Holiday Happenings

Jordan Wright
December 3, 2018
Special to The Alexandria Times

Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush – Originally staged in the Old Vat Room at Arena Stage, this delightful show harkens back to the famed Hampstead, England public house circa 1918.  The 6-person variety show promises to jolly up your holidays with Vaudeville-era tunes, Christmas carols, silly jokes, a sing-along and a moving tribute, Christmas in the Trenches, honoring the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. With Christmas crackers, British beers and sausage rolls for purchase, the classic British music hall entertainment starring Sherri L. Edelen and Brian O’Connor runs through December 30th at MetroStage - 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets visit

Jimmy Mavrikes, Katherine Riddle, and Sherri L. Edelen ~ Photo credit C. Stanley Photography

My Father’s Dragon - Dragons are real and imaginations soar in this exciting production directed and choreographed by Tori Tolentino. Join Elmer Elevator on Wild Island to rescue a captive baby dragon accompanied by a cat companion.  With flying puppets and a ride-on dragon, this wordless fantasy-filled adventure is sure to please all ages. Through January 6th at 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets and information visit

Photo credit Johnny Shyrock

A Christmas Carol at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – Enjoy a return of the Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic wherein Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable Victorian humbug, travels with ghostly guides through Christmas past, present, and future to find the true meaning of the holidays. Directed by local actor, Shelagh Roberts, the show is complete with special effects, Victorian carols and, of course, the adorable Tiny Tim. Through December 16th at 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets call 703 683-0496 or visit

(l-r) Larry Grey and Brittany Huffman in "A Christmas Carol" in Holiday Happenings ~ Photographer: Rich Farella

Christmas at Mount Vernon – Tour George and Martha Washington’s mansion by candlelight and make merry with 18th century dancing, fireside refreshments and caroling on December 7th, 8th and 16th. Meet Aladdin the Camel, watch holiday fireworks on December 15th and 16th, hear period music, experience a military encampment and more. Evening fireworks on December 14th and 15th. Activities for children include making ornaments, hearing Christmas stories told by the Washingtons’ friends and family, and chocolate making demonstrations. Some events are ticketed. For tickets and all other information visit

Christmas illuminations at Mount Vernon ~ Courtesy of Mount Vernon


Billy Elliot the Musical Matthew Gardiner directs and choreographs this spectacular Tony, Grammy and Oscar Award® winner with a thrilling score by Elton John. Based on the acclaimed film of an 11-year-old whose dream is to dance, in a blue-collar coal mining town in Ireland, it’s boxing his dad sees for the boy’s future. This heartwarming story, with a hilarious scene of Margaret Thatcher stealing back the kiddies Christmas gifts, swept the Tony, Drama Desk and Olivier Awards for “Best Musical”.  Through January 6th at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information visit

Owen Tabaka (Billy Elliot) and the cast of Billy Elliot at Signature Theatre. ~ Photo by Christopher Mueller

LightUp Fest, the Largest Holiday Lights Festival on the East Coast, Comes to Loudoun County

Jordan Wright
November 10, 2018

LightUPFest ~ Tunnel of Lights

Beginning November 8th LightUP Fest will be open every day from 5:30pm till 10:30pm through January 2, 2019 in Loudoun County.  Named a “Top 5 Holiday Light Show” in North America by USA TODAY, this spectacular light show hosts an exhibit combining traditional Chinese lanterns with modern lighting technology.  Spanning 20 acres, the eight-week long exhibition will be the largest light display on the East Coast, featuring a wondrous delight for the whole family.  Attendees will able to enjoy the displays, as well as partake in entertainment, food, interactive craft activities and much more.

LightUPFest ~ Panda

With 77 eye-popping themed installations made up of more than 1 million lights, LightUP Fest will be a magical experience.  The exhibit’s four major themes are “Tour of Fantasy”, “Freedom America”, “Mysterious East” and “Magical World”.  These dynamic displays will combine the latest in lighting technology with artisan-crafted lanterns showcasing the rich heritage, tradition and culture worldwide.

