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Happy 2011 everyone! Hope you’re feeling refreshed and re-energized for the year ahead. Being the first week back from the holidays, this week is a bit lighter than usual, but there are still some fabulous free and donation-based things to do. Enjoy these picks from my site, Free in DC.


Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) present “Reparations and Reconciliation: A panel discussion about Iraq’s humanitarian crisis” at 6 p.m. at Busboys and Poets 14th & V. Panelists will discuss the road forward for the Iraqi people as the occupation ends. Speakers include IVAW’s Geoff Millard, Iraqi American and Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal, Ryan Harvey of Civilian-Soldier Alliance, and Richard Rowely of Big Noise Films. The event is a fundraiser to benefit IVAW’s upcoming humanitarian aid trip to Basra, Iraq. Donations encouraged.

Beltway Poetry Slam winner and AIDS awareness activist Marie Elaine takes the stage at BloomBars’ first open mic night of the year, in Columbia Heights. “The Garden” is open to all performers of all styles and all ages and is by donation. Sign-up starts at 8:30 p.m. and the show goes from 9 to 11 p.m.

The Tuesday concert series at the Church of the Epiphany, near Metro Center, kicks off the new year with a free performance by the St. Petersburg Trio, part of the Washington Balalaika Society, from 12:10 to 1 p.m. $5 donation encouraged.

Like traditional jazz? Then head over to the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage from 6 to 7 p.m. to see D.C.-based Project Natale, featuring brothers Joseph and Lou Natale, on bass and drums, tenor saxophonist Carl Cornwell, and pianist Bob Butta.

Bring some play and spontaneity into your life this week! Washington Improv Theater (WIT) is hosting free two-hour improv workshops every night this week, Monday through Friday, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the U Street Corridor’s Studio School. I know some folks who have taken classes with WIT and have raved about them, so here’s your chance to cut loose and get a taste of what improv is all about. You’ll need to fill out a survey and include the date and time of the class you’d like to attend to get in, and you’ll receive an e-mail confirmation the morning of the class.

If you enjoy poetry and spoken word that you might be interested in the Tuesday Night Open Mic, every week at Busboys and Poets 14th & V from 9 to 11 p.m. The event, which has a $4 cover, is hosted by local poet Derrick Weston Brown and is open to all ages.

Enjoy some live music on your lunch break at Sidney Harman Hall in Chinatown, as Chelsey Green and the Green Project—featuring Green on the violin and vocals and James McKinney on keys—from noon to 1 p.m.

Anne Midgette, classical music critic for the Washington Post, will read from her new book My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music, at Politics and Prose at 7 p.m. The book, written in collaboration with pianist Leon Fleisher, tells the story of the musician’s mysterious and debilitating hand condition, which led him to conduct and perform using his left hand alone, until botox injections restored full use of his right hand.

Love to travel? You might want to check out the local chapter of Traveler’s Circle storytelling group (TC)—a local group that my brother Brian Melrose is pretty active in—which meets once a month at Mayur Kabab House, at 1108 K St. NW from 6:30 to 10 p.m. The meetings are a casual place to share stories from adventures all over the world and to meet others who have a passion for travel. Storytelling starts at 8 p.m., but folks often gather earlier to grab some reasonably priced Indian and Pakistani food and hang out.

Amy Melrose is the creator of Free in DC, an arts, culture, and consciousness blog highlighting free and low-cost events that are all Metro accessible in the D.C. area. You can also follow Free in DC on Twitter and Facebook.