Arts Roundup Oscar Watch, Madeline Sayet in Where We Belong
Madeline Sayet in Where We Belong; Credit: Jon Burklund (Zanni Productions)

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Excuse me, but what’s with this winter weather comeback? Words can’t keep you warm, but they can shine some light on the arts-related headlines and news stories you may have missed this week. Check back next Monday for more.

Sign of the Times: Troy Kotsur made history last night when he became the first deaf man to win an Academy Award for acting (he was also the first to be nominated; in 1986, his CODA costar Marlee Matlin became the first deaf performer to win an Oscar for her work in Children of a Lesser God). Kotsur, who gave an emotional—and hilarious—performance as Frank Rossi, the patriarch of a deaf family who’s only hearing child develops a passion for singing in AppleTV’s CODA, attended D.C.’s very own Gallaudet University from 1987 to 1989, where he studied theater, TV, and film. Daniel Durant, who plays Frank’s son in the film, also attended Gallaudet. 

The two CODA stars weren’t the only former District resident to prominently feature in last night’s ceremony. Regina Hall, a D.C. native known for her roles in Girls Trip and the Scary Movie franchise, co-hosted with Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer. Hall attended Tenleytown’s Immaculata College High School, and has proudly repped her hometown before—she opened 2019’s BET Awards with an ode to her hometown and #DontMuteDC. —Sarah Marloff & Ella Feldman

Troy Kotsur at the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, courtesy of Lyn Fairly Media

Hit the Road: Madeline Sayet’s solo show Where We Belong, which premiered as a film adaptation last summer via Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, is going on a national tour starting in April with support from Woolly Mammoth and the Folger Shakespeare Library. In October, Sayet’s show was reworked for the stage and played at Baltimore Center Stage. The one-woman production stars Sayet, a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, and her story of traveling to England in 2015 to pursue a Ph.D. in Shakespeare. There she finds a country that continues to ignore its role in colonialism and her story weaves together that of Native ancestors who journeyed to the UK following treatise betrayals  in the 1700s. 

Theaters hosting the touring production have agreed to a community accountability rider that seeks to ensure ongoing relationships between playhouses, the Indigenous nations whose land each presenting theatre occupies, and the local Native community. Developed by Sayet and supported by Woolly Mammoth, the rider requires theaters to do away with the racist practice of redface,” build relationships with Native audiences, and present work by local Native artists. Native people are also invited to attend the production free of charge. 

“I didn’t want my story to be able to be used as a tokenistic way for theaters to check boxes, without actually changing their behavior,” Sayet is quoted in the press release. “So we created an accountability rider to go with the show in order to ensure all the presenting theaters would commit to what I feel is the bare minimum commitment toward engaging with the Native peoples whose lands they occupy, and the history of our erasure in the ‘American’ theatre.”

On the DL: Earlier this month, the Kennedy Center renamed its Russia Lounge following Russia’s unprovoked and ongoing attack on Ukraine. A foundation of Vladimir Potanin, Russia’s former First Deputy Prime Minister, funded the room’s remodel a decade ago and filled it with art from his country. Though the change came about in early March, it’s been kinda hush-hush. The Kennedy Center has no on-file press releases announcing the name change, but according to its website the space has been renamed Opera House Circles Lounge. 

The page notes, “In 2014, according to the terms of the Foundation’s gift, the re-named Russian Lounge opened, celebrating Russian arts and culture. […] In 2022, after the expiration of the naming rights, the space was re-opened as the Opera House Circles Lounge.” Last week, Politico reported that a spokesperson for the Kennedy Center credited the term limit for the renaming, but “separately referenced the war in Ukraine as a factor in the renaming.”

“Due to the tragedy in Ukraine, the Kennedy Center and the [Potanin] Foundation have mutually agreed to no longer use the name Russian Lounge,” Andrews said in a statement to the outlet. On March 23, KenCen trustee Paolo Zampolli held a press conference to discuss his call to rename the space “Ukraine Lounge.”

Can’t Spell Earth Without Art: The climate crisis is inherently racist—time and time again, its most adverse effects hit poor, Brown, and Black communities the hardest. Down to Earth, a multimedia collaboration between local orgs, calls attention to that. Organized by Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, digital production agency Caandor Labs, and arts non-profit Capital Fringe, Down to Earth shines a light on Ward 7’s Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. So far, the project has already included a web series and a podcast. On Friday, April 1, it gets a physical element, too—a Down to Earth exhibit opens at Honfleur Gallery. The show will feature local artists like Rik Freeman and Nikki Hendricks, whose work explores the intersection of climate, society, and injustice. A gallery opening takes place at 7 p.m. on April 1, and the show runs through April 14. —Ella Feldman