Washington DC

April 25, 2009

We didn’t really stop in Washington DC, where I went to college and lived for seven years, and where entertainment abounds: both the art-music-theater-dance sort and the political kind. Instead we visited my niece in Bethesda and an old friend in Reston, and found time to talk about the arts.

Laura, my niece, has a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, and she was studying for medical school exams the week we came. Nevertheless, she found time to meet us at Starbucks (so ubiquitous in the Atlanta area, my daughter said, that she was excited to find a rare Dunkin’ Donuts). Laura is also a fine violinist, and we compared notes on our recent orchestra experiences.

We went out to dinner with JoAnn, whom I met on my first job, long, long ago. She is now a teacher of gifted and talented students and an enthusiastic actor in community theater. She had just finished a run of “The Full Monty,” in which she played the piano accompaniest. She loved the the role because it gave her an opportunity to be funny, which is what she enjoys most, and to sing a couple of good songs.

She said some things about the theater that I found interesting: that most actors were basically shy and theater gives them an opportunity to interact with others in a scripted way, never having to grope for words or wonder how to carry on a conversation (unless you forget your lines.) I had never thought of theater that way.

She was critical of local reviewers who, she said, spend too much space summarizing a play, rather than reviewing. I had heard this criticism of theater reviewers, and have tried to minimize such summaries myself, while still providing a sense of what the play is about. I do think that reviewers should be writing for potential audiences, not for theater people, but it can be helpful for reviewers to have their reviews reviewed by those we review.

Before leaving Washington the next day, we toured American University, where I received a BA in international relations from the School of International Service. None of that frivolous arts and music stuff for me back then.

The School of International Service on the left, and construction underway for the new building, on the right.

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