As official Washington begins to trickle back to work in this new year, the city’s cultural institutions are getting back into the swing of things, too.
American Letters From Abroad
Politics and Prose bookstore is hosting a couple of American literature’s heaviest hitters on back-to-back days: Chang-rae Lee and Gary Shteyngart. Lee, a Korean-American, and Shteyngart, a Russian-American, present vivid and weird representations of the American experience. Both were born abroad (in Seoul and Leningrad, respectively) and are tied closely to their respective immigrant communities. They are also thoroughly American, having come to the United States at young ages and having succeeded in a profession among the most difficult to break into: writing novels. And, as they are both 40-something and firmly in Generation X, there’s a bit of desperation, humor and sadness in their writing. Perfect for the times.
Lee, the author of such books as “Aloft,” will read from his latest novel, “On Such a Full Sea,” on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. Shteyngart, the author of “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” and the more recent “Super Sad True Love Story,” will read from his forthcoming memoir, “Little Failure,” on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. Both events are free at the Politics and Prose flagship at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Hill Center’s Packed Schedule
Hill Center here on Capitol Hill has a dense set of upcoming events. On Jan. 7, the cultural center at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE will partner with ITVS Community Cinema to present a free screening of “Las Marthas,” a documentary about the monthlong (!) annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas. The Society of Martha Washington’s coming-out ceremonies are quite a sight to see, and provide a look at American culture that will be news indeed for many. The film starts at 7 p.m.
The National Symphony Orchestra fills up the calendar later in the week, with its NSO in Your Neighborhood program. On Jan. 9, the NSO will present a chamber performance featuring flautist Aaron Goldman, clarinetist Eugene Mondie and bassoonist Sue Heineman, starting at 7:30 p.m. and going until 9:30 p.m. On Jan. 10, the NSO brings in its “Jazz Night Club,” featuring several musicians including violinists Glenn Donnellan, Terri Lee and Jan Chong, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Both events are free, but those interested are encouraged to register at Hill Center’s website.
Cracker, Camper Check In
If you don’t get your fill of Gen X signifiers from Lee and Shteyngart, you’re in luck: Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven are playing the 9:30 Club on Jan. 11. Cracker, which initially grew out of the disbanding of Camper, headlines. Perhaps to show how all of us Gen Xers roll these days, it’s an early, 6 p.m. show at 815 V St. NW. Twenty-five bucks to get in.
The late Peter O’Toole was most widely known for his star turn in “Lawrence of Arabia,” a masterful interpretation of British officer T.E. Lawrence’s Middle East adventures during World War I. But O’Toole excelled in another political role, that of England’s King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter,” and the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater is showing it next week. If you think there’s dysfunction and division in Washington, watch and learn the snakepit that was the English court that Henry presided over in the 12th century. No one could deliver weary but vicious lines with a sly smile like O’Toole.
It wasn’t the first time O’Toole had played Henry — he also starred with his pal Richard Burton in 1964′s “Becket.” The 1968 “Lion,” though, is a political and family drama that has Henry sparring — just in time for Christmas! — with his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) over the future of the country’s leadership. Henry wants to install his youngest son John, played by Nigel Terry, when the time is right. Eleanor prefers the elder Richard the Lionheart, played by Anthony Hopkins years before anyone knew who Hannibal Lecter was. The middle child, Geoffrey, played by John Castle, has plans of his own. And France’s King Philip II has something to say about it all, too.
Showing on Monday at 4:25 p.m. and Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. at the Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md.
After a week of disgusting temperatures, the weather is finally nice and it’s safe to leave the office for a rooftop happy hour.
Art Soiree Sunset Rooftop Series at the Beacon Hotel’s Sky Bar (1615 Rhode Island Ave. NW) begins at 5 p.m., with happy hour running until 7 p.m.
Besides an excuse to drink in the Capitol’s skyline — and some tasty martinis — Art Soiree is five months of ultimate music experiences. A line-up of more than 20 bands will perform every Thursday until late October, with local bands of various genres from jazz to pop to rock.
Up tonight is an album release party for: IhsAn Bilal‘s TEAL album.
Classically trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, IhsAn Bilal has a good balance of class and sass.
Need another reason to enjoy the amazing weather today?
This is a trend Roll Call After Dark (or Roll Call Morning After) can get behind: food and drink establishments setting up make-your-own Bloody Mary bars for the weekend brunchers among us.
It’s like salad, but with alcohol! (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call.)
As brother blog Heard on the Hill reported, Tortilla Coast’s mothership on Capitol Hill is the latest to take the tomato juice/Clamato (we don’t judge personal mixer preferences) plunge. Other devotees around Capitol Hill include the Argonaut at 1433 H St. NE.
Last month, New Columbia Distillers, the makers of Green Hat, unveiled its spring/summer 2013 line of gin, which is heavy on floral and citrus flavors and highlights. Thursday night’s happy hour promises the unveiling of a cherry blossom cocktail and other speciality drinks. No cover, drinks are $10 a pop. 414 H St. NE.
Michael Lowe, co-owner and distiller of New Columbia Distillers, shows off the still for Green Hat distilled gin. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick