✔ Pick of the Pack
Founded in 1984, the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference series — or TED, as it's more commonly known — has been called "the Bono of conferences," accused of peddling "a complacent, superficial, nauseatingly saccharine view of the world," and dismissed as "grossly overrated or unconvincing." Why all the hate? Well, like any other niche brand that scales to size, the decentralization and mass production of TED conferences occasionally leads to compromises in the quality of its speakers and their topics. But even if half of all 10-minute TED talks aren't worth a sixth of an hour — and that percentage depends on whether you enjoy listening to pop psychobabble masquerading as revolutionary business strategy — the other half of TED talks are genuinely and objectively interesting. Take, for example, Elizabeth Gilbert rebutting "tortured artist syndrome" or Clay Shirky knocking down SOPA and PIPA like so many duckpins. D.C. folks have launched their own independent (hence the "x") TED conference. This week's session is on "The Creative City: Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Innovation." At $65 a ticket, it's not exactly a cheap way to pass your Saturday, and you're likely to enjoy only half of it. But then, the real value of attending a TED conference can't be measured in dollars and cents because the real value in attending a TED conference (or any other conference) is being able to say you went.
Saturday at TheARC Theater, 1901 Mississippi Ave. SE
For children: Artful Adventures for Families
Every good teacher knows the trick to nurturing a child's interest in the arts is knowing what interests children in the first place. Light and shadow, figure and form — to children, these elements are mustier than a rare-book collection. The National Portrait Gallery is not above translating its collection into the language of young people, which is why it developed Artful Adventures for Families. The tour, which is heavy on games and imagination for children ages 6 to 12, is probably the only circumstance under which it is reasonable to take your kindergartner to the vaunted gallery. "Stepping inside a painting" likely will not turn your 7-year-old into a lifelong appreciator of "Painted and Photographic Miniatures, 1750-1920," but it will reduce the amount of shushing you otherwise would be doing. If your 12-year-old finds the activities too childish, you could always go to the main gallery to see "In Vibrant Color," a collection of Harry Warnecke photographs.
Sunday at the National Portrait Gallery Education Department, Eighth and F streets NW
Festival: Month of Francophonie
Along with the Iraq War, the bad old days of renaming french fries "freedom fries" are behind us. That means it's safe again to enjoy the cultural exports of France. You could start by savoring foie gras, champagne, brie and bouillabaisse, or downloading the discographies of M83 and Uffie. But with so much time to make up for, why not go for the buffet experience at La Maison Francaise? Its grande fete — French for big ol' party — will feature food tables and musical acts from every corner of the French-speaking world.
Friday at La Maison Francaise, 4101 Reservoir Road NW
Exhibit: 'Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard'
French artists Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Edouard Vuillard and Felix Vallotton collectively took more than 10,000 photographs. That's an incredible body of work considering that these men were snapping photos at the turn of the century, when capturing an image was anything but easy. But there's another reason as well: None of them was a professional photographer. As members of the Nabis movement, the men were following in the footsteps of painter Paul Gauguin, but they also documented the mundane events of everyday life. Many of these photos have been unpublished, and all of them reflect the artists' acumen for spotting pedestrian beauty.
Through May 6 at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW
Theater: 'An Adaptation of Julius Caesar'
Shawn Northrip's "An Adaptation of Julius Caesar" follows its inspiration rather closely up until the moment Brutus murders the titular despot. That's when things get weird. In the hands of the Molotov Theatre Group, Shakespeare's regal retelling of one of history's greatest betrayals becomes a breakneck medley of historical events.
Through April 7 at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW