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Ford’s Theatre Takes Us on a Wild and Wonderful Romp “Into the Woods”

By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor

Reprinted with permission from The Zebra Press, Alexandria, VA


The cast of Ford’s Theatre production of “Into the Woods”. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Come for Stephen Sondheim’s sublime lyrics and tunes, but stay for James Lapine’s thought-provoking set of fairy tales, hilariously sung and often wackily acted by an uber-talented and diverse cast! In addition, though, there are also moments of heart-achingly beautiful singing. 

Sondheim and Lapine discovered that if those beloved characters and tales were presented in a new way, and if dark components were added to the mix, the new “old” fairy tales would appeal to both adults and children

Stirringly directed by Peter Flynn and brilliantly choreographed by Michael Bobbitt, the actors/singers must have been asked to explore their own strengths and feelings in order to give us their best work! Rachael Zampelli as the Witch simply blew me away! Erin Driscoll as Cinderella plays her with just enough cheekiness to give Cinderella some pizazz, but her beautiful soprano on “No One is Alone” in the second act will melt your heart. 

Surprises include the adorable Tiziano D’Affuso as a lively, spunky Milky White (the cow) and Christopher Mueller, who plays Cinderella’s Prince as if he were in a melodrama, with a hilarious little hop and turn before each exit. And Little Red Riding Hood (Jade Jones) is simply wonderful.  Soprano Quynh-My Luu as Rapunzel does a magnificent job of wailing. The Baker and his Wife, played by Evan Casey and Awa Sal Secka, bring a reality to these roles.  

David Budries, the Sound Designer makes sure every single word of Sondheim’s difficult lyrics are heard, understood and appreciated! The projections are tastefully done, but graphic enough to thrill.   And William Yanesh’s strong, rich-sounding eight-piece pit orchestra never overpowers the singers. 

All in all, this “Into the Woods” is a must see!  And you’ll really thank me when you hear Cinderella’s Prince, when called out on his need to stray from the marital bed, proclaim what I think is the best Sondheim line of all time, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere!” Boom! I rest my case.

Performance and Ticket Information: “Into the Woods” runs now through May 22, 2019 and is recommended for ages 12 and older. Running time is 2 hours 40 minutes including one intermission. Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 202-347-4833. 

Sara Dudley Brown is the Theatre Editor for The Zebra Newspaper in Alexandria, Va. She graduated from Rollins College with a degree in vocal music, but her most enduring love always has been and still is professional musical theatre.



Slug It Safely!

Slugging is a phenomenon known to northern Virginia commuters and those in just a small handful of U.S. cities.  In this form of ridesharing, commuters line up at well-established locations where orderly “slug lines” are formed.  Essentially, perfect strangers pull up in their personal vehicles and announce their destination to waiting passengers known as “sluggers.”  Sluggers next in line going to that same destination jump in, and off they go.  No monies play a role in the process.  

All parties gain in the relationship, whether that means taking advantage of cost sharing or a shorter commute time via the benefit of HOV or Express Lanes.  These special lanes are available toll-free to vehicles traveling with the required number of occupants and typically have far less congestion than conventional highway lanes. 

Just as there is with any form of group interaction there are sets of rules and proper etiquette which provide for a harmonious and courteous experience for all commuters involved.  Below are suggested rules and etiquette that apply to slugging:

Rules and Etiquette for Slugging

  • Unless initiated by the driver, there is no conversation other than a “thank you” upon drop off. 
  • The slug who is first in line gets to choose the front or back seat. 
  • No money, gifts, etc. are offered or requested. 
  • The line does not leave a woman standing alone.     
  • Drivers should keep a clean car and keep the radio at a moderate level. 
  • A slug does not ask to change the radio station or adjust the heat or air conditioning. 
  • Sluggers and drivers have the right to forfeit if either feels unsafe
    or uncomfortable about each other.
  • Drivers must pick up passengers in line, not those walking in the parking lot on their way to the line.  
  • Drivers must go to the pre-established fixed destination point, unless it is made clear before passengers get into the vehicle.
  • Drivers and passengers should practice good personal hygiene and
    avoid heavy use of perfumes or colognes.  
  • No eating, drinking, smoking.

