Crystal City

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Meet Mary @The National Museum of Women in the Arts

For a millennia, Mary, the Biblical mother of Jesus, has been one of the most popular subjects in Western art.

Now, in more than 60 depictions, many of which have never been seen before in the United States, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is staging the exhibition Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea.

The show offers an opportunity to experience Mary as she was envisioned by some of the greatest Renaissance and Baroque artists including Botticelli and Durer.

Divided into 6 themematic sections, the exhibition presents images of Mary as a daughter, cousin, and wife: the mother of an infant; a bereaved parent; the protagonist in a rich life story developed through the centuries; a link between heaven and earth; and an active participant in the lives of those who revere her.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ferguson Exhibit @Newseum

The Newseum has collected more than a dozen items from protesters and journalists in Ferguson, Mo. and now those items are on display at the Pennsylvania Avenue museum, serving as a reminder of the importance of the five First Amendment freedoms. 

The exhibit includes a press pass and two rubber pellet balls donated by St. Louis Public Radio producer Stephanie Lecci, a homemade “Police the Police” poster used by protesters of Michael Brown's killing by police officer Darren Wilson, and several reporters’ notebooks containing notes about the events. 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson also donated his notebook and clothes he wore the night of the most intense rioting, when demonstrators shoved him to the ground. 

Newseum online managing editor Sharon Shahid traveled to St. Louis to collect the items; read her compelling account of conversations with people on the front lines of the conflict in Ferguson. 

The exhibit also has a display where Newseum visitors can vote by sticker on whether the news media has been covering the unfolding events in Ferguson in a fair and accurate way. Today, that answer, based on sticker distribution, was a resounding "no".

Friday, January 2, 2015

Puppet Power @Wooly Mammoth

If you are reading this, it's too late to see the witty, laugh-prompting Famous Puppets Death Scenes by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop at the Wooly Mammoth Theatre here. (We saw the show on its last weekend and highly recommend it). But that doesn't mean puppet shows for both youngsters and adults are dead in the DC area.

As part of the Death Scene run, Wooly Mammoth offered a special Puppets in Your Hood: A Pre-show panel discussion celebrating puppeteers and puppet builders in the DC area. Five companies were represented. They were:
Collette Searles, an associate professor of theatre at the University of Maryland and the director of Noah Haidie's Vigils at the Wooly Mammoth, served as panel moderator.

Puppets are one of the oldest forms of entertainment. In modern times, they are most often thought of in terms of productions for children. "There is something about puppets that really speak to that developmental stage," Searles said.

But in the past, and increasingly today, puppets have also been employed to look at complex or controversial issues, such as what it means to be human. (For supporting evidence, look no further than the Old Trout production which examined both the meaning of death and the meaning of life).

"Puppetry has a lot to say in those conversations," Searles said.

The panel agreed that puppet-driven stories could be powerful.  Using puppets in theatre requires a "huge suspension of belief" on the part of the audience" and can "inspire the imagination and magic of the child which is in all of us," the panel concluded.

Scenes from Puppets in Your 'Hood
Panelists push puppets and puppeteering.
Can you identify the puppets in this picture? If you can, then maybe you would enjoy a puppet show. 
Anything can become a puppet - even a turned-upside-down lampshade. 
My wife and editor Judy channels her inner puppeteer. If you find mistakes here, blame Judy or the puppet.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

This Beast @Synetic Is a True Beauty

If you are a fan of fantastic and fantastical theater then you should give yourself a present this holiday season by buying a ticket to Synetic Theater's production of Beauty and the Beast.

Here are a half-dozen reasons why we think that would be a great idea.

1. Even before the show starts, you can become entranced with the stage set designed by Daniel Pinha which extends out into the audience.

2. With so much holiday music surrounding us, it is nice to have a song-less Beauty and the Beast. This production is much more Grimm than Disney. But the uplifting message of the power of love still shines through.

3. This is the best use of crows since Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

4. Renata Vebertye makes for the best witch to take the stage since Wicked. Also hard to take your eyes off the haunted eyes of the silent, strange crow-slave Fantome channeled by Mathew Alan Ward.

5. The pure joy experienced in the slide scenes with The Beast (Vato Tsikurishvili) and Belle (Irina Kavsadze) will transport you back to a childhood where fairy tales really could come true.

6. A special production MVP to the use of a moveable screen (pictured above) which serves as a conduit for many of the supernatural elements of the play.

But we are not the only ones praising Synetic's production, which can be seen until Jan. 11. Here is what some others are saying.

Friday, December 19, 2014

You Can Hang with Stephen Colbert Who Is Now Hanging in the National Portrait Gallery

If you are missing Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report (the show ended Thursday after 9 laugh-filled seasons), you might want to consider heading to the National Portrait Gallery where you can still hang out with the humorous TV pundit.

Well, actually it will be Colbert who will be doing the hanging. Today, just one day after the show's finale, a massive portrait of Colbert was hung in the Smithsonian art institution.

The installation was heralded with a silent, short (exactly 6 minutes total) ceremony which concluded when one of the gallery's staff determined that both the portrait and the accompanying plaque were straight on the wall.

Here are highlights of the historic (at least, I'm pretty sure Colbert would call it historic) event captured on film:

The Colbert portrait was created for the show's final season. I's sure Colbert in character would tell you that it hangs in a most prestigious location - just before you enter the presidential gallery where portraits of all of America's 44 leaders are hung. However, Colbert as Colbert might neglect to point out that the location is also between the 2 bathrooms on the 2nd floor and just above 2 water fountains. However, then again, Colbert might say that the location is perfect since visitors can sip from his fountains of truthiness before they head off to do some of their important American business.

Actually, this is the second time a Colbert portrait has been located in this exact spot. In 2008, the mock pundit contacted the museum and offered to allow them to hang a portrait from his show. Colbert pointed out that the institution would experience the vaunted "Colbert Bump" as fans would line up to get their picture taken with the portrait.

EDITOR' NOTE: As the picture below shows, I was actually the 1st person to get my picture taken with the hanging Stephen and I think that feat qualifies me to be a guest on Colbert's new CBS show in its early weeks. If anyone reading this knows Stephen personally, please tell him about this post and let him know I would be available.

If you want to know more background on Stephen Colbert and and his relationship with the National Portrait Gallery, click here to read what was posted today on the Smithsonian's Face to Face blog.