Metro Weekly

Small Business Boosters: D.C.’s Main Streets

D.C.'s Main Streets program has proven an effective ally for helping entrepreneurs set up shop

Shaw Main Street Photography by Todd Franson

Businesses on Shaw Main Street – Photography by Todd Franson

For Alex Padro, the upside-down “L”-shaped portion running north from 1800 block of 7th Street NW, then east down the 600 block of T Street NW to the Howard Theatre, is the crown jewel of the Shaw neighborhood and a prime example of what revitalizing an area can do.

“If I had to pick a block where everything’s gone right, that would be the block,” he says.

Padro, the executive director of Shaw Main Streets, says all but two spaces on that strip of real estate have been renovated, and recent years have seen the advent of eateries like Uprising Muffin, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency and Mockingbird Hill, as well as the revamping of older businesses like Wanda’s on Seventh Salon & Spa, which, after a temporary hiatus, was able to return to the neighborhood in a newly-renovated building on the spot of its original inception. Padro says those two blocks have had the most “dramatic transformation” of any commercial corridor in Shaw Main Streets’ service area.

Founded in 2002, D.C.’s Main Streets program is based on the model developed by the National Main Street Center to assist downtown revitalization efforts in major U.S. cities. The Main Streets program is accredited under the umbrella of the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) that is intended to foster retail investment by providing the support, training and resources needed to help small businesses thrive. Main Streets organizations, which exist in five different cities across the country, largely focus on the revitalization and historic preservation of major commercial corridors, and the promotion of the businesses that settle there.

In the District, there are currently eight recognized Main Streets programs along several major commercial corridors: in addition to Shaw, there’s also Barracks Row, along 8th Street SE; Congress Heights, in Ward 8; Deanwood Heights, in Ward 7; Dupont Circle; H Street NE; the North Capitol Street corridor; and Rhode Island Avenue NE. All Main Streets programs are run by a paid executive director — who helps administer grant money from the city to carry out the organization’s activities — and an all-volunteer support staff.

According to Ted Archer, chief of staff at DSLBD, there have been other Main Streets programs that have since disbanded, either because the people involved wanted to re-evaluate their efforts, or felt that Main Streets “was not the correct revitalization tool for them at that precise time.” According to Padro, some since-disbanded Main Streets programs included one near 14th and U Streets NW, one on Upper 14th Street, and another further up Georgia Avenue NW in what was known as the “Gateway” Main Streets.

Since helping found Shaw Main Streets in 2003, and becoming the nonprofit’s executive director in 2004, Padro, who also serves as an ANC commissioner, has served as a cheerleader and advocate of luring small businesses to set up shop in Shaw, which has several qualities that made it appealing.

“The neighborhood was historically a commercial district, especially along 7th and 9th Streets, the O Street Market, the Howard Theatre, those were all assets that were underperforming, or, in some cases, had been boarded up for decades,” Padro says. “We had a lot of empty lots where significant development could take place. Those were all opportunities to fill the gaps and bring businesses in where none had been in a really long time.”

Padro and Shaw Main Streets set to work, focusing on cleaning up the neighborhood — Main Streets also manages the city’s Clean & Safe program for the Shaw neighborhood, which focuses on trash collection, planting trees, and cleaning up graffiti — as well as providing small businesses with technical assistance or advice for obtaining various building and operating permits, and marketing the neighborhood as a destination, both for residents and visitors to the city. As Shaw increasingly became the latest neighborhood affected by D.C.’s development boom, particularly following the construction of the nearby Convention Center, Shaw Main Streets worked to attract more than 150 new businesses while finding ways to retain existing ones, even as real estate prices and rents in the up-and-coming neighborhood quickly escalated.

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“Folks used to have to go to 14th Street or Chinatown to go to the theater, or go to an art gallery, or to go out to dinner. We didn’t have any independent coffee shops, or even a Starbucks,” Padro says of the neighborhood’s change. “It was really all about neighbors working together to try to attract the types of businesses that they wanted to spend their money in, and that they wanted to have jobs in.”

