- The Magazine
Awesome Con Short Film Fest At Home
While the full celebration of geekdom that is D.C.’s annual comic-con may have been canceled for 2020, one popular aspect of the three-day extravaganza has moved online where it is currently underway. Fans have all this weekend to watch more than 50 short films selected for this year’s festival, along with select interviews and bonus material. The schedule includes a two-hour program of Comedy & Drama shorts on Friday, Dec. 11, at 8 p.m., a two-hour “Docs & Awesome Films” collection on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m., and a six-hour Marathon screening of all shorts starting at noon on Saturday, Dec. 13. The festival draws to a close that same evening with a ceremony starting at 8 p.m. honoring and screening the year’s best shorts, as determined by a Judging Committee led by Joe Carabeo. Meanwhile, the actress Megan Caulfield (Veep) will serve as this year’s virtual festival host.
Notable shorts include Appleseed Ave. by Dustin Scully; Cruel Shoes, Kevan Peterson’s adaptation of a short story by Steve Martin; Daydream by Aidan Guynes; Dead Lyft by Steven Belcher; Fairy Tail by Justin + Kristin Schaack; Human Resources by Charles Martin Kline & Dewey Tron; Method from The Strong Brothers; Push by Trilina Mai; Say What! A Geriatric Proposal by Aaron Weinstein; and Swirly by Sofia Wang. All festival shorts screen until Dec. 20. Available on Facebook and YouTube. RSVP requested. www.awesome-con.com.
Versus LGBTQ Game Show
Last week Revry premiered what the LGBTQ-focused streaming network touts as “a charmingly absurdist game show where instincts and fun override smarts and knowledge.” Versus pits two gay contestants against each other in rapid-fire challenges that are anything but serious. The show is a product of comedian and parodist Deven Green, known from stints on RuPaul’s Drag Race as well as for her uproarious viral YouTube sendups of videos from ’80s soap star Brenda Dickson (“Welcome To My Home”) and Melania Trump (“Welcome To My White House”). As host of Versus, Green works alongside her collaborator, musician Ned Douglas, who serves as her sidekick.
Each episode clocks in at just under six minutes. Ultimately, Versus would be more engaging and compelling if it were expanded to a longer format, whether lasting 15 minutes or ideally a half hour. The extra time would allow Green time to properly introduce and interact with contestants in a way that would benefit everyone. Instead, viewers of the fourth episode, to cite one example, are left wondering about the history between Green and drag queen contestant Varla Jean Merman (Jeffrey Roberson). Did Green really officiate his wedding, as she says at one point?
The first four episodes of Versus are streaming on Revry. Visit www.Revry.tv.
Theatre Lab’s 10th Annual Dramathon
Since its founding nearly three decades ago, the Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts has helped the Washington theater scene grow and develop with expanded opportunities for professional education and development. And for the past decade, the esteemed local acting organization has celebrated what has become a thriving local community with an annual, one-night-only gala that showcases the talent and dexterity of leading local playwrights, directors, and actors.
Launched in 2011, Dramathon features brand-new short plays written and staged for the event, a benefit for the organization and its Creative Resilience campaign, which helps foster creativity and interest in the theater among people from all walks of life.
This year’s 10th Annual Dramathon is virtual, and features a starry lineup of professionals, all of whom have donated their time and effort to the cause. The bill includes Felicia Curry, Frank Britton, Kim Schraf, Jennifer Mendenhall, Jason Kravits, plus Deb Gottesman, co-founder and co-executive director of Theatre Lab. Rick Hammerly, Christopher Henley, Ryan Maxwell, Carlos Saldaña, and Clare Shaffer direct the actors in recorded staged readings of 10-minute plays by Sara Jean Accuardi, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, Randy Baker, Renee Calarco, Allyson Currin, Kathryn O’Sullivan, Elizabeth Pringle, and Laura Zam. Also featured are those volunteers — most of them Theatre Lab students — who emerged as the top fundraisers for the event. The more they raised, the more (and bigger) roles they’ll get supporting the professionals. Friday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Access is free, although donations are encouraged and RSVP requested. Call 202-824-0449 or visit www.theatrelab.org.
Old Vic: A Christmas Carol
Andrew Lincoln, best known as Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead, plays Ebenezer Scrooge in this year’s A Christmas Carol at the U.K.’s Old Vic. This is the first full-scale production at the historic London theater since all stages went dark last spring. The decision to fully mount the show resulted in the hiring of 80 freelance artists, everyone from the actors for the 18-member cast to the live musicians accompanying them to the designers working on the set, lighting, and costumes. And their work will be seen by a global rather than local audience, a result of the decision to livestream all 16 performances from the stage of The Old Vic, which will otherwise be closed to the public.
