- - Friday, March 22, 2013


American Utopias

The monologist Mike Daisey found himself embroiled in controversy last year when his monologue “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” about Apple’s supply chain in China, was found to be partially fabricated after portions aired on public radio’s “This American Life” as news. While some details in his story turned out to have been made up, his entrancing one-man show nonetheless made sold-out audiences across the globe think about the impact of consumerism. On Monday, Mr. Daisey’s latest monologue, “American Utopias,” will open at Penn Quarter’s Woolly Mammoth — and if you think there might be something better to do with your evening than listen to a man talk for two hours on an empty stage, well, there isn’t. After taking audiences inside the factories of Shenzhen, Mr. Daisey now brings us on a tour of “the new American dream,” from Disney World and Burning Man, the week-long festival of art and self-expression in Nevada, to Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street movement began. It’s sure to be part journalism, part theater, and completely sensational. Through April 21 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street NW. 202/393-3939. Web: woollymammoth.net.  


The Gettysburg Address

“Four score and seven years ago” is perhaps one of the most well-known phrases uttered in American history, and this November will mark 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln said them at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. The Gettysburg Address — a mere 270 words and three minutes long — urged the preservation of the Union, and with it, the principles of equality and freedom expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Starting Friday, the Library of Congress will display the John Hay copy of the address for a limited time. This particular copy — thought to be the second draft of the speech, which Lincoln gave to his secretary for safekeeping — is just one of five known copies in existence. The display is part of the Library’s ongoing “Civil War in America” exhibit (just extended until January 2014), which features 200 documents, maps, photos, and other items from the era. Through May 4 at the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street SE. 202/707-5000. Web: loc.gov.



La Grand Fete 

Your high school French skills will certainly be helpful if you’d like to order a croissant in Paris. However, they may also come in handy in the dozens of diverse francophone countries throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East in which the language is either the official one or at least widely spoken. On Friday, the French Embassy will welcome fellow francophiles from Embassy Row for La Grande Fete, highlighting the culture and cuisine of the 35 nations who share the language of love. The party will feature a performance by Bastian Baker, a Swiss pop-folk star whose French-language songs have topped European music charts, as well as a dance party. The fete is part of the month-long Francophonie Festival, a series of concerts, plays, lectures, film and more in Washington celebrating the diversity of the world’s 220 million French speakers. Friday at the Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road NW. Web: francophoniedc.org.  



Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition

These days, everyone thinks they’re the next Richard Avedon or Annie Leibovitz thanks to photography apps like Instagram. But automatic filters don’t equal talent. A new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, however, will unveil the results of the Smithsonian Institution’s search for the best of emerging portrait artists. The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition was made possible by an endowment from the late Virginia Outwin Boochever, a former art student and officer in the U.S. Navy’s WWII WAVES division for women and, later, volunteer docent at the National Portrait Gallery. Now in its third year, the competition is open to professional artists ages 18 and over and welcomes individual portraits, group portraits and self-portraits in any visual arts medium, from paintings and drawings to photos and videos. Opening Saturday, the exhibition will include the jurors’ favorite 50 to 60 portraits. The winner will take home a $25,000 award and have the opportunity to complete a work for the gallery’s collection. Through Feb. 23 at the National Portrait Gallery, F Street & 8th Street NW. 202/633-8300. Web: portraitcompetition.si.edu. 



Tchaikovsky Discovers America

In 1891, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky visited New York City to perform at the grand opening of Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall. You’re undoubtedly familiar with his iconic compositions, which range from ballets like “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker” to the “1812 Overture,” a staple of Fourth of July fireworks displays across the United States. But, do you know anything about the man behind the beautiful music? On Sunday, the National Symphony Orchestra and actors will perform “Tchaikovsky Discovers America,” chronicling his life and trip to New York through the eyes of an American child, who gets to know the composer as he prepares for the concert and even visits Niagara Falls. Based on a children’s album of the same name (beloved by this writer as a young girl), the show will feature more than 25 excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s greatest hits. Arrive early for a hands-on demonstration of instruments in the Kennedy Center’s Atrium, and plan to stay after to meet the musicians. Sunday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street NW. 800/444-1324. Web: kennedy-center.org. 


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