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STAYCATION: Music in the air

Region abundant with free concert series all summer

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U.S. Navy Musician 3rd Class Sarah Williams performs with the Navy Ceremonial Band. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

U.S. Navy Musician 3rd Class Sarah Williams performs with the Navy Ceremonial Band. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

There are lots of great opportunities in the region to hear live music free. Here are a few:

Free concerts from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force bands are a Washington tradition. They perform on alternating days throughout the summer. Concerts are free and no tickets are required. The U.S. Navy Band plays on Mondays at 8 p.m. on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building. Look for them any Monday evening through Aug. 25. They also play some Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at the Navy Memorial. Look for them there July 22 and 29 and Aug. 12 and 19. They can also be heard on Tuesdays at the Sylvan Theatre in front of the Washington Monument at 8 p.m. July 22 and every Tuesday in August. More information is at navyband.navy.mil.

The U.S. Air Force Band performs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building every Tuesday in July and August.and every Wednesday at the Sylvan Theatre in front of the Washington Monument every Wednesday in July and August. They also perform Fridays at 8 p.m. at the Air Force Memorial all remaining weeks in July and every Friday in August. More information is at usafband.af.mil.

The U.S. Marine Band plays Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the West Front of the Capitol Building all remaining Wednesdays in July and every Wednesday in August.

Twilight Tattoo, the Army Band’s outdoor ceremonial concert is an hour-long military pageant that features the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Drill Team, the U.S. Army Blues and members of the U.S. Army Band Downrange. These performances are also free and open to the public. They’ll perform every Wednesday through Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Fort Myer in Arlington. Visit twilight.mdw.army.mil for details.

The National Gallery of Art offers free jazz performances in the garden of its outdoor cafe every Friday evening during summer. They run every Friday through Aug. 29 from 5-8:30 p.m. but may be canceled due to excessive heat or inclement weather. They’re at the Pavilion Cafe at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (6th and Constitution Ave., N.W.). Food and drinks available or picnics are allowed (alcoholic beverages must be purchased there). Upcoming performers include the Rick Whitehead Trio (tonight), Tom Williams (July 18) and Incendio (July 25). Visit nga.gov for remaining schedule and more information.

* Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecues are held various dates through Aug. 30 at the National Building Museum (401 F St., N.W.) and offer Texas-style barbecue, drinks and live music. Upcoming performers include Sour Bridges (tonight), the Bellfuries (July 17), the Giving Tree Band (July 18), Joe Firstman (July 19) Mustered Courage (July 31) and more in August.

Hill Country Barbecue is a D.C. restaurant and performance venue that features live country music. It’s at 410 7th St., N.W. Details at hillcountrywdc.com.

Music on the Mall is an annual free concert series that brings local and regional musicians out for lunchtime concerts. The performances are sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. They’re held at 7th and Jefferson Drive, N.W.between the National Air and Space Museum and the Hirshhorn. Upcoming performers are Hari Vasan (July 15), Kendall Isadore (July 22), Jonathan Tucker (July 29), Cecily Bumbray (Aug. 5) and more. Visit dcarts.dc.gov for more information.

• The plaza at Washington Harbour along the waterfront in Georgetown also has a free concert series that runs into September. Performances are held on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and include a wide variety of styles. Upcoming performers are Julia Fanning( July 16), Josh Burgess (July 23), Ken Fischer (July 30), Hand Painted Swinger (Aug. 6) and more. Visit thewashingtonharbour.com for details.

The Capitol Riverfront will host free outdoor concerts at Yards Park throughout the summer at Yards Park (355 Water St., N.W.). They run on Fridays through Sept. 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Upcoming performers include Scott’s New Band (tonight), Framewerk (July 18), Jah Works (july 25), White Ford Bronco (Aug. 1) and more. Visit capitolriverfront.org for more information.

 

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PHOTOS: Taste of Point

‘Spring Garden Party’ fundraiser for LGBTQ youth scholarships

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Point Foundation Scholar Warren Small speaks to the crowd at the 'Taste of Point: Spring Garden Party' about his experience in the program. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Point Foundation held “Taste of Point: Spring Garden Party” at the rooftop of Room & Board on Thursday, May 19.

