Tysons, VA

The show will not go on for the theatrical performances that 1st Stage Theatre had planned for the remainder of its 2020-2021 season — at least not in the form they were originally conceived.

The Tysons-based theater company announced this afternoon (Thursday) that it will not move forward with productions of “The Waverly Gallery,” “The Nance,” and “Mlima’s Tale” as planned “due to the ongoing health crisis.”

“While we were holding out a sliver of hope that the new vaccines might give us a chance to move forward as planned, it is clear that there simply won’t be a safe option,” 1st Stage said in an emailed newsletter.

In lieu of the anticipated in-person performance, the company will instead present a virtual, live reading of “The Waverly Gallery” performed by the original 1st Stage cast. A finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, “The Waverly Gallery” is a memory play written by playwright and film director Kenneth Lonergan that follows the concluding years of a grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

1st Stage will hold the live reading via Zoom on Mar. 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased through the organization’s website.

The theater company does not indicate whether there are any plans to do similar live readings of “The Nance” by Douglas Carter Beane or “Mlima’s Tale” by Lynn Nottage, but it says it is working on getting the necessary permissions to move its fourth annual Logan Festival of Solo Performance up to this spring with outdoor performances.

The scrapped productions had originally been scheduled for 2020 as part of 1st Stage’s 13th season, but the theater decided in July to delay the season to this year so that it could focus on virtual offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That pivot will continue with a newly announced slate of online classes, including an introductory “Drama Games” course and two improvisation courses, one aimed at adults and the other at middle and high school students. Registration for the classes is now open with a deadline of Mar. 11.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (Feb. 22)

  • Doktor Kaboom! “Look Out! Science is Coming!” (Online) — 4 p.m. — Doktor Kaboom is a comedian with a passion for science. DC Theatre Scene says he’s “better than Bill Nye.” He will be performing a family-friendly show today, including three demonstrations of experiments that viewers can do with him. Go to the McLean Community Center website to register and find the supplies list for the experiments.

Tuesday (Feb. 23)

  • Waterfowl at Burke Lake Park — 10-11 a.m. at Burke Lake Park (7315 Ox Rd.) — Burke Lake Park is hosting a search for winter waterfowl. Park staff will run a program taking participants around the lake in search of creatures such as loons, lesser scaups and ring-necked ducks. The registration fee for this event is $8 per person.
  • Climate Planning Meeting on Energy (Online) — 7 p.m. — Fairfax County will hold a public meeting of presentations and discussion on energy issues related to the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, or CECAP. Experts from the consulting firm ICF will be facilitating and presenting at this meeting.

Thursday (Feb. 25)

  • Online Book Discussion (Online) — 1-2 p.m. — The staff of Patrick Henry Public Library in Vienna will lead an online discussion about the novel “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. Register in advance through the link above to reserve a spot for the event.
  • Drawing Animal Eyes — 7-9 p.m. at Annandale District Park (7701 Royce St.) — The Hidden Oaks Nature Center is hosting an event for participants ages 16 and up to learn how to draw animal eyes. Participants will have the option of using pencils, colored pencils and watercolors to create their masterpiece. The cost is $15 per person and masks and social distancing will be required.

Friday (Feb. 26)

  • BRAWS Presents: Mardi Bras (Online) — 8-9 p.m. — BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters) is hosting a fundraiser to support women and girls gain access to items such as pads, tampons, and underwear. The Vienna-based nonprofit says the need for these products has tripled over the last year, making funding more critical than ever. The event is free, but advance registration is required too receive a link, and people can support the cause by becoming a sponsor, participating in the silent auction, or purchasing a raffle ticket.
  • A Taste of California (Online) — 6:30-7:45 p.m. — A virtual wine tasting hosted by Vienna Vinter’s owner, Victor Mendez, will feature three wines from Mendez’s winery in California. Register by contacting Vienna Vinter at 703- 242-9463 or [email protected] The $75 or $120 fee includes access to the zoom link for the tasting and two or three bottles of wine, and 20% of the proceeds will be donated when customers mention the Shepherd’s Center
  • Family Fun Trivia Night (Online) — 7-9 p.m. — The McLean Community Center is hosting a family-friendly, virtual trivia night. Registration is required and the price is $5 per team. There will be prizes for the winning teams.

