Theater critic Iain Armitage has never given a bad review. Even the shows that aren’t his favorites, he says he tries to focus on the “happy things” in the show.
Most would scoff at a critic who has never given a bad review, but Iain has an excuse: he’s only 6 years old, and he’s been taught it’s not nice to say mean things by his parents, Broadway star Euan Morton and theater producer Lee Armitage.
Iain started reviewing shows on Armitage’s YouTube channel five months ago, reviewing 21 different shows include “Phantom of the Opera” and “Pippin” — his two favorites so far — and, most recently, the Signature Theatre production of “Sundays in the Park with George.” That review has more than 16,000 views and got Iain enough attention to be featured on MTV.com.
It all started when Iain saw Hairspray at Signature and started talking about it. Lee filmed him with her smartphone, and the rest is history.
“I really don’t know why it’s gotten so popular,” Armitage said. “With all the videos, we would have friends in the shows and they’d watch them because he said funny things. We also did it to keep up with what shows he’s seen.”
Iain is homeschooled at the family’s home near Virginia Square, and also likes ice skating, dancing (there’s a video of a dance recital on the YouTube channel) and playing piano. Although being an elementary school-aged theater critic is a rarity, he wishes it were more common.
“I wish there were more little critics like me,” he told ARLnow.com in Ballston this morning with his mother. “Then we could be friends and see the same shows and get famous together.”
Iain said some of his favorite shows are the ones he can watch his father — who was nominated for a Tony award in 2004 for his portrayal of Boy George in “Taboo” — because he likes “the feeling when my dad’s on the stage. If I wave to him after the show, he’ll always wave back to me.”
Armitage said the Signature Theater is a big part of why Iain developed a love for musicals — Signature Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is Iain’s godfather — and Iain said he wished “more kids in Arlington could see shows.” Iain also wishes he could see more shows. He said he “would like to see every show ever made,” and has gotten frustrated when his parents kept him out of productions that are inappropriate for 6 year-olds, like “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a show about an East German transgender singer.
Iain said he’s “still mad” about not being able to see the show, but is enjoying the spoils of being a viral video star. He smiled and said “I like it” when he was asked about the trappings of fame, but couldn’t confirm he was practicing his autographs for future fans.
Dark Star Park Day in Rosslyn — It’s Dark Star Park Day in Rosslyn. Today commemorates the 30th anniversary of the park, which is designed to cast shadows that align with the art installation once a year, on Aug. 1. Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette is expected to speak at a celebration at the park, at 1655 Fort Myer Drive, starting at 9:00 a.m. [Rosslyn BID, Ode Street Tribune]
Roads to Close for Signature Open House — Part of Campbell Avenue in Shirlington will be closed from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday for the annual Signature Theatre open house. The event runs from noon to 10:00 p.m. and features numerous singing and theater performances, including a “Signature Idol competition.” [Signature Theatre, Arlington County]
Finding Love on Metro — Metro is D.C.’s most popular location for missed romantic connections. “There seems to be quite a lot of flirting, or at least furtive glancing, taking place on public transportation,” states the county’s Mobility Lab blog. As evidence of that, the blog interviewed Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions, who met her husband while waiting for an Orange Line train. [Mobility Lab]
Library Seeks LEGO Creations — Arlington Public Library is seeking original creations for its 2nd annual LEGO exhibit. The exhibit is open to LEGO builders age 18 and under, and teams featuring at least one under 18 member. [Arlington Public Library]
Arlington Parkmobile Video — Arlington County has created a video showcasing its new partnership with Parkmobile, the smartphone app that allows you to pay for parking without feeding a meter. The service is currently available in Crystal City and Shirlington, and will be expanding to other parts of the county over the next 9 months or so. [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Vihstadt Outraising Howze — County Board member John Vihstadt is outraising Democratic challenger Alan Howze ahead of the upcoming November election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has raised $33,773 to Howze’s $6,801. [InsideNova]
‘Revenge of the Understudies’ at Signature — They prepare for roles that they rarely get to actually play, at least in front of a paying audience. On Saturday, however, the understudies at Signature Theatre will take center stage for the annual “Revenge of the Understudies” cabaret. Tickets to either of the show’s two performances — at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. — are $25. [Washington Post]
Ben’s Chili Bowl Opening at DCA — Ben’s Chili Bowl will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Reagan National Airport location this morning. Bill Cosby won’t be there, but the Chuck Brown Band will be performing. The restaurant is located before the security checkpoints in the B/C terminal.
