One of the highlights of the Washington theater season is the annual Shakespeare Theatre GALA which takes place every October. It is the big fundraiser for the Shakespeare Theatre Company but more than that it is always a fabulous night of entertainment and this past Monday evening’s GALA and the presentation of the WILL award to F. Murray Abraham was no exception.
The GALA actually began on Sunday evening with a reception at the French Ambassador’s home and Francois Delattre and his wife were perfect hosts. Attending were some of the biggest donors to the theatre and of course the incredibly dedicated, hardworking and beautiful Gala Chair Georgetown’s own Melissa Moss.
Monday evening began with cocktails in the Harman Theater lobby and then everyone was treated to a really great show directed by Alan Paul. Three of the highlights of the evening for me, and there were many, were the presentation of the WILL award and then as his acceptance speech Abraham performed a soliloquy from his award winning role as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice. Then there were the Q Brothers, GQ and JQ who created and starred in Othello: the Remix, a rap presentation which was first commissioned for and presented at the Globe Theatre in London. These brothers are brilliant. They hail from Chicago and I think that Michelle Obama should invite them to perform at the White House. She and the President and their daughters would equally enjoy these guys. A surprise guest to close the show was Christine Ebersole, who is as beautiful as ever with a wondrous voice. She came to honor F. Murray and we were reminded that she appeared with him in the film Amadeus for which he won his Academy Award.
Also on the program were a slew of talented artists including the brilliant Bill Irwin who some may remember was the first performing arts artist to receive a MacArthur Genius Grant. Then there was the ever funny Jerry Stiller who most will remember from his role as Frank Costanza on Seinfeld. He and his wife Ann were the “Stiller and Meara” comedy team and those of a certain age will remember them well and even laugh at the thought of their unique comedy. They actually appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 36 times. There was a performance by the great Paul Taylor Dance Company; Howard McGillin (he of numerous Tony nominations and other awards) and glorious Soprano Lauren Flanigan.
After the show everyone walked or rode over to the beautiful Building Museum for dinner and dancing. It was an evening to remember and I would suggest to all who can afford to make a contribution to support great programming like the Shakespeare Company represents that you consider coming to next year’s GALA. Not only will you feel good about helping the ARTS but funds also go to their youth education programs. And not least of all you will be a part of one of the year’s most fun evenings at the theater.
After all the sturm and drang of the past year the DC Council appears to have settled down to doing its work on behalf of the citizens of the District. After the resignation of Kwame Brown there was near unanimous agreement that it was time to select someone who was stable, hardworking, intelligent, progressive and didn’t crave the spotlight for its own sake to replace him. The person fitting that description was Phil Mendelson, a long time at-large councilmember. Phil has shown he will serve in the mold of a past Council Chair, David A. Clark, after who the UDC law school is named.
Phil recently won his fourth term on the Council and while it is no secret that I supported someone else for that seat in the past year I have come to recognize that Phil provides a very important role on the Council and represents the epitome of a good-government candidate. Phil is a fulltime Council member and dedicates all his efforts to making life better for the people of the District of Columbia.
Phil was first elected to the City Council in November 1998. He currently serves as both the Chairman of the Council and Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. He is a member of four additional committees: Jobs and Workforce Development; Libraries, Parks, Recreation, and Planning; Public Service and Consumer Affairs; and the Subcommittee on Redistricting 2011. Along with representing the Council at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, he’s also President of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO).
As Chairman one of the roles he also assumes is that of public education oversight. In Phil’s own words, “Education is the opportunity by which our youngest generation can succeed and achieve and realize the American Dream and be whatever they want to be. If we fail them, then they don’t realize that dream.” Phil has focused on the issues of truancy and on working with DCPS on how to achieve more stability for both principals and teachers in the system.
Phil believes that government should be an honest, efficient deliverer of services and that the District should help those least able to help themselves to develop the skills to become self-sufficient and end the cycle of poverty. He believes government must try to do this without unduly increasing the tax burden already shouldered by the District’s middle and upper income residents. He has said that the nation’s capital should be a model of service delivery for public education, public safety and public health and he will work to see that it is.
Contrary to some reporting and the negative view some residents hold of District government, the City is doing really well in nearly all measureable ways. Those include our finances which are the envy of most other cities and states; progress in public safety; increasing effectiveness and timeliness of the delivery of city services; and progress in ensuring that all our residents have access to health insurance and medical care.
Phil Mendelson has had a role in the progress we have made in many of these areas and has diligently worked to ensure that no citizen in the District is left behind. That is why I enthusiastically support him for Council Chairman and urge a vote for him on November 6th.
In today’s world with all its stress, sturm and drang it is fun to spend a couple of hours in the theater laughing the entire time. That is what you will do when you see The Government Inspector, director Michael Kahn’s current play at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of a play written in 1836 by Nikolai Gogol that makes fun of the Russian government, society and the Czar. The play was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and it feels amazingly up to date and the jokes are totally relevant to today’s world. From the moment the action starts to the last moment of the play there is one laugh line after another and the actors have said that the difficulty in performing this play is timing the dialogue to let one laugh end before the next line is spoken.
I am lucky to call Michael Kahn a friend and we are both part of a group who enjoy having morning coffee at Java House on Q Street. Each time Michael directs a new play we all go and on Thursday evening we had the pleasure of having cocktails with the cast after the performance. It was great to meet them, some I knew from before and others for the first time. And what a cast it is. Many of them are well known to theater goers in Washington and in their roles in The Government Inspector none disappoint. Michael’s direction is brilliant as always and he had help this time from Assistant Director Gus Heagerty who he has mentored. Gus is now off to direct a production in Marin County. The costumes by Murell Horton are wonderful and compliment a beautiful set by James Noone.
The play is about the foibles of a local government in a small Russian city where bribery is the rule of the day. The Mayor and other town dignitaries hear that there will be an incognito Government Inspector sent by the Czar coming to see what is going on in their city. Confusion and mix-ups rule the day leading to one funny situation and line after another.
Derek Smith as Ivan, who the Mayor confuses for the actual inspector, is incredible in the role and brings a great sense of farce and even slapstick comedy to it. Tom Story, who many of you will know from his long list of successful roles is great in the smaller part of the Doctor. I intend to go back when Tom takes over the role of Ivan. Rick Foucheux is superb as the Mayor and Nancy Robinette as the Mayor’s wife is her usual brilliant self and always a pleasure to watch. Claire Brownell as the reputed nymphomaniac daughter is wonderful. Then there is Floyd King as the Postmaster and I have always enjoyed him in any role he has played and he surely doesn’t disappoint here. Sarah Marshall takes on three characters and each one is better than the last. She is truly a gifted actress. A young man who deserves honorable mention is Travis Blumer who has a couple of small roles but will take over the role of the Doctor when Story takes over as Ivan.
Again if you enjoy theatre and could enjoy laughing for two hours, take the time to get tickets today for The Government Inspector.