“The Life of Animals in Japanese Art”
National Gallery of Art, June 2–August 28
Despite what popular culture would have us believe, the creatures of Pokémon do not rank among Japan’s finest artistic depictions of animals. What does? Check out the more than 300 renditions in this major exhibit (free), which spans 16 centuries of animal representations, in contexts ranging from religious to erotic to irreverent. A few highlights:
Haniwa Horse, 6th Century
This earthenware vessel was a keepsake for burial with the dead.
Deer Bearing Symbols of the Kasuga Deities, 14th Century
In Shinto, animals—frequently deer—serve as conduits to religious deities.
Helmet in the Shape of Shachihoko, 17th Century
This headgear represents a half-tiger, half-fish sea monster
Dancing Fox, 18th Century
An Edo-period piece made from ivory.
Uchikake With Phoenix and Birds, 19th Century
This silk wedding garment was made for a merchant’s daughter in Osaka.
A fiberglass dog by contemporary sculptor Yayoi Kusama.
Naturally Tan by Tan France
Lisner Auditorium, June 5
France, the fashion expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, is best known for exposing the unfashionable masses to the French tuck, but in his new memoir, he lets it all hang out. He covers growing up gay in a Muslim family, his time on the show, and his career in fashion, which he launched by working in his grandfather’s denim factory as a teen. $33 to $35 (for ticket and book).
The Handmaid’s Tale
Hulu, Premieres June 5
The Exorcist steps in Georgetown will soon have some competition for creepiest onscreen location in DC. For at least part of season three, the dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale will head to Washington, and if photos taken on the set when it filmed here earlier this year are any indication, those scenes will be super-creepy. Subscription required.
Amanda Seales presents Mo’ Betta Wu: Jazz From the 36 Chambers
Kennedy Center, June 6
The LA-born, Orlando-raised comedian, actress, and musician Amanda Seales will perform Wu-Tang Clan covers with a jazz group while assuming the character of a 61-year-old lounge singer named Killandra Bee. $29 to $45.
Wait, jazz versions of Wu-Tang Clan tracks?
A project of Seales and composer Kris Bowers—who recently won praise for his Green Book score—the show has tongue-in-cheek elements, but the collaborators take this adaptation challenge seriously. “You think, ‘Oh they’re making Wu-Tang into jazz, ha ha!’ ” says Seales. “Then you’re like, ‘Wait a minute, this actually sounds good.’ ”
So how do Ghostface lyrics become Sarah Vaughan–style vocals?
Seales and Bowers first choose the songs they want to flip, then play around with a jazz style they think will work best for each track. For the challenging-to-translate Clan cut “Triumph,” for instance, they channeled Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. Then Seales tackles the lyrics. “The thing about the Wu is they’re very unorthodox lyricists,” she says. “Sometimes thoughts don’t end at the end of a bar. . . . It’s often stream of consciousness. As someone interpreting that, you have to very responsibly go through and make it fit into a jazz stanza.”
Does that mean it’s jazz, or is it hip-hop?
Seales says the goal is to keep people guessing: “It can’t feel derivative. It has to feel like, ‘Wait, were these songs jazz first or hip-hop first?’ The beauty of the Wu is that [the music] spans age, class, gender, political affiliation. And I would say jazz does the same thing.”
“Mid-Century Master: The Photography of Alfred Eisenstaedt”
Hillwood Museum, June 8–January 12
When Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt traveled to DC heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Hillwood estate to snap her for the magazine in 1965 (left), he captured a casual, lighthearted vibe that was a hallmark of his influential work. Now the site of that photo session is the set-ting for an exhibit of Eisenstaedt’s photographs, including memorable images of Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, and others. $18.
How to Skimm Your Life: Night Out
Eaton Workshop, June 12
If you’re a millennial woman, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with theSkimm. The daily newsletter, founded by Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg (above), takes the tone of your BFF breaking down the news for you over a glass of rosé. (Think a Brexit update sprinkled with Posh Spice references.) Its first book uses that same style for a crash course in Adulting 101, with advice on negotiating salaries, filing taxes, and of course navigating a wine list. $45 to $150.
9:30 Club, June 14
DC native Lennox used to pass out fliers at lo-cal clubs. After getting signed to J. Cole’s label, Dreamville, she’s now performing at some of those same venues. Lennox often pairs her alluring voice with lyrics about sex, but her soon-to-be-released debut album, Shea Butter Baby, also includes songs that tackle her full self, including her struggles with mental health. $25.
