Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

Fairfax County Implements New COVID-19 Call Center — The health department says the new center will enable the county to “better meet the needs of our residents during the upcoming transition to Phase 2 and beyond.” Wait times may be prolonged this week as the department resolves issues with the new system and trains more call agents. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Virginia Investigates Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Death — Health officials stated yesterday that one of the six U.S. cases of a person developing blood clots after receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine appears to involve a Virginia resident who died in mid-March. Use of the vaccine has been paused throughout the country as the cases are under review. [Patch]

“Hamilton” Returning to the Kennedy Center — “The Kennedy Center announced on Tuesday its theater lineup for the upcoming season, which will include performances of Hamilton, Jersey Boys, and Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird. Theater curtains will first raise on October 13 for a staging of Tony-winner Hadestown, a return to live theater that may cause musical buffs to break out into a chorus line.” [Washingtonian]

Tysons Company Provides Air Monitoring to D.C. SchoolsSenseware has installed its air monitoring data platform in D.C.’s 112 public schools. The Tysons-based software developer says its technology can detect the presence of COVID-19 particles and help users monitor air quality to reduce the risk of viral transmission. [PR Newswire]

Vienna Coffee Shop Donates Beans to Food Bank — “Donating bags of our coffee beans to @foodforothers! Here at Caffe Amouri, we believe in giving back to our community that shows up for us every day. Thank you @foodforothers for letting us be apart of your mission” [Caffe Amouri/Twitter]

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) 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 (March 29)

  • COVID-19 Sports Informational Meeting (Online) — 6 p.m. — The Fairfax County Health Department will discuss COVID-19 & athletic programs. The county has provided a handout with policies related to COVID-19 and its effect on athletics. There will be time to voice any questions or concerns during the meeting. Questions may be sent in advance to [email protected].

Wednesday (March 31)

  • Celebree School Groundbreaking — 11 a.m. at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Dr.) — Celebree School, a private early childhood education franchise, will break ground on its new location in Tysons. Families and other community members are invited to attend as construction begins on the school, according to a press release.

Thursday (April 1)

Friday (Apr. 2)

Saturday (Apr. 3)

  • Outdoor Yoga — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at The Boro (8350 Broad Street) — Join The Boro for an early morning of yoga in celebration of the beginning of spring. All registered participants will receive a $10 gift card from Flower Child and a cherry blossom treat. Tickets are $20 per person, $10 from each ticket will be donated to Autism Speaks.
  • Bunny Hop — 10 a.m. on the east side of Falls Church City — The City of Falls Church canceled its annual Easter egg hunt, but families can celebrate instead by greeting Mr. and Mrs. Bunny as they drive through neighborhood streets, escorted by city staff, police, and the sheriff’s department.
  • Mini Golf and Egg Hunt — 11 a.m. at Burke Lake Park (7315 Ox Road) — Celebrate Easter at Burke Lake Park with socially-distanced mini golf and an egg hunt. Groups of up to five people can register for $10 per person to play through the specially decorated course, which will culminate with the egg hunt at the 18th hole. For more information, call 703-323-6600.
  • Drive-In Movie at Mosaic — 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Market Garage (8295 Glass Alley) — Pull up for a springtime movie at the Mosaic District. For $28 per car, enjoy a movie on the roof of the Market Garage. Saturday’s two movies are “Mary Poppins” at 4 p.m. and “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” at 7:30 p.m. See the Mosaic website for tickets and more information.

Sunday (Apr. 4)

  • Drive-In Movie at Mosaic (8295 Glass Alley) — 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. — The Mosaic District’s spring-themed drive-in movie series continues today with “Hop” at 1 p.m. and “42” at 4 p.m. Screenings will again cost $28 per car and take place on the roof of the Market Garage. Sunday’s shows will include a special appearance from the Easter Bunny. See the Mosaic website for tickets and more information.

Photo via The Boro/Facebook

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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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Monday Morning Notes

Winter Weather Advisory in Effect Until 10 A.M. — The D.C. area could experience light freezing rain and ice accumulations up to an inch this morning. Travelers should expect slippery road conditions, slow down, and use caution. [National Weather Service]

Fairfax County Police Chief Retires — Edwin C. Roessler officially retires today after leading the Fairfax County Police Department for eight years. He oversaw key reforms, such as the creation of a civilian review board and the introduction of body-worn cameras, but some officers reported “a disconnect” with department leaders on issues like discipline, compensation, communications and promotions. Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer is now serving as interim chief as a search for a permanent successor continues. [The Washington Post]

Falls Church Nonprofit Theater Gets Permanent Home — “After a tumultuous six-year journey, Creative Cauldron will have a new home, thanks to the hard work and tenacity of Insight Property Group and the City to bring the best possible project to the Broad and Washington Crossroads.” [Falls Church News-Press]

McLean Art Teacher Finds Success with Zoom Classes — “[Pamela] Saunders, a mom of two who has taught in McLean since 2004, typically teaches classes at Brooksfield School, Chesterbrook Elementary, Franklin Sherman Elementary and Kent Gardens Elementary. But once the pandemic hit, she moved from the classroom to Zoom so students could continue art lessons while staying home.” [Patch]

Photo by Craig Fingar

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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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Anyone who says a Zoom webinar can’t be action-packed should brace themselves for the young actors of the Traveling Players Ensemble, who will be fighting ogres, evacuating subways and fleeing detectives in three one-act plays adapted for Zoom next week.