Padro says he would “absolutely” encourage other neighborhoods with major commercial thruways to adopt a Main Streets or other similar program focusing on small business growth and neighborhood revitalization, both externally and financially.

“I would encourage Mayor Bowser to expand the program to other commercial corridors that haven’t made the amount of progress that’s possible with a Main Streets group,” he says.

Of course, Shaw is not the only neighborhood experiencing boom times. Kyle Wood, executive director of Rhode Island Avenue Main Streets, says the program has been successful in helping businesses settle in the Eckington, Brookland and Woodridge neighborhoods. Rhode Island Avenue Main Streets has helped several businesses pay for facade improvements, and has helped others with marketing strategies to promote themselves. While Woodridge, in particular, is still in need of a dry cleaners, a pet food store, and a sit-down restaurant, the eastern end of Rhode Island Avenue has already attracted a coffee shop, a local grocery store, and even an art studio and gallery. There are plans for a new bistro, specializing in Mediterranean food, set to open in the spring of 2015, in the 2200 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE, in the space formerly occupied by Lace Nightclub.

“Businesses are coming to the area because they see interesting things happening here,” Wood says.

Many small business owners assisted by the various Main Streets organizations have nothing but praise for the program.

Philip Sambol, the general manager of Good Food Market, says that the Rhode Island Avenue Main Streets program has been extremely helpful in spreading word about the market, which fills a gap that was created when a former Safeway closed, leaving the Woodridge neighborhood without a viable grocery store. Sambol credits Rhode Island Avenue Main Streets with helping Good Food Market get a sign, make improvements to its exterior facade, and pay for additional security measures.

Meanwhile, across town, Sean Reydi — co-owner of Simon Vintage, a furniture and homegoods store on 9th Street NW — says that Shaw Main Streets most recently helped him and his partner obtain money to secure a sign for their business that cost nearly $7,000. It has previously helped Simon Vintage with its marketing strategy, including obtaining an advertisement on the side of a city bus. Shaw Main Streets has also introduced Reydi and his partner to other businesses so they can offer special discounts or promotions. Reydi also says that Simon Vintage has been able to expand its customer base through events like the Art All Night festival, in which Shaw Main Streets, partnering with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, highlights various works of art, which allowed art lovers to stop by the shop and get special discounts.

“From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., we had a non-stop flow of people,” Reydi says of this year’s festival. He says that when Simon Vintage’s lease is up in a year, he and his partner will have to think very hard about relocating.

“We’ve debated whether we should buy closer to our home neighborhood,” he said. “But one of the detractions is not having a Shaw Main Streets to help us. It makes us think twice about ever moving.”

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Two-Man Irish Comedy "Stones in His Pockets"

at Keegan Theatre, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Tue, September 26
Thu, September 28
+ 10 more dates
Sun, September 24
Tue, September 26
Thu, September 28
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Mon, October 02
Thu, October 05
Fri, October 06
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Sun, October 08
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Fri, October 13
Sun, October 15
[less-]
FULL PRICE: $45
OFFER PRICE: $22.50

In wicked tragicomedy "Stones in His Pockets", a big-budget Hollywood film descends upon a small village in Ireland and turns everything upside down. Two down-on-their-luck Irish 30-somethings become ... [more+]

In wicked tragicomedy "Stones in His Pockets", a big-budget Hollywood film descends upon a small village in Ireland and turns everything upside down. Two down-on-their-luck Irish 30-somethings become extras in the film, and the movie is a wonderful break from worrying about their futures. That is, until the harsh realities of rural life break through. The play offers a funny, dark and poignant look at the complicated relationship between Tinseltown and its subjects. Watch real life and the reel world collide when this Olivier Award-winning comedy by Irish playwright Marie Jones comes to D.C.'s Keegan Theatre. [less-]