Saturday (Feb. 27)

  • Book Club (Online) — 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. — The McLean Community Center is hosting the first in a series of book club meetings. They will meet monthly and move through multiple genres. The group is free, but interested participants should register on the McLean Community Center website.

Sunday (Feb. 28)

  • 1st Look Series (Online) — 2 p.m. — 1st Stage in Tysons will live-stream excerpts of shows that it has commissioned from solo artists in its new “1st Look” series. The first installment will feature work by Jasmin Cardenas and James J. Johnson that explores, respectively, the experiences of low-wage and undocumented factory workers and Black fatherhood. The previews will be followed by discussions with the playwrights. Attendees should register in advance for the free Zoom event.

Photo via Danielle Brigida/Flickr

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The Tysons-based theater 1st Stage is taking a stand against gun violence with a virtual night of staged play readings on Dec. 14.

Kicking off at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom, the free event will feature readings of seven short plays written by teen playwrights as part of the nationwide ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence project, which encourages teenagers to express their activism through art.

1st Stage Artistic Director Alex Levy says the project aligns with his belief in theater as an arena where people “can come together as a community and have difficult conversations about our world.”

“I was especially moved to amplify the voices of these young people whose entire lives have been lived in the shadows of lockdown drills, gun violence, and mass shootings,” Levy said. “They are demanding a better world, and we at 1st Stage stand with them.”

The plays were written by teens from around the country, and they were selected by a committee of playwrights, including Lauren Gunderson and David Henry Hwang, according to a press release.

The readings will be followed by a discussion led by Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Executive Director Josh Horowitz and Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, who is currently campaigning to become Virginia’s next lieutenant governor.

Descriptions of the featured plays and a link to register for a limited quantity of tickets can be found on 1st Stage’s website.

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For the fourth year in a row, the Tysons 2050 event has put forward a rosy view of the future of the area, but this year, those lofty dreams are weighted down by some harsh realities about challenges ahead for Tysons.

Sponsored by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event features voices from different industries around Tysons discussing what lies ahead for the region. Those experts recognized that the future is harder to predict this year. COVID-19 is on the rise again nationally and locally, and the onset of winter is leaving many businesses that had gone outside for activities scrambling for new solutions.

“What happens to offices and malls?” asked Sol Glasner, CEO of the Tysons Partnership. “I don’t know, and you shouldn’t listen to anyone who says they do know. The crystal ball is murky.”

Glasner said offices may need to be reconfigured, but he doesn’t believe the need for office space will fully disappear any more than retail will.

“Our shopping areas have proven adept to changing to consumer patterns,” Glasner said.

Mike Whatley, vice president of the National Restaurant Association, says one of the advantages for Tysons-area restaurants and retail is having more flexibility in using their space than their counterparts in D.C., like larger sidewalks for curbside pick-up.

“The ability to have extra space, to have extra flexibility, means restaurants will survive and thrive,” Whatley said. “When people are looking now and post-pandemic at where they want to live, you have to have that vibrant restaurant scene and culture.”

Whatley said one of the keys to surviving the season will be embracing going digital.

“Restaurants that survive are the ones that are embracing tech [and] communicating with customers,” Whatley said. “You do see a lot of them in the Tysons community, ones that are able to reach out to customers.”

Tony Hudgins, Vice President of TransitScreen, said ghost kitchens — food vendors that don’t operate out of a restaurant space — could take up a bigger role in the restaurant scene after the pandemic. Read More

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Tysons theater 1st Stage is continuing its earlier shift towards online classes with a new series of acting courses aimed to help introduce adults or children to acting or continue their education.

Each course consists of six classes with prices starting at $100 per course.

Classes are taught over Zoom sessions. The deadline for registration is Monday, Sept. 21.

