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DAR Constitution Hall is the biggest concert hall in the district and holds nearly 4,000 people. This Christmas season, I performed there in front of packed audiences. This was by far the largest audience I have ever performed for, and I was, yup, dressed as an elf. Ah yes, the highlight of my acting career – having just previously finished a short run of “Julius Cesar” where I played the infamous Mark Antony – is dressing in striped tights and clown makeup, trying not to botch the words to “Joy to the World.” I mean, who knows the second verse of that song anyway?

As it turns out, in this troupe of actors, being dressed as an elf meant I was one of the lucky ones. This was all part of the Air Force Band’s elaborate holiday concert. Every year the band, which includes a chorus of talent singers, puts on a full-scale two-hour show, and this year’s theme was “Gingerbread Pirates,” based on the book by Kristin Kladstrup. So half of the other actors were dressed in a jumble of oversized felt gingerbread men costumes that felt a bit like Shrek gone horribly wrong.

Military bands are an odd thing. What most people don’t know is that the band members are musicians, most with advanced degrees, who have auditioned for the band. They themselves are not military people, yet the band is highly structured in a military format and functions like no other band I’ve ever seen. This makes for a highly disciplined, talented, yet wacky group of people. The concert included serious traditional Christmas songs, a rendering of Mariah Carey’s ” All I Want for Christmas is You,” a jazz sax quartet, a song that included a rubber chicken prop (the practical joke of the evening was sticking candy canes in it during intermission), and of course the gingerbread pirate number. It’s kind of weird, and truly an enjoyable experience for both adult and kids alike.

On my way home from our last performance, having been filled with Christmas cheer, I decided to take a short cut through the National Mall to see the National Christmas Tree, which had been lit during one of our dress rehearsals. I don’t know what they do to make that thing look good on TV, but in person it’s hideous. It’s ill proportioned, leans to one side, and is misshapen at the top, and the branches are sparse and bare at the bottom. It’s truly one of the ugliest trees I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love it. It make me laugh, perhaps because of the tourist ogling it, perhaps because it’s a symbol of our national spirit, but I think because just like the AFB concert, it’s so appropriately D.C.: kind of weird.

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