Scena Theatre's planned staging of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters was set to open August 14 under the direction of Gabriele Jakobi. The Berlin native, who’s staged Genet’s The Maids and Brecht’s Mother Courage for the company, has a knack for assembling dazzling casts and infusing difficult plays with a rich and vivid sense of humanity. In early June, though, Jakobi suffered a stroke.
Nanna Ingvarsson and her husband Brian Hemmingsen, Scena veterans who’ve worked with Jakobi before and were slated to collaborate with her again on Three Sisters, describe a powerful presence accustomed to communicating physically as well as verbally—English not being the director’s first language—now fighting her way back to full strength in a northern Virginia hospital room, knowing precisely what she wants to say but sometimes relying on the visitors around her to supply the words. When the visitors get those words wrong, Ingvarsson says, it’s pretty clear. “You can see in her eyes,” Ingvarsson explains. “I’ll realize, ‘I’ve seen that look before.’"
Both actors describe Jakobi as a director who throws herself at a play with an appetite for bold concepts that might give others pause, but not a dictator. “She’s very close to the characters,” Ingvarsson says. “She’s very good about working with the actors to get there. That’s incredibly rare and important.”
There was no question that Three Sisters would be put on hold for next year rather than going forward without Jakobi, who’d been talking to her cast about a version of the play set in a more modern milieu, with characters older than those in the original. "It’s her vision,” Hemmingsen says. “It has to be her.”
To fill the gap in Scena's season, artistic director Robert McNamara will step in with a revival of his gender-bent staging of The Importance of Being Earnest. Hemmingsen—who at 6’3 is what you might describe as an imposing figure—will once again tackle the part of domineering Lady Augusta Bracknell in the Oscar Wilde comedy of manners; Ingvarsson is on board as well, playing one of the society swells at the story’s center. The aim, McNamara says, is to generate “a sense of dizziness—the fun of the sexual rondelay” that’s there between the lines of Wilde’s arch dialogue, with its tug-of-war between the proper and improper impulse among the Victorian upper crust.
“We treat it like a gigantic silent film, but with words,” McNamara says. And yes, it plays maybe a touch more broadly than some productions: “There’s a little bit of Charley’s Aunt,” the director laughs.
The classic tale of Peter Pan has thrived for more than a century, and now you can enjoy the show in a whole new way. Including intricate projections and flying acrobats in a theater-in-the-round tent, Peter Pan at Tysons Corner Center is unlike anything else you've seen before. Here are five reasons why you should go.
1. Actors literally soar across the stage.
What would a Peter Pan show be without some flying? Cast members zoom through the air multiple times, twisting and twirling midair. From Peter to Tinker Bell to Wendy, each of them makes flight look effortless.
2. Panoramic 360-degree projections bring the theater to life.
The show takes place in a theater-tent, but the lights projected onto the stage take you on a vibrant journey. As Pan and the crew fly to Neverland, the audience is taken with them as they soar over London. The Lost Boys climb poles and do flips while building a home for Wendy. Mermaids dangle from silk ribbons performing acrobatic feats against an underwater background. Sword fights, dancing, and the occasional song make this an action-packed show.
3. The audience takes an active role in the story.
Given the space's tight constraints, the cast is placed very close to the audience. The result? Lots of fun and friendly banter. At one point during a recent performance, Captain Hook looked out to the crowd and asked, “Do you fear me?” “No!” a child in the audience responded. Peter Pan also engages with the audience. In order to help Tinker Bell, he asked the crowd if they believe in fairies. Of course, many young audience members were eager to help.
4. Your kids will thank you afterwards.
Don't think that your kids won’t enjoy a show that they’ve most likely seen before. Kids of all ages sit wide-eyed and eager as the play progresses--some even let out loud “Oohs” and “Ahhs” throughout the night.
5. There’s something cool about watching a show in a tent.
One of the best parts about the show is that it takes a very basic performance space and adds state-of-the-art touches. Audiences will still experience the intimacy of a tent, but the 360-degree projections and flying cast members really open up the space and make it feel like a huge stage.
A few things to know before you go: Don’t let the tent fool you. It might be sticky outside, but the tent itself is kept very cool. Bring a sweater.
Peter Pan at the Threesixty Theatre at Tysons Corner Center runs through August 16. Tickets $25 to $125. 800-745-3000.
The West End Cinema, an independent movie theater that operated for four years until closing in March, will reopen July 17 as part of Landmark Theatres, the cinema chain announced Monday.
West End, which screened independent films and second-run studio releases, is a good programming fit for Landmark, which specializes in Oscar bait, foreign films, and documentaries. There will be some noticable changes to West End's subterranean complex, though. The three tiny screening rooms will be combined into two larger theaters, and the concession area will be expanded to include alcoholic beverage service.
Reopening West End Cinema will give Landmark an even bigger presence in DC's movie-theater arms race. Besides the longstanding E Street Cinema in Penn Quarter, it will operate a six-screen complex at JBG's Atlantic Plumbing development off U St., Northwest, and is planning a ten-screen theater at the planned Capitol Point development on New York Avenue, Northeast. Landmark also owns the eight-screen Bethesda Row Cinema.
Other movie theaters under development include a ten-screen Angelika Film Center location at Union Market and a 16-screen Showplace Icon multiplex near Washington Navy Yard.
