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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Herndon's unordinary night at the theatre

Carl Williams as Warren and Anna Phillips-Brown as Deb in Ordinary Days at NextStop Theatre Company/Photo by Lock and Company

It could be your extraordinary day, like it is for the foursome in NextStop Theatre's newest production, Ordinary Days.

Seize the opportunity!

Welcome change every day, new acquaintances and relationships, whoever or what awaits your life and pleasure around the next bend.



If you are lucky like Deb (Anna Phillips-Brown) who loses her thesis, you'll meet Warren (Carl Williams), a blissfully happy artist (huh? Artists are "happy"? He must not be an artist!) who finds and returns Deb's papers to brighten her life and those around Warren. (We all could use a little "Warren" in our lives.) 

Or, take a couple who is not a couple, but wait! Maybe, they are, after all. Bobby Libby is Jason and Sarah Anne Sillers is Claire, the twosome who "find each other" like Deb's papers and Warren "find" Deb.


Do you sometimes wish that the search for meaning and a better life would end so we could just ride along for the sheer enjoyment of another day? It is not to be among most of this crew of dissatisfied 20-and 30-somethings in New York City, but that's New York, isn't it?

 

The stars are the excellent acting which supply zest and humor to the musical, almost engulfed by Ms. Phillips-Brown's strong voice and dynamic personality. One couple contemplates marriage, and the other joins in to wonder what brought them together. Their lives cross. 

It's not always about sex.

Without the non-stop accompaniment by Elisa Rosman on the keyboards (who has no time for even one quick breather), these "ordinary days" would be anything but extraordinary. The one-woman orchestra ties it all together with energetic playing and direction. A total musical with ne'er a word spoken.

Upon entering the theatre, you experience the sensation that you have below you (the seats are elevated with excellent viewing from all) a surrealistic scene or gallery in a museum which indeed is what it is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Beyond its walls, the exteriors become effective places for coffee and chats while the interior nicely transitions into an apartment for the reckoning of said betrothed couple. (JD Madsen was the scenic designer.)

Visuals of contemporary Big Apple scenes are projected on three screens throughout the show, and although they often change,
the dialogue and action are not disrupted.

Adam Gwon wrote the music and the lyrics.

Jay D. Brock directs. Other creative team members are
Kristen P Ahern, costumes;  Doug Del Pizzo, lighting; Evan Hoffmann, sound; Chris Foote, properties; Laura Moody, production stage manager; Quoc Tran, rehearsal stage manager and assistant director; Regan Hattersley, assistant stage manager; and
Suzy Alden, scenic painter.

What: Ordinary Days 

Duration:  About 90 minutes without intermission

When:  Through Mar. 15, 2020 at 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday, March 8, at 7 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., and a Saturday matinee, March 14 at 2 p.m.  

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. Lots of great restaurants nearby.

Tickets:  Start at $40.  
 
Language: Rated X 

Lighted, free parking: Available near the door. 

Refreshments: Available and may be taken to seats

For more information: 703-481-5930 or info@nextstoptheatre.org

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Spain's Renaissance sculptor leaves Washington

From the exhibition: "This is Berruguete’s earliest surviving sculpture, which comes from a monastic church near Valladolid, the town in central Castile where the artist moved in 1522. Depicting the bound and tortured Christ as he is presented to jeering crowds on the way to his crucifixion, the figure is likely to have stood on an altar, perhaps as the central figure in a retablo (altarpiece). Berruguete’s treatment of the subject was unconventional in Castile. Instead of following tradition and covering Christ’s body with scourge marks and blood, Berruguete elicits sympathy from the viewer through other means. The cross-legged pose, slender limbs, and unsupported arms create a sense of unbalance that conveys Christ’s helplessness. The solution reflects works of art that Berruguete would have studied in Italy."

