Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Discover what the NMAAHC has to offer your family and friends and add it to your travel bucket list.


Ever since its dedication on the National Mall in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has been one of the most popular Smithsonian institutions. So many people include this museum in their Washington, D.C., itinerary that you need a timed entry pass to gain admission. Tourists can brave either the periodic timed pass release four months in advance, or try the 6:30 a.m. same-day pass release online. I recommend that you request an early entry time, like 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., to get ahead of the crowds and see as much as you can before the museum closes at 5:30 p.m.

Typically, I don’t recommend museum food, but the Sweet Home Café is really at another level in taste, quality, and ambience. It features classic dishes at four very distinct stations representing the Southern, Creole, Northern, and Western regions. Café staff are among the friendliest and personable I’ve met at a museum. Stop at the café rightbefore you embark with your group into the galleries. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time backtracking from the exhibits to the café and then finding your exhibit. Continue reading “Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture”

Review: John Lithgow’s ‘Stories by Heart’ on Broadway

John Lithgow’s latest play has its moments of hilarity, but ultimately leaves you feeling disappointed.

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John Lithgow (Daddy’s Home 2, Terms of Endearment) returned to Broadway with his play ‘Stories by Heart’ late last year. The run at the American Airlines Theatre concluded this past weekend. This one-man show focuses on Lithgow’s love of story-telling, which he instilled in him at a young age by his late father. Each act is comprised of a story each: the first with Ring Lardner’s “Haircut”, while the second delves into P.G. Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred Flits By.” Continue reading “Review: John Lithgow’s ‘Stories by Heart’ on Broadway”

How to be an Effective Mentor

Usually I write about entertainment news, but occasionally I write career development pieces for HoosNetwork. Here’s my latest article about the mentoring process.

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Up until now, my career advice has focused on how to advance one’s own prospects. To reach your current position, it’s likely that you networked (in person or through LinkedIn) and met individuals who gave you invaluable guidance. Today I’d like to address the other side of that: how do you give meaningful advice to younger friends and acquaintances asking for your help? How can you be an effective mentor?

“Send the Elevator Back Down”

I’ll never forget the speech that actor Kevin Spacey delivered at the University of Virginia last October. His House of Cards quotes were pithy and well-received (which had nothing to do with his Frank Underwood voice). The best line he delivered was not from House of Cards, but from his mentor, the late Jack Lemmon. Reaching our career milestones is all very well and good, but don’t forget to “send the elevator back down” and give someone else a boost. Continue reading “How to be an Effective Mentor”

Concert Review: Seth MacFarlane and the Great American Songbook at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, August 5, 2016

Photo of Seth MacFarlane
Seth MacFarlane. Credit: Art Streiber.

Family Guy creator, writer, and voice actor Seth MacFarlane made his Wolf Trap debut last Friday (August 5) in Vienna, VA. He’s currently on his “Great American Songbook” tour, featuring the pop standards from the 1940s and 1950s. The National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steven Reineke, joined MacFarlane at the Wolf Trap’s Filene Center.

Many selections that evening came from the works of Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins, who collaborated with famous crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Other songs were from arrangers Don Costa, Ira and George Gershwin, and lyricist Adolph Green. MacFarlane’s baritone voice is well-suited to these numbers with a flair and strength that are similar to Sinatra’s. His rendition of “Old Man River” was quite spectacular and easily one of my favorites of the night. Continue reading “Concert Review: Seth MacFarlane and the Great American Songbook at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, August 5, 2016”

Concert Review: The 2016 Summerfest Concert Series on the Plaza: Magic! and Other Popular Artists

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Nasri, lead vocalist for Magic! Credit: Pat Cuadros

The Plaza is still a relatively new addition to Tysons Corner Center, one of the premier shopping venues in Northern Virginia. However, the public square has quickly become a top spot in offering alternatives that are comparable, if not better, than the events within Washington, D.C. I’d like to spotlight the 2016 Summerfest Concert Series, which closed on July 31.

Summerfest is held annually in the summer at the Plaza, which partners with radio station 94.7 Fresh FM. It’s notable for bringing in top artists that are popular locally and across the U.S. This year’s series featured artists such as Shawn Hook, Rachel Platten, the Legwarmers, and even former American Idol contestants. The 2016 Summerfest closed with Billboard artist Ingrid Michaelson.

I arrived 15 minutes early on July 22 and I was able to stand close to the front of the throng by the stage. The winning act slated for that evening was Magic!, the Canadian reggae fusion band well known for the hit song “Rude.” They have a new single out called “Red Dress,” which is also getting airtime on the D.C. area radio stations. Continue reading “Concert Review: The 2016 Summerfest Concert Series on the Plaza: Magic! and Other Popular Artists”

Theater Review (DC): Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Kennedy Center

The Merchant of Venice is generally classified as a comedy, but the Shakespeare’s Globe production emphasizes the darker aspects of the play. Shylock the Jewish moneylender, brilliantly portrayed by Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall), stands upon the stage as a sympathetic and tragic figure by the end of the evening. It’s a pity that the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featured only five special performances in Washington, DC.

Photo of Jonathan Pryce and Dominic Mafham
Jonathan Pryce (Shylock) and Dominic Mafham (Antonio). Credit: Manuel Harlan.

Director Jonathan Munby weaves together the acting and music in a way that immerses viewers in the merriment and excesses of the Venetian setting. A masque sequence is added at the beginning with dancing, drums, and shouting wonderfully choreographed by Lucy Hind. The actors moved about in the aisles to greet us, even going so far as touching the shoulders of theatergoers hurriedly taking their seats. The opening scene also displays the outsider status of passerby Shylock when these Christian revelers cease the music and attack him. Munby confronts us with persecution and thus directs our sympathy toward Shylock from the start.

Shylock is subject to manhandling and insults by Antonio (Dominic Mafham), the titular character who borrows 3,000 ducats. Interestingly, the worst taunt is when Antonio intentionally drops Shylock’s pocket-sized book of Hebrew texts. It’s a small yet moving moment, as Pryce stoops wearily to pick up the book and reverently brushes off the dust. Continue reading “Theater Review (DC): Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Kennedy Center”

[For the Archive:] Theater Preview (DC): Shakespeare’s Globe Brings ‘The Merchant of Venice’ with Jonathan Pryce to the Kennedy Center

Here’s another piece for my archive, originally published at Blogcritics.orgThe Merchant of Venice had a great run in Washington, D.C. The production has since moved to Chicago and continues on its world tour. See the Globe Theatre on Tour site to see future performance dates and locations.

The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater will host five special performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice from July 27 through 30 in Washington, D.C. The production, directed by Jonathan Munby, stars Jonathan Pryce CBE (Wolf Hall,Game of Thrones) as moneylender Shylock. I reached out to the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to learn more about this leg of the Globe Theatre on Tour.

Photo of Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce
Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Credit: Manuel Harlan.

“The range and depth to which Shakespeare’s works have influenced storytelling throughout the ages is what makes his original works so timeless,” said Robert Van Leer, Senior Vice President of Artistic Planning. “His prose reflects themes and messages that are still relevant to our society today, such as the strong familial bond forged between father and daughter at the very heart of The Merchant of Venice.” Continue reading “[For the Archive:] Theater Preview (DC): Shakespeare’s Globe Brings ‘The Merchant of Venice’ with Jonathan Pryce to the Kennedy Center”