While visiting Moscow, a group of American tourists had encountered a flurry of questions from curious Russians, “what was the price of an American automobile, what did Americans think of ‘beat generation’ writers, how many Americans were unemployed?” When the interrogation broached the subject of music, one American boasted familiarity with Shostakovich, Khachaturian, and Prokofiev. “And,” one Russian chimed in, “is Willis Conover highly regarded in the United States?” Russian eyes widened, American brows furrowed, and a puzzled silence ensued.
When President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation on October 22, 1962, informing American citizens of Soviet missile sites in Cuba, he didn’t know that the months-long scare he referred to would be over just six days later. Four days after JFK’s speech, two men sat down to lunch at the Occidental Restaurant located two blocks from the White House. One ordered a pork chop and the other crab cakes. Despite how it may seem, this was no ordinary lunch. In fact, it is considered to have played a major role in ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In 1956, the Woodward & Lothrop department store in Washington DC, located at 11th and F St NW, hosted a traveling exhibit purporting to showcase the “American Dream.” Woodward & Lothrop, or “Woody’s” as it was affectionately called, was a staple in the city for over one hundred years, from the late 1800s to 1995, when it merged with another company. During the "Era of Department Stores," a period lasting from the '30s to the '70s when department stores were the main mode of shopping for the American family, Woodward & Lothrop was the King of DC. This is probably why the store felt entirely comfortable hosting the “American Dream” exhibit, and the exhibit’s main draw: four watercolors painted between 1917 and 1919 by Adolf Hitler.
In the middle of the Cold War, the United States and the U.S.S.R. managed to find one thing they could agree on: culture. In 1958, the two countries reached an agreement which allowed each to send students, scientists, and performers to the other country to exchange new ideas and technologies. The initial agreement, made during the space race and just a few years before the Cuban Missile Crisis, would eventually facilitate an exchange of 1,700 individuals. Arena Stage became a part of that exchange in 1973 when they traveled to Moscow and Leningrad.
On Aug. 24, 1973, about 20 D.C. Jewish school children gathered around the Soviet Embassy holding onto basketballs. It was around noon, and they were getting ready to bounce the balls just loud enough for Soviet officials to hear. But they weren't there to play; they were there to stage a political protest.