Friday, May 30, 2014

Memorial Day weekend at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

It was startling and gratifying on May 25, 2014 to see so many parents too young to remember the Vietnam War themselves bring their children to honor the 58,286 soldiers whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Some brought art work, flags, clothing, plastic flowers in commemorative wrap, and mementos to leave at the memorial. A ranger for the National Park Service said all items are collected nightly except for Memorial Day weekend when items were left at the wall for visitors to see. Volunteers, including members of Rolling Thunder, help the single ranger gather the keepsakes, and non-perishables are stored in a warehouse. Some of them will be displayed at the memorial's new visitors center once funding is completed, and the center is built/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The names of the war dead and those missing in action are etched in stone and appear chronologically beginning with 1959 on the far upper left where the wall points to the Lincoln Memorial and stretching to 1975 with the wall in the foreground pointing to the Washington Monument/Photo by Patricia Leslie
This looks towards the Washington Monument (in the distance) and more current years and names.  The design by Maya Lin, then a Yale University undergraduate student, was intended to bring the past and present together with reflections on the wall.  Her creation was chosen in a blind competition which received 2,573 submissions.  The wall was completed in 1982 and was so controversial at the time, another memorial called "The Three Servicemen" (or "The Three Soldiers") was unveiled two years later, designed by the third-place finisher in the contest, Frederick Hart.  It and the Vietnam Women's Memorial designed by Glenna Goodacre and dedicated in 1993, stand nearby.  Ms. Goodacre, who also submitted in the original competition, had to change her women's winning design because of controversy/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, May 25, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Nearby directories make it relatively easy to locate names of soldiers which may be copied identically with available paper/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
Boots, medals, photos and biographies of the deceased and missing lined the wall on Memorial Day weekend/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The park ranger said he thought more people than usual came to see the memorial last weekend.  Its stature grows with its increasing image as an American shrine, to match the respect and honor due all soldiers who protect and serve the United States. In a list compiled by the American Institute of Architects in 2007, Americans ranked the Vietnam Veterans Memorial tenth most favorite architecture/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Honoring POW/MIA soldier, Ronald E. Smith/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Poems by children were found at the wall.  This is the cover of a book which says "MILITARY We Will Fight For You.  A Collection of Poems by Jonathan Post, Troy, Ohio.  Navy!  Air Force!  Marines!  Army!"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jonathan devoted a page to his mother which says "I dedicate this poetry anthology to my mom because she has helped me with some of the poems in this book and had the paitience it took to sit there and help."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A statement and artwork by a student says "The Vietnam War was the most hated war that the U.S. faught and, when the soliders  came home they were treated very badly."  On the right of the page is a drawing of a female in a short skirt who calls out "Boo!!!" and "You stink!!!" That these young children are educated about the war and its futility was welcoming.  A local Vietnam vet told me this week he has only visited the memorial once, and no more because of the pain.  Another one said he was never able to go and see it.  "Why?  Why?" John cried. "What was the purpose? All a waste!  All for egos!"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A floral tribute at the memorial which says "Rolling Thunder Never Forget Our Brothers and Sisters"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A wooden wreath with soldiers' dog tags at the memorial/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Some of the wreaths at dusk at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, May 25, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie
When it got too dark to see, the people took out their telephones and used the lights to illuminate names of those not forgotten. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is open all day and night/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Glenn Greenwald and the NSA on book tour

Do you think the NSA will buy any copies of Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Glenn Greenwald whose newspaper, the Guardian shared Pulitzer Prize honors last month with the Washington Post based on Mr. Greenwald's scoop about government spying, was in town last week at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue promoting his newest book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.

At the ticketed event all 800 seats were taken and all copies of the book sold out, according to bookstore Politics and Prose.

When he was a contractor for the U.S. government, Edward Snowden downloaded NSA documents he found so disturbing he wanted to share them and educate the public about just exactly what it is the NSA does, Mr. Greenwald said.  Mr. Snowden could have sold the documents and made millions.  Instead, he chose public awareness and transparency.
He "unleashed profound change," said Mr. Greenwald.  The NSA motto is "collect it all," and the agency has billions of pieces of information about Americans, Mr. Greenwald said.