Crow penned the music and lyrics while the movie’s writer and director, Barry Levinson, wrote the book (musicals’ version of a script), according to Variety. The entertainment publication reports that the musical will debut at Signature (4200 Campbell Ave.) from Dec. 9 to Jan. 25.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show was scheduled to open on Broadway twice before delays and may still end up there, depending on the show’s performance at Signature. The show will be directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall (“Anything Goes,” “The Pajama Game,” “Wonderful Town”).
Set in Baltimore in 1959, the musical is based on Levinson’s 1982 debut feature about burgeoning adulthood, which follows a group of former high school buddies who reunite in their twenties at their favorite hangout as one of them prepares to get married. The movie’s ensemble cast included Kevin Bacon,Ellen Barkin and Mickey Rourke.
Levinson adapted the book for the show from his Oscar-nominated screenplay, while Crow wrote the music and lyrics, marking the first foray into musical theater for both.
A pre-Broadway tryout for Diner originally was announced to play San Francisco’s Curran Theatre in fall 2012, and a Broadway opening was scheduled to follow in spring 2013. That target was later pushed back to last fall, with an out-of-town tryout being scrapped in favor of further workshops. However, that plan also failed to come together.
Photo via Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre in Shirlington (4200 Campbell Ave) will again host Summer Hummer, a burlesque show put on by theatreWashington to raise funds for charity.
The show, playing at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, costs $35 for regular seating and $75 for premium reserved seating. Described as a musical revue with songs, sketches, dancing and stripping, Summer Hummer is undoubtedly an age “18-and-up show,” according to theatreWashington Communications and Development Manager Jen Clements.
“It’s something that will attract a variety of interesting performers, where we don’t have to worry about who gets cast,” she said. “It’s something that everyone can really have a good time with, and it doesn’t take itself seriously except that it is to raise money for a serious cause.”
The show’s proceeds will go to Taking Care of Our Own, a charity that helps theater professionals with money during emergencies that prevent them from performing and earning a living. Last year, Summer Hummer sold out and raised $16,000 for the organization, Clements said.
The music will range from well-known showtunes to some offbeat, original pieces, and the nudity will be about what is allowed during an “R”-rated movie, Clements said — so don’t expect full-frontal nudity. Tickets are still available but are selling fast, Clements said.
Photo courtesy of theatreWashington
In all, 31 concerts, cabarets, workshops and events will be held from noon to 9:00 p.m. in and around Signature, at 4200 Campbell Avenue.
Throughout the day, there will be outdoor activities for kids like a moon bounce, skeeball and basketball games, as well as free cotton candy and popcorn. To accommodate the festivities, the Arlington County Police Department is closing Campbell Avenue from the Harris Teeter to S. Randolph Street from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
While stopping by the open house, patrons can take in Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmello at 1:15 p.m. on the MAX stage, singing some of her favorite showtunes. At 3:15 p.m., in the Shen room, those interested can talk to the director and cast of this season’s production of Miss Saigon about the ins and outs of putting on the show.
The day wraps up at 8:30 p.m. on the Plaza stage with actors from Signature and Broadway fame singing some of musical theater’s greatest hits. Signature will be tweeting during the day with information on where to pick up tickets for shows and with any changes in the open house’s vast schedule.
Woman Attacked on Four Mile Run Trail — A man with a knife attacked a woman who was walking alone on the Four Mile Run Trail on Saturday morning. The woman suffered “minor, non-life threatening” injures. The suspect is still at large. [WJLA, NBC Washington]
Yorktown Falls in Soccer Championship — The Yorktown High School girls’ soccer team lost 2-1 to Chantilly in the Northern Region championship game on Friday. The team, which finished regional play with a 20-2 record, will still continue to the state tournament. The first round game will take place on Tuesday at Battlefield High School. [Sun Gazette]
ACPD Officers Honored for Fighting Car Theft — Three Arlington County Police officers have received state Law Enforcement Officer Awards for their work in helping to fight car theft. “LEO Award winners are selected by judges from the insurance industry, partnering law enforcement agencies and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for their exemplary actions related to Intelligence, Prevention, Enforcement and Recoveries in fighting the crime of vehicle theft,” police said in a press release. [Arlington County]
Examiner Skewers Board for Signature Bailout — The Arlington County Board “blindsided” taxpayers by approving a $250,000 bailout for Signature Theatre during a closed session, according to a Washington Examiner editorial. “Other financially struggling artistic venues have to scale back productions, sublease space or launch pledge drives when money gets tight,” the Examiner editorial board wrote. “But Signature Theatre has friends in high places who apparently believe it’s too fabulous to fail, county taxpayers be damned.” [Washington Examiner]
Photo by MJordanRomero
The Board discussed the matter in a closed session before unanimously approving it. According to County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac, it is standard procedure for the Board to discuss a grant behind closed doors. The grant agreement will be made public once the county attorney finalizes it.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan said the grant will help bring the theater current with real estate taxes owed to the county. Funding for the grant was provided from budget savings identified at the end of Fiscal Year 2012.
