DANA TAI SOON BURGESS DANCE: SOCIAL JUSTICE VIDEO SERIES
The Smithsonian Institution’s first-ever dance company in residence continues its year-long series of choreographed works paying tribute to social justice icons featured in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Last month, the D.C.-based preeminent modern dance company released its most recent videotaped work, directed and choreographed by the company’s gay founder and featuring his company’s dancers accompanied by original video or photo footage drawn from the gallery.
“George Takei is a personal hero of mine,” Burgess says in an official statement about the five-minute work The Portrait of George Takei, which was created after the two men met up at the gallery last August to view a newly added portrait by Grav Weldon in which Takei is seen releasing butterflies at the site of the former Japanese American internment camp in Arkansas where he was imprisoned with his family as a child. The result is an elegant work of movement featuring Burgess’ entire 11-member company and set to the stirring Clair de Lune by Debussy.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker and marriage equality activist Dustin Lance Black along with the late civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks are next up in the Struggle for Justice video series, which has previously featured works dedicated to Marian Anderson, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Chief Justice Earl Warren, and the team of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Now in its 29th season, DTSBDC repertory focuses on identity in the context of historical events and personal stories, and features dancers from multicultural and diverse backgrounds. Visit www.dtsbdc.org.
A PORTRAIT OF HARLEM
Now through May, the National Gallery of Art provides a glimpse into Harlem’s rich social life and influential cultural scene as it existed nearly a century ago during the Harlem Renaissance. Curated by Diane Waggoner, the exhibition features 40 works from the museum’s collection created by photographer James Van Der Zee, including snapshots of popular nightclubs and storefronts as well as portraits of notable figures and community groups taken in the 1920s and 1930s in the majority Black neighborhood in New York City.
Chiefly hired to capture portraits marking special occasions, Van Der Zee’s carefully composed, cosmopolitan photographs conveyed his subject’s personalities, aspirations, and spirit, including a sense of pride as Black Americans who achieved success despite all the systemic injustice they faced.
Van Der Zee, who died at the age of 96 in 1983, is credited with producing the most comprehensive documentation of the period. On view through May 30. The National Gallery of Art is at 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Call 202-737-4215 or visit www.nga.gov.
CELEBRATING WOMEN ARTISTS
Instrumental in the development of the art form of still life painting, the 17th century Flemish artist Clara Peeters would also prove instrumental, centuries later, in helping to inspire what is now regarded as the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to women artists. That would be D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, which the late Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband founded in 1987.
As the story goes, the Holladays first discovered Peeters’ work while traveling abroad in the 1970s, and upon returning home, became frustrated that they could uncover no significant information about Peeters, or any other woman artist, for that matter. Launched with about 500 objects donated by the Holladays, the museum now features a permanent collection well in excess of 4,500 objects by over 1,000 artists.
It’s all housed in a grand building near Metro Center and CityCenterDC built in 1908 as a Masonic temple, currently undergoing major renovations with plans to reopen in the fall of 2023.
In the meantime, the museum offers a dynamic slate of online and off-site programming, with two virtual discussions planned for the second full week in January. On Tuesday, Jan. 11, starting at noon, comes a discussion about Peeters and her legacy led by Alexandra Libby, an associate curator at the National Gallery of Art and widely published expert on 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting.
The following evening, Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 5:30 p.m., NMWA will offer a virtual happy hour celebrating the work and life of Edmonia Lewis, a 19th century artist considered the first professional African-American sculptor. Both online programs are free but require advance registration, with donations accepted. Call 202-783-5000 or visit www.nmwa.org.
NEW YORK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
After being presented exclusively online in 2021, the film festival, presented by the Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center and one of the oldest and most influential of its kind, returns this year as a hybrid of both in-person screenings, at Manhattan’s Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St.) and virtual offerings.
With screenings beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 12, and continuing to Tuesday, Jan. 25, the 31st Annual NYJFF lineup features 24 feature films and nine shorts in total, all exploring the many facets of the worldwide Jewish experience.
The chief LGBTQ highlight is Hadas Ayalon’s We Were the Others, a profile of six men who participated in Israel’s gay rights movement at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the country. That documentary will be paired with another Hebrew-spoken, English-subtitled film, Maya Tiberman and Kineret Hay-Gillor’s inspiring look at an altruistic woman, Ravit Reichman, who devotes her life to caring for others. Available for virtual streaming on Friday, Jan. 21.
Other highlights include:
Rafal Zielinski’s Tiger Within, a 2020 drama in which the late American actor Edward Asner, in one of his final roles, portrays a nonagenarian Holocaust survivor who develops an unlikely friendship with a troubled teenage runaway with a swastika on her jacket (virtual streaming starts on Jan. 21).