By the People Festival
Various locations, June 15–23
This nine-day, multi-event gathering is like a socially conscious, politically engaged version of Miami’s Art Basel. That concept will translate into a wide variety of artistic endeavors, including a barge floating down the Potomac and Anacostia rivers that displays a Norman Rockwell–inspired art installation. Free.
The National and Courtney Barnett
The Anthem, June 19
The latest album from indie-rock perennials the National is packed with female guest vocalists. Could show opener Courtney Barnett—who doesn’t appear on the album—sit in on some tunes? No word on that yet, but either way, it’s an exciting bill from two acts that are usually both headliners. $55 to $95.
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Brodesser-Akner is best known for her celebrity profiles (do yourself a favor and read her Gwyneth Paltrow story ASAP), but her debut novel focuses on a slightly less glamorous subject: the difficulties of marriage. Here, she’ll talk fiction with fellow journo/novelist Jake Tapper—about whom, naturally, she once wrote an entertaining magazine article. Free.
The Anthem, June 20
Three years and more than a billion streams after Eilish first gained notice with a SoundCloud single, the homeschooled LA teen is still writing brooding, synth-heavy tracks. Her recent debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, has earned her even more attention, which should translate into a raucous gathering of her intensely devoted fans when she hits town. $55.19 to $240.19.
DC Improv, June 20–22
Fans of comedian and podcast personality Christina Pazsitzky were thrilled to learn that she and husband Tom Segura are working on a TV pilot. How will her riffs about DILFs, boobs, and raising kids translate to a multi-cam sitcom? Minus a few curse words, probably really well, actually. Catch her standup set now while the jokes are still uncensored. $25.
DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival
THEARC Theater, June 21–July 7
More than 100 black playwrights, dancers, artists, authors, and musicians will come together for the tenth iteration of this multi-day symposium of creativity. Stop in and catch a monologue competition, an improv workshop, or plays by James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry. Prices vary.
“The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement”
Phillips Collection, June 22–September 2
Author Richard Wright first used the phrase “the warmth of other suns” to describe his experience of the mass exodus from the South that African Americans began during World War I. In this exhibit, the title offers a link between the Great Migration and migration across the globe today. Works from Spanish photographer Griselda San Martin, Bangladeshi filmmaker Yasmine Kabir, Chinese neo-realist painter Liu Xiaodong, and others tell modern stories of the complex decision to leave home in pursuit of a better life. $12.
Two much-missed DC bands reunite
9:30 Club, June 28–29
The post-punk band, which saw its peak popularity in the ’90s when it jumped from Dischord to a major label, hasn’t performed live in a decade. Why give it another go? These days, playing together is about having fun, not trying to make it, says guitarist Bill Barbot, who particularly appreciates “not having the pressure to be a rock star or die.” He also hints there may be new Jawbox music in the future. $28.
DC9, June 22
Formed in 1987, the dark, dreamy band broke up in 1994. The impetus for this return is a sad one: Guitarist Fred “Freak” Smith (upper left) was murdered in Los Angeles in 2017—the case is still unsolved—and “a giant part of our heart is gone,” says singer Monica Richards. The gig is meant to honor Smith’s memory; a pair of his boots will be onstage as the band revisits songs from its heyday. $15.
L’Homme Cirque: The One-Man Circus
Strathmore, June 27–July 7
Even if watching tightrope artists causes you extreme anxiety, there’s no need to look away from David Dimitri’s act. Yes, the Cirque du Soleil alum walks on a 150-foot-high wire during the performance, but he also includes plenty of humor, even shooting himself out of a cannon. It’s hard to hold your breath in fear when you’re laughing. $30 to $33.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
National Mall, June 29–30
This year’s event has shrunk to just two days (blame the government shutdown), but it’s still worth braving the shadeless Mall to experience the DC tradition. The current focus is “the social power of music,” with two featured concerts: one by hometown hero GoldLink (above), the other honoring Pete Seeger. Free.
“Accessory to Action—Adorning Wakanda”
National Museum of Women in the Arts, June 30
Search Etsy for “Black Panther jewelry” and you’ll get hundreds of hits, from gorgeous creations fit for Ramonda to items that make you wonder: D-I-why? That thriving subculture will likely be one topic during this panel discussion with Douriean Fletcher (above), Marvel Comics’ licensed-jewelry designer, who beautifully conveyed strength and gender equality with her unique pieces for the movie. $25.
This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Washingtonian.