When he first met Mr. Snowden, 29 years old at the time, Mr. Greenwald was taken aback since he expected someone much older, in his 60s or 70s. Mr. Snowden came across online as "a little cynical, very sophisticated, a deep thinker."

"It took me about the entire day to recover" after they met a year ago in Hong Kong, and Mr. Greenwald remained skeptical of Mr. Snowden's motives for a while. Why would someone possibly give up his life for prison? Mr. Greenwald wondered.

For Mr. Snowden, the possibility of "the pain of prison" was better than "the pain of doing nothing."

Now Edward Snowden lives in Moscow where he fled to avoid the the U.S. government which has tirelessly tried to capture him. Mr. Greenwald said he could not picture any scenario that would bring Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. since he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life "in a cage" like another well known whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, whom the U.S. has "turned into a martyr."

The U.S. government is sending a loud and clear message that Chelsea Manning's punishment is a model for anybody else who may be thinking about revealing government secrets, Mr. Greenwald said.

Glenn Greenwald at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A persistent critic of the mainstream press, Mr. Greenwald said the press never fails to ask him one question as if it were the most important one: "What about Snowden's girlfriend?"

He talked about 30 minutes and gave lengthy answers to questions posed by the mostly male, mostly under age 40 (80%, according to an unofficial tally) audience, some who lined up six deep at two microphones to query Mr. Greenwald.  No one asked any hostile or negative questions.

Mr. Greenwald quoted one of his childhood heroes, Daniel Ellsberg, who says "they" are saying the same things about Mr.Snowden that "they" said about Mr. Ellsberg and Ms. Manning.  Nothing new.

The audience interrupted the author several times with applause, and some intermittently stood and clapped.

Mr. Snowden's "strategic sense has been remarkably vindicated," Mr. Greenwald said. He said there is a document which supersedes the Justice Department: "It is called the Constitution."

Greenwald is prepared. He has done his homework.   He ain't no slouch, and he makes no apologies for selling and making money on his books: It's the American way. He is a graduate of George Washington University where he majored in philosophy, and he earned a law degree from New York University. He lives in Brazil with his partner, David Michael Miranda, since the U.S. won't give Mr. Miranda a visa to live here.

Mr. Greenwald is working on something much bigger than the NSA story which will come out in due time, he said.

Movie rights to No Place to Hide have been sold to Sony Pictures, and producers will be Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli who produced the James Bond series.

Mr. Greenwald mentioned James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who lied to the U.S. Congress in testimony about government spying, committing at least a felony, he said.

No one responsible for the destruction of Iraq, a nation with 26 million people, or the wounding and deaths of thousands of Iraq citizens and American troops has ever been held accountable, he noted.  I suppose it depends upon whom you know.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Skies light up after timpanist plays at the Kennedy Center

At the Kennedy Center guests who attend performances by the National Symphony Orchestra see and hear shows indoors and out/Photo by Patricia Leslie

At intermission Tuesday night, guests attending the National Symphony Orchestra performance streamed out onto the veranda at the Kennedy Center to catch a breath of fresh air, to sip beverages, admire the scenery, and praise the performance of timpanist Jauvon Gilliam who had just finished, in vigorous fashion, Timpani Concerto No. 1, "The Olympian," by James Oliverio (b. 1956).

Jauvon Gilliam/Photo from

At the conclusion of the piece moments earlier in the Concert Hall, the composer came up on stage and joined Mr. Gilliam and guest conductor Thomas Wilkins to receive enthusiastic applause and shouts of "Bravo!" from the audience.

Mr. Gilliam, the NSO's principal timpanist and also guest principal timpanist for the Budapest Festival Orchestra, had pounded the eight kettledrums which encircled him at the front of the stage, swirling in his chair and making music with what seemed like four hands.  He waved his sticks like a juggler tossing flames, with arms that sometimes flashed behind him.

