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Maryland Youth Ballet’s unique production of The Nutcracker

MYB 2998 copy sugar plumA past production of Maryland Youth Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” with Justin Metcalf-Burton and Maya Beeman. COURTESY PHOTOMaryland Youth Ballet can boast of many illustrious alumni.

Walk along the hallways of the ballet school, headquartered in downtown Silver Spring since 2006 (after a long sojourn in Bethesda), and you’ll see photographs of some notable faces.

Michelle Lees, the school’s artistic director, points them out: Julie Kent, a longtime principal of American Ballet Theatre, who was recently appointed the artistic director of the Washington Ballet; Susan Jaffe, a former dancer and ballet mistress at ABT and now Dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem; and Garen Price Scribner and Allison Walsh, who both appeared in the Broadway musical “An American in Paris.”

However, at Maryland Youth Ballet, the emphasis is on both the present and future.

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Award-winning author speaks at Gaithersburg High School

ngozi adichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke at Gaithersburg High School on Sept. 26, as part of the One Maryland, One Book program. COURTESY PHOTO  GAITHERSBURG — Award-winning and world-renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke to an audience of about 1,000 people at Gaithersburg High School on Sept. 26 as part of the One Maryland One Book program.

Adichie is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award and her work has been translated into over 30 languages.  She divides her time between nearby Columbia and Lagos, Nigeria.

The Maryland Humanities Council established the One Maryland One Book program 10 years ago to encourage Marylanders to read and discuss a certain book every year. A committee with the council chooses a book that aligns with the year’s theme. This year’s book is “Purple Hibiscus” by Adichie and the theme is “Home & Belonging.”

This year, there are 350 programs in the state focused on this book, including three events with the author, said Phoebe Stein, executive director of Maryland Humanities.

“Purple Hibiscus” is a coming-of-age novel that follows the account of 15-year-old Kambili as she navigates a fraught relationship with her abusive father during political upheaval in Nigeria. Kambili and her brother spend time together living in two different homes: one with their parents, and another with their aunt who, while having less money than Kambili’s family, has a home full of laughter and life. The novel tackles themes such as colonization, religious hypocrisy and gender and family dynamics.

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Chekhov-inspired comedy opens Highwood Theatre’s season

Vanya Pub 11 1 copyThe cast of Christopher Durang's comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” now playing at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Richard Fiske admits to being an adrenaline junkie.

He fulfilled that need in the past by serving as a U.S. Navy officer for 27 years, then as an engineer and diving and salvage engineer, also for the Navy.

Now he gets that fix onstage.

For over six years, he’s performed as an actor in the D.C. area. “I get to do fun stuff and be different people,” Fiske said.

His current role is Vanya in Christopher Durang’s comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” the production launching Highwood Theatre’s 2017-2018 season. The play also stars Margaret Condon as Sonia, Rachel Varley as Masha, Thomas Shuman as Spike, Kecia Campbell as Cassandra, and Amber James as Nina.

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Halloween attractions gear up for opening

halloween pumpkin carving faceIn 1993, the venture that would eventually become Markoff's Haunted Forest began modestly as a haunted bus ride that visited area. Brothers Matt, Nick, and Alex Markoff conceived of the haunt as a means to raise money for their goal of starting an outdoor educational summer camp.

In subsequent years, the haunt was relocated to the grounds of the Markoff family farm in Dickerson.

"I didn't know if anyone would come," said Matt Markoff. "I hoped people would make the drive." Markoff's Haunted Forest, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is now a beloved annual tradition for thousands of area residents. The haunt, which employs hundreds of seasonal employees, includes two trails, a haunted western trail, and a waiting area with bonfires, games, rides, and food vendors. Proceeds from ticket sales fund the Markoff's nonprofit organization, Calleva, Inc, which provides educational activities for hundreds of students every year.

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Rockville Little Theatre Celebrates 70 years

IMG 6627 copy other actorsNik Henly and Krisyn Lue rehearse a scene from Rockville Little Theatre's recent production of "Almost, Maine." COURTESY PHOTO  ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County experienced a radical change in the aftermath of World War II. The population of Rockville and surrounding areas swelled as thousands of people moved to take jobs with federal government contractors, the county schools and government and technology companies. And during that time, people from various occupations have come to Rockville Little Theatre to watch and participate in the production of a wide variety of plays.

The community theater company inaugurated its 70th season Sept. 22 through Oct. 1 with a production of the play "Almost, Maine," by John Cariani, which was featured in last week’s review by The Sentinel’s Barbara Trainin Blank. Set in a quasi-mythical Maine town, the frequently-produced play features a series of interrelated vignettes in which characters attempt, with varying degrees of success, to achieve romantic connections.

For the 70th anniversary, Anne Cary, an active member of Rockville Little Theatre, compiled a history of the company, which played an integral part in the development of Montgomery County's cultural scene.

