Archive for the ‘arts’ Tag

America Needs the Arts

Monday night, Kevin Spacey told a thousand people at the Kennedy Center that the United States needs the arts.

The arts, dance, painting, poetry, writing are the life blood of the nation. They are the culture, the culture that plays everywhere throughout the world. The movies that everybody loves. The books that they read. The television shows that keep them at home.

The actor quoted politicians ranging from Kennedy to Nixon, all of whom realized the importance of the arts. Winston Churchill when told that cuts needs to be made in the arts in order to pay for World War II, said, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Members of the audience went to Capitol Hill to talk with representatives and senators to argue for the importance of arts spending for the National Endownment for the Arts.

As the organization Americans for the Arts summarizes the events.

Congressional Arts Kick Off:

Who: Speakers at the Congressional Arts Kick Off include:

  • Hill Harper, film and television actor and author
  • Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts
  • Charles Segars, Ovation CEO
  • Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Committee
  • Kevin Spacey, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre
  • Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senate Cultural Caucus
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will receive the 2011 Congressional Arts Leadership Award. In addition, there will be a special performance by James Schlender, 2011 VSA International Soloist Awar Recipient
What: The Congressional Arts Kick Off marks the official start of the Arts Advocacy Day events on Capitol Hill.  The Congressional Arts Leadership Award will also be presented at the Kick Off.   The award, which recognizes distinguished service on behalf of the arts, is part of a series of Public Leadership in the Arts Awards given annually by Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors.
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
RSVP is essential for press coverage.
Please contact Catherine Brandt at
Where: Cannon Caucus Room
345 Cannon House Office Building
Why: This high-energy event is always full of great, unexpected comments and sound bites.  This year will be no exception.

Special Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee:

Who: Witnesses providing testimony at the hearing include:

  • Alec Baldwin, Emmy Award®-winning TV, film and stage actor
  • Elizabeth Kautz, Mayor, Burnsville, MN and President, U.S. Conference of Mayors
  • Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
  • Edgar Smith, CEO of World PAC Paper, Business Committee for the Arts Executive Board Member
  • Kevin Spacey, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre
What: Special Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Press – Please RSVP to Catherine Brandt at
Where: Rayburn Building
Room 2359, 3rd Floor
Why: Witnesses’ testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior will focus on the importance of the arts to the nation and the need to retain current levels of funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  Their testimony will also underscore the importance of developing strong public policies for the arts and arts education.

DC’s Great Dance Week

Two live shows and representing on So You Think You Can Dance; can we hear it for DC dance!

Carter Barron Ampitheatre hosted Metro DC Dance on Friday. On Saturday, Culture Shock DC filled the place. East Coast Dance Community Concert 2010 featured hip hopers and troupes ranging in ages from 7 to mid-age. Groups came down from Philadelphia and New York City and over from Germany, bringing lots of percision and  and high energy along with individual breakout skills.

They will be holding the free event again next summer so be ready.

The finale of So You Think You Can Dance for 2010 crowned Lauren as the top dancer. It showed us the top dance numbers for the year and, of course, featured Ellen De Generes getting down. The show also put DC dance on the map. Luke came out and showed his tap dance chops. During the DC Hip Hop festival, my partner and I saw Luke come out of the audience to put on his show at Dance Place. Here’s how one reporter saw Luke: Then a 7-year-old kid, Luke, came out to take his place. And by god, can that kid dance. No offense to Melinda (…OK, offense to Melinda), but THAT is what I think of when I think of tap. The kid had rhythm, variation, and style to spare. She always just seemed so messy when she did tap. The other styles she was great on, but tap? I never got it. This kid was great.

Then the Manzari Brothers followed with a tap routine. The two performed in Arena Stage’s Sophisticated Ladies this spring.

Everybody’s Seeing Passing Strange

Studio Theatre has a major hit.

Their production of Stew’s autobiographical show that started at the Public Theater in NYC and played over 150 shows on Broadway is drawing huge crowds to their 4th Stage.

Originally planned as the last week of the run, the Studio turned away people for the last two nights. Most of the crowd is young and it is ethnically mixed.