The Arlington County Department of Management and Finance indicates the grant includes around $85,000 for past due real estate and business tangible taxes, $99,000 for the next two payments of real estate taxes and around $30,000 for the next business tangible tax payment. The remaining $35,000 will either help fund a financial consultant study or go to future tax payments.
Signature Theatre has sole access rights and branding capability in its current space within a county owned building. It is responsible for the full costs of operating that facility, including real estate and business tangible taxes. Other county supported arts groups performing in county subsidized spaces are not required to pay taxes.
“Signature is thriving, and has a great future ahead of it,” Donnellan said. “This grant addresses an immediate, short-term need by providing temporary relief from a tax burden that is not shared by other supported arts groups.”
The county emphasizes that the theater is a cultural anchor for Shirlington and provides financial benefits to the community. It estimates that more than $150,000 in annual sales and meals taxes can be directly attributed to Signature’s presence in Shirlington.
Signature faced several debt-related lawsuits in Arlington General District Court last year, including claims from Waste Management, Conde Nast Publications and the Delancey at Shirlington Village apartment building. The Waste Management and Conde Nast claims were eventually dismissed. The court ruled in favor of Delancey at Shirlington Village.
County Treasurer Frank O’Leary told the Sun Gazette that Signature was delinquent on its real estate and business taxes.
Green Party Outperforms Past Results — By pulling in 12.4 percent of the vote for County Board, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement roughly doubled the percentage of the vote Green candidates have typically received during past County Board races. The question now is can the Greens get that percentage even higher next time by better identifying who is voting for the party’s candidates? [Sun Gazette]
Miss Saigon Coming to Signature Theater — Signature Theater has secured the rights to the well known musical Miss Saigon, and will open its 2013-2014 season with a version of the production. It will be the first time a theater company in the D.C. area has taken on the show in 15 years. [Variety]
Ballot Wording Angers Aquatics Center Opponents — Voters passed all four bond referenda on the Arlington ballot on Tuesday, including one for a park bond that funds the proposed $79 million Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. Opponents of the facility, however, say the measure only passed due to vague wording on the ballot which stated that the bond was for “various capital projects for local parks and recreation, and land acquisition for parks and open space.” [Washington Examiner]
ABBIE Voting Ends Today — Today is the final day to cast your votes for Arlington’s best businesses. The businesses in 17 categories were nominated by residents and winners are determined by popular vote. ABBIE winners will be announced at the County Board meeting on November 27.
Disclosure: The ABBIE Awards/Arlington Economic Development is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Free performances will be taking place approximately every 15 minutes on four stages, starting at noon. They feature sneak peeks at some of the upcoming season’s shows, such as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Dreamgirls and Hello, Dolly! The event culminates with a finale concert at 8:30 p.m., scheduled to include both local and Broadway actors, as well as the winner of the “Signature Idol” competition. A list of performers and performance times is available online.
“The open house is a great way to get people acquainted with the new season,” said Signature Theatre publicist Peter Eramo, Jr.
Eramo noted that the open house will be the one day all year that tickets are available for the new season’s shows at a 50 percent discount. There’s no minimum purchase necessary, but the discounted tickets do have to be bought that day at the box office.
The celebration will take over parts of the plaza in the Village at Shirlington. Visitors can enjoy a moon bounce and skee ball, or munch on free snacks like popcorn, sno-cones and cotton candy.
Staff will be on hand at the event to answer questions about the Signature Theatre and the upcoming season.
Moran Marks Anniversary of Va. Tech Massacre — Rep. Jim Moran (D) marked the fifth anniversary of the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday by calling on Congress to improve gun control laws. “When there are nearly enough guns in the U.S. for every man, woman and child, firearms will find their way into the wrong hands,” Moran said. “Criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill have no business owning deadly weapons.” A student shot and killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007.
