Community Palette

Will on the Hill: A Uniquely Washington Event

May 8, 2012

Monday night was the 10th anniversary of Will on the Hill, this uniquely Washington event which has raised millions for the education and community outreach programs ($400,000 this year) of the Washington Shakespeare Theatre. It is one of the fun nights in the theatre where members of congress let down their hair, so to speak, and perform in an original play that often makes fun of themselves.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

This years play, Speak the Speech, I Pray You! Written by the talented Peter Byrne and Directed by Alan Paul, was no exception to the rule. It was a take of on Romeo and Juliet, funny and timely and the readings by the members of Congress were spot on. The cast was led by Emmy Award winning (The West Wing) actor Richard Schiff and Tony Award nominee Veanne Cox.

Members of Congress included Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Representatives’ Shelley Berkley (D-NV) who is in the midst of what looks like a winning senate race, Gerald Connelly (D-VA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Peter Petri (R-WI), Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). As always the cast included D.C.’s CFO Natwar Gandhi. This year there was even an Englishman, The Honourable Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, Member of the Parliament for Bridgwater and West Somerset.

The amazing Shakespeare Theatre Company has been led for the past 25 years by Artistic Director and Director Extraordinaire Michael Kahn. This year they have been honored with a Tony Award for best regional theatre which will be presented during the Tony Awards broadcast on June 10th in New York. I am sure Michael will enjoy that and one can only hope that he will get to interact with host Neil Patrick Harris as I think they would make a great comedy team. Maybe Michael will invite Neil to DC to either act in one of his plays or do an interview with him which Michael is so great at doing. That would attract a whole new audience to the Shakespeare Theatre.

Dan Katz (Williams and Connolly LLP) and Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Dan Katz (Williams and Connolly LLP) and Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC)

The production couldn’t be produced and raise the kind of money it does without the hard work of so many community supporters of the theatre. This years Committee Co-Chairs were Bernie McKay from Intuitand Steve Ryan, from McDermott Will and Emeryand they did a yeoman’s job. Corporate sponsors included The Hill, Intuit, MapHook, McDermott Will and Emery, Patton Boggs LLP, and CoStar Group.

To showcase the work of the education department at the Shakespeare the program began with the students from Dr. Henry Wise Jr. High School performing the act 4, scene 1 one from Much Ado About Nothing. The kids were nothing less than amazing.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is one of Washington D.C.’s real treasures. For anyone interested in finding out more about their education programs or their 2012/2013 season just go online at www.ShakespeareTheatre.org. You will never regret it.


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MOCK TRIAL - Real Fun

May 1, 2012

The annual MOCK TRIAL at the Shakespeare Theatre is always fun. Last night was no exception. This is a production of the BARD Association whose members are Shakespeare Theatre supporters and Mock Trial enthusiasts. The chair of the Bard Association is Abbe Lowell who appeared in a video to welcome everyone because he is currently representing John Edwards at his trial in North Carolina. Ably stepping in as MC was Nick Allard of Patton Boggs who was introduced with the announcement that he has accepted the position of Dean at the Brooklyn Law School. This year the mock trial was Ado, I do, Adieu: Claudio v. Hero being heard by the Supreme Court of Messina.

Peter D. Rosenstein and Justice Elena Kagan (Photo by: Brad Luna) Peter D. Rosenstein and Justice Elena Kagan

The evening began with a dinner for those who bought the $350 tickets. It was held in the downstairs theatre room at Harman Hall. I had the honor of sitting next to attorney Paul Smith, a personal hero of mine, who often appears before the Supreme Court and won the Lawrence v. Texas case. He is currently fighting the battle against DOMA.

In the roles of the Supreme Court of Messina were Supreme Court Justices’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Samuel A. Alito. Sitting alongside them were Judges’ Merrick Garland, Douglas Ginsburg, Brett Kavanaugh and David Tatel. Reid H. Weingarten of Steptoe and Johnson LLP appeared as Counsel for Count Claudio, and Sanford K. Ain of Ain & Bank. PC, Counsel for the appellee Lady Hero of Messina.