LightUPFest ~ Interactive Kids

In addition to the incredible artisan-crafted light show, LightUP Fest will also feature daily performances from acrobats, dancers and musicians.  An eclectic food court offering a variety of unique cuisines will also be on site.  Look to enjoy the interactive craft and art section to showcase the intricate culture and tradition of craftsmanship with hands-on activities such as sugar puppet making, calligraphy, portrait sketching and rice carving for all ages to participate in. 

LightUPFest ~ Ocean Scenes

One Loudoun is an urban-inspired, mixed-use community located in the heart of Loudoun County at Rt. 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway, Easthampton Plaza, Ashburn, VA 20147. Admission to the event is $29.99 for an adult and $19.99 for kids ages 3 - 12. Children under 3 are FREE.  Discounted family packages and special rates for students and seniors.  Military, police and firefighters with proper identification are welcome to attend for free every Tuesday.  A portion of the proceeds will go to the non-profit Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus.

LightUPFest ~ Eiffel Tour

 LightUP Fest is designed by Zigong Lantern Festival and Trade Group, which has over 30 years of experience producing displays in more than 300 cities in China and over 30 countries worldwide. The Festival was first brought to the U.S. in 2014 in Atlanta and has since been held multiple times in Houston and Phoenix.  For more information, please visit

LightUPFest ~ Lights of the North

A Special Celebration of the 130th Anniversary of Twin Oaks ~ Features a Spectacular Display of Taiwanese Orchids

Jordan Wright
September 30, 2018 

Bathe in the beauty of hundreds of orchids at the historic 18-acre estate of Twin Oaks in Northwest DC.  The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) presents the exciting exhibition, "Discover the Beauty of Taiwanese Orchids".  This exciting exhibit is open to the public from September 27th to October 3rd.  At the opening reception Ambassador Stanley Kao and his wife hosted guests with the President of Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Mr. Yu-Chung Huang in the 24-room mansion built in 1888.

Ambassador Stanley Kao and his wife ~ President of Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Mr. Yu-Chung Huang ~ John J. Norris, Jr Managing Director American Institute in Taiwan ~Tania, Uen-han, Wei Executive Officer TECRO ~ Chuang, Suo-Hang Vice Chairman TAITRA ~ Franklin F.Y. Chen Director TECRO ~ Craig Min-Hsien Lee Press Officer TECRO

“Twin Oaks is a symbol of friendship and strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship,” said Stanley Kao, Taiwan’s representative to the United States. “This estate has a storied history, both for sharing the culture of Taiwan and the United States, and also for bearing witness to key historical events in this long the mutually beneficial partnership.”

Owned by the government of Taiwan, this magnificent estate showcased one of Taiwan’s national treasures – Phalaenopsis amabilisin a myriad of ways.  Trees are now hung with enormous sprays of these many-colored orchids and the portico and mansion’s interiors are chock-a-block with their elegance.

The opening reception were leaders from the Washington business and policy community, think tanks and diplomatic corps and journalists

At the opening reception were leaders from the Washington business and policy community, think tanks and diplomatic corps and journalists.  We were thrilled to enjoy both indoor and outdoor displays of these stunning blooms and hear the stories of the Orchid Symphony.

One particular outdoor display features a winding watercourse with floating teacups to symbolize a poetry game of legend, popular with the country’s ancient literati. Among the trees hangs the calligraphy of Lantingji Xu.  It records one of the games and is the preface to the poems collected during that particular game.  Other displays triumph the culture of Taiwan as well as the 130-year history of Twin Oaks.   In one, a decorated canoe created from nine different kinds of wood illustrates the exquisite workmanship of Lanyu the island celebrated for this native Taiwanese orchid species.  Guests were gifted with a basket of phalaenopsis orchids donated by the award-winning company Taisuco who brought the team who created the eye-popping displays.

