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Cheap culture in Washington this week includes Hart Crane-inspired paintings and free improv classes

Thursday, join historian David C. Ward at the National Portrait Gallery for a discussion of Marsden Hartley’s Eight Bells Folly, Memorial for Hart Crane, an abstract painting inspired by the modernist poet. Meet in the museum’s F Street lobby at 6. Free.

“Exposed: The Polaroid Retrospective” opens Thursday evening with a reception at Sova (1359 H St., NE). The new exhibit features more than 1,000 images, all taken by local photographers on vintage instant cameras. 6:30 to 11:30. Free.

Catch Washingtonian R&B singer Sherrell Rowe at the Red Palace Thursday. Doors open at 8. $8.

Also on Thursday, the Rock & Roll Hotel has a lineup of three local groups: Modern Man, Rival Skies, and Prisms. 8 PM; $10.

If your New Year’s resolution involves getting closer to your dream of appearing on Saturday Night Live, try one of the free improv classes offered at Washington Improv Theater this week. Register for the class on Survey Monkey. Thursday and Friday, 7 to 9.

On the heels of the paperback release of his best-selling novel, The Imperfectionists, Tom Ranchman will be at Politics and Prose Friday to give a reading and sign books. 7 PM; free.

The homegrown hip-hop group the Cornel West Theory, known for its politically and socially conscious rhymes, perform at Bloombars Friday at 8:30. $10 donation suggested.

DC9 reopened its doors last month, which means the return of the Liberation Dance Party on Friday nights. The music, spun by DJ Shannon Stewart, starts at 9, and there’s an open bar (well drinks only) from 9 to 10:30. $7.

Friday, Lyme Park, written by Nandita Shenoy and described as an “Austenian romance of Indian nature,” premieres at Round House Theatre in Silver Spring. The play was inspired by Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Pay-what-you-can tickets are available one hour before showtime at theater’s box office. 8.

Learn about traditional West African music at the Anacostia Community Museum, where Brother Ah and the Sound Awareness are hosting a drum-circle workshop Saturday at 2. Free.

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