- The Magazine
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas
Any other year, theatergoers could seek out almost as many different staged versions of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas tale around town as there are official days in the holiday. During the pandemic, however, the most notable local production available for streaming is the unique one-man tour de force that has been a popular draw at Maryland’s Olney Theatre Company for 11 years.
In fact, Olney held out hope until just last month that they could offer safe, reduced-capacity live performances of Paul Morella’s A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas from the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab. But with this fall’s resurgence of COVID-19, they hired Chiet Productions to videotape a performance in late November, with editing by Emily Jerison, that strives to recreate the intimacy of the live experience, allowing families to enjoy it safely from the comfort of their own homes.
Billed as the way “Dickens originally intended, in his own words,” Morella’s adaptation is based on the famed 19th century British writer’s original novella and reading tour. In past seasons, critics from the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper in particular have heaped high praise on the imaginative production, which finds Morella portraying almost 50 characters in a retelling that, according to an official description, “remains faithful to Dickens’ prose, imagery, and characterizations, yet year after year delves deeper into each character.” Available on-demand until Jan. 3. Cost is $20 per household stream. Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
Save The Senate Festival
Rufus Wainwright, Ani DiFranco, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, and Amanda Palmer lead a lineup of several dozen indie and alternative music acts that have signed on to donate their time performing for a one-night-only virtual festival raising money “hoping to help turn Georgia blue.” Organized by Los Angeles artists Johanna Samuels and Ben Lee along with Fortune Tellers Music and Sid the Cat, proceeds from this “Save The Senate” concert will directly support Stacey Abrams’ FairFight organization and indirectly benefit the Democratic challengers, Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff, in Georgia’s two upcoming U.S. Senate runoff races, set for Jan. 5.
Both seats are necessary wins in order for Democrats to have control of both chambers of the house to help the incoming Biden administration achieve its legislative goals related to climate change, social justice, and COVID-19 relief, to cite just three priorities. Additional highlights will come from Ben Lee, Julianna Barwick & Mary Lattimore, Jolie Holland, Hiss Golden Messenger, Kimya Dawson, Mountain Man, Ohmme, Okkervil River, Olivia Kaplan, the Resistance Revival Chorus, with organizers promising “more surprises to come.” Friday, Dec. 18, at 6 p.m. Tickets, offering a 48-hour rebroadcast window, are $15, with additional donations encouraged. Visit www.noonchorus.com/save-the-senate.
A program of New York’s Public Theater, Joe’s Pub will close out a year of virtual programming with several notable offerings, including two led by queer artists. Already streaming at the Bushwick Starr (www.thebushwickstarr.org) is Vichitra: In Order to Become, a multidisciplinary exploration featuring queer readings of ancient Tamil stories, poetry, and musical forms set to new Indian classical compositions from an artistic collaborative led by writer/director Shayok Misha Chowdhury also featuring sculpture artist Emily Oliveira, video artist Kameron Neal, vocalist/composer Shiv Subramaniam, sound designer Jeremy S. Bloom, and musicians Roopa Mahadevan, Rajna Swaminathan, and Sruti Sarathy.
Premiering this Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m., is Justin Vivian Bond’s Good Morning Midnight, It’s Christmas!, billed as “a witchy healing protocol brought to all solitary practitioners on the Winter Solstice by the House of Whimsy,” led by Bond (formerly known as Kiki DuRane of Kiki and Herb fame), with Matt Ray, Nath Ann Carrera, and Claudia Chopek joining to perform “an assortment of ritualistic music,” or songs by the Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, Dolly Parton, David Bowie, and Bing Crosby among many others.
The remaining 2020 schedule also includes In The Ruins, a pandemic-inspired, Zoom-borne collaboration between “two musicians who have never met,” Mai Khoi, a dissident Vietnamese pop star, and Pete Drungle, a Berlin-based neoclassical free jazz pianist; a performance featuring Nona Hendryx, the 2018 Joe’s Pub Vanguard Resident, paired with Tariq Al-Sabir, a National YoungArts Foundation alum and Baltimore-native graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University; and Joe McGinty’s “Losers Lounge: Battle of the One Hit Wonders,” a multi-episode show in which well-known songs from the past 50 years by flash-in-the-pan hitmakers are pitted against each other, with the winner of each round based on audience vote. All shows (except for Vichitra) stream for free, with donations encouraged, from the Public Theater’s YouTube and website. Visit www.publictheater.org.
