On Valentine's Day morning the woman who gave Wolf Trap Farm Park to the country, Mrs. Jouett Shouse, took coffee in the living room of her F Street townhouse. She wore a red wool dress and red lipstick; beside her easy chair were red tulips and elsewhere in the high-ceilinged room were poinsettias. Later in the day she would visit (appropriately enough) the Red Chinese, with whom she struck a deal to bring to Wolf Trap this summer leading dancers, singers and musicians from Peking.
"People refer to Wolf Trap as a dream of mine," Shouse says evenly, "but it really wasn't a dream. I just knew we needed a performing arts center on the Virginia side of the Potomac. The word 'dream' sounds too . . . grandiose. And I'm a terribly practical person."
Shouse - shrewd, sly, convivial at 82 - announce this week the eighth season at Wolf Trap and, for her, donating the splendid Fairfax County acreage and prodding her vision into reality was only the beginning. She is intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the performing arts park, traveling to Europe to scout talent, picking up the phone (as she did two years ago) to convince the mainland Chinese troupe to visit Washington. She attends every performance, takes delight that $200,000 of indebtedness was retired last year, that the 1977 season had a record high of seventy-four percent of seats sold.
She reads Variety, keeps an eye on details. When one of Jimmy Carter's right-hand men phoned Wolf Trap last season to ask for eight tickets, Shouse returned the call and graciously offered her box, while explaining no one gets free tickets, including Mrs. Jouett Shouse and her nine great-grandchildren; now the aide pays his own way.
A Washingtonian for fifty-five years, Shouse's passion has been the arts. Though she supports them grandly, she appears uncomfortable with kudos, even on Valentine's Day.
"Someone," she says, turning aside a compliment, "said recently that I have a wide knowledge of the arts. But I don't think that I have that so much as I have a wide understanding of people. Until he accused me of that, I didn't know there was any such distinction."