Improving Through Improv
The Unified Scene Theater (TUST) is an improv and sketch comedy theater in the heart of Bloomingdale. Founders Kathy Baird Westfall and Shawn Westfall are helping improv students get out of their comfort zones, improve their communication skills, and build a sense of community and collaboration.
“A lot of students signing up for improv are looking to improve presentation skills, become better listeners, learn team-building skills and be more comfortable on the spot or without a script,” Kathy said.
The Westfalls, Bloomingdale residents who met through improv, wanted to fill a niche in DC and create a community for improv comedy, theater, storytelling, sketch, art, and spoken word where the audience and performers can feed off each other’s energy.
“Too much of our aesthetic experience these days is mediated by technology…which places significant distance between the performer and the audience,” Shawn explained. “There simply is no substitute for the visceral experience of being right there with the performers as they make discoveries in the moment, where you get the feeling that absolutely anything can happen.”
TUST offers several improv classes, including one for business leaders. “It’s all about flowing with what jumps into your mind and responding with your wits,” Danny Maiello, a Senior Partner at Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, said.
“You can't shut down ideas,” explained David Connerty-Marin, who works as a director of communications for an education nonprofit, “but if you know they're not working, you can positively move the scene - or the business meeting - in a different direction by offering a ‘yes, and’ solution.”
In the six months since TUST opened, they’ve already been involved in the Bloomingdale House Tour and Art Show, hosted a Bloomingdale resident’s art exhibit, set up a booth at the Farmers Market, and offered free improv workshops every month.
Looking ahead, TUST has three improv shows in February, and they may add workshops and classes for kids.
“Bloomingdale is one of the most engaging neighborhoods I’ve experienced…People sit on their porches and say ‘hello’ to you on the street, you get to know the local baristas and shop owners, and the community here is active and engaged to a level I don’t see everywhere,” Kathy said. “There really is no other place like us in this part of DC.”
Visit The Unified Scene Theater at 80 T St. NW, at http://www.unifiedscenetheater.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every neighborhood needs a dedicated pizza place, and Bloomingdale has Bacio. With their signature pizzas named after various DC neighborhoods, this pizzeria has found its way into the hearts — and stomachs — of Bloomingdale residents.
Owners Atilla Suzer and his wife, Lisa Friedman, opened their restaurant in 2011. “We wanted to be focused on the neighborhood and create a chill environment,” Suzer said.
Part of that vibe is making sure Bacio is family and neighborhood friendly, so they close at 10:30 p.m. most nights. With nearly 50 seats indoors and 30 spots on the popular patio, Bacio is a great destination in any weather.
“When the weather is nice, their patio lights and greenery beckon you to enjoy a casual meal on their deck, with or without a dog in tow,” Bloomingdale resident Susan Seutter said. “When you can't eat outside, they have charming seating upstairs.”
Bacio has nine pizzas, all with local names. The Eckington has pepperoni, ham, sausage, onion, Bacio mozzarella, and tomato saucewhile the signature Bloomingdale, Bacio’s most popular pizza, is topped with prosciutto, cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce.
In addition to pizzas, Bacio also offers salads, calzones, beer, wine, sodas, and locally made desserts from Moorenko’s ice cream, Grassroots Gourmet, and Uncle Chip’s Cookies. They also source ingredients from Common Good City Farm.
“We like to keep the money local,” Suzer explained. “I make less money, but my customers are happy, and I’m supporting local businesses.”
“Bacio is one of our Bloomingdale favorites,” Alan Seutter said. “The service is always friendly and accommodating, the owners love dogs, and of course the pizza is excellent!”
Visit Bacio Pizzeria at 81 Seaton Pl. NW, at www.baciopizzeria.com, or call 202-232-2246.
Sweets For Your Sweet
NanBon Confectionery, owned by Aisha Bond, will have their annual Valentine’s pop-up restaurant this year. Called Carnal-Val…entines, the evening will feature a multi-course gourmet meal, entertainment, music, and games.
While this year’s menu is not set, it will be similar to last year’s menu, which included several amuse bouche such as oyster shooters and savory egg custard with caviar followed by butternut squash soup with crab and artichoke salad.
The entrees were Chicken and Spinach Roulade with Apricot glaze and Braised Short Ribs with Tagliatelli and shaved Chocolate. Dessert featured Nipples of Venus, bread pudding with lemon curd, and a fruit and cheese platter.
Each dinner ticket is $115 and includes two glasses of wine, a glass of champagne, and a glass of passion punch. Diners can purchase a la carte cocktails such as a Dirty Martini, Buttery Nipple, Sex on the Beach, and French Kiss.
“Last year featured a Brazilian theme and included samba carnival dancers and masks,” Bond explained. “This year will be slightly different but as always, we will embrace rich culture and the forms in which they celebrate and show love.”
In addition to the Valentine’s event, NanBon will host a pop-up brunch for Mother’s Day, frequent Sunday tea times, and tea parties or luncheons as a venue for children to learn etiquette. NanBon also features a kids’ summer culinary academy and cooking birthday parties for children.
The main focus of NanBon, however, is desserts. Bond sells her delicious desserts, including her grandmother’s bread pudding, at various farmers’ markets in DC including the ones in Bloomingdale, 14th and U St., and H St. NanBon’s creations, such as her buttermilk pecan pie, will soon be available in some local gourmet markets and are always available via NanBon’s website.
“NanBon Confection's menu is pretty consistent with that original menu from the farmer’s market days: bread pudding, strawberry bread, pound cake, buttermilk pecan tarts, sweet potato tarts as well as a raspberry almond tart and a few other treats like my dark chocolate brownies topped with a layer of chocolate ganache.
Bond lives with Bloomingdale with her husband and their three children. “We chose Bloomingdale because it was diverse and developing yet very true to the native DC that I love,” Bond shared.
“Bloomingdale in many ways is its own little Mayberry in that neighbors speak and care for each other and many of our commercial establishments are run and operated by those who live in Bloomingdale. When I walk the streets, people remember me for my pies and desserts and often fondly offer me a memory they have which includes something I've made. It just feels good to be a part of a great neighborhood.”