The players are making final preparations for the inaugural festival, which will be held on Dec. 13 with shows from 2-3:15 p.m., 3:30-4:45 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for access to a Zoom webinar.

A McLean-based theater company for youths in grades 4-12, the Traveling Players Ensemble is known for its summer camps, so when COVID-19 arrived this spring, it had to make a choice: be outdoors with masks, or be virtual without them.

Since masks were not going to be an effective way to perform, the group went virtual. Producing Artistic Director Jeanne Harrison says she was pleasantly surprised by the results.

“We couldn’t believe it worked, or that the community became strong,” she said. “We thought it would be isolating. It didn’t work for 100% of the kids, but it worked for most of them.”

She decided to carry that energy into the fall by doing something new for TPE: fall plays. The young actors are upbeat about performing for the Zoom screen.

“I feel like it hasn’t affected the way I act very much,” said Sara Kaufman, who plays Flavia, a teen who travels back in time to first-century London when it was occupied by the Romans, in “Dust.”

While she does not have to do as much physical blocking, Kaufman says “you can still interact and play off people’s energies online on Zoom.”

She and fellow actor Kaitlyn McCarley say it is hard not to see the audience and play off their reactions. Instead, Kaufman, McCarley, and fellow actor Liam Mclaughlin read the congratulatory messages on the Zoom chat for a confidence boost between acts.

Mclaughlin plays a comic relief character named Unferth in “Beowulf (and the Bard).” While his acting has not changed, he has started moving the camera around to alter what the audience sees for comedic effect.

“Sometimes, that makes things, if anything, a bit better,” Mclaughlin said. “You can do a lot of things with a camera that you couldn’t do with an audience’s point of view.” Read More

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ShowPlace Icon didn’t know when its Tysons location opened in February that the contactless kiosks would come in handy for a pandemic.

The kiosks are just one of the ways the newly reopened theater aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19. From the “digital box office” to the mobile app, Jim Nowicki, the theater chain’s marketing director, shared with Tysons Reporter how technology is playing a starring role in the theater’s reopening and overall brand.

“I think initially when we opened, people were apprehensive to use the kiosks because they like that human touch factor,” Nowicki said. “And then who knew that a couple of months later, we are way ahead of the curve, and everyone loves the fact that we have kiosks and a very vibrant mobile app.”

The luxury theater (1667 Silver Hill Drive) has turned to online and mobile ordering as a selling point to bring movie-goers back.

When people order their tickets, the system automatically blocks off seats around the reserved ones to keep people 6 feet apart, Nowicki said. While Nowicki doesn’t expect people to disregard the seating assignments during the pandemic, he said staff will check to make sure everyone is sitting where they are supposed to.

When Tysons Reporter talked to Nowicki, the theater in The Boro had been open for five days after its months-long closure.

The 72,000-square-foot theater originally opened in February, boasting large-format auditoriums, heated recliners, 4K laser projection and more. The Boro location especially emphasized its restaurant and bar — both of which are still temporarily closed as the theater brings back its offerings in phases, Nowicki said.

People can still get their popcorn and drinks from the concession stand’s limited menu. When people get food through the mobile app, the order will be sent to the concession stand for preparation when they check-in at the theater, he said.

“We just want to make sure that our experience when it’s open, is the best experience possible, and we didn’t want to rush our openings and have someone come into an inferior experience,” Nowicki said.

Even though movie theaters could reopen when Virginia’s Phase 3 guidelines went into effect on July 1, Nowicki said that ShowPlace waited to reopen in mid-August so that safety protocols would be in place and movie-goers could see new films, like “Unhinged,” the thriller starring Russell Crowe, and “Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula,” the horror film about soldiers battling post-apocalyptic zombies in Korea.

“Our numbers have been slower, obviously than in our opening, but we’re building so every day we’re starting to see more and more guests coming in,” Nowicki said, adding that word-of-mouth and spreading information about the theater’s safety measures are big factors for enticing people back.

To talk to customers directly, the theater is relying on its Extras Club, a free membership program that offers discounted and advance tickets, and a social media campaign. The theater also signed on to the National Association of Theatre Owners’ CinemaSafe Program that features safety guidelines developed by epidemiologists. (Full lists of the program’s guidelines and ShowPlace Icon’s safety measures are online.)

