Community Palette

Kiss Me Kate: A Dazzling Production at the Shakespeare Theatre

November 24, 2015

Monday night in the Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Hall I got to see and hear what everyone hopes for when they go to see a Broadway show. Incredible sets, great choreography, great acting, dancing and singing by talented actors all brought together by a young brilliant director. One couldn’t ask for more.

Clyde Alves as Bill and Robyn Hurder as Lois (Photo by: Scott Suchman) Clyde Alves as Bill and Robyn Hurder as Lois

Kiss Me Kate, based on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shew is considered by many to be the best score Cole Porter ever wrote and together with writers’ Sam and Bella Spewack they produced a masterpiece. Michael Kahn, the theater’s artistic director said, “All I can say to the multitudes who have suggested this show to me over the past 29 years is that we waited until the moment was right: until we knew we could do a production that could satisfy us, with a cast that could work wonders with the material. And of course the right director.”  That has come together in this production as close to perfection as you will ever find.

The choreographer Michele Lynch has found the perfect collaboration with the director and the dance numbers are stunning. Music direction by Doug Peck is wonderful and the set design by James Noone and costume design by Alejo Vietti show off the actors and bring you into both plays, the one onstage and the one behind the scenes, seamlessly in a way that is sure to win them awards.

Let me apologize up-front to any of the twenty-six cast members and members of the production team I don’t mention here; they are all fantastic and only lack of space stops me from singling each of them out. Director Alan Paul, who previously directed Man of La Mancha and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Shakespeare outdoes himself here. He has assembled a cast that can do it all; sing, dance and act. He then directs them with finesse to perfection. This is a production that should head to Broadway.

The company of Kiss Me, Kate, directed by Alan Paul (Photo by: Scott Suchman) The company of Kiss Me, Kate, directed by Alan Paul

That the cast needs to do it all becomes apparent early. Kiss Me Kate is about a show within a show. The backstage antics of the cast while the show is going on and the actors need to play both parts; their character in the play and themselves as actors interacting with each other backstage. The laughs get bigger when the writers required them to confuse the play and backstage action. 

The songs by Cole Porter let the actors shine. Christine Sherrill as Katherine/Lilli Vanessi and Douglas Sills as Petruchio/Fred Graham are superb and can make you laugh and cry on Que. You want them to end up together. Robyn Hurder as Bianca/Lois Lane is breathtaking and gets thunderous applause after every number she dances and belts out. Clyde Alves as Lucentio/Bill Calhoun is wonderful and his dancing is mesmerizing. Hurder and Alves are actually husband and wife in real life.

Again with twenty-six cast members it’s hard to single any out but Brandon Bieber as Hortensio/Second Suitor is a talented singer and dancer with an aura about him can’t be missed. Con O’Shea-Creal is also a standout and Carl Draper, both because he is the tallest member of the cast and a great talent, has you watching him.

This is a show that has been staged often before but I would suggest never this well. Once you see it you will want to go back again and again because you leave the theater with a smile on your face, humming the songs, and thinking the world is really a great place.

We live in difficult times. A night at the Harman to see Kiss Me Kate will let you forget for just a moment. The show will play through January 3rd and is a perfect holiday gift for all your friends and loved ones.

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Champion Swimmer Diana Nyad Supports the Grassroot Project

October 22, 2015

Founder and President Tyler Spencer began the Grassroot Project, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization, in 2009. Tyler is an amazing young man who had the idea for the organization after working for two summers in South Africa on sport-based HIV prevention programs in DeBeers/GrassrootSoccer diamond mining communities.

He realized how important such a program would be in D.C. which was seeing epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS. I was lucky to meet him as he was beginning the program and to see it grow. Spencer put off going to Harvard for a year to work on the program. He has since won a Rhodes scholarship and is finishing his doctoral degree at Oxford. But he has always kept his commitment to the Grassroot Project. Ryan Pettengill, who spent 19 years in the field of health promotion and sport management, is now doing a great job as Executive Director.

