Arts Desk

What the Kennedy Center Has Planned for Three New Buildings

Despite ceremonially breaking ground for a massive expansion in December 2014, the Kennedy Center has yet to start building anything new. Now, after several rounds of negotiation with the National Capital Planning Commission, one scrapped idea for a floating structure in the Potomac, and many discussions about which type of grass best suited the environment, construction can finally begin. The commission unanimously approved the plans on July 9. Three new structures will create more spaces for staff and performers, and the redesigned landscape will give visitors a place to enjoy the view of the Potomac and quietly contemplate the arts. Here’s what the future Kennedy Center will look like and how it will operate upon completion in September 2018.


Kennedy Center photo by Tom via Wikimedia Commons 

To Do This Weekend: Silence! The Musical, Scalia/Ginsburg, and Olivia Neutron-John


Still mourning NBC’s cancellation of Hannibal? Studio Theatre has just the antidote: a wildly funny production of Silence!, a musical parody of Silence of the Lambs. Yes, the oh-so-quotable, Oscar-winning film that turned Anthony Hopkins into a predator has gotten the song and dance treatment, complete with a chorus line of dancing lambs. Silence! makes a fine showing in Studio’s summer musical tradition, especially with the addition of a full-service bar. Toast Dr. Lecter from your seat with a nice Chianti. Read more >>> The musical runs July 15 to Aug. 9 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. $20–$40. (202) 332-3300.


Denizens Brewing Co. will host a one-year anniversary party Saturday in its taproom and beer garden. From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., every beer except the barrel-aged brews will cost $5. The Silver Spring brewery will also release a limited-edition anniversary beer called "First Time" made up of beer ingredients from its first five beers ever produced. Live music includes DJ Sway at 3 p.m. and eight-piece jam/funk band Sound Makers Union at 8 p.m. Denizens Brewing Co., 1115 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring(301) 557-9818. (Jessica Sidman)


Friday: Start your weekend at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Luce Center, where glitchy synth-pop act Olivia Neutron-John and R&B vocalist Be Steadwell perform a show co-presented by Washington City Paper. 6 p.m. at 8th and F streets NW. Free.

Friday: Another favorite local band, funk rock act Redline Graffiti, plays a benefit show for Baltimore's St. Ignatius Academy with Maryland rockers the Urbangis and Des Demonas at the Black Cat. 9 p.m. at 1811 14th St. NW. $12. Read more To Do This Weekend: Silence! The Musical, Scalia/Ginsburg, and Olivia Neutron-John

One of Rik Freeman’s Earliest Murals Will Likely Be Destroyed. Tomorrow, He Gets an Award.

movin-down-the-line-muralRik Freeman grew up in the South and has lived in Ward 7 since 2003. His neighborhood has greatly influenced his work and inspired his dedication to the work of other artists living east of the Anacostia River. That dedication will be recognized tomorrow at Anacostia’s Honfleur Gallery as he accepts the East of the River Distinguished Artist Award.

“My motivation for [seeking the] EotRDAA stems from the award itself recognizing the talents and skills of artists east of the river, which are many and varied, but often overlooked,” Freeman says via email.

At times, Freeman's own work is overlooked. One of his earliest murals, "Movin’ Down the Line," which features Marvin Gaye and Duke Ellington, was partially covered at its U Street NW location until this past June. The piece is temporarily uncovered as construction continues on the mixed-use development next to the building where it is installed, a plan announced to the building’s owner by JBG Development in 2012, as City Paper reported in 2013. A JBG representative noted via email at the time that "we were not able to design our project in a way that allowed the mural to be permanently exposed."

Freeman’s upbringing in Athens, Ga. during the social upheaval of the ’60s and ’70s also influences the work he produces today. Both his paintings and murals reflect historical themes, often focusing on people of color and their relationships with music. His most recent mural, “Honor Yourselves,” depicts technological changes in the American public education system. It sits just above another piece called “Learn from Your Past,” featuring scenes of marching bands, jazz performers, and dancers. This mural series lives at H.D. Woodson High School, right behind Marvin Gaye Park in Ward 7.

Read more One of Rik Freeman’s Earliest Murals Will Likely Be Destroyed. Tomorrow, He Gets an Award.

Arts Roundup: Trolling WSJ Edition

A response to the Wall Street Journal's defense of traditional Shakespeare at the expense of a D.C. theater company [Arts Desk]

Listen to a dramatic, sociopolitical roots-reggae track from Thievery Corporation vocalist Puma Ptah. [Arts Desk]

Someone has added a "rapist" tag to a portrait of Bill Cosby in the Smithsonian's online database. [Arts Desk]

A reflection on today's D.C. punk ire, with on-point testimony from the members of Coup Sauvage and the Snips [American Prospect]

Listen to a new mixtape from Babeo Baggins of the Barf Troop hip-hop collective. [Bandwidth]

An interview with comedian (and former D.C. resident) Seaton Smith [Post]

The Dangerous Precedent of the Smithsonian’s Support for Bill Cosby


The Smithsonian Institution's website features a collections search tool that helps people check out works from across its many museums and institutes. Visitors can tag artworks and artifacts with metadata to make them easier for other users to find.

