This week we had the opportunity to attend two fun mid-week cultural events. It was a great reminder of the diversity of entertainment options right in our own backyard.
On Tuesday night, we joined some friends at a performance of Bread and Puppets Theater. We weren't entirely sure what to expect, as the site is rather vague and nobody seemed to have any real information about the show. But the price (free) was right, as it happens I'm a fan of both puppets and bread, and when you go in with almost no expectations there's nowhere to go but up. Plus, you had me at "free."
I'm pleased to report that the show was AMAZING. The troupe at this performance consisted of eight people who alternately played ragtime instruments, marched around with flags, operated giant cardboard and papier-maché puppets, and danced on stilts. The subject matter was intensely political, which makes sense given BPT's roots in activist pacifism and participatory street theater. (You can find some historical information on the "Tour Schedule" page of their site... scroll down past the dates... poor usability but it is worth the effort!) The Tuesday night show had been advertised as the more "family-friendly" of BPT's Washington performances. So when things got a little heavy towards the end with a haunting piece about the war in Iraq, leaving the audience in contemplative silence, it was a bit of a surprise to hear the announcer plug the Wednesday show as "somewhat darker," and not as suitable for kids. But hey, I'm all about people exposing their kids to controversial subject matter as food for thought. I was totally encouraged that there were some kids in the theater when we went to see Bill Maher's "Religulous" a few weeks ago. Discussion and debate are not just for grownups.
Oh, and yes they did in fact serve bread at the end of the show! With some spectacularly garlicky aioli sauce. No vampire problems that night.
Wednesday's entertainment was a bit more lighthearted. We're big fans of Cirque du Soleil, both the Vegas extravaganzas and the touring shows. When I discovered that "Journey of Man," the 1999 film featuring Cirque performances, was coming back to the IMAX theater at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum, I jumped at the chance to get tickets. I do love me some IMAX. And we don't get down to the Smithsonian complex nearly enough. As I exited the Metro at the Smithsonian stop, which drops you off in the middle of the National Mall, I enjoyed the stroll between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, with a lovely fall sunset as a backdrop. Somehow it never gets old to wander around among such powerful national symbols; after living in the DC area for almost two decades, I still get a bit of a rush. It's like being on a movie set.
And speaking of movie, the IMAX film was absolutely stellar. Filmed over a two-year period using Cirque performers from around the world, "Journey of Man" is a celebration of the stages of life from birth to death. The visual imagery is stellar, and the music is just as delicious. As icing on the cake it's narrated by Ian McKellan. Sitting in a darkened theatre surrounded by that Gandalf voice is always a good thing in my book. After the movie we chatted up Aba Kwawu, president of the PR firm that handles Cirque's DC runs. (She also had the fun job of handing out the door prizes while wearing a clown nose.) How cool would it be to work for the most kickass circus in the world?
We topped off the night by stopping for some pho on the way home. Unfortunately my favorite Pho 75 was closed for the night, but a block away Pho 50 was still open. (Why 75? Why 50? Why not a more creative name?) We had just enough time to gulp down a big bowl of the rich broth -- perfect eats for the increasingly chilly weather -- before they closed up shop. I used to be somewhat perplexed by the huge Vietnamese contingent in Falls Church, but now I just shut up and happily slurp my pho. Ten points to anyone who can tell me the story behind that inscrutable naming scheme, though...
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