DC Improv, November 1–3
You might recognize Byer as the hilarious host of the Netflix baking show Nailed It!, in which amateurs try to make Great British Bake Off–worthy sweets and fail spectacularly. Her standup is an extension of the honesty she brings to tasting half-baked treats: She doesn’t shy away from talking about her body. As she said in a recent Netflix special, “You can be fat and beautiful or thin and look like Kellyanne Conway.” $20.
“Elephants and Us: Considering Extinction”
National Museum of American History, November 1, 2019–September 13, 2020
The bloody history of ivory and the cultural shift against the once-luxury product are at the center of this show marking the 30th anniversary of the African Elephant Conservation Act, which helped ban ivory imports. See historic ivory items—including a curvy comb associated with First Lady Abigail Adams—on display next to the act’s original signature pages and the jawbone of an elephant shot by President Teddy Roosevelt (on a Smithsonian expedition, no less!). Free.
Arena Stage, November 1–December 22
Based on the 1992 Christian Bale movie, this Tony-winning musical is set in the summer of 1899, when kids hawked Pulitzer and Hearst papers while—at least in this fictional world—regularly breaking into song and dance. Maybe we don’t need another reminder of how tough it is to make a living in the news biz, but at least Alan Menken’s songs are catchy. $66 to $125.
Which TV Event Is Right for You?
In honor of Fox’s Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot, Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth, right, are coming to DC to dish about the drama behind their teen drama ($42 to $69). Also this month: Supernatural fans gather to celebrate/mourn the 15th and final (sniff) season of Dean and Sam Winchester—played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, left—exploring paranormal phenomena ($80 to $340). If you have time for only one TV-show-related event this month, here’s some guidance.
You’d rather spend your Friday night surrounded by:
A. like-minded people wearing stilettos.
B. like-minded people wielding bowstaffs.
You prefer your quaint local eatery to serve killer:
A. peach pie à la the Peach Pit.
B. demons à la the Sunnyside Diner.
You’re more scared by:
A. the everyday evils working to destroy beautiful California teens (e.g., cocaine, fast cars, toxic relationships).
B. the unseen evils working to destroy humanity as we know it (e.g., ghosts, demons, leviathans).
You have burning questions about on-set makeup that involve:
A. choppy, layered bobs and brown lipstick.
B. fake blood and black contact lenses.
You need a guardian angel in your life, and it is:
A. a high-school principal who lets you walk across the graduation stage even though you got drunk at prom.
B. an actual angel who literally saves you from the clutches of Lucifer.
You’re dying to hear some exclusive, behind-the-scenes dish on:
A. Shannen Doherty.
B. Rick Springfield.
If you picked mostly A’s, you’re more likely to enjoy an evening with the women from LA’s hottest Zip code.
If you picked mostly B’s, you should hang with the two demon-hunting hotties . . . and a slew of fans dressed up like them.
Two local rappers to know
These hip-hop artists from Prince George’s County are having a moment.
|MilkBoy ArtHouse||Where||Eaglebank Arena|
|November 29||When||November 2|
|Thoughtful life lessons over beats either deeply chill or frenetic. The up-and-comer—formerly known as Jay IDK—has worked with Pusha T and Tyler, among others.||Sounds like||Clever wordplay and lyrics with a mellow cadence. The YBN crew member has worked with Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, and other cool-kid artists.|
|His major-label debut LP, September’s Is He Real?, is a religious concept album that finds the musician asking existential questions and working through the death of his mom, who passed away in 2016.||Latest work||His major-label debut, The Lost Boy, came out in July.|
|Confident energy, flawless delivery, and insistence that you bounce with him on tracks like “17 With a .38.”||Onstage||Youthful exuberance, playful energy, and humility that belies his boastful lyrics. The higher the kicks during his hit “Kung Fu,” the more he’s feeling the crowd.|
|$15 to $20||Tickets||$29.99 to $69.99|
Conference of the Birds
Dance Place, November 2–3
Based on a classic Sufi epic poem, this piece by Anikaya Dance Theater also incorporates stories of modern-day refugees and migrants. The dancers are from around the world, including Benin, Brazil, Egypt, and Turkey. A provocative and visually rich blend of movement and message. $15 to $25.
Death Becomes Us
Lisner Auditorium, November 8-10
Amanda Knox and Lorena Bobbit go from head-line news to festival headliners as part of this weekend-long exploration of the criminally macabre; the pair will be doing a live taping of Knox’s podcast, The Truth About True Crime. They’re part of this crime fest’s lineup of podcasters, authors, and members of law enforcement who have explored various shocking murders and unsolved cases. $150.