Diana Nyad (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Diana Nyad

The idea is to use sports to educate at-risk youth in the community about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The curriculum focuses on creating a fun, friendly and safe environment in which youth learn healthy life styles. The programs allow kids to share their feelings and beliefs, increase knowledge, and develop healthy attitudes and behaviors pertaining to HIV/AIDS through the use of interactive games and activities. By using the vehicle of sports to influence social change, student athletes use the curriculum to combat the high rate of HIV/AIDS in D.C

The organization is designed and managed completely by NCAA Division I varsity athletes and volunteer athletes from Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University and University of Maryland. They work at more than 40 sites across the city, through partnerships with public and charter schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, MetroTeenAIDS, Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), and DC SCORES.

On Wednesday evening at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Georgetown champion long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad held a book party for her new book, ‘Find a Way’ to raise funds for the organization. She was brought to the organization by board member Stephen Whisnant, Founder and Managing Director of Stephen Whisnant Strategies.

Nyad first gained national attention in 1975 when at twenty-six she swam around Manhattan Island. A world champion distance swimmer Nyad gave up that career at age thirty. She thought her dream to swim from Cuba to Key West was over. Nyad is an inspirational speaker. She talked about her life and how after nearly 30 years of retirement from swimming at age sixty she resurrected that dream. She had spent years working in the media covering sporting events around the world including the Olympics. When her mother died at age eighty-two she thought if she possibly had only twenty-two years left to live she better fight to reach her dream. She succeeded in 2013 at the age of sixty-four on her fifth attempt.

Diana Nyad’s new book ‘Find a Way’ is available on Amazon and click Grassroot Project to learn more about this amazing organization. 

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Karl A. Racine, DC’s First Elected Attorney General, Making a Difference

September 29, 2015

Most people in the District have little interaction on a regular basis with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). In fact I would suggest if you asked ten people on the street who the Attorney General (AG) is eight wouldn’t know and they definitely won’t know what he does. Actually if you ask about the role of the OAG’s office you may even get different answers from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the AG’s office itself. They are still debating what some of the responsibilities of this new independently elected AG should be.

Despite this Karl Racine, the District’s first independently elected Attorney General, is beginning to make a name for his office as a protector of consumer’s interests. He is using his office to make consumers aware of their rights by holding meetings across the District such as the one he held at Benning/Dorothy L. Height Neighborhood Library on Monday evening on the topic of Illegal House Flipping, Construction Violations & Foreclosure Scams. At the meeting along with Racine were the Mayor’s DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The goal is to alert residents to issues directly impacting their lives and can impact the future of their families.

These meetings stem from a lawsuit the OAG filed earlier this year against a Virginia couple who, the suit alleges, have violated District law by selling improperly and unlawfully renovated homes. When filing the suit Racine said “This is a great example of collaboration between DCRA and OAG to protect our consumers in the District of Columbia.” At the same time he asked the D.C. Council to re-establish a Consumer Protection Fund for the District to expand our capacity to bring cases like this one as well as other consumer-protection actions for our residents.”

For consumers across the city there are a host of issues this lawsuit highlighted they have to be cognizant of when buying renovated homes or doing work on their own homes. They include all the issues the lawsuit covered including;  use of sub-standard materials; making renovations and repairs of sub-standard quality; failing to obtain the proper permits for work done; performing work on homes that includes features for which the homes are not properly zoned, rendering the features worthless; using non-licensed contractors to perform work; neglecting to have the properties properly inspected at the required times; and other violations of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act and the District’s Construction Codes.

After the suit was filed Racine’s officer released a simple list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for consumers dealing with home renovations or purchasing renovated homes. They are included in a more comprehensive pamphlet on consumer rights available from the AG’s Office. In addition to consumer issues the OAG provides legal advice to ANCs and can help with the wide range of victim’s services available to the residents of the District.

The mission of the office is to use the law to serve the people of the District of Columbia and as such Racine advises the Executive Branch and other District agencies, defends the city in court, and protects the city’s residents. He has said he will prioritize consumer protection, enforce affordable housing regulations, and find alternatives that can divert young people out of the juvenile justice system.  In all these areas he is making a good start.


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