Tysons, VA

(Updated 5:55 p.m.) Medieval pageant wagons inspired the “Drive-Thru Drama” production that kicks off this weekend in McLean.

Danielle Van Hook, The Alden’s director of Youth Theatre Programs, came up with the idea while in the middle of Zoom rehearsals for “Dorothy Meets Alice or the Wizard of Wonderland” in mid-May. The in-person show ended up getting cancelled, but Van Hook wanted to still find a way to bring theater to the community.

“I just started thinking, ‘What would have happened if this pandemic had happened in like the 1980s and we didn’t have this kind of virtual technology?'” she said.

Van Hook said her idea is a twist on the pageant wagons — instead of having the actors playing the scenes along a parade route, the audience goers are the people who move. During the production, the audience drives from stage to stage to watch actors deliver two- to three-minute monologues at fixed locations.

The Alden, which is a part of the McLean Community Center, is debuting the show “Small Change,” which was written and directed by Andrew Scott Zimmer.

“‘Small Change’ follows the travels of a $1 bill as it journeys through time and space, interacting with different people’s lives and leaving its mark on the world,” according to MCC. “Actors will perform one, cohesive story through short monologues at various stations in the center’s parking lot.”

Having the actors stand in parking spaces was the original idea before realizing that there are sections of trees and islands in the parking lot that could get converted into stages, Van Hook said. “Each little stage has its own kind of personality,” she added.

To limit person-to-person contact, the theater requires that audience members buy their tickets in advance. On show nights, audience members will be checked in by their cars’ license plates. Then, they will get an orientation from the front of house manager on what they can expect.

“He gives them a little bit of a rundown of the speed limit and how you know when you move on from the stage that you’re at to the next one,” she said.

In order to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the actors will wear face shields and stay six feet away from the cars and other people outside.

Personal protective equipment is one of the many considerations Van Hook has had to take into consideration as the producer for the show.

“It’s been really interesting to sort of think about all of the little details and how we adapt it for this new style, and for me personally, it’s been sort of an exercise in like remembering why I like really loved making theater,” she said.

And of course, she’s hoping it doesn’t rain — or worse.

While all of the elements of theater — audience, actors and stage — are there, Van Hook said that the format changes the experience.

“One of the interesting things about this medium — and the same thing with Zoom — is that you can’t necessarily control how the audience is viewing the show,” she said, adding that the positions of people in the car will affect the view and sound.

“We’re recommending that if the audience is on the left side of the car that the right side windows are up, because it helps with the sound,” she said, adding that the actors are projecting their voices. Audience members will be able to follow along with large-print ADA script that they can print out ahead of time or read on their devices.

Even the size of the car and how close or far away from the ground it is will impact the audience.

The “Drive-Thru Drama” is also “much more intimate” than traditional theater, she said. “You kind of get a show that’s just for you.”

There’s also the trippy concept that it’s a communal experience that isn’t in-sync.

“There’s a couple of cars along the route at any given time. The same show is going on at the same time, but it’s at five or six different places in the show at the same exact moment. So there’s different audience members viewing the show from different moments in time, all at the same time,” she said.

A few weeks ago, the theater held auditions via Instagram. Now, dress rehearsals are wrapping up for the production.

The shows will run for two weekends — July 3-5 and July 10-12. While the shows run from 6-8 p.m., the shows are 30-minutes-long and the tickets give audience members time slots for when they can arrive.

“If they have a ticket for 6-6:15 p.m., they don’t have to be there at 6,” she said, adding that they are expecting some delays because they can only admit one car at a time. “Hopefully the longest somebody is waiting to get in is like 15 or so minutes.”

A limited number of tickets for the shows became available online two weeks before the opening.

Going forward, Van Hook hopes that the format can provide The Alden and other theaters more options, both for when the interior spaces are closed and for engaging with audiences differently.

“If you’re comfortable in your car, you can be comfortable in this style of theater, which I think is really cool and could definitely open some doors for people that just are uncomfortable in a theater-type space.”

Van Hook also said the format could work well for high school drama clubs that want to put on shows to fundraise. When the coronavirus risk lessens, she said she would like to see multiple actors on the stages, improv and even audience participation.

“Once we kind of figure out the flow, there’s a lot of ways that we could adapt it and change it each time and really to be surprising.”

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For people seeking a summer activity, the McLean Community Center has organized an all-ages scavenger hunt.

The MCC Super Summer Scavenger Hunt promises participants the chance to complete 100 challenges with a team of four to 10 people, according to the website.

Each challenge consists of taking photos, geocaching, finding specific items and other such activities, the page said, adding that each task will be worth a variety of points.

“Teams earning at least 30,000 points will be entered into a grand prize drawing,” the website said.

Participation is free but only 125 teams can participate. The first 50 teams to register will receive a goodie bag, according to the page.

The challenge will run from July 1-Aug. 17. Group captains, who must be 16 or older, can register the teams online.

