Connect with us

Bars & Parties

Don’t miss "Treemonisha" and Intersections this weekend

Published

on

“‘Treemonisha’ is a gem of an opera by one of America’s most treasured composers, Scott Joplin,” says Michael Bobbitt, who is directing the Washington Savoyards’ production — a first in the D.C. area for more than 30 years.

Bobbitt, who is gay and lives with his partner and their son in Glen Echo, is also the producing artistic director of Adventure theatre, the D.C. area’s longest running children’s theatre.

Joplin is arguably America’s greatest black composer. Joplin died forgotten at age 49 in 1916 of advanced-syphilis dementia in a mental hospital and was never able to see his opera performed, due to Jim Crow laws blocking his path as a black musician.

Joplin, dubbed the “king of ragtime” during the heyday of that distinctive genre, became popular again after Joplin rags were the soundtrack for the 1973 hit film “The Sting.” Ragtime was a toe-tapping syncopated “ragged-time” music often associated with the red-light-district saloons and bordellos where Joplin himself often played.

Yes, that Scott Joplin. Well, brilliant though he was as a composer of ragtime, Joplin also wrote two operas, one of them a work of unalloyed genius — “Treemonisha” — a work of folk Americana at least the artistic equal of, say, Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” that languished unperformed until 1972 when finally it was produced in Atlanta after a new score was commissioned, since Joplin’s own original orchestration had long since been lost.

“One could arguably say that Scott Joplin changed the landscape of American music and influenced what modern music is today,” says Bobbitt. “That music is vast and various, but extremely accessible and joyous.”

Only here through March 7, the Bobbitt-helmed production is on stage at the splendid Atlas Performing Arts Center, the jewel in the crown of D.C.’s newest arts venue on H Street, N.E. Break off significant social engagements if you must, but get thee to the Atlas stage and see and hear the wonder of “Treemonisha” and then spread the word: this is a must-see musical triumph, easily earning 6 stars out of a possible 4.

Bobbitt says, “Because the story deals with superstition, belief, and magic, we decided to lean toward a slightly fantastic place” in the sets and costumes, especially the wonder of a great tree that forms the towering backdrop above the wooded village in post-Civil War Louisiana bayou country where the young girl, the eponymous Treemonisha, lives and risks death but eventually leads her people to freedom from superstition.

Our young heroine, played to pert perfection and with marvelous girlish pipes of a soaring soprano by Joanna Marie Ford, “enjoys the wonders of reading and tries to spread that love throughout her community,” says Bobbitt. But unfortunately she clashes with local “conjurors,” magicians peddling bags of luck to ward off evil, who see the young girl with her book-reading, should it spread throughout the community, as a threat to their livelihoods. Enter conflict. And cue the forces of wicked magicians who conspire to kidnap her and throw her into a nest of poisonous snakes.

Standing beside her, however, are protectors — her “parent” figures, the incomparable contralto of Marilyn Moore playing Monisha, and the equally talented Darry Winston, as her doting Uncle Ned, who even has a soft-shoe up his sleeve when the stage shifts from rapturous music to a kaleidoscope of dancers — and even Uncle Ned can keep time to the music! Moore comes to this role with her acting chops as Bess in “Porgy and Bess” with the New York City Opera and countless other roles in opera from Violetta in “La Traviata” to Mimi in “LaBoheme.” Moore is also a faculty member at the Levine School of music and at Delaware State University.

Winston, meanwhile, has his own roots deep in such baritone roles as Lucas in “The Student Prince” on Broadway and regionally in “Madame Butterfly” and “Cosi fan tutti” and perhaps most of all his signature Wagnerian roles in the Ring Cycle. And of course who can forget his endless offstage patter about the wonders of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald?

As for Ford, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany and studied at the Lyric Opera Studio of Weimar where she performed as Despina in Mozart’s “Cos fan tutti.” She has also toured as a soloist with the Morgan State University Choir in Ghana and is often a featured singer throughout the Maryland/D.C. area. Her career will soar even higher after “Treemonisha.”

The remainder of the diverse cast includes other standouts, and they all blend into a stirring rendition of vocal command and eye-dazzling footwork in this true American classic, a folk opera about freedom, a song cycle about the liberation of a people through community values and the doors opened through education.

In Bobbitt’s words, “we took the “opportunity to have fun with this opera,” in which he accents its fantasy elements where what he calls “good and love triumph over evil.” And the audience on opening night had so much infectious fun that they broke into rousing cheers at the curtain call. You will, too.

