Kenneth Branagh, Pete Seeger, Liv Ullmann and Bobby Short are just some of the artists who have appeared at -- no, not one of the White House receptions -- the Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium. At 565 seats, the Baird is the largest performance space in the museum complex and draws name performers in jazz and chamber music, tap dance, acting and the other lively arts. Smithsonian Associates, the institution's membership arm, puts on the shows, but you don't have to be a member to attend (though members do receive a discount).
Located on the entrance level of the museum, Baird Auditorium has been operating in various incarnations since the building opened in 1910. These days the clean, spare space seems more corporate than artsy, with neat rows of velvet- covered seats facing a spacious stage often decorated with a lectern and tall potted plants. As you would expect from the Smithsonian, the theater is fully wheelchair accessible and equipped with sound amplification for the hearing impaired.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. If you arrive early or stick around after a show, be sure to check out the permanent exhibit of local birds that is just past the auditorium's entrance. You won't find the snow bunting, red-throated loon and five different kinds of swallow lurking outside any other theater in the city.
-- Nicole Lewis