120 Hours: Local Filmmakers Compete in Speakeasy Shorts

Posted by Editorial / Friday, November 21st, 2014

Photo courtesy of Michael Balderston

Photo courtesy of Michael Balderston

By Michael Balderston

The third annual Speakeasy Shorts competition, which mixes live storytelling and filmmaking, kicked off this past Friday with the performances of 10 stories. After each performance a filmmaking team was randomly selected to adapt the story into a short film in five days. I followed Rob Raffety, a graduate film student at George Mason, and his Tragedy Plus Time team over the weekend filming their short, “Game Night.” Here’s what happened.

Friday, 6:55 p.m.: The Tragedy Plus Time meets for the first time at the U.S. Navy Memorial Heritage Center’s Burke Theater. The team includes Raffety, Travis Edwards, Amanda Ottaway, Rachel Link and Aaron Merrill, plus members Satya Thallam and Matt LeClair, who were absent. The team introduces themselves and each grabs a Heineken, raising them to the journey ahead.

7:51 p.m.: It isn’t a long wait for Tragedy Plus Time to know which story they are going to adapt after their name is drawn for the first performance of the night. Told by Mikael Johnson, the story focused on Johnson as a teenager and his experiences with practical jokes, particularly one time when he tried to get in on the fun by mispronouncing the word magician to a man who he later found out to be illiterate during a game of Pictionary.

9:32 p.m.: After all the stories have been given out and Tragedy Plus Time spends only a few minutes at the “actors market,” where local actors pitch themselves to filmmaking teams for potential parts in their productions, the team heads off to Edwards’ home for a brainstorming session. I ride with Raffety and Edwards, who are eager to bounce their ideas off each other in the car ride over.

9:51 p.m.: Once everyone has arrived and is settled in, the team hunkers down and discusses how they can turn their story into a short. Merrill throws out the idea of doing a 1950s type of educational video on practical jokes. Link thinks they should play up the family angle of the story, particularly the older brothers teasing the younger one. Ottaway thinks it would be funny to have the short focus on an actual magician who does inappropriate tricks. Each idea is given some thought, but eventually Raffety and the team lean toward focusing the film on a couples’ game night.

12:28 a.m.: After a few hours of narrowing the plot down, throwing out some jokes, some pizza and beer to keep the creative juices flowing, the team thinks they are in a strong place where Raffety can get a first draft ready by the afternoon. Everyone heads home.

Saturday: The full team doesn’t actually meet, but a number of emails are exchanged starting with Raffety’s first draft of “Game Night.” People chip in with their thoughts on possible revisions and a few hours later Raffety sends everyone a second draft, and the process repeats itself. The other details of the production also pan out as they settle on shooting the film at Edwards’ home, find their actors, then lose one of their actors and have to replace him. Raffety sets a call time for 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Sunday, 12:23 p.m.: After reading through the script to make cuts and last minute changes, the team is ready for the first shot. Raffety calls action and actors John Crowley and Allison Howard walk down the sidewalk, but they only make it a few steps as Howard trips. Everyone laughs and they get back in position to go again. It was a great sign of the loose nature and comradery of the production despite the ticking clock of the competition.

9 p.m.: After nearly nine hours of shooting, mostly inside thankfully on the cold and dreary day, production wraps on “Game Night.” The process moves into Edwards’ hands as he will handle the post-production for the film.

Wednesday, 11 a.m.: After two days of editing, Raffety submits the finished project with an hour to spare before the noon deadline.

You can see the finished “Game Night” and all the other films in competition this Saturday, Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at the Navy Memorial Heritage Center. Get tickets here.

6 Ways to give back to your Community this Thanksgiving

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, November 19th, 2014


Photo courtesy of JeniFoto/shutterstock.com.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

The holiday of Thanksgiving invites us to celebrate all the big and small things in our lives that we appreciate, whether they be friends or family, a new book or a new car, ourselves or our community. This Thanksgiving season, spread the spirit of giving in your community by donating, volunteering or participating in charity events near home. Participating in any of the following events or opportunities could bring greater joy and appreciation to others thanks to you.

Thanksgiving Dinner Delivery
Alexandria, Nov. 25.
Last year, Brenda Stone’s Thanksgiving event helped serve over 300 members of the Alexandria community. This year, you can help bring Thanksgiving meals to even more families in Alexandria by delivering dinners to homes or by donating money or food. / brendarstone@aol.com; 703-615-4862.

Our Daily Bread Fall Food Drives
Fairfax, Saturdays through Dec. 13
Our Daily Bread partners with Safeway to collect food for families in need. You can help by donating nonperishable items to the food drives on Saturdays through December 13, or look into volunteer opportunities with Our Daily Bread. / info@ODBfairfax.org; 703-273-8829.

Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger
D.C., Nov. 27
So Others May Eat’s (SOME) 13th annual event raises money and awareness for the homeless and hungry living in DC. Participate as a runner or look into helping as a volunteer. Proceeds from this event will go towards helping those in need by providing food, clothing and health care. / trotforhunger@some.org; 202-797-8806

Slice of Life
D.C., Pie sales close Nov. 20
Who knew treating yourself could be so generous towards others? When you purchase a pie from Slice of Life, you help deliver one full day of meals to a Food & Friends client facing HIV/AIDS, cancer or another critical illness. Each pie is hand-crafted and tastes great for a good cause. / info@foodandfriends.org; 202-269-2277

Night Of Charitable Giving
Tysons Corner, Nov. 23
At Tysons Corner Center, you can support the charity of your choice by attending this after-hours event. All ticket sales go to your respective charity and the charity with the most guests will receive $10,000. Special guests like Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards and dancers from the Washington Ballet will also be there to celebrate and give thanks./ becca.willcox@macerich.com; 703-893-9401


Photo by amelaxa/shutterstock.com.

The Salvation Army
Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County & Prince William County
The Salvation Army offers multiple opportunities in several locations for giving back to the community. You can help by volunteering or donating to this nonprofit organization during the holiday season or year-round.




Get Pumped Before You Get Plump

Posted by Editorial / Monday, November 17th, 2014

Photo courtesy of Arlington Turkey Trot.

Photo courtesy of Arlington Turkey Trot.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

It’s almost time for mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie and turkey—lots of turkey. But before you chow down on Thanksgiving Day, why not lace up your running shoes for a pre-Thanksgiving workout? In preparation for the feast to come, check out these Thanksgiving fun runs, 5Ks and 10Ks near you.

Fun runs & 1-mile runs

1-Mile Thanksgiving Fox Trot (Alexandria)
1-Mile Fun Run
Nov. 22, 8 a.m.

Turkey Trot Mile (Quantico)
1-Mile Run
Nov. 22, 8:30 a.m.

Dominion Valley Turkey Trot  (Haymarket)
1-Mile Fun Run
Nov. 22, 8:30 a.m.

RidgeRunners Club Turkey Trot  (Woodbridge)
5K Walk
Nov. 23, 8:30 a.m.

Giving Thanks 5K (Vienna)
1-Mile Recreational Jog/Walk
Nov. 27, 8 a.m.

Virginia Run Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot (Centreville)
2K Walk
Nov. 27, 8 a.m.

Ashburn Farm Thanksgiving Day Race (Ashburn)
2K Fun Run/Walk
Nov. 27, 8:35 a.m.

Fairfax Turkey Trot (Fairfax)
4-Mile Fun Run
Nov. 27, 9 a.m.

5K runs

Freeze your Gizzard 5K (Leesburg)
Nov. 22, 9 a.m.

Turkey Trot 5K (Herndon)
Nov. 22, 4 p.m.

Dominion Valley Turkey Trot (Haymarket)
Nov. 22, 9 a.m.

Vienna Turkey Trot (Vienna)
Nov. 23, 8:30 a.m.

Arlington Turkey Trot (Arlington)
Nov. 27, 8 a.m.