9:30 Club’s Annual Holiday Raffle
Every year, throughout the month of December, the 9:30 Club normally accepts canned goods and donations of clothing from those patrons full of goodwill and also eager to win two tickets to every show at the club in the coming year. Now in its 19th year, a time when the popular live music venue remains closed due to the pandemic, the 9:30 Club’s Annual Holiday Raffle becomes a virtual affair without an in-person, in-kind donation component.
Instead, the club is taking monetary donations from patrons who will receive one raffle entry for every dollar donated, with no limit on how much they donate or how many entries they receive, be it $1 and 1 entry or $50 and 50 entries. The winner of the raffle, set to be randomly drawn the first week in January, will earn a post-COVID-19 sweetheart of a deal for a live music fan: a pair of tickets “to every 9:30 Club show for one year once we reopen.
As of now, the tentative schedule includes a number of late spring shows rescheduled from 2020, chief among them a sold-out evening with They Might Be Giants celebrating the 30th anniversary of their mainstream breakthrough album Flood, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum and comedic powerhouse BenDeLaCreme, new gay country star Orville Peck, and neo-new wave act Joywave.
Best of all, 100 percent of the donations made through the nonprofit Better World fundraising platform will be split evenly and distributed among seven worthwhile local charities helping those in need whose services are in greater demand now than ever. The LGBTQ homeless shelter Casa Ruby leads a roster also featuring DC Central Kitchen, Thrive DC, Martha’s Table, So Others Might Eat, Sasha Bruce House, and the Capital Area Food Bank. Through Dec. 31. Visit www.930.com.
Roughly 16 years ago, Rich Morel gifted us with the magnificent alt-Christmas electro-rock ditty “Merry Christmas to Everyone,” which is both brooding and bouncy in the local gay artist’s signature style. “Merry Christmas to everyone, the year has been good but the days are all so-so,” Morel croons, obviously not about this year. And right on cue, he’s altered the holiday message for 2020 to be even less cheerful: “Santa Stay Home.” That’s the title of a new anti-Christmas song Morel co-wrote with Meghan Remy for her experimental-pop project U.S. Girls.
Since his Blowoff days with Bob Mould, Morel has collaborated with everyone from Cyndi Lauper to D.C. drag performer Pussy Noir. But it was through his association with several influential progenitors of D.C.’s hardcore punk scene that he connected and starting writing with Remy. Morel is listed as the lead songwriter on nearly half of the songs on Heavy Light, the latest U.S. Girls full-length album that is ending the year on many critics’ best-of lists, including those at Paste and Pitchfork.
Issued as a stand-alone offering, “Santa Stay Home” finds Remy singing in her characteristically fairy-like girly voice on a deceptively bright uptempo tune that is the musical equivalent of getting a lump of coal in your stocking. “While landfills overflow around the globe, you sit up there in your red judge robe,” Remy sings, before recommending “Mr. White Christmas” take a seat. “Life is the gift, presents don’t, presents don’t mean shit,” she says repeatedly. Considering all the lives we’ve lost and are still losing to COVID-19, it’s hard to argue that point this year. For more about U.S. Girls, visit www.4ad.com/artists/109.
American Ballet Theatre
Decreed “America’s National Ballet Company” by an act of Congress in 2006, ABT presents its first-ever male pas de deux as part of a new program celebrating the company’s 80th anniversary. Featuring recently promoted ABT Principal Dancer Calvin Royal III and corps de ballet dancer João Menegussi, Touché shares a love story between two male dancers navigating lust and intimacy, brought to life with assistance by Intimacy Director Sara Lozoff. Choreographer Christopher Rudd highlights “the importance of normalizing queer love, desire, and relationships” with the new work, according to an ABT release.
Participating dancers and choreographers moved around in quarantined “ballet bubbles” cabins while living in cabins in Silver Bay, New York, for four weeks to create and film the virtual program ABT Today: The Future Starts Now adhering to diligent health and safety protocols during the pandemic. The program also includes Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Indestructible Light, a celebratory work set to selections from Duke Ellington, an eponymous solo for Principal Dancer David Hallberg created by Pam Tanowitz, and Gemma Bond’s Convivium. Released last month, the program marks the public launch of ABT RISE, which stands for Representation and Inclusion Sustain Excellence, with funds raised benefiting the programs and people advancing ABT’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Now streaming at www.youtube.com/c/AmericanBalletTheatre. For more information, visit www.abt.org.
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