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Plath and Dietrich take a new turn in the limelight

Marlene DietrichMarlene Dietrich. COURTESY PHOTO  The two women couldn’t have been more different.

Marlene Dietrich was an internationally known movie star who radiated sexual magnetism. She was also unapologetically androgynous and bisexual, at a time neither was openly accepted. A married woman whose list of lovers seemed endless, Dietrich was defeated only by aging, which made a dent in her prodigious selfconfidence.

Sylvia Plath was a shy but influential poet and novelist. While she captured the public imagination of other artists and lovers of her art forms and won a Pulitzer Prize, she never became the household name Dietrich was. Plath is also known for her turbulent relationship with husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes. After several bouts of depression and suicide attempts (possibly due to bipolar disorder), Plath took her own life at the age of 30.

Dietrich and Plath are now posthumously “sharing the same space,” in exhibitions dedicated to them at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

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Local artist Raul Midón captures all that jazz

Raul MidonBlind musician Rául Mídon performs at Bethesda Blues and Jazz. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  BETHESDA — Raul Midón, midway through his concert Thursday night at Bethesda Blues and Jazz, showed off his ability to play bongos, guitar, and sing at the same time.  The crowd erupted in applause, and people grabbed their phones to record the feat.  Raul, however, didn’t see the flashing of cameras, or the cheering faces of his audience, because he is blind.  

Midón has been blind since birth. However, despite this he picked up music at a young age, playing drums at age four, guitar at age six.

“It gives me a different perspective,” Midón said when asked about his blindness, “People look at a crowd and think it’s this type of crowd or that type of crowd, but I just feel it.”

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Local music festival features young talent

Strange Adventures Mike Of DoomSilver Spring rappers Mike of Doom and Kasey Jones perform at the Strange Adventures Music Festival. COURTESY PHOTO  On Friday and Saturday, the Twin Moon Arts Collective, a record label and community organization, hosted its third annual Strange Adventures music festival at St. Stephan’s Church in Columbia Heights. The festival was a celebration of the eclectic greater D.C. music scene, with several Montgomery County-based bands performing.

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Heritage Days to celebrate 20 years of bringing history to life

Heritage Days, a project of the non-profit historical organization Heritage Montgomery, will celebrate its 20th anniversary this weekend. Held annually on the last weekend of June, the event is a collaborative effort of organizations throughout the County to provide interactive exhibits showcasing life in different eras.

“Heritage Days is always one of our favorite events,” said Heritage Montgomery executive director Sarah L. Rogers. “It’s grown massively over the years. The first year we only had four participating organizations; this year we have 40.”

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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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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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