Virginia Run Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot (Centreville)
Nov. 27, 8 a.m.

Giving Thanks 5K (Vienna)
Nov. 27, 8 a.m.

Ashburn Farm Thanksgiving Day Race (Ashburn)
Nov. 27, 8:25 a.m.

Officer Chris Yung Turkey Trot (Manassas)
Nov. 27, 8:30 a.m.

10K and 5-mile runs

Vienna Turkey Trot (Vienna)
Nov. 23, 8:30 a.m.

RidgeRunners Club Turkey Trot (Woodbridge)
Nov. 23, 9 a.m.

Ashburn Farm Thanksgiving Day Race (Ashburn)
Nov. 27, 8:15 a.m.

Officer Chris Yung Turkey Trot (Manassas)
Nov. 27, 8:30 a.m.

Alexandria Turkey Trot (Alexandria)
5 Mile Run
Nov. 27, 9 a.m.

Speakeasy Shorts Mixes Film and Live Storytelling for Creative Results

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Photo courtesy of Speakeasy D.C.

Photo courtesy of Speakeasy D.C.

By Michael Balderston

No two stories are the same, even when one is based on the other. That’s what Amy Saidman, Artistic Executive Director for SpeakeasyDC, was looking for when she started Speakeasy Shorts with DC Shorts Director Jon Gann, which celebrates its third year Friday, Nov. 14.

“I like to find new ways to take storytelling… I like to stretch the boundaries and experiment,” says Saidman. “One way to do that is these mashups, taking two art forms and seeing if they can complement one another and sort of push each other to a different place.”

Speakeasy Shorts combines live storytelling and filmmaking. The festival starts with 10 live performances featuring local storytellers. At the end of each story a team of filmmakers is selected to adapt, shoot, and edit that story in five days with the finished film screening the following week. The audience then votes for the favorite film.

Rob Raffety, a NoVA filmmaker based in Arlington, has competed in Speakeasy Shorts each year, winning the festival in 2013. Raffety enjoys the challenge the festival provides and the chance to work with new people.

“That’s one of the benefits of this format,” says Raffety. “It’s limited in scope. Five days you’re going to have a film at the end of it, so why not work with some new folks?”

The rules also allow a lot of creative liberty for filmmakers. Over the first two years Raffety has learned it’s a balancing act of honoring the storyteller, but finding new and entertaining ways to tell the story.

“I feel somewhat responsible with the stories,” says Raffety.” “These are true stories… I want to create a film that entertains the audience as well as honoring the storyteller.

“You can do whatever you want, so that’s a wonderful thing, but it can be a little intimidating because you have no rules, just make the adaptation. I find it liberating.”

Initially inviting filmmakers to partake in their first year, Speakeasy Shorts has grown to where it now receives interest from more filmmaking teams then they have slots for, signaling not only the popularity of the festival, but the growth of the film community in the DMV area.

“There are great resources in this area and anyone who wants to be a filmmaker… there are very low barriers for entry,” says Raffety. “That’s very exciting for anyone with creative ideas.” Certainly the Speakeasy Shorts is one of those great opportunities for filmmakers.

“You do it because it’s a blast,” says Raffety. ”You meet new people, you get another project under your belt, you gain some experience. And here’s the best part, you have two sold out audiences to screen it… you know people are going to watch it… It’s like opening weekend for a big feature film.”

Speakeasy Shorts starts Friday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. with the stories being performed live and continues Saturday, Nov. 22 with the completed films. Both events will be held at the U.S. Navy Memorial Heritage Center’s Burke Theater. Get tickets here.

Paint and be proud at the World of Color Expo

Posted by Editorial / Monday, November 10th, 2014

Photo by Aleksander Erin/shutterstock.com

Photo by Aleksander Erin/shutterstock.com

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

Calling all art enthusiasts and creative minds: for the first time ever, the World of Color Expo will celebrate a rainbow of art in the ballrooms of the Washington Dulles Hilton in Herndon.

