- The Magazine
“Sweded” Film Festival
Contrary to what you might think, this innovative film festival has nothing to do with the Scandinavian country, nor the root vegetable. Instead, the Sweded Festival for Creative Re-Creations is all about “Sweded” films — or “weird, homemade ‘remakes’ of favorite films” — a term derived from 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind, in which a VHS rental store is forced to recreate all of its accidentally-erased VHS tapes. A Pittsburgh tradition, the film festival is expanding nationally this year, putting the call out for entries from across the United States.
Prospective filmmakers have just three rules to follow in order to be considered: Keep it short, keep it cheap, and keep it out of control. “Whether they act like Lawrence of Arabia in a sandbox, spit up some split-pea soup from their own bedrooms, or make Peter Pan fly using kitchen utensils, first-time filmmakers and pros alike can make a ‘Sweded’ film and have moviegoers nationwide marvel at their ingenuity and pure, raw humor,” a press release notes. Brian Mendelsshon, the owner of Pittsburgh’s Row House Cinema where the festival got its start, adds, “Movie lovers have spent all spring and summer watching and re-watching their favorite movies and yearning for a creative outlet, so 2020 is the perfect year to bring Sweded films to a national audience. We’re all feeling off-kilter and weird these days, and that’s what Sweded films are all about.”
Past winners have included remakes of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Contact, Jaws, and The Princess Bride — all viewable on YouTube — and successful entries in this year’s festival will be included in a feature-length presentation available online, through virtual cinema and, depending on location, in select independent cinemas. Plus, there’s cash prizes for the best “Sweded” films in each category, and around half of ticket revenues will go to participating theaters, supporting them while the pandemic rages on. Entry to the festival requires a $10 ticket, and registration is open until Nov. 1, with entries accepted through Nov. 15. The feature-length compilation will premiere in early December. For more information, visit http://rowhouse.online. —Rhuaridh Marr
Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!
Arena Stage offers a free fall treat, just in time for the election of a lifetime, for fans of E. Faye Butler — a group comprised of essentially anyone who has ever seen a performance of the multiple Helen Hayes Award-winning powerhouse. Beginning this weekend, Butler will portray Fannie Lou Hamer, the impassioned freedom fighter who became one of the most powerful female voices of the civil and voting rights movements. She’ll do so from an outdoor stage a few blocks from Arena’s Mead Center in a partnership with the District Wharf and the Southwest B.I.D., where she will perform an abridged version of a new work by Cheryl L. West (Akeelah and the Bee, Pullman Porter Blues).
Directed by Henry Godinez of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, which commissioned and developed the play along with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak on It! features excerpts of Hamer’s famed speeches while also including powerful spirituals and civil rights anthems. Dubbed a “50-minute call to action,” Arena’s abridged version of the work is intended to shine a light on the importance of exercising your right to vote in the 2020 election, with the League of Women Voters onsite to answer questions and provide voter registration information at each performance.
Opens Friday, Oct. 23, and runs to Oct. 30. Performances are at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 and 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and limited to 40 mask-wearing patrons, seated in socially distanced groups of four or less. In addition, Arena will follow heightened cleaning procedures, install sanitizing stations, and conduct temperature checks of all artists, staff, and audience members. Transit Pier Floating Stage at The Wharf, 970 Wharf St. SW. Free but tickets required. Visit www.arenastage.org.
All next week, Mosaic Theater Company will offer a virtual workshop presentation of a personal new play from Psalmayene 24, the acclaimed D.C. multidisciplinary artist who is also the theater’s playwright-in-residence. Combining live theater performance with multi-camera video production and recorded on film at the D.C. restaurant Baby Wale by videographers Emic Films and VidCo, Dear Mapel breaks out of the confines of Zoom and drops audiences into a rich, theatrical world. Directed by Natsu Onoda Power of Georgetown University, the solo work finds Psalm, accompanied by percussionist Jabari Exum, sharing tales about growing up and coming of age in Brooklyn with a spotlight on his complicated relationship with his father, now deceased, captured through a series of hand-drawn letters, both real and imagined.
