WASHINGTON HASN'T HAD much luck with public art over the last few years. Think Party Animals and Pandas. That's why all lovers of serious art ought to thank freelance curator Welmoed Laanstra for the hard work she's put into a project called Found Sound. Five Port-a-Potties -- brand-new and fresh as daisies, I assure you -- have been placed outside local art spaces, where they act as "listening booths" for the latest experiments in sound art. (A few other works are sited in the art spaces themselves.) The project isn't without flaws: You have to go inside to get a key to unlock each booth -- something most passersby won't do; the Port-a-Potties' interiors have been visually sanitized by having their working bits (toilet bowls, soap dispensers, etc.) draped in a fine white cloth, for a languorous boudoir effect; some of the sound art is of the old-fashioned Honk-Tweet school, generating more weird noises than powerful ideas. Mostly, the project needs to be much, much bigger if it's to make a true impact on this town's philistines. That's why Laanstra needs our praise and support. Let's hope for a slick sequel to Found Sound that spreads to every corner of downtown.
-- Blake Gopnik
Found Sound installations continue through Nov. 5 at Washington's Numark, Fusebox and Conner galleries. Others are at the arts building at 1515 14th St. NW, the City Bikes store in Adams Morgan and the Goethe-Institut on Seventh St. NW. For more information visit www.foundsounddc.com.
ATERBALLETTO BILLS ITSELF as Italy's premier contemporary ballet troupe, able to handle the demands of such varied choreographers as George Balanchine and Alvin Ailey. In its upcoming all-Stravinsky concert, the company reaches further back in time to take on the Diaghilev era. The program includes Artistic Director Mauro Bigonzetti's interpretation of Michel Fokine's "Petrouchka" and excerpts from "Les Noces," choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. There will be a discussion of the troupe 45 minutes before curtain time for ticket holders.
-- Sarah Kaufman
At George Mason University's Center for the Arts, Route 123 and Braddock Road, Fairfax. Saturday at 8 p.m. $22-$44. Call 888-945-2468 or visit www.gmu.edu/cfa.
SARDONIC BRITISH folk-rocker Richard Thompson recently told The New Yorker that he'd been at Buckingham Palace for a music industry reception when he met the queen, who wondered what Thompson did. "I said, 'I'm a singer-songwriter,' because there was a roomful of guitar players -- Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck -- and I didn't want to be another guitar player," Thompson told the magazine. "She said, 'Oh, you do both! At the same time! How wonderful for you.' So I said, 'I hope it's wonderful for other people as well.' " It is wonderful, including Thompson's brilliant guitar work, which landed him in the Top 20 of Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Also wonderful: His recent penchant for covering Britney Spears in concert. See for yourself. Thompson is touring behind "Front Parlour Ballads," his first full acoustic album in nearly 25 years.
-- J. Freedom du Lac
At the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Monday at 7:30 p.m. $35. Call 800-551-SEAT or visit www.ticketmaster.com.