The combinations of jazz, dance, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin made for a spectacular presentation in the inauguration of the NSO's series "New Moves:  symphony + dance," the latter expertly supplied by members of Katie Smythe's New Ballet Ensemble from Memphis. 

Now in its eleventh year, the New Ballet comprises children from different social and economic backgrounds, those who cannot afford to pay for dance training and those who can, to learn professional dance on their way to stage careers.  Several alums have already made it up.

Thomas Wilkins, conductor of the Omaha National Symphony and principal guest conductor for the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, had no trouble leading the NSO. Indeed, every time he turned around to face the audience, a broad smile brightened his face.

Thomas Wilkins/Photo from the Omaha Symphony Orchestra

Selections from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin (1898-1937) with arrangement by Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981) got the show off to a stellar start, leading me to wonder if the best was saved for first, but it was an introduction to all the evening's finery which lay ahead, including the fantastic Martin Luther King from a ballet composition, Three Black Kings by Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and arranged by Luther Henderson (1919-2003). Ellington died before he finished Kings, and his son, Mercer, completed the piece. 

(Up against the night's competition, Souvenirs, Op. 28 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was a trifle uninteresting.)

All this served to build anticipation for the night's climax, the debut of Ellington's Harlem ballet, commissioned by the NSO and the Kennedy Center.
New Ballet Ensemble dance Harlem with the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/Photo by Scott Suchman

Dressed in Sunday clothes for Harlem's streets (except for one lass wearing a long dress who may have just stepped off the train from Kansas), the young performers exuded confidence and grace that belied their years and made viewers aware of their futures as career performers.

The choreography had some gaps, namely, the frequent freezes-in-positions which left the majority of the nine dancers stationary and motionless while one, two, or three colleagues twirled around them.  The ballet was far more enjoyable when all nine danced, like the old-fashioned way.

I wondered what a Porgy and Bess ballet would be like and discovered the Dallas Black Dance Theatre brought it to the Kennedy Center in 1998.

The combination dance and music series continues this weekend with compositions by John Adams and Aaron Copland and performances by violinist Leila Josefowicz and Jessica Lang's Dance Company.

This summer will find Maestro Wilkins, a Norfolk, Virginia native, in the area again when he conducts the NSO at Wolf Trap August 2 with guest artist, Yo-Yo Ma.  At last check, only lawn spaces remained.  Take your back brace.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Free trumpet and organ concert May 7 at St. John's, Lafayette Square

A. Scott Wood

A finalist in the International Trumpet Guild Solo Competition in London and the organist at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, will present an Easter concert on Wednesday, May 7, at the church, and the public is invited to attend at no charge. 

Performing will be A. Scott Wood on the trumpet and organist Benjamin Hutto, the director of music ministry at St. John's.  Both serve on the faculties at St. Albans and National Cathedral schools.  Mr. Wood is the conductor of several local orchestras including the Arlington Philharmonic and the Amadeus Orchestra, and he is assistant conductor of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra.
Benjamin Hutto

Mr. Hutto was named a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music in 1998 and was president of its North America chapter for seven years. He has served as president of the Association of Anglican Musicians, and several of his works are found in The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church. 

St. John's hosts First Wednesday concerts every month from October through June at 12:10 p.m. The last program of the season will be June 4 when organist Alan Morrison shall play.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square/By Patricia Leslie

Well known as the yellow church at Lafayette Square and the “Church of the Presidents,” St. John's was founded in 1815. President James Madison, who served as president from 1809 to 1817, began a tradition for all presidents who have attended and/or joined St. John's. A plaque at the rear of the church designates the Lincoln Pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by St. John's during the Civil War.

Who: Benjamin Hutto, organist, and A. Scott Wood, trumpeter

What:  First Wednesday Concerts
When: 12:10 p.m., May 7, 2014

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th and H, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square, Farragut North, or Farragut West

Food trucks: Located two blocks away at Farragut Square

For more information: Contact Michael Lodico at 202-270-6265,

Monday, May 5, 2014

An art party at the Embassy of Austria

Myra Maslowsky was one of the featured artists at the Roger Nakazawa Art Reception at the Embassy of Austria. Her Spiritual Journey can send a viewer into her own kaleidoscopic venture/Photo by Patricia Leslie
It took only a few seconds to consider a response to the Embassy of Austria inviting me to an art auction, wine bar, hors d'oeuvres, and diplomats, all for $29 with a third of the art sales to benefit Charlie's Place, a homeless service center which has assisted clients in the Dupont Circle area for more than 20 years. 


