- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2001

America will put on a pretty face — that of the scenic U.S. Virgin Islands National Park and Coral Reef National Monument — next Saturday night at Wolf Trap in Vienna.
The audience at Wolf Trap's Filene Center will be transported to the Caribbean through stories, music, dance and technology in a program called "Face of America 2001."
Wolf Trap, dubbed "America's national park for the performing arts," is celebrating U.S. national parks in a seven-year project.
In this, the second year, lush landscapes and tropical waters from the Virgin Islands park will flash on a giant high-definition television screen as the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swim Team executes underwater interpretive movements on location.
A world-premiere dance piece also will be performed by Donald Byrd and the Group, accompanied by new music from jazz composer Steve Turre and his 12-piece conch-shell choir, the Sanctified Shells. Inspired by the slave history of the island of St. John, members of the Group also will be shown in TV footage at Cinnamon Bay, the Annaberg Plantation and in the waters off St. John.
Choreographer Ronald K. Brown and his company, Evidence, will perform "Sole" and "Water." Storyteller Alice McGill, a resident of Columbia, Md., composed "The Bomba Circle," a tale of a woman's search for her past in the Virgin Islands, for the program.
These activities start at 8 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., Ali Paul Mocko Jumbie Stilt Dancers from the U.S. Virgin islands will perform in the Filene Center Plaza.
A simple statement by National Park Service Director Robert Stanton in June 1999 galvanized Terrence Jones, chief executive of the Wolf Trap Foundation, into developing the multi-year, $2.5 million Face of America project.
"I believe the national parks should reflect the face of America," Mr. Stanton said in off-the-cuff fashion to a group of Wolf Trap officials attending a meeting in his office.
"That resonated so strongly with me," Mr. Jones says.
The project began last year with a show highlighting California's Yosemite National Park and will continue on an annual basis through 2006. The last one will be an appreciative look at Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. Others planned include a focus on Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park, to be filmed underground for showing next year, and a visit to three park locations in Hawaii in 2004.
The celebration of the centennial of the Wright brothers' first flight will be marked in 2003, and the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona will be spotlighted in 2005.
Face of America is a trademarked name.
Mr. Jones spends considerable time getting funding for the project because the average cost for programs is $500,000. "We are in preliminary discussions with a number of television stations in hopes the programs would be a TV series in the long term," he says.
"What I wanted was for people to understand Wolf Trap is the [only] national park for the performing arts. I wanted to talk about integrating it with other parks.
"What it does for the artists involved is give them a chance to work in different places, in a site-specific way," he says. The parks benefit, he says, because "telling the story of the parks helps with recognition by the public."
The biggest challenge, he says, has been "finding a way to narrow the focus on each park since clearly we can't tell the entire story in a single evening."
"We try to focus on the essence, the spirit, and communicate that — which is what the language of the performing arts does so well. We chose Yosemite in part because we wanted something media-recognized immediately in the context of national parks. The Virgin Islands show exposes the public to one that isn't well-known. Being at the opposite end of the country, it gave us a chance to explore another kind of park and emphasize the diversity of them all."

WHAT: "Face of America 2001"
WHERE: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1624 Trap Road, Vienna
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sept. 8
TICKETS: $10 to $30
PHONE: 703/218-6500 or online at www.wolftrap.org

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