Welcome to Our Summer Interns — Two interns have joined ARLnow for the summer. Mavis Chan of the University of Missouri will focus on local news reporting while Pia Kramer, graduate of Virginia Tech and Arlington’s Washington-Liberty High School, will focus on audience engagement.
Passengers Spend Hours on Planes at DCA — “Thais Austin wanted to get home to the District after a weekend visit with family in Jacksonville, Fla. Instead, she said, she and other passengers were stuck on the Reagan National Airport taxiway for three hours Sunday night, unable to exit their plane… Hundreds of passengers on at least a half-dozen other flights reported similar delays after thunderstorms downed trees, flooded roads and left thousands without power in the Washington region.” [Washington Post]
Armed Robbery in Crystal City — “At approximately 10:02 p.m. on May 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined the three victims were walking on the sidewalk when they were approached from behind by the unknown suspects. Suspect One brandished a firearm and demanded the victim’s property, including their clothing. During the incident, Suspect One struck the victims with the firearm, causing injury. The suspects then fled into a parking garage with the stolen property which included cash, clothing and electronics.” [ACPD]
Signature Season Salutes Sondheim — “Signature Theatre announces its 33rd season today, which highlights the organization’s long-time relationship with the legendary Stephen Sondheim. Signature has produced 31 Sondheim productions in its 32 season history – more than any other theater in North America. The 33rd season will feature three more.” [Signature Theatre]
Michigan Election Fraud Has Arlington Link — A man at the center of a scandal over allegedly fraudulent petition signatures in the Michigan governor’s race was previously convicted of a similar crime in Arlington following an unsuccessful attempt to change the county’s form of government. [TPM]
Student Killed in Fight Near Fairlington — “A teenager from Alexandria City High School was killed during a ‘large fight’ at the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s, police say. According to scanner traffic, the incident started around 12:21 p.m. with a call about a brawl happening at the McDonald’s at 3646 King Street. Police said one person was stabbed and critically injured, then pronounced dead at the hospital.” [ALXnow]
It’s Wednesday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 57. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:24 pm. [Weather.gov]
The lights are coming on at Shirlington next week.
On Thursday (Dec. 2), the Village at Shirlington is hosting the holiday event “Light Up the Village” from 6:00-8:30 p.m.
The event will feature a Christmas tree lighting, caroling from Bishop O’Connell students, strolling entertainment, performances from Signature Theatre, horse and carriage rides, and selfies with Santa. The evening is being emceed by NBC Channel 4’s Jummy Olabanji and will benefit event partner non-profit Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).
While horse and carriage rides are free and there’s no need to sign up in advance, donations to AFAC are welcomed.
“Donations of non-perishables and cash to benefit AFAC will be accepted from those taking a horse and carriage ride,” writes a spokesperson for Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the retail and restaurant center, which is set for eventual redevelopment. “AFAC volunteers will be onsite at the horse and carriage rides to collect these donations.”
Attendees will be able to “sip and stroll” with an an alcoholic drink from a local, participating restaurant.
Performers and musicians from Signature Theatre’s current production of Rent will be performing about a half dozen holiday and winter songs during the event as well.
As the region creeps back closer to normal, and with the holiday season now upon us, in-person performing arts are making a comeback.
Local theaters are once again welcoming back audiences for an assortment of concerts and productions.
If you’re interested in seeing a show and gaining some cultural enrichment while sitting among fellow humans, below are a few Arlington options to consider over the next few months.
When: November 2 to January 2, 2022
Where: 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington
Safety Precautions: Proof of vaccinations or a negative test are required to attend a live, indoor performance at Signature Theater. Masks are also required at all times.
Details: In-person theater is back at Signature Theater with an all-new production of the iconic musical Rent.
“RENT is a musical about love, loss and community,” wrote director Matthew Gardiner in the press release. “After this past year where we’ve all felt isolated and disconnected, reopening Signature’s doors with this story about beautiful warriors and agents for change who found each other amidst unimaginable loss feels incredibly resonant.”
