorious fantasy? Johnny and Baby may not have a future, but this show certainly does.

Dirty Dancing is at the National Theatre through September 14. Running time is about two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission. Tickets ($58 to $98) are available online

Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 09/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The local studio celebrates its renovation with free classes and performances. By Tanya Pai
Dance Place's new season includes Deviated Theatre (above) on September 27 and 28. Photograph by Enoch Chan.

This month, a local institution gets in on the grand Washington tradition of returning from summer vacation with some not-so-subtle tweaks. Dance Place, which for 36 years has been bringing dance performances and education to the area, has undergone its first full renovation and will introduce the new look at a free community day on September 6.

Carla Perlo and Steve Bloom founded Dance Place in 1978, and in 1986, due to quadrupling rents, they moved from Adams Morgan to a former welding warehouse in Brookland. “We set it up with a theater space and wooden risers—nothing mounted, nothing more comfortable than a folding chair,” says communications director Carolyn Kamrath. “It’s been well loved, but it needed a facelift.”

It got that thanks to four years of fundraising, corporate and private donations, and support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

During the “Be in Brookland” community day, guests can tour the improved facility, which includes fresh hardwiring and a semi-enclosed tech booth in the theater, a larger dressing room with space for 40 dancers, and a new second-story studio—plus comfortable, high-quality seats. The open house also features free classes for children and adults, free performances, and a $15 nighttime dance party led by the Cuban company DC Casineros.

Dance Place’s upcoming season offers a diverse lineup, including four international companies. November brings Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança, for instance, and March welcomes two Cuban artists. Kamrath says the larger space will also allow for an extended class schedule and more residency opportunities for visiting artists.

She’s perhaps most excited by the impact Dance Place can now have at home: “We’ve always been a hub for our community and the youth who live in DC’s Ward 5,” and the expanded facilities will allow Dance Place to offer more classes for children. “All the kids are thrilled to be in the new building—and we’re definitely filling it.”

More information at danceplace.org.

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian. Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai

Posted at 09:50 AM/ET, 09/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()