Absurdist Comedy "The Arsonists"

at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Wed, September 27
Thu, September 28
+ 5 more dates
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FULL PRICE: $51 - $74
OFFER PRICE: $25.50 - $37

You probably know the meme of the cartoon dog surrounded by flames and declaring: "This is fine." But you might not know this classic work that may as well have inspired it. Mild-mannered Mr. Biederma... [more+]

You probably know the meme of the cartoon dog surrounded by flames and declaring: "This is fine." But you might not know this classic work that may as well have inspired it. Mild-mannered Mr. Biederman tries to live a blameless life, refusing to acknowledge evil of any kind -- even as the world around him burns. The facade comes crashing down when he allows two smooth-talking guests to move in to his home and they start filling his attic with petrol drums. Part moral fable and part black farce, Alistair Beaton's "The Arsonists" is an elegant, witty translation of Max Frisch's 1958 absurdist comedy "The Firebugs", which was inspired by the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948 and satirizes the way in which people can be manipulated into accommodating their own destruction. [less-]

Cruise Past the National Monuments: Candlelight Dinner & Dancing

at Nina's Dandy, Alexandria
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Tue, September 26
Thu, September 28
+ 12 more dates
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Thu, September 28
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FULL PRICE: $98 - $108
OFFER PRICE: $66 - $76

Cruise from historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, past the stunning national monuments and museums of DC, to Georgetown and back to Alexandria on Nina's Dandy Dinner Cruise. Soak in the sights, incl... [more+]

Cruise from historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, past the stunning national monuments and museums of DC, to Georgetown and back to Alexandria on Nina's Dandy Dinner Cruise. Soak in the sights, including Washington's famous cherry blossom trees -- a gift from Japan in 1912 -- and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials while enjoying a three-course meal by candlelight, served tableside, followed by dancing on the ship's elegant marble dance floor or under the stars on the upper deck. Live music welcomes you aboard and accompanies the dining experience. [less-]

Nina's Dandy Lunch and Brunch Cruises With National Monument Views

at Nina's Dandy, Alexandria
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Mon, September 25
Thu, September 28
+ 10 more dates
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Mon, September 25
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FULL PRICE: $50 - $60
OFFER PRICE: $36 - $43

Cruise from historic old town Alexandria, Virginia, past the stunning national monuments and museums, to Georgetown and back on this relaxing midday 2 1/2-hour sail on the Potomac. Soak up the sights ... [more+]

Cruise from historic old town Alexandria, Virginia, past the stunning national monuments and museums, to Georgetown and back on this relaxing midday 2 1/2-hour sail on the Potomac. Soak up the sights on this narrated tour, including Washington's famous cherry blossom trees -- a gift from Japan in 1912 -- and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Along the way, enjoy a three-course lunch with salad, entree and dessert served at your table. Or, set out for a champagne brunch cruise on Sunday, and you'll find a buffet filled with a variety of breakfast and lunch treats. [less-]

"Deathtrap": Killer Comedy Thriller

at Silver Spring Stage, Silver Spring
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Sun, September 24
Sat, September 30
Sun, October 01
+ 2 more dates
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Sat, September 30
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FULL PRICE: $25
OFFER PRICE: $12.50

"Deathtrap", the longest-running comedy-thriller on Broadway, slayed audiences for years with its masterful mix of razor-sharp wit and suspense, and now it'll be brought back to vibrant life by Silver... [more+]

"Deathtrap", the longest-running comedy-thriller on Broadway, slayed audiences for years with its masterful mix of razor-sharp wit and suspense, and now it'll be brought back to vibrant life by Silver Spring Stage. In this diabolically-told tale by Ira Levin ("The Stepford Wives, Rosemary's Baby"), a once-successful and now-desperate playwright embarks on a fateful collaboration with one of his college-seminar students in pursuit of a much needed hit. But their partnership kicks off a series of murderous plots and thrilling twists that'll keep you guessing "whodunit" right up to the final curtain. [less-]

