Heard on the Hill – January 2017

Cast of Recent Tragic Events in rehearsal

The rush, light, color, and excitement of the holidays are over. The joyful hum of the holidays often ends with exhaustion and maybe a sinus infection. I relish this quiet time to refocus. Cocooning under blankets and fuzzy slippers with Netflix has become a sacred winter ritual.

The new year typically brings with it pledges of renewal and focus. As a community and indeed a nation we are also facing a kind of refresh of a sort. Later this month the eyes of the planet will be focused on our namesake building at the western edge of the ‘hood. Of course this happens every four years so we should all be used to it, yet something feels a little more off than usual.

If you were living in this city eight years ago, you will never forget the energy felt throughout the town in the days surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration. I have lived here long enough to understand how different that moment was. Everyone you met seemed filled with a spirit of possibility and faith in the future. We dragged our little kids out into the freezing cold to stand in lines with crowds for hours so they could witness history. I’m still hoping they will forgive us for that someday.

This year feels a little bit different. It’s not just me, right? While I know that a few of our neighbors are happy with the outcome, the overwhelming number of DC residents voted for a far more capable candidate. It still hurts to write these words.

So it is really going to happen. How do we face what is about to go down right here in our neighborhood?

There are options. Number one: ignore it. I know of a contingent of Hill dwellers, unwilling to interact with inexplicably enthusiastic visitors, who are leaving town. A group is heading to New York, so maybe join them and take your chances on the Hamilton lottery? SOME good should come out of this.

Maybe you can make money during your temporary self-exile. Take a few pictures and put your home up for rent on Airbnb. Lock up your valuables and leave directions to your favorite coffee shop and tips on how to get into Rose’s Luxury. Show the inaugural attendees that we swamp dwellers can be gracious hosts.

Don’t have the funds or the will to leave town? Maybe use this time to finally face your own internal terrors. We are all going to need self-care tools to carry us through the next four years, so now is an excellent time to start a meditation practice. Many of the local yoga studios offer by-donation meditation sessions. It is not scary and the people are always very welcoming and nice. Sitting a few moments in silence will help you develop skills to quiet the screams of horror.

Maybe spend some of your angsty energy helping those less fortunate. Local shelters and food banks can always use an extra pair of hands. See if the folks at Capitol Hill Village need volunteer drivers. You give an elderly neighbor a lift and maybe hear about how they have lived through worse times so calm the heck down. Everybody wins!

There is always the wallowing option. Why bother pretending? Break out the comfiest of your comfy pants, lay in a good supply of carbs and chocolate with appropriate beverage pairings, and catch up on a series you have only pretended to have seen. “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos,” and “Mad Men” will ensure you retain your negative outlook on humanity.

St. Mark’s Players Presents ‘Recent Tragic Events’
Washington has a lot of professional theater. An oft-quoted statistic is that Washington boasts the second largest number of professional theaters in the nation. The word professional can have elastic meaning here, since I was once a considered a professional actor by earning $110 a week performing Shakespeare around the country. Most of the theaters in town are professional in the sense that the performers are paid … something.

There is only one all-volunteer, community theater in the city, and of course it is here on the Hill. St. Mark’s Players has been producing shows by and for the neighbors for 33 years. This adventurous troupe does not limit itself to crowd-pleasing musicals. This winter it brings Craig Wright’s dark comedy “Recent Tragic Events” back to the city of its birth. The play was workshopped and made its debut at Woolly Mammoth Theatre back in 2002 and has not been performed locally since then

The play is set in New York in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Waverly, a young advertising executive, and Andrew, a bookstore manager, have been set up on a blind date, scheduled for Sept. 12. But Waverly becomes preoccupied when she discovers that her twin sister, Wendy, a fashion student in New York, has not been heard from yet. As the evening unfolds, Waverly and Andrew realize that they are connected by a succession of bizarre coincidences. As Waverly awaits word on Wendy, their date is complicated by visits from her crazed-musician neighbor, Ron, his girlfriend, Nancy, and a startling appearance by Waverly’s great aunt, Joyce Carol Oates – in the form of a sock puppet.

Yay, theater!

On Friday, Jan. 27, the troupe will host a post-performance talkback and reception featuring the production team and performers as well as members of St. Mark’s Church. The audience is welcome to stay and discuss the play and the themes and emotions it explores.

“Recent Tragic Events” continues a 2016/17 season that has featured three first-time directors. Anupama Torgal, a one-time performer with the players, has taken on directorial duties for this production. Heather Danskin directed the troupe’s successful fall production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” The season will conclude in May with a production of “Evita” directed by first-timer Sam Stenecker, who memorably played the Beadle in the production of “Sweeney Todd” last winter.

“Recent Tragic Events” will be performed eight times in January: 13, 14, 19, 21, 26, 27, and 28, at 8 p.m., at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 301 A St. SE, with a matinee performance on Jan. 28 at 2 p.m.

New Pastor at St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Catholic Church has chosen a new pastor. Reverend Gary R. Studniewski will take over leadership of the congregation on Jan. 4. Pastor Studniewski has had a long military career beginning with ROTC during his time studying at the University of Toledo. He paused his military career in the late 1980s to pursue his religious calling, ultimately completing his education in sacred theology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. After being ordained in the Archdiocese of Washington he reentered the military where he served as a chaplain. He assumes leadership of a church that has been located at the intersection of Second and C streets SE since its founding in 1821. The current church building was built in 1890 and is home to a devoted community of parishioners and students.

Let’s hope they keep us all in their prayers in the months to come.


Jen DeMayo has been a waitress, an actor, and a puppeteer. She worked for many years for the Atlas Performing Arts Center, which has resulted in her being a relentless H Street booster/streetcar apologist. Originally from the New York-New Jersey area, she is one of the many who whine endlessly about DC’s lack of good bagels and pizza. She is mom to two boys who attend DCPS (off the Hill). No matter what she may end up accomplishing in her life, she is sure that her obituary headline will say she was the founder of Moms on the Hill. Contact Jen atjendemayo@gmail.com.