| August 18, 2014 | Culture
This fall, head to The National Book Festival, the DC Shorts Film Festival, and other can't-be-missed cultural finds.
1. The Smithsonian’s “The First Ladies” Collection's Centennial
Michelle Obama’s stunning red gown that Jason Wu designed for the 2013 inaugural ball is drawing in visitors from now until January 2015.
A crowd-pleasing exhibition, the Smithsonian’s “The First Ladies” celebrates a centennial anniversary. What started out as a small, curated collection of just 15 gowns in 1914 has grown to include a dress from each presidential administration and more than 1,000 other items, including china and jewelry. Unique to the exhibition right now is a contemporary offering with First Lady Michelle Obama’s second inaugural gown—the ruby-colored chiffon Jason Wu number she wore to the ball in 2013—on loan from the White House to the National Museum of American History until January 19, 2015. Also on display currently are Grace Coolidge’s f lapper-style evening gown, the yellow-silk dress worn by Jackie Kennedy to the Kennedys’ first state dinner in 1961, and the slate-blue crepe gown Eleanor Roosevelt wore to the 1933 inaugural ball.
The dresses and other items featured in the ever-evolving show—one of the Smithsonian Institution’s most popular—are rotated in and out to keep them in good condition. The latest version of the exhibit opened in November 2011 and features 26 gowns on display along with more than 60 other items. The oldest gown in the Smithsonian’s collection belonged to Martha Washington, while the oldest inaugural dress belonged to Andrew Jackson’s niece Emily Donelson, who wore it to Jackson’s 1829 inaugural ball—his wife, Rachel, died just a few months before it took place. Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, 202-633-1000
2. The National Theatre's Performance of Dirty Dancing, August 26–September 14
Relive the iconic ’80s summer-set film with the National Theatre’s performance of Baby and Johnny’s love story. Sing along to nostalgic hits, like “Hungry Eyes” and “Do You Love Me?” The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. MW, 202-628-6161
3. Library of Congress National Book Festival, August 30
After a decade on the National Mall, The National Book Festival will relocate to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this year. Still, the indoor fest will display as many literary works and authors as years past, plus new events, such as an evening panel discussion with flm experts, followed by a screening of a movie adapted from a classic book. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW, 888-714-4696
4. DC Shorts Film Festival, September 11–21
Crowned the “Coolest Short Film Festival” by Moviemaker Magazine, the DC Shorts Film Festival is the largest short-movie event on the East Coast, featuring films from all around the globe. In 2013, the festival narrowed down more than 1,200 flms from 51 nations to just 152 for festivalgoers. 1317 F St. NW, Ste. 920, 202-393-4266
5. Season Opening Ball Concert, September 21
For the National Symphony Orchestra’s major fundraiser, Steven Reineke and the Kennedy Center’s music director Christoph Eschenbach will co-conduct a performance in tribute to incoming Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter. After the performances, an elegant dinner will precede the black-tie ball. The unforgettable night will feature performances by Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara, with a French twist to bring it together. 202-416-8102
6. Maureen Corrigan's Releases Latest Book
This September Maureen Corrigan—Washington Post’s Book World writer, NPR’s Fresh Air book critic, and critic-in-residence and lecturer at Georgetown—releases her latest book, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures (Little, Brown and Company, $26). The tome takes a deeper look at The Great Gatsby—a book Corrigan claims most of us were too young to fully understand when we first read it in high school—and what makes it a literary classic. The book is Corrigan’s second; her first, Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading, was published in 2005 ($16). Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-364-1919
7. Cirque du Soleil: Amaluna
A scene from Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna.
Following the success of Totem in 2012, Cirque du Soleil returns to the DC area to celebrate its 30th anniversary with its latest show—its 32nd production—Amaluna. Directed by Tony Award–winning director Diane Paulus, Amaluna tells the tale of a love between a queen’s daughter and a young suitor on a mysterious, goddess-governed island guided by the cycles of the moon. In keeping with the Cirque tradition that offers a wildly vivid and imaginative experience, Amaluna immerses its audiences in a spectacle of lights, an exhibition of acrobatics, and the added visual interest that comes with more than 130 costumes, courtesy of costume designer Mérédith Caron, made of almost 800 different items.
Tickets to Amaluna, under the Big Top at National Harbor, range from $35 to $495, with shows scheduled through September 21. The Plateau at Downtown National Harbor. 165 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill, MD, 800-450-1480
8. "Monumental WoodWork" at the Kreeger Museum
In a new exhibit by guest curator MIlena KalInovska—on display September 16 through December 27—the Kreeger Museum pays homage to Emilie Brzezinski, a Swiss master sculptor who lives in Northern Virginia and has spent the past 20-plus years chain-sawing, chopping, and hand-chiseling found wood into unique works of art. 2401 Foxhall Road NW, 202-337-3050
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN'S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY (FIRST LADIES); CHARLES WILLIAM PELLETIER (CIRQUE)
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