“This is the play I’ve been afraid to write and perform for years, but the time is now,” Psalm says in a press release. “What a gift to be working with this particular dream team of artists as we navigate new forms and experiences for theatrical connection.” Dear Mapel is also the first in a series of new works from area playwrights (others on tap include Ifa Bayeza and Roz White) that Mosaic is supporting and will premiere this season partly in response to this past summer’s activism for greater racial and intersectional equity, and particularly the demands made by the We See You, White American Theatre movement (www.weseeyouwat.com).
Premieres Monday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m., followed by a free post-show celebration and discussion with the creative team. Available for viewing any time and as many times as one likes through Oct. 31. Free, but tickets are required. Visit www.mosaictheater.org.
Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear
Over the summer Danielle Van Hook launched what has become a popular Drive-Thru Drama series at the Alden Theatre in McLean, Va. The socially distanced style of live theater was initially inspired by the old European tradition of actors on pageant wagons traveling from town to town, audience to audience, only flipping that concept so that, as Van Hook, the Alden program director, put it, “the audience drives from actor to actor, and the actors stay put and are able to stay socially distant.”
After many sold-out performances of two plays by Andrew Scott Zimmer, staged in the parking lot of the McLean Community Center, the Alden commissioned the New York theater outfit Recent Cutbacks to develop a new Halloween show. Patrons will drive a set route, encountering actors portraying werewolves, witches, zombies, and more along the way, all as they try to help a modern-day Spooky Scientist uncover what happened to physicist Dr. Doris B. Gool, who has been missing ever since she set out in search of an interplanetary alternate mission a century ago.
Van Hook praises Recent Cutbacks for “the way they use foley and props in their staged work. We knew they would be the right partner to imagine what a Halloween-inspired story in this unusual format could look like.” Performances continue this weekend and next, ending Nov. 1. In the parking lot of 1234 Ingleside Ave. in McLean. Tickets are $20 per vehicle and available in timed intervals from 6 to 8:15 p.m. each night. Call 703-79-0123 or visit www.aldentheatre.org.
Rufus Wainwright Livestream Series
Were it not for the pandemic, Rufus Wainwright would have been in the throes of an extensive global tour this fall, likely including a return to the Lincoln Theatre in a concert presented by I.M.P. Productions. Instead, the gay pop star has launched what he’s calling “A Rufus-Retro-Wainwright-Spective,” a multi-month series of livestreams in which the artist perform all nine of his studio albums in stripped-back style over the course of 18 shows, with two shows (plus a Fireside Chat) per album.
Wainwright started the weekly series earlier this month with his self-titled debut from 1998 as well as the first show focused on Poses from 2001. At the current pace, the series will last until February, ending with his superb Unfollow the Rules, released this past summer. Not to worry if you missed the first three earlier this month: Each show is viewable on demand for one month after the scheduled livestreams pertaining to that album.
“What I think will be most interesting with these shows is how my voice has changed since I recorded these songs,” Wainwright says. “My style has been called operatic-pop or baroque pop — if they found a category for it at all — and yes, I do like a big dramatic moment, but I think true quality reveals itself with less, and I think these songs will hold up in this chamber setting.” All livestreams start at 5 p.m. on Fridays. Upcoming shows in the livestream series include “Poses Part 2″ on Oct. 30; “Want One Part 1″ on Nov. 6, followed by Fireside Chat Q&A #1 about Want One; “Want One Part 2″ on Nov. 13; “Want Two Part 1″ on Nov. 20, followed by a Fireside Chat Q&A #2 about Want Two; and “Want Two Part 2″ on Nov. 27. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 day-of/on-demand per stream, or $70 for a four-stream pass each month that includes the respective chats. Visit https://rufuswainwright.veeps.com.
Día de los Muertos Concert
Every year, the New Orchestra of Washington performs a concert inspired by the annual Mexican holiday in which family and friends gather to remember and celebrate loved ones who have died. But the proceedings in 2020 are set to be more immediate and universal than ever, with the concert’s focus on commemorating the many lives — more than one million worldwide — that have been lost to COVID-19, while also acknowledging the pain of those who remain.