Alonso Berruguete, Ecce Homo, c. 1524, painted wood with gilding and silvering, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid. © Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid (Spain)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Alonso Berruguete, Ecce Homo, c. 1524, painted wood with gilding and silvering, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid. © Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid (Spain) /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Alonso Berruguete, Ecce Homo, c. 1524, painted wood with gilding and silvering, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid. © Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid (Spain)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Spanish (Castile), The Miracle of the Palm Tree on the Flight to Egypt, c. 1490-1510, painted walnut with gilding, lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Artists in Castile, such as Berruguete, often turned for inspiration to Northern artists, such as Martin Schongauer whose work is below/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Martin Schongauer, The Flight into Egypt, c. 1470-1475, engraving, Natioonal Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection 
From the exhibition: "Painted by Alonso Berruguete’s talented father, Pedro, this exquisite scene of the Virgin and Child shows the enduring influence of Flemish painting on the arts of Castile. [The son] Berruguete must have started his career in command of a similar style of painting — now called the Hispanoex-Flemish style."

Pedro Berruguete, The Virgin and Child Enthroned, c. 1500, oil on panel, Ayuntamiento de Madrid, Museo de San Isidro, Los Orígenes de Madrid. 
Alonso Berruguete, Calvary Group, Crucified Christ Flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist, from the retablo mayor (high altarpiece) of San Benito el Real, 1526/1533, painted wood with gilding, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Alonso Berruguete, Calvary Group, Crucified Christ Flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist, from the retablo mayor (high altarpiece) of San Benito el Real, 1526/1533, painted wood with gilding, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid. © Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid (Spain)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Alonso Berruguete, Calvary Group, Crucified Christ Flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist, from the retablo mayor (high altarpiece) of San Benito el Real, 1526/1533, painted wood with gilding, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Alonso Berruguete, detail from the Calvary Group, Crucified Christ Flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist, from the retablo mayor (high altarpiece) of San Benito el Real, 1526/1533, painted wood with gilding, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
Alonso Berruguete, Saint John the Evangelist (Calvary group), from the retablo mayor (high altarpiece) of San Benito el Real, 1526/1533, painted wood with gilding, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From the exhibition: "One of Berruguete’s most celebrated sculptures, this group depicts the moment when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac on God’s orders. As the anguished Abraham looks heavenward in disbelief, his terrified son kneels and awaits his fate. Before Abraham could carry out the act, however, God appeared and offered him a ram to sacrifice instead."

Alonso Berruguete, The Sacrifice of Isaac, from the retablo mayor (high altarpiece) of San Benito el Real, 1526/1533, painted wood with gilding, Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid. © Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid (Spain);/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Alonso Berruguete, The Entombment of Christ, 1540s or 1550s. Because of the distance, transportation, and cost to carry marble from Italy, alabaster was used for The Entombment of Christ. The "frenetic energy" displayed suggests the influence of Donatello whom Berruguete would have studied in Florence.
From the exhibition: "This is one of only a handful of paintings that survive from Berruguete’s time in Italy. It depicts Salome, who ordered Saint John the Baptist’s beheading. Here she holds his head on a silver platter. Her long fingers, elegant pose, demure gaze, and idealized features are consistent with mannerism, a style of art that was becoming fashionable in Florence during the 1510s. Berruguete was in the vanguard of the movement. Like other mannerist artists, he favored exaggerated forms and complicated poses over the restrained beauty of earlier Renaissance art."

Alonso Berruguete, Salome, c. 1514–1517, oil on panel, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence.


About 45 works by Alonso Berruguete (1488 or 1490 -1561), the Spanish sculpture icon, are on display for one day more at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the first time his works are the subject of an exclusive exhibition outside Spain.

He was, says Wikipedia, "the most important sculptor of the Spanish Renaissance."

Sculpture, paintings, and works on paper comprise the show which includes one of Berruguete's earliest recorded works, Salome, dating from 1514-1517 which he made while studying for 13 years in Italy.

After the death of his father, Pedro Berruguete, an artist in his own right (who also has a painting in the show, The Virgin and Child Enthroned), Berruguete moved to Italy in his late teens.


In Italy Alonso studied under Michelangelo, and learned to draw, becoming the first Spanish artist to "create a recognizable body of drawings," many which are included in the exhibition. (About 25 of his drawings are known to exist.)

After finishing Salome, Alonso returned to Spain the next year, and was appointed court painter to Charles I (later, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V).

Following Spain's tradition, Alonso crafted wooden sculptures and altarpieces, retablos, which form the basis for the exhibition here.

