1. Harry Styles
DAR Constitution Hall, October 1
Sorry, boy-band fans: On Harry Styles’s first solo tour, the One Direction star probably won’t be breaking out any 1D hits. Instead, he’ll focus on material from his self-titled debut album, a beguiling homage to ’70s rock that has won him a whole new audience since it came out earlier this year. $57.50 to $97.50.
2. MLB Playoffs
The Washington Nationals have won their fourth NL East title in six years, even after a string of injuries hobbled most of their top players. Though past Nats playoff runs have ended in frustration, October baseball is made for hopeful fools. And with Jayson Werth, Trea Turner, and the other walking wounded back on the field, why shouldn’t this be the year? For ticket prices, click here.
3. VelocityDC Dance Festival
Sidney Harman Hall, October 6–7
From ballet to West African, tap to Indian classical, this celebration of multicultural movement offers ten-minute performances by 19 local groups and dancers. After the show, stick around for a free lesson on the swing-dance style known as hand dance, created here in the 1950s. New this year: a shorter Saturday matinee show made up of 11 family-friendly performances. $18 to $30.
4. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This month, prolific writer (and former Washingtonian) Ta-Nehisi Coates releases his third book, a powerful collection of essays that grapple with the Obama era and its cultural and political reverberations. The author is sure to be equally probing and candid during this conversation about his latest work. Free.
5. “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today”
National Museum of Women in the Arts, October 13–January 21
An effort to make nonrepresentational art more culturally representational, this exhibit takes its name from a vivid 1991 oil painting (above) by late American artist Mildred Thompson, one of 21 African-American women, born between 1891 and 1981, whose works are featured. Other notable pieces include Mary Lovelace O’Neal’s ominous lithograph “Racism Is Like Rain, Either It’s Raining or It’s Gathering Somewhere” and Maren Hassinger’s “Wrenching News,” which is made of twisted, shredded copies of the New York Times. $10; nmwa.org.
6. Freer and Sackler Galleries Grand Reopening
The neighboring Asian-art museums invite fans to a two-day outdoor party celebrating their return after being closed for renovations. Festivities include music performances and vendors selling Asian street food. Inside, the changes are, let’s say, subtle: a revamped auditorium, an updated humidity-control system, and so forth. More exciting is a quartet of new temporary exhibits, including an imposing installation by contemporary Indian artist Subodh Gupta and art depicting ancient Egypt’s divine felines. Free.
7-8. Adventurous Bands at a Brand-New Venue
When it opens this month in the new Wharf complex, the Anthem, a 6,000-capacity music hall owned by the 9:30 Club’s Seth Hurwitz, will bring a slew of high-profile acts to Southwest, including two veteran bands that have n
Latest release: The New York band’s first studio album in seven years, American Dream, features irresistible dance-rock tracks such as “Tonight” and “Call the Police.”
What to expect: The group, which reunited in 2016 after a five-year break, offers an intense concert experience. Catch them now in case their next hiatus is permanent.
The War on Drugs
Latest release: Their fourth album, A Deeper Understanding, offers another dreamy batch of synth-polished psychedelic pop.
What to expect: Despite their sleepy stage presence, the six-person Philadelphia band constructs an entrancing wash of sound built on nuanced songs and frontman Adam Granduciel’s unmistakably fluid lead guitar. Plus their sax player slays.
9. Chris Rock: Total Blackout Tour
MGM National Harbor, October 18-21
Why did this revered comedian head back on the road for his first tour in nine years? “That’s what alimony will do to you,” he joked during Total Blackout’s kickoff show earlier this year. Whatever the motive, Rock isn’t softening. His material is reportedly as spiky and hilarious as ever, whether he’s tackling his personal life or that guy in the White House. $136 to $350.
10. Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
Warner Theatre, October 20
The Oscar-winning actor and, apparently, avid typewriter collector has written a collection of short stories, Uncommon Type. Each of the 17 tales is inspired by a different writing machine from Hanks’s 250-strong trove. Will this appearance—where he’s to be interviewed by novelist Ann Patchett—explore the nuances of Royal versus Remington? If we’re lucky. $56-$345.
11. “Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”
Renwick Gallery, October 20-January 28
One of the fall’s strangest art offerings is this collection of 19 creepy crime-scene dioramas, which were built to help budding forensic scientists learn how to solve cases. What exactly are these things? And what are they doing in an art museum? We asked Nora Atkinson, the Renwick’s curator of craft, to guide us through the grisly exhibit.
Who made them?
Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962), an heir to the International Harvester fortune, was fascinated by the science of crime, but her family wouldn’t let her attend a university. Later, she used her wealth to endow Harvard’s department of legal medicine, which teaches forensic investigation, and in the early ‘40s she started building her dioramas as teaching tools. “You can see who she was through her craft,” says Atkinson. “She was using it in this subversive way to become part of a world that was off limits to her.”
How did she do it?