Hosting the event on Friday evening was Roger Nakazawa, the major sponsor, for whom the reception was named.  Other sponsors were the embassy and Summit Connection, LLC.  Andreas Pawlitschek, the embassy's counselor for cultural affairs, welcomed guests.  Bruce McBarnette was the producer.

Registration at the Roger Nakazawa Art Reception at the Embassy of Austria/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Seven artists brought their paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs, and sculpture to describe, sell, and discuss with attendees.  One, Myra Maslowsky, the curator for the show and a University of Maryland graduate, focuses her sci-fi influenced designs on global warming, the Earth, and what appeared to be Utopia.

She exhibits at Washington galleries and her Party Animal Project was selected by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum for display there.

Myra Maslowsky talks about her Cold Winds and Jack Frost at the Roger Nakazawa Art Reception at the Embassy of Austria/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Other artists who participated and whose names are familiar to Washington art enthusiasts were:

Eloy Areu, a self-taught sculptor from Cuba and the U.S., formerly an aerospace engineer

Eloy Areu was a featured artist and sculptor at the Roger Nakazawa Art Reception at the Embassy of Austria.  He brought along paintings, watercolors, and aluminum sculptures he designed and made/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Phil Bolles,  a D.C. photographer and filmmaker who trained at the NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, the BBC, and Duke University
Stephanie Glover, a photographer from Hagerstown Maryland who began her career taking pictures of her four children.  She is a full-time student at Frostburg State University.

Katie Ikeler, a Washington, D.C. artist and recent graduate of William and Mary whose president has three of Ms. Ikeler's works in his private collection. Ms. Ikeler uses handmade box dioramas for her pastels, and for her oils, a palette knife.

Donna L. Shields, a portrait artist and graduate of the University of Maryland, draws people and animals. 

Donna L. Shields of Germantown, Maryland, was another featured artist at the Roger Nakazawa Art Reception at the Embassy of Austria/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Norman Strike, a Washington self-taught printer and picture framer whose prints are in the collections of the Library of Congress, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.  In 2007 the National Museum of American History bought Ben's Chili Bowl by Mr. Strike.

Also on hand was Gail Romiti, face reader. 
At the Roger Nakazawa Art Reception at the Embassy of Austria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
It pays to get out...and get early notices for other happenings, like the EU Open Embassies Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 10 with free shuttles and admission, homeland treats to drink and eat, ambassadors to meet. 

Click here for the schedule of events on May 10 at the Embassy of Austria.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Vienna Theatre's 'Willy Wonka' wows the town

From left, Melissa Handel, Faith Skeen, and Mia Parnaby are Oompa-Loompas who follow the orders of Sedrick Moody as Willy Wonka, in Vienna Theatre Company's Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka The Musical which runs through May 4, 2014/ photo by Jessica Sperlongano

The family that plays together stays together, and laugh and enjoy they will at Vienna Theatre Company's Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka: The Musical now on stage at the Vienna Community Center.

It's the story of a poor boy, Charlie Bucket (excellently played by Adam LeKang) who lives with his impoverished family, so destitute that Charlie's four grandparents have to sleep together in one bed. (Why their bedroom remains on stage throughout the first act is perplexing.)

How would you like to sleep every night with your four grandparents in a single bed?  They do in Vienna Theatre Company's Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka The Musical which runs through May 4, 2014 at the Vienna Community Theatre. From left are Bob Maurer (Grandpa Joe), Toby Nelson (Mrs. Bucket), Nora Zanger (Grandma Josephine), Emily Franks (Grandma Georgina), Adam LeKang (Charlie Bucket), and Joseph LeBlanc (Grandpa George)/Photo by Jessica Sperlongano

Near their falling-down house is a chocolate factory which Charlie's Grandpa Joe (Bob Maurer is quite funny and believable) often describes in stories he tells his grandson.  (But it is Joseph leBlanc as Charlie's hard-of-hearing Grandpa George who has the best lines.)  The chocolate factory is owned by the mysterious and magical Willy Wonka (performed with sophistication by Sedrick Moody).

