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TBD ArtsBook: Adios, Jose Frijoles!

December 20, 2011 - 09:51 AM
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Peter Marks writes about a kerfuffle at Shakespeare Theatre Company, which set its current production of "Much Ado About Nothing" in Cuba and renamed Hugh Oatcake and George Seacoal as Juan Huevos and Jose Frijoles.


>>"The names were considered demeaning and even derogatory by Latino theater artists," Marks writes, "who wrote of their displeasure to artistic director Michael Kahn." Kahn's changed the names. Jon Fischer notes that Marks had criticized the names in his Dec. 6 review of the production and also that Rebecca J. Ritzel had, in Washington City Paper, pointed out that in this production only the lower class characters spoke with Cuban accents. "The name switch didn't work for two reasons," Fischer writes. "1) It turned a very specific joke about class into a very broad joke about ethnicity; 2) it wasn't very smart or funny. Sure, Shakespeare penned plenty of ugly depictions. But rather than using a specific ugly depiction, Shakespeare Theatre Company attempted to transplant the spirit of that ugliness to another time and place, and failed.

>>This was all first reported by Ray Sanchez at Huffington Post on Saturday. If I get time today I'm going to go through all the reviews of this show (it has been a steady presence in my reviews roundups) and see whether anyone else mentioned the problematic names.

• "Our list of the top five D.C. jazz albums of 2011 doesn’t have a hint of provinciality." That's how Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart kick off their list of the Top 5 D.C. jazz records of the year, which fetes works by Butch Warren, Victor Provost, and...hey, you're gonna have to read it, hoss! "Luke and I really feel all the records on this list deserve national/international acclaim," Russonello writes in an email. "And maybe that attention can begin right here at home."

• Yesterday Famous Rock Critic Rob Tannenbaum told ArtsBook about his plan to save Judaism, which involves encouraging people to go see his rock group, Good for the Jews, play on Dec. 24 at Jammin' Java. Tannenbaum told me his group was the antidote to Hebrew school, which he found "a very joyless expression of Judaisim." He added: "It explains why so many unobservant Jews are abandoning the religion." His biggest beef with Hebrew school? The music. "It was folk music delicately strummed on a guitar," he told me. "It was sincere, holy, and boring as hell."

>>So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, on this morning of the first night of Hanukkah, to see a story about a Jewish folk-rock guitarist when I thumbed through my paper this morning! Michelle Boorstein writes about Rick Recht, a St. Louis-based guitarist (attention Mike Clark!) who is, Boorstein says, "one of a tiny number of well-known musicians who make spiritual music a typical Jewish teen might realistically play." The photos show Recht performing at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Potomac, and in the main one (it doesn't seem to be online, buy a paper you cheapskate) Audrey Katz, who the caption IDs as "the religious school music director" cheers him on, holding a camera and raising her hand. To her right, I swear this is true, a young child appears to be covering her ears. It's uncanny!

>>HELPFUL COPY-EDITING IN THIS ARTICLE: "The music tends to be lighter, with some of the best known songs being the tune Recht was playing about the dreidel, which is a top, or "I am a latke," by the late folk music icon Debbie Friedman." (Emphasis mine.)

>>RELATED, MAYBE? I have no idea how to aggregate this.

• Some out-of-towner named Bruce Springsteen has a byline in Style this morning, which runs his introductory text to "Someplace Like America: Tales From the New Great Depression" by Dale Maharidge and Post photographer Michael S. Williamson. (Another odd local connection: Maharidge is the person who told James O'Keefe about Huffington Post's Sam Stein's dangerous tendency to order drinks when out socially.)

• SHOULD ARLINGTON HAVE A HOLIDAY DISPLAY? How about a festive Prius surrounded by smug elves?

Mall events this week. (Smithsonian employees look forward to their annual day off, on Sunday! THEN BACK TO WORK YOU SLACKERS.)

>>RELATED: "SERIOUSLY AMAZING": Fischer notes it's "the perfect slogan for stoners," and Brooke Hatfield prepares some apparently well-researched spec graphics in case the Smithsonian wants to try to tap that market with its expensive new tagline, including one of someone eating hummus with a spoon.

• That Chris Richards-John Davis collaboration was not a one-afternoon stand, Ryan Little reports. Davis told the man who haunts Dave Stroup's dreams that they hope to record soon. Erica Bruce took some cool photos of the partnership's low-key unveiling Sunday.

• Richards, wearing his music-critic hat, runs down the Fat Trel show he caught THAT VERY NIGHT, untangles the mysteries of Trel's rider, then ends with a particularly generous (must be the season) judgment: "once Trel learns how to present these tunes with focus and urgency, watch out." Hey, let me know when he does that!

Matthew Siblo's pop-music picks.

• Do you care about the White House Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner? I do not! Like, at all! But if you do, here is some great news: Louis C.K. will be there. START THE COUNTDOWN.

Jim Magner profiles Capitol Hill artist Pam Rogers.

• Were you thinking of using your money to buy holiday gifts? Why not give it to a local theater instead, suggests Cyle Durkee, who also pulls off what ArtsBook thinks is the first occasion of triple parentheses in Washington blogging history: " READER, HE DOES IT FOUR TIMES. e.g.,"No, not to me personally (this isn’t a gossip column! [ totally is {but you have to buy me a gross martini before I’ll spill the beans}]), but to the theater." Durkee also makes a case for you spending money on buying him a martini.

• NOT ARTS, BUT: Don's post on D.C.'s laws about resisting arrest has lodged this awesome Strike Anywhere song in my head.

REVIEWS: Terry Ponick on "Billy Elliot" at KenCen. Larry Bangs on "A Christmas Carol" at Olney. Amanda Gunther on that very same production. Jennifer Perry on Jane Monheim at KenCen.


Pop: Atlas Sound w/ Carnivores and Frank Broyles at Black Cat. Sub-Radio Standard at Jammin’ Java. Holidays on the Rocks with Addieville, Meredith Bragg and more at Iota. Andy Vaughan and Driveline at Hill Country. Last Train Home at Millennium Stage. Tuesday Night Jams w/ Lucky Dub at Tryst.

Classical, jazz: Gregg Karukas “Home for the Holidays” at Blues Alley. Cathedral Choral Society: A Dickens Christmas at Strathmore. The Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas at KenCen.

Theater: “Billy Elliot the Musical” at KenCen.

What-have-you: White Elephant Gift Exchange at Busboys and Poets/14th&V. Words and Music Singer/Songwriter Series ft. Jason Mendelson and Adrian Krygowski at Artisphere.

Cheap tix! TICKETPLACE has the Washington Ballet's “Nutcracker” at Warner Theatre, “Pride and Prejudice” at Round House, more. Goldstar's got “The Nutcracker” at Olney, “Much Ado About Nothing” at Sidney Harman Hall, more.

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