Wordstock 1: stuffed grandmothers, E.B. White, and collective desires

This year, Portland's literary extravaganza has the fervor of an evangelical revival. In fractious times, maybe that's a good thing.

In a Paris Review interview in 1969, when asked about the role of the writer, E.B. White famously answered: “A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge.” Despite his use of the male-centric pronoun, Mr. White’s sentiment seems to hit on something vital and true, and might also explain the 10,000 or so people lined up at various venues around the Park Blocks last Saturday for Portland’s annual book festival, Wordstock. This turnout, larger than in years past, felt hopeful somehow. Our collective desire to enter into those conversations between reader and writer, particularly on Veterans Day, to examine the role of narrative and history and words— that our curiosity is so intact— went a little way toward fortifying against what recently feels like a never-ending assault of troubling news.

E.B. White, with his dog Minnie: a spirit, hovering over Wordstock. Photo: Tilbury House Publishers

And, really, there’s no denying that times are troubling. This came up repeatedly in discussions throughout the day. What also came up is that times have always been troubling for somebody, depending on the happenstance of your birth. Given the peril of our planet, the unearthing in recent days of the uglier sides of human nature, and the anxiety that still lingers after last year’s election, maybe we can just agree that times are even more troubling for more people. Perhaps this can account for the size of the crowd and the quite-audible fervor that emanated from it as people stood in line for one of the headlining events, Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation with Jenna Worthman of the New York Times Magazine at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

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White Bird Dance: Love, L-E-V-style

The Israeli dance company returns to Portland with a tense dance about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By HEATHER WISNER

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—heartrendingly described in Neil Hilborn’s OCD: A Love Poem—provides the framework for Israeli dance company L-E-V’s hourlong piece OCD Love, which opened last night as part of the White Bird Uncaged series. The dance looks and sounds like Hilborn’s poem, which inspired co-artistic director Sharon Eyal, reads: a series of repeated phrases suggesting a longing for connection and normalcy, and the agony of watching both slowly elude your grasp, despite your best efforts.

L-E-V co-artistic directors Eyal and Gai Behar have built their choreography around movement tics: jittery legs, shuddery torsos, ritualistic gestures. There’s a tick-tick-ticking sound as the curtain rises on a lone dancer, her musculature accented by a stark contrast between light and shadow. (The piece is shrouded in what’s described as “water-based haze,” similar to a smoke-machine effect.) She moves in slow motion, contorting her limbs in ways that look impressive but probably aren’t comfortable. Eventually a second dancer her joins her, sort of: they dance near each other, but not with each other. These sorts of close-but-not-quite encounters recur within the various configurations of the company’s six dancers, who bring sharpness and clarity to choreography that could have gotten muddy quickly.

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Interview: A conversation with Lucinda Parker

The Portland painter talks about her career as a primarily abstract painter and her latest, Cubist-inspired work

Lucinda Parker has been a painter in Portland for almost 50 years. She studied painting in the heyday of Abstract Expressionism at the Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest College of Art). After becoming known for paintings with big bold gestures, in recent years she has allowed figurative imagery into her work.

She has a selection of what she thinks of as cubistic paintings of Mt. Hood scenes at Russo Lee Gallery through December 2.

When did you decide that you wanted to be an artist?

A long, long time ago.

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Perry Johnson’s shining light

A Eugene artist's "outsider" work goes to the Portland Art Museum in a new series designed to expand the museum's reach into the region

By RACHAEL CARNES

EDITOR’S NOTE: We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments opens Friday, Nov. 17, in the Portland Art Museum’s Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art. A series of five exhibitions developed with artists and art collectives, it’s designed to explore how the museum can engage with a broader and more inclusive array of artists in the region. The series, which will continue through December 2018, begins with an installation through Feb. 25, 2018, that includes artists who make prolific work, yet often face barriers to inclusion in galleries and museums. Co-curated by Libby Werbel and Public Annex, it will show work from Perry Johnson, Ricky Bearghost, Kurt Fisk, Elmeator Morton, Lawrence Oliver, and Dawn Westover.

