We’ve got book talks, a chorus concert, and a screening of a new Aretha Franklin series.
Here’s what you should check out this weekend:
Royal drama: Watch Shakespeare Theatre Company’s virtual mock trial, this time about The Winter’s Tale. A group of real-life judges, including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, will hear a fictional case from the play that STC claims has “more royal scandals than four seasons of The Crown.” Thursday 3/11 at 7:30 PM; $30 (free for students), buy tickets here.
Looking forward: In Black Futures, co-authors Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham created an anthology of creativity from 100 Black contributors, including Solange, Zadie Smith, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Alicia Garza. With essays, artwork, memes, and more, the 544-page collection aims to answer the question: “What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” Drew and Wortham will speak about Black Futures in a virtual event from the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Thursday 3/11 at 8 PM; Free, watch it on YouTube here.
Bow down: Watch a screening of the new series about the Queen of Soul, Genius: Aretha, starring Cynthia Erivo. This virtual world premiere, hosted by Sixth & I and produced by Brooklyn-based studio Little Cinema, will include spoken word and musical performances, including Erivo’s renditions of Franklin’s classic tracks. Thursday 3/11 at 6:30 PM; Free, register here.
Book talk: Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose debut novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, just released the sequel, The Committed. The former explored the aftermath of the Vietnam War with an unnamed protagonist; now we follow him to 1980s Paris where he and his brother start to build a life by selling drugs. Nguyen will chat about his new book with author Tommy Orange at an online book talk from Politics and Prose. Thursday 3/11 at 8 PM; $5-$35 (book included), buy tickets here.
Ask Roxane: Join a virtual event with Roxane Gay, who will read from her popular essay collection Bad Feminist. She’ll answer questions from the audience in a Q&A, too. Friday 3/12 at 6 PM; Free, register here.
Dinner and a workout: Past Tense Yoga is hosting a virtual yoga class with a dinner option. After a 45-minute workout, viewers can enjoy a three-course meal from Tabla and learn how to cook a few Georgian dishes like khachapuri. Saturday 3/13 at 5 PM (pick up cooking kits from Tabla the same day); $50, buy tickets here.
Local scenes: The DC Independent Film Festival is screening short works produced by high school filmmakers. The films are based on interviews with multilingual Washingtonians who talk about the importance of language in their lives. Saturday 3/13 at 2 PM; Free, register here.
Herstory: Tune into the Congressional Chorus’ new concert “This is Her Story: Celebrating Black Women in Music.” Featured guests include Afro Blue (Howard’s a cappella jazz group), opera singer Brandie Sutton, and pianist Leah Claiborne (who teaches music at UDC). The show will feature songs written by, composed by, or sung by Black women in jazz, classical, folk, and gospel genres. Saturday 3/13 at 8 PM; Free, register here.
Although stages are still dark at the moment, most theaters are still busy behind the scenes. I recently chatted with Sheldon Epps, a renowned theater and TV director (you might know his work from Girlfriends, Frasier, and Friends), about the new role he started at Ford’s Theatre. Here’s an excerpt:
Sheldon Epps needed a play. It was 2013, and the man who killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin had just been acquitted, sparking widespread outrage and intense conversations about racism in America. As artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse in Los Angeles, Epps knew he had to find a way to respond to the issues stirred up by this shooting. But how?
Then Epps, a longtime theater and television director, had a flash of inspiration. Maybe his way in was through the trial—the jury that had decided to let Martin’s killer go. So he decided to stage Reginald Rose’s psychologically complex 1954 play, Twelve Angry Men—only instead of focusing on an all-white jury, Epps made half of the deliberators Black. “The sad thing is that the play was written over 50 years ago,” he says, “and when we put it on the stage, without changing a word, it’s relevant and immediate. That’s wonderful theatrically but kind of a tragedy politically and societally.”
The revamped production was a success, and in 2019 Epps brought it to DC for a run at Ford’s Theatre. Now he has forged a much closer relationship with Ford’s, signing on in August as senior artistic adviser. Epps’s new role comes with a mandate to improve the theater’s diversity efforts and bring more artists of color to its stage.
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