Ella Fitzgerald
Signature Theatre presents First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald; courtesy of Signature Theatre

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Thursday, Jan. 26: Franny Choi and Danez Smith, virtual

Despite what the New York Times foolishly published late last year, poetry is not dead. It is nowhere near death! If anything, poetry is experiencing a modern renaissance as the genre becomes increasingly accessible to the masses and as a new generation of poets write about pressing issues of identity, politics, past traumas, current joys, and what our collective future holds for us. Franny Choi and Danez Smith, two of the most prominent voices in this revolutionary generation of poets, are bringing their important work to the DMV through a virtual event hosted by Lost City Books on Jan. 26. Choi will be reading poems from their acclaimed 2022 poetry collection, The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, named one of Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2022, and included on NPR’s 2022 list of “Books We Love” and Vulture’s “10 Best Books of 2022.” The collection’s poems tackle questions of dystopia and utopia as Choi reminds readers that while this current time period can seem dire, the world has often been apocalyptic in myriad ways for marginalized communities. Similarly, Smith’s 2020 book, Homie, explores friendship, loss, and grief in a time of crisis. Rather than harp on the dystopic, Choi and Smith’s work invites us to explore the tensions of our lives and inspires us to seek hope, community, and care as we work to build a future together. If you want to know more about the state of not just the poetic world, but our world at large, look no further than these two voices. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 via Lost City Books’ YouTube channel. lostcitybookstore.com. Free. —Serena Zets

Courtesy of Lost City Books

Saturday: Singin’ in the Rain Brunch at Alamo Drafthouse

I’ve got a movie recommendation for you. It takes place at a 1920s film studio, where actors and producers find themselves grappling with a technological advancement many thought would never come: Movies now have sound. These silent film stars try their best to transition into a post-The Jazz Singer (1927) world, but not all of them make it. You can grab tickets to see this movie on a big screen this weekend. And no, it’s not Babylon—though you can certainly see this film’s fingerprints all over Damien Chazelle’s 2022 effort. The movie in question is, of course, the 1952 musical masterpiece that did it first: Singin’ in the Rain. Heard of it? Of course you have. Written and directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, this romantic comedy is consistently cited as one of the greatest films of all time, right up there with Citizen Kane. But don’t let the Sight and Sound poll scare you off. Singin’ in the Rain isn’t just “I was a film major in college” good. It’s plain good. Kelly and Donald O’Connor play two Hollywood professionals and best friends, whose ping-pong banter appears chemically engineered to prompt laughter. Their chemistry is second only to the sparks that fly between Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, who ace the enemies-to-lovers dance. Speaking of dancing, there’s no shortage here: Kelly, O’Connor, and Reynolds tap and sing their way through this whole story, breathing new life into songs that were already big hits (and for good reason). No story is complete without an antagonist, and Jean Hagen knocks it out of the park as the vindictive silent film star with a screeching voice. Dripping in technicolor delight, Singin’ in the Rain is a feast for the senses. Catch it this weekend along with an actual feast, courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse. Singin’ in the Rain brunch starts at 11 a.m. on Jan. 28 at Alamo Drafthouse, 630 Rhode Island Ave. NE. (Also at the Crystal City location). drafthouse.com. $11, food and drink not included. —Ella Feldman

Tuesday: Full Metal Jacket at E Street Cinema

Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War flick Full Metal Jacket hit cinemas about four months after Oliver Stone’s (first) Vietnam War flick, Platoon, was named Best Picture (and Stone Best Director) at the 1987 Academy Awards. Though both movies depicted the experience of American soldiers in an unpopular war, there had little in common: Where Stone’s film was openly autobiographical (his stand-in was Charlie Sheen, which is strange to think about now) and had been shot fast and cheap on location in the Philippines, Kubrick’s picture had gone through the auteur’s famously unhurried development process, and gave viewers his adopted country of England standing in not-so-convincingly for Southeast Asia. That it arrived so hard on Platoon’s bootheels seemed to mute reception to Full Metal Jacket at the time. Like many Kubrick films, it’s been properly appreciated only in hindsight—as a satirical cartoon of a war movie from the guy who’d made Dr. Strangelove a generation earlier. It’s at its sharpest in its boot camp-set first act, where we’re shown how the Marine Corps. does its best to turn every recruit into the type of enthusiastic killer the Army grunts in Platoon seemed to want to avoid. Retired USMC drill instructor R. Lee Ermey had acted in a few films prior to Full Metal Jacket—Kubrick had initially hired him as a technical adviser before deciding to give him a major on-camera role—but the artfully profane sergeant he played here was so memorable, he’d spend the remainder of his career doing variations on the part. Both he and Vincent D’Onofrio, as the much-abused recruit Private Pyle, disappear from the movie after this first section. As good as Matthew Modine is as Private Joker, the thoughtful Marine who becomes a correspondent for Stars & Stripes, the movie—like so many of the people who fought it—loses something irreplaceable when it moves from training to combat. Full Metal Jacket screens at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Jan. 31 for Bargain Tuesday at Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. landmarktheatres.com. $7.42.Chris Klimek

