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Monday night author series to begin at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club

A view of the art-deco Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club from its raised theater seats. Much of its decor and design dates back to 1938. (Fritz Hahn/The Post) A view of the art-deco Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club from its raised theater seats. Much of its decor and design dates back to 1938. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

In an area already rich with author readings, another venue is hoping to attract book lovers to a unique forum.

Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz will offer the first lecture in the Author Series at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club on Monday. He will discuss his 2012 presidential campaign book, “Collision 2012.”

This new series in the rehabbed Art Deco Bethesda Theater is sponsored by Politics & Prose Bookstore in Northwest Washington. Real estate developer Rick Brown, who owns the theater, approached P&P management last year with the idea of bringing author events to Bethesda. In November, the bookstore sponsored an evening of jazz paired with Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout talking about his biography of Duke Ellington.

The success of the event inspired the creation of this new author series on culture and politics. P&P director of marketing Lena Khidritskaya Little says, “The way we have been thinking about our events with BB&J now is to offer a lecture series at this musical venue but not be dependent on a musical tag. We want to offer great lectures on engaging topics with dynamic speakers.”

Susan Coll, director of programs at P&P, said, “We’re in the early stages of seeing what will attract a Bethesda audience. The venue lends itself well to music related topics, but with the wealth of local authors in Bethesda and surrounding areas, we can keep the program varied.”

The greatest challenge for this new series may be competition from so many free author events in the Washington area — including at the busy Barnes & Noble just a few blocks away from the Blues & Jazz Supper Club. Politics & Prose alone hosts more than 450 readings a year, most of them without charge. Busboys & Poets, One More Page and other bookstores provide similar opportunities to hear the most famous authors in the country gratis.

Only a few venues regularly charge to hear writers talk about their new books. Author events at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue usually cost $12 to $20. The author series at the Hay Adams is the area’s priciest at $85, but it comes with a book-inspired three-course meal on the hotel’s top floor overlooking the White House.

Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz. Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz.

“We are hopeful that the minimal ticket charge of $15 won’t present an obstacle,” Coll says. “If BB&J were able to offer this event for free, then they would, but this enables them to open the doors on a night they would otherwise be dark.”

At this stage, the bookstore is moving ahead with cautious optimism. “The goal is to offer a regular series,” Coll says, “but we want learn from this first event before announcing the next one. We’ve learned that every event is unique, as is working at each new venue, so we are taking it one step at a time.”

For tickets to the Dan Balz event on March 10, click here.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.



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