This five-day event highlights traditional forms of art and features artists from across the states and continent who will hold classes for amateurs, experts and anyone in between. The World of Color Expo aims to educate and inspire people of all ages, demonstrating that a blank canvas and a palette of color can help bring out our best selves.

The World of Color Expo offers 70 classes that teach on a variety of art media, including watercolors, oil paints, acrylics and colored pencils. Guest artists from as far as California and Canada will make appearances to teach and sell their work. One such artist is Kevin Hill, who is known not only for his breathtaking landscapes, but also for his youth; at under 20 years old, the California resident has over 46,000 subscribers on YouTube. He will visit the East Coast to teach four classes at the expo.

Other featured painters include Mark Polomchak, Robert Warren and Kitty Gorrell, who will each teach a special class on Tuesday before the vendor’s hall opens on Wednesday. Each of their classes is eight hours long, during which time participants will receive interactive instruction and guidance from these renowned painters. On Wednesday, approximately 70 more classes will be offered, ranging in time from two to eight hours, for artists at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

Approximately 40 vendors will sell paintings, creations and art supplies at the expo. In addition, the Exhibit floor will feature art by Bob Ross, who hosted The Joys of Painting on PBS

Watercolor painting by David Vernon. Photo courtesy of David Vernon.

The World of Color Expo was organized by two men—David Vernon and Mark Greynolds, a pair of long-time residents of Northern Virginia who work for the same software company. A Human Resources professional, Vernon, 64, only began painting decorative art about five years ago after watching a woman paint fruit at Harper’s Ferry. Now, Vernon paints florals, landscapes and fruit from his home studio, Pampered Palette, where seminars and events are also held for up to 24 people.

“I know a lot of people think they can’t do it—they’ll look at something and think it’s too hard—but it’s not that hard. It’s practice and learning the brush strokes and the techniques. Anybody could do it,” says Vernon. He hopes that the World of Color Expo will help grow an appreciation for art across ages.

In a world where digital art and photography heavily occupy the art industry, the World of Color Expo brings traditional art to the forefront, blending community and color for a masterpiece event.

World of Color Expo
Washington Dulles Hilton
13869 Park Center Road, Herndon
Nov. 11 – Nov. 15
$99 registration; $10 vendors’ room only.
Additional class supply fees vary. Walk-ins welcome.

Explore the World of “Interstellar” at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Posted by Editorial / Friday, November 7th, 2014

Photo courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum

Photo courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum

By Michael Balderston

Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Interstellar,” opening in theaters Friday, explores the final frontier of space. NoVA residents will have the chance to experience space themselves with a special, world-exclusive, “Interstellar” exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The exhibit features the actual Ranger model, the spacecraft featured in “Interstellar,” used for filming. Nolan is known for using practical effects in his films and the Ranger is an impressive piece both in scale and detail—down to the safety signs that would appear on the craft. This is one of the only times the Ranger will be available to the public, as it will be returned to Paramount Studios in Los Angeles after the exhibition’s tour.

The exhibit also features an Oculus Rift DK2 experience. This virtual ride allows you to explore the inside of the space station from the film, “Endurance,” and simulates the experience of weightlessness. Guests under 18 need to be accompanied by a parent or have parental permission. Guests must be 8 or older.

The Udvar-Hazy Center also is the one of two locations in the entire region screening “Interstellar” in 70mm IMAX; the other being the National Air and Space Museum’s Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater on the National Mall. Experience this incredible journey through space on a six-story screen with a 1500 Watt sound system. 70mm film offers the best resolution to see the film; it is 10X the resolution of 35mm and 100X of an HDTV.

“Everyone loves to be ecstatic about digital,” says Zarth Bertsch, director of theater at the Udvar-Hazy Center, “but in terms of quality …  it hasn’t surpassed film.”

The “Interstellar” exhibit opened on Nov. 6 and runs through Nov. 20, going from 10 a.m.–11 p.m. Admission is free, with $15 parking charge before 4 p.m. 

FotoWeek D.C. 2014 Highlights Tradition and Innovation

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Photo courtesy of FotoWeek D.C.

