Sunday, March 19, 2006

Forget the Atlas; H Street Already Entertains

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) In an amazing display of street theatrics, Yahanna, of the troupe “Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge” (ISUPK), shouts into the microphone and hurls a plastic Madonna to the sidewalk. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

H Street NE urban planners’ vision for an arts and entertainment district near the Atlas Performing Arts Center in the 1300 block overlooked the hustle and flow happening at the intersection of H and 8th Streets.

As hard-hatted workers toil to restore the storied Atlas performance space five blocks east, one troupe every Saturday efficiently assembles its stage and sound amplification system to transform the shabby corner into a theatre-lover’s paradise.

Gorgeous costumes of urban camouflage, tassels and berets provide practical protection against the elements. Carefully placed and not-so-subtly-used props are the envy of any Shakespearean actor.

But don’t take my word for the group’s success: ISUPK’s long-running string of Saturday shows rival many of Broadway’s smash hits.

There is a lesson here for the leaders of the Atlas Performing Art Center, and careful attention should be paid to the ISUPK troupe’s formula for success: Open-air performances. That’s right. Remove the walls and roof from the Atlas. Turn the sound amplifiers to the sun and stars and crank-up the volume! The lucky neighbors can enjoy endless hours of free theatre—whether they want to or not!

Unfortunately for the ISUPK troupe, cold, windy conditions during Saturday’s (March 18) performance lowered audience numbers. The weather also reduced the show’s impact on the residents in and around the 700 block of 8th Street—too chilly to open windows or be outside for long periods of time. Plus, fewer audience members meant fewer amplified outbursts radiating from the corner.

But the neighbors agree it still was an amazing show—they have season tickets to hear it every Saturday.

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