Xueta Island, a documentary from Spain, with dialogue in Catalan with English subtitles, that examines the long and shameful history of Jewish persecution as well as the current state of Judaism on the internationally popular island of Mallorca (available Jan. 23).
Christophe Cognet’s From Where They Stood, a 2021 French/German film, presented with English subtitles, detailing the heroic efforts of prisoners in Nazi concentration and death camps to photograph the realities of their existence (available Jan. 14).
Damir Lukacevic’s Wet Dog, an English-subtitled German-language film depicting a 16-year-old Iranian Jew who hides his identity in pursuit of greater popularity in his new Berlin neighborhood rife with anti-Semitism (available Jan. 16).
Katya Ustinova’s Shtetlers, an English-subtitled profile of the many small but resilient Jewish towns that once dotted the landscape of the former Soviet Union and based on firsthand memories and insights of former inhabitants (available Jan. 24).
With No Land, an Israeli documentary, presented with English subtitles, revealing suppressed details along with firsthand accounts to give a fuller picture, 30 years hence, of the covert mission in 1991 in which 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in less than 24 hours’ time (available Jan. 17).
Virtual Cinema tickets, offering access for up to five days after specified availability dates, and granting 24-hour playback, are $12 per film, or $85 for an all-access pass. Visit www.nyjff.org.
KRAMERS NEW LOOK
Long known as Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café, the institution just north of Dupont Circle on Connecticut Avenue has been witness to a lot of changes in its neighborhood and city over the course of the 45 years and counting since it opened as D.C.’s first bookstore/café.
The store itself remained relatively constant and unchanged during most of that time, but in 2016, the business was purchased by restaurateur Steve Salis, a co-founder of the &pizza fast-casual chain, who soon rebranded the business as Kramers and expanded its footprint by purchasing the space next door.
At the end of 2021, a little over a year after the café introduced a revamped menu as well as a name change to All Day by Kramers, came the addition of a new bar, carved out of space that formerly included the travel and childrens’ books sections.
The new, 26-seat, built-in bar, which features custom-made wallpaper filled with literary iconography paying homage to Kramers’ history, provides opportunities for “even more community-driven Kramers experiences — from cocktail tastings to social events to date nights,” according to an official release.
And with the new bar comes a retooled drink menu, overseen by Beverage Director Larry Weaver, with a greater variety of wines, 18 craft beers on tap, and a selection of literary-themed cocktails — examples include the Angelou, or vodka with strawberry-pepper syrup and citrus, and an English 75, or earl grey-infused gin, lemon, and prosecco.
The All Day at Kramers food menu also sees new items including All Day Burger Sliders and Chicken & Waffle Sliders. But wait, there’s more to come: Later this winter will see the unveiling of a new event space adjacent to the bar. Kramers is located at 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-387-1400 or visit www.kramers.com.
WE BANJO 3
Despite the name, there are actually four members in this band featuring only two primary banjoists, Enda Scahill and Martin Howley. The two strummers are joined in the group by their respective brothers, Fergal Scahill on fiddle and David Howley on guitar and lead vocals (and occasionally banjo).
A decade after debuting in the U.S., the band of dueling brothers originally from Galway, Ireland, has won over fans to their original blend of traditional bluegrass, Americana, and Celtic music, combining their command in string playing with pitch-perfect, four-part harmonies and infectious sibling rapport.
In addition to winning praise from Barack Obama after a 2016 performance at a “Friends of Ireland” luncheon in D.C. with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, We Banjo 3 have also earned plaudits from actor Steve Martin, himself an acclaimed folk musician, who has reportedly said about the quartet, “They are playing the banjo in a style that I didn’t even know could be played like that.”
See for yourself when they head to the northern reaches of our region with a stop at the large, renovated former Tivoli Theatre in the heart of charming downtown Frederick, Maryland. Saturday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St. Tickets are $30 in advance, or $35 the day of the event. Call 301-600-2828 or visit www.weinbergcenter.org.
From prolific writer Suzan-Lori Parks comes White Noise, a play focused on four longtime friends and sometime lovers prompted by a violent police encounter to embark on a radical social experiment — uncovering secrets, revealing simmering tensions, and testing relationships along the way, in a work billed as an incendiary exploration of race, identity, and legacy.
Revisiting the drama five years after she originally created it, Parks made changes, including moving the setting of a pivotal scene from a bowling alley to a shooting range.
