Fight House by Tevi Troy
While Washington author and presidential historian Troy was researching his look at some of the most epic squabbles to take place at the White House, he had a mantra: “The pettier the better.” At this appearance, Troy—a former White House staffer in the George W. Bush administration—will talk about some of the hilariously nasty fights detailed in his book.
“Degas at the Opéra”
National Gallery of Art, March 1–July 5
This collection of about 100 works finds Edgar Degas training his tiny pair of binoculars on the stage of the Paris Opéra. The French artist’s dreamy pastels drop the viewer into the action onstage, in the audience, and sometimes behind the scenes. Intended to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Opéra, the exhibit also includes various prints, drawings, and sculptures.
Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Politics and Prose at the Wharf, March 2
Ortberg, who writes Slate’s popular Dear Prudence advice column—and now uses the name Daniel Lavery—came out as trans in 2018, and this essay collection serves as both a loose memoir and a chance to look at the world from a different perspective. Not surprisingly, he does so with wit and insight, as with his transmasculine interpretation of Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck” or his imagining of the goddess Athena’s thoughts on gender.
Aventura and Romeo Santos
Capital One Arena, March 3 and 5
Ultra-smooth boy band Aventura was the biggest group to emerge from the Latin-music genre bachata—until they broke up in 2011. Now the arena-packing superstar act has gotten back together, hitting the road for a double-shot tour that also features a solo set by their famous frontman. You can be sure of one thing: There will be plenty of screaming.
Studio Theatre, March 4–April 12
Playwright Antoinette Nwandu’s time-hopping, Waiting for Godot–inspired work moves the action, or lack thereof, from under a tree to a modern-day street corner, where friends Kitch and Moses pass the time while waiting for something good to happen. Directed by DC artist Psalmayene 24, the play speaks to what happens when society places black men in a holding pattern and sells them the dream of a brighter future that often never arrives.
Black Girls Rock! Fest 2020
Kennedy Center, March 5–7
A three-day celebration of black women in the arts, this series features headliners Lauryn Hill and DC native Alice Smith along with discussions and workshops. One intriguing element: three late-night “secret shows.” The names of the artists involved aren’t being announced ahead of time, but expect black-girl magic.
Why We Love Crosswords: It’s a Puzzle
S. Dillon Ripley Center, March 5
The New York Times was the last major American newspaper to run a crossword, but despite that late start, its word games have become the gold standard. At this talk, Deb Amlen, a crossword constructor and columnist for the Times, will offer puzzle fanatics an inside look at the black and white squares that captivate and vex us, plus a few tips and tricks. Sorry, she’s probably not going to tell you it’s okay to Google the clues.
“Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage”
National Museum of American History, March 6, 2020–March 7, 2021
Leaders of the fight for women’s right to vote knew how historic their victory was, and shortly after Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919, suffragists donated key items to the Smithsonian, including a six-foot-tall portrait of Susan B. Anthony and a table used by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A hundred years after the amendment’s ratification, this exhibit uses those artifacts, along with other materials, to explore how we remember the century-long struggle for suffrage—and who has been left out of the story.
Kennedy Center, March 8–21
The annual celebration of all things avant-garde returns with another relentlessly eclectic lineup. Patti Smith teams up with her musician daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, while composer Ellen Reid stages her Pulitzer Prize–winning p r i s m, a two-person opera about a woman grappling with a sexual assault. Will comedian Sarah Sherman live up to her stage name, Sarah Squirm? We look forward to finding out.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), March 12
Over the course of his career, the National Book Award winner has written a novel about abolitionist John Brown, an unconventional biography of musician James Brown, a memoir, and a collection of short stories. With his latest, McBride adds crime and humor to his list of literary gifts. The story follows a booze-soaked baseball coach and Baptist preacher who finds himself looking over his shoulder after shooting the ear off of a local drug dealer.
Kennedy Center, March 15–28
In this ambitious new work—presented by the Washington National Opera—powerful music meets a devastating message. The story involves a black police officer whose teenage son is murdered by a white cop, and Tazewell Thompson’s libretto plays on those deep tensions for maximum impact. The score, by Fun Home composer Jeanine Tesori, adds yet another layer of complexity.
