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On stage in Downtown Silver Spring with Black Box and Highwood Theatres

IMG 8458 copy highwoodThe cast of the Highwood Theatre production of “Into the Woods.” COURTESY PHOTO BY HIGHWOOD THEATRE   Downtown Silver Spring has become a hub of activity, featuring stores, restaurants, and various forms of entertainment, ranging from a skating rink to movie theaters to outdoor concerts.

It’s also the home of two live theatres.

The 140-seat Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, located at 8641 Colesville Road, is home to four theatre groups, which perform there regularly as part of the Theatre Consortium of Silver Spring. But the community-owned building also rents out space for one-night engagements and limited runs, giving the opportunity to new artists and arts organizations to put on fare as varied as plays, set lists, improv comedy, open-mic and dance concerts, said Jonathan Ezra Rubin, managing director of the Consortium. There’s even a pole-dance competition on August 12, produced by the Titans of Pole.

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Daymé Arocena brings modern Cuban sounds to Strathmore AMP

Dayme Arocena1Afro-Cuban vocalist Daymé Arocena (center) with bassist Rafael Aldama (left), and drummer Raul Herrera (right). PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE   “Give these people more alcohol,” yelled Afro-Cuban vocalist Daymé Arocena in response to the quietly seated crowd at Strathmore AMP on Friday.

In the end, her pleas worked, and the audience got out of their seats en masse to groove to Arocena’s unique take on Cuban music.

“I’m not trying to make something brand new, I’m just trying to follow my sense,” said Arocena. “I’m from the 21st century. My music isn’t going to sound like what was made 50 years ago; it’s going to sound how I sound.”

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It’s a Free for All . . .

Shakespeare company makes "Othello" a free for the summer fest

OTHELLO 121 1 copy photoFaran Tahir stars in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Free For All production of “Othello.” COURTESY PHOTO BY SCOTT SUCHMAN  

It’s a long-established practice for theater companies to present the plays of William Shakespeare to the public at no charge during the summer months.

Locally, the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C. has been doing that since 1991 – presenting one production during the hot months (although indoors) in what it calls “Free For All.” Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was the first Free For All production. Michael Kahn, STC’s artistic director, found inspiration in the pioneering achievements of Joseph Papp. Kahn had worked with the legendary producer and director who established almost 60 years ago New York City’s famed Shakespeare in the Park.

“Michael Kahn wanted to make sure Shakespeare was accessible to as many people as possible,” said Joy Johnson, director of audience services at STC who organizes and manages Free For All. “The best way to do that is through free performances.”

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Brews and beat shine at first ever record fair in Silver Spring

RECORD FAIR PICTURE 1Vendor Dave Hoffer stands in front of his records. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE   SILVER SPRING — Barrels of beer were covered with vinyl records, while organizer and c, played dance tracks from the top of a fermenter at the first ever Silver Spring Record Fair on Sunday at Denizens Brewing Company.

“It’s a way to spread the love of vinyl around Montgomery County, to bring folks into records together to listen to good music, have some beers, and buy some records,” said Megan, who was the organizer of the event.

The event lasted for five hours and featured 20 vendors and six different DJs who spanned many different genres. Three of them, Bobby Babylon, Leon City Sounds, and Megan himself, mainly played world music and reggae.

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Singer-songwriter uses real life tragedy as inspiration

Craig Cummings PhotoCraig Cummings (left) and bassist Greg Hardin (right) performing at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn. COURTESY PHOTO BY MAX HORAN   GAITHERSBURG — Inspired by friends who were forced to redefine themselves after the end of a relationship, D.C. area singer-songwriter Craig Cummings sang about the joys and downfalls of love in the Gaithersburg Arts Barn on Saturday to celebrate the release of his new album “Gone Baby Gone.”

The seven-track, 27-minute-long album, issued on Takoma Park’s Azalea City label, tells the story of a man dealing with a long-term relationship falling apart. The album shows all facets of the relationship, from the man's first attempts to win the unnamed woman’s love to the aftermath of the breakup.

“I was running into people that had been in relationships that were ending, and they were struggling with how to be alone after all that time. They were asking themselves, ‘How do I redefine myself as a person without the context of a relationship?’” said Craig.

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Rockville offers Movies in the Parks

IMG 5128 copy 2 movies in parkCUT: Patrons watched “The Lego Movie” on July 29, 2015 at Montrose Park during the first "Movies in the Parks." The event returns for its third year to Rockville parks, offering free movies in different parks every Wednesday in August. COURTESY PHOTO  The drive-in movie theater may have become part of a bygone era, but you can drive or walk this summer to catch a movie in the park.

For the third year in a row, the City of Rockville is presenting four free outdoor films at four different neighborhood parks every Wednesday in August as part of its Movies in the Park series.

“The films are shown on a big inflatable screen, so everyone gets to see,” said Marylou Berg, Rockville’s director of communication.

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Event will showcase local documentary filmmaker and her work

On August 6, a local non-profit organization will present the first installment of a series designed to allow aspiring documentary filmmakers to receive feedback.

Erica Ginsberg, co-founder and executive director of Docs in Progress, said she became interested in filmmaking while participating in Montgomery County Public Schools Visual Arts Center as a student at Albert Einstein High School.

“While I ended up focusing on international relations in my undergrad studies, I never lost my love for making art and other creative pursuits, and that was part of the impetus for my earning a graduate degree in film and becoming a documentary filmmaker.”

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Chopteeth brings Afro-Funk to Glen Echo stage

As the horn section blared out melodies over dense layers of percussion, the keyboardist for West African big band Chopteeth, Bill Dempsey, found a small place between the noise for an organ solo. The band headlined the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park on Saturday night, and Dempsey was able to fulfill one of his dreams.

“I’ve been listening to this style of music for a long time; I’ve always dreamed of finding others to play it with. In Milwaukee, I thought it would never happen; in DC it did,” said Dempsey. “It’s a tribute to DC that you can find Ghanaian musicians, Nigerian musicians, and American musicians, all coming together.”

Chopteeth was the brain child of singer/guitarist Michael Shereikis and bassist Robert Fox. Inspired by New York based band Antibalas; Fox asked Shereikis if he would be interested in starting an African big band. Shereikis, who was exposed to African music when he lived in the Ivory Coast as a member of the Peace Corps, agreed, and Chopteeth was born.

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Time for 'One Man, Two Guvnors’ and lots of mayhem

“One Man, Two Guvnors” proves that there are no truly original plots.

The work, written by British playwright Richard Bean, is an adaptation of “Servant of Two Masters,” a Commedia Dell’arte style comedy dating to 1743. That, in turn, derives from ancient Greek comedies.

The adaptation, which played on Broadway after the original British run under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, takes place in 1963 Brighton, an English seaside resort.

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Discovering some of MoCo's lesser-known theatrical venues

01 OBLIVION by Unexpected Stage Company PhotoCredit Rachel Ellis copyJonathan Frye and Ruthie Rado star in Unexpected Stage's production of "Oblivion." COURTESY PHOTO BY RACHEL ELLIS  Theater lovers all know the Round House Theatre, the professional theater company that produces performances at its 400-seat location on East-West Highway in Bethesda.

Theater enthusiasts may be less familiar with some of the other theater venues in the area.

One is the Unexpected Stage Company, which is based in Bethesda, at least for now.

The “unexpected” in its title doesn’t refer to the fare offered by the professional regional theater, but rather to the fact that husband-and-wife team Christopher Goodrich and Rachel Stroud-Goodrich, co-artistic directors, came across an abandoned stage while driving around Seneca Creek State Park.

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