Team members will need a cell phone to document their findings.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Robert Ames Alden was a “walking institution” in the D.C. area, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust recently told his fellow county officials.

Alden died at the age of 87 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease on June 7, the Washington Post reported. Foust shared highlights of Alden’s career and life during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting last week.

Born in D.C., Alden worked as a sportswriter for the Cleveland Press before joining the Washington Post in 1952, Foust said. Alden covered wars, riots, natural disasters and more during his nearly 50-year career at the Washington Post.

Alden was a founder of the National Press Foundation. Foust noted that Alden, who was the National Press Club’s president in 1976, was a “leading advocate” in the 1960s and 1970s to allow women to join the Press Club.

Foust remembered Alden as a “living legend in McLean.” On the local level, Alden advocated for the community complex that houses McLean Central Park, the Dolley Madison Library and the McLean Community Center.

Foust said that the then-governing board of the community center wanted to name the building after him.

“If you knew Bob, you know he refused,” Foust said. “That would not be acceptable to him. He wanted it named the McLean Community Center.”

The community center’s auditorium and theater were named after him instead.

“He was an amazingly successful, amazingly accomplished and unbelievably nice, friendly, courteous, kind guy,” Foust said. “We are going to miss him so much.”

Photo via Alden Theatre/Facebook

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Updated 6/1/2020 — Corrects dates for second set of live performances. 

COVID-19 precautions are affecting live performances, but The Alden in McLean has found a way to bring shows to people that is similar to drive-in movies.

“Drive-Thru Drama” is set to run for two weekends in July (July 3-5 and July 10-12) with shows from 6-8 p.m., according to a press release.

The theater, which is a part of the McLean Community Center, plans to hold auditions via Instagram submissions.

“Priority will be given to actors who live, go to school or work in the MCC tax district,” the press release said. “There are no age or gender requirements in the script, but all actors must be 14 years old or older.”

More from the press release:

“Drive-Thru Drama” is the brainchild of The Alden’s Director of Youth Theatre Programs Danielle Van Hook. “Like so many, I was missing live performance and knew there had to be a way to safely produce a non-virtual show,” said Van Hook. “Nothing replaces the feeling of sitting with your neighbors in The Alden, but I hope this helps bring a little respite away from the screens and returns a level of normalcy to people’s lives.”

The show will be the debut performance of “Small Change,” a play written and directed by Andrew Scott Zimmer. Commissioned by The Alden, “Small Change” follows the travels of a $1 bill as it journeys through time and space, interacting with different people’s lives and leaving its mark on the world. Actors will perform one, cohesive story through short monologues at various stations in the center’s parking lot. Audience members will be directed to drive the route from actor to actor…

The Alden is placing several safety precautions into place to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ COVID-19 guidelines such as requiring the actors to wear personal protective equipment and setting up the route so that actors are positioned six feet away from the cars and passengers.

People should note that performance dates could change based on Gov. Ralph Northam’s orders. A limited number of tickets for the shows will be available online two weeks before the opening.

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The McLean Community Center won’t have fireworks for the Fourth of July due to public health concerns.

The community center recently announced that it plans on canceling almost all of its summer events and activities. These cancellations include McLean Day, which was set to be held this Saturday (May 16), all summer camps and the Independence Day fireworks and corresponding celebration at Langley High School, according to a press release.

“MCC has chosen to announce this decision now to allow patrons and their families the opportunity to make alternative summer plans,” the press release said.

Still, the community center plans to have things to keep people busy during this time of social distancing and staying inside.

“We will be offering, at no-cost, two- or three-day virtual activities during the time when we would have been holding camps,” George Sachs, MCC’s executive director, said in the press release.

Depending on what happens later in the summer, Sachs said that staff may reconsider hosting modified in-person camps once it is safe.

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Nightlife is zilch in Tysons at the moment due to the pandemic. After a brief hiatus, the “Tysons After Dark” series is back to highlight different online activities from local organizations that keep people busy once the sun goes down. 

McLean Community Center is closed, so the McLean Project for the Arts is shifting its art classes from in-person to online.

MCC announced the Zoom classes in its recent newsletter. Now, people can register for the classes, which include watercolor, painting, drawing and more.

Some classes are in the afternoons, while others are in the evening. The classes are on a set schedule with predetermined time slots on different days. Prices vary from class to class.

Here are some of the upcoming ones:

MPA is also offering a new class on experimental portraiture with former MPA faculty and staff member Arthur Kwon Lee, who is currently in New York City, the newsletter said.

More about the class:

The history of art cannot be told without witnessing portraiture painting in its myriad of forms. This class explores different approaches to creating the human gaze. Through the lens of art history exercises and alternative mark making approaches, artists will discover new ways to excavate the world of portraiture with excitement. Our class will emulate multiple modalities of portraiture from the De Koonings, the cubists and beyond.

The class is on Tuesdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m., starting April 21.