When: November 19-21 & December 3-5
Where: Gunston Arts Center, Theater 1 at 2700 S. Lang Street
Safety Precautions: Masks are required for everyone in the audience, including staff and students, except for children under the age of two. Concessions will only be available by pre-order and patrons must eat and drink outdoors.
It’s four days before Christmas and a very special present has gone missing. Help come-to-life book characters solve the mystery and save the day. Enchanted Bookshop Christmas for all ages that’s 90 minutes including intermission.
When: November 27 to December 26
Where: 1800 S. Bell Street in Crystal City
Safety Precautions: All audience members over the age of 12 are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test along with an ID. Children under 12 are not required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative. Masks are required at all times and concessions will not be sold during the performance.
Details: This is a modern re-telling of the classic magical tale of “a striking clock, a glass slipper, and a brave young woman who dares to pursue her wildest dreams.”
Synetic Theater kept active throughout the pandemic by streaming performances and doing outdoor theater earlier this fall.
Known for wordless physical theater, this performance is family-friendly as well as appealing to non-English speakers due to the fact that there’s little dialogue.
When: December 1 to 19
Where: Gunston Arts Center, Theater 2 at 2700 S. Lang Street
Safety Precautions: Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test are mandatory for entry. Face coverings must be worn at all times while in the building.
Details: This autobiographical one-man show from one of America’s most acclaimed playwrights, August Wilson, stars William Newman, who some might know as the Chief Judge of Arlington’s Circuit Court. This isn’t Newman’s first starring role on the stage, either.
The performance deals with mature themes and is not suitable for all ages.
When: December 2 to December 5
Where: Kenmore Middle School at 200 S. Carlin Springs Road
Safety Precautions: Attendees 12 years old and over are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within the past three days. All attendees are required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. Fully vaccinated dancers over the age of 12 will not be wearing masks while performing.
Details: This BalletNova’s first live, in-person performance in nearly two years. This rendition has all-new choreography, sets, and costumes “that are sure to make this year’s production our most magical yet,” artistic director Matthew Powell writes ARLnow.
“There are also a few fun surprises in store, but we can’t give away all of our secrets,” he notes.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or on the website. The production is suitable for all ages.
When: December 18
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington at 4444 Arlington Blvd
Safety Precautions: All patrons must be fully vaccinated, wear a mask at all times, and capacity will be less than 50% to allow patrons to spread out.
Details: A holiday concert featuring “star soprano” Sharon Christmann joining the ensemble and performing the favorites.
A streaming option will be available for those who don’t feel comfortable attending in person. This performance is family-friendly.
When: January 15 to 30, 2022
Where: Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre at 125 S. Old Glebe Road
Safety Precautions: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours. Audience members must wear masks at all times as required by Arlington County.
Details: For the long-running community theater company, this William Shakespeare comedy is its first show back at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. This past fall, the Arlington Players had an in-person, outdoor performance at Lubber Run Amphitheater.
A Midnight Summer’s Dream is family-friendly and open to all ages.
Know of any other upcoming performing arts shows in the area worth considering? Let us know in the comments.
Arlington arts organizations may have lost as much as $10 million in 2020 due to the pandemic, but they were able to get by with help from friends of the arts.
Many arts groups in the county reported losing 41-60% of their expected income, according to Embracing Arlington Arts, a group of local residents who work toward bolstering the arts in the county. But the arts organizations survived on a combination of government and private grants, generous locals and virtual performances.
“Most arts groups had no earned revenue,” said Janet Kopenhaver, the founder of Embracing Arlington Arts. “While they were offering these virtual things, you can’t charge what you would normally charge for a ticket. You had to depend on your donors and the donors came through.”
The National Chamber Ensemble, which sold season tickets for virtual concerts, said Zoom and donations from patrons helped the group stay in tune.
“We had wine and cheese receptions over Zoom with the audience,” said the ensemble’s artistic director and first violinist Leo Sushansky. “Everything balanced each other out because virtually a whole family could watch with one ticket, but people who didn’t live nearby like in England or New York could attend performances also.”