Point Foundation scholar Warren Small of Howard University, currently working as an intern for Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), spoke to attendees about his experiences in the Point scholarship and mentorship program. Local restaurants and bars Amparo, Barkada, Compass Rose Bar & Kitchen, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Republic Restoratives, Serenata and Ten Eyck Brewing provided gourmet food and craft cocktails. Drag performer Kitti Chanel Fairfield and DJ Tezrah provided entertainment.

Activist, businesswoman and Point Foundation booster Sharon Brackett was honored posthumously in a ceremony at the event.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Travel

‘A piece of heaven’ awaits in Easton, Md.

Historic charm, culture, and fine dining just 90 minutes from D.C.

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The Hummingbird Inn offers Victorian charm with modern amenities and the best breakfast on the Eastern Shore. (Blade staff photo)

If you’ve always zoomed past Easton, Md., on your rush to Rehoboth Beach, then you’re missing out.

Historic and charming Easton offers stylish and friendly accommodations, an array of eclectic shops and galleries, award-winning restaurants, and more in a welcoming environment for LGBTQ visitors.

Indeed, some of the town’s most prominent and successful businesses are gay owned and Easton aims to attract more LGBTQ visitors this year, in part by hosting its first-ever Pride celebration in June. 

“This is a welcoming and safe place where people can be who they are and it’s a prime location for a more developed gay community,” said Eric Levinson, owner of the Hummingbird Inn. Levinson is among the organizers of Easton Pride, scheduled for June 17-19.

Levinson moved to Easton in 2017 and opened the Inn. He says he was anxious about being openly gay because there weren’t many gay-identified businesses. When someone stole his Pride flag that year from the Inn’s front porch, Levinson blogged about it and says he had a supportive response from the town. Owners of a nearby bed-and-breakfast bought him a new Pride flag and there haven’t been any issues since.

In fact, on a recent Blade visit to Easton, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Tom Perez was in town for a campaign stop and one of the first questions he faced from the community was about his platform on LGBTQ issues.

“When I talk about jobs, justice, and opportunity, LGBTQ inclusion has been a huge part of it,” Perez said. “One of the privileges of my lifetime has been to work on those issues.”

Easton is home to about 15,000 residents in Talbot County, and was incorporated in 1790, though its founding dates to the early 1700s when the Assembly of the Province of Maryland selected it as the site for a courthouse to serve the pre-Revolution population of sea merchants and farmers, according to Discover Easton. It’s a mere 90-minute drive from Washington, D.C., and about the same from Rehoboth Beach. 

Start your visit by checking into the Hummingbird Inn (14 N. Aurora St.), just a short walk from town, which offers six en suite rooms each named for Eastern Shore towns. The Queen Anne Victorian Inn is fully updated with modern baths. Try the newly renovated and spacious Crisfield Room with its contemporary style and multiple seating areas on the third floor. The Inn is dog friendly and in the mornings, Levinson capably assumes the role of chef, wowing guests with an unrivaled, multi-course breakfast cooked to order. He says his experience traveling to 70 countries around the world informs his approach to hospitality.

“I pride myself on our attention to detail,” he says. “I modeled the inn on my travel experience. If I’m going somewhere this is what I’m expecting — I need great products, towels, pillows. That’s where I got the experience to know what’s expected as a traveler.”

And his approach is working — he says at least six former guests have since bought homes in Easton.

Levinson even accommodates those with dietary restrictions at his famed breakfast, noting, “Just because you have a restricted diet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good time.”

Talking with locals, everyone seems to have enjoyed Levinson’s breakfast feast; it truly is something to behold, starting with a selection of homemade breads. On a recent visit, there was a baked egg dish and a delicious French toast course. Be sure to indulge — you won’t need lunch.

