The Birchmere, July 3
Rawlings is best known for his work on Chappelle’s Show (he played Ashy Larry and also coined the phrase “I’m rich, biatch!”) and The Wire, but he’s also an accomplished standup comic. This year, the Alexandria native appeared on Tracy Morgan’s The Last O.G., nabbed a role in the upcoming Jay and Silent Bob reboot, and is writing a children’s book. He has somehow found time to fit in a hometown performance. $29.50.
What’s it like to come back and do comedy in the place where you spent your youth?
It’s stressful. It’s one thing trying to lie to an audience that doesn’t know you. It’s another thing to lie to an audience that grew up with you, got suspended with you, got beat up with you, dropped you off at your mother’s house drunk—you can’t lie to those people.
How do you reduce stress beforehand?
Aromatherapy. It was introduced to me by John Mayer. I’ve been walking around with lavender to help me ward off evil spirits. It’s funny, I was sharing a flight with [rapper] Big Sean one time, and every 15 to 20 minutes, he was smelling lavender. I think he was trying to ward me off.
You and Dave Chappelle were up-and-coming comedians in DC at the same time. What do you think about his winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize?
We came up in two different circuits. I was on the chitlin circuit; Dave was doing [the Connecticut Avenue club] DC Improv. [The prize] is much deserved. I told him, “You’ve reached such a level of respect in comedy, you don’t have to make another person laugh for the rest of your life! People will just pay to hear you talk.”
National Building Museum, July 4–September 2
Picnicking in the grass. Daydreaming in a hammock. Watching clouds drift by. These summertime experiences will be heightened—literally—in “Lawn,” the museum’s 2019 installation in its Summer Block Party series. The sloping green expanse, which will rise up on scaffolding and fill the Great Hall, will feature 16 hammocks where visitors can listen to storytellers reminisce about summer as well as an augmented-reality game in which users “capture” fireflies. $10 to $16.
Royal Farms Arena, July 9
The Florida shock-rocker’s shtick is no longer that shocking (if it ever was). But the show should still be an entertaining spectacle. $26 to $275.
Capital Fringe Festival
Various venues, July 9– July 28
DC’s enduringly weird theater festival returns for its 14th year. What to expect? Well, surprise is part of the experience, but we’re told that Robin Bell, the local artist known for projecting messages onto the Trump hotel, will create an interactive arcade at the Wharf, while monologuist Mike Daisey will present his Howard Zinn–inspired A People’s History. $20 to $500 (for a package).
Bring It! Live: The Dance Battle Tour
Warner Theater, July 10
Lifetime’s hit reality show Bring It! introduced the world to Mississippi coach Dianna Williams and her competitive youth dance troupe, the Dancing Dolls, who pull off dazzling, technically complex routines while offering a bit of light reality-show drama. Bring It! Live will focus on the former. In addition to the chance to see the Dolls’ moves in person, you can live-vote on their battles—or be really bold and jump into a fan dance-off. $39.75 to $73.
Arena Stage, July 11–August 11
Ann Richards, the formidable former Texas governor, was a singular figure in ’90s politics, so it seems fitting to depict her life and work in a one-woman show. Ann, written by actor/playwright Holland Taylor and starring Jayne Atkinson, captures the spirit of the outspoken red-state liberal—who died in 2006—down to her trademark witticisms and suffer-no-fools attitude. $76 to $95.
Jazzy Nights in Shaw: A Stroll Through 1920s Washington
Howard Theatre, July 11, 17, and 25
In the 1920s, U Street was a hub of African American music, culture, activism, nightlife, and—as in any thriving center of city life during Prohibition—bootlegging. During this Shaw tour, historian Garrett Peck offers a comprehensive look at the link between Black Broadway’s jazz scene and DC’s 16-year dry spell, complete with a pint at a local brewery. $45.
All Fantasy Everything
Black Cat, July 13
Anyone who’s argued with friends about the best limited-edition fast-food items, hair-metal power ballads, or Samuel L. Jackson movies and thought the exercise would be even more fun with some formal rules will appreciate the format of the All Fantasy Everything podcast. In each episode, a rotating crew helmed by comedian Ian Karmel loosely applies fantasy-sports structure to pop-culture debates. No word on what the topic will be for this live taping of an episode, but debate will no doubt be spirited whatever the subject. $20.
Three Stellar Ways to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing
Kennedy Center, July 18–August 4
Popular playwright Lauren Gunderson created this kid-friendly play that incorporates live music, cool projections, and actual NASA footage. $20.