Lee scrutinized crime-scene photos and visited the morgue, working hard to nail true-to-death details such as blood spatter, lividity, bullet-hole placement, and rigor mortis. “Realism was at the forefront of her mind,” says Atkinson. “She was extremely serious about the scientific aspects being correct.” She also cared about less macabre details, crafting richly decorated domestic spaces to house the scenes.
But is it art?
Atkinson says Lee didn’t consider herself an artist, but her miniatures are clearly informed by her knowledge of domestic craft, which fits the Renwick’s mission. “There’s a lot of artistry in it. You start to see her creative tendencies emerge. It really does give you a key into her mind,” says the curator, who also notes a larger lesson in the works: “Her idea was to teach investigators how to really see. For us as a craft museum, teaching people how to see is very important.
12. “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting”
National Gallery of Art, October 22-January 21
The last time the National Gallery presented a Vermeer show, in 1995, it was a blockbuster, with predawn lines, a visit from President Clinton, and public fury after a government shutdown closed the museum mid-exhibit. Twenty-two years later, some things are different: This year’s show doesn’t include “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” and it’s harder to imagine the current President making an appearance. Other things, for better or worse, remain the same. The show–which includes ten Vermeers among 65 works from the Dutch golden age–was a smash in Paris, suggesting the artist will draw throngs here, too. Alas, there’s been talk of yet another government shutdown. Which means it’s probably a good idea to get to the museum early in the run. Free.
13. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Politics and Prose, October 23
Seven years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit From the Goon Squad, this genre-hopping novelist returns with a historical thriller that follows a girl who becomes a Navy diver during World War II. Egan stops by Politics and Prose to explain her latest unexpected change of direction. Free.
14. Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival
Beloved oddball comedian Tig Notaro curates this annual gathering of cerebral funny people, which, in addition to her set, this year includes a taping of the popular podcast How Did This get Made? And a double bill of Senator Al Franken and This American Life host Ira Glass. Here Notaro gives a preview of the festivities.
How did you get to be curator of this thing?
I did the DC Comedy Festival in 2008, and it ended up being the final year. I loved DC, and I was bummed the festival wouldn’t be coming back. I’d just performed at another festival–I don’t want to name names–and they treated me terribly. I thought, “It doesn’t seem like it takes that much to treat performers well.” Then I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll make my own festival and just see if it’s really that hard to treat people well.” So that’s kind of how I became the curator.
We’re living in a topsy-turvy world right now in DC, and you’re known for finding humor in tough subjects. Any advice?
I wish I knew. Even just “topsy-turvy”: I feel like it’s only turvy–there’s no topsy. I’m hoping in time there will be some topsy to the turvy, but I think the best advice is just to keep your eyes open and stay informed and look for humor whenever you can get it.
There’s always a chance that members of the Trump administration could come to your show. What would you say?
Um…get out. Not of my show–but out of the administration! I don’t know what my message would be. It seems like everything that’s going on takes a very long, deep discussion. What would I say? It would be “Let’s sit down and really have a chat.” There are no easy answers.
You’re often in the audience for other Bentzen Ball performances. Any advice for people who might run into you?
Well, I don’t like being interrupted if I’m having lunch or something, but if I’m walking by, definitely say hi. I don’t mind if someone waves at me across the room. That’s fine. Be polite and have boundaries, that’s all. Say hi. That’s good general advice, to just say hi to people. But keep it moving!
What else should attendees know?
I want people to show up prepared to laugh and have joy in their heart and soul, and to know that we’re trying to just be a positive force. It should all be toward the ultimate goal of joy and happiness. That’s what’s a-brewin’ over at the Bentzen Ball.
The Black Cat, October 27
A longtime anchor of DC’s indie-music world, Paperhaus marks the release of its second album, Are These the Questions That We Need to Ask?, with this gig. Though the band’s much-lamented Petworth group house/music venue/recording studio shuttered in 2015, its scene-boosting spirit lives on: The album’s first single, “Go Cozy,” is named after a fellow Washington group. Paperhaus frontman Alex Tebeleff describes it as a song about friendship and community. Who wouldn’t want to support that? $12 to $15.
16. Thank You for Your Service
Arena Theaters, Opens October 27
Longtime Washington Post writer and editor David Finkel’s 2013 nonfiction book is a wrenching look at the struggles of a group of veterans who have recently returned from Iraq. In his directorial debut, American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall has turned it into a movie starring Miles Teller (Whiplash) as an Army sergeant wrestling with PTSD and Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train) as his wife.
17. Mean Girls
National Theatre, October 31-December 3
The 2004 Tina Fey movie makes a leap to the stage with a Lorne Michaels-produced musical adaptation, which opens in Washington before heading to Broadway. With a book by Fey and music by her husband, composer Jeff Richmond (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock), it just might erase the lingering stench of Mean Girls 2, the Fey-free TV-movie stinker. $48-$178.
This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Washingtonian.