It's been a good weekend overall. I ran 7 miles this morning with a friend down the Mt. Vernon trail. We were going to run 8, but we started a bit late. I didn't realize there was another race going on at the same time, so we ran through packs of sweaty and somewhat grim people with numbers pinned on their chests. They were running a 20-mile race, from President George Washington's Mt. Vernon home to Alexandria and back.
"First Americans Festival": In celebration of the opening of the Smithsonian's long-awaited and much bally-hooed National Museum of the American Indian, I spent most of the day yesterday on the Mall downtown soaking in the sun at the "First Americans Festival." I watched fabulous dances by different Native American troupes, ate Indian tacos (fry bread topped with cheese, ground beef, kidney beans, lettuce and tomatoes) and listened to Native American chanting and music.
Scroll down for photos: Instead of yet another photo of the lake, I've posted some pictures of the festival along with a couple of a traveling exhibit in front of the U.S. Capitol, "Coexistence." The 36-billboard exhibit is sponsored by the Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding and Coexistence in Jerusalem and was created by artists from around the world.
The point of the exhibit, according to the museum's web site: "In today's global world, our societies are changing and adapting to new realities. We are learning to live with differences and to respect our neighbors. It is not always easy and we do not always succeed, but we must continue to try and confront our misunderstandings and prejudices."
Oh yes, the naked men: The men in the native Hawaiian dance troupe, "Halau O Kekuhi," wore provocative dark red sashes around their waists, which covered their privates well enough. Except when they knelt and leaned back. Then, you could see pretty much everything - especially from where I sat, which was about two feet away, and at about groin level.
Also, on Friday night, I saw an intense performance of David Henry Hwang's "M. Butterfly" with two friends. If you're in Washington, you must see it. You will not regret it. It's at Arena Stage until October 17.
The young actor who plays Song Liling, the linchpin of this drama on gender, identity and East-West politics, is going to be a star: his acting was nuanced, powerful, and blistering. His name is J. Hiroyuki Liao, and he just graduated from Juilliard. The Washington Post's normally reserved theatre critic called this production of the 16-year-old play "smashing," and said Liao's "seismic performance all but rattles the roof." Read the review here.
What I didn't notice: the small sign as I entered the theatre, which warned there would be nudity. We got full-frontal, as it were. Liao strode around the stage in the second act for a few excruciating minutes with nary a stitch. I was so surprised that I had to tell myself not to act like an abashed, Victorian schoolgirl. I made myself look at him, not down at my shoes. He has a great body, by the way. Lithe yet muscular.
My activities this weekend are just two examples of why I love Washington: great theatre, and it's a cultural hot spot for international as well as American art. I would miss all of this if I moved to the boondocks, even northern California's pristine and exclusive boondocks.