1. Miracle on Seventh Street
The most popular pop-up in Washington history is back, as Miracle on Seventh Street—a.k.a. the Christmas Bar—takes over three of cocktail guru Derek Brown’s Shaw bars. Expect a nightly holiday party with spiked cocoa, nog shots, cookies, carols, pictures with Santa, pictures with random people dressed like Santa, and nine ladies dancing (if not more). At month’s end, the merrymaking on Seventh Street peaks in the ultimate hurrah, or ho-ho: a New Year’s Eve party.
2. Danny Schweers: “I See! I See!”
Washington Printmakers Gallery; November 30–December 31
“People, sometimes in spite of themselves, often show the world to be a wonderful place,” says this Delaware photographer, whose philosophy studies often inform his candid, layered portraits. This exhibit of 25 toned black-and-white images is Schweers’s first solo photography show at this cooperative gallery, which has specialized in fine-art prints from the Washington area since 1985. Free.
Area Theaters; Premieres December 2
If you happened to be near the White House last February and spotted some cameras, a flag-draped casket, and a woman who looked like Jackie Kennedy, you may have been understandably confused. The explanation comes to theaters this month in a film about the widowed First Lady—played by Natalie Portman—in the aftermath of her husband’s death. Based on Mrs. Kennedy’s interview with Life journalist Theodore White a week after the assassination, it’s already earning Portman acclaim for her tragic performance.
4. Middleburg Christmas Parade
Bagpipers, muscle cars, a fife-and-drum band, Revolutionary War reenactors, vintage fire trucks—the nostalgic charms of Middleburg are obvious in the town’s annual holiday parade. The mile-long route also features your typical Santa Claus appearance and Salvation Army floats, but it’s perfectly acceptable to be most excited for the 100-strong pack of corgis trotting in from the surrounding countryside. Free; christmasinmiddleburg.org.
5. The Barber of Seville
George Mason University’s Center for the Arts; December 3–4
If you saw Washington National Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro this fall and were pondering the backstory of the count, the countess, and the valet Figaro, you’re in luck. Virginia Opera presents The Barber of Seville, Rossini’s 1816 prequel to Mozart’s comic opera. It’s an equally ridiculous story, following Figaro and the count’s scheming to get the nobleman closer to his beloved Rosina. (Spoiler alert: She’s the countess in Figaro.) $54 to $110.
6. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
sixth & i; December 6
On his deathbed in 1989, novelist Michael Chabon’s grandfather shared dozens of stories of the family history with his grandson. Nearly three decades later, the bestselling author’s latest novel, Moonglow, explores these tales and what they might have been in a fictionalized “memoir” of his grandfather—from his roots in the Jewish slums of prewar South Philly to his retirement in Florida, with a stop between in Washington. Chabon spoke with writer Elena Goukassian before his appearance at Sixth & I ($30 for two tickets and a copy of the book).
How does your real grandfather compare with the one in your novel?
Unlike in the book, my grandfather was not a silent type. He liked to talk, and the painkillers really jogged his memory. Also unlike in the book, there were no earth-shattering revelations—it was more of a “greatest hits” for someone who liked to tell stories. He did tell me he threw a cat out of a third-story window when he was a kid, though. That actually happened, and I’d never heard that before. So I started wondering what boxes didn’t get opened.
In Moonglow, the grandfather character is obsessed with rockets and space flight.
Space flight is a lifelong interest of mine. I remember watching the moon landing with my grandparents. I was also fascinated with the cosmonauts and making models of spaceships, which became a more natural thing to take an interest in when I grew up.
Early in the book, your grandfather and a fellow member of the Army Corps of Engineers plot to blow up Washington’s Key Bridge. That didn’t actually happen, did it?
I hope not! I grew up in the DC area—in Columbia—and crossed Key Bridge many times. Then I learned it was built by the Army Corps of Engineers. They know about bridges and blowing stuff up—that’s what they learn. But when does a demonstration pass from a demonstration to an act of terrorism?
In the novel, why did you choose to cite so many fake newspaper articles about your family’s exploits?
It’s a memoir. If you’re telling the truth—and in a memoir, of course, you always are—you have sources to back up your story, especially when people run into the law. I wanted to write the most accurate, thoughtful fake memoir I possibly could. You heard me say “fake,” right?
GALA Hispanic Theatre; December 7–18
Inspired by Francisco Goya’s paintings, composer Enrique Granados’s 1916 opera/ballet explores lovers’ quarrels, class tensions, and betrayal. For the 100th anniversary of both the opera and the composer’s death—a German submarine torpedoed his ship on his way home to Spain after the New York premiere—In Series presents Goyescas along with a condensed kids’ version, Goyesquitas,that runs December 10 through 18. $46 ($25 for kids’ show).
8. King Ubu
Flashpoint; December 8–January 7
This absurdist play by Alfred Jarry was deemed so offensive that it opened and closed the same night in 1896. Now DC’s Pointless Theatre Co. promises all the mayhem and beauty of Jarry’s bizzaro take on Macbeth, complete with puppet fights and a script constructed by running the French original through Google Translate to make it even weirder and more disjointed. Here’s hoping it runs longer than a night. $15 to $30.
9. Miss Sloane
Area theaters; Premieres December 9
Jessica Chastain takes on the role of a hard-boiled lobbyist in a shadowy portrait of DC that makes House of Cards look like Full House. The topical political thriller features her eponymous protagonist challenging the all-powerful gun lobby—predictably, not an easy fight. Costars include Sam Waterston, Mark Strong, and plenty of others to intone menacingly about the dark arts of Washington’s second-oldest profession.
10. The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens
Kennedy Center; December 9–31
For those who prefer their Christmas tales in parody form, Chicago’s famed comedy troupe brings a satirical twist to the well-trod ground of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The ensemble is known for its improv and sketch comedy—and for generating future Saturday Night Live stars—so expect lots of audience participation and surprise guests in this weird retelling of Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim. $39 to $49.
11. Kacey Musgraves
National Theatre; December 10
This 28-year-old Texan revels in her confrontational take on country music, defying the genre’s often conservative trappings with lyrics about topics like homosexuality and marijuana. But that doesn’t mean the Willie Nelson protégée eschews the glamour and stagecraft of her forbears, something that’ll surely be on full display as she performs a holiday set with songs from A Very Kacey Christmas, her latest. $53 to $68.
12. Titanic: The Musical
Signature Theatre; December 13–January 29
Okay, you know how this one ends. Still, Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer presents the tale of the “unsinkable” ship anew—on a 360-degree set, with audience members never farther than five rows from the action. The winner of the 1997 Tony Award for best musical (the same year as James Cameron’s film), it features a large cast and a 17-piece orchestra. We’ll see what they play as this ship goes down once more. $40 to $108.
13. Kwanzaa Celebration
Dance Place; December 17–18
There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, and an important one on display at this annual celebration is unity: Alongside Coyaba Dance Theater dancers, children of all ages from the company’s Academy perform its signature West African dance and drumming. For nearly 20 years, Senegal-trained director Sylvia Soumah has made it the troupe’s mission to present traditional and contemporary music and dance. $25 to $30.
14. A Darlene Love Christmas
Howard Theatre; December 21
The holidays haven’t been the same since David Letterman went off the air, ending Love’s post-midnight renditions of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” with which she brought down the house nearly every year from 1986 to 2014. More recently, the Phil Spector veteran was in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom and released the ironically titled album Introducing Darlene Love. This show is sure to culminate in her trademark holiday song—worth the price of admission alone. $45 to $50.
This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Washingtonian.