Arlington-based Synetic Theatre’s Managing Director Jason Najjoum said the theater also received generous donations.
“Our individual donors continued or increased their support, which says as much about the work we do as the Northern Virginia/Greater Washington community we call home,” Najjoum said. “We were able to keep our staff fully employed, and even added a couple of team members.”
Groups accessed the county’s annual arts grant program, small business grants from the county, and the more-competitive state and federal arts grants funding, Kopenhaver said. Arts groups could also cash in on federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Najjoum said Synetic relied heavily on PPP funding to create a custom streaming website and app.
“None of this would have been possible without significant government support,” he said. “It was hard won by countless lobbyists and advocates, but the local, state and federal government really stepped up and provided the support we needed.”
Amazon contributed too, donating to several area arts organizations, including Synetic.
“We were able to support the acutely affected freelance arts worker class through an artist relief program that provided $60,000 in support to 32 arts workers,” noted Najjoum.
But artists are still uncertain about what the future holds for them in Arlington.
“The question remains: with government support ending, will ticket sales come back strong enough to replace it, especially given that our upfront production expenses will also be up? Producing theater has always been very expensive,” he said. “This will only work at the bottom line if audiences and donors increase their support going forward.”
Although many arts organizations weathered the shutdowns, a perennial issue facing these groups has resurfaced: space.
“We need a cultural center — a vibrant, busy venue. It would be a game changer,” said Kopenhaver. “We are losing arts groups because of lack of venue. It’s a critical issue.”
A few have already left because they cannot perform in middle schools, which she said is where most perform — away from transit, restaurants and other walkable amenities.
Embracing Arlington Arts is working with developers to create a flexible space in an area with more amenities that can accommodate arts audiences.
“We fear, if the venues keep dwindling, there will be nowhere to perform,” Kopenhaver said. “At a middle school you can’t have receptions, you can’t have alcohol, you can’t have talk backs, which are becoming popular, because the janitors are kicking you out.”
On top of that, the child-sized restrooms are uncomfortable for the patrons, many of whom are retirees, she said.
Synetic’s venue in Crystal City has been in high demand during the pandemic, and has been used for church services, film shoots and pageants, said Najjoum. But with more performances, Synetic needs its space back.
Meanwhile, the National Chamber Ensemble has been out of a concert hall for four years, after the county-run Rosslyn Spectrum (part of the now-defunct Artisphere) was closed to the public. The ensemble now performs at Gunston Arts Center or the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, along with other performing arts organizations.
When the pandemic hit, and those venues shut down, Sushansky said patrons opened up their homes.
“We went to the private homes of our patrons and these people had marvelous instruments,” he said. Still, he added, “it would certainly be nice to have our own space. It has to be a collaboration of the county.”
And COVID-19 remains a persistent threat.
Following the lead of Broadway theaters and other local D.C. arts venues, Synetic will require proof of full vaccination, either physically or digitally, or a negative PCR test, for the rest of the year. Audiences will have to wear masks at all times, except while eating or drinking. It will continue streaming its performances.
The National Chamber Ensemble is waiting to see the guidance closer to the start of the season on Nov. 6. Sushansky said he delayed the opening in hopes that coronavirus cases will go down. He says he’s eager to resume in person concerts again, but will retain the virtual option for those who are still not comfortable coming out.
“I wanted to create something for my community, so I can’t wait for communication in-person to resume,” he said. “It’s really special performing for the Arlington audience.”
The following is a round-up of upcoming shows from local arts organizations, organized by the type of performance.