Johnson, who makes his art at the OSLP (Oregon Supported Living Program) Arts & Culture Program in Eugene, will have six works in the series’ first show. Rachael Carnes’ essay ran originally in Eugene Weekly on Oct. 1, 2015, under the title “Shining Like the Sun: A photographic memory infuses the brilliant art of Perry Johnson.”

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Artist Perry Johnson at OSLP in Eugene.

Eugene artist Perry Johnson has a gift. His work is inquisitive and multidimensional, at once rooted in a folk art tradition while branching out towards something more visceral and visionary.

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MusicWatch Weekly: transformations

This week's Oregon concerts feature music that transforms words into music, one kind of music into other kinds, stories into music, and more.

Eugene Symphony
Maybe the best known violin virtuoso in his time was Niccolo Paganini, the early 19th century Italian phenom whose reputation for flashy performances enchanted audiences but also overshadowed his compositions (for guitar and violin) after he died. Simone Porter, a 20-year-old rising star from Seattle joins the orchestra for Paganini’s dazzling first violin concerto from 1818. The orchestra also plays Dvorak’s dark, dramatic seventh symphony and Berlioz’s sizzling Roman Carnival Overture.
Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene.

Ari Shapiro
The NPR newsman, Portland native and occasional Pink Martini guest vocalist brings his new Homeward project, featuring  his stories and songs (accompanied by veteran Portland musicians including at least one regular Pink Martini chanteuse) that Shapiro found were important to displaced people he’s interviewed in far-flung lands.
Thursday-Saturday, World Trade Center #2, 121 SW Salmon, Portland.

Ari Shapiro performs this weekend in his hometown.

Reed Orchestra Concert: In Remembrance
In memory of three of their fellow students who died last year — Mara Gibbs, Nico Villarreal, and Max hero Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche — the students play a free concert of appropriate music: Henry Purcell’s Dido’s Lament, Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, and the Unfinished Symphony by another composer who, like Purcell, died too young.
Thursday, Kaul Auditorium, 3203 Southeast Woodstock, Portland.

Portland Baroque Orchestra
When you think of the great cities of Baroque music, Dublin doesn’t leap to mind. Turns out, the Irish city drew famous performers and composer like Handel and Geminiani, both of whom have works on PBO’s bassoon-boosted program this weekend, along with Vivaldi and others. The ensemble’s own crack bassoonist, Nate Helgeson, joins guest director Peter Whelan in a two-bassoon concerto (transformed from a two-cello concerto) and more.
Friday-Saturday, First Baptist Church, 1110 S.W. Taylor St. and Sunday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd. Portland.

Ronn McFarlane rocks the Portland Guitar Society Friday.

Ronn McFarlane
The ace lutenist, Baltimore Consort stalwart, and Portland resident gives a too-rare hometown recital, including Renaissance, Baroque, Celtic, and his own splendid original music.
Friday, Marylhurst University’s Wiegand Hall, 17600 SW Pacific Highway, Marylhurst.

Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Piano star Andreas Klein takes the solo spotlight in Beethoven’s spectacular Piano Concerto #4, and the orchestra also plays a Beethoven overture and a neglected 20th century masterpiece: the Variaciones Concertantes by Argentina’s most venerated composer, Alberto Ginastera, whose frenzied conclusion was inspired by the dueling cowboy dances of Argentine gauchos.
Friday, First United Methodist Church, and Sunday, Reynolds High School Performing Arts Center, Portland.

