It wouldn’t be summer in Washington without a few outdoor concerts–and this weekend marks two of the best free ones of the season. And if you can’t stand the heat, the Woolly Mammoth’s latest show opening this week is sure to be a ghoulish but funny take on D.C. politics. Get the scoop in my Washington Times column, available in the print edition, PDF format, and below. Happy Memorial Day!
By Samantha Sault
Pick of the Pack: National Memorial Day Concert
Since the Civil War, we’ve reserved a day in late May to honor those who have died serving our country, and in 1971, Congress officially named the last Monday in May a holiday for the important cause. If you have the day off on Monday, there’s no better way to spend your Sunday evening than by enjoying a free patriotic concert and remembering those who don’t get a break from defending our freedoms. For the 26th year, the National Memorial Day Concert will honor all members of the U.S. Military with musical performances, dramatic readings, and pomp and circumstance on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Hosted by Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”) and Gary Sinise (“Forrest Gump”), the concert will feature Gloria Estefan, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, and Tessanne Chin, winner of the fifth season of “The Voice,” as well as the National Symphony Orchestra and several military bands. The gates open at 5 p.m. for the 8 p.m. concert, and early arrival is recommended to get through the metal detectors and secure a spot. Sunday at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Web: pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert.
Jazz: Jazz in the Garden
This weekend marks the launch of Jazz in the Garden, a “must do” for anyone spending time in the Nation’s Capital during the summer. Beginning Friday, and running every Friday (weather permitting) through the end of August, the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden will spring to life with free concerts featuring local jazz musicians. Bring a blanket and a (non-alcoholic) picnic, or purchase food and beverages from the Pavilion Cafe, including grilled favorites, hors-d’oeuvres, gelato, and wines, beers and sangria by the pitcher. This Friday’s performer is Tom Lagana, a jazz guitarist who played with the Walt Disney Jazz Band before returning to his home state of Maryland, where he frequently performs at bars in Annapolis and festivals across the country. Other highlights include vocalist Juanita Williams on May 29, the DC Jazz Festival concert on June 12, and Speakers of the House, an old-school funk, boogaloo, and rock band, to kick off Independence Day weekend. Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, National Mall at 7th St. NW & 9th St. NW. 202/737-4215. Web: nga.gov.
Wine: Memorial Day Weekend at Paradise Springs
If you’re regretting not booking a Memorial Day vacation, it’s not too late to spend your weekend in paradise — Paradise Springs Winery, that is. Located in Clifton, Virginia, it’s the closest winery to Washington, D.C., though it will surely feel much farther when you’re enjoying an award-winning bottle of red or white in the countryside. This weekend, the winery will kick off a series of summer weekend events including live music every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as outdoor movie screenings on Saturday evenings. Enjoy music and wine tastings on the patio from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, and from 2 p.m. through the evening on Saturday and Sunday. Or, arrive by 8 p.m. on Saturday for a screening of “A Walk in the Clouds” starring a young Keanu Reeves and Debra Messing, free with the purchase of a bottle. All weekend long, Rocklands BBQ sandwiches will be available to soak up your tastings. Friday through Sunday at Paradise Springs Winery, 13219 Yates Ford Road, Clift on, VA. 703/830-9463. Web: ParadiseSpringsWinery.com.
Theater: Zombie: The American
If you can’t wait for “Fear the Walking Dead,” the spinoff of AMC’s hit zombie show, you can get your zombie fix during the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s new production, which premieres Monday. “Zombie: The American” is a political satire set in the year 2063, following the first openly gay U.S. president who faces a slew of challenges ranging from a cheating first gentlemen to zombies in the White House basement. Part of the Woolly Mammoth’s FREE THE BEAST! initiative to produce 25 new plays in 10 years, the play is “a cross between Jacobean tragedy and Dr. Strangelove,” according to playwright Robert O’Hara. Reserve tickets for June 5 or June 12 to enjoy a post-show discussion with zombie experts and aficionados, or June 7 to “zombify” yourself during an interactive pre-show workshop. Through June 21 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. 202/393-3939. Web: WoollyMammoth.net.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC and Samantha Sault