Mark Jaster is in his summer costume of purple and white stripes and a white cap topped with a large purple pompom. It is 5 p.m., and he already has performed at an office event in the morning and for 400 Cub Scouts at the Howard County Fairgrounds in the early afternoon. He now prepares himself for his third gig of the day.
"I guess you could call me a mime in clown's clothing," he said. "Or a clown without words."
It is Jaster's job, as part of a company of entertainers, to warm up the crowd at the Strathmore produced "mini-street festival" before the Strathmore Free Summer Outdoor Concerts presented on Wednesday nights from now until Aug. 4, with an additional show Aug. 25. The entertainment takes place at the Gudelsky Gazebo on the park grounds of the Music Center at Strathmore.
If you go Free Summer Outdoor Concert Series Where: Gudelsky Gazebo, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda When: 5:30 p.m., concerts at 7 p.m. Wednesdays Info: 301-581-5100; strathmore.org
"The goal of the outdoor summertime shows has always been outreach," said Shelley Brown, Strathmore's artistic director. "[Here is] the opportunity with free concerts to introduce them to new audiences who may not have ever been to Strathmore before." Brown calls the Wednesday night events a gathering place where neighbors, Strathmore season ticket holders and volunteers come with their families to picnic and enjoy the free entertainment.
This summer season provides a variety of entertainment. Be'la Dona, an all-female R&B band, is first up July 7, followed by Milkshake on July 14.
Baltimore-based Milkshake creates great rock music for kids, winning over preschool audiences without compromising songcraft, stagecraft or its authentic rock 'n' roll spirit. Milkshake's fourth studio CD, "Great Day," was nominated for a Grammy.
Ben Williams & Sound Effect performs July 21, bringing the group's brand of jazz, hip-hop and R&B. Baltimore's own group, the Crawdaddies, infuses Cajun, zydeco, blues, rock and reggae into an incomparable sound all its own June 28, while Elikeh brings African roots music to audiences on Aug. 4.
Ukefest 2010: The Ladies of the Uke highlights female ukulele groups that include the Sweater Set and the Hula Honeys.
"This is really a great opportunity to sample different kinds of music, to try new things," Brown said. "People can picnic and really make an evening of it."