Nonsense: The Fantastical Musical Multiverses of Daniel Brugh
In Cascadia Composers concerts over the years, Dan Brugh has forged a distinctive aesthetic, at once a kind of mad genius of Portland contemporary classical music as well as a composer whose music reaches beyond the traditional classical audience to embrace electronic textures, audience-appealing stage sensibility, and 21st century artistic ambition. This free concert taking place in an appropriately offbeat venue (a Portland design firm) includes three keyboardists, singer, clarinet, narrator, contemporary dance (courtesy of Portland’s Agnieszka Laska Dancers), unusual tunings and sounds, colorful synth wizardry, absurdist poetry, and even flying fish.
Saturday, The Place, 735 NW 18th Ave. Portland.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Everyone and your mother

Here come the "Humans"; "Hamilton" tix; "Belfast Girls" hit town; Chris Coleman says goodbye; "Psychic Utopia"; Lauren Modica returns

An extended family meets for a holiday meal in a space too small to comfortably contain them all.

A.L. Adams

The forced intimacy sparks spats, reveals secrets, and heightens the whole group’s awareness of their fragile humanity. It’s Thanksgiving Dinner. And it’s also The Humans, the play that opens at Artists Rep this week. (Preview performances are mostly sold out, but the rest of the run is fair game.)

Speaking of hard-to-get tickets, Hamilton‘s coming to Portland, and ticket sales open on Friday. (Everyone and your mother, sync your watches and watch the calendar.)

“Hamilton” tickets go on sale Friday. Photo: Joan Marcus

Remember a few weeks ago when I suggested you lend Hand2Mouth your houseplants? That was for Psychic Utopia, a well-researched and likely insightful homage to cults and communes created with contributing writer Andrea Stolowitz. It opens Thursday, and should be worth your time, whether or not your ficus is set to make a cameo.

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DanceWatch Weekly: close partners

Spenser Theberge talks about “Rather This, Then” and his partnership with Jermaine Spivey; L-E-V comes to White Bird; Mood Factory; more

Dancer and Portland native Spenser Theberge and his partner in life and dance, Jermaine Spivey, are back in town to perform Rather This, Then, a work they developed last September during a residency at Disjecta here in Portland. They will perform it twice on Friday, Nov. 17, once at 12:15 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. at Reed College’s Massee Performance Lab in the Performing Arts Building.

Jamuna Chiarini

Theberge grew up in Portland dancing at The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre and Columbia Dance in Vancouver and went on to attend Juilliard and dance with the Netherlands Dance Theatre and The Forsythe Company.

Spivey also attended Juilliard, and went on to dance for Ballet Gulbenkian and the Cullberg Ballet, joining Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s company Kidd Pivot in 2008, where he dances now. You might have seen him perform back in April 2016 when White Bird brought Betroffenheit to Portland—a collaboration between Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theatre that combined dance and theater, which ArtsWatch’s Nim Wunnan captured in his review, which you can read here.

Therberge describes this collaborative work as “highly physical and highly human, calling on body, voice, and visual elements to reveal truths about each other. It’s privacy made public, it’s tenderly voyeuristic, and the result is an opportunity for the audience to see something of themselves represented in another.”

When Theberge was here last year I interviewed him via email about his life in dance in the United States versus Europe. “Working as a dancer in Europe means you’re really well taken care of,” he said. “You get paid all year, have health care, vacation time, physical therapy, a pension plan. Dancing is the same as any other job there (for the most part, although Europe is beginning to see similar budget cuts in the arts as we do in America) and the conditions and benefits of the all jobs are the same.” You can read the full interview here.

Since then, he and Spivey have been quite busy. Therberge has restaged works from Nederlands Dans Theater on companies in Rome, Lyon, and Tulsa, and Spivey just finished a long tour of Betroffenheit with Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theater that included being awarded an Olivier Award in London. The Olivier Award, or The Laurence Olivier Awards, is an annual award given by the Society of London Theatre in recognition of excellence in professional theater in London.

Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Somewhere in there they moved to Los Angeles and are settling in for the first time in two years, Theberge said when we spoke recently via email. “We’ve been focusing a lot on establishing roots and connecting with our new community which has felt so enriching after missing that home feeling for so long. We’ve been teaching a lot and creating short works on dancers around L.A. and America. Now we’re talking about what we want our future to look like and how we can facilitate those experiences.”

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