Cold War

A young and serious Willis Conover, cigarette in one hand, jazz record in the other, in his Voice of America studio. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Willis Conover Questions

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.

Hitler's Watercolors

The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich, Adolf Hitler, 1914 (Source: Wikipedia)

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.

Thawing the Cold War with Theatre

The cast of Inherit the Wind and the audience giving each other a standing ovation in Moscow (Source: Arena Stage)

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.

Photograph of the Soviet Embassy (Source: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey)

A Thwarted Protest at the Soviet Embassy

On August 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.