If slugging isn’t your style, explore more traditional ridesharing options like carpooling and vanpooling. Using a desktop or mobile device, finding compatible ridesharing partners is free and easy with Commuter Connections. Their database contains thousands of area commuters to help identify potential carpool partners who live and work near each other, who have similar schedules. Commuter Connections even offers several financial and other types of incentives to commuters who form or join a new carpool or vanpool.  

To look for a carpool or vanpool visit, and for more information on slugging please visit  


Metro Matters: All On Track Mixed Use, Transit Oriented Development Following Silver Line Stations

The positive economic impact of the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line in 2014 continues in Tysons and is rapidly rolling west along the Phase 2 alignment in Reston and Herndon, according to recent reports.

The three new metro stations in this area – Reston Town Center, Herndon and Innovation Center – along with the existing  Wiehle-Reston East Station are attracting new commercial and residential development, all part of the goal to attract high-density projects where people can work, live and play.

The latest news for the Wiehle-Reston East area  is the announcement that Google has signed a lease to occupy 90,000 square feet in Comstock Holding Cos. Inc.’s 1900 Reston Metro Plaza building. That’s more than one-quarter of the space available in that building. The Washington Business Journal reports that a sought-after Cleveland Clinic spinoff Centerline Biomedical is looking at the Tysons area to house a new technology facility for its research and development staff, which is on the forefront of using breakthroughs in
vascular surgery. 

Bisnow recently listed 8 new projects planned near the Phase 2 stations:

Near Reston Town Center Station

Reston Gateway: Boston Properties announced plans for almost five million square feet of mixed use development between Reston Town Center and the rail station. The site is directly across Sunset Hills Road from the north pavilion. The development includes 1.8 million square feet office, 2,010 residential units, a hotel and retail.

RTC West: JBG Smith is planning a 22-story apartment building with 283 units, a 20-story condominium building with 293 units, an eight-story office building, a seven story loft-like office building around the existing development, including the popular Cooper’s Hawk at Sunset Hills Road and Town Center Parkway.

Brookfield Properties has plans for its 36-acre site north of the Reston Town Center Station that include 1,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 250,000 square feet of retail space, including a Wegman’s. Brookfield anticipates completion of the project in 2026.

Near Herndon Station

Metro Square: Stanley Martin Homes’ Metro Square at the corner of Herndon Parkway and Van Buren Street is nearly sold out of the 64 condos finished or under construction.

Woodland Park East: Tishman Speyer, Pinkard Group and NVR are planning 1.6 million square feet of mixed use, including office, retail and housing units, including apartments and townhouses. Construction has begun on the development located south of the Dulles Toll Road and west of
Monroe Street.

555 Herndon Parkway: Penzance has plans for a mixed used development at 555 Herndon Parkway, adjacent to the north pavilion that calls for a mix of uses in 10-, 23- and 24-story towers.

Lerner Cos. has submitted a proposal to the Town of Herndon for a large mixed-used development at the north pavilion. Details have not yet been publicized.

Near Innovation Center Station 

Innovation South: Being built directly south of the rail station by Rocks Engineering and Penzance,  plans call for more than  1,000 residential units, hotel and retail and office space at The Landing.

The Hub: In Loudoun County, The Hub, by Open-Reebes, is approved for 3.5 million square feet of office, more than 1,200 housing units, retail, hotel space and entertainment facilities.

Waterside: Also in Loudoun County and north of the Hub, the 335 acres upon which Chantilly Crushed Stone sits has been approved for nearly 2,600 homes, two hotels, and 500,000 square feet of retail space.

CIT: On the Loudoun/Fairfax line is the Center for Innovative Technology building and campus, a 24-acre facility recently put up for sale by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Pomeroy Cos. has two projects planned on 40 acres at Sunrise Valley Drive and Frying Pan Road. Aurora Station at Dulles will include 1,000-plus housing units and commercial space, while Pomeroy and CRC Cos. will have another 1,114 units and space for an elementary school.

Protective Sealant Application Underway on Silver Line

Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project crews have resumed spraying a protective sealant called Silane on precast concrete wall panels to help prevent future damage from road spray and salt at some of the Phase 2 Metrorail stations.

Sealant application is 98 percent complete at Herndon Station and will begin soon at Reston Town Center Station. Spraying is also planned at the Ashburn and Loudoun Gateway stations. 