Photo courtesy of FotoWeek D.C.

By Michael Balderston

“Everyone who has a cellphone in their pocket is sort of a photographer now,” says Matthew Moore, photography professor at Anne Arundel Community College.

“There is this access to the medium that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago.” Amidst this changing photography landscape, the seventh annual FotoWeek D.C. helps celebrate and highlight all forms of photography.

“We welcome all backgrounds, all experiences,” says Kristin Guiter, FotoWeek D.C.’s head of communications. “Whether you’ve been a photojournalist of three decades or you just picked up a camera, you benefit from this festival from workshops and professional development to just getting inspired by looking at art and listening to seasoned photographers share their stories and experiences. We’re welcoming all, in other words.”

Most of the events for this year’s festival will take place in D.C., with FotoWeek Central located at the Former Spanish Ambassador’s Residence. FotoWeek D.C. is also partnering with Arlington Arts Center and highlighting Matthew Moore’s “East/West” exhibit.

Moore‘s work is part of the Arlington Arts Center Fall Solo Exhibit, which includes work from several other photographers. “East/West” features photos of abandoned check points from the Soviet Union that divided the Czech Republic, which was an eastern bloc country, from western countries like Germany and Austria.

“It was really just kind of noticing something that was of historical significance that really wasn’t being paid attention to,” says Moore, “especially because they were no longer in use and sort of abandoned and in some cases repurposed to other sorts of structures.”

“The content of the entire exhibition he’s proposed is well delivered and conceived,” says Arlington Arts Center executive director Stefanie Fedor. “It’s a fully realized concept. There is an almost ghost like quality to them.”

“One of the nice things about FotoWeek D.C. that I don’t particularly see from other organizations is that it really has the effect of bringing in the entire community from the area,” says Moore. “Lots of people can go and experience different aspects of the event.”

Some of those different aspects will include an Instagram contest as well a traditional photo contest. But the element of FotoWeek D.C. Moore is most excited for is the festival celebrating the art of photography.

“People shoot and they’ll shoot a lot,” says Moore, “I call that shooting to get lucky. If you take enough photos, one of them is probably going to be good. You can’t do that when you are a serious photographer, when you have to go into a situation and have to get the photograph right. In my case, if you’re driving to the German border and you need a photograph you need to get it right, you don’t want to have to go back. So you have to master the craft in a certain aspect… museums and galleries find photography that exemplifies that and they showcase it. That’s a great thing about something like D.C. FotoWeek.”

FotoWeek D.C. 2014 runs Nov. 6 through Nov. 16. For information on events please visit their website.

The Zone Takes Family Fun to the Next Level

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Photo courtesy of The Zone.

Photo courtesy of The Zone.

By Bailey Lucero-Carter

Move over Chuck E. Cheese—there’s a new name in entertainment and it has something for everyone. With its grand opening Monday, The Zone in Ashburn is an entertainment center that boasts high standards and a fresh environment appealing to all ages.

Six years ago, Gill and his family were disappointed with their experience at a chain entertainment facility: the food was sub-par, the atmosphere was unclean and the parents had nothing to do. “I’m a hotelier by trade, so that’s the time I thought, ‘somebody could definitely do better,’ and that’s how the thought process started,” says Kamal Gill, CEO/chief entertainment officer.

At The Zone, kids and adults can play laser tag in a two-story arena with a Mayan Jungle theme, or bowl on an alley where a 20-foot projection screen plays sports over the pins. The Zone also features 37 arcade games, including popular titles like Fruit Ninja or Flappy Bird, high-speed racing games like Dead Heat, and a 3-D air combat simulator called The Mach Storm. The games and activities were selected by Gill, for being both kid- and adult-friendly.

With inspiration from Dave & Buster’s, The Zone strives to provide high standards of fun and food for all ages. Unlike other entertainment centers, The Zone keeps an Executive Chef on staff and strays away from frozen foods. “We’re trying to follow the farm to fork route,” says Gill. “We’re sourcing a lot of fresh ingredients, so that’s a very key thing for us to do. We’re not your typical run of the mill sports bar.”