Lanyu the island celebrated for this native Taiwanese orchid species

Factoid:  A whopping 32% of Taiwan’s orchids are exported to the U. S. where orchid fanciers have enjoyed their long-lasting beauty and charm.

The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) co-sponsored this event. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) has entrusted the Taiwan Association of Orchid Production and Development with landscaping and arrangement of this auspicious celebration.

The exhibit is open to the public through October 3rd.  Twin Oaks is located at 3225 Woodley Road, Washington, DC.

Kelli Schollard-Sincock Creates Prison Arts Program for City of Alexandria and Fairfax County

Jordan Wright
July 16, 2018
for the Alexandria Times 

When Forensic Sketch Artist Kelli Schollard-Sincock, who holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Washington and completed the BFA program in Printmaking from George Mason, was thinking about how she could make an impact in her community, she recalled a casual comment a friend made during a lecture at Lorton the two women attended.  The talk featured prisoners’ art the guards had collected either through barter or outright payment and she was duly impressed by the caliber of the work.  Her friend said, “You should do that,” meaning teach art within the prisons.  The offhand remark didn’t really register with her until she read a report that the new administration planned to cut funding for the arts.  She felt it was a call to action.

Taking the bull by the horns, she approached Lt. Marybeth Plaskus at the Alexandria Detention Center and asked if they had a need for a prison arts program.  Plaskus gave her the nod, and the first class was held in February 2017.  “We started from scratch with one classroom that was immediately filled with about 25 male students.  That was such positive reinforcement for me.  They were always thankful I was there,” she says.  Since its inception the program has not only been hugely popular, but it has grown rapidly and now includes classes for women at the Fairfax facility.

Piggybacking on her success at the Alexandria prison, she then reached out to the Fairfax County Detention Center and began her arts program there in August 2017.  She now teaches there twice a week plus one day a week in Alexandria.  Yet there is still more demand.  Schollard-Sincock’s goal is to hire more teachers to fill the many requests for additional classes.

Kelli Schollard-Sincock teaching at the Fairfax County Detention Center

Initially the challenge was to find art supplies which are not funded by state or local counties.  She had to get creative.  Well, that’s what artists do.  Right?  In a stroke of good fortune, she discovered the ‘Buy Nothing Project’, an online sharing organization for free items that operates locally through Facebook.  There she put out a call for art supplies and had such a positive response that for four weeks she drove all over the county gathering an immense amount of materials.

Photo from Alexandria County Detention Center Prison Art Program courtesy of Kelli Schollard-Sincock

Del Ray Artisans heard about her classes and thought they could help.  The gallery’s Fundraising Director Joe T. Franklin, Jr. and Acting President Drew Cariaso wanted to learn about the program and have her give a talk to their members.  Member artists were so impressed with her outreach program that they held a fundraiser including an in-house drive for materials.  “People have really taken ownership of the program,” she adds.  Subsequently the gallery has been instrumental in helping her set up a non-profit to be called ‘Inspiration Matterz’ which will allow her to expand the program with the help of additional art teachers.  She credits Program Directors Lenora Murphy and Latanya Ervin at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center with keeping her program ongoing and her husband Austin and son Gregory for their support and encouragement.

Photo from Fairfax County Detention Center Prison Art Program courtesy of Kelli Schollard-Sincock

Schollard-Sincock chooses the subjects that are executed in a variety of mediums.  “Men and women respond totally differently to the programs.  My intention is to teach tangible skills not just doing crafts.  My very first student was an older gentleman.  He told me, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.  The best you’re going to get out of me are stick figures.” She says he really clicked when he started painting and is now painting photorealistic drawings.  “He is like the case study of why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

Over the past year she has seen a huge change in their attitude.  “It’s empowering to learn that you have developed a skill.  The biggest thing in these classes is getting them to trust me and not give up.”

Director of the Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, Leslie Mounaime, reached out to her and offered their site for a show.  On Friday, July 20th, Del Ray Artisans will host the opening night reception for “Off The Grid” in the Torpedo Factory’s Site 2 Community Gallery showcasing 49 framed drawings from Schollard-Sincock’s prison art program.  The opening reception is from 7-9pm. The show runs through August 31st.