People who are staying at home with small kids can keep them entertained with Abrakadoodle classes.

People who are interested or have questions can contact Briana Clorey at [email protected]

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The McLean Community Center recently announced that it’s canceling McLean Day and events in April and May due to coronavirus concerns.

The annual event usually draws roughly 10,000 people to Lewinsville Park for laser tag, bubble ball and live entertainment, according to Visit Fairfax.

The event also always people to vote for candidates running for the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board.

The board decided yesterday (Wednesday) to cancel the center’s sponsored events for those two months following concerns that the events could draw large crowds, according to a press release.

Previously, the center, which is home to the Alden Theatre, galleries for the McLean Project for the Arts, the Susan B. DuVal Art Studio and meeting rooms, announced it would be closed through April 12.

Now, the center is closed “until further notice.”

As for the election, absentee voting is currently underway through 5 p.m. on May 13.

“The McLean Day in-person voting, stipulated in the Center’s Memorandum of Understanding, will be held at MCC, 1234 Ingleside Ave., as scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 16,” the press release said.

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Movie theaters and performing arts venues in the Tysons area have shut down the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The temporary closures come on the heels of the White House recommending that gatherings with 10 people or more be avoided.

Yesterday (Tuesday), Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order “that allows law enforcement to enforce a ban that prohibits more than 10 patrons in places such as restaurants, fitness centers and theaters,” Inside NoVa reported.

The newly opened Showplace Icon (1667 Silver Hill Drive) in The Boro is now “temporarily closed until further notice,” according to its website.

Over at Tysons Corner Center, which is open with reduced hours, AMC Tysons Corner 16 “is temporarily closed in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines,” according to the AMC website.

“It will re-open when those guidelines allow,” the site said. “Please continue to check back here for updates.”

Yesterday, the Angelika Film Center in the Mosaic District announced a temporary closure.

“The health and well-being of our guests and our theater teams is our top priority, and we believe that this step will be the most effective way to both retain that priority and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” says a note on the theater’s website.

The theater did not say when it plans to reopen.

Tickets bought in advance –either from Angelika or from a third-party vendor — for movie showtimes that won’t play due to the closure can be refunded.

Performing arts-goers will have to wait to watch their next play or concert in the Tysons area.

Tysons’ 1st Stage Theatre announced yesterday that it’s suspending upcoming productions.

Plans for the theater’s upcoming production of “A New Brain,” which was set to run March 26-April 19, are uncertain at this point.

The Alden Theatre at the McLean Community Center is closed until April 12.

Wolf Trap is postponing all of its performances, classes and events between March 13-31.

“We are working with the artists to reschedule their performances for future dates and will share that information as it becomes available,” according to Wolf Trap’s website. “All current tickets will be honored for the rescheduled performances.”

All of the public shows between now and April 3 are postponed at The State Theatre in Falls Church.

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(Updated 11 a.m.) Presidents’ Day is almost here and there will be closures around the area.

All Fairfax County government offices, public schools and public libraries will be closed, according to the county website.

Trash and recycling will be collected on a regular schedule if community members are customers of Fairfax County, the website said, which added that people with a private company should contact the company directly.

The Fairfax Connector will be running on a Holiday Weekend Schedule on Monday.

The Metro will be running on a Saturday schedule from 5 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., according to the WMATA website.

The Mary Riley Styles Library in Falls Church (120 N. Virginia Ave) will be closed, according to the website, along with all city offices.

Since waste collection falls on a Wednesday in Falls Church, it will not be affected by the holiday.

In the Town of Vienna, all government offices will be closed but waste collection will run on a regular schedule, according to the website.

The McLean Community Center will be closed on Monday.

Tysons Reporter will also have the day off on Monday.

Photo by Lucas Sankey via Unsplash

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Happy Friday! Here are the latest stories about the Tysons area that the Tysons Reporter team has been reading:

Falls Church Home Prices Spike — “The city of Falls Church zoomed past the District of Columbia to be the local jurisdiction where home-buyers spent more, per square foot, than anywhere else in January… The median per-square-foot cost of $453 for Falls Church property for the month was up 13 percent from a year before.” [Inside NoVa]

Furry Convention Leaving Tysons — The Mid-Atlantic region convention called “Fur the More” is moving from Tysons to Crystal City this year. [ARLnow]

Falls Church Theater Nabs Nominations — “Falls Church’s rapidly-emerging regional theater powerhouse, the Creative Cauldron, scored an astonishing nine Helen Hayes Award nominations for the past season.” [Falls Church News-Press]

McLean Board Seeking Candidates — “Local residents who are looking for ways to make a difference in the community should consider running for a seat on the McLean Community Center’s (MCC) 2020-2021 Governing Board.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Sneak Peek: Later today, look for an article on Vienna’s new economic development manager and her plans for how to spark business in the town. Next week, look for a profile of Fava Pot in Falls Church.

Weekend Send Off: Let Tysons Reporter know what your plans are for the long weekend.

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