Do’s and don’ts of Virginia Gold Cup

Posted by Editorial / Monday, April 27th, 2015

Photo Courtesy of Great Meadows/ Robert Banner

Photo Courtesy of Great Meadows/ Robert Banner

By Sophia Rutti 

Virginia Gold Cup is a Northern Virginia tradition. If you’re from the area, you know that Gold Cup means bright colored pants, floppy hats and a full day of drinking, tailgating and betting.

The Virginia Gold Cup has been running since 1922. It started out as a small but prestigious gathering and grew into the enormous event that it is today. In recent years, Gold Cup has brought a crowd of over 50,000 spectators every first Saturday in May.

This year the event falls on May 2 and will be nothing less than extravagant. There will be tailgating as far as the eye can see at beautiful Great Meadows where the event is held. In addition, spectators can watch terrier races, shop at vendors, compete for the best tailgate or best hat and bet on the horse and rider that they think has the best shot at winning.

Before you head off for a day at the races, however, here are a few do’s and don’ts:

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Family Travel: West Virginia Mountain Rail Adventures

Posted by Editorial / Friday, April 24th, 2015

The Durbin Rocket​, located in historic Durbin, offers family-friendly features such as a real red caboose, easily navigated open and closed cars, a stop along a mountain river and after the ride, ice cream and shopping at the Rail & Trail Store. Photo by Mark William Branciaroli.

The Durbin Rocket​, located in historic Durbin, offers family friendly features such as a real red caboose, easily navigated open and closed cars, a stop along a mountain river and after the ride, ice cream and shopping at the Rail & Trail Store. Photo by Mark William Branciaroli.

By Micaela Williamson

The Potomac Highlands of West Virginia are a testament to the state’s wild heart. With diverse forests, rushing streams and huge rock formations, the area is an unparalleled destination for scenic adventures. There is perhaps no better way to take in the scenery than a unique trip with West Virginia Mountain Rail Adventures.

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3 ways to celebrate Earth Day in NoVA

Posted by Editorial / Monday, April 20th, 2015

Earth Day 2015 events in DC

Photo courtesy of Iveta Angelova/ Shutterstock.com

By Sophia Rutti 

Earth Day is an annual tradition that brings attention to the environment and to the ways we can move forward to improve and preserve it. Earth Day has been observed since 1970 when it was initiated by its founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to celebrate the Earth and to discuss how we can take better care of our home. The first Earth Day brought about the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Now 45 years later, Earth Day is still being celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

This year Earth Day falls on Wednesday, April 22, but that doesn’t meant that you can only celebrate the Earth for one day. This whole week there are events in the DMV to get the whole family celebrating spring, the Earth, and the natural beauty of Northern Virginia.

Here are a few ways to get involved in Earth day this week:

1. SpringFest Fairfax 2015

There will be free admission and parking on April 25 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to any person who wants to come out and learn about environmental projects, eat delicious local food, play games and ride ponies. A perfect event for families with children, it will not only be educational but also exciting with many fun games for kids. There will be no shortage of Earth Day excitement at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

For more info click here. 


2. Disneynature’s “Monkey Kingdom”

Head out to your local movie theater to watch Disneynature’s “Monkey Kingdom.” Learn about the lives of South Asian monkeys as they struggle with the competitive social hierarchy of the troop at Castle Rock, all narrated by Tina Fey. If you see the movie this week, every ticket will be a donation to protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats. 

For more info click here. 

3. “Planetary” presented by the World Wildlife Fund

Director Guy Reid brings a poetic and humbling reminder that it is time for humans to reconsider our relationship with the world around us. This special showing will dazzle with gorgeous imagery of our world both on the ground and from the clouds. If you are in need of a reminder of our effect on the Earth or are seeking a film that will provoke thought and discussion, this is it. This event will be presented on April 22 at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. Tickets are $7-$12.

For more info click here or to buy tickets click here. 

It is also important remember that you don’t need an event to get involved. Take the family outside, volunteer, plant a garden, turn off your lights, recycle—do what you can to be informed and to enjoy the natural beauty of the Earth.

The bohemian bounty of Richmond

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Maymont Italian Gardens

Maymont Italian Gardens – Photo Courtesy of Visit Richmond VA

By Victoria Gaffney

Richmond, once the capital of the Confederacy, has a distinctly historical feel. From Monument Avenue to St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry famously declared, “give me liberty or give me death,” the city boasts numerous memorials and shrines commemorating the struggles of the South and celebrating the American past. It’s easy to see how this historical façade might mask Richmond’s artistic side.

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Arts on the Rise in Fairfax

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Jessica Kallista, one of the Olly Olly Art Gallery

Jessica Kallista, one of the Olly Olly Art Gallery. Photo courtesy of Javier Padilla.

Old Town Fairfax is becoming a new hotbed for the arts.

With a label like Old Town, you can be forgiven for overlooking it, but a quick walk down Main Street reveals something new is happening within the historic blocks of Fairfax. In the past year a number of shops and galleries have opened their doors and are serving as the foundation for an emerging arts community in Northern Virginia.

Among the area’s new residents are Mobius Records, which opened last August and sells new and vintage vinyl records, De Clieu Coffee, which is connected to Mobius and opened last October, and Olly Olly Art Gallery, which opened its doors this past January.

Dempsey Hamilton, a former live sound engineer for bands Thao & The Get Down Stay Down and Blonde Redhead, opened up Mobius because he saw a resurgence in vinyl records.

“Whenever I would finish sound check I would find a local record store for my own habitual needs,” says Hamilton. “Then I started noticing there were more and more people the more I would go … something is happening here.”

Hamilton, who lives with his family just three blocks from Old Town Fairfax, landed with his location because De Clieu Coffee was already scheduled to open in the adjacent building, and the two businesses quickly saw an opportunity to integrate.

“We are kind of a cohesive thing regardless of the fact that we’re two separate businesses,” says Hamilton. “We can cross promote and help each other out all the time.”

That’s just one example of the supportive artist community Jessica Kallista, one of the Olly Olly Art Gallery founders, set out to create when she opened the studio.

“The name Olly Olly comes from when we were kids and playing hide and seek,” says Kallista. “It’s Olly Olly oxen free; it’s like a call to artists to come back into the game or come out from hiding from their homes and studios and have a home base to be collaborating and creating together.”

One element of Olly Olly that facilitates collaboration is a weekly art gym. People of all artistic ranges can buy a membership and come to Olly Olly on Tuesday or Thursday nights to work out their art muscles by creating and sharing pieces.

Why is Old Town Fairfax becoming a hotbed for arts all of a sudden? The answer may be George Mason University.

Mason is now one of the largest universities in the state, with enrollment larger than Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and James Madison University. The influx of youth has brought fresh life to Old Town Fairfax.

“Once they embraced we were a college town, more stuff has been happening,” says Hamilton, who certainly has seen the influence of college kids; nearly 60 percent of Mobius’ customers are high school- or college-aged.

With redevelopment going on since 2006 and culminating with Old Town Square, a park set to open April 18 on Main Street and University Drive, Old Town Fairfax has a whole new look.

“It’s growing really, really quickly,” says Kallista. “A lot of stuff is happening down here.”

“I’ve lived here since ’08,” says Hamilton, “and it’s taken quite some time for things to happen, but I think this kick-start has finally pushed [Fairfax] into the mainstream where people are paying attention.” —Michael Balderston

(April 2015)

Synetic’s ‘Hamlet’ pushes teen actors to emote without words

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Teen Hamlet

Photo Courtesy of Johnny Shryock.

By Victoria Gaffney

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the tale of a young man struggling with expression and the moral ambiguity of revenge.

It is therefore a fitting challenge for the teenage actors of Synetic Theater’s new wordless production of “Teen Hamlet…The Rest is Silence.”

True to Synetic’s emphasis on movement and image-based narratives, the company members teach the students about the subtleties of physical expression and attempt to make the productions reach the same professional level as regular shows at the theater.

Company members Alex Mills and Kathy Gordon have directed and choreographed the company’s production of the classic play.

Gordon describes the experience as “a crash course in the Synetic style.” For the choreography, she has had to tweak Irina Tsikurishvili’s original work in order to ensure that the students are capable of the actual dancing and to accommodate the large group on the stage.

Synetic's Hamlet Teen

Photo Courtesy of Johnny Shryock.

“What we find here is that students really take things to the next level, and demonstrate a capacity for expressive nuanced performance that you really don’t see out of people in that age group,” Joseph Carlson, educational programs manager, says.

After eight weeks of strenuous rehearsals (sometimes practicing up to 15 hours) 18 students are showcasing the techniques they’ve learned.

“Hamlet” was Synetic’s first Shakespeare production, and Carlson describes it as a very minimalist piece. The simplicity of the production allows the teens to concentrate their energies on Synetic’s physical acting methods.

The advantage for the students is that this attention to physical storytelling can be extended to other types of performance. “The specificity that it forces the young actors to develop is really integral to the work that they’re going to do for the rest of their lives,” Carlson says.

By pushing themselves, Carlson suggests, they begin “to grow and to make discoveries about themselves and their capabilities that they may not have known.” The hope is that they will be able to incorporate collaborative and cooperative strategies into other environments as well, such as the classroom.

The teen program at Synetic is usually for students that have some theatrical background, but also includes some who are new to theater as well.  Classes include traditional acting, lessons in “character and process,” and courses in movement techniques—centering on what Carlson calls Synetic’s emphasis on “plasticity, coordination, flexibility.”

“We’re hoping that by developing that work ethic, by developing that sense of great physical presence and a sense of commitment to your fellow artists, that we’re preparing them to be really strong members of whatever community they go into,” says Carlson.

Synetic’s teens will be showcasing their refined movement techniques and physical storytelling in “Teen Hamlet…the Rest is Silence,” this Thursday through Sunday and next Thursday through Saturday.