Metro Resuming Midnight Service — “Metro will expand train service to midnight, seven days a week starting Sunday, July 18. The extended operating hours are the first in a package of service improvements passed by Metro’s Board of Directors in June that will add more all-day rail service, create high-frequency bus routes and improve service across the region.” [WMATA]
New Leader for Signature Theatre — “Signaling the rise of a younger generation of leadership for the American musical stage, Signature Theatre announced Tuesday that it has chosen Matthew Gardiner, the company’s second-in-command, as its new artistic director after a year-long, nationwide search. At 37, Gardiner — who has directed or choreographed more than 30 productions for the company — becomes the youngest head of a front-line Washington-area theater.” [Washington Post]
Dems to Hand-Deliver Annual Newsletter — “Party leaders are gearing up to hand-deliver 50,000 to 60,000 copies of the ‘Democratic Messenger,’ the party’s annual get-out-the-vote newsletter, to homes across Arlington in mid-September. It’s done the old-fashioned way – hand-delivery – and ‘we’re going to need roughly 600 volunteers,’ said Carol Fontein, who heads precinct operations.” [Sun Gazette]
Undefeated Yorktown in Lacrosse State Final — “Yorktown will play at Battlefield in Haymarket after the Bobcats beat Cosby, 6-4, in the other Class 6 semifinal Tuesday… For Yorktown, the first steps toward Saturday’s state final were laid before this year’s players were born, and over 21 years the Patriots toiled and waited until they could play in a state semifinal.” [Washington Post]
Streaming Show at Signature Theatre — “The Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., is presenting an energetic full production of the revue ‘After Midnight,’ which ran on Broadway in 2013. Christopher Jackson (“Hamilton”) leads the cast through a whirlwind of jazzy Cotton Club-era songs, held together by Langston Hughes texts. The show has many pleasures, like the heavenly vocal harmonies in ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ and a timely reminder that tap is exhilarating.” [New York Times]
Marymount Partnering With Netflix — “The world’s leading streaming entertainment service and a global leader in education technology are expanding their partnership and bringing Marymount University into the fold as they work to increase diversity in tech fields. Starting this August, Netflix and 2U, Inc., will offer three for-credit, fully online tech boot camps in Data Science, Java Engineering and UX/UI to Marymount undergraduates, all at no cost to accepted students.” [Press Release]
Ballston-Based AvalonBay Now Accepting Credit Cards — “AvalonBay residents will receive an invitation for the Bilt Mastercard, an extension of Bilt Rewards and the first credit card that allows users to pay their rent with no annual fee and without burdening the building owner with ongoing fees. With the card, AvalonBay residents can also earn points on non-rent purchases, enabling them to maximize rewards potential.” [BusinessWire]
Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards
Brittany O’Grady, a Washington-Liberty High School graduate, is starring in Apple TV+’s new series, Little Voice.
O’Grady plays Bess King, a singer-songwriter trying to navigate New York City while pursuing a career in music with her earnest songs.
The show is executive produced by Sara Bareilles, J.J. Abrams and Jessie Nelson, and is loosely based on Bareilles’ early days in the music industry. The soundtrack features original songs written by Bareilles.
O’Grady began her acting career in Arlington, with roles in Encore Stage’s 2007 production of The 12 Dancing Princesses and Signature Theater’s The Witches of Eastwick when she was 10.
She graduated from W-L in 2013 and has performed on major D.C. stages like Ford’s Theater, The Kennedy Center and The White House.
O’Grady’s first major television appearance was in a 2014 episode of ABC’s Trophy Wife, in which she plays an abrasive teenager at a mini golf course. She went on to play the main character’s sister in three seasons of Star on Fox, as well as have roles in thriller films Above Suspicion and Black Christmas.
Little Voice, which premiered July 10, has garnered O’Grady attention from some of entertainment media’s biggest outlets. She has done interviews with Vanity Fair, People, Variety, InStyle, E! and The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Amid questions about what it is like to work with Bareilles and how the show’s love triangle will work out, a recurring theme in these interviews is O’Grady’s candor regarding racial issues in the television and film industries.
“Now, as we’re progressing forward, people who are casting for roles, they usually go for… a Black person” with European features they believe to be more appealing, O’Grady, who is biracial, said to InStyle. “And I think that a lot of dark-skinned women in our industry have felt ignored, have felt overlooked, have felt that their beauty has not been appreciated or represented well, and usually only represented by lighter-skinned women.”