Working when weather permits, crews appear to passers-by as if they might be exterminators. Indeed, they are not. The chemical they are applying is  a protectant that has been approved as a solution to a problem with the concrete panels first reported in spring 2017 related to air entrainment and improper ratios of the water to cement mix in the concrete. This issue did not create safety concerns, but did raise concerns about the panels’ long-term durability.

In fall of 2018, crews for Capital Rail Constructors (CRC), the project’s lead contractor for the Silver Line rail extension, had replaced precast concrete panels that had been deemed inadequate. Inspections determined that the
concrete problems originated in a sub-contractor’s manufacturing process.

The Airports Authority and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which will take over the project when it’s completed, and the contractor agreed to additional mitigation — which is the application of the protective coating periodically over the coming years. These coatings will be funded by the contractor and the frequency of future coatings will be determined by WMATA, which is expected to monitor the durability over the 100-year life of the project. 

CRC suspended spraying at the Innovation Center Station in February because of weather after completing about 75% of that work at Innovation Center Station.  Innovation work has not progressed because of dynamic testing in that area and will resume as dynamic testing permits.

Warmer, drier weather should allow the process to move forward at a faster pace, according to John Kearney, the rail project’s construction manager.

According to Airports Authority rail team, crews have completed power washing panels at all stations in preparation for spraying. None of the flawed panels were installed at the Dulles Airport Station.

Rail project officials said they are happy to see the sealant application moving ahead, noting that unusually heavy rains and snows of the winter months slowed the work, which requires up to 48 hours of dry weather for the process to be completed.


Celebrate Fairfax! Festival

Northern Virginia’s largest community-wide event, the 38th annual Celebrate Fairfax! Festival, is set to take place June 7-9, 2019 on the grounds of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia.  The Celebrate Fairfax! Festival features 25 acres of amazing concerts, family programs, exhibits, thrilling carnival rides and nightly fireworks. Among the festival’s highlights are more than 120 performances on seven stages, with an exceptional line-up of national, regional and local artists, including three main attractions:

2019 Headline Entertainment Schedule for the Bud Light Main Stage:

Friday, June 7th at 8:00 p.m.  

Better Than Ezra

The ever so talented trio of Kevin Griffin, Tom Drummond, and Travis McNabb are the creative minds that make up the group, Better Than Ezra. The band’s smash hits in the 90’s, such as “Good” and “Desperately Wanting.” ingrained the band into the memories of a generation. Better Than Ezra is deeply aware of their past and they are looking to continue creating wonderful music that resonates with veteran fans as well as
new fans. 

Saturday, June 8th at 8:00pm 

Smash Mouth

Smashmouth photographed in San Jose, CA June 14, 2010©Jay Blakesberg.

Smash Mouth is a band name recognized across all generations, with parents rocking alongside their kids to hits such as “All Star,” “I’m A Believer,” and “Then The Morning Comes.” Having got their start in the late 90’s, Steve Harwell, Paul DeLisle, Greg Camp, Mike “Hippy” Klooster, and Randy Cooke’s, rise to stardom only took a couple of years, although they have since been filling their time with entertaining U.S. Troops overseas. After taking a small break from creating music, Smash Mouth is ready to take off with a new album set to release in the summer of 2019. 

Sunday, June 9th at 11:00am 

The Sunday Brew

The 3rd annual Sunday Brew will feature 12 local and regional breweries, each with up to 4 types of craft beer on tap. This program will also include two stages of non-stop entertainment, and beer-focused activities. All festival attendees are welcome to enjoy the music and activities; however, only those attendees that purchased the Sunday Brew ticket will be able to taste the craft brews. Tickets are limited.

In addition to the outstanding entertainment schedule, Celebrate Fairfax! Festival includes much more – such as the popular Silent Disco, Fairfax County Karaoke Championship, Fairfax County DockDogs Competition, PSISTORM Cup VIII esports Arena, Taste of Virginia Wine Bar, Virginia Tourism LoveArtwork, Celebrate Fairfax 5k Race, Transportation Station, Robotics Pavilion, INOVA Children’s Hospital Avenue, Sunday Brew – plus expanded VIP experiences with front of stage viewing for headliner shows. There will be more than 60 carnival rides, games, and attractions, and 30 food vendors with enough variety to please anyone. 

General admission is available for all performances; shows are free with daily tickets to the event. Super Early Bird tickets went  on sale April 1st at and May 1st at all Northern Virginia Wegmans locations. 