As for Pride, Levinson says he was approached by Delmarva Pride about planning an event. The 2020 plans were scrapped due to COVID. But this year’s inaugural event will be a three-day celebration with a drag show, a Pride dance at the Inn, along with a street fair and Sunday brunch. Call the Inn for reservations as special ticket packages will be offered (410-822-0605). The Inn celebrates its five-year anniversary on Aug. 6 with food, drinks, and a band. And if you’re planning a wedding, Levinson is ordained and has officiated at numerous same-sex ceremonies.

“I want people to know it’s not just a B&B and more than just a place to sleep because we do so many events here,” Levinson says.

One of the largest such events is Easton’s 18th annual Plein Air festival set for July 15-24, the largest such festival in the country. According to the event site, “Plein air painters produce art from life (as opposed to in the studio)” and this year 58 artists will be juried into the competition. The artwork is for sale and the 2021 event brought nearly $500,000 in sales. Visit pleinaireaston.com for details.

In addition to the Hummingbird, you’ll find all sorts of accommodations from quaint B&Bs to the grand dame of Easton, the Tidewater Inn, a large hotel and conference facility that dates to 1947. Its restaurant, Hunters’ Tavern, is known for the snapper soup, and the bar is cozy with friendly staff.

Once you’re checked in, explore the vibrant scene of shops and galleries. Rediscover the lost pleasure of browsing a bookstore at Vintage Books & Fine Art (4 N. Washington St., vintagebooksmd.com). You’ll discover all sorts of fascinating local history and maritime-themed tomes. 

Among the local galleries, Studio B Art Gallery stands out. Owner Betty Huang, herself an accomplished artist, represents many esteemed painters and the gallery will host a plein air workshop with Master Jove Wang on July 11. Visit studiobartgallery.com for details.

Betty Huang’s Studio B represents many esteemed painters. (Blade staff photo)

Shopping for clothing? Don’t miss Marc Randall boutique (3 E. Dover St., marc-randall.com), offering a mix of classic and edgy women’s clothing with a smaller selection of men’s wear. 

Marc Del Pino owns the boutique and sits on the board of Discover Easton. Over drinks at happy hour, he also seems like the town’s unofficial mayor as everyone who enters stops by to say hello. Originally from Trinidad, Del Pino moved to New York and then to Easton. He’s been in business in Easton for 29 years.

“I thought I would have a problem moving here but never did,” he says. “I never felt like an outsider or out of place; I felt like I came home when I came here for the first time. … I was tired of New York City, it reminds me of Trinidad here being smaller with a charming downtown.”

Marc Del Pino in his clothing boutique, Marc Randall. (Blade staff photo)

All that shopping will leave you hungry and there’s no shortage of restaurants to try. Among the best is Scossa (8 N. Washington St.), owned by Chef Giancarlo Tondin who was born in Italy and began his career at Harry’s Bar in Venice. He later worked for the Cipriani family’s many New York City restaurants, including the Rainbow Room before relocating to Easton. He specializes in Northern Italian cuisine. 

Another standout is Out of the Fire (22 Goldsborough St.), a farm-to-table bistro featuring globally inspired dishes and an open kitchen. Try the warm confit salad of chicken and roasted apples or browse an extensive pizza menu, including everything from duck sausage to a vegan option. 

The Wardroom (108 N. Washington St., thewardroom.com) offers a market along with lunch and dinner fare like homemade pastas and enticing selections of charcuterie, cheeses, and wines. 

After dinner, head to the historic Avalon Theatre. The building dates to the early 1920s but has been renovated and reinvented through the years. Today the Avalon presents musical and dramatic theater, symphony orchestras, national musical acts along with local talent, according to its site. This summer brings a wide array of programming, from “Hamlet” to a free community talk on parenting. Visit avalonfoundation.org for more information.

For a laid back, welcoming getaway without the summer beach crowds, Easton is a relaxing destination full of history, culture, premier dining, and high-end shopping in an LGBTQ affirming town convenient to D.C.

As Del Pino put it, “I could go anywhere in the world, but I go across the Bay Bridge and I’m home — a piece of heaven.”