“In doing a project of this size we don’t expect to be able to make any profit for the theater,” says The Old Vic’s Artistic Director Matthew Warchus in a press release, “but rather we will be continuing our mission of staying connected to audiences of all ages, providing much-needed work and income for dozens of freelancers, and generally celebrating the important role live theater has.” The production marks the fourth consecutive year that Jack Thorne’s adaptation of the Dickens classic will be staged at The Old Vic. In addition to Lincoln, the 2020 “Old Vic: In Camera” production features John Dagleish as Bob Cratchit, Myra McFadyen as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Golda Rosheuvel as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and four child actors sharing the role of Tiny Tim. The first performance is Saturday, Dec. 12, at 2 p.m. A special “Old Vic: In Conversation” discussion with Lincoln and U.K. broadcast personality Dermot O’Leary is Thursday, Dec. 17, following the 1 p.m. performance. To Dec. 24. Tickets are £10–£65 (currency exchange rates apply). Visit www.OldVicTheatre.com.
Dave Grohl formed the Foo Fighters shortly after the dissolution of his original band, Nirvana, following the 1994 suicide of lead singer Kurt Cobain. The drummer sprung for a band name adapted from a World War II term for UFOs mainly to help disguise the fact that, at the outset, he wrote and performed all of the band’s music on his own — his first real foray as a songwriter. “Had I actually considered this to be a career, I probably would have called it something else, because it’s the stupidest fucking band name in the world,” Grohl has said.
He’s certainly stuck with it, a full 25 years after recruiting five additional musicians for the group and following that with a full-length debut on Capitol Records. Sidelined from touring as a result of the pandemic, the band has channeled its energies over the past few months into several different projects, most notably writing and recording its 10th studio album, Medicine at Midnight, expected for release on Feb. 5. Meanwhile, late last month, the band posted to YouTube the 30-minute video Times Like Those, which finds the six bandmates gathered together to watch and react to “a visual journey” of old photos highlighting memorable moments both on stage and off.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Foo Fighters will perform a livestream concert, hosted virtually by Lil Nas X. The guys promise that the concert will feature “something new, something festive, and a few everlong—sorry—evergreen numbers.” Visit www.foofighters.com.
Until this year, this quirky and queer conversational singer-songwriter from Down Under had been constantly on the go touring repeatedly around the world — since at least 2015 and the release of her debut full-length. A bold dose of rambling rock wryly titled Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, the album ignited Barnett’s international career and burnished her as both a critical darling — a Best New Artist Grammy nominee, no less — and a favorite among hipsters and live music aficionados.
Forced by the pandemic, as a recent press release put it, “to swap the tour bus for an apartment and lay low” in her hometown of Melbourne, Barnett seized on 2020 as a year to “regroup, think deep, and rest” — when not writing music, that is. And she’s opted to end the year effectively the same way she started it but hasn’t been able to do since: perform a full-band live show.
She’ll do the honors in an empty hall in one of Australia’s grandest landmarks, a 19th-century edifice built for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and later used as the formal opening venue of the first Australian Parliament meeting in 1901. Barnett will show off some of her pandemic-born compositions in addition to rocking through many of her hits. She’ll be accompanied by Bones Sloane on bass, Dave Mudie on percussion, and Lucy Waldron on cello for this “very special, very beautiful, one-night-only live event” on Thursday, Dec. 17.
Offered through the DICE platform, “From Where I’m Standing: Live from the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne” will be available as a livestream across multiple time zones, allowing fans to watch the concert starting at 8 p.m. whether that’s on the East Coast or West Coast — or much earlier in the day if watching at U.K. or Australian time. The concert is available only at those appointed times and will not be available for viewing later. Tickets are $18. Visit www.courtneybarnett.com.au.
Virtual Holiday Concerts: A Roundup
Every year, the Folger Consort, the early music ensemble in residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library, offers a more interesting and studious spin on the Christmas tradition. Instead of the usual run of live performances, this year’s Christmas with the Folger Consort: A Virtual Concert stems from just one pre-recorded performance and focuses on classic German holiday favorites paired with old English and early American Yuletide tunes from composers William Billings and Thomas Ravenscroft. The centerpiece is J.S. Bach’s intimately scored cantata Wachet auf (Sleepers Wake), which is contrasted with another composition using the same Advent text that Michael Praetorius wrote a century earlier. Performed in the atmospheric nave of St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill, the socially distanced concert features vocalists Crossley Hawn, Lucy McVeigh, Robert Petillo, and Edmund Milly, supported by a Baroque chamber sextet of guest musicians playing on historical instruments. Streaming runs through Jan. 5, 2021. Tickets are $25 to $50. Call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu/consort.
Unable to tour their popular annual holiday spectacle, the progressive rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra will instead perform the show as its first-ever livestream concert. Supplemented by behind-the-scenes footage and classic interview segments, Christmas Eve and Other Stories: Live in Concert features all-new staging and a full performance of the band’s 1996 debut album, which gave rise to the brand of “rock theater” conceived by its late founder and composer/lyricist Paul O’Neill. The band’s lead guitarist Al Pitrelli and keyboard player Derek Wieland serve as musical directors for this year’s show, while Bryan Hicks narrates the tale about a young angel sent to Earth to find the good in humanity, plus a subplot focused on helping reunite a young girl with her distraught father. The livestream debuts Friday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. and is available on-demand through Dec. 20. Tickets are $30, with special gift packages available. Visit www.trans-siberian.com.