Neil Gaiman's Urban Fantasy "Neverwhere"

at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Wed, September 27
Thu, September 28
+ 4 more dates
Sun, September 24
Wed, September 27
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[less-]
FULL PRICE: $45
OFFER PRICE: Sold Out

Enter a hidden world that lurks below the London city streets, where fallen angels, monsters and magic are real and an ordinary businessman can become a hero. Based on the cult classic novel by sci-fi... [more+]

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Georgetown Architecture Tour

at DC Design Tours - Baked & Wired, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Sun, October 01
Sun, October 08
+ 3 more dates
Sun, September 24
Sun, October 01
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FULL PRICE: $35
OFFER PRICE: $17.50

Established 50 years before Washington DC itself, Georgetown originated as a gritty port city on the banks of the Potomac River. Despite its modest beginnings, Georgetown eventually came to play host ... [more+]

Established 50 years before Washington DC itself, Georgetown originated as a gritty port city on the banks of the Potomac River. Despite its modest beginnings, Georgetown eventually came to play host to some of the most expensive and desirable property in the District. Home to palatial mansions, elegant cemeteries, stately churches, and a world-class university, join DC Design Tours to explore the highlights of DC's most exclusive neighborhood, with a focus on architecture and urban planning. [less-]

Ghosts of Georgetown Walking Tour -- A Haunted Trek Through DC

at The Old Stone House, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Tue, September 26
Thu, September 28
+ 22 more dates
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FULL PRICE: $20
OFFER PRICE: $10

DC By Foot presents a walking tour featuring the Ghosts of Georgetown. Among the historic streets, manicured gardens and Victorian row houses of one of Washington, D.C.'s finest neighborhoods lie deep... [more+]

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An Obsession Scares Up Vampires in "St. Nicholas"

at Writer's Center, Bethesda
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Thu, September 28
Thu, November 16
+ 13 more dates
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FULL PRICE: $30
OFFER PRICE: $15

Now coming to the stage at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, this critically acclaimed one-man show asks the audience to question whether a Dublin theater critic really did run into vampires while chas... [more+]

Now coming to the stage at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, this critically acclaimed one-man show asks the audience to question whether a Dublin theater critic really did run into vampires while chasing a young actress in London. "St. Nicholas" springs from the brilliant mind of Irish playwright Conor McPherson ("The Weir", "The Night Alive") and stars master McPherson interpreter Steve Beall. [less-]

Tour Beautiful & Historic Historic Georgetown on Foot

at Georgetown Harbour, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
FULL PRICE: $29
OFFER PRICE: $14.50

Washington, D.C. has some of the richest history of any city in America -- home to museums and monuments, architectural marvels and quaint neighborhoods that trace their roots back through 200 years o... [more+]

Washington, D.C. has some of the richest history of any city in America -- home to museums and monuments, architectural marvels and quaint neighborhoods that trace their roots back through 200 years of urban development. Visit DC Tours offers guided walking tours of neighborhoods like Georgetown to discover the homes of historic and contemporary rich and famous; from the people who built the port city to the Kennedys. [less-]

Tour the Capital Sites on the Washington D.C. Unveiled Electric Roadster Tour

at L'Enfant Plaza, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Sun, September 24
Mon, September 25
+ 11 more dates
Sun, September 24
Sun, September 24
Mon, September 25
Mon, September 25
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Tue, September 26
Wed, September 27
Wed, September 27
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Thu, September 28
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Sat, September 30
Sat, September 30
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FULL PRICE: $56
OFFER PRICE: $33

If a full day of walking the National Mall and visiting the D.C. monuments sounds exhausting, skip the crowded sidewalks and cruise around in a slick electric roadster. You'll get to visit all the sit... [more+]

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"Monuments by Night" Puts D.C. Landmarks on Display

at Smithsonian Metro Station, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Mon, September 25
Tue, September 26
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Sun, October 01
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[less-]
FULL PRICE: $56
OFFER PRICE: $33