Classes for adults include:

  • Playwriting (Tuesdays, Sept. 29-Nov. 3 from 4-6 p.m.) — The class will introduce students to playwriting concepts like idea generation, dramatic action, character and dialogue development.
  • Beginning Acting (Thursdays, Oct. 1-Nov. 5 from 6-7 p.m.) — The class will introduce students to developing believable characters within the play text and teach acting techniques.
  • A Director Prepares (Tuesdays, Sept. 29-Nov. 3 from 1-2 p.m.) — The class will introduce students to direction, particularly on the production, preparation, and conceptualization aspects. The class will also touch on casting and working with designers and actors.
  • Beginning Voice Training (Fridays, Oct. 2-Nov. 6 from 1-3 p.m.) — The class introduces students to healthy singing techniques, including warm-ups and cool downs, vocal exercises, and simple songs.
  • Play Reading and Discussion (Fridays, Oct. 2-Nov. 6 from 7-8 p.m.) — The class will involve reading and discussing plays, as well as discussing analytic techniques.
  • Introduction to Improvisation (Wednesdays, Sept. 30-Nov. 4) — The class is an introduction to the basics of improvisation, like “yes, and…” as well as other foundational improv techniques.
  • Intermediate Improvisation (Sundays, Oct. 4-Nov. 8 from 1-2 p.m.) — Students will build on more advanced improv skills and concepts from the earlier Intro to Improv class, with a focus on creating characters and scenes quickly, bold choices, and working together to form a scene.

Five courses are available for grades 1st through 12th.

Classes include:

  • Drama Games (1st-2nd Grade, Mondays, Sept. 28-Nov. 2 from 4-4:45 p.m.) — The course introduces children to basic acting skills with games, activities and exercises.
  • Introduction to Improvisation (3rd-6th Grade, Wednesdays, Sept. 30-Nov. 4 from 4-4:45 p.m.) — This class will cover the basics of improv concepts and building on natural instincts.
  • Beginning Improv (Middle School, Thursdays, Oct. 1-Nov. 5  from 4-4:45 p.m.) — Similar to Introduction to Improvisation, Beginning Improv will focus on teaching improv concepts.
  • Building Your Book (High School, Fridays, Oct. 2-Nov. 6 from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.) — This intermediate class aims to help advanced singers through warmups, cooldowns and exercises. The class is geared towards polishing songs with vocal, musical, and dramatic performances.
  • Play Reading And Discussion (High School, Saturdays, Oct. 3-Nov. 7, 12 p.m.-1 p.m.) — The class will focus on reading and discussing plays with classic and modern analyzing techniques.
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Two Tysons-area theaters are recent recipients of the 36th annual Helen Hayes Awards.

Tysons-based 1st Stage Theatre and Falls Church-based Creative Cauldron were both nominated in several categories earlier this year. In total, 1st Stage Theatre has 18 nominations, while Creative Cauldron has nine this year.

While the awards show is slated for later this month, recent announcements revealed that the theaters have won some awards.

Award announcements began Aug. 31 and will continue until Sept. 11. So far, 1st Stage has won “Outstanding Lighting Design (Hayes)” for “The Brothers Size” and Creative Cauldron has nabbed the “Outstanding Lead Performers in a Musical (Helen)” award for Nora Palka in “On Air.”

Each year, Theatre Washington presents awards to over 90 theatres and artists around the D.C. area in honor of Helen Hayes, who is known as the “First Lady of American Theatre,” according to Theatre Washington. The year-long nomination process for the Helen Hayes Awards includes 40 judges attending around 200 productions.

An in-person Helen Hayes Awards Ceremony was supposed to be May 18th, but due to COVID-19, it was moved to a virtual ceremony. This year’s virtual ceremony will be held on Friday (Sept. 25).

People will have to wait to see if the two local theaters have more of their nominations turned into awards.

Photo via Rob Laughter/Unsplash

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Tysons’ 1st Stage Theatre announced today (Thursday) that it’s delaying its upcoming season until February and will focus on virtual class offerings this summer.

Until 2021 rolls around, 1st Stage will offer new online classes. The “Virtual Classroom” will feature six education courses taught by the theater’s staff:

  • July 13-Aug. 17: “Introduction to Playwriting” by family member Bob Bartlett
  • July 14-Aug. 18: “Beginning Scene Study” by Associate Artistic Director Deidra LaWan Starnes
  • July 15-Aug. 19: “A Director Prepares” by Artistic Director Alex Levy
  • July 17-Aug. 21: “Beginning Voice Training” by Casting Director Jane Margulies Kalbfeld
  • July 18-Aug. 22: “Approaches to Script Analysis” by Literary Manager Laura Esti Miller
  • July 19-Aug. 23: “Introduction to Improvisation” by Director of Engagement Heidi Fortune Picker

Instead of kicking off its 13th season later this year, the theater will wait until February. The new season will include three productions from February-May before the Logan Festival of Solo Performance, which was cancelled this summer, will return in July 2021.

