Nationally, there are some givens on the entertainment scene for 2007. “Lost” will continue to be baffling, “The Office” will still be hilarious. The summer movie season is going to be a blast, what with sequels to “Shrek,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Spider-Man,” along with a live-action “Transformers,” which should be the “Citizen Kane” of the giant-robots-who-turn-into-everyday-vehicles genre.
And word is that Paris Hilton is working on another album (hey, it all can’t be good news).
Locally, there will be givens — Alexandria loves its parades and art festivals, doesn’t it? — but there are also some mysteries. Here are 10 questions (and a few answers) about the local arts, entertainment and leisure scene for 2007:
1. Who will be the city’s new Poet Laureate?
After nominations were filed through late last summer, the field was narrowed to the final five, according to Janet Barnett, a deputy director for Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. She said the selection is “an ongoing process,” but that the new Laureate should be named in early 2007. The winner will have a three-year term and will “promote an appreciation of poetry as an art form, encourage the creative writing and reading of literature, and promote literacy through poetry,” according to the city.
The late Jean Elliot was the first and only Poet Laureate of record in Alexandria. The Alexandria City Council voted Elliot as Poet in Residence and honored her by placing a plaque on her South Fairfax Street home in 1979.
2. Have we reached Thai food critical mass?
A quick scan of some online directories shows about a dozen Thai cuisine restaurants in the Alexandria area, including the new Thailand Royal St. Restaurant in north Old Town. That’s a whole lot of Chicken Satay and Pad Thai to choose from. Can more possibly be on the way?
3. Now that Godspeed-mania has subsided, will there be any further large-scale celebrations of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary?
No, according to city officials. While the settlement itself will have a year’s worth of events, Alexandria’s major contribution to the anniversary was last spring’s visit from the historic recreation of the Godspeed.
“We welcomed the Godspeed here and we were very, very happy to host her,” said Laura Overstreet, Vice President of Communications for Alexandria’s Visitors Association.
4. Will King Street’s pedestrian plaza return?
Perhaps the most the hotly contested question of 2007, the answer at this point is a stern “maybe.”
Last summer, city workers closed the 100 block of King Street to traffic, creating a pedestrian plaza. The experiment was extended into the fall, and research into its effect on Old Town’s tourism and commerce was conducted. “We’re following up on the two trial programs that we held, gathering all the surveys and making recommendations to [the city] council in early 2007,” said Barnett.
While the city government remains in favor of the plaza, some businesses have been vocally pessimistic in surveys about the experiment’s efficiency.
City spokesman Brian Hannigan said study groups have been looking at cities with similar pedestrian plazas — including Charlottesville — to learn a few more lessons about how to potentially tweak the concept.
5. What ever happened to the American Basketball Association minor league franchise that was due to play in Alexandria?
It’s been delayed, according to ABA co-founder and chairman Joe Newman. The franchise was originally slated to begin play in Fall 2006 at George Washington School’s gymnasium, 1005 Mount Vernon Ave. The timetable has shifted to Fall 2007; Newman said he hopes to speak with the franchise’s ownership early this month to solidify plans for next season.
Meanwhile, the team has undergone a name change, according to a press release. Instead of Alexandria United — which the franchise ditched in deference to D.C. United of MLS — the team is currently called the Alexandria Wind Jammers, a reference to the city’s heritage as a shipping port.
6. Will the George Washington National Masonic Memorial grow as an entertainment venue?
The Memorial’s classic amphitheater hosted everything from Alexandria Choral Society concerts to classic Greek theater in 2006. The acoustics are good, the ambiance is unmatched, and its capacity — 358 permanent seats with an additional 50 on the floor if necessary — is fine. That’s not even mentioning the free parking and Metro access.
This year promises to see more growth in the Memorial as an entertainment option. Natural Theatricals, the local theater company dedicated to staging classical, contemporary and original works, lists the amphitheater as its main venue on its Web site. The Alexandria Choral Society’s Children’s Chorus presents an “Old World Music” concert on April 28, while the ACS presents a concert for “Contemporary American Masters” on May 12. BosmaDance will present “The Shelter Project,” a performance piece featuring dance, film, sculpture and music, to the Memorial on May 19.
7. Will the future of Alexandria’s Waterfront development come into focus?
According to Barnett, the city’s planning and zoning people are continuing to study options for the developing the city’s waterfront in conjunction with development planned for D.C. and Prince George’s County. There will continue to be public meetings on the topic through the year.
8. What will the new Signature Theatre mean for the local theatre scene?
Only good things. The end of the “black box” space on South Four Mile Run Drive in Arlington means the beginning of the new two-theater facility above the library on South Stafford Street in Shirlington. The new Signature will have a larger capacity and a second theatre dedicated to experimental works, dramas and cabarets — more gigs for more actors, and more opportunities for fans to get a chance to watch one of the most popular theater companies in the region. As artistic director Eric Schaeffer said, the plan has been to carry over what made the old space special: “We were really careful about the new space and not to losing the qualities we had in the garage; the intimacy.”
9. What new restaurants will beckon local taste buds?
What a year 2006 was for the local food scene, with the openings of the picturesque Indigo Landing, the beer lovers’ heaven Rustico, Farrah Olivia by Morou, and Cathal Armstrong and Todd Thrasher’s Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper and its accompanying speakeasy, PX.
Is there any way 2007 can compete with the kind of star-power and success the class of ’06 had?
Tough to say, but there are a few prime real estate spots still looking for new tenants. But the bottom line is that Alexandria continues to attract top restaurant talent thanks to its informed, enthusiastic and, above all else, ravenous local foodies.
10. Finally, what the heck is Yockadot?
Yockadot is the name of a four-day poetry festival that will be held jointly in Alexandria and Baltimore — one that encourages avant-garde and experimental performance. There are readings and outdoor performances scheduled for venues such as St. Elmo’s Café (2300 Mount Vernon Ave.) and the Del Ray Artisans Gallery (2704 Mount Vernon Ave.). Visit www.yptfest.org for the latest on this ambitious project, scheduled for April 26-28 and on May 5.