The acclaimed local vocal ensemble Choral Arts joins to perform Brahms’ Requiem at this year’s “Day of the Dead” concert, presented virtually on Halloween, with video footage and photography from last year’s concert at the Mexican Cultural Institute — including solos by soprano Laura Choi Stuart and baritone Brian Mextorf — mixed in with new performances from the Music Center at Strathmore, all captured through “extreme social distancing” practices. Specifically, the NOW wind players will be stationed at a shielded distance from the Choral Arts choristers, who will perform in the house facing the stage and Scott Tucker, the group’s conductor and artistic director.
“Johannes Brahms composed this requiem in German instead of traditional Latin, and ventured outside of the liturgy for new texts,” NOW’s Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez says. “Composed while Brahms grieved the deaths of multiple friends and loved ones, the music and text embrace death as a part of our shared destiny. This spirit is inherent in the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos: a spirit of celebrating, not mourning, the lives of those that are lost.” The livestream will also incorporate photos of ofrendas, elaborate altars created using personal effects and assorted memorabilia in tribute to the deceased, from the Mexican Cultural Institute. Saturday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Visit www.choralarts.org.
Chamber Music at the Barns
This fall, Wolf Trap is presenting a curated selection of free digital concerts made possible through a new, three-year partnership with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and its co-artistic director Wu Han, who also heads up Wolf Trap’s chamber music series. “The concerts I have selected for Chamber Music at the Barns are drawn from CMS’s digital Front Row series, each one centered on a single, remarkable musician, which profiles them personally through a short documentary and musically through a variety of remarkable performances,” says Han in a statement, adding that the selected concerts “are personal and intimate” and feature “freshly created introductions and interviews combined with high-definition video recordings of great performances from our stages in New York.”
The series continues Sunday, Oct. 25, at 3 p.m., with a program headlined by Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung and featuring the two acclaimed pianists performing Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion alongside Ian David Rosenbaum and Ayano Kataoka on percussion, plus Mozart’s Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major for Piano and String Quintet featuring Bax accompanied by Arnaud Sussmann and Bella Hristova on violin, Paul Neubauer on viola, Sophie Shao on cello, and Joseph Conyers on double bass. It streams until Oct. 30.
From Nov. 15 to 20, Wolf Trap will stream a program from Cho-Liang Lin in which the violinist performs Foss’ “Composer’s Holiday” from Three American Pieces for Violin and Piano and Dvořák’s “Larghetto” from Sonatina in G major for Violin and Piano, both with accompaniment from pianist Jon Kimura, as well as Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence” from Sextet for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Two Cellos, accompanied by Erin Keefe also on violin, Paul Neubauer and Hsin-Yun Huang on viola, and Dmitri Atapine and Colin Carr on cello. The season draws to a close on Friday, Dec. 4, with a program featuring soprano Tony Arnold in Three Early Songs by George Crumb and a performance of Brahms’ Quartet No. 3 in C minor featuring Nicolas Dautricourt on violin, Paul Neubauer on viola, and Torleif Thedéen on cello. Visit www.wolftrap.org.
Eschaton and End Times
Eschaton has been described as “an online nightclub and theater experience: Think The Box in New York meets Studio 54 meets Sleep No More — but all via Zoom.” Ticketed guests, with or without their webcam turned on, are invited to wander around the maze of “rooms” in this virtual nightclub in a choose-your-own-adventure kind of way, discovering and interacting with performers doing expected as well as unexpected things. “There’s the room where a man in a rat costume reads quietly in a corner, stopping occasionally to stare at the audience,” wrote The Verge in a review last summer. So think along those lines. The hour-long showcase, offered Saturday nights at 10 p.m., has proven to be a popular draw during the pandemic, with many performances selling out in advance, and only one currently available, this Saturday, Oct. 24, at 10 p.m.
The success has also inspired themed offshoots, such as End Times, a haunted Halloween offering in which “your worst nightmare comes to Eschaton for two nights only” the last weekend in October, and starring Slenderman the Blair Witch Shinigami with a special guest appearance by Freddy “the Janitor” Krueger. Friday, Oct. 30, at 5 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 31, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the regular Eschaton and $30 to $40 for the hour-long End Times plus after party. A $50 VIP ticket adds “secret VIP rooms hidden in the shadows” plus a Backstage Pass to the afterparty, while a $150 VIP Trick and Treat package also throws in delivery of a custom package of curated goods. Visit www.tickettailor.com/events/eschaton.
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