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Documentaries shine in AFI DOCS Festival

Programming staff, front-line screeners and members of a screening committee spent the better part of this year winnowing down documentary films to include in the American Film Institute’s 15th annual AFI DOCS Festival, which took place at the AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring, as well as Landmark’s E Street Cinema and the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a very long process,” said Michael Lumpkin, director of the festival. “Over 2000 films were submitted this year, of which we chose 103.”

“The films come from 28 countries. All have not yet been released and not yet been shown in movie theaters, online, or on television,” Lumpkin said.

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Local disc jockey reflects on years in the business and changing music tastes

(Donald) Cerphe Colwell’s 45 years in the D.C. area’s music scene began in 1971, when Colwell, then a “struggling art major” at American University, was invited by Steve Walker, a DJ at Bethesda-based station WHFS, to visit the station.

Colwell was hired to work the 7 p.m.-to-midnight shift on Saturdays.

“I saw the world with fresh eyes,” Colwell said of the experience. He said he’d been fascinated by radio since his childhood in Boston, when he listened to a transistor radio in bed at night. Colwell would go on to work for several years at WHFS – the first station in the area to broadcast in FM stereo.

“There was a real feeling of creativity and community,” Colwell said. “I could go from the Beatles to John Coltrane. I went around and talked to bands who were being ignored by the larger stations and invited them to come on my show. Bands loved to come to our studio because we didn’t put time limits on them. Frank Zappa would come on and talk about all kinds of things. We were one of the first five radio stations in the country to play Bruce Springsteen’s music. Bruce played five or six sets on on my show.”

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Local students appear on public television special

One hundred and fifty members of a Bethesda-based youth arts program appeared on a televised tribute to an acclaimed composer June 1.

Founded in 2011 by brother Rolando and Kristofer Sanz, Young Artists of America at Strathmore provides instruction and mentorship to middle and high school students throughout the D.C. metro area in various aspects of musical theater. The one-hour television special, “Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice,” is hosted by Rice himself, a frequent collaborator with Andrew Lloyd Webber and others on several acclaimed Broadway musicals. It was recently filmed at Maryland Public Television’s studio in Owings Mills.

The program features performances of songs from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” and others. It also featured segments where Rice speaks about his career, as well as featuring footage of the performers’ backstage preparations.

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Hometown Holidays carries on in the rain

Hometown Holidays Rolling ThunderA local Rockville family lines up to watch “Rolling Thunder” coming up I-270 for Memorial Day. PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTHROCKVILLE – Neither rain, nor rain or more rain could keep local residents from enjoying the local party.

Rockville celebrated its 29th annual Hometown Holidays this Memorial Day weekend with live music, a parade and food from a variety of Rockville restaurants.

Weekend rain kept the crowds smaller than previous years, but thousands still showed up to celebrate.

“I thought it was another opportunity that kind of really showed how warm and welcoming we are as a community,” said Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton.

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Never too old to tell a really good story

x90 year old authorRecently published author Frances Chavarria.  COURTESY PHOTO   Frances Chavarria was in her eighties when she sat down to write her first book. Now 90, the Rockville resident is getting ready for book signings and dreams of seeing her novel up on the big screen.

Chavarria’s novel, “Let Us Dream of Turtles,” is a love story that pits greedy developers against environmentalists and takes place in Costa Rica, where she lived for 35 years. Chavarria took two years to complete her 300-page book that includes events such as an earthquake and tsunami.

In 2010, she found an editor, who wanted to publish the book if she agreed to make a few cuts, including many of the food descriptions. Chavarria agreed, but eventually stopped, believing the revisions were hurting her book. She put it on a shelf and moved on.

Four years later, Chavarria moved into senior citizen housing in downtown Rockville and met fellow resident, Edith Billups, who had written and edited magazines.

The two hit it off immediately and soon found themselves reworking the manuscript. Billups said she loved the manuscript instantly, especially “all the suspense and intrigue.” And, Billups laughed, Chavarria “may be 90, but she’s got some great love scenes in here.”