Kelli Schollard-Sincock’s own work can be found on her website

How to Go to the Dogs Tastefully

February 5, 2015
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill

This year’s Washington Humane Society’s annual Sugar & Champagne Affair was a fabulous event for dogs and dog lovers. Once again guests and their beloved canines filled the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center with all manner of things sweet, sparkly and even savory. After all, we must have a balanced diet. For the 14th straight year many of our area’s preeminent chefs showed off their talents to benefit the Society and pay tribute to their Field Services team who last year responded to over 18,000 calls to help animals in need.

Guests gather in the atrium

Guests gather in the atrium

This delicious event that puts the “fun” back in fundraiser, was conceived by Ellen Kassoff Gray. Ellen, who serves as chairwoman of the host committee, co-hosted the posh event along with husband and uber chef Todd Gray. Together the DC power couple own Equinox Restaurant, while Todd doubles his chef duties as Culinary Director of the Salamander Resort & Spa in the tony horse country of Middleburg, VA.

As always many of the attendees were of the adorable canine sort. Pooches of all stripes, some dressed to the nines and others au naturel, strutted their stuff to the delight of the guests.

Liz Sara, Founder of Best Marketing, LLC with Crystal) // Kristine Saja’s, Quinn, adopted from the Washington Humane Society and pretty in pink

Liz Sara, Founder of Best Marketing, LLC with Crystal) // Kristine Saja’s, Quinn, adopted from the Washington Humane Society and pretty in pink

The main event was a reception in the atrium featuring scrumptious desserts. Event sponsors TCMA, Volkswagen, Equinox, Salamander Hotels & Resorts, The Sugar Association, Olde Towne Pet Resort, Social Light and Chef’s Roll were supported by media sponsors Zohar Rom's Portfolio, The Virginia Maryland Dog, NOVADog Magazine, Travelzoo, Bisnow, Yelp and The Hill.

Tidbits and libations from dozens of restaurants, bars and bakeries came from The Source by Wolfgang PuckPoste Modern Brasserie, Plume, Baklava Couture, Shake Shack, Sticky Fingers Bakery, Society Fair, The Hamilton, Bastille, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Lilly Magilly’s Cupcakery, Occidental, Bearnaise, Co Co. Sala, The Dairy Godmother, Dolci Gelati, Brasserie Beck and a host of other well-known spots. A VIP room offered savory tastings and craft cocktails. New this year was the “Exclusive Experience” a chance for a limited number of guests to learn how to make desserts, create specialty cocktails and watch unusual demonstrations such as how to make “dip-n-dots” using liquid nitrogen.

Salamander Resort Public Relations Manager Vanessa Casas serves seared tuna and accompaniments

Salamander Resort Public Relations Manager Vanessa Casas serves seared tuna and accompaniments


Sweet Potato and Anise pastries from Slate Wine Bar and Bistro // Marinated shrimp from Richard Sandoval’s new Mango Tree restaurant

Sweet Potato and Anise pastries from Slate Wine Bar and Bistro // Marinated shrimp from Richard Sandoval’s new Mango Tree restaurant

One of the most memorable pastry displays was designed by the kitchen staff of the International Trade Center whose talented crew is known for creating miniature dessert masterpieces. They deserved to take a “bowwow” for their pâte à choux Animal Park that perfectly fit the evening’s theme. Using the versatile, classic French pastry dough, best known to most dessert lovers as the crusty part of the éclair, they fashioned a “Puff Poodle,” “Choux aux Kitty,” “Vanilla Pooch Puff” and lots more pup-themed treats.

Pate a Choux display // Choux aux Kitty pastries

Pate a Choux display // Choux aux Kitty pastries

Be sure to keep a slot open on your calendar for the 2016 Sugar & Champagne Affair. It’s a worthy cause and a rollicking good time for you and your four-legged friends.

Photo credit - Cary Pollak