“Strange that it’s so quiet,” says the drummer, “but cool! We appreciate it!”
Beyond the crowd and yonder velvet rope, in the Grand Foyer, past security guards and the folks selling M&M’s and wine splits, past the darkened Opera House and the JFK bust, heading toward the second Millennium Stage, which is also dark, is a great expanse of nobody, really. The emptiness of the majestic hall is illuminated by the still bright sun of an early summer evening and chandelier half-light. And outside by the fountain on the River Terrace, one couple looks out over the Potomac.
August in official Washington is all about getting out of town — Congress is in recess, the tourist season peaked with the cherry blossoms, and most everything big happened earlier in the year, or is about to happen this fall.
It is the deep breath before the plunge.
The Kennedy Center has its own version of that.
“In busy times, we have four or five trips a night for six buses, but not now,” says Mesfin Gebreyesus, who drives the free shuttle from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to the Kennedy Center. “We don’t have anything but three buses right now, but two buses could handle it, because there are no big shows going on.” When there’s a show in one of the big theaters, people are standing in the aisle, he says, but it’s a quarter to 6 and there are only two people on the shuttle. One is a Millennium Stage usher.
The other is Lenny Bankester, who works in the budget office of the EPA. He is riding the shuttle because he parks daily at the Kennedy Center garage. In a few months, he says, he hopes to take in a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra. They take four weeks off in August and begin their new season in September.
You want to talk to the person who can tell you whether this is a typical August, but he’s out (vacation). So you talk to another guy who gets busy telling you how busy they are. And that’s certainly true, but it’s not busy in a high-energy, well-dressed throngs, take-the-tickets kind of way. It’s much more in the there’s soo much to do to get ready for next month vein.
The educational program Exploring Ballet With Suzanne Farrell had more than two dozen dancers coming through the first half of August, explains David Kitto, vice president for marketing and sales. “Then we’re prepping for the operas this fall.” The Washington National Opera season opens with “Anna Bolena” in September, followed by “Don Giovanni.” The play “War Horse” opens in October. “I’m getting ready for December, January, February programming,” Kitto says. “The Nordic festival is in February.”