The Anthem, March 15–16
Whatever your idea of country mu-sic, it probably doesn’t much resemble Sound & Fury, the latest album from uncompromising Nashville star Simpson. Who cares? Complete with synth-heavy bangers, psychedelic guitar workouts, and even an occasional disco groove, it’s as fun as it is unconventional. And according to reports from Simpson’s previous DC show, at the Black Cat in October, the guy has lately been absolutely blistering onstage.
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
Sixth & I, March 16
The British writer is finally concluding her critically adored trilogy of novels about Thomas Cromwell, and while we know things end with a bang (er, slice), the final installment is still a big literary event. The same goes for this in-person chat—with NPR Weekend Edition senior editor Barrie Hardymon—during which Mantel will reflect on the end of her 15-year run chronicling Cromwell.
A Trio of Electronic Musicians
Three very different artists are hitting DC this month. A quick guide.
|Artist||Where||Backstory||Standout Work||Latest Release|
|U Street Music Hall
|Known for blending synthesizer and guitar fuzz into one cohesive purr, the adventurous Austrian producer is back in the States for the first time in a decade.||Endless Summer, a 2001 album that sounds just like the title suggests, but with more noise.||Last year’s moody, slow-moving masterpiece Agora.|
|The renowned techno DJ has long been a key figure in the UK rave scene. Launching his own label to promote other artists and kick-starting the dance scene in Ibiza clubs helped cement his legacy.||Cox’s first single, 1991’s “I Want You (Forever),” which spawned countless imitators.||A driving remix of Purple Disco Machine’s “Body Funk.”|
|Caribou mastermind Dan Snaith has been making infectiously cerebral dance tracks for almost 20 years, previously under the name Manitoba.||The sparse 2014 love song “Can’t Do Without You,” written for his daughter.||February’s warm, synth-poppy Suddenly, his first album as Caribou in five years.|
MasterChef Junior Live!
Warner Theatre, March 22
Sure, you could stream another episode of MasterChef Junior on Hulu, but you’d miss a chance to see your favorite pint-size chefs go head to head in live, tear-inducing redemption challenges. This touring version of the Fox show should provide plenty of aww-worthy moments, even if it won’t be offering the show’s host, Gordon Ramsay, who isn’t taking part.
DC Tap Fest
This isn’t a beer festival—wait, don’t stop reading! You can grab draft brews anytime, but it’s not every day you can enjoy a weeklong celebration of America’s finest homegrown dance form. Put on your tap shoes and pick from more than 100 classes, or have a seat and let the pros wow you at the closing concert. dctapfest.com.
Signature Theatre, March 24–April 19
This musical from composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Nan Knighton is about the muse, lover, and protégé of Auguste Rodin, who was herself a gifted artist and worked on some of the sculptor’s masterpieces. The production looks at how Claudel persevered under the male gaze of art critics, her brother, and Rodin, while pointing out the importance of her own work and legacy.
Kennedy Center, March 24–28
If a bow falls on a string instrument outside of major markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, does it even make a sound? Of course! This annual event, designed to showcase orchestras that tend to get less attention, brings regional ensembles to the Kennedy Center to prove that smaller name recognition doesn’t mean smaller sound.
The Last Ship
National Theatre, March 27–April 5
Sting’s musical about the collapse of shipbuilding in northeast England fizzled on Broadway six years ago: Critics said the accents were too thick and the subject too grim for American audiences. Now The Last Ship is back with a new book and the ex–Police frontman onstage every night—and it comes at a time when Americans, thrilled to discover that anyone is more hosed than we are, can’t get enough of British dysfunction.
9:30 Club, March 28
“Chill but kinda sad” is how Sophie Allison once described herself on her Bandcamp page. That’s true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the intimate, beautifully crafted tunes she turns out under the name Soccer Mommy. Her eagerly awaited latest album, Color Theory, finds her exploring new musical textures and, yes, sorrowful lyrics.
I Want You to Know We’re Still Here by Esther Safran Foer
Sixth & I, March 31
Foer’s parents were their respective families’ sole Holocaust survivors, a fact that neither ever really talked about. When she learned that her father had lost a wife and daughter to the genocide, Foer and her own children began looking for more information. (Son Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Everything Is Illuminated is partly inspired by that pursuit.) Now she has written a memoir about the search, and she’ll discuss it at Sixth & I—which she used to run—with her eldest son, journalist Franklin Foer.
This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Washingtonian.