The Cathedral Choral Society returns to its namesake Gothic edifice, the Washington National Cathedral, to perform its annual Advent procession Joy of Christmas. This year’s concert will be presented as a pre-recorded virtual offering. Music Director Steven Fox leads the 130-voiced chorus plus soloists Nola Richardson, Hannah Baslee, Oliver Mercer, and Scott Dispensa in a program of traditional tunes alongside favorite carols. Musicians that will accompany the chorus include organist George Fergus, pianist Joy Schreier, the dynamic all-female ensemble Seraph Brass, and the cathedral’s carillonneur Edward M. Nassor. Sunday, Dec. 20, at 3 p.m. Available on Facebook and YouTube. Donations welcome, RSVP requested. Visit www.cathedralchoralsociety.org.
In lieu of its annual flagship production the Christmas Revels, the Washington Revels will go virtual with a broadened, seasonal celebration. The Winter Solstice Revels “will highlight on- and off-stage magic…in ways we could never replicate in a theater.” The program will include traditional Revels singalongs, virtual performances by the organization’s choruses and brass ensemble, a rendition of the spiritual “My Lord What a Mornin'” by the African-American a cappella ensemble Jubilee Voices, a special 2020 mummers play for all ages devised by Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell of Happenstance Theater, and a performance of the haunting Abbots Bromley Horn Dance by Foggy Bottom Morris and Rock Creek Morris. The program premieres Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m., with the option of joining the virtual gallery and participating in special live elements. Available on-demand starting Wednesday, Dec. 23 through Jan. 6, 2021. Tickets are $35 per device. Call 301-587-3835 or visit www.revelsdc.org.
A few other notable virtual offerings to come include the National Symphony Orchestra‘s Holiday Pops led by Steven Reineke, available for free streaming starting Friday, Dec. 18; The Washington Chorus‘ A Virtual Candlelight Christmas, reimagined as a socially distanced chamber chorus concert with accompaniment by organ and a bell ensemble and livestreamed from the Music Center at Strathmore on Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 20, at 3 p.m., at a cost of $15 each; and Wolf Trap‘s free Holiday Sing-A-Long From Home on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m.
Atlas Obscura’s Holiday Specials
For sheer eccentricity, nothing can top a special holiday edition in Atlas Obscura’s ongoing series of virtual home tours offering the chance to peek inside homes and collections that stray from the expected and familiar to celebrate the odd, the rare, the unusual, and downright weird. The December “Weird Homes Holiday Tour: Decked Out Collections,” set for Monday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m., goes inside a couple’s Mid-Century-style home in Austin that is full of “all the toys you either had (or really wanted) underneath your Christmas tree growing up along with many more pop culture surprises.” Think vintage action figures, glassware, metal lunch boxes, and “Christmas blow-molds,” on display throughout a house with many themed rooms, ranging from a 1950s-era living room to an office overflowing with KISS band memorabilia. And then there are all the Barbies, including hundreds of rare, high-end editions released by Mattel as well as nearly every Barbie-branded ornament from Hallmark on a “Pink Barbie Christmas Tree.” Cost is $12 per screen or device.
Also on tap is “A Very Atlas Holiday Special,” set for Thursday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m., offering “a very special, one-night-only celebration of the world’s most curious traditions.” The holiday-themed round of Trivia Night will celebrate Tió de Nadal, a tradition from the Catalan region of Spain that revolves around a special Christmas log. A demonstration into how to make such a DIY holiday log out of household items is included. Cost is $15 per screen or device. Finally, on Monday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m., comes the latest in a monthly series exploring “various cryptids, ghosts, and other creatures that lurk just below the surface of polite debate.” And who should be put in the hot seat in December but Santa Claus, “the most famous and beloved monster of all time.” Author Colin Dickey will lead the hour-long discussion “Monster of the Month: Santa Claus,” examining his origins and family tree, which suggests he’s related to Bigfoot and the Yeti? $12 per device. All three experiences take place over Zoom. Visit www.atlasobscura.com/experiences.
Light Yards: Socially Distanced Holiday Fun
For the fifth consecutive year the waterfront neighborhood in the Navy Yard area of Southeast D.C. has been decked out in lights for the holidays. This year’s Light Yards display comes from the Australian-based immersive light design sculptors Amigo & Amigo.
Named “Stars,” their debut installation consists of larger-than-life luminous structures made out of metallic mesh that feature dancing lights and play festive music, providing a little seasonal, illuminating whimsy and an attractive accompaniment to a socially distanced stroll for guests of all ages seeking some safe holiday cheer — to say nothing of a decent excuse to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.
There’s even opportunities to dine al fresco at restaurants under the “Stars,” or at least nearby in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Many establishments are also expected to offer seasonal specials of food and drink marking the occasion. On display every night from 6 to 10 p.m. until January 10. The Yards Park Boardwalk, 355 Water St. SE. Free and open to all mask-wearing, socially distanced guests. Call 202-465-7093 or visit www.theyardsdc.com.
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