Metro Weekly

3 Things to Do This Week in DC (and Beyond)

A healing arts exhibit at the Kennedy Center, a NSFW film festival, and Birchmere's 'Concert Lovers' series

Jean Cocteau with Ricki Soma and Leo Coleman, New York City, 1949 — Photo: Philippe Halsman


Film Maudit 2.0 Festival

In 1949, Jean Cocteau launched a festival to celebrate overlooked, shocking, and experimental works of cinema that the gay, influential avant-garde filmmaker named after a French phrase literally meaning “cursed films.” The outré concept was revived last year by the Highways Performance Space & Gallery, a nonprofit cultural center in L.A. devoted to providing space for and presenting work by alternative, independent, and innovative artists.

The second annual Film Maudit festival runs online for free through next weekend and offers a collection of 18 feature films and 21 shorts programs, plus specially commissioned performances and discussions, as eclectic and varied — and as weird and risqué — as you could hope for.

There is plenty of LGBTQ content on hand. The Behold! Queer Film & Performance Series includes four different LGBTQ-themed shorts programs, including the NSFW! Film Fest, curated by the L.A.-based experimental theater organization Planet Queer; QLX: The Performance of Queer Latinx curated by Dino Dinco; Program C: Queer-ing the Genre; and Hi Kicks Entrails, a dance-focused program curated by the performance artist known simply as Ironstone.

“There is a connecting spirit to all of the works in Film Maudit 2.0, each selected to engage a different facet of the cinematic imagination,” says the festival’s Artistic Director Patrick Kennelly in a statement. “These radical ‘cinema-sations’ are guaranteed to not just entertain, but to challenge the mind and shock the senses.” Among the lineup of full-lengths films, three of particular LGBTQ interest are Adam Soch’s documentary Reza Abdoh: Theatre Visionary, a personal examination of the Iranian-born American theatrical maverick and former Soch collaborator who died of AIDS-related complications in 1995 at only 32; Kevin Duffy’s documentary John Fleck Is Who You Want Him To Be, about the gay film/TV actor who came to fame as one of the “NEA Four” performance artists assailed by conservatives in Congress; and Water Makes Us Wet, a film, subtitled “An Eco-Sexual Adventure,” led by Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, a couple touted as “erotic art pioneers” whose focus here is on “the sensuality and sexuality of water.” Stephens and Sprinkle will be in conversation with Fleck and additional special guests during a special livestream doubling as a fundraiser for Highways on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 10:30 p.m. Maudit 2.0 runs to Sunday, Jan. 25. Visit

Cece Peniston


The Birchmere’s Concert Lovers Lineup

Maybe you’ve had your fill of livestreams. And worked your way through far too many pre-taped performances and online recordings than you care to admit. If you’re in need of a true-to-life live music fix, the place to go — and pretty much the only place to go — during much of the pandemic has been The Birchmere. That remains true even while the pandemic rages on in the depths of winter, as the Alexandria concert hall welcomes nearly a dozen musical acts between now and Valentine’s Day.

Who better to kick off this unofficial slate of love than a gay-popular diva who has a knack for going on and on about amore, and who scored a string of hits in the ’90s that included “We Got a Love Thang”? CeCe Peniston returns this Sunday, Jan. 17, to perform her hits, including the signature song that also became an anthem to countless love stories and coming out experiences — that little bundle of shouted glee, “Finally.”

Keith Washington: Photo: Bradford Rogne Photography

Future concerts include a “30th Anniversary Celebration” from the local Johnny Artis Band on Friday, Jan. 22; a concert featuring the ’90s-minted R&B singer Keith Washington on Saturday, Jan. 23; a “Tribute to Teddy Pendergrass Show” with Don Connor and “Wawa” LeGrand’s Philly Sound Band on Friday, Jan. 29; Howard Hewett, the R&B star and former lead singer of the ’80s dance group Shalamar, on Sunday, Jan. 31; and “Tygressa Sings Natalie,” a tribute to the late Natalie Cole on what would have been her 71st birthday, Saturday, Feb. 6. The live concert love fest will culminate with “The Barry White Experience,” a tribute to the soul legend once dubbed The Walrus of Love and featuring Harvey Hubert and “Showtime” Busey’s Orchestra Band, on Sunday, Feb. 14.

The Birchmere is taking many precautions and following CDC COVID-19 protocols, from limiting the number of concerts as well as number of attendees per concert, to instituting social distancing requirements and enhanced cleaning procedures that include the use of “Biocide 100 Fog,” a 30-day treatment reportedly effective against COVID-19. Doors open at 5 p.m. with the availability of food and beverages. All shows start at 7:30 p.m.

The Birchmere is at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., in Alexandria, Va. Ticket prices vary. Call 703-549-7500 or visit

Unity Peace Forward — Photo: Margot Schulman


Unity | Peace | Forward at the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center has long been regarded as “the nation’s busiest performing arts center,” averaging about 2,000 events in any given year. Nearly all of its live, in-person events were held in one of the many theaters and rooms spread out across multiple floors in the interior of the original vast white stone monolith, a structure which opened exactly 50 years ago this year. In the fall of 2019, the institution unveiled The REACH, a major expansion that introduced additional outdoor and semi-outdoor areas on a gorgeously landscaped campus with 130,000 square feet of green space overlooking the Potomac River.

Since the start of the pandemic last March, The REACH has been the only area of the complex (occasionally) open to the public, such as with last summer’s Victura Park, a pop-up wine garden and café. The venue is now preparing to welcome patrons back to the great outdoor space as a way to help kick off a new year with hope for a brighter future and a particular focus on what organizers herald as “the healing power of the arts.” Guests are invited to explore, reflect upon, and take inspiration from various performers, artists, writers, and cultural leaders who contributed to three outdoor art installations.

In particular, five artists with disabilities who are part of the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program will get the spotlight through the Unity installation at the Reflecting Pool. Meanwhile, flying on the hillside of The REACH Gardens will be the Peace flag, a collage made from 270 smaller flags representing all U.S. states and territories and countries with which the U.S. maintains diplomatic ties. Finally, the Forward installation will include responses from artists and writers throughout the U.S. and 22 additional countries who were prompted to answer the question, “As we move forward in 2021, what inspires and motivates you as an artist?” Their responses will be projected onto the REACH Video Wall from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday (and also online). The #UnityPeaceForward exhibit opens Friday, Jan. 15. On display starting at 10 a.m. daily through Feb. 28. Visit

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