Things to Do

Outdoor Comedy, a Talk on Famous Jewels, and a Book on Secret Service Scandals: Things to Do in DC, May 17-19

Plus: Great listening recs.

Illustration by Hannah Good.

Happy Monday!

We’ve got famous jewels, Secret Service drama, and a radio play.

Hear from a curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection.

Here’s what you should check out this week:

Too close: A president’s daughter falls in love with her Secret Service agent—it’s the plot of the terrible 2004 rom-com Chasing Liberty starring Mandy Moore, but it’s also rumored to be what happened in the Trump White House, according to a new book. Washington Post investigative reporter Carol Leonnig is releasing Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, a look behind the typical closed doors of the agency tasked with presidential protection. Leonnig will talk about it with presidential historian Michael Beschloss in a virtual book event from Politics and Prose. Tuesday 5/18 at 6 PM; Free, register here.

All that glitters: Learn about the drama behind some of the most famous jewels in the world with a virtual lecture from Smithsonian Associates. Jeffrey Post, curator of the US National Gem and Mineral Collection at the Natural History Museum, will share the secrets, scandals, unsolved mysteries, and other juicy stories behind these gems including big-names like the Hope Diamond and the Carmen Lucía Ruby. Tuesday 5/18 at 6:45 PM; $20-$25, buy tickets here.

Cue the laugh track: Catch six local (ish) comics at a special outdoor DC Improv show at the Bullpen. Sit at socially distanced tables with a group to hear stand-up from folks like local comedy mainstay Lafayette Wright and Denise Taylor, who’s a contributor at The Onion. Wednesday 5/19 at 7 PM; $20, buy tickets here.

Now playing: Activist/theatermaker Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi’s latest work Ghost/Writer is a time-traveling journey that links an eerie ghost story set in 1920 to a ghost writer in 2019. Hear this radio play from Rep Stage through May 23. $15-$25, buy tickets here.

Escape DC: Get out of town for a couple days (or longer, who’s counting?) and try one of these options for cottages, cabins, and other places to get away from the crowd.

Beyond the centennial: The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, which just opened this weekend in Lorton, VA, commemorates the activists who fought for women to have the right to vote with statues of icons like Washingtonian Mary Church Terrell (who cofounded the NAACP) and National Woman’s Party head Alice Paul. Learn more about the new memorial here.

Hear something good: 

Look back at hip-hop history.
La Brega. This relatively new podcast hits refresh on the storytelling we usually hear out of Puerto Rico. Personally, I’ve found it to be so useful and crucial because we hear from reporters and residents across the island who have perspectives that most folks in the US rarely hear (including Diasporicans like myself). It’s a seven-part series from WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios with each episode focusing on a different aspect of the Puerto Rican experience, starting with the biggest question you might have right now—what does “la brega” mean? If someone asks how you are, you might reply, “Estoy en la brega,” to say, essentially, “I’m here, in the struggle.” There’s no complete English translation, but the first episode explores how the term encompasses these greater ideas about what it means to be Puerto Rican; that our own state of mind is in a constant place of moving forward, on the grind, pushing through. Other episodes—each is produced in both English and Spanish—look at the importance of basketball, the island’s economic challenges, and its status as a colony. Another small thing: The intro music is Bomba, the Afro-Puerto Rican musical tradition that I perform with my family, so naturally it makes me tear up to hear it included.

Hip-Hop Evolution. The award-winning docuseries has four seasons on Netflix and I’d recommend it to any big music nerds who are looking for a new binge watch. It’s a comprehensive look at the history of hip-hop featuring funny and smart interviews with masters of the form. I’ve loved learning more about the musical innovations, like Grandmaster Flash spinning records to create sounds back when some folks thought he was simply ruining the vinyl. One of the best parts, too, is hearing these major figures hash out the timeline and debate the origins of various rap and beat styles. One funny moment I remember is Grandmaster Caz on Run-DMC: While Caz and other heavy hitters at the time were performing in flashy costumes (leather, tight pants, belts, bedazzles, etc.), Run-DMC shocked everyone when they came out in casual streetwear. In his interview on the show, Caz talked about how ridiculous he felt having to put on his multi-strap outfit after seeing them onstage in Adidas. Overall, the show is an amazing look at the breadth of these stories with the perspectives of the rappers, MCs, producers, and other artists who lived it—the people who packed into those small parties just to see someone break dance or hear a killer takedown verse.

Thanks for reading! Tell me what you’re up to at home by dropping me a line at rcartagena@washingtonian.com.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.