Steampunked in WashCo

An exhibition at the Washington County Museum brings the imaginative artifacts of 11 steampunk artists into the gallery space

By MICHAEL SPROLES

The underground science fiction movement of steampunk has been steaming full speed ahead into the public eye since the 1980s, in books, movies, video games, music videos, and much more. For both fans and the unfamiliar, the Washington County Museum’s exhibit Steampunk: An Art Invitational allows the opportunity to browse works from regional artists that incorporate technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.

The exhibition, which continues through August 30, combines real museum artifacts with the artwork of talented tinkerers, costume designers and award-winning artists from the Tualatin Valley and across the Pacific Northwest. Some have been featured on Oregon Art Beat and Steampunk’d, a reality television series that features crafters and designers who specialize in steampunk creations.

ArtsWatch talked with three of the exhibition’s artists – Cherie Savoie Tintary, C. Morgan Kennedy, and Steve La Riccia – about their work and steampunk in general.

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Cherie Savoie Tintary’s “Deaux Ciseaux,” which translates to “Two Scissors,” features her daughter, Devin, donning steampunk attire. Photo courtesy of the artist

Tintary – a photographer and hairdresser who lives in Forest Grove – developed an interest in the retro-futuristic fashion of the genre in 2010 at San Diego Comic-Con, one of the largest conventions on the West Coast. “I’d definitely heard of the term before, but then I saw this group called the League of S.T.E.M. walking around in steampunk regalia, and I was immediately inspired – they were mixing Victorian fashion with a ‘mad scientist’ aesthetic and gadgetry” she said. “I was studying photography at Chaffey College [in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.] and began a body of work for our 2011 student invitational show featuring models that I helped outfit and style in steampunk fashion.”

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‘Bodies’ review: Pride is a verb

Resonance Ensemble's Pride Week concert commemorates LGBTQIA community's struggles and celebrates its creativity

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

“One of the most common questions I get is ‘what is pride?’,” said Pride Northwest Executive Director Debra Porta at the Q&A following Resonance Ensemble’s June concert, Bodies. “It’s difficult to put into words.” This echoed Porta’s words from the beginning of the concert (an official Pride Week event), when she praised the pride and perseverance of those who “broke the universe into pieces” to be who they are and concluded that “Pride is a verb.”

The Cerimon House stage was lit with splashes of color, a rainbow of lights arrayed along the wall, a doubled Roy G. Bv coruscating out from central violets to perimeter reds. The concert commenced with Dominