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Special theater integrates talents of disabled and able-bodied performers

IMG 0204 2 copy Open Circle rehearsalCast members rehearse for the Open Circle Theatre Retrospective. COURTESY PHOTO  Rob McQuay’s formal theater experience began in junior high.

He acted through high school and college, then trained at Studio Theatre. He performed in area dinner theaters and several professional ones, including Montgomery County’s Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, and Imagination Stage.

“It’s a full-time thing,” said McQuay.

Next, he is headlining “To Reach the Unreachable Star: an Open Circle Theatre Retrospective,” a 90-minute stage performance filled with song, dance, and humor to familiarize audiences with its work and raise funds to support it.

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Two local theaters launch seasons with “The Canterville Ghost” and “Deathtrap”

IMG 7405 copy deathtrapJ. McAndrew Breen stars as scheming playwright Sidney Bruhl in Ira Levin’s Broadway hit "Deathtrap" at Silver Spring Stage. COURTESY PHOTO  

Montgomery Playhouse, an all-volunteer theater, has a varied season ahead.

First up in 2017-2018 is “The Canterville Ghost,” a play Marisha Chamberlain adapted from the short story by Oscar Wilde.

In January, the Playhouse presents “The Reluctant Dragon,” a comedy for young audiences, and, in March, a Live Radio Show recreates the Austin Blackie Radio Series of the 1940s and ‘50s.

“Our mandate is to entertain and educate audiences,” said Loretto McNally, board president.

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Folk Festival Draws Hundreds in Takoma Park

Takoma Park Folk Festival Logo

TAKOMA PARK – Hundreds of Takoma Park residents gathered Sunday afternoon for the city's annual folk festival to celebrate cultural diversity.

"Today's event is terrific, one, we have perfect weather for it, second we have amazing organizers who have taken up the planning of the folk festival this year and they've done an amazing job," said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. "It appeals to all different tastes," she added.

Set on the grounds of Takoma Park Middle School, the festival attracted musicians, dancers, and artists from across the region who displayed their talents and crafts to an observant crowd that strolled between booths and stages.

"I think it's terrific, the music is good, people seem to be enjoying themselves, the weather is perfect, and hopefully next year it's going to be bigger, bolder, and stronger," said 40-year Takoma Park resident and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

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Local teen author celebrates book release

Nimai ArgwalIn addition to his new novel, Nimai Argawal is also creating a series of paintings that depict life in an Indian village, including this oil portrait, “The Shepherd.” COURTESY PHOTO  At a time when most teenagers are just discovering their passions in life, 18-year-old Nimai Agarwal is celebrating the June publication of his first novel “The Lotus Saga.” The book tells the story of a young scribe named Rook, who is forced to venture out to fight an ancient evil.

“When I started writing the book, my main character Rook was my age, 12 years old. As I grew up, he grew up with me, and by the end of the book, he became 15 [or] 16.  My growth was reflected in the book’s growth.”

When Agarwal began writing the book, he was inspired by the wave of young adult fantasy books that became popular in the early 2000s, works like “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini, and the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. He later moved on to more mature fantasy novels like The Lord of The Rings books by J.R.R. Tolken.

“I lost motivation at a lot of points; I went to many writing camps, where I was surrounded by a lot of amazing writers that gave me a burst of motivation, as I could see my peers doing great things,” said Agarwal. “I wanted to write this book for a long time, so I always found a reserve of motivation when I lost hope, I found it and continued.”

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Learning to overdose on the theater in a perfectly good way

greek tragedy and comedy masksIf you like “theater writ large,” the place to be over the Labor Day Weekend is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is hosting the 16th annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival.

More than 60 theaters from the metropolitan area will present open rehearsals, concert readings, and workshops of new plays often still in the development phase.

Montgomery County is well represented, with at least eight of its theaters participating.

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Community-minded dance group kicks up heels

IMG 5630 JoriKetten copy Dance ExchangeFamilies participate in a Moving Field Guide, an interactive experience led by Dance Exchange artists along with naturalists. COURTESY PHOTO BY JORI KETTEN  When Gene Kelly passed away, a dance critic commented that he made truck drivers feel they could dance.

Dance Exchange has similar goals.

For 40 years – 20 of them in Takoma Park – Dance Exchange has been “democratizing” what is often seen as an “elitist” art form. The nonprofit organization believes “you don’t have to be a dancer to dance, that whoever you are, you can move your body,” said Alison Waldman, marketing and communications manager.

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Baby we all live in a reggae Yellow Dubmarine

DubmarineYellow Dubmarine performing at Strathmore AMP. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  As soon as Yellow Dubmarine started their set with a cover of The Beatles “Norwegian Wood,” you could tell this was not your average tribute band. With horns replacing George Harrison’s distinctive sitar intro, and the songs’ folksy atmospherics replaced by a steady reggae pulse, the audience Friday at Strathmore AMP quickly piled onto the dance floor to groove to Beatles classics reimagined as reggae jams.

“It was just an idea that came to us one day,” said bassist Aaron Glazer. “We started with just four people and then grew, with percussion and horns, and it took on a life of its own.”

The seven-piece band featured a three-piece horn section, along with a rhythm section of guitar, bass, drums, hand percussion, and keyboard. This extensive lineup allowed them to vary their arrangements throughout the night.

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Takoma Park record label fosters homegrown talent

Tired of being forced to relinquish artistic and creative control to major labels, Grammy-winning producer and Takoma Park native Charlie Pilzer decided to forge his own path. He founded Azalea City Recordings in 1996.

For Pilzer, the label gives his job as a recording engineer and producer a more personal touch.

“I’m immersed in music hours and hours every day. I’ve worked on well over 2000 albums. The cool thing about the label is that it keeps it on a personal level. It doesn’t become a factory to me,” said Pilzer.

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S.S. plays are one-act but definitely not one note

Silver Spring Stage Marilyn Millstone Headshot Playwright Marilyn Millstone’s “Compos Mentis” will be staged during the second weekend of the Silver Spring Stage One-Act Festival. COURTESY PHOTO      Irwin and Anna Leder had been Marilyn Millstone’s next-door neighbors and surrogate parents for 14 years. So, it was not surprising that their departure for a senior facility impacted her.

But it also inspired the news-and-feature journalist and essayist turned dramatist to write another play.

In “Compos Mentis,” (which is Latin, meaning “of sound mind”) Millstone has added the child of an elderly couple, who pressures them to go to an assisted living facility while the couple resists and wants to retain independence.

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Sponsor supports NIH charities while patrons enjoy blockbuster movies

Comcast XFinity Film Festival image courtesy of the Comcast Xfinity Film Festival copyThe Comcast Xfinity Outdoor Film Festival returns to Strathmore. COURTESY PHOTO    “Blockbuster” describes the movies presented each summer in the Comcast Xfinity Outdoor Film Festival and hosted at Strathmore. This year, “Disney’s “Moana” (PG) will show on Aug. 24; “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (PG-13) on Aug. 25; and “The Lego Batman Movie” (PG) on Aug. 26, the final day of the event.

But the term could also apply to the technology behind the festival. The screen the films are projected on, in digital cinema, is the only nine-foot-tall, 52-foot-wide inflatable movie screen within 1000 miles, said Bob Deutsch, founder and CEO of DTA Global, which produces the free event.

Comcast, the global media and technology corporation, underwrites it.

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