See the majestic landmarks of Washington in a new light with the "Monuments by Night" tour. You'll get to skip the crowded sidewalks and cruise around town in an electric roadster. And you won't miss ... [more+]

See the majestic landmarks of Washington in a new light with the "Monuments by Night" tour. You'll get to skip the crowded sidewalks and cruise around town in an electric roadster. And you won't miss a thing -- this two-hour tour takes you past all the must-see locations in D.C. You'll check out the FDR, MLK and Lincoln memorials, and get the inside scoop on the White House, Capitol and Smithsonian buildings. You'll also get great tips on dining, drink and other awesome stops in the nation's capital. [less-]

"Julius Caesar": Updated Retelling Mirrors Modern Day

at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
FULL PRICE: $40 - $45
OFFER PRICE: Sold Out

Senators Cassius and Brutus are suspicious of Caesar's growing power in the Republic. They fear he'll accept offers to become Emperor. Cassius is jealous, and he convinces Brutus to participate in ass... [more+]

Senators Cassius and Brutus are suspicious of Caesar's growing power in the Republic. They fear he'll accept offers to become Emperor. Cassius is jealous, and he convinces Brutus to participate in assassinating Caesar. The conspirators stab Caesar in a gruesome murder. Yet their troubles have just begun. Citizens unite and rebel. Unrest sweeps Rome. The rebels flee Greece and wage battle against Caesar-loyalist Mark Antony and his troops in a vain attempt to reclaim power. Political aspirations and the fate of Rome hang in the balance during this climactic battle. Scena Theatre's modern interpretation of "Julius Caesar" features an all-star cast from the D.C. area. Revel in this timeless tale as it unfolds on the stage of Atlas Performing Arts Center, and discover the parallels of modern Washington and ancient Rome. [less-]

Get Entertained & Energized Against Gun Violence

at Keegan Theatre, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
FULL PRICE: $15
OFFER PRICE: $7.50

From "We Are the World" to LiveAid, Farm Aid, Hope for Haiti and beyond, the ability of live music to heal the heart, raise awareness and initiate action is undeniably powerful. The Concert Across Ame... [more+]

From "We Are the World" to LiveAid, Farm Aid, Hope for Haiti and beyond, the ability of live music to heal the heart, raise awareness and initiate action is undeniably powerful. The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence comes to DC's Keegan Theatre as one of dozens of events taking place around the country on the same night to support finding solutions to this epidemic. Be inspired and entertained by several of the city's finest theater artists-activists, including Ines Nassara ("110 in the Shade"), Bridget Linsenmeyer of the female-empowerment band Heroine and others. [less-]

Fiery Comedy From "House of Cards" Writer

at Theatre on the Run, Arlington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Fri, September 29
Sat, September 30
+ 1 more dates
Sun, September 24
Fri, September 29
Sat, September 30
Sun, October 01
[less-]
FULL PRICE: $30
OFFER PRICE: $15

After grad school, Catherine and Gwen chose polar opposite paths. Catherine built a career as a superstar academic, while Gwen built a home with her husband and children. Decades later, unfulfilled in... [more+]

After grad school, Catherine and Gwen chose polar opposite paths. Catherine built a career as a superstar academic, while Gwen built a home with her husband and children. Decades later, unfulfilled in polar opposite ways, each woman covets the other's life. Their burning envy sets off a dangerous game of musical chairs, with Gwen's husband as the prize. With searing insight and trademark wit, this Pulitzer-nominated comedy weaves an intimate tale of contemporary gender politics that illuminates our common struggle to achieve that ever-elusive goal called "happiness." Peter's Alley Theatre Productions presents a bold new production of this sharp look at how women -- and men -- find happiness and conquer disappointment at Arlington's Theatre on the Run. [less-]

"An English Garden": Songs of the Elizabethan Theater

at Folger Theatre, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
FULL PRICE: $42
OFFER PRICE: Sold Out

Theater flourished in England during the time of William Shakespeare, but just as popular were the ballads and art songs that served as a soundtrack to the high dramas and low comedies of the time. "A... [more+]