Courtesy of Landmark E Street Cinema

Tuesday: Sphinx Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra is a unique symphony composed of Black and Latinx classical musicians from orchestras and conservatories across the United States. Exigence Vocal Ensemble, inspired by the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, highlights outstanding Black and Latinx singers and composers. It is only fitting that a dream team of D.C. cultural institutions are uniting for this co-presentation: Washington Performing Arts, the Washington Chorus, and the Kennedy Center, which will host the evening’s event, conducted by Tito Muñoz, music director of the Phoenix Symphony, and directed by Eugene Rogers, artistic director of Washington Chorus. The concert will include a variety of works from the early Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra to a new setting of the traditional spiritual “Fix Me, Jesus,” arranged by Augustus Hill and featuring soprano Aundi Marie Moore. The concert will also feature Joel Thompson’s powerful Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a haunting seven-movement choral and orchestral work interweaving the last words spoken by seven victims of police violence. “I met Joel Thompson in 2014 when we were both emerging artists with a desire to share our love of music and create work that highlighted issues affecting our communities at that time,” Rogers says. “Premiering and championing this powerful work has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and is still, sadly, a timely piece.” Other highlights will include the original Grammy-, Emmy-, and Golden Globe-winning anthem “Glory” from the motion picture Selma, co-written by John Legend and Common and arranged for orchestra by Eugene Hill and Kennedy Center’s Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon’s Motherboxx Connection, an Afro-futurist and comic book-inspired work. Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with Exigence Vocal Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. kennedy-center.org. $20-$50. —Colleen Kennedy

Sphinx Symphony Orchestra; courtesy of the Kennedy Center

Opens Tuesday: First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at Signature Theatre

Jackie Kennedy. Dolly Madison. Michelle Obama. Laura Bush. We may have different First Ladies (and, one day, First Gentlemen) in the White House with each administration, but we have permanently elected Ella Fitzgerald the First Lady of Song. During the winter doldrums, Signature Theatre’s intimate ARK stage becomes a swinging cabaret celebrating everyone’s favorite first lady. One of the most popular singers of the American songbook, her unforgettable classics include: “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Blue Skies,” and so many more over her 50-year long career. Revered for her distinctive silvery voice with its two-octave range and famous trumpet-like scatting, Lady Ella will be honored by two of D.C.’s finest jazz vocalists: Howard University alumna AYO, who played “Young Ella Fitzgerald” in the HBO documentary The Apollo and sang on the accompanying album, and Rochelle Rice, a jazz and folk singer who toured with world-renowned Sweet Honey in the Rock and recently appeared in Signature Theatre’s Hotter Than July: Stevie Wonder Cabaret. The two were selected by Signature’s director of cabarets, Mark G. Meadows. “Ella Fitzgerald’s contribution and influence on jazz is almost immeasurable,” Rice says about the week of cabaret performances. “She is the queen, and paying tribute to such an incredible musician, is an honor. Concertgoers should expect a performance full of joy, energy, and hopefully, some Ella magic!” First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. sigtheatre.org. $38.Colleen Kennedy

Ongoing: Arctic Ice: A Visual Archive at the National Academy of Sciences

From Arctic Ice: A Visual Archive; courtesy of National Academy of Sciences

Translating science into art—or simply into understandable, everyday language—is not an easy process. (If it weren’t tautological to suggest it, you might say the process is more art than science.) The National Academy of Sciences’ exhibit Arctic Ice: A Visual Archive succeeds in one of its bifurcated halves, but falls short in the other. The project—a collaboration between artist Cy Keener, landscape researcher Justine Holzman, climatologist Ignatius Rigor, and Navy scientist John Woods—aims to raise the alarm about how climate change is shrinking sea ice in the Arctic. One of the two projects on display, “Sea Ice Daily Drawings,” consists of large, wall-mounted groupings of what look like vertical blinds, which upon closer inspection reveal tiny, inscribed measurements of Arctic sea ice taken in 2019, 2021, and 2022. The project conveys a pleasing minimalism, but its measurements are inscrutable to the layperson, and the otherwise absorbing color shift of the panels from blue to green is unexplained—a lost opportunity to depict the environmental shifts in an easy-to-understand way. Much more successful is the project “Iceberg Portraiture,” which consists of four large aluminum panels that depict four icebergs off western Greenland. Using a digital modeling technique called photogrammetry, the artists combine hundreds of images from ships and drones to make painstakingly detailed representations of the giant ice blocks, down to the individual grooves and crevasses on their surfaces. The panels also provide dotted lines that track the icebergs’ shifting locations over time. One of the four panels spotlights a roughly circular iceberg with melted water collecting in the center; with the meltwater rendered in a deep shade of green, the iceberg suggests an eye, casting an unblinking look into the viewer. Arctic Ice runs through Feb. 15 at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. cpnas.org. Free. —Louis Jacobson