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Theater

New Philly production explores AIDS through three characters

Ain Gordon’s ‘These Don’t Easily Scatter’ more than a static memorial

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Ain Gordon (Photo by Paula Court)

These Don’t Easily Scatter
May 20-22
William Way LGBT Community Center
1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia 19107
$20
Waygay.org

Plaques fail. And a memorial doesn’t need to be an immoveable piece of stone.

It’s this line of thought that formulated “Remembrance,” an alternative multidisciplinary memorial to Philadelphia’s AIDS crisis and its under-mourned deaths, made up of activities throughout May and June in the City of Brotherly Love.

Included is Ain Gordon’s new play “These Don’t Easily Scatter” to be performed in the William Way LGBT Community Center’s freshly renovated ballroom for just four performances (May 20-22). Both written and directed by the three-time Obie Award winning playwright, the work takes inspiration from interviews and stories gathered from individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and follows three imagined characters navigating the early days of the AIDS epidemic in Philadelphia.

Gordon, who is gay, has woven aspects of AIDS into previous plays (“217 Boxes of Dr. Henry Anonymous,” “Radicals in Miniature”), but this time he’s focused closely on the crisis. Set during 1982-1987, the play covers five intense years remembered vividly by the playwright, a lifelong New Yorker who was young, sexually active, and on the scene at the time.

Through interviews, he’s unearthed stories of Philadelphia-area community members who passed unnoticed with very little support. Gordon also chronicles accounts of those who selflessly assisted including a Philadelphia funeral director who offered proper burials to the dead when others were too frightened.

“The process was difficult because all interviewing had to be remote, and that’s the antithesis of what I like to do,” he explains. “I prefer to go to the place and talk in person. When you’re on site, meandering can happen and you find out things you hadn’t planned to ask. But it was the reality, so I dealt with it.”

With so many theatrical and film works surrounding HIV/AIDS and the ‘80s, Gordon sought a unique angle. His interviews included faith leaders and family, but he zeroed in on health care workers who administered to early AIDS patients, primarily nurses. Their stories were both illuminating and timely in context of the current pandemic.

He says, “Infectious disease doctors who were mostly men were the stars of the show. I’m often interested in the supporting players who stand behind the stars and those were the nurses.”

But how do interviews become a cast of characters?

“To be brutally frank, the budget allowed for three actors,” Gordon explains. “Didn’t know who those characters were for a long time. But I knew that I had a collection of things that needed to get in and I needed to find a container that could hold them.”

An especially revelatory interview with a nurse resulted in a character. An early interview with a faith leader who mentioned a woman who’d been in the choir and volunteered to sing at funerals when no one else would, conjured another. The third was a gay man, because gay men featured predominantly in all of the interviews.

“At that point,” he says, “you stop talking, get rid of your notes, and start writing. And hopefully it all comes together.”

Gordon is grateful to have assembled an A-list cast including Cherene Snow as the nurse, out actor Bill Kux is the gay guy, and the brilliant Kathleen Chalfant best known on Broadway for her part in the original production of Tony Kushner’s seminal “Angels in America,” plays the chorister.

The work’s conceit is monologues resembling interviews. The unnamed gay character, a young man finding his way sexually and having a great time, brings the names he wants to remember – mostly casual sex partners. Some stories are short: He recalls a guy he had sex with in a train station bathroom. He’d forgotten all about him until he saw his obituary photo in the paper.

For the playwright, “These Don’t Easily Scatter” is more than a static memorial.

“I’m interested in how history tends to be promoted in physically inactive objects. I think it can come in other forms and if they’re more fluid history can actively live on.”

A lot of his work is place-based plays – typically he gets a commission to travel to a location and write something specific to the place. And that’s what he’s done in Philadelphia.

“It’s important that the work is freestanding enough so it can be presented as a piece of theater someplace else where nobody knows about the story,” he adds. “It’s also important to give something back to the generous people involved in the process, and to commemorate those who have died, if not by name, then by remembrance.”

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