Atlas Performing Arts Center stages diverse Intersections arts festival
By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Atlas Performing Arts Center's new Intersections arts festival -- a three-week event with more than 50 performances beginning Friday at the H Street NE complex -- celebrates a nation characterized by myriad convergences of culture.
But for inspiration, the organizers had to look only so far as the Atlas District itself.
"H Street has historically been an intersection," says Mary Hall Surface, the festival's artistic director, citing the various communities -- Italian, Jewish, African American -- that have called the neighborhood east of Union Station home.
To stage the festival, which continues weekends through March 7, Surface and Atlas put out a call for shows that combine genres or cross the boundaries of race, age and class. The Washington Savoyards responded with "Treemonisha," a rarely performed opera by Scott Joplin; Speakeasy DC culled a diverse cast for the monologue show "Wetbacks, Aliens and Towelheads: Stories From the First Generation"; and Haitian American Kathleen Gonzales offered her one-woman show about homecomings, "The Bridge of Bodies," with a pledge to donate proceeds to Haiti relief efforts. There are also plenty of free concerts, children's performances and even visual art as part of the festival, of which The Post is a sponsor.
"You think about it as a menu," Surface says. "We really were looking for pieces that had an intersection of styles, or we were looking for collaborations, where companies were coming together in a way they have never done before.
"So you've got your fusion cuisine, then you've got your contrasting things -- ones that taste better when you put them together -- and your classic dishes."
(All performances are at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.)
Washington Savoyards, "Treemonisha"
N. Thomas Pedersen, artistic director of light-opera company Washington Savoyards, says he fell in love with this English-language opera, about a young black woman who promotes education in her community, when he was involved with a staging in the 1980s in Michigan. But the twist in this ragtime-tinged production is that singers and dancers of all ethnicities are in the cast, and the orchestrations are spare.
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.; Feb. 26-27 and March 5-6 at 8 p.m.; Feb. 28 and March 7 at 2 p.m. $15-$40.
Jason Garcia Ignacio and CityDance Ensemble, "The Mountain"
In "The Mountain," Philippine-born dancer and choreographer Ignacio examines two mountains and two tragedies -- one natural and one man-made. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, Ignacio was just a boy, but the inch-thick lahar, the white ash blanketing everything, along with the physical, cultural and sociological aftershocks, profoundly changed both the Philippine landscape and its people.
Ignacio draws on his knowledge of Filipino folk dances such as the Malang, featuring a tube of cloth that is manipulated into a skirt, shawl, mantle and sack, along with national creation myths. " 'The Mountain' is a metaphor about garbage and about how people live with too much: Enough is never enough for them," he says. "The moral issue is trying to make people aware of the trash."
Friday at 7:30 p.m. $15. (Ignacio also appears Saturday and Sunday at Dance Place and Monday at the National Theatre.)
Marva Hicks, "An Evening With Marva: Celebrating the Gospel Truth"
Hicks, a local favorite from Arena Stage productions "Crowns" and "Cuttin' Up," presents this work-in-progress musical show about her life, written with Pearl Cleage and music arrangement by e'Marcus Harper.
Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. $25.
Speakeasy DC, "Wetbacks, Aliens and Towelheads: Stories From the First Generation"
Award-winning poet Regie Cabico, artist Ayo Okunseinde and journalist Delia Perry join other storytellers mining their childhood traumas for laughs and meaning.
Feb. 26 at 9:30 p.m. and Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. $18.50.
Free and family-friendly performances
The festival will feature brief shows nightly in the lobby, beginning with a cappella group Reverb on Friday. Teens shouldn't miss the hip-hop crew DCypher Dance as it performs "DCypher 10.2: Co-Ed" on March 5. And families should definitely check out Family Day on Saturday with a free concert by charismatic local beat-boxer/rapper Christylez Bacon, whose collaboration "Banjo to Beatbox" was recently nominated for a children's music Grammy.
Freelance writer Lisa Traiger contributed to this story.