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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veterans Day 2018 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

 At the annual Veterans Day tribute at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 25th anniversary of the first monument on the National Mall to honor female troops in the war, the Vietnam Women Memorial, was celebrated. The wreath above, "Never Again" from Vietnam Veterans Against the War, was one of several at the women's memorial.

The sculptor, Glenda Goodacre, wrote for the program that her ill health prevented her attendance today but "how proud I am to have been a part of your remarkable accomplishments....the Vietnam Women's Memorial has been my most gratifying commission....The response to my work is what a public art creator would hope for in her wildest dreams."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Vietnam Women's Memorial, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Vietnam Women's Memorial, sculpted by Glenda Goodacre, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Vietnam Women's Memorial, sculpted by Glenda Goodacre, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Looking up a name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Looking up a name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 At the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie.

Kera O'Bryon sang the "Star-Spangled Banner." The speakers included Diane Carlson Evans, the founder of the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and Patricia Trap, acting superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks who said the names of eight women were among the 58,318 listed on the Wall who died as a result of the war in Vietnam.
The Joint Forces Color Guard prepares to present the colors at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Joint Forces Color Guard prepares to present the colors at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie


The Joint Forces Color Guard prepares to present the colors at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Joint Forces Color Guard prepares to present the colors at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie


At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jim Knotts, the Wall Memorial Foundation president and CEO of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, speaks at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 A member of the Australia chapter of Vietnam Veterans at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 At the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.  2018, traveling in style/Photo by Patricia Leslie

A member of the Boy Scouts Order of the Arrow at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Three Servicemen Statue by Frederick Hart near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. Veterans Day, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie

patricialesli@gmail.com

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Mosaic Theater's outstanding 'Agitators'


 Ro Boddie is Frederick Douglass and Marni Penning is Susan B. Anthony in Mosaic Theater Company's The Agitators/Photo by Stan Barouh


It is unlikely that I would have had the keen interest in Mosaic Theater's newest play, The Agitators, had I not read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave nor had visited his Washington home earlier this year, Cedar Hill.

My visit to Cedar Hill was occasioned by the 200th birthday celebration for Mr. Douglass (1818-1895) although his exact birth year and date are conjecture since he was born into slavery when record-keeping of slaves was not guaranteed.

Mosaic's Agitators are Mr. Douglass and his longtime friend and collaborator-in-charge-of-change, Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) who happened to share the same time frame in life. 
 
 Seated are Ro Boddie as Frederick Douglass and Marni Penning as Susan B. Anthony with Adanna Paul and Josh Adams in Mosaic Theater Company's The Agitators/Photo by Stan Barouh

"Slavery is what stole the first 20 years of my life," Mr. Douglass says in the play, and, agitation is the spark leading to change.

Ms. Anthony says her father didn't vote because, had he voted, he would have become part of the corruption.
 

Mr. Douglass and Ms. Anthony are friends, they are rivals, they are revolutionaries, she, an ardent suffragette, and he, an impassioned abolitionist who also shared Ms. Anthony's ideas to get the vote for women.

They worked night and day to correct society's wrongs.
 

The Agitators' director KenYatta Rogers writes in program notes: "They spent a lifetime pursuing perfection for their fellow Americans....The time has come to learn from their example. 'To use the past only as it [is] useful to the present and the future.'"

Ro Boddie is Mr. Douglass and Marni Penning is Ms. Anthony who did not live to see the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. For more than five decades, she worked tirelessly for the amendment's passage.

The play exceeded all forecasts for enlightenment, acting, format, and just plain good theatre, and its program includes an excellent chronology of important events in Douglass's and Anthony's lives.

Rather than two actors sitting on a stage reminiscencing about their times together, they fight and scream and don't always take to each other.  They convincingly discuss their battles to win over public acceptance of their hopes and dreams.

Scenes (by Jonathan Dahm Robertson) change frequently, and they are more than a piece moving once or twice. The initial set led me to low visual expectations, given the rectangular outline with white  flowing curtains, but the versatility soon became obvious.

In one of the most creative places, the duo stand on opposite elevated platforms at a railway station, shouting at each other over the tracks.

Time moves on, projected by listing of years, different hair colors, hairstyles, and Ms. Anthony's fashions (by Amy McDonald.  In the manner of the Kennedy Center which exhibits costumes of ballerinas and opera stars in foyers, Ms. McDonald's designs would be welcome in the Mosaic foyer.)