We saw the NYC show and look forward to seeing how the DC world handles the story of a black rock musician growing up as he travels the world.

Royalty and Castles

How many of you imagined your self as a prince or princess as a child?

I enjoyed reading biographies and watching documentaries on the European royal families. Recently saw the movie, The Young Victoria on the flight back from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg where I took trips to see various castles and fortresses.

In Ghent we spent two hours touring the Castle of the Counts which dates back to the 1300s. You can see the first part of the building to be constructed, then how they built around that part and expanded to take over more land and build the structure higher.

The museum shows you how boldface the methods of maintaining power were for these dominant families with displays of the torture devices.

The most glamorous castle we saw was in Luxembourg. The area of Vianden was historically involved in wars from the battles among fiefdoms in the Middle ages through World War II.

The sight of the castle looming on top of the hill is impressive.

This is the storybook castle according to a friend.

The bedroom shows that the count believed in the benefit of sleeping upright like most people did in the era.

The view from up top is really amazing.

This was the castle owned by one of the families that became the royals in the Netherlands. King William II sold it in 1820 and the place fell into continual disrepair. Although Victor Hugo stayed there in the early 1870s.

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Historian of Sexuality in Gent, Belgium

Architects, historians, religious people can find three full days of activities in Ghent. The St-Baafskathedraal – St. Bravo’s Cathedral is a Gothic beauty with some amazing stain glass windows. The organ is enormous and the crypts are fun to explore.

The painting Adoration of Mystic Lamb by Van Eyck is in a separate section. They will soon be doing restoration work so we felt lucky to see it.

While the Belfry tower has been updated several times, I still enjoyed seeing the collection of ancient bells. The Harbor has many restored buildings in it which the boat tours openly discuss.

Many parts of the city were restored before the World’s Fair of 1913.  Still the Patershol neighborhood has much of its working class character. Many ethnic groups live there now and we ate at a good Indian/Pakistan restaurant.

The Grote Meat market is a humongous building that places you back to the Medieval Ages.

The biggest debate for our group involved the Castle of the Counts. While one person saw it as a vision of the Middle Ages by late 19th century people, another enjoyed the tour and the movie interpretation that they supplied. I thought the castle had amazing materials, such as torture devices, and while it had some elements of artifice, it still contained architectural elements that made you understand how people lived and used the building over its many centuries.

Most impressive to me is the Beguine women who lived in the city from the mid 1300s until the late 1960s. This group of women had three large housing complexes in the city and we visited two of them. Here’s the most intact one.

The buildings, which at that time still lay outside the city boundaries, were endowed for pious Catholic girls (begijnen) who wanted to live in a religious community but not in the seclusion of a convent. They devoted themselves to the care of the poor and sick. In a “Begijnhof” they were not called upon to abandon their personal freedom and could leave whenever they wished. They had their own accommodation and were not required to renounce personal possessions. When Amsterdam went over to Protestantism the “begijnen” had to make their church over to the English Presbyterian community and hold their services in secret in a small chapel opposite the church. The Begijnhof was turned into almshouses but the “begijnen” retained the right to be buried in their “old” church.

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Land of the Film Festival

International, Independent, Shorts, Labor, Jewish, Documentaries, Gay and Lesbian, DC has film festivals throughout the year.

The 18th annual Environmental film festival began last night and runs until the end of March. Many of the movies are from other countries so their embassies and cultural centers screen the flicks for free.

I saw two good ones tonight at the Goethe Institute downtown. The two German movies focused on wildly different topics. Exotic Homeland looks at creatures from other parts of the world who have settled in German waters and land and have adapted well. How did they get there and how do they survive? Do they crowd out native plants and animals?

The Rheas from Argentina in the weeds and the raccoons in the fens are cute and seemingly harmless. But the crabs from China and ants from parts unknown are so numerous that they are creepy to watch.

Nothing was harder to watch than the slaughter of whales and dolphins that begins the movie, Last Giants.  The movie features these creatures who are getting squeezed for space in the Atlantic Ocean. They found a ready food source in the Straights of Gibraltar but the 300 cargo ships that go through the channel every day run them over, cut them up of drive them to the beach.

I left early feeling wiped out.

