Tag Archives: Columbia Heights

Ground-Breaking Performing Arts at the GALA Hispanic Theater

Our city is awash with the performing arts, from the classic to the fringe.  But a very unique and exciting component of our bustling arts scene is the Spanish-language plays, readings, concerts, and readings hosted by the GALA Hispanic Theater, “the theatre with a different accent.”  It is considered by some to be one of the country’s leading Spanish-language theaters, and along with Teatro de la Luna in Arlington, is one of the two in the national capital area.

Image: GALA Hispanic Theatre

GALA makes its home at the restored Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights, a Washington, DC institution.  Before coming GALA’s permanent home in 2005, the Tivoli opened in 1924 as a elegant movie theater, but was shuttered in 1976 and fell into disrepair.

GALA stands for “Groupo de Artistas LatinoAmericanos”, and is a full-blown theater company.  Established 34 years ago, it has staged over 165 productions (see the impressive list here).  When I visited, the mainstage performance was a play called “Ana en el trópico,” a translation of the 2003 Pulitzer award-winning and Tony nominee “Anna in the Tropics.”

Nearly all the performances at GALA are in Spanish with English subtitles, and the playbill and other pieces of information are bilingual.  There’s something mesmerizing about watching a play in another language, and realizing how much of acting and the emotions of the stage are communicated by means other than language.  It is incredibly impressive it is to see actors in action who are masters of their craft in more than one language.

GALA’s theater company stages its own productions, but the theater also hosts guest artists such as musicians, dancers, DJs, and poets.  The company is committed to outreach:  the “Galita” program provides bilingual theater for kids, the Paso Nuevo program is a theater workshop for teens, and art exhibitions decorate the walls of the theater lobby.

GALA is an excellent and essential part of the DC community—visite pronto!

To visit:  3333 14th Street NW, Washington, DC.  (202) 234-7174.  Columbia Heights Metro or many buses.  Prices depend on show.

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Hanging Out Up on 14th at The Highlands Café and Grill

The Highlands Café in Petworth (not to be confused with Highland Origin Coffee in Silver Spring) is a charming neighborhood spot that is unassuming on the outside and colorfully artsy on the inside.  Located on 14th Street between Crittenden and Decatur, this is one of “it” spots in the 14th Street Heights neighborhood.  Didn’t know that there was a 14th Street Heights district in DC?  Neither did I, so that’s another good reason to go up there and hit some of the other local staples along the way—Districto Federal, the Red Derby, etc.

The most memorable quirk about this coffee shop/restaurant/bar is its long mural on the southern wall, depicting the life-cycle of coffee from the berry-picking to the barista-ing to its enjoyment by friends.  Along with its mainstay beverage The Highlands also boasts brunch and dinner menus that seem a bit ambitious for such a small place, but the results are great—hearty, Southern-style meals with a smattering of vegetarian options.  I was a fan of the towering smoothies!

According to the mission on its website, The Highlands is trying very hard to not just be another relatively funky coffee shop in our city, but a place where patrons can interact with management and feel ownership over the location.  I can only speak to my Saturday afternoon visit, but I was very impressed with the variety of clientele, from older men reading newspapers to young Millenials rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, but the best thing is that they all clearly were residents of the neighborhood.  In my opinion, this kind of community-oriented local watering hole is just what DC needs more of!

To visit:  4706 14th St. NW, 202-829-6200.  Moderate walk from Petworth or Columbia Heights Metros, or the 52 and 54 buses will drop you outside the door.

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Harikaraoke, the Best Show in Town!

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

The District has a lot of nearly everything you can imagine…But one thing I hear again and again is that there is not enough karaoke.  There’s Peyote Cafe and there’s Cafe Japone, and a handful of others, but people seem to stumble when needing to come up with a karaoke bar, and come up with it quick.

But it just so happens this little shortage has been solved, as there’s a new show in town: Harikaraoke, karaoke with a twist–karaoke with a live band.  Doesn’t that make perfect sense?  Harikaraoke happens every Tuesday night at Wonderland in Columbia Heights (yes, yes, I know, Wonderland is a well-traveled bar, not exactly off the beaten path, but their Harikaraoke is still a secret enough that warrants posting).

The band behind this genius is a 4-man show that molds to just about every brave soul that takes the mic.  The keyboard player is intense and wonderful, pounding out his keys while making eye contact with each singer, urging them on and on as they belt out whichever classic they’ve chosen.  The bass player has the classic flowy hair of a band-man and keeps the beat like a force to be reckoned with; the drummer rocks out his rhythms in great time; and the guitarist is known to take the lead and break out into some mad solos when the force takes him.  The MC is adorable, with blue heels and a fedora hat, and a voice fit for the stage.  Together, they give every singer their shot at the stage, and they rock the house.

There must be something about doing karaoke with a live band, as there were some class acts.  One very classy gentleman took the stage and started singing “Tempted by the Fruit of Another” oh-so-softly into the microphone, never once glancing at the lyrics.  As the band got into the song, so did the singer, raising his pitch more and more, until he was howling into the mic, accompanied with a few twists and twirls and even a scream for the audience.  As he bowed and took his leave, a lovely young woman came up and rocked the house with “It’s Raining Men”.  In an ode to the Spice Girls, an unforgettable trio belted out “Tell Me What You Want”, complete with hand gestures and the works.  Another lovely lady wooed us all with “Lost Without You”, and my friend Jose dazzled the bar with his version of “Billy Jean” (yes, he danced in tribute to dear MJ, too!).  Finally, the adorable fedora-wearing, blue-heel-clad MC took the microphone and closed the night with Prince’s “Purple Rain”, which got the whole audience crooning along with her as the night came to a close.  I was honestly so sad that it was over!  (And hoarse, as I was too chicken to take the stage, but sang my heart out along with every singer from my seat.)

Oh, did I mention that it is free to get in, and comes with a bar special of $3 brewskis accompanied by a complimentary shot of “liquid courage” (aka: vodka)??  Tuesday nights at Wonderland–8 pm – 10 pm.  See you there!

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