"Sometime in 1947, six friends decided that Rockville needed its own little theater troupe," Cary said. "The founders were Miss Pamela Bairsto, Miss Betty Sherman, Miss Murray Hamilton, Mrs. Margaret Eddy, Mrs. Madeline Davis and Rev. Raymond Black of Christ Episcopal Parish, which was the site of the first production, Noel Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’ in the Parish Hall on Nov. 26, 1948. Rockville Little Theatre was launched."

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“America’s Presidents” exhibit reopens at National Portrait Gallery

NPG George Washington PortraitA George Washington portrait is among the many works of art on display in the "America's Presidents" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO  The “America’s Presidents” exhibition at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is more than about portraits.

There’s historical context. The Gallery has grouped the portraits into six historical chapters, each with its own explanatory text. Five of these revolve around a particular era, each with one U.S. President anchoring it – George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Love comes in many forms on Rockville stage

IMG 6470 copy guyker almost maineAlexandra Guyker rehearses one of her roles in the play "Almost, Maine" at Rockville Little Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Sabine is a woman at an exciting point in her current relationship when she bumps into her ex at a bar. The meeting provokes a juggling act between past feelings and guilt, and the ways people deal with moving on.

Gayle has been in an 11-year relationship that’s apparently going nowhere. She finally brings it all to her boyfriend’s door, literally.

After many years away from her high-school sweetheart, Hope is looking to find her place in the world – with him.

These are some of the various characters in John Carian’s oft-performed play “Almost, Maine,” now on stage at Rockville Little Theatre. The play comprises nine two-character short plays that explore love and loss in the titular, mythical town.

Alexandra Guyker portrays Sabine, Gayle and Hope.

“All three characters have experiences I myself have dealt with, so it is easy to connect to each one when I look back on those times in my life,” Guyker said. “Because they’re different people, it’s important I take some time before each scene and really think about where I was before. But I rely on the author’s words to show the differences in their thought processes, pace, and emotions.”

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Comics festival Small Press Expo returns to North Bethesda

SPXO 170917 068 Keith KnightCartoonist Keith Knight showcases collections of his work for attendees at the 2017 Small Press Expo at the Marriott Conference Center in North Bethesda. COURTESY PHOTO  The Small Press Expo returned to the Marriott Conference Center in North Bethesda, on Sept. 16 and 17. SPX, as it is known, is a 501©(3) nonprofit founded in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. The annual event attracts hundreds of cartoonists, publishers and large crowds.

This year, the Expo’s roster of special guests included: Canadian illustrator and cartoonist Jillian Tamaki, who provided art for the graphic novels “Skim,” and “This One Summer:” Gilbert Hernandez, who is best known for his Palomar/Heartbreak Soup stories in the alternative comic book series “Love & Rockets,” which he shares with brothers Jaime and Mario; Finnish cartoonist Tommi Musturi, creator of “The Book of Hope;” and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes, whose work appears in various newspapers across the country such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and international newspapers like Le Monde while animated editorial cartoons are regularly featured on The Washington Post’s website.

Previous expos have featured cartooning legends such as Roz Chast of The New Yorker, and the iconic Jules Feiffer as well as relative newcomers like Congressman John Lewis, who appeared last year to promote his three-part graphic novel series called “The March.”

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Special theater integrates talents of disabled and able-bodied performers

IMG 0204 2 copy Open Circle rehearsalCast members rehearse for the Open Circle Theatre Retrospective. COURTESY PHOTO  Rob McQuay’s formal theater experience began in junior high.

He acted through high school and college, then trained at Studio Theatre. He performed in area dinner theaters and several professional ones, including Montgomery County’s Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, and Imagination Stage.

“It’s a full-time thing,” said McQuay.

Next, he is headlining “To Reach the Unreachable Star: an Open Circle Theatre Retrospective,” a 90-minute stage performance filled with song, dance, and humor to familiarize audiences with its work and raise funds to support it.

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Two local theaters launch seasons with “The Canterville Ghost” and “Deathtrap”

IMG 7405 copy deathtrapJ. McAndrew Breen stars as scheming playwright Sidney Bruhl in Ira Levin’s Broadway hit "Deathtrap" at Silver Spring Stage. COURTESY PHOTO  

Montgomery Playhouse, an all-volunteer theater, has a varied season ahead.

First up in 2017-2018 is “The Canterville Ghost,” a play Marisha Chamberlain adapted from the short story by Oscar Wilde.

In January, the Playhouse presents “The Reluctant Dragon,” a comedy for young audiences, and, in March, a Live Radio Show recreates the Boston Blackie radio series of the 1940s and ‘50s.

“Our mandate is to entertain and educate audiences,” said Loretto McNally, board president.

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