O’Grady has also been vocal in her support of social justice issues to her nearly 800,000 Instagram followers.
“Systematic racism… still affects Black people in our country today,” she said in one recent post. “It affects our beliefs, our school systems, and our communities. As a biracial black woman who often looks racially ambiguous to others, I have had minor experiences with racism and it took me till I left home and went to a private conservative college to experience the honest despair my peers have felt their whole lives.”
“If you are indifferent, annoyed or even offended by people addressing racism and racist systems in our country, that is your privilege and your ignorance, she continued. “It’s everyone’s responsibility in our country to address this and fix it, even if you think it doesn’t affect you. Because it does.”
The eighth episode of the nine in Little Voice‘s first season is being released today.
Photo via brittanyogrady.com
Signature Theatre’s long-time leader is stepping down following allegations of sexual harassment.
The Shirlington-based theater said in a statement today that co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is retiring at the end of the month. No mention was made of the allegations.
Over the weekend, actor Thomas Keegan resurfaced his assertion that Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals at a local 2018 award show. Signature said in a subsequent statement that the allegations were investigated and found to be “without merit.”
Keegan, however, said he was personally aware of at least one other person sexually assaulted by Schaeffer. Yesterday he posted screenshots of other accusers who reached out to him.
In a statement posted online at 2 p.m. today, Keegan said Schaeffer should have stepped down years ago.
Eric Schaeffer’s resignation is more than a decade overdue. As the #blacklivesmatter movement is proving, abuse of power is systemic, insidious, corrosive, and institutional. I believe that silence is complicity. The entire hierarchy of Signature Theatre, to include the board and people I once called friends and colleagues, has aided and abetted a sacrilegious abuse of power, criminal activity, and depraved behavior, in a theatre that good, hardworking artists call home. They have betrayed their patrons, their employees, and the artistic community. They should be removed and replaced by the next generation of theatre makers, honestly and transparently committed to creating safe spaces and pursuing our most pressing matter: racial justice and equity.
Signature, which is reported to be in good financial shape despite the pandemic and its money troubles six years ago, says it will now embark on a search for a new Artistic Director, with a focus on ensuring a diverse pool of candidates.
The full announcement from Schaeffer and Signature Theatre is below.
Update on 6/24/20 — Schaeffer just announced his retirement.
Earlier: Shirlington-based Signature Theatre says newly-revealed sexual assault allegations against its leader “are false, misleading and without merit.”
Actor Thomas Keegan made the allegations public via social media on Sunday, after challenging Signature on a statement expressing a commitment to social justice. He says Signature co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals during a local theater awards show in 2018.
Yesterday, the theater — which in 2014 received a $5 million loan and rent abatement on its Shirlington location from Arlington County — responded with a statement (below) saying the allegations were investigated and found to be “not credible.”
Signature Theatre strives to play a positive role in our society and part of doing this is listening to our community in an open and fair manner. Living up to these values means taking all allegations of inappropriate or illegal actions seriously and then acting on those complaints according to robust and fair policies.
In May of 2018, Signature Theatre received a complaint concerning Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. The Signature Board took the complaint seriously and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a third-party inquiry and Mr. Schaeffer was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the inquiry.
The third-party investigation was independent and involved numerous interviews with the complainant, Eric Schaeffer, current and former Signature staff along with attendees at the event where the incident allegedly took place. The investigator also did a comprehensive review of pertinent records including extensive email records and text messages.
The investigation concluded that the allegations were not credible. Signature’s Board of Directors unanimously accepted the investigation’s conclusions and Mr. Schaeffer was returned to his duties. The matter was then closed and no charges or actions against Signature or Mr. Schaeffer were ever filed. Recent allegations about this incident asserted on social media are false, misleading and without merit as evidenced by the independent investigation.
Keegan asserted that “at least one other actor I know was assaulted by Eric.” He also said that he told the Washington Post about what happened the day after the alleged assault; a search today found no articles on the topic.
