30 Sep 2010

Things We Take for Granted: Local Arts Scene

photo by Marcelo Acosta

When THIH began this Things We Take for Granted Series I was really challenged to find something I really take for granted here on the Hill.  Sure I love living here but I cheat on the Hill all the time for certain must-haves that the Hill doesn’t offer like Trader Joes or my favorite yoga studio in Logan Circle. I didn’t think I could find something worthy.
Living one block south of H Street NE for almost eleven years has also left me a little too overly appreciative of everything that comes our way. I have yet to feel jaded about the tasty coffees at SOVA , the better-than-Jersey rice balls or the punky silliness of Sticky Rice. We still can’t believe our good fortune at getting to be a part of this neighborhood’s revival. Even with the popularity of the neighborhood we still feel it can all go at any moment. The recent Streetcar funding scare reminded me that we have a long way to go and vigilance is a must.

But it was there in my examination of all I treasure about my neck of the Hill, that I found it, and wow I really do take it for granted.

The Arts. We are so fortunate here to have so many opportunities for artistic engagement, enlightenment and entertainment and I for one do not take full advantage of all that’s available. And it’s doubly, possibly triply, shameful of me considering I work in the arts.

There are the more established and well-known arts players such as the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) and the Folger Theatre but in recent years artists and performers have begun to find many homes and outlets all over the Hill.

Since theatre is what I know best, I’ll start there. On the Hill there many award-winning professional theatre companies of varying size. The H Street Playhouse is home to the Theatre Alliance as well as being a regular venue for the scrappy young No Rules Theatre and the always challenging Scena Theatre. The Atlas Performing Arts Center, where I work, is home to the city’s only professional African American theatre company, the African Continuum Theatre Company and musical theatre pros, the Washington Savoyards. CHAW’s resident theatre is the excellent and (cheap!) Taffety Punk Theatre Company. They don’t perform on the Hill but the nationally recognized Shakespeare Theatre Company rehearses and educates  in their Barrack’s Row digs. We can catch the works of the Bard or maybe some Stoppard at the Folger. If you want to call Southwest the Hill-west ,which I don’t, but hey it’s Ward 6 so what the hell, let’s not forget the snazzy new digs Arena Stage has just moved into.

Dancers can learn to get their groove on at CHAW and Joy of Motion at the Atlas.  How many dance classes have I taken? Oh yes let me count… um none. Oh I threaten to all the time but I have yet to dust off my 30 year old tap shoes.

For those who love to watch dance there are lots of dance performances at the Atlas of course, and how many have I seen?  …um a few.

See I told you, shameful.

Music lovers should be in heaven here. If you like choral music there is  the Capitol Hill Chorale, the Congressional Chorus and many more, the church choirs in this neighborhood alone must be some kind of record.

Music afficionados can walk to hear free concerts at the Library of Congress, inexpensive concerts by the Capital City Symphony, or go back in time with the Folger Consort.

And then there are places like St. Marks Church which offers music, dance and a fine community theatre. The Corner Store’s programming is diverse and always interesting and the Fridge is a cool new space for visual arts and performance.

Aw man, visual arts…How could I forget? Connor Contemporary’s move to Florida Avenue NE put this neighborhood on the radar of the cool crowd and was quickly followed by Industry Gallery, Studio H, City Gallery, G Fine Art and Gallery O/H.

I know there are tons of places and organizations that I have left off here so feel free to add them in the comments.

So now I can check out a funky gallery, get some dinner and see a great play all within a few blocks of my house. Really, I hope I never taked any of that for granted.

Jen DeMayo is Communications Director for the Atlas Performing Arts Center but doesn’t even see everything that plays there.

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