Theater flourished in England during the time of William Shakespeare, but just as popular were the ballads and art songs that served as a soundtrack to the high dramas and low comedies of the time. "An English Garden" is a fertile mix of Elizabethan era tunes -- some associated with Shakespeare and his company and others from later plays -- paired with lively instrumental pieces fit for nobles and groundlings alike. Soprano Emily Noel and a selection of period instruments including fiddles, lutes and citterns bring the music of Elizabethan theater to life in this concert at the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC. [less-]

"The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith"

at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Wed, September 27
Thu, September 28
+ 4 more dates
Sun, September 24
Wed, September 27
Thu, September 28
Sat, September 30
Sat, September 30
Sun, October 01
Sun, October 01
[less-]
FULL PRICE: $45 - $60
OFFER PRICE: $20 - $30

Iconic blues singer Bessie Smith's life was as large and outrageous as her talent. Live it with her as "The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith" takes you back to a 1937 Memphis "buffet ... [more+]

Iconic blues singer Bessie Smith's life was as large and outrageous as her talent. Live it with her as "The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith" takes you back to a 1937 Memphis "buffet flat" where the partying, laughter and bawdiness reach a crescendo after Bessie and her band are turned away by a whites-only theater. Starring Miche Braden, reprising the role she originated off-Broadway, the musical is packed with a trove of Bessie's all-time hits, including "I Ain't Got Nobody," "St. Louis Blues" and "Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do." Get rowdy with a musical legend when Mosaic Theater Company's production of "The Devil's Music" comes to D.C.'s Atlas Performing Arts Center. [less-]

Politics & Pints Capitol Hill Walking Tour

at US Capitol Building, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Sun, September 24
Mon, September 25
Tue, September 26
+ 64 more dates
Sun, September 24
Mon, September 25
Tue, September 26
Wed, September 27
Thu, September 28
Fri, September 29
Sat, September 30
Sun, October 01
Mon, October 02
Tue, October 03
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Fri, October 27
Sat, October 28
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Mon, October 30
Tue, October 31
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Fri, November 24
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[less-]
FULL PRICE: $30
OFFER PRICE: $15

On the Politics & Pints Capitol Hill Tour, you'll explore the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Discover the birthplace of American government while seeing iconic landmarks and le... [more+]

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Workshop of the Powerful "Native Son"

at Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington
OFFER DATES:
Mon, September 25
FULL PRICE: $15
OFFER PRICE: $5

Chicago native Nambi E. Kelley's retelling of Richard Wright's landmark novel re-imagines the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas for a whole new generation. Suffocating in rat-infested poverty on the ... [more+]

Chicago native Nambi E. Kelley's retelling of Richard Wright's landmark novel re-imagines the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas for a whole new generation. Suffocating in rat-infested poverty on the South Side of Chicago, Bigger lands a job in the home of a wealthy white family. Struggling to find a place for himself in a world whose prejudice has shut him out, he unwittingly unleashes a series of events that violently seal his fate. Catch this workshop presentation of "Native Son" from Mosaic Theater Company at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC. [less-]

Football Heals Heartache in "Any Given Monday"

at Gunston Arts Center, Arlington
OFFER DATES:
Mon, September 25
Sat, September 30
FULL PRICE: $25
OFFER PRICE: $15

Lenny is a great guy: a good teacher, an excellent father and a loving husband. So when his wife leaves him for a smooth-talking lothario, his life is shattered. While Lenny consoles himself with pizz... [more+]

Lenny is a great guy: a good teacher, an excellent father and a loving husband. So when his wife leaves him for a smooth-talking lothario, his life is shattered. While Lenny consoles himself with pizza and Monday Night Football, his best friend Mick takes matters into his own hands. How far is too far to get back to happily-ever-after? Find out when dark comedy "Any Given Monday" touches down at Arlington's Gunston Arts Center. [less-]

 

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com