One day Willy Wonka announces a big contest with global ramifications since five winners will be chosen from around the world to compete and take a tour of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory with the grand prize to be...a lifetime supply of chocolate.

(How delish! If you could wish for anything, would it be a lifetime supply of chocolate? Me, too.)

The winners are to be determined by finding Golden Tickets inside candy bars.  Imagine!  What better reason to gorge your way out of house and home than by eating chocolate bars to find a ticket? (Has General Mills tried this with Cheerios?)

If Charlie did not find one of the Golden Tickets, this story would stop too soon. 

For the grand prize he has to compete with the other winners who are horrid children who treat their parents like children: a gum chewer (Violet, adoringly performed by Kaia Griggs), a spoiled brat (Amelia Lindsey is Veruca Salt), a boy named Augustus Gloop (Erik Peyton) and another one by the name of Mike Teavee (Tashi Poe).  Can you guess what their specialities are?

Then there is "plain ole" Charlie, and guess who wins. You have to see the play to find out, but I will tell you that Willy Wonka gives glorious tours of his factory and strange things happen to the "tourists."  Funny things. Well-deserved things. Like meeting Willy Wonka's workers, the Oompa Lompas who are dressed like giant M and Ms in various colors. 

Costume designers Judy Whelihan and Kati Andresen assisted by Francoise Davis created the smashing outfits with wiiiide waistlines for the Oompa Loompas. Their faces are heavily endowed with globs of makeup which must take hours to apply (by Erica Longshore), and their hair styles (by Jocelyn Steiner, also the show's producer) will throw you for oompa loompas.
In the show Willy Wonka frequently waves his magic hand with spread out fingers like the spokes on a bicycle, and the solo sounds of what sounded like the strings of a harp matched his movements, except there was no harpist among members of "Music Village" who provided welcome music:  Larry Zimmerman, Francine Krasowska and Beth Atkins on keyboards, Kristina Westernik, violinist, and Abel Ruiz, percussionist.

Choreography by Rossyln Fernandez for many different ages, some of whom may never have had a dance lesson, was striking and happily made a part of almost every scene.

Nobody stole the show (except for, maybe, Grandpa George's lines) but Mr. Moody's voice stood out with its breadth and strength followed by the singing of Daniel Marin as the Candy Man. 

Other members of the cast are Emily Franks, Nora Zanger, Alex Graur, Toby Nelson, Kimberly Baker, Melissa Handel, Hannah Hess, Mia Parnaby, Kyla Poe, Faith Skeen, Kathryn Skeen, and Wayne Jacques.

Jessie Roberts, the director, with assistance from Ms. Krasowska, Ms. Atkins, Mr. Zimmerman, Ms. Steiner, Scott Richards, and Colleen Stock, the stage manager, was able to pull off a musical...without a music director.  Applause!

Other key Wonka crew members are Tom Epps, lighting designer, Jon Roberts, sound, Janice Zucker, vocal coach, Leta Fitzhugh, sets, and Suzanne Maloney, properties.

Willy Wonka's got so much action and dance even the fidgetiest child (or adult) will not cry for chocolate at intermission (which happens to be available for purchase). On Saturday night the show was (or close to) a sell-out with children younger than 14 filling about half the seats.

There are few community events more enjoyable than a production with many local children starring in it, and Willy Wonka fits that playbill. 
For a listing and reviews of other area performances, click DC Metro Theater Arts.

What:  Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka: The Musical

When:  May 2 and 3 at 8 p.m., and  May 4 at 2 p.m.

Where: Vienna Theatre Company,120 Cherry Street, Vienna, VA 22180

Tickets: $14

For more information: 703-255-6360 or visit the website

Duration: About two hours with intermission