Ari Roth may have more to say, in private, about the unpleasantness that accompanied his firing late last year from Theater J, the company based at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center on 16th Street where Roth, 54, spent nearly two decades as artistic director. Under Roth, the group was known for drama that was politically charged, intellectually curious, and above all controversial—too controversial, in the end, for the JCC: Roth’s insistence on presenting plays critical of Israel provoked years-long, increasingly nasty, and ultimately terminal quarreling.
His loudest retort has been a nearly instantaneous rebound. In December, he founded a new company, Mosaic, housed at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on Northeast DC’s H Street. Its board of directors includes five members he shares with Theater J, and the producing director is longtime Studio Theatre stalwart Serge Seiden.
Roth sat down for a conversation about what his rebirth says about the state of theater in Washington.
MONDAY, JULY 6
MUSIC: Just when you thought you were finally getting "Radioactive" out of your brain, Imagine Dragons comes to DC's Verizon Center with their Smoke + Mirrors tour. The band won a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance, so it's bound to be a great show. 7:30 PM, $29.50 to $69.50.
Every summer, the National Building Museum gives over its atrium to a large, interactive, stunt-y exhibit. In 2012 and 2013, it was mini-golf. Last year brought a maze designed by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. This year's, though, has all of them beat.
"The Beach" brings museum visitors a wading pool filled with 1 million translucent polyethelene balls and a carpeted deck inside a 10,000-square-foot enclosure parked in on the museum's main floor. No swimsuits are needed—in fact, museum patrons can and should stay fully clothed—but this "Beach" might be the next-best thing after packing up the car, suffering through Bay Bridge traffic, and fighting for a spot to lay down a blanket on some Eastern Shore coastline.
The exhibit is the work of Snarkitecture, an experimental design firm behind other outlandish projects like "Lift," a performance-art piece at the New Musuem in New York, and some of the public art installations at Marlins Park in Miami.
THURSDAY, JULY 2
COMEDY: Get your laugh on this holiday weekend. In honor of Independence Day, the DC Improv offers the Best of DC comedy show, featuring some of the most talented comedians in the DMV. Catch it Thursday or Friday at 8 PM. $15 to $17.
EAT: Load up on roasted suckling pig then wash it down with hops at the Italian Pig Roast and Beer Tasting on the Piazza. Yes, it's an Italian-themed bash on the Fourth of July weekend, but for $25, you get drinks plus roast pork, house-made sausage, pasta, olives, and appetizers. That sounds like a deal to us. 5 to 9 PM.
FRIDAY, JULY 3
COMEDY: You can re-enact the Boston Tea Party via a game of corn hole (yes, really) at the annual 'Murrica shindig at Bier Baron, which is part theme party, part comedy act. 5 PM, $10.
SATURDAY, JULY 4
MUSIC: Black Masala, MH and his orchestra, and DJ Crown Vic celebrate the nation’s birthday at the Logan Fringe Arts Space. 9 PM, $10.
BEACH: If you’re determined to hit the beach for the holiday--but are also set on avoiding traffic at all costs--the National Building Museum has you covered. Opening this weekend, the venue now houses a faux "beach," complete with an “ocean” of nearly one million plastic balls. 11 AM to 5 PM, $3 to $16.
PARTY: Party all day--and night--at the Town Tavern in a daylong celebration that promises booze and “good ole’ ‘Merican fun." Noon, $10 with online RSVP.
MUSIC: The Foo Fighters celebrate their 20th anniversary at RFK Stadium alongside LL Cool J, Buddy Guy, Heart, Joan Jett, and more. Noon, $78.
PARADE: Nothing says the Fourth of July like a parade. The city of Fairfax celebrates first responders during a daylong event that wraps up with fireworks at Fairfax High School. 10 AM to 9:30 PM.
PARTY: Bring the little ones to this one. At NoMa’s annual July 4th Bash, there will be face-painting, a moon bounce, live music, and more. 4 to 7 PM, free.
PARTY: This bash begins on July 4, but ends on July 5. The Lodge at Red Rocks offers an all-night soiree on its roof featuring tiki cocktails and barbeque. 3 PM to 3 AM, no cover.
SUNDAY, JULY 5
YOGA: After a day full of camaraderie—and maybe a little debauchery—relax and unwind with Yoga in the Park at Dumbarton House. 9:30 AM, suggested $5 donation.
You've probably already seen the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and Julia Child's adorable kitchen at the National Museum of American History. Soon there'll be a ton of new stuff to check out. On July 1, the museum unveils 45,000 square feet of newly renovated space--a monument to American enterprise and innovation housed on the west wing's first floor.
Ralph Baer's workshop--home to the first video game--is perhaps the greatest attraction. There's also interactive games that put you in the shoes of an American farmer or entrepreuneur, facing difficult choices, such as whether to farm organic or non-organic milk, or switch to a greener, more expensive form of manufacturing. Here's a preview of what you can expect when you go.
National Mall, June 24-June 28 and July 1-5
The young couple from Ayacucho, Peru, didn’t have enough cash to buy pesticides for their farm. On a hilly plot, they fed their family by planting quinoa the old-fashioned way. As demand rose for organic versions of the Andean seed, they discovered they were in luck: Though they live five hours from the nearest major airport, their pesticide-free crop had become globally marketable.
Now they’re making the long trip to Washington, where they’re joining 105 cooks, potters, dancers, mask makers, musicians, and fishermen in sharing their life stories at the annual Folklife Festival on the Mall (free). “You can see how their traditions are connected with the past,” says festival co-curator Cristina Díaz-Carrera, “and what choices they’ve had to make to adapt to the different environments they’re confronted with.”