Few entries on the site bear any user tags, but a portrait of Bill and Camille Cosby does. An anonymous user gave the portrait that appears in the catalog for "Conversations"—the exhibition of Cosby's artworks at the National Museum of African Art—a tag that says "rapist." (At the time this article posts, the tag is live. A screenshot is above for posterity.)

Yesterday, the Smithsonian put its own tag on "Conversations." The National Museum of African Art posted a sign at the entrance of the exhibition indicating that the Smithsonian does not condone Cosby's "behavior"—the behavior in question being rape.

Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian's Undersecretary for History, Art, and Culture, tells the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott that taking down the exhibition would set a dangerous precedent. (Or rather, it would follow one: In 2010, the Smithsonian removed David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly" from the National Portrait Gallery in 2010.)

The danger in the Smithsonian's present course of action is that sets a different precedent—or, again, follows one from 2010. Back then and today, the Smithsonian sided with power against the powerless.

In 2010: G. Wayne Clough, then Secretary of the Smithsonian, censored Wojnarowicz's video from a show of LGBTQ portraiture after the National Portrait Gallery was subjected to an outrage campaign manufactured by an activist group run by Brent Bozell, founder of the Parents Television Council.

Today: Kurin and Johnnetta Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art, continue to lend the Smithsonian's imprimatur to the Cosbys, even after a federal judge unsealed court documents that reveal that Cosby's admission to buying Quaaludes in order to incapacitate and rape women.

Read more The Dangerous Precedent of the Smithsonian’s Support for Bill Cosby

Improv Genius: Jazz Setlist, July 16-22

Friday, July 17JD Allen
More and more, saxophonist JD Allen evokes memories of the great Thelonious Monk, at least in one important respect. Monk's improvisational genius lay in his ability to work from within the composition he was playing, to fragment and abstract that theme and develop it—often to its logical extreme (he could build a solo around two notes). Allen doesn't take his improvisations quite that far, but he is definitely and increasingly a thematic improviser. He works with variations as well as abstractions, and more importantly, he has an uncanny knack for harnessing the energy inherent to a composition (usually his own). Of course, this doesn't always apply, because Allen can also improvise a piece from scratch with great technique and virtuosity. All of this can be heard in great detail on his new album Graffiti, recorded with the other members of his longtime trio: bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston. It's arguably the best sax trio in jazz today, able to gird and supplement Allen's playing without hampering it. The group plays a CD release show Friday and Saturday night at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $20 advance, $25 door.

JBSSunday, July 19
Setlist loves to hear (and write about) Jessica Boykin-Settles. She's one of the area's best singers—a careful, precise sculptor of her own instrument and a deep student of its history in the jazz idiom. (Her occasional series of lectures on the latter should be all the proof you need on that point.) Perhaps less discussed are her rather bold harmonic ventures. Listen to Boykin-Settles on any given song, and you'll begin to notice a singular kind of tug-of-war between her voice and those of her accompanists (particularly if a piano is on the gig). Boykin-Settles will be working the lyric, and seemingly without a second thought will pull the tune into a direction that nobody, maybe not even she, expected. It's an improvisational technique that Settles surely learned from her onetime teacher (and onetime colleague) Connaitre Miller, and it is of a piece with her very strong onstage personality. But it helps if she also has a strong set of musicians behind her. Pianist Tim Whalen, bassist Ethan Philion, and drummer Greg Holloway? All is well. The Jessica Boykin-Settles Quartet performs at 5 p.m. at the Hill Center, part of CapitalBop's Hot 5 series. Free.

Read more Improv Genius: Jazz Setlist, July 16-22

To Do Today: Guster, Time Stands Still, and Body Thief

gusterUnlike many of its peers from the heyday of ’90s college rock, Guster has aged rather gracefully during its 24-year run. Although the band has implemented a few new tricks since its early days busking in Harvard Square—most notably the drum kit that usurped percussionist Brian Rosenworcel’s trademark bongos starting on 2003’s Keep It Together—Guster’s amiable discography is united by clever songwriting, dynamic grooves, and bright melodies. January’s Evermotion, the band’s seventh studio album, marks Guster’s most ambitious development to date: a foray into synth-filled space rock that recalls Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips ballads. Read more >>> Guster performs with Kishi Bashi at 8 p.m. at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna. $32–$45. (703) 255-1900. Singer)


Blueberries aren’t just for muffins. The Curbside Cupcakes food truck will celebrate National Blueberry Month and the 100th birthday of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council by handing out 800 free blueberry cupcakes today beginning at 11 a.m. in Farragut Square. Follow the truck on Twitter for updates. Curbside Cupcakes, (Josh Solomon)


Prepare to chuckle at the Kennedy Center, when comedians Josh Blue and Shannon DeVido perform at the Millennium Stage as part of the center's celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 5:45 p.m. at 2700 F St. NW. Free. Read more To Do Today: Guster, Time Stands Still, and Body Thief