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Artistic Youth and Ambition’s Perniciousness

I’ve been thrilled to see some of the new generation being represented on stages in Washington, DC. Theater J is running Itamar Moses’ “The Four of Us,” and it has received solid reviews in the Washington Post and Times.

There was much to enjoy about the content and structure, particularly in the “first act.” I started to lose some interest as the story went on but remained fascinated by the feelings of being in one’s mid to late 20s and experiencing competition and doubt as one’s friend has artistic success.

What does one do to get success yourself? If you write about what you know would it hurt a friend? What does an artist chose, friend or the chance at getting your work produced?

The play made me think about an earlier Theater J production, the world premiere by Sam Forman, “The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall.” Here the ambitious librettist in his mid-20s more humorous and obvious with his ambition.

In that play, Henry engages in subterfuge involving Facebook, lying to a movie producer’s pampered daughter (the fetching Maureen Rohn) and enduring the Tortured Genius’s lounge-lizard rendition of the musical’s proposed title song. He has to turn his back on his stoner writing partner and his singer girlfriend.

Studio Theater’s current play, “In the Red and Brown Water,” also shows people in their late teens and early twenties making choices. Intriguingly, the focus of the ambition is quite different and the lack of following through on ambition actually hurts the lead character.

Capital Culture: Dancing in DC

Kennedy Center had an intriguing dance program last night. Keigwins & Company. The show featured four dances to each of the world’s elements: Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

The Company is a viewer friendly group. The opening number featured six dancers in towels moving to Mozart. Slapstick actions and movements reminded this viewer of silent movies. The fourth water piece teased audiences with white body suits.

Fire featured three dances, one in orange, another in red and a third in yellow. The costumes included frills on the arms and hats creating a sense of flames and movement. The male dancers hip hop moves thrilled the audience.

The jokey movements returned with Debussy, the song “Stormy Weather” and Devo, in the earth elements. A friend described the pieces as musical theater comedy.

The Air pieces included performers dressed in airline costuming. The moves in the first piece to “Up, Up and Away,” included the safety demonstrations done by stewards on every flight.

Making accessible dance is a great idea as is dancing to recent music. I wish the performances included more daring and interesting steps/choreography.

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Balloon Boy & Stage Moms

We all witnessed what happens on a slow news day. The media followed the silver balloon then it fell like lead.

Why is anyone surprised the people will do anything for publicity? It is not that knew. Stage Mothers pushed their girls and boys onto vaudeville and Broadway (Have you seen Gypsy!)

Who hasn’t seen movies about Judy Garland or any of the other numerous child stars in Hollywood during the Golden Age.

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Big Fan

Saw the local DC premiere of Big Fan. It got great reviews out of Sundance Film Festival and a high score on Rotten Tomatoes website so I looked forward to it.

As a huge sports fan, I found the movie accurately portrayed what kind of obsession fans can have. I watched several scenes and th0ught back to some of the football fans I used to know and could see them in Paul’s character.

The movie was definately non-Hollywood as the main character experiences a big event and that does not motivate him to change at all.

Afterwards, I talked with several people about it. Some thought it was neither a black enough movie or a comedy, but walked the line between the two. This left at least a couple of people unsure how they felt.

One person saw the movie as a short story rather than a novel. This was a peek into a world rather than a full blown character study where the person grows and adapts.

I agree with some of the reviewers who found the movie somewhat condescending to the lead character. He knows what he doesn’t want and is willing to accept that he does not have much. A class argument would saythat his fellow siblings were able to move up in society so Paul could too but his character is keeping him from doing so. However, Paul says he does not want the middle class life that his sister and brother have, but he is unable to say what he does want.

I thought the movie could have said much more about the economic circumstances of today’s sports world. We have a vision of Paul and his friend being alone in the Giant Stadium parking lot but is that because they are losers? Where are the other fans who can’t afford the huge ticket prices? Where are the other fans who share the fandom and want to be closer to it but are out of their economic element?

Is Paul another of the many Peter Pans that have been inhabiting movies recently? Both Momma’s Man and Two Lovers bring those characters to the fore. Are these characters trapped as Randy was in The Wrestler? Is this a result of their economic condition?

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