When the Atlas Intersections Festival returned last year as a live and in-person, late-winter showcase of local performing art and artists, it did so as a truncated and “protracted festival,” presenting a total of 22 events scheduled over the course of three weeks — averaging roughly seven shows per weekend.
The move was designed to “lessen the load of numbers of people that are coming in and out of the space,” Doug Yeuell, executive director of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, told Metro Weekly before the 2022 event.
Organizers also kept the lineup focused on performances, largely forgoing “the other types of programs and workshops and free events that take place throughout.” By “other types of programs,” Yeuell was referring to the dozen or so supplemental activities offered most of the first 11 years of the festival — pre-pandemic programming that made for a more vibrant and bustling experience, as festival-goers lingered longer throughout the center in between shows.
Now, as the Atlas gears up to host its second in-person festival since the pandemic, organizers have, by and large, stuck to the same blueprint. As a result, Intersections 2023 has grown to a rather significant degree, in both quantity and duration, with a total of 35 distinct shows, all but two scheduled over five consecutive weekends. The festival kicks into high gear in March, with 13 shows scheduled for the first weekend of the month, and another dozen on the second weekend — resulting in two-thirds of this year’s entire lineup jam-packed in two back-to-back weekends.
As in previous years, Intersections programming falls into one of three principal categories. This year, essentially half are oriented around dance or Movement, a third are music or Sound-based, and the rest, a total of six events, are a mix of theater, spoken word, and film and grouped under the broad genre of Story.
A review of the full slate of programming reveals as strong and as varied a festival as ever. But there are definite highlights. Given the expanded nature of this year’s festival, we thought it would be helpful to call out the most promising events in a list — or even better, two. What follows is our pick of 10 highlights to come over the next month, and specifically the shows to consider during the festival’s first three weekends, ending Sunday, March 12. In a couple of weeks, we plan to do it again, with a second list of highlights, those scheduled for the second half of the festival.
The festival kicks off with two shows to close out February. First up is the Capital City Symphony, a volunteer-oriented community orchestra based at the Atlas. Their Intersections 2023 contribution is a concert that poses the question, “Which Came First?” Assistant Conductor Ingrid Lestrud leads the symphony in a program exploring the “musical confluence where art imitates life, and sometimes life imitates art” (2/25).
A day later comes another Movement program, with a theatrical dance performance from the Silk Road Dance Company and inspired by the history and enchantment of Central Asia as captured in Laurel Victoria Gray’s forthcoming book Legacy of the Silk Road (2/26).
March brings more movement right away, with one of the area’s most prominent modern companies Jane Franklin Dance performing Present Moment, a mixed-repertory program that will “embrace the moment in movement and body,” with dances about climate change, the border conflict, plus inner issues of agency and identity (3/3).
A screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s landmark silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc is accompanied by a live original score performed by kraftwitch, local artist John Moletress’s pandemic-born sound project using half-analog/half-digital instruments he constructed out of found objects and outfitted with computers and programmable code (3/3).
The Black Leaves Dance Company confronts questions of masculinity, race, sexuality, and religion head-on with the help of Frederick Douglass and other Black poet-philosophers in the work Sons of Douglass (3/4).
D.C.-based BIPOC artist Erick Acuña will be joined by a diverse cast of comedians in Artists of the District in which true stories will be shared and a fully improvised show devised all spurred from audience suggestions (3/4).
A ragtag group of dancers, singers, and actors from Word Dance Theater and The Voices of Change Ensemble join forces for a fully staged production weaving together songs of suffragists then and now, historical dances by Isadora Duncan as well as contemporary choreography by Duncan protégé Cynthia Word, and scenes inspired by real-life events, all designed to “celebrate and build upon the heritage of the women’s rights movement, then and now” (3/10).
Intersections offers a one-night-only reprise of last year’s Capital Fringe Festival hit Tacones (Rhymes with Cojones), a play by M. Cristina Garcia described as “a queer immigrant story about loss, pain, and the quest for forgiveness across borders and generations” centered on a U.S. immigration lawyer who moonlights as a drag queen and dive bar owner (3/12).
Saturday, March 11, is designated as Family Fun Day, offering youth-oriented activities ranging from an instrument petting zoo, to a creation station of crafts and coloring opportunities, to a “Darlings, You’re Gorgeous!” Drag Queen Story Hour with Tara Hoot. Whatever you do, don’t sleep in: This is the shortest day of fun on record, starting at 10 a.m. and over and out by noon.
The Intersections Festival 2023 launches Saturday, Feb. 18. Most performances are scheduled for weekends in March at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Ticket prices vary. For a full schedule of performances, visit www.atlasarts.org or call 202-399-7993.
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