If you have never been to the Shakespeare Theatre Company's (STC) 'Will on the Hill' event you don't know what you have been missing. It is a fun filled evening with members of Congress and the media taking to the stage to recite lines they most likely would never consider in their real lives.
Tuesday evening's production was the eleventh year that members of Congress came to perform and the event raised nearly $500,000 for the Shakespeare Theatre's Education Department which introduces young people in D.C., Virginia and Maryland to the wonders of classical theater and the Bard. Before the main event we were treated to a performance by a group of Maryland high school students who directed, developed their own costumes and props, and acted in a production titled 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' with a design concept that had it taking place in the Kingdom of Hawaii. It was a treat to watch as young women played all the parts.
When the main event began we knew why as usual the evening began with a cocktail party. It had the effect of ensuring that everyone, including the performers, were in a relaxed state of mind. The play called Toil and Trouble was written by Peter Byrne and directed by Alan Paul. The cast included two professional actors, Anna Chlumsky who can be seen in the second season of the Emmy nominated show Veep, and Todd Scofield who has been in numerous STC productions including Two Gentlemen of Verona and Cymbeline. Members of congress and the media who lent there 'thespian talents' to the play included Senator's Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), rRoger Wicker (R-MS) and members of the House of Representatives Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Michael Grimm (R-NY) and hit of the evening Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), among many others. Just think the wonderful havoc Eleanor could create if she really had a vote. It was a truly bi-partisan evening. Media luminaries included Chris Matthews (NBC), Rita Braver (CBS) and Jonathan Allen (Politico).
The Shakespeare Theatre Company under the artistic direction of Michael Kahn, who was recently inducted into the New York theater Hall of Fame and honored by Queen Elizabeth II with an honorary Commander of the British Empire designation, is truly one of the gems of District of Columbia. For such fun fundraisers that further education as Will on the Hill or next week's 'Mock Trial,' a special event in which members of the Supreme Court will participate, to its current brilliant productions of Wallenstein and Coriolanus running through June 2nd if you haven't yet been to the Harman Theatre you should buy your tickets today.
This past Tuesday evening Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company was presented with his Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to the United States.
The investiture was held at the Ambassador's residence with about 40 of Michael's close friends, actors and supporters in attendance. After the ceremony an additional one hundred guests attended a benefit for the Theatre held in the residence which included a sumptuous buffet dinner and program of Shakespeare directed by Alan Paul who will also be directing A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum next season. Readings were performed by the amazing Stacy Keach, the beautiful and talented Franchelle Stewart Dorn, and the very talented Patrick Page. Patrick has just received incredible reviews for his performance in Coriolanus, directed by David Muse which is currently running as part of the Hero Traitor Repertory along with Wallenstein.
This had been a great year for Michael who has been honored so deservedly for all that he has done for theatre in America. In addition to the Shakespeare Theatre Company receiving the Tony award for best regional theatre, Michael Kahn was inducted into the Broadway Theater Hall of Fame adding to the many honors he has already received.
Michael's latest work is directing Wallenstein and he and the cast have both received rave reviews. It is a play by Friedrich Schiller that has been adapted for this production by former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky. The Hero Traitor Repertory will be at the Shakespeare Theatre through June 2nd.
In less than a week people will go to the polls to choose a Councilmember at-large to fill the seat vacated when Phil Mendelson was elected Council Chair. There are six candidates running and each is still trying to convince the voters that they are the right person to sit on the Council. Many of them are making good points on their own behalf and would serve the District well.
But one, Patrick Mara, is showing clearly that he is the wrong person for the District. Many believe I oppose Mara because he is a Republican but that is not the case. I have supported Republicans in the past including Mara when he first ran in 2008. I thought then he meant what he said and would fight for the positions he took on social issues. But since that time I have realized it was all just pandering to voters. Something he continues to do today. I supported her and was a Co-chair of Carol Schwartz's issues committee in 1994 when she came closer than ever before to defeating Marion Barry for Mayor.
So my problem with Mara isn't that he is a Republican but rather what he supports, his apparent ethical lapses, and the total hypocrisy of his positions. This week we found out two new things about Mara. One is that he is opposed to raising the minimum wage and thinks $8.25 an hour is a living wage in the District. The second was reported in a Washington Post story and is that Mara made money by using his 2008 campaign donor list to raise money for the conservative group Think Progress, now renamed the R Street Institute. Mara claims that the work he did for the group involving his campaign list was actually different than what was called for in a contract he confirmed he signed. Either way the candidate who claims he will watch others ethics now clearly needs someone to watch his own. Ken McGhie, general counsel for the D.C. Board of Elections, said "He has never heard anything close" to the agreement Mara signed and added "Donor lists are not the property of the individual but rather the property of the campaign."
Joseph Sandler, who specializes in election law was quoted saying "Current or former candidates cannot benefit personally from a resource that belongs to the campaign."
The voters in the District are the most progressive voters in the nation. Polling on issues from women's rights to marriage-equality has shown that the people who live and vote in D.C. believe strongly in equality and individual rights. While Mara talks a good game and has appeared to fool many people the fact is that despite his talk he acts against these positions. While many moderate Republicans, among them Colin Powell, have stood up against their Party when they felt that it was going against their principles Mara hasn't. Not only hasn't he stood up within his Party for what he tells the voters he believes; instead he has supported as a delegate, with work and money, the most conservative candidates his Party has ever put forward. If Mara had his way, Mitt Romney would be President instead of Barack Obama and we would have the next Supreme Court Justice appointed vote against same-sex marriage and to overturn Roe v. Wade. Add to that while Mara sat on the board of D.C. Vote he supported a candidate who would have vetoed Statehood for the District and as a member of the State Board of Education he supports school vouchers (giving public funding to private schools) which in D.C are used 96% for sending children to parochial schools which actively discriminate against children, parents and teachers in the LGBT community.
Mara does not represent the views of the people of the District of Columbia which makes him wrong for the people of D.C.