Celebrate Fairfax, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 organization commissioned in 1982 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  Its mission, “The Celebration of Fairfax County and Its Communities,” is met through the production of the Celebrate Fairfax! Festival, and Fall for Fairfax KidsFest.  

For more information call  (703) 324-3247 or visit the website,  


Homestead National Monument Park, FREE LAND, FREE LAND!!!

Story and photos by Jim Schlett

Since its opening in 1962, Dulles Airport has been a gateway to the nation’s capital as well as a portal to numerous vacation, historical and educational opportunities.   With a multitude of flights from less than a hour to several hours, the world awaits those who need a break from the fast and hectic pace of the Washington DC area.  The rapid expansion has been accelerated in the past decade with numerous businesses moving into the area, including many in the exciting and ever-changing area of technology.   

Can you imagine how much additional growth there would be if someone were to tell you,  FREE LAND, FREE LAND!!  It’s hard to imagine or believe, but for a long time in America, that was the actual cry and declaration.   And while you might find this hard to believe, it was even used to encourage emigration. 

As background, in 2018, I was extremely fortunate to have been selected as one of several Artist-In-Residents (AIR) at several National Parks, including the Homestead National Monument Park located in Beatrice, Nebraska.   This park tells the story of Free Land, Homesteaders, Abraham Lincoln, Emigration and the plight of the American Indian that is still being experienced to this day.   

We flew from Dulles to Kansas City and drove up to the park in early October following a portion of the journey of Lewis and Clark from over 215 years ago.  While I was at the Homestead for 2 weeks, in addition to taking photographs of the park, I began to learn and absorb as much information about the Homestead Act of 1862 and its importance in history.   For the most part, we experienced great autumn weather, crisp coolness, the start of great fall colors and even a day of snow.   My wife, Gail and I enjoyed numerous hikes and were often up for the early morning light of sunrise that is often great for what I called the “Magic Hour” for photographers.   

The area for the park was created by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt back in 1936.  The Park commemorates the Homestead Act of 1862, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, while he was also dealing with the American Civil War.  The Act eventually opened up western expansion of the United States with over 270 million acres of land with approximately 4 million claims filed.  The requirements to obtain the land were relatively simple: be over 25 years old, head of a household, live on the designated land, build a house, farm the land and stay on it for at least 5 years.  Immigrants, enslaved people, and single women could all qualify to file a claim.  Potential homesteaders found and filed their claim at a local, regional land office.  Initially it granted 160 acres of free land to claimants.  The last claim was filed back in 1976 in Alaska.

The Park itself, with about 150 acres of prairie land and 3 miles of trails, offers a fascinating look into the scope and breadth of how Homesteaders just started with a dream.  The park has 2 buildings, a Visitors Center and a Heritage Center, and engages visitors with a wealth of information and hands-on exhibitions.  Since Homesteaders were farmers, there are numerous displays of various farm equipment, a school house, a cabin and machinery at the park.   One cannot help but wonder how, without the many modern conveniences of today, that homesteaders survived their initial brutal winters.  The park, like most National Park sites, offers numerous ranger-lead activities and walks.  There are many special events that demonstrate crafts, games, and activities that would be part of the daily activities of those who claimed the land.  By joining in each day with the rangers and park volunteers, we would learn the various facets and facts of the hard life of farming.  The park arranged for a special tour of a nearby farm, where a farmer, Tim Graff, gave a great overview of running the farm and actually had us join him in his huge combine for harvesting corn for a good portion of the afternoon.  I learned first hand why this is called the “corn huskers” state.

In addition to the park being so interesting, we found that the state of Nebraska has a great deal to offer in terms of history, scenic beauty and very welcoming people. We managed to take in some of the nearby attractions while on this trip.  Some of the attractions would include the childhood home of Willa Cather, American Pulitzer Prize writer, Rock Creek Station – where the Pony Express, the California and Oregon trails all merge for a brief distance – the Arbor Day Farm, the birthplace of National Arbor Day, and a world class zoo in Omaha. 

The 2 weeks passed way too quickly but the sights and information about this unique Act and Park that changed America will long stay with me.  It’s also amazing that, even today, as it is estimated that 93 million homesteader descendants are still alive to tell their stories, including actress Whoopie Goldberg.

To see more of my photos of the National Parks, visit