The season is now scheduled to kick off with “The Waverly Gallery,” directed by Alex Levy and written by Kenneth Lonergan. Then in April, the theatre will show “The Nance,” directed by Nick Olcott and written by Douglas Carter Beane. “Mlima’s Tale,” directed by José Carrasquillo and written by Lynn Nottage, will be the season’s last production.

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“When we can’t do theater, what can we do?” Alex Levy, the artistic director of 1st Stage Theatre, posed during a recent Zoom conversation with local artists.

Levy was at his brother’s house while sharing his thoughts on what the future of 1st Stage during the hour-long “Cultural Tysons” panel.

More than 50 households logged on as Levy; local painter and teacher Deborah Conn; bookstore owner Jen Morrow; and Lori Carbonneau, the head of the McLean Project for the Arts, weighed in on various facets of COVID-19’s impacts on Tysons’ art scene.

Levy introduced himself to viewers by tackling a perception of Tysons — and Northern Virginia west of Arlington — as a “cultural wasteland.” His fellow panelists agreed that the pandemic is highlighting how small businesses and local artists and institutions contribute to the area’s culture.

“It reinforced how much people want local,” Jen Morrow, the owner of Bards Alley in Vienna, said during the Zoom panel.

The bookstore is currently offering curbside pick-up and online shopping. The “Take a Chance on Me” option for staff to recommend books in the store based on shoppers’ chosen genres and price points has “been a home run,” she said.

“I think people are really discovering how much they miss their access to the arts,” Conn, the local watercolor painter, said. “They need the arts. They need the theater. They need the books.”

With some of her art hanging behind her, Conn talked about the changes she’s experienced during the pandemic: better class attendance now that she’s teaching via Zoom, a greater demand for more demos and more creative ways to showcase art.

Conn, who is also the gallery curator at 1st Stage, shared that one of her friends started a fence post art gallery, while a few others are doing driveway galleries: “We have to be seen.”

The virtual meeting on Saturday (June 13) was part of the Community Conversations series that 1st Stage started five years ago.

“It’s a really popular thing that we did, and we realized it was one of those things that we can move to a digital platform during the pandemic,” Levy told Tysons Reporter earlier this week. “So we started that two months ago, doing these community conversations via Zoom.”

While success stories might make the pivot to online look easy, the panelists shared the uncertainties they still face months into social distancing, quarantine, stay at home orders and COVID-19 restrictions.

Some things haven’t been figured out yet, like how to offer in-person summer classes or host ArtFest online, Carbonneau, MPA’s executive director, said. While MPA missed an exhibition in the spring, the arts organization is moving forward with plans for a virtual exhibition.

1st Stage, in particular, has been grappling with how to reconcile its mission and atmosphere — “Our primary mode of work is to gather people in small spaces,” moderator Emily Wall, who is the theater’s associate producer, said — with state and local requirements to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

In March, the theater suspended its upcoming productions and closed its doors. A month later, the theater announced that “A New Brain,” which was supposed to run March 26-April 19, will be its next show, but the dates haven’t been determined yet. The Logan Festival of Solo Performance is canceled for July but plans to return next year.

Levy said during “Cultural Tysons” that institutions with video skills and equipment before the pandemic had an easier time adjusting. Even organizations that weren’t focused on tech before now have incentives to catch up.

Carbonneau noted that the switch to online programming allows for greater geographic diversity. For example, one of MPA’s students is in Italy, while one of its teachers is in New York opening a studio, she said.

The increased accessibility to audiences and artists is an “exciting” opportunity for the theater, Levy told Tysons Reporter.

“In our [Zoom panel] on Saturday, people from all over the county [were] part of the conversation, and that’s been a really cool benefit,” he said. “These virtual conversations have allowed us to open up to a whole group of people who would never be able to be a part of it because they’re just physically too far at any given time.”

For people who missed the Zoom panels or want to view them again, the recorded conversations are archived on 1st Stage’s YouTube channel — another perk of holding virtual events.

In addition to the Community Conversations series, 1st Stage is also planning a series of Zoom classes to address a longing for human connection.

“We are going to create a series of classes that are not really intended for professionals but intended for people to connect to art-making in ways where they maybe never have before and to do it with our artists and with each other,” he told Tysons Reporter.