“Marcel Duchamp: The Barbara and Aaron Levine Collection”
Hirshhorn Museum, November 9, 2019–October 12, 2020
There’s something so pleasingly voyeuristic about peering into an art collector’s trove—even if it’s part of a public exhibition. It’s one reason why this look into the artful minds of the Levines, longtime Washingtonians who spent decades acquiring one of the biggest private holdings of Duchamp, is so fascinating. The works—including some of the artist’s famous everyday-object “readymades”—used to fill the couple’s Kalorama home, but for the next year the Hirshhorn will display them in two sequential exhibits, all ours to behold. Free.
Warner Theatre, November 9
YouTube star Todrick Hall’s résumé includes performing in Kinky Boots on Broadway, producing Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” music video, and choreographing wig-snatching dances for RuPaul’s Drag Race. Oh—and the albums, including his recent trilogy, Haus Party, Pt. 1, 2, and 3. Look for him to bring all these strands together when he hits the stage: The costumes should be as inspiring as the music. $23 to $92.
9:30 Club, November 10
Brooklyn-based Big Thief will have lots of songs to choose from on the local stop of their US tour: The band released not one but two albums this year. The most recent, Two Hands, follows their critically acclaimed third record, U.F.O.F., which showcases singer Adrianne Lenker’s hauntingly wispy delivery. You can surely count on an encore—or two or three. $26.
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
Sixth & I, November 11
Now that her memoir, Shrill, has been turned into a Hulu series, the author and activist has an even bigger audience for her thought-provoking and always entertaining commentary. What has she done with that increased cultural influence? Written a book that gleefully throws patriarchy, intolerance, misogyny, and white-male privilege onto the proverbial pyre. $20 to $32.
9:30 Club, November 12
In 2017, Claire Cottrill’s bedroom-pop bop “Pretty Girl” went viral right before her freshman year of college. By the start of sophomore year, the singer, who performs as Clairo, was on tour. She’s had a quick rise, but her ruminative debut LP, Immunity, released earlier this year, sounds like a songwriter taking her time. It’s great live, too: Between understated synths and inner-monologue lyrics, Cottrill still finds room to rock out. $25.
“Heroes: Principles of African Greatness”
National Museum of African Art, November 13
Even in an exhibit of works depicting great leaders, Ousmane Sow’s moving sculpture “Toussaint Louverture et la Vieille Esclave” (above) stands out. The work depicts Louverture, the father of the Haitian Revolution, in grand scale—seven feet three inches, to be exact—offering his hand to an elderly enslaved woman. The piece is just one of the items in the museum’s permanent collection included in a new installation that shares the stories of heroes of the African diaspora and the artists who have immortalized them. Free.
The Barns at Wolf Trap, November 15
Before artists around the globe could collaborate by zipping files back and forth in real time, cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought together an international troupe of musicians to form the Silkroad Ensemble. Since its founding in 1998, the collective of artists from dozens of countries has produced seven albums and won two Grammys. Ma won’t be at this performance, but virtuosos including Chinese pipa master Wu Man and Iranian kemancheh player Kayhan Kalhor will provide plenty of thrills. $62 to $77.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons
National Theatre, November 21
Leguizamo got the idea for this one-man show after his son was a victim of racist bullying. When the actor sought out positive Latinx role models throughout history, he realized how little he knew. Now a self-proclaimed “ghetto scholar,” Leguizamo shares his father/son journey interwoven with historical facts, such as a lesson on the Cuban women in Virginia who sold their jewelry to feed soldiers during the American Revolution. $59 to $129.
The Season: A Social History of the Debutante by Kristen Richardson
Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), November 23
Though she wasn’t a debutante herself, Richardson has been fascinated by the subject and wrote a notable Rookie article about it. Now she fills an entire book with tales of white dresses and fancy balls. From an exploration of the roots of debutante culture in Elizabethan England to interviews with current debs, Richardson offers a comprehensive history containing more ups and downs than a roomful of Texas Dips. Free.
Why We’re Psyched to Take Our Kids to See a Musical about a Pigeon
Kennedy Center Family Theater, November 23
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: The Musical is the most exciting thing to happen to the DC toddler set in years, but for those who don’t happen to spend every bedtime delighting their two-year-old with Mo Willems’s books, here’s a primer. $20.
Who’s involved: Willems, obvi, who recently began a two-year stint as the Kennedy Center’s first education artist-in-residence. Also onboard are composer Deborah Wicks La Puma and eccentrically coiffed animator Mr. Warburton, the man behind the Muppet Babies reboot. If anyone can turn a 40-page picture book into a theater experience that will keep children enthralled for 60 minutes, it’s this crew.
Why we’re excited: In real life, pigeons are known for pooping on buses, not driving them. But Willems’s book (and the whole series) about a plucky little bird who’s frustrated by societal rules is a charming modern parable. Also, who doesn’t enjoy watching puppets in bird suits dance to music?
Sounds cool—can I go without kids? No, that would be creepy. But it you’re dying to see it, ask your perpetually tired parent friends if you can take one of their children. But prepare to be turned down: This is a rare kiddie event they’re probably looking forward to.
This article appears in the November 2019 issue of Washingtonian.