One Track Mind: Puma Ptah’s “Business of Confusion”

OTM_29Standout Track: No. 3, “Business of Confusion,” a dramatic, sociopolitical roots-reggae track from D.C.-based, U.S. Virgin Islands-born singer Christopher Smith, aka Puma Ptah. Best known as a vocalist with Thievery Corporation, Ptah is also a former member of Archives, a traditional D.C. reggae band. “Business of Confusion,” from Ptah’s first official solo release, In One Accord, opens and closes with gentle, unhurried piano runs from keyboardist Scott Schoem underneath Ptah’s deep, ardent vocals. Recorded at Honest Music in Adelphi, the tune also features a concise guitar solo from Gregory “Tanash” Tanyi.

Musical Motivation: The song slams people who purposely deceive others through misinterpreted religious texts and commercial messages, like in the ads for skin-bleaching products featuring Bollywood stars Ptah saw in India. “There is no shame in their game,” Ptah sings, linking such manipulation to “the evolution of slavery.” Historically, he says, people all over the world have obeyed the commands of priests, emperors, kings, scribes, and pharaohs who warned of supernatural punishment for earthly deeds.

On His Own: Working as a solo lead with supporting musicians rather than as part of Thievery Corporation gave Ptah more creative freedom. “I can say exactly what I wanted to and how I wanted to,” he says. “With Thievery Corporation, I’m not drastically limited, but I just have to be mindful that there [are] many other players, especially vocalists. I have to make sure what I’m bringing is consistent and compatible.” Here, Ptah is in charge of both lyrics and melody, and his other players help flesh out his island-rooted vision.

Puma Ptah plays Carter Barron on July 24. Listen to "Business of Confusion" after the jump.

Read more One Track Mind: Puma Ptah’s “Business of Confusion”

A Response to the Wall Street Journal‘s Defense of Traditional Shakespeare


Ah, ah, ah—true Shakespeare mustn't stray but a hair's breadth from the source!

Earlier this week, the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, noted cesspool venue for nuanced cultural commentary, weighed in on a question that has long vexed us here at the Washington City Paper: whether Shakespeare without words can properly be considered Shakespeare.

Taking as his inspiration the upcoming Synetic Theater revival of its movement-driven Midsummer Night’s Dream, noted twat troll theater expert James Bovard decries the use of NEA grants to fund the “grunts, grimaces, and grins” produced by a pair of husband-and-wife nepotists—“raised in Soviet Georgia,” which should have given us a clue—who’ve made a career of wresting the spoken word from the cold dead hands of the Swan of Avon.

Rather than responding with a photo of Midsummer’s Bottom, post-transformation, the Synetic forces replied with a measured explanation of their approach. To them we say: Pfaugh! Art may truly be Art only when it is Pure, produced in strict accordance with the Wishes of its Originator. By Whom we mean God, because all True Art is the Product of Divine Inspiration, and should be produced in the original English.

Herewith, other egregious fakeries perpetrated upon the public in the name of creativity:

Roméo et Juliette, opera by Charles Gounod
This is not even good Italian, much less English. Shakespeare talks about a nightingale, dammit, not a rossignol; however will the audience get the symbolism? Also, Juliette, we have news for you: The composer may have given you an aria called “Je Veux Vivre (I Want to Live),” but you’re still going to die. Alone.

Any production featuring women
What is this, amateur hour? If you’re not dressing men up in atrocious makeup and grating falsettos to play the Bard’s ladies, you’re not really doing Shakespeare as the era intended. And don’t even think about giving his females sympathetic tweaks: Every true Elizabethan scholar knows that the Shrew, Lady Macbeth, and pretty much every queen in the canon are simply written as awful people, and should be portrayed as such. NEXT!

Slimmed-Down Treatments for the Magic Lantern
(That's the cinema, you dolt.) The Bard is not for the faint of heart nor the short of attention-span. Amendments and abbreviations are rightly consideredby all serious aficionados as anathema. Auteurs not prepared to follow the example of Kenneth Branagh and turn in a four-hour Hamlet using all the available words need not apply.

Read more A Response to the Wall Street Journal‘s Defense of Traditional Shakespeare

Arts Roundup: Abortion Hooray! Edition

Come see Olivia Neutron-John and Be Steadwell at our show at the American Art Museum this Friday! [Arts Desk]

Vocalist Chrissy Ziccarelli on Jack on Fire's Abortion Hooray! EP: "The M.O. of our band is to say things that people are a little afraid to say." [Pitchfork]

The Smithsonian's Richard Kurin on why the African Art Museum won't take down its exhibition of Bill Cosby's art collection [Post]

Photos of Elvis Depressedly, Mitski, and Eskimeaux at DC9 [DC Music Download]

Marcella Kriebel is showing watercolor illustrations of food at the Wild Hand Workspace. [BYT]

Why F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried right off Rockville Pike [Washingtonian]