Concern About Chicken Doo-Doo — Some residents are concerned that, if enacted, a proposal to allow small-scale backyard hen raising in Arlington would result in extra water pollution. A George Mason University professor says chicken waste from backyard hens in Arlington would ultimately make it into the already environmentally-sensitive Chesapeake Bay. [WAMU]
Hearing About School Board Appointment — A public hearing will be held tonight to discuss the appointment of an interim School Board member to replace now-County Board member Libby Garvey. Sixteen residents have declared themselves interested in the position. [Sun Gazette]
Man Dies After Heart Attack at Pentagon Station — Added at 9:15 a.m. — A 51-year-old Alexandria man died yesterday afternoon after suffering a heart attack at the Pentagon Metro station. Passengers attempted to revive the man, a witness told ARLnow.com, but he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. [Washington Post]
Lawmakers Punishing Arlington for HOT Lanes Suit — Arlington may have succeeded in blocking a state-backed plan to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395 last year, but the lawsuit the county filed against the HOT lanes project is coming back to haunt it in Richmond. State lawmakers have proposed budget amendments that would reduce Arlington’s share of road maintenance funds by $100,000 — a form of punishment for the county’s legal tactics. [Washington Times]
Wardian Wins D.C. Marathon — Arlington’s Michael Wardian won the SunTrust Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in the District on Saturday, completing the race with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 35 seconds. The 37-year-old father of two had previously won the race’s predecessor, the National Marathon, five times. [Competitor]
Sliced Shopper Demands Wi-Fi – A woman has penned an open letter to the Clarendon Trader Joe’s insisting that the store install free public Wi-Fi internet service. The letter writer says the store’s lack of Wi-Fi led her to accidentally slice her finger while cutting avocados at home. [Patch]
Signature Production Connects with Younger Audience — A production at Shirlington’s Signature Theater is accomplishing the difficult feat of connecting with a younger theater-going audience while at the same time shining a critical light on their generation. “Really Really,” by 26-year-old playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo, examines “the self-absorbed mindsets often exhibited by the twentysomething members of ‘Generation Me.’” The show runs through March 25. [Variety]
Older Arlington Residents Give County High Marks — Arlington scored well above the state average in a recent survey of older Virginians. “People over 50 years of age in Arlington say they have a high quality of life, feel safe and secure, and are happy with their access to healthcare services, educational opportunities and recreational activities,” according to a county press release. [Arlington County]
‘Hairspray’ Actor Is Local TV/Radio Personality — Local WETA on-air personality Robery Aubry Davis is playing the role of Edna Turnblad in the Signature Theatre production of ‘Hairspray,’ which opened in Shirlington last week. [Sun Gazette]
Fighting Deer Cause Ruckus — According to an Arlington animal control blotter item, a pair of fighting bucks crashed through a glass patio window in the 3600 block of N. Monroe Street earlier this month. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Changes on Tap at Harry’s in Clarendon — Harry’s Tap Room (2800 Clarendon Blvd) is getting a new name and some new food. Renovations at the Clarendon restaurant are expected to begin later this month. When it reopens three weeks later, it will be re-branded as “Market Tavern” and will have a revised food focus. [Bisnow]
Discount on Signature Theater Tickets — Shirlington’s award-winning Signature Theater is offering 15 percent off tickets at the Signature box office when theater-goers present their library card. Two new Signature productions, A Second Chance and Hairspray, will start next month. [Arlington Public Library]
Housing for the Homeless — This week volunteers canvased the streets of Arlington in an effort to identify the 100 most vulnerable homeless individuals in the county. Part of the 100 Homes campaign, the results of the survey will be used to determine which chronically homeless persons will be moved to permanent housing. Findings from the surveys are being presented today to elected officials and to the public. [Washington Examiner, 100 Homes Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by divaknevil
Grand Opening for Virginia Tech Research Center — The shiny new Virginia Tech Research Center at 900 N. Glebe Road in Ballston will celebrate its grand opening on Friday. Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, Congressman Jim Moran and County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman are among the scheduled speakers. The seven floor, 144,000 square foot facility boasts next-generation internet connectivity, computational laboratories and multiple meeting and conference spaces.
School Board Asks for Definition of Homework — A proposal before the School Board states that homework should count for no more than 15 percent of a student’s quarterly grade. However, Board members have asked for clarification after learning that certain take-home projects apparently aren’t considered “homework.” Some parents have complained that students are being asked to do too much school work outside of school. [Sun Gazette]
Signature Theater Open House Planned — Returning for another year, Shirlington’s Signature Theater will be holding its “open house” next month, complete with indoor and outdoor performances, master classes and the popular Signature Idol singing competition. The open house is being held from noon to 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. [Signature Theater]