“The play was full of rage in 2016, and now it’s angrier…and yet, it’s more compassionate. Everyone is pushed in the play. To take a good look at their shit and figure out a way to work through it,” Parks said before the play’s 2021 London premiere. The revamped work now readies its D.C. premiere at Studio Theatre, a longtime champion of Parks — whose acclaimed repertoire ranges from the 2002 Pulitzer-winning play Topdog/Underdog, to the 2012 Tony-winning adaptation of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and 2021’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday and National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha, both available on Hulu.
Studio’s Associate Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas directs a production featuring RJ Brown, Katie Kleiger, Tatiana Williams, and Quinn Franzen. Previews begin Tuesday, Jan. 12. Runs to Feb. 20. Milton Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets are $65 to $95, with discounts available. Call 202-332-3300 or visit www.studiotheatre.org.
HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH
Olney Theatre gave “Hedheads” and all those who managed to catch Mason Alexander Park’s electrifying and uproarious performance in its production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch quite the holiday treat to close out 2021. Now, the LGBTQ+ streaming platform Revry offers an early Valentine’s to Hedheads far and wide with on-demand streaming of John Cameron Mitchell’s film adaptation of the original Off-Broadway show, to mark its 20th anniversary.
Over the years, this wildly imaginative musical comedy-drama from Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask has been an occasional hit on the “midnight movie” circuit. And it earned a place in Metro Weekly‘s 2011 list of “25 Gay Films Everyone Should See: The Sequel” chiefly on account of its ahead-of-its-time story, which subtly, slyly captures the ongoing struggle for recognition of the transgender community in mainstream society.
As the transgender- and nonbinary-identified Park put it in an interview with Metro Weekly last month, “[Hedwig] was the first time that I had ever really seen a character on stage, or on screen, that reflected the complicated nature of my own gender identity, and who was fighting against certain social constructs, especially the binary.” Hedwig and the Angry Inch streams until Jan. 31 for free, with commercial interruptions, on Revry. Visit www.revry.tv.
Natasha Gordon became the first Black British female playwright to be produced on London’s West End with her debut work, originally brought to the stage in 2018 in a sold-out run at the U.K.’s preeminent Royal National Theatre. Now, Round House Theatre presents the American premiere of Gordon’s Nine Night, a dramedy named after the traditional Jamaican extended wake, or multi-day celebration of life, in this case honoring the dearly departed matriarch of a Jamaican-British family.
Heralded as an “exuberantly funny” dramedy by The Guardian and nominated as Best New Comedy at the 2019 Olivier Awards, Nine Night explores the tensions of inhabiting two cultures, the bonds of family, and the many layers of grief. Timothy Douglas directs a production starring Kim James Bey, Doug Brown, Katie deBuys, Joy DeMichelle, Avery Glymph, Maya Jackson, and Lilian Oben.
In addition to full vaccination and mask requirements of all patrons, Round House also offers socially distanced seating — meaning at least two open seats between parties — in the balcony at all performances and on both levels of the theater on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For those who would rather view the show virtually, streaming begins Jan. 20. Now in previews. To Jan. 30.
Round House is at 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda. Tickets for live performances are $41 to $68, with various discounts available, and $32.50 for digital access. Call 240-640-1100 or visit www.roundhousetheatre.org.
NSO’S BEETHOVEN & AMERICAN MASTERS CONCERTS
Two years ago, most classical music organizations around the world were preparing to celebrate what would have been the 250th birth year of Ludwig van Beethoven. The 2020 Beethoven bounty was yet one more COVID casualty, but not all has been lost. The National Symphony Orchestra has planned to perform all nine symphonies by the German master through the Beethoven & American Masters Festival. Led by NSO Music Director Gianandrea Noseda, this two-part, two-year series of concerts will take place over three consecutive weekends this month before culminating in a four-week period in the spring of 2023.
The festival, which will also feature all sinfonias written by George Walker as well as two symphonies by William Grant Still, will launch accompanied by Beethoven Symphonies Abstracted, an exhibition of large-scale paintings by Mo Willems, the Kennedy Center’s inaugural Education Artist-in-Residence.
This exhibit will be on display in the Kennedy Center Hall of Nations beginning Saturday, Jan. 8, and ending on Sunday, March 20. Additionally, all concerts will be recorded for future release on the NSO’s record label, in partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra’s LSO Live.
Beethoven’s celebrated First Symphony and famously influential Fifth Symphony bookend the first festival program, which also features Sinfonia No. 1 by D.C.-native George Walker, the groundbreaking composer who in 1996 became the first Black recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Performances are Thursday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 16, at 3 p.m. A week later, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 will be juxtaposed with Symphony No. 4 by William Grant Still, a prolific composer, considered part of the Harlem Renaissance that started a century ago, who became the first Black composer to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra.
