- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Revelers celebrated a fitting union at Wolf Trap last week, a marriage between the national parks and the performing arts.

The low-key festivities in Vienna, Va., Friday night marked the debut of "Face of America," a performing-arts program that will honor a different national park each year.

Under a spacious tent on the bucolic park grounds, local politicos and Wolf Trap contributors mingled, their conversations crackling in anticipation of the main event. Yosemite National Park drew the first slot in the innovative series. The American Indian Dance Theatre opened the program, while the high-flying Project Bandaloop troupers, who perform modern dance steps while dangling from the rafters, reflected the park's history and untamed beauty.

The guests, whose dress ranged from casual to just-left-work professional, nibbled on shrimp, roast beef and a smorgasbord of desserts while waiting for the curtains to rise.

While the evening's skies proved a listless gray, meticulously placed greenery punctuated the tent's interior, providing all the color the evening required.

Thomas Hoog, Wolf Trap Foundation chairman and president and chief executive of Hill and Knowlton, USA, beamed with pride over the evening's program. He promised the night would mark the first of many such unconventional happenings.

"It's one more indication that the marriage between Wolf Trap and the Interior Department … gives us the opportunity to do more cutting-edge theater," Mr. Hoog said.

California Rep. George P. Radanovich, who helped spur the project along with Wolf Trap President Terrence Jones, appeared delighted about the acts chosen to honor his district's world-famous natural wonder.

"We're fortunate enough to start with an incredible mix of natural resources and the arts," said Mr. Radanovich, a Republican who was born and raised near Yosemite National Park. "I don't think they could have done a better job."

National Park Service Director Robert G. Stanton agreed, saying the blending of art and the elements would prove to be "inspiring to the American public."

Others on hand to witness the inspiration included Penny Gross and Catherine M. Hudgins of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; state Sen. Patricia S. "Patsy" Ticer, an Alexandria Democrat; and state Delegates Ken Plum, a Democrat from Reston and John H. "Jack" Rust Jr., a Fairfax Republican.

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas said the "Face of America" series pays welcome respect to a part of our heritage too often ignored.

"I think the national parks have been in disrepair and disregard," Mr. Thomas said. "They're wonderful resources for families to understand and appreciate nature."

Walter Rissmeyer, an executive with Blue Land Media of Arlington, the company that helped arrange for the HDTV screens used in the performance, said advancing video technology helped make the unusual program possible.

"This is very rare," Mr. Rissmeyer said. "I can't imagine anything like this has happened in the Washington area."

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