“By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs to Apollo 11”
National Gallery of Art, July 14–January 5
A mix of science and art, this exhibit features lunar photography that dates to the 19th century. Older stereographs and photogravures will be displayed next to recent photographs taken by unmanned spacecraft. Free.
National Air and Space Museum, July 16– July 20
The museum will host five days of Apollo fun. On the actual night of the moon-landing anniversary, July 20, the museum will count down to the exact moment, at 10:56 pm, when Armstrong made that famous first step. Free.
Anyone for Peacock?: Medieval Feasting, Game of Thrones Style
S. Dillon Ripley Center, July 15
George R.R. Martin is a master of dragon-filled fantasy, but the food and drink in his popular books (and the HBO series) are often based on actual medieval fare. Food historian Francine Segan offers a glimpse, and taste, of the culinary traditions of the Middle Ages that informed the Seven Kingdoms, some of them—e.g., Joffrey’s live-pigeon pie—proof that truth is at times stranger than fantasy. $55.
Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies From a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss
Politics and Prose at the Wharf, July 15
Ever wondered why the characters in The Simpsons are yellow? Curious about the big-name stars who have passed on the chance to guest-star as animated versions of themselves? The mysteries of TV’s longest-running prime-time sitcom are revealed—in witty, comic fashion—by multiple-Emmy winner Mike Reiss, its longest-serving writer. Free.
The Native Tongue Fest
The Anthem, July 18
Break out the black medallions—the Native Tongues has officially been reinstated! Members of the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School, Black Sheep, and others perform the bold, enduring, jazz-sampling hip-hop that the legendary collective of New York emcees and DJs first pushed into the mainstream some 30 years ago. $85 to $125.
Wolf Trap, July 19
Gen-X parents, be prepared for your kids to ask you to take them to see Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa this summer. Think of it as karma: Siwa, with her sugary pop odes and fondness for covering herself with enough bows, glitter, and unicorns to deplete a Lisa Frank factory, bears more than a passing resemblance to Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and all the other ’80s teen phenoms your parents suffered through. $40 to $175.
Third Eye Blind With Jimmy Eat World
Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 19
The bands behind the ’90s hits “Jumper” and “The Middle” team up to perform those songs and also a bunch of others that we don’t really remember. $29.50 to $79.50.
Carly Rae Jepsen
The Fillmore, July 21
Yes, this is the same Carly Rae Jepsen who brought us the parasitic earworm “Call Me May-be,” but she stopped churning out teeny-bopper singles some time ago. During a recent four-year album hiatus that included solo travel and a breakup, the former Canadian Idol contestant wrote 200 songs about love and loss. That output was whittled down to her latest, Dedicated, which is filled with dance-pop hits better suited to a speakeasy than to a Sweet Sixteen. $112.
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
Baltimore writer Laura Lippman traded the Sun’s newsroom for the New York Times bestseller list years ago, but her love of journalism continues to come through in her fiction. Her latest is a noir murder mystery set in 1960s Charm City. Heroine Maddie Schwartz bails on her domestic life, determined to solve a local crime and live out her lifelong dream of becoming a reporter. Free;
Be a Drummer for a Day With Batalá Washington
Hancock Park, July 27
What began more than 20 years ago as a single Afro-Brazilian performance group has grown into an international Batalá community with some 30 bands around the world. The DC chapter, an all-female group, hosts this annual celebration where attendees can learn how to play its four types of drums: surdo (the heartbeat), dobra (the melody), repique (“the caller”), and caixa (the “white noise” snare). $5 suggested donation.
Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 27
Should you go check out this long-running rap-metal-reggae crew? Take our quick test to find out! Just watch the video to their 1995 hit “Down” on YouTube. If you think it still holds up, this concert is for you. $46 to $76.
DC Field Day
RFK Stadium, July 27
Relive your gym-class glory days—or re-write an uncoordinated-adolescent history—with childhood competitions, including sack races and tug of war. Thankfully, the perks of adulthood are restored when it’s time for refreshments: Instead of sucking on lukewarm juice boxes, participants can celebrate victory at the on-site beer garden. Ages 21 and over. $45.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Siblings are accustomed to fixing each other’s messes, but this acclaimed Nigerian author’s wickedly dark debut novel takes that idea to a grisly extreme. The often-overlooked narrator is so devoted to her charming, sociopathic sister that she helps cover up a string of dead suitors—crime-scene cleanup included. Free.
This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Washingtonian.