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Washington Summer Guide 2011: Art and Theater Lovers

Mark your calendars for Silverdocs, the Shakespeare Free for All, and no-charge Saturdays at the Corcoran

Esperanza Spalding performed at the Capital Jazz Fest last year. Photograph by Bernard Flagg

Watch International Documentaries at Silverdocs
8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring; 301-495-6720
Every June, the Discovery Channel and AFI Silver Theatre host Silverdocs, one of the country’s largest documentary festivals, with seven days of films from more than 60 countries. Moviegoers this year can catch Project Nim, directed by James Marsh—Academy Award winner for Man on Wire—about the famous chimpanzee raised as a human in the 1970s, and The Interrupters,about three former Chicago gang members turned “violence interrupters,” or outreach workers. The festival takes place June 20 through 26. Click here for more information.

Contemporary American Theater Festival
Shepherdstown; 800-999-2283
The Contemporary American Theater Festival returns to West Virginia’s Shepherd University July 8 through 31, with new works in repertory by five playwrights: David Mamet, Kyle Bradstreet, Sam Shepard, Tracy Thorne, and Lucy Thurber. About 90 minutes from DC, the festival in picturesque Shepherdstown has a reputation for showcasing striking new works. This year’s offerings touch on sex, race, friendship, and family, including Thurber’s The Insurgents, which explores the fine line between martyrs and fanatics. Click here for more details.

Washington Jazz Festivals
Summer is jazz season in Washington, with free shows every Friday from 5 to 8:30 at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (Seventh St. and Constitution Ave., NW; 202-737-4215). Performances can get crowded, so it’s best to show up early for good seats.

The Capital Jazz Fest (10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia; 301-780-9300), June 3 through 5, is a multi-stage outdoor festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion featuring Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole, David Sanborn, and other big names.

June 1 through 13, the DC Jazz Festival (formerly the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival) hosts two weeks of performances at venues around town, including Cyrus Chestnut at DC’s Bohemian Caverns June 3 and 4; a concert on the Mall with Frédéric Yonnet, Claudia Acuña, Roy Hargrove, and more June 12; and a performance featuring actor Wendell Pierce (Treme, The Wire), the Rebirth Brass Band, Michael White, and more at the Kennedy Center June 13. Click here for tickets and additional information.

Broadway Blockbusters at the Kennedy Center
While many area theaters shut down for the summer, the Kennedy Center stages some of its biggest shows. This summer, the Broadway hit Wicked returns to the Opera House June 15 through August 21 following its sold-out run here in 2005. The Pulitzer Prize–winning musical Next to Normal plays June 28 through July 10 in the Eisenhower Theater, starring Alice Ripley, who originated the role off-Broadway and played it again at Arena Stage as the play developed prior to its Broadway run. She won a Tony for her performance as a mother struggling with mental illness.

The KenCen has two notable productions this summer: Stephen Sondheim’s Follies (through June 19)—with Bernadette Peters, Linda Lavin, and Elaine Paige—and the Sydney Theatre Company’s only US performances of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (August 4 through 27), starring Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

See Also:

Calendar of Events

Theater Reviews

The Ultimate Museum Guide

Outdoor Movie Festivals 2011

Free Saturday Admission to Corcoran Gallery of Art
500 17th St., NW; 202-639-1700
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, entrance to the Corcoran Gallery of Art is free on Saturday. Browse the special exhibition “Washington Color and Light,” which showcases works from the local abstract 1960s movement known as the Washington Color School, June 25 through August 14, or see an installation by Washington-born contemporary artist Chris Martin, June 18 through October 23. You can also take in the museum’s extensive permanent collection of pre-1945 American art as well as paintings by Picasso, Degas, Monet, and more.

Shakespeare Theatre Company Free for All
610 F St., NW; 202-547-1122
It wouldn’t be summer without Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Free for All, now in its 21st year. The festival, August 18 through September 4 at Sidney Harman Hall, offers 22 free performances. This year’s production is a revival of director David Muse’s 2008 interpretation of Julius Caesar and celebrates artistic director Michael Kahn’s 25th anniversary with the company. Tickets are available two ways: through an online lottery system and at a standby line at Harman Hall on the day of performances. Seats are guaranteed to Shakespeare Theatre season subscribers as long as they call to reserve them.

Young Artists Take the Stage at Castleton Festival
Lorin Maazel, former music director of the New York Philharmonic, founded the Castleton Festival in 2009, bringing young artists from around the world to his estate in Rappahannock County for master classes and performances. This year’s festival, June 25 through July 24, includes productions of Puccini’s La Bohème and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges as well as an all-Bizet program featuring mezzo-soprano and Washington resident Denyce Graves. June 30 at Strathmore, Castleton Orchestra members join actors Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons for a concert of “Music Inspired by Shakespeare,” incorporating works by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn with readings from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Click here for more information.

This article appears in the June 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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