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Learning to overdose on the theater in a perfectly good way

greek tragedy and comedy masksIf you like “theater writ large,” the place to be over the Labor Day Weekend is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is hosting the 16th annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival.

More than 60 theaters from the metropolitan area will present open rehearsals, concert readings, and workshops of new plays often still in the development phase.

Montgomery County is well represented, with at least eight of its theaters participating.

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Community-minded dance group kicks up heels

IMG 5630 JoriKetten copy Dance ExchangeFamilies participate in a Moving Field Guide, an interactive experience led by Dance Exchange artists along with naturalists. COURTESY PHOTO BY JORI KETTEN  When Gene Kelly passed away, a dance critic commented that he made truck drivers feel they could dance.

Dance Exchange has similar goals.

For 40 years – 20 of them in Takoma Park – Dance Exchange has been “democratizing” what is often seen as an “elitist” art form. The nonprofit organization believes “you don’t have to be a dancer to dance, that whoever you are, you can move your body,” said Alison Waldman, marketing and communications manager.

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Baby we all live in a reggae Yellow Dubmarine

DubmarineYellow Dubmarine performing at Strathmore AMP. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  As soon as Yellow Dubmarine started their set with a cover of The Beatles “Norwegian Wood,” you could tell this was not your average tribute band. With horns replacing George Harrison’s distinctive sitar intro, and the songs’ folksy atmospherics replaced by a steady reggae pulse, the audience Friday at Strathmore AMP quickly piled onto the dance floor to groove to Beatles classics reimagined as reggae jams.

“It was just an idea that came to us one day,” said bassist Aaron Glazer. “We started with just four people and then grew, with percussion and horns, and it took on a life of its own.”

The seven-piece band featured a three-piece horn section, along with a rhythm section of guitar, bass, drums, hand percussion, and keyboard. This extensive lineup allowed them to vary their arrangements throughout the night.

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Takoma Park record label fosters homegrown talent

Tired of being forced to relinquish artistic and creative control to major labels, Grammy-winning producer and Takoma Park native Charlie Pilzer decided to forge his own path. He founded Azalea City Recordings in 1996.

For Pilzer, the label gives his job as a recording engineer and producer a more personal touch.

“I’m immersed in music hours and hours every day. I’ve worked on well over 2000 albums. The cool thing about the label is that it keeps it on a personal level. It doesn’t become a factory to me,” said Pilzer.

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S.S. plays are one-act but definitely not one note

Silver Spring Stage Marilyn Millstone Headshot Playwright Marilyn Millstone’s “Compos Mentis” will be staged during the second weekend of the Silver Spring Stage One-Act Festival. COURTESY PHOTO      Irwin and Anna Leder had been Marilyn Millstone’s next-door neighbors and surrogate parents for 14 years. So, it was not surprising that their departure for a senior facility impacted her.

But it also inspired the news-and-feature journalist and essayist turned dramatist to write another play.

In “Compos Mentis,” (which is Latin, meaning “of sound mind”) Millstone has added the child of an elderly couple, who pressures them to go to an assisted living facility while the couple resists and wants to retain independence.

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Sponsor supports NIH charities while patrons enjoy blockbuster movies

Comcast XFinity Film Festival image courtesy of the Comcast Xfinity Film Festival copyThe Comcast Xfinity Outdoor Film Festival returns to Strathmore. COURTESY PHOTO    “Blockbuster” describes the movies presented each summer in the Comcast Xfinity Outdoor Film Festival and hosted at Strathmore. This year, “Disney’s “Moana” (PG) will show on Aug. 24; “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (PG-13) on Aug. 25; and “The Lego Batman Movie” (PG) on Aug. 26, the final day of the event.

But the term could also apply to the technology behind the festival. The screen the films are projected on, in digital cinema, is the only nine-foot-tall, 52-foot-wide inflatable movie screen within 1000 miles, said Bob Deutsch, founder and CEO of DTA Global, which produces the free event.

Comcast, the global media and technology corporation, underwrites it.

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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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