This program, also featuring Beethoven’s grand Leonore III Overture, is set for Thursday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21, at an 11:30 a.m. “Coffee Concert,” and Sunday, Jan. 22, at 8 p.m. The festival’s 2022 programming concludes the last weekend in January with Beethoven’s resounding magnum opus, his Symphony No. 9, featuring the popular, precedent-setting choral finale “Ode to Joy” that will be brought to life by The Washington Chorus along with four vocal soloists.
The NSO will perform the epic and pioneering symphony preceded by Beethoven’s Overture to The Consecration of the House, a pairing that harkens back to when Beethoven premiered his final symphony in 1824. In between comes another Walker composition, the one-movement Sinfonia No. 4, originally co-commissioned by the NSO. Thursday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 28, and Saturday, Jan. 29, at 8 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 to $109 per concert. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
MCLEAN COMMUNITY CENTER: JANUARY HIGHLIGHTS
This arts center in suburban Virginia is a hub of varied activity during the first month of 2022. Among the event highlights:
Traveling While Black, the latest documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence, God Loves Uganda) utilizing virtual reality technologies, including 360-degree footage, to help viewers grasp the titular concept and also to immerse them in the past in unprecedented ways, drawing them into living history lessons (now-2/12).
Improvicon of Northern Virginia, a real-deal competition of multiple improv groups from around the region, including the Pundemics, Home Improv Mints, the Unruly Theatre Project, and Calamity Improv, hosted by Sarah Akers and Star Bobatoon (1/8).
Monster Mini Golf, in which the Old Firehouse is transformed into a mini-arcade, with the chief draw a state-of-the-art indoor, climate-controlled, 18-hole mini golf course under the luminescent glow of black lights (1/14).
A performance by the boogie-woogie Daryl Davis Band on Jan. 14, followed by a discussion with Davis about his three-decades-long effort to befriend and ultimately enlighten Ku Klux Klan members, with 200 robes turned in to show for such anti-racism efforts on Jan. 16.
The Zone, a day-long, lunch-inclusive outing in the Old Firehouse offering the latest in high-tech gaming, including multi-level adventure-themed laser tag, boutique cosmic bowling, and 37 arcade games (1/21).
A performance of “Native American Fusion Music” by D’DAT, a multicultural group blending sounds and styles from the Native Southwest with jazz and hip-hop (1/23).
The McLean Community Center is located at 1234 Ingleside Ave. Ticket prices vary. Call 703-790-0123 or visit www.mcleancenter.org.
FILM MAUDIT 2.0
Launched in 2020 by the L.A. nonprofit cultural center Highways Performance Space & Gallery, this film festival is named after and inspired by a one-time-only festival that gay, influential avant-garde filmmaker Jean Cocteau organized over 70 years ago in France to celebrate overlooked, shocking, and experimental works of cinema — or “cursed films,” as the French phrase literally means.
This year’s third edition expands to include both physical and virtual events, with online screenings of 12 feature films and 10 shorts programs, plus the yearly “Behold! Queer Film + Performance Series.”
Included in the latter are “Transgressive Desire,” a program of five shorts from queer women, trans, nonbinary, and intersex filmmakers/performance artists turning the lens on their vulnerable and powerful bodies;
“Queer(ing) Time,” an array of short and feature-length films mostly from California-based queer and trans filmmakers and artists of color, each offering a distinct vision of the past and/or the future;
The Dope Elf Films, six shorts by the Gawdafful National Theater made during the pandemic and shot largely by the actors themselves in their homes;
“Encountering ConstruX,” an eclectic assortment of films, including three short videos focused on bondage photographer Rick Castro’s former fetish art gallery Antebellum Hollywood, a film from world artist Gio Black Peter offering a day in the hedonistic life of those affilaited with the “Swine Burger fortune,” and a short movement-based work exploring queer love, pleasure, and safety in times of pain by Taso Papadakis and Kevin Williamson;
Lawrence Elbert’s Days of Pentecost, a 1995 feature-length Black and Latino drag musical action/adventure inspired by Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! with a cast including Mario Gardner, Alexis Arquette, TZa-Tanisha, and Keith Antar-Mason.
Streaming begins Wednesday, Jan. 12, and lasts through the 11-day duration of the festival, ending on Jan. 23. Tickets, allowing viewing over a 48-hour period, are $5 a program, or $65 for an all-access pass. Visit www.filmmaudit.org.
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