Ticket Information:
April 9, 10, 11, 8 p.m., $5-$25
April 12, 2 p.m., $15-$25
April 16, 17, 18, p.m., $15-$25


Synetic Theater at Crystal City
1800 South Bell St.
Arlington, 22202


Northern Virginia Art Festivals: Enjoy a day surrounded by art

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

3rd Annual Arlington Festival of the Arts

Photo courtesy of Kent Ambler.

3rd Annual Arlington Festival of the Arts
When: April 18-19 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.                                                                                                                                      
Where: 1101 N. Highland St., Arlington
Need to know: One hundred artists will take over the streets of Clarendon during a two-day juried art show and outdoor exhibit. Not only can patrons peruse the art and converse with the artists, they can make purchases if something catches their fancy. Prices for artwork range from $25 to $30,000 and will include paintings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, mixed media, wood and jewelry, to name a few, and free art giveaways.


Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival

Photo courtesy of GRACE (Greater Reston Arts Center).

Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival
When: May 15-17, times vary
Where: Reston Town Center
Need to know: In its 24th year, the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival turns Reston Town Center into a mecca of art in support ofGreater Reston Arts Center. More than 30,000 people attend the event, which brings over 200 artists’ work to the masses. This year patrons can become artists themselves in the Family Art Park and take in a new installation by Patrick Dougherty. The event is free to the public with a requested $5 donation that will go to GRACE. New this year: a launch party Friday evening that will host a night of music, beverages and food along with a silent auction and raffles.

(April 2015)

Fairfax Symphony Orchestra presents ‘A Civil War Portrait’

Posted by Editorial / Monday, April 6th, 2015

Civil War Sesquintennial

Photo Courtesy of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra

By Sophia Rutti

On April 9, 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House and changed the fate of the United States entirely.

This year is the sesquicentennial anniversary of the monumental surrender, and instead of allowing the generally ignored date to go by unnoticed, you can go out and remember the history of our homeland by watching Luke Frazier, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and more than 100 singers come together to present “A Civil War Portrait” at GMU’s Center for the Arts on April 11.

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‘Soon’ Takes on the Apocalypse at Signature

Posted by Editorial / Friday, April 3rd, 2015

'Soon' at Signature Theatre

Photo by Christopher Mueller.

The end of the world, Wolf Blitzer and a fish named Herschel—not exactly the typical kind of stuff you would expect to find in a musical, but then again Nick Blaemire’s “Soon” is striving to be anything but typical. After debuting his first musical, “Glory Days,” at Signature Theatre in 2008, Blaemire returned in March with the world premiere of “Soon,” a fresh take on the apocalypse and what to do with the time we have left.

“Soon” takes place during the hottest summer in human history, which causes all the water on earth to evaporate in just a few months. Twenty-something Charlie has decided to spend her remaining days on her couch, though her mother, roommate and new boyfriend attempt to get her to enjoy the time she has left.

“Her crisis of faith is what the show is really about,” says Blaemire, whose opinions on what we’ve done to our planet helped inspire him to write “Soon.”

“It’s something I’m very insecure about in terms of my level of responsibility I take in the way the world is changing,” he says. “I think there’s a big part of my generation who sort of watched the bad news pop up all over Facebook about what we’re doing to this planet and what we’re doing to each other.”

To take on this unique view and challenging production, Blaemire found a willing and supporting collaborator in Signature.

“It’s part of Signature’s mission statement to take risks, and I feel so safe with them; I don’t feel judged, I feel supported, I feel challenged,” says Blaemire. “They want to do the thing that is going to challenge people while still coming from a collaborative, open-hearted place.”

Among Blaemire’s collaborators are his cast and crew, including director Matthew Gardiner and actors Josh Morgan and Alex Brighton, who plays the male lead. Playing Charlie is Jessica Hershberg who provides “magnetism that is really exciting and honesty that is rare,” according to Blaemire. Also returning to Signature as part of the cast is Natascia Diaz, who previously earned rave reviews for her performance in “The Threepenny Opera.”

“The show itself is incredibly unique,” says Diaz. “The stuff it deals with people never talk about; they never talk about the dynamics between people quite in this way.”

Facing the prospects of deferred dreams and falling in love against a ticking clock are certainly not the first things audiences think about with musicals, but Blaemire is making it work. “I want to write things that are not necessarily immediately easy ideas to imagine as musicals,” he says. “Hopefully people will be able to both see themselves in these characters as well as have a bit more adventure than they will be able to expect from a 90-seat musical.”

“Soon” concludes its run at Signature on April 26. —Michael Balderston

(April 2015)

Service members “liberate the rag” as part of Workhouse Military Arts initiative

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, April 2nd, 2015


Cory Collins Painting

Painting by Cory Collins. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.


By Victoria Gaffney

Paper is a universal canvas for expression—to draw, to write, to create. The process of making paper is itself an ancient tradition. Today, members of the armed forces have begun to put their own twist on the practice of creating paper from cloth. For their starting material, they use something closer to home: their uniforms.

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