His long, slender figures and sharp angles compare to those of El Greco (1541-1614) whom Alonso predated by 53 years.

From Washington Berruguete moves to the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas where the show will open March 29 and close July 26 this year.

The curators, C.D. Dickerson III of the National Gallery of Art and Mark McDonald of the Metropolitan Museum of Art edited the catalogue* which is the first comprehensive Berruguete study in English. The Meadows' curator was Wendy Sepponen.

Organizers of the display are the National Gallery and the Meadows, in collaboration with the Museo Nacional de Escultura in Valladolid,
 

The people of the United States and visitors are grateful to the Buffy and William Cafritz Family Fund and the Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art for sponsoring and making the presentation possible.

*Available in the shops: $55; 244 pages, 175 illustrations, hard cover

What: Alonso Berruguete: First Sculptor of Renaissance Spain

When: Now through February 17, 2020. The National Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Where: The West Building at the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

How much
: Admission to the National Gallery of Art is always free.

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information:
202-737-4215

patricialesli@gmail.com

Friday, February 14, 2020

The 2020 Friends of National Service Awards, Washington, D.C.

The first honoree of the evening at the National Friends of Service Awards was Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) who received the John S. McCain Service to Country Award. Senator McCain's widow, Cindy, delivered a special video message/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) received an Outstanding New Member Award at the annual Friends of National Service event, Feb. 11, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) received an Outstanding New Member Award from the National Friends of Service at its annual dinner, Feb. 11, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. Sen. Richard Scott (R-FL) was another new member recipient/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Michigan) received Distinguished Service Awards from the National Friends of Service at its annual dinner, Feb. 11, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) received the FDR Service and Conservation Corps Leadership Award at the annual Friends of National Service event, Feb. 11, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was added to the National Service Hall of Fame with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) at the annual Friends of National Service event, Feb. 11, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie


On Tuesday evening at the 17th Annual Friends of National Service Awards, 13 members of Congress were among 22 honorees recognized for their outstanding achievements in support and investment of national service initiatives.

Hosting the event at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill
was Voices for National Service which works to strengthen opportunities and collaborate through its coalition of local and national groups to educate national leaders on the impact and importance of service and federal funding for programs.

Among groups Voices represents are AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, the Volunteer Generation Fund, State Service Commissions, and Teach for America.

Besides those named above, other award recipients were Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) who received the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Lifetime Leadership Award, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-NH), Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Rep. Aaron Lieberman (D-AZ), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WVA), Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Indiana), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, and Mayor Ras Baraka (Newark, NJ).

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Best Picture! 'Parasite' and more for 'Ford v. Ferrari'




Oh my gaaawwwwdddddddd....

Not that I've seen them all, but this is without question, "the best" this year.

It's not for the squeamish or those who want an easy flowing plot.  

It's for lovers of The Shape of Water. 

At the beginning, it's like a nicely winding stream, meandering along its path when yikers! Danger knocks and like a mammoth rock which separates the water in two, a geyser erupts and venom spews. 

Don't open the door!  (But, what's a movie without fear and trembling? And opportunity knocks, does it not?)

I must open the door! Which door?

Parasite is a screaming roller coaster ride which climbs and zooms 'til you reach zowee clouds and then you hurtle down the curves, rushing, rushing to the next scene. lurching, twisting and covering your eyes, afraid to look and ….oh, my   g o o d n e s s....

Hang on! You may need blinders.  Just ask Christine. She used her hands.

It's got a bit of humor, too: "Do I have to do the Miranda thing again?"

Outstanding music (by Jaeil Jung), acting, cinematography, and plot make Parasite the "best." 


Congratulations to writer/director Bong Joon-ho for bringing this to the U.S.

Parasite has been nominated for six Academy Awards, the first time a Korean film has been nominated for any Oscar.  The actors deserved nomination, too, but were overlooked by the Academy for, according to modern talk, racist reasons.

It's in Korean with English sub-titles and, to make a comparison, makes Knives Out (I know; not nominated) look like plastic forks. 
  
Others I wish had won nominations and Oscars are Christian Bale for Best Actor and Tracy Letts, Best Supporting Actor in Ford v. Ferrari, a winner for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Casting. No doubts!
 