Photo courtesy of The Zone.

Photo courtesy of The Zone.

The Zone’s hottest menu items will be classic choices like pizza, burgers, flatbreads and wings, though the selection also includes calamari, fish tacos and Indian kabob. Parents can even enjoy beer and wine from the bar and can lounge either in the dining area or on the patio.

The high-quality entertainment provided by The Zone is further enhanced by its high-tech system of game currency. Instead of inserting coins and receiving tickets for arcade games, players can swipe a card that keeps track of their currency and tickets won. Players can then cash in these electronic tickets for tangible prizes without having to count hundreds of paper slips along the way.

Advanced technology, quality dining and widespread entertainment bring high hopes for The Zone. “We definitely wanted a high-end place,” says Gill, “and when I say high-end, this doesn’t mean that we’re charging high-end. It means that people have the look and feel of a very nice, warm, friendly, and luxurious place.”

The Zone
43811 Central Station Drive, Suite 100
Ashburn, 20147
Sun. – Thur. 10 a.m. – midnight
Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. –   1 a.m.
No Admission Fee

November’s Not-To-Miss Events

Posted by Editorial / Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Edited by Lynn Norusis

Vertical Horizon

Photo courtesy of Tally Ho Productions LLC.

1Vertical Horizon
The Georgetown University grads burst onto the stage in the early ’90s and took over the charts in 2000 with their breakout song, “Everything You Want.” Now they take the stage at Tally Ho, showcasing those nostalgic songs along with tunes off their 2013 album “Echoes From the Underground.” / Nov. 22

Signature Theatre's Elmer Gantry

Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

2‘Elmer Gantry’
Down-on-his-luck salesman, Elmer Gantry, gets himself involved in a religious group, using his charm and tactics to not only bringing the troupe fame but also the heart of the group’s pious evangelical leader. John Bishop reworked the script, originally written in 1926 by Sinclair Lewis. / Through Nov. 9


3‘There is a Happiness That Morning Is’
Jay Hardee reprised an acclaimed 2013 Capital Fringe Festival production of two William Blake scholars who are comedically forced to apologize to their classes for being caught in the act of public displays of lust. /  Nov. 4-23


American Sequitur

Photo courtesy of Joshua Yospyn.

4‘American Sequitur’
For the last five years Joshua Yospyn photographed what he calls the ‘lighter side of liberty,’ showcasing the ironic, whimsical nature of our nation’s pride (think Ronald McDonald, NSA and the like). / Through Nov. 15


Stranger Than Fiction: Great Art Heists in History

Photo courtesy of Linda Bucklin / shutterstock.com.

5Stranger Than Fiction: Great Art Heists in History
Art is more than visual entertainment. It’s a hot commodity sold on the black market. Take a tour through the stories of Japanese gangsters, nautical thieves and more as Anne Kenny-Urban, the budget services manager at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, speaks about global art heists, some solved, others not. / Nov. 20


(November 2014)


John Cowan Comes to Warrenton for One-Night Concert

Posted by Editorial / Friday, October 31st, 2014

Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock.com

Photo courtesy of Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock.com

By Michael Balderston

The Voice of Newgrass is coming to Warrenton. John Cowan, longtime member of The Doobie Brothers and founding member of New Grass Revival, is making a stop at Drum & Strum in Old Town Warrenton on Friday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. with his John Cowan Band, featuring songs from their new, Grammy-nominated, album “Sixty” and old favorites.

Hear new songs from “Sixty” like “Miss the Mississippi (And You),” “Why Are You Crying,” and “Run for Your Life.” Get a taste of what’s will be in store with another song from “Sixty,” “Devil Woman,” below.


Tickets are on sale now at Drum & Strum. Tickets are $25. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. There are a limited number of seats, so it is recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance. For more information contact Drum & Strum owner Tim Dingus.

Drum & Strum
102 Main Street, Warrenton, 20186

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