That set the stage for a hilarious evening with laughs coming one after the other. The hearing was to appeal the lower courts ruling that Claudio’s marriage was a sham, he had to pay alimony and that he could keep the dowry. Weingarten had the difficult job of trying to say that the marriage was real and that it should continue and tried to do so without besmirching Lady Hero’s honor even though as he casually mentioned those young studs she hired for protection seemed to have other jobs as well.  

While the entire evening was fun and all the Justices appeared to get into the act with some great questions and one-liners there were a couple of moments where Justice Alito actually looked a little uncomfortable. One was when one of the other judges included references to Obamacare in a question to Hero’s attorney Sandy Ain. Ain, quick on his feet, responded “Your honor, I would be happy to answer that but since we don’t have three days and six hours could we return to discussion of the dowry in the twenty minutes I do have”. Ain then got in another laugh line when asked if Lady Hero had all the money she needed and could shop to her hearts content without the alimony. Ain responded that she actually shops at Loehmann’s, then paused and looked at Alito and said that Justices’ Kagan and Ginsburg could explain that to him later.

The evening benefitted the Shakespeare Theatre’s education programs which will again benefit from next Monday evening’s Will on the Hill  program when members of Congress take to the stage to do a reading from a script worked to resemble a Shakespearean play. For those that haven’t been to a performance of Will on the Hill I highly recommend it.


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A Glowing Tribute to Barney Frank

April 25, 2012

There isn’t much to say about Barney Frank (D-MA) that hasn’t already been said but once Barney announced that he is retiring there was an immediate line-up of people wanting to say it all over again and to honor him for his incredible service in Congress. Last night the Stonewall Democrats, the LGBT organization within the Democratic Party, took their turn to honor Barney. It was a memorable evening and the honor came from the organization that Barney helped found in 1998.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Barney will be remembered for many things including Dodd/Frank the bill that begins to set some controls and consumer protections in the financial world. But last night was a celebration of Barney for his leadership and incredible contribution to advancing LGBT rights. I am honored to call Barney a friend and a personal hero as so many others do. He had the key role in moving forward all the legislation that has been passed in recent years including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. For over 30 years he has been a beacon of light for those who have fought for full civil and human rights for the LGBT community. He stood strong and led the way when it wasn’t easy.

Last night celebrated Barney and recognized that not only was he often called the ‘smartest member of Congress’  but was often credited with having both the best and most biting sense of humor. There were video tributes from President Obama and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and personal tributes from a large number of Barney’s friends and colleagues on the Hill. Barney was given credit for leading the way and making it possible for other members of the LGBT community; Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to think of running and win. Tammy suggested that today, because of Barney’s leadership, she is running for Senate in Wisconsin and not being opposed in a Democratic primary. She is being given a better than 50% chance of winning that open Senate seat by all the pundits.  There were many in the crowd who have already reserved the date of January 3, 2013 to celebrate her swearing in as the first open member of the LGBT community to be elected to the Senate.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Barney has been known to not suffer fools gladly and many stories were told about that. Former Speaker Pelosi recently gave an interview and told how she learned to talk ‘Barney Speak’ as she called it. Get to the point and fast. Tammy talked of how she went to interview with Barney when she was first elected to get on the Finance Committee and how the interview was conducted with a newspaper in front of Barney’s face. He was as usual doing two things at once.

During the ceremonies Barney was seen wandering the room, something typical for him and often suggesting boredom with what was going on. When it was his turn to speak he assured the crowd that he wasn’t bored with the evening’s festivities because he felt the ‘topic was truly interesting’. He commented on his reputation for not suffering fools gladly and agreed that was true. But after the 2010 elections brought a bunch of new members to Congress he had made it part of his work to make fools suffer.

Barney will be missed in the halls of Congress but everyone knows he will continue to speak out and work for those who have yet to secure their full civil and human rights. Everyone wished him well and congratulated him on his upcoming 4th of July wedding to his partner Jim.


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