After the show, the playwright, Mat Smart told me the play originated from a visit he made to  Ms. Anthony's home in Rochester, New York.

He spent a year conducting primary research on the couple, pinpointing visits by both at the same times to the same places:  Albany, Boston, Rochester, Washington, D.C. and more.  Except for the baseball game which he could not say with certainty that Ms. Anthony attended, he speculated she was there because "everybody in town was."

The game was one of the most hilarious scenes in the play which  overall had much more humor than I anticipated.  "Do not quote me to me." 

Mr. Smart told me he left the music choices up to the director and the sound director, David Lamont Wilson, with the stipulation that they mix "the old with the new."

They did and lots more. 

At intermission I turned to the stranger beside me and said I wanted a copy of the music, and she replied that she wanted a copy of the music.  The only piece whose title I could positively identify was Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner."

The music was deliciously eclectic, modern with hip hop and a mix of 19th century songs and sounds, which are rare together, at least on my shelves.

Two nights after the Pittsburgh tragedy, the play ended on an emotionally charged stage with Ari Roth, Mosaic's founding artistic director, Victoria Murray Baatin, the associate artistic director, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Smart and others from the crew holding hands and leading the standing audience to sing several verses of "We Shall Overcome."

Many words from the script fit the sad times that we live today.  Still, the agitators' hope that becomes reality illuminates the dark to tell us that a better day, a new day will come.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me. - (Emily Dickinson)
Also in The Agitators are Adanna Paul and Josh Adams who are background ensemble members.

Additional creative team members are Robert Garner, sound engineer; James Morrison, projections; Alec Sparks, assistant projections; Elena Velasco, movement coordinator; Alberto Segarra, lighting, Emily Boisseau, properties; Shirley Serotsky, dramaturg; and Laurel VanLandingham, production stage manager.

The Mosaic has scheduled other events in conjunction with The Agitators. Before you go, check with the box office about possible changes: 202-399-7993, ext. 2.

Nov. 10, 3 p.m. Voting Rights Today-The Meaning of Centuries of Struggle

Nov. 11, 3 p.m. Black Women's Suffrage-Abolition was Not Enough
 
Nov. 15, 11 a.m. Cast talkback
 
Nov. 17, 3 p.m. Inexhaustible Souls in Collision-The Struggle for the 15th Amendment Meets the Claims of Race and Gender
 
Nov. 18, 3 p.m. We Hold These Truths-Quakers in America
 
Nov. 20, 8 p.m. It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right-Necessary Coalitions/Imperfect Partners
 
Nov. 24, 3 p.m. What Makes a Movement?
 
Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m.The Rooms Where It Happens: Politics of Place and the Geography of Freedom 
What: The Agitators
 
When: Now through Nov. 25, 2018 at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday nights; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25; 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20; weekend matinees at 3 p.m. A Nov. 15 student and senior matinee at 11 a.m. has sold out.

Where: Mosaic Theater Company, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
Getting there: Riding public transportation from Union Station on the streetcar is easy and free, if you can master the hurdle of finding the streetcar behind Union Station. Signage in the station is poor. Parking options are available for those who wish to drive.
 
Tickets start at $20.

Language: Some of the songs drop the F-bomb, and maybe another epithet is heard here and there in the dialogue.

Duration: About two hours with one 15-minute intermission.

For more information: Please call the box office and leave a message: 202-399-7993, ext. 2.
 
patricialesli@gmail.com





Friday, November 2, 2018

Drama in Herndon in 'East of Eden'



From left are Kari Ginsburg, Annie Ottati and John Sygar in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden at NextStop Theatre Company/Photo by Lock and Company

The acting is great. Ditto the set. The set and lighting are terrific. No complaints about the directing.
 

It's just the script which needs work.
The play is East of Eden, NextStop Theatre Company's newest production whose crews excel at their assignments.

It is no surprise that John Sygar who has demanding roles as a father and then a son, was earlier nominated for a Helen Hayes Award.

He is a young newly-wed, Adam Trask, and later, the guilt-ridden son, Caleb, of the father he played in the first act.

In a troubling production that eschews little hope for a sunnier future until the very end, Caleb writhes on the wooden floor in agony and torment over the grief and hurt he brings others, including himself, because of the choices he has made. 