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Center Stage: ‘Or’ qualifies as a quality restoration event

OR 5Now playing at Round House Theatre, the role-switching play “Or,” features Erin Weaver, Holly Twyford, and Gregory Linington. COURTESY PHOTO  BETHESDA — “Or,” a suffix of binary implications barely qualifies as a phrase. Yet the new play at the Round House Theatre about playwright and former spy Aphra Behn takes the meaning of this word to its full extent.

“Or,” written by Liz Duffy Adams takes place in Restoration Era England when Behn, played by Holly Twyford, abandons her espionage career to become a writer under the new government of Charles II.

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Day of the Book Festival draws diverse crowd to Kensington

IMG 1535Thousands attended the Day of the Book Festival in Kensington. PHOTO BY PETER ROULEAU KENSINGTON – A break in the rain on Sunday permitted several thousand people to attend the annual Day of the Book Festival on Howard Avenue in Kensington.

The festival began in 2005, thanks to the efforts of Elisenda Sola-Sole, owner of the Kensington Row Bookshop, a popular used book store. Sola-Sole’s family founded the Pauli Bellet Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of Catalan culture. The inspiration for the festival came from the “El Dia del Libre” celebration in Barcelona, which in 1923 was merged with the city’s traditional Rose Festival. In these celebrations, authors and other merchants set up stalls along Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, La Rambla.

This year, the festival was held on the International Day of the Book, which was designated April 23 in 1995 by UNESCO in honor of the birthdate of William Shakespeare. In other years, the festival is held on the Sunday closest to the date.

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Center Stage: Merging Celtic tradition and folk rock

Jennifer Cutting’s uplifting OCEAN brings with it a touch of The Beatles too

ocean-promo-1Jennifer Cutting (far right) with the OCEAN Orchestra. COURTESY PHOTO

NORTH BETHESDA — Celtic tradition and high-spirited folk rock came together when Jennifer Cutting’s OCEAN orchestra performed its new “Waves” album at Strathmore’s AMP on March 31.
OCEAN, described as “Celtic music for ancient moderns,” is grounded in the Celtic tradition while mixing in genres like Beatles-style pop, Southern rock and even Bollywood in the “Waves” album.
Some of the songs in “Waves” come from the start of Cuttings’ music career 23 years ago, which makes it the culmination of “many, many years of work.” The orchestra has created a long and loyal following, many of whom were present at the “Waves” debut.

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Center Stage: Bill Viola’s art slows time to create mindful contemplation

Bill Violas The Fall into ParadisePerformers John Hay and Sarah Steben take part in Bill Viola's video art piece "The Fall into Paradise," part of his exhibit "The Moving Portrait" now featured at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON D.C. — Moving pictures meet portraiture. Video, a popular media form used for almost any purpose, is rarely utilized for slow, perceptual contemplation often achieved in paintings or music.

Bill Viola’s work “The Moving Portrait” does exactly that. His work is more akin to portraiture rather than narrative stories often seen in video. His work focuses on facial language and slow-motion to allow a calmer, meditative attention to his footage.

These videos focus on the physical actions of his subjects rather than the promise of a narrative climax or conclusion to maintain interest. Examples include “The Raft”, a high-definition video projection of nineteen people suddenly hit by a high-pressure stream of water.

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It’s a game of musical chairs at Second Story Books

xSecond Story Books-Allan StypeckAllan Stypeck of Second Story Books. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

In their own version of musical chairs, those gathered on the ground floor of Second Story Books in Rockville on the last Saturday of each month continually move to the next chair. They reach their goal when it’s finally their turn to meet with the used bookstore’s president, Allan Stypeck.

Stypeck, who has spent 40 years appraising books and other documents, carefully handles all books, checks their conditions, scans the pages and pulls from his memory a wealth of history and recollections. Often that is enough to say what the book is worth. If not, he knows the right internet sites to determine the book’s value.

On a recent appraisal day, Stypeck examined a first edition of “Cujo” by Stephen King and immediately knew when it was published. He also reviewed a book that had an authentic signature of a few of this country’s founding fathers and another one written in German that was mandatory reading for those joining the Nazi ranks.

There can be as many as 200 people who show up to the monthly event, which has occurred at the Rockville bookstore for the past three years. Stypeck also has a used bookstore in Dupont Circle.

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