Keegan’s full Twitter thread, with his account of what happened, is below.
County Opposes Second McD’s Drive-Thru Window — “Maybe, in the end, they can all sit down amicably over a Happy Meal. But the mood was decidedly unhappy when the Arlington County Board and representatives of McDonald’s recently tangled over redevelopment of the restaurant chain’s 60-year-old outlet in the 4800 block of Lee Highway.” [InsideNova]
Sloppy Mama’s to Reopen Today — “Sloppy Mama’s BBQ owner Joe Neuman also isn’t in a rush to open his dining room, though he is launching takeout at his Arlington restaurant on Friday. He received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which has terms that reward businesses that rehire staff. Neuman closed Sloppy Mama’s on March 16, just as barbecue season beckoned.” [Washington City Paper]
Va. Trying to Ramp Up Testing — “As the state plans to reopen on Friday — though it will delay Northern Virginia’s reopening until after Memorial Day — the commonwealth is still not meeting Gov. Ralph Northam’s testing goal of 10,000 tests a day. This week, Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management signed contracts with three commercial labs in an effort to ramp up testing as the state gears up to reopen.” [DCist]
March Hotel Occupancy Rate Shows Big Drop — “Arlington hotel and motel occupancy took a pummeling in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold… March’s occupancy rate of 34.5 percent for Arlington resulted in a first-quarter occupancy rate of 52.3 percent.” [InsideNova]
GMA Profiles YHS Senior Photo Project — “In Arlington, Virginia, photographer Matt Mendelsohn has made it his mission to give the senior class of Yorktown High School the celebration they deserve… With the growing popularity of his project, which he’s named ‘Not Forgotten: The Yorktown Seniors of 2020,’ he’s enlisted the help from his daughter on shoots and a parent.” [Good Morning America]
Library Launches Virtual Career Services — “Arlington Public Library is offering virtual one-on-one appointments to job seekers who want career help or to improve their resume. All appointments are free and confidential. Appointments are available Mondays and Thursdays, 5:30-7 p.m., and Tuesdays, 9:30-11 a.m. No library card is required.” [Arlington County]
Signature Helps With Inn’s Mannequins — “Instead of letting tables sit vacant, the [Inn at Little Washington] chef plans to outfit his dining rooms with mannequins… The chef (who majored in drama in college) has been working with Shirlington’s Signature Theatre to get the faux humans costumed in 1940s-era garb. Servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening.” [Washingtonian, Eater]
APS Expands Grab and Go Meal Locations — “Beginning Wed, March 25, APS will expand the number of sites that provide free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to five locations to better reach families. Meals will be set up outside the building for distribution from 11 a.m.to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday.” The new locations are Barrett, Campbell and Randolph elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
Massage Therapist Charged with Assault — “At approximately 6:31 p.m. on March 9, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 3:00 p.m. on March 7, the victim was receiving a massage when she was allegedly inappropriately touched by the suspect. Following an investigation by the Special Victims’ Unit, a warrant for Assault and Battery.” [Arlington County]
Rosslyn Launches Restaurant Support Program — “The Rosslyn BID is… launching #RosslynRewards, a program to support Rosslyn restaurants that are still operating during these uncertain times. When you order takeout or delivery from participating Rosslyn restaurants and share on social media with the hashtag #RosslynRewards, the BID will give you a $10 reward for every $20 you spend.” [Press Release]
ART Bus Rides Now Free — “Starting Tuesday, March 24, Arlington Transit bus riders will enter and exit all ART buses using the rear doors only. Customers who require the use of a wheelchair ramp can still enter the bus through the front door. ART will also be suspending fare collection on all ART buses since the farebox is located at the front door.” The ART changes mirror those implemented by Metro today. [Arlington Transit]
Signature Cancels Performances — “In response to guidance from the CDC and state and local authorities, Signature Theatre has made the decision to close its doors to the public through the beginning of June.” [Press Release]