Things to See and Do in the Bethesda Area in July and August

Things to See and Do in the Bethesda Area in July and August

Our picks for festivals, music, shows and other entertainment

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Oldenburg

July 12-Aug. 20 | Games Without Frontiers

Aaron Oldenburg is a Baltimore artist and video game developer who creates abstract—often bizarre and unsettling—interactive experiences that combine his background in the Peace Corps with documentary techniques, history, game theory and magic. The idea is to confront players with challenging concepts as they explore and make decisions. Some games are deceptively simple—for example, asking players to count bird chirps—while others are stunningly complex, such as “Cho-Am,” which is set inside the mind of a sleepwalker visiting Cambodian dictator Pol Pot’s cremation site. In Procedural Experience, Oldenburg’s exhibition at VisArts, a selection of his video games will rotate through the gallery for people to play, while others will be projected on screens. An opening reception and artist talk is set for July 21 from 7-9 p.m.  

Noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Common Ground Gallery, VisArts, Rockville, free,

Photo courtesy of Strathmore

July 12-Sept. 9 | Songs of Summer

Strathmore may be nearby in North Bethesda, but its free summer concert series, Live from the Lawn, aims to take audiences on far-away musical journeys. Acts hail from the American South, South America and in between, and styles cover the musical map, including reggae, folk, country, funk and soul. Highlights include Fredericksburg, Virginia, country singer Karen Jonas (July 12), who blends Americana, folk, bluegrass and pop, and Femina (Aug. 2), an Argentine world music trio that puts on a theatrical performance and raps in Spanish. Washington, D.C., go-go band Team Familiar caps off the series with a Saturday concert on Sept. 9. 

7 p.m. Wednesdays and Sept. 9, free, Gudelsky Gazebo at Strathmore, North Bethesda,  

July 1 | Let it Glow 

It’s two parties in one in Gaithersburg this summer as the city combines its annual Celebrate! Gaithersburg street festival with Independence Day fireworks. SummerFest begins with a lawn party at Bohrer Park featuring live music, food trucks, beer tastings, a classic car show and kids activities, including inflatables. It’s followed by a fireworks show and SummerGlo After Party, with glow-in-the-dark giveaways, a DJ and vendors selling late-night snacks. 

5-11:30 p.m., free, Bohrer Park, Gaithersburg, 

Photo by Rachel Ellis

July 13-Aug. 6 | New Religion 

What are a couple of hipster liberal parents to do when their teenage daughter rebels by finding Jesus? That’s the question at the crux of Unexpected Stage Company’s production of Oblivion, a play by Carly Mensch, who has written for Weeds and Nurse Jackie, both Showtime series. Brooklynites Pam, an atheist, and Dixon, a non-practicing Jew, must come to terms with their daughter, Julie, after she tells them she’s checking out a college but really attends a religious retreat. Julie’s decision to become a Christian challenges her parents’ beliefs and open-mindedness. Unexpected Stage Company co-founder Christopher Goodrich directs the production, which stars local actors Zach Brewster-Geisz, Jonathan Frye, Ruthie Rado and Mindy Shaw.

$10-$27.50, River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Bethesda, 

Photo courtesy of Strathmore

July 14  | Shake it Up

Michael Mwenso is a soulful vocalist and the charismatic front man of Michael Mwenso and The Shakes. Raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone and London, he was schooled in jazz and swing music from a young age. He began touring with a swing band at 13, playing trombone and piano, and, at 16, became a full-time professional musician. His band, consisting of a rotating cast of players, performs a blend of jazz and big band music, with a touch of New Orleans for good measure. The performers are serious about their music but put on an entertaining show with enough energy and spirit to delight any music lover.

8 p.m., $20-$30, Amp by Strathmore, North Bethesda, 

July 18-22 | Under the Stars

Summer brings many outdoor movies series, but Bethesda Outdoor Movies is a favorite. The long-running tradition by the Bethesda Urban Partnership features five consecutive nights of films, each a different genre, in an urban setting. The lineup includes The Wizard of Oz (July 18), Field of Dreams (July 19), Dead Poets Society (July 20), Hidden Figures (July 21) and La La Land (July 22). The screening takes place in the middle of the street, at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn avenues, turning the intersection into an open-air cinema. Grab dinner at a nearby eatery first, and you’ve got a summertime twist on dinner and a movie. 

9 p.m., free, Norfolk and Auburn avenues, 

Aug. 19 | The British are Coming

American music’s British Invasion started in 1964 with the rise of bands such as The Beatles and The Who. It inspired a second wave in the late ’60s and early ’70s. More than 40 local musicians, including Margot MacDonald and The VI-Kings, will play tunes from this period at A BandHouse Gigs Tribute to the British Invasion Part 2: 1967-73. Expect to hear music by The Kinks, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jethro Tull and more.

7:30 p.m., $22-$27, The Fillmore Silver Spring, 

Photo courtesy Montgomery County Agricultural Fair

Aug. 11-19 | Far-Out Fun at the Fair

Now in its 69th year, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair returns Aug. 11-19 to the fairgrounds in Gaithersburg. One of the largest county fairs in the state, it’s known for farm animals, carnival rides, and the demolition derby and monster truck shows. Here are a few of its more unusual offerings:

Chicken Poop Bingo: Players buy squares on a grid where two chickens wander on a fenced-in board. Owners of the square where the first poop lands win a cash prize. Games take place throughout the week, with money raised going to the Montgomery County 4-H Poultry Club. 

Toilet and toilet seat decorating contest: Commodes become works of art as contestants adorn either whole toilets or toilet seats to compete for ribbons and cash. Participants can use any material to design fair-themed or toilet-themed creations. Entries will be on display throughout the fair.

Veggie 500 Races: Kids and families are invited to create vehicles out of cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables and then zoom them down a track Aug. 12, 2:30-4 p.m. Veggies, toothpicks and car bases with wheels are provided. 

Pretty Animal Contest: 4-H kids and their animals dress up in matching costumes and parade before judges. There are categories for sheep and swine; cows and goats; poultry; and dogs (check the website for dates and times). 

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