Caleb and his brother, Aron (Annie Ottati) are twins born to Adam and his wife, Kathy (also Annie Ottati).

The play was adapted by Frank Galati from John Steinbeck's 1952 novel of the same name. It is no coincidence that Caleb and Aron have names similar to the first children of Adam and Eve: Cain and Abel. 


Steinbeck's title comes from Genesis 4: 8, 16: "Cain rose up against his brother Abel and slew him... And Cain went away and dwelled in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."

Like Cain in the Bible story, Caleb struggles to gain his father's love and respect like his father (Zach Brewster-Geisz) bestows on Aron.

Kate (rhymes with hate) is the boys' mother who flees the family after giving birth to her sons.  She does not return. Never one to exude sensitivity or love for anyone else save herself, she is a role model for every misogynist's notebook, a spiteful, bitter person from beginning to end, skillfully portrayed by Kari Ginsburg, also a Helen Hayes nominee.

Here, Kate reminds you of animals which kill their young.

Acting on rumors that their mother is not dead, Caleb goes in search to learn the truth. He tells Aron who joins the Army to fight in World War I.

Until a love triangle develops, Aron's girlfriend (Nina Marti) is the only glimmer of sunshine in the sad yarn.

Kathy is a younger Kate in the first act who fills the venue with piercing screams as she gives birth to her sons in a too-long scene to make every mother wince at the memory. (And, no doubt, some fathers, too. I don't guess you have to be a parent to shrink at the sounds.)

It's not only the mother's yells the audience hears for plenty more lie ahead.
 

Another actor, Reginald Richard, convincingly carries dual responsibilities as the steadfast father and, later, son, Samuel and Will Hamilton, who are Trask neighbors.

Lee (Jacob Yeh) is Adam's right-hand man, a reliable character who assists Adam in running the household.

From left are Nina Marti, Eva Jaber, Lorenzo Aten and Annie Ottati in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden at NextStop Theatre Company/Photo by Lock and Company

The experienced child actors who play young Cal (William Price), Aron (Lorenzo Aten Falconi) and Abra (Eva Jaber) add curiosity and fun at the beginning, and then they grow up.
 

The beginning of this Eden opens with a beautiful landscape setting which hangs as backdrop throughout the show, a constant contrast to the script. Lighting director Brittany Shemuga weaves time's passages in her valley with visual changes in the landscape and sky.

Wooden furniture and surroundings bring warmth to the ambience and help to mask the family's uncomfortable relationships.
 

Adding dimension is the use of 21st century electronic musical accompaniment whose absence is noticeable during short pauses in the dialogue. 

Confusing, at least at first, are the actors who stand silently in the shadows on either side of the stage while another actor representing the same person at a different age speaks. While the adults hold hands and converse, child actors sit on a bed in the shadows and hold hands.
 

For scene changes the actors move furniture, tables, and chairs stored in sight on either side of the stage to the center stage and sometimes slam them in unison on the floor. (Assistant director, Hollyann Bucci, also was the props director.)
 

Moyenda Kulemeka has dressed the actors in beautifully designed costumes for the turning of the century in California.

Until death comes to call, hope sinks with the setting sun east of this Eden.

Others in the cast are Alana Sharp and Nahm Darr.
 

Creative team members are Evan Hoffman, director; Jaclyn Young, wigs; Sarah Usary, stage manager; Laura Moody, assistant stage manager; Casey Kaleba, fight choreographer; Meghan Behm, intimacy director; and Jonathan Abolins, master electrician.

What: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Adapted for the stage by Frank Galati

When: Thursday (Nov. 8 and Nov. 15) through Saturday nights at 8 p.m., Sundays, at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., now through November 18, 2018 with
the 2 p.m. matinee.

Where: NextStop Theatre Company, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170 in the back right corner of Sunset Business Park, near the intersection of Spring Street/Sunset Hills Road. Right off the Fairfax County Parkway. A wee big hard to find on a first visit, so allow an extra 15 minutes. The program notes that GPS map systems often give incorrect driving directions once inside the Sunset Business Park. From the "Taste of the World" restaurant, circle counter-clockwise around the building and look for maroon awning. Lots of great restaurants nearby.

Free parking: Available near the door.

Admission: General admission tickets are $35.

Duration: About two and 15 minutes with one intermission

Rating:
Adult themes

For more information: 703-481-5930 or BoxOffice@NextStopTheatre.org
 

patricialesli@gmail.com