Another idea, which is in the planning stages, would allow multiple organizations to co-produce a piece for Zoom. “We can break apart the way we make theater… and then see what happens when we bring it together and then let it be a live event so that it still has some of that feeling of theater where anything can happen,” he said.

While Zoom will make these ideas possible, Levy said the pandemic’s impact on the theater’s season has opened up time to reimagine future plans.

“Normally I think we need to be done by, you know, X days because we had to put it into our season,” he said about the co-production idea. “Now we can say, ‘Let’s let it go at the pace that feels like it’s creating the best work, and when it’s ready, we’ll do it.'”

Currently, the theater is using this time to talk about how to invest in artists in the longterm and “how we disrupt our own process every now and then.”

“We’ve been having conversations about like, ‘Well what would it look like to start talking to an artist, not six months before we do a show but two years before we do a show?’ and ‘What can we change about the way we build and create a show when we think like that?'” Levy said.

Questions about the use of space outside the theater — 1st Stage is currently looking into opportunities to perform outdoors — and how the relationship with the audience will change are also on the list.

While 1st Stage normally starts the theatrical process with a play, Levy said he wonders what would happen if they started with a blank page instead. The theater has also been reaching out to actors to see if they want to write plays and asking playwrights if they have an interest in directing.

“We have long believed that theater gets made in a certain way,” he said. “I think who’s in those power positions are going to be shaken up… Theater is no different than any other institution where those in power can hang onto that power and tend to reinforce it.”

Levy sees art institutions as a guide — “Our job is to be out ahead of governments and for-profit businesses and model what it can look like” — and the questions 1st Stage is tackling fit into a bigger query about how to disassemble power structures.

“I think the kinds of stories we tell are going to change. I think the kind of people that tell those stories are going to change. The ways in which we tell them are going to change,” he said.

Ultimately, Levy hopes the disruption will alter not only future art, but also the ways that art gets made.

“What this is really allowing us is to think about what years from now might look like too. So, to build something that is not about ‘Oh this is a cool show,’ but build something that says ‘This is a way in which we create cool shows’ for years,” he said.

Image via 1st Stage Theatre/YouTube

Madeline Taylor contributed to this report 

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Virtual Job Fair for Recent Grads Next Thursday — “Participants will be able to browse companies in the lobby, enter their booths, view open positions specifically curated for recent grads, and chat with HR representatives in real-time.” [Brazen Connect]

First Child Case in Va. of Syndrome Tied to COVID-19 — “The Fairfax Health District has confirmed a case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first case of MIS-C reported in Virginia.” [Inside NoVa]

N. Va.’s Reopening Date TBD — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday he has not decided whether Northern Virginia can enter Phase One of reopening on May 29… Northam said he is in daily communication with Northern Virginia government leaders and has set no timeline for making a decision.” [Inside NoVa]

Helen Hayes Awards Delayed to August — D.C.-area theater companies will have to wait until late August for the awards ceremony that will determine the winners. Tysons’ 1st Stage Theatre received 18 nominations this year. [Broadway World, Tysons Reporter]

84 Falls Church Businesses Win Grant Funding — “The City of Falls Church Economic Development Authority (EDA) is proud to announce the winners of the EDA Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Grant Program. Each business will receive $2,000 to help with urgent expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [City of Falls Church]

Summer Camps Canceled — “The Fairfax County Park Authority and the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services have canceled 2020 summer camp programs due to the COVID-19 crisis.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Tysons’ 1st Stage Theatre is starting a series for virtual meet and greets with the staff and performers, along with a peek at the creative process.

The theater announced the new series yesterday (Monday). Called “Community Conversations,” the series kicks off on Saturday, May 9.

Since the coronavirus pandemic prompted show cancellations, the theater has taken to social media to share videos of short performances.

The line-up for the series includes:

  • May 9: Meet the Staff
  • May 16: Artistic Directors in Conversation
  • May 23: Performers in Quarantine
  • May 30: How 1st Stage Develops New Work
  • June 6: The Life of a Solo Artist
  • June 13: Cultural Tysons

All of the conversations will take place at 2 p.m. EST on Zoom and will be posted on social media afterwards for people who couldn’t attend live, according to the theater.

People interested in joining, can register online for each conversation.

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