DC This Week is pleased to announce the winner of tickets to see Porgy and Bess at the Washington National Opera! Justin Rodgers wrote a riveting account of his first childhood experience in the arts while abroad. With the help of the Washington National Opera I was able to pour over the many submissions from DC This Week readers and Justin can pick any weekday Porgy and Bess performance in the coming weeks to attend.
The show begins March 20th and concludes April 3rd at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are still on sale ONLINE HERE.
Below you'll find Justin's entry that won him free tickets to the performance and I'm sending him a big congrats from DC This Week!
"I was eight years old when my mother married a US naval officer, packed our house, and moved us across one continent and one ocean to London, England, where I would live for three years. Prior to my trip to England, my closest experience to anything resembling culture or art involved a one-day trip to Las Vegas with my Teddy Ruxpin doll and hours spent in a hotel room wishing I could go to Circus Circus. As a kid, the idea of a place called "Circus Circus" conjured images of cotton candy, roaring lions, unicycles, and parading elephants. During that trip, I never ventured beyond the hotel lobby and I managed to lose my Teddy Ruxpin doll. At five or six years old, this qualified as terrible and devastating.
Now, my mother is a woman who will devote every resource she has to her child's well being. And when she discovered that the local morale, welfare, and recreation division of the US Navy provided discounted and sometimes free tickets to playhouses, amusement parks, and other attractions, she jotted my name down next to several activities on the list. I spent my first summer taking gymnastics lessons; which, for a gangly and uncoordinated child, felt like punishment for a crime unknown. I went to a renaissance fair that had neither jousting nor dueling knights, but prominently featured homemade crafts and meat pies. Midway through summer, I quickly learned that the activities my mother signed me up for would never involve amusement parks or water slides, but instead would be the listed activities I feared and dreaded. "For your upbringing," she would say. "People will be impressed when you're older." To this day no one is dazzled by my cartwheels or backward rolls.
That winter, when the list of next year's activities came in the mail, an annual dance of dread was born in which I hopelessly prayed my mother would follow my lead and sign me up for those activities I circled in bright red pen only to watch as she checked boxes indicating "attending" next to the activities I had fervently crossed out. One of those activities was a matinee showing of the musical: Return to the Forbidden Planet. I was not excited. At nine years old, theater held the same appeal as boiled cabbage or tapioca pudding: it was for old people; and if I consumed it, it was because I was forced to. Theater was bad video productions of Shakespearean drama with actors delivering monotone lines and wearing ancient clothes.
There was one bright side: Return to the Forbidden Planet was playing in London's West End. Since I spent the previous summer memorizing the London Underground rail maps while traveling with packs of bored American military brats dragged from tourist trap to ancient edifice, I knew that to get to London's West End our group would be forced to pass both Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus. My child's mind filled with possibilities. It was impossible to believe that adults, with groups of children, could pass two circuses and not be forced in. We would mutiny. Our little arms raised in defiance against our adult oppressors, we would not be deprived of peanuts and cotton candy, the courageous lion tamer, or the marching elephants. I began plotting as though I were their leader. I felt sly and clever for noticing this speck of hope on a blighted afternoon. And as the day neared, excitement churned in my stomach.
There are no big top tents in Picadilly Circus. They are missing from Oxford Circus, also. Confused, I stumbled through the streets of London, following my group, eyes peeled and hoping to catch a glimpse of a ringmaster or clown. Nothing. There was nothing. I couldn't believe it. I had been fooled. The circus never existed; and as our group waited in line for tickets I tried to comprehend why I had been deceived. Abject and slowly resigning myself to my fate, I took my ticket, followed the line of children shuffling to their seats like prisoners down a gangway, and took my seat. I never expected at the curtain's open to spend the next two and a half hours dancing in my row, on my seat, in the aisle. I danced as the cast sang "Great Balls of Fire," boggied down to "Born To Be Wild," rocked to "Good Vibrations," and caused general mayhem and self-embarrassment during the entirety of the show. By the end of the show, I was covered in sweat, a few of the kids had joined my dance, and the chaperones were apologizing to paying adults for the disruption. I felt like a king, as if I had squeezed every drop of entertainment from the performance, and was happy I had attended. Ecstatic, in fact. And spoke of the show for weeks afterward to my parents and friends."