Be aware that “Treemonisha” is only one ornament on this late-winter tannenbaum of “Intersections: A New America Arts Festival” which runs through March 7 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE.

Performances of “Treemonisha” continue on Friday and Saturday, March 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., and Sunday March 7 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $10-$40.

Tickets for all Atlas Performing Arts Center offerings during “Intersections” are available at the Atlas box office: 202-399-7993, x2, and at www.intersectionsdc.org.

A few samples of the other multi-media offerings during Intersections:

• a concert by legendary folk singer and activist Tom Chapin ($20, 7:30 p.m. Sunday March 7)

• a community open-reading of the African-American classic play “A Raisin in the Sun,” hosted by DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, which is also in fact staging the show as its next production (free, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6)

• on-site building pieces of a high-flying mobile to be set balanced in mid-air by artist Kevin Reese (free, 2 p.m. Saturday, March 6)

• Dance Discovery, an explosion of dance styles from D.C.’s award-winning Joy of Motion Dance Center (5 p.m. on Saturday, March 6)

For a complete listing of all events times and charges if any go to www.intersectionsdc.org. And then plan your weekend around Intersections, which is bound to intersect its multi-media message of art and community-building right into your soul.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bars & Parties

Disco Funk Brunch at Crazy Aunt Helen’s

Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform

Published

on

Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Drag queen Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform at the biweekly Disco Funk Brunch at the LGBT-owned Crazy Aunt Helen’s on Sunday. For future showtimes, go to crazyaunthelens.com. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Continue Reading

Bars & Parties

Blade’s summer closing party set for Sept. 17 in Rehoboth

Benefits journalism scholarship

Published

on

Rehoboth Beach Museum, Joe Maggio Realty, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

The Washington Blade’s 15-year tradition of hosting a summer kickoff party in Rehoboth Beach was disrupted due to COVID restrictions. In lieu of that May event, the Blade is hosting a summer closing party on Friday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at The Pines (56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.). 

Tickets are $20, which includes two drinks and appetizers. The event benefits the Blade Foundation’s Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, a 12-week program in which an LGBTQ student journalist covers stories of interest to Delaware’s queer community each summer. 

All COVID safety protocols will be followed, including a requirement that attendees furnish proof of vaccination to gain entry. 

If you are unable to attend you can make a donation to the Blade Foundation at BladeFoundation.org. Sponsors of the event include Delmarva Power and The Pines.

Continue Reading

Bars & Parties

Rehoboth to close out summer with SunFest

Series of events to replace long-running Sundance due to pandemic

Published

on

This year’s Sundance in Rehoboth is renamed SunFest and will look different from this scene in 2019 due to the pandemic. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

SunFest will feature a week of live performances, dances, and a live auction, sponsored by non-profit LGBTQ+ center CAMP Rehoboth.

The weeklong festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 and is a change from the annual SunDance that CAMP Rehoboth has sponsored since 1988. This transformation began last year when the event was forced to go digital due to the coronavirus and the in-person events scheduled this year are important, according to development director and co-coordinator of SunFest Anita Broccolino.

“We love that community feel and the in-person makes all the difference in the world for us. Not being able to do it last year just reminded everyone how important we all are to one another,” Broccolino said. “I think that bringing back these events this year is just huge for us and it will be extra celebratory as a result.”

The festival begins with a 5k race and online auction opening on Sunday. Monday night features a give-back event at Iron Hill Brewery while Tuesday’s agenda is still to be determined, said Broccolino. Diego’s will host a Studio 54 give-back dance party on Wednesday and Thursday is the Port 251 women’s give-back. 

Live performances featuring the Skivvies, Randy Harrison and Diane Huey are scheduled for Friday night and Jennifer Holiday will follow with a performance on Saturday night, both at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. The festival closes out Sunday with auction pick-ups and Fun in the Sand and Sun, according to the CAMP Rehoboth website.

This event is also important to the organization’s contributions to the community, said Broccolino.

“The essential services we provide for free to the community, which is a huge amount of health and wellness activities, as well as arts programming, a lot of youth programming and the community counts on us for those things. We never stopped during COVID, we made as much as we could virtual, but we took quite a hit not being able to raise those funds and awareness of the programs,” Broccolino said. “We invite the entire community to come celebrate with us and make it to Rehoboth Beach, and let’s make it joyful, and wonderful and make sure we’re living up to the standards of all the people who helped found CAMP Rehoboth and live up to their legacy and beyond.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular