“Warning! Swampoodle may contain eye-popping high-wire feats, roller derby smack-downs, big-track earthmovers, brass band music and scenes of a spectacular nature.” These were the only words I was told before stepping into what seems like another world at the press preview of SWAMPOODLE this past Tuesday. This limited-run (one week only!) engagement should certainly be on your agenda starting May 20th (ending May 28th) at the Uline.
You must be thinking but wait… what’s the Uline? Well, its not an easy story that’s for sure. Remember that spot where the Beatles played their first ever North American gig in 1964 to 8,092 screaming fans? What about the ice rink that hosted the Washington Lions as part of the now defunct Eastern Amateur Hockey League? Or perhaps you heard all about the Irish boxing matches that were held inside long after the building was supposedly shut down…. whatever way, the Uline, otherwise known at Washington Coliseum is at the crux of 4h & M Street, NE and certainly not a place to be forgotten. It’s hard to imagine the magnitude and beauty of the place until you step inside.
It’s the perfect place for a performance (or a dance party….), especially SWAMPOODLE, the story of the Uline and its surrounding area, one of DC’s best-known (and some would say) notorious Irish districts. Written by Tom Swift, directed by Jo Mangan and produced by Solas Nua, Culture Ireland’s Imagine Ireland initiative and The Performanc Corporation, SWAMPOODLE is more than just a history lesson, it’s an in-your-face peak at a life and time most of us have never experienced. As a first generation Irish woman myself, it was fascinating to hear and see these tales of my ancestors (and possibly even my Grandparents!) and how the Uline helped a world of people survive post potato famine.
The name Swampoodle is attributed to a newspaper reporter covering the ground-breaking of St Aloysius Catholic church in 1857, who referred to the land at the site on North Capitol and I street as containing numerous swamps and puddles – which often occurred when Tiber Creek overflowed its banks. It gained a reputation for being a lawless shantytown, where crime, prostitution and drunkenness were rife, so you can imagine how provocative the performance can be. At the core of the district was Jackson Alley – considered a virtual no-go area for the police. The area was also known for over-crowding and outbreaks of malaria, typhoid and dysentery. But Swampoodle was also a thriving community, whose Irish construction workers helped build Washington DC.
I don’t want to spoil for anyone, since the show is so interactive and constantly changing right before the audiences eyes, but I will say this: It’s worth seeing for the combination of old-school show biz glamour and grit of an Irish ghetto pulled together to create an unmissable adventure. I mean, just check out the photos below. So don’t miss this never-to-be-repeated event, tailor-made for DC’s historic Uline Arena. Tickets are available at www.swampoodledc.com