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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Olney's 'Miss You' embraces all



Valeria Morales, left, and Karmine Alers in Miss You Like Hell at Olney Theatre Center
Photo: Stan Barouh



For a show that's only 90 or so minutes without an intermission, Olney Theatre Center's Miss You Like Hell covers a lot of territory, racing through so many hot button issues, it's a fast socio-psychological study in what ails the nation and what ails you (but not me).

Illegal immigration, discrimination, suicide, mental health, sexism, family matters (including, but not limited to mother-daughter relationships), are all here. What have I overlooked? 


A lot to grasp in one show, but all is not totally droll since it's got humor. 

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright
Quiara Alegría Hudes's main characters are a mother, Beatriz (Karmine Alers) who convinces her estranged 16-year-old daughter, Olivia (Valeria Morales) to go with her on a coast-to-coast journey and try and iron out some of their interpersonal difficulties and "find themselves."

While Beatrix, an illegal immigrant, suffers the silent anxiety of being discovered by ICE, Olivia endures suicidal tendencies. What better time to work it all out? Which they attempt with the help of convincing characters they meet on the road, who befriend them and provide sustenance to help overcome life's "evils," and find everybody. They become family of more than blood lines.


Dialogue between mother and daughter is ageless, the same (with some variation) likely to be found on parchment in the Middle Ages (sans the X-rated words.  What were X-rated words in the Middle Ages? But that's another script!)

Two of the most delightful new friends are a gay couple, Mo (Bradley Mott) and Higgins (Lawrence Redmond) whose humorous lines and duet "My Bell's Been Rung" contrast with dour first impressions.
 

Later, Pearl (Kayla Gross) is another stranger-now-friend whose strong and beautiful voice threatens to overtake the stars' and Yellowstone National Park.

Director Lisa Portes places nonspeaking cast members in scattered positions on a mostly shadowy stage until they start to emerge like butterflies, slowly gathering energy to float and soar, sing and dance.  (The harmonies are magnificent.) They use chairs as props, and sometimes they sit or stand on elevated levels which sounds hokey, but once I figured out what was happening,
the effect was all right

While Matt Rowe's automotive and road sounds hum in the background, unobtrusive landscapes are projected up as moving backdrop (by Thomas Ontiveros). (Videos are so ubiquitous in theatre nowadays, it's an unusual production which doesn't have them. I guess the performing artists must try any and all additions to keep the audience, and especially younger members, in check.  Try the Symphony, for another.)
  
Walter “Bobby” McCoy directs the onstage seven-member orchestra which provides excellent accompaniment (per standard Olney fare).

Other cast members are Jyline Carranza, Carlos L. Encinias
Jay Frisby, Olivia Ashley Reed (also dance captain), Kara-Tameika Watkins, and Michael Wood.

The creative team also include Milagros Ponce de Leon, scenics; Ivania Stack, costumes; Pablo Santiago, lighting; Richard Lundy, production stage manager; Josiane M. Jones, director of production; Christopher Youstra, associate artistic director and director of music theatre; Breon Arzell, choreography.

Congratulations to Ms. Morales, a freshman at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, making her Olney debut!

What: Miss You Like Hell
with music and lyrics by Erin McKeown

Where:  Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832.

When: Through March 1, 2020, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinees on Saturday, Sunday and one Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. An audio-described performance for the blind and visually impaired on Wednesday, Feb.12, at 8 p.m. and a sign-interpreted performance Thursday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m. (Contact Julia Via at jvia@olneytheatre.org
to confirm.)

Tickets
: Begin at $42 with discounts for groups, seniors, military, and students

Ages: Olney rates this as "PG-13" but I rate it "R." Olney recommends a parent attend with children aged 13 and older; no parent necessary for those aged 16 and more. 


Language:  X


"Afterwords": Matinee post-show discussions on all Saturdays in February.



Free tickets with pre-registration for Erin McKeown's concert at the Olney Feb. 15 at 5 p.m.  She wrote the music and lyrics for Miss You Like Hell.
 
Refreshments: Available and may be taken to seats

Parking: Free, lighted and plentiful on-site

For more information: 301-924-3400 for the box office or 301-924-4485

 


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