Now, COVID-19 delays that pushed the big summer movies, like “Wonder Woman 1984” and the James Bond film “No Time to Die,” to the fall and winter will hopefully entice viewers, Nowicki said.

Nowicki said he doesn’t expect the shifting release dates to be difficult for the theater, noting that the movie industry in recent years has already seen adjustments for when blockbusters hit screens.

“You used to have your big films start in June or late May when school is out, but then you started seeing films opening in early May and then you start seeing films opening in late April to build to the early May, to build to June,” Nowicki said. “So now you’re really seeing big films in March.”

With people working from home in the Tysons area, ShowPlace Icon is staying flexible about expanding its mid-day showtimes. “We still have a lot of people who can come out to matinee shows or come out to weekday shows, and they’re eager to do it,” Nowicki said.

The theater is now screening “The New Mutants” and “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” along with offering early access to “Tenet.”

Nowicki said he expects “Tenet” will be a “game-changer” that will fill more seats: “We want this to be successful, and we actually want people to come back and have a little bit of escapism.”

First photo courtesy ShowPlace Icon

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An interactive mystery show about a “super sleuth” is coming to McLean as The Alden embarks on its second Drive-Thru Drama performance this summer.

“From the Ash Baxter Files: The Search for the Stolen Spyglass” is a family-friendly mystery show about a high school student who is trying to find out which suspect stole his teacher’s priceless spyglass, according to a press release. The show was written by Andrew Scott Zimmer.

The Alden, which is a part of the McLean Community Center, debuted Drive-Thru Drama in July with a show written and directed by Zimmer about a $1 bill that travels through time and space. The show was a “hugely successful first attempt that sold out all performances,” according to the press release.

Here’s how Drive-Thru Drama works: the audience drives to various locations around the McLean Community Center’s parking lot (1234 Ingleside Ave) to watch actors perform short scenes that tell a cohesive story. The actors wear personal protective equipment and stay six feet away from each other and the passengers.

“We were thrilled to see so many enjoy our first Drive-Thru Drama performance in July! Since then we have been working to develop a new show and I think audiences will enjoy the surprises that we have in store,” Danielle Van Hook, the show’s producer and The Alden’s director of Youth Theatre Programs, said.

Van Hook told Tysons Reporter earlier this year that medieval pageant wagons inspired the “Drive-Thru Drama” production.

The show is set to run for three weekends in September: Sept. 11-13, Sept. 18-20 and Sept. 25-27. The theater is currently seeking actors and plans to hold auditions on Tuesday, Aug, 18, according to the press release.

Tickets are $20 or $15 for people who live in the McLean Community Center tax district and must be purchased in advance.

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The Tysons Corner Center theater is among the more than 100 locations AMC Theatres plans to reopen next week with one-day-only 15-cent tickets.

The movie theater chain announced the plans today, saying that the steeply-discounted ticket prices will celebrate AMC’s 100th anniversary by giving audience-goers ticket prices from the 1920s.

The more than 100 locations will offer the 15-cent tickets for their reopening on Thursday (Aug. 20).

“We are thrilled to once again open our doors to American moviegoers who are looking for an opportunity to get out of their houses and apartments and escape into the magic of the movies,” Adam Aron, the president and CEO of AMC Theatres, said in the announcement.

Roughly 300 other AMC locations are slated to reopen within the following two weeks — in time for Disney’s “The New Mutants,” which is expected to get released on Aug. 28, and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” on Sept. 3, the announcement said.

The remaining one-third of the theaters will reopen “only after authorized to do so by state and local officials,” the announcement said.

Photo by Corina Rainer/Unsplash

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Traveling Partners Ensemble is hosting an online festival of classic plays next week.

Located in Tysons Corner Center, the theater troupe works with kids and teens in the D.C. area. The festival will be streamed via Youtube with performances running from 3 p.m. until closing words at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 17.

“Ariadne’s Thread,” the first performance, will begin at 3:15 p.m. and is approximately 25 minutes long, according to a press release from the company. The piece recreates the Greek myth Theseus and Minotaur and involves all things gods, goddesses, epics and more. The company commissioned the play from Judy White, their playwright-in-residence, in 2013. 

“The Imaginary Invalid” will begin at 4 p.m. and is approximately 40 minutes long. This piece picks on hypocrisy within the medical profession and was written by French playwright Moliere. 

Finally, “The Tempest” will begin at 5 p.m. and is approximately an hour long. The company will bring to light Shakespeare’s tale about wild human nature while stranded on an island, and how characters how are very different come together to eventually achieve peace.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 each. 

In addition to the festival, the theater group is hosting two summer programs — one for fourth- to eighth-grade students and another for pre-college students — online.

People interested in joining the summer programming can participate in the next set of auditions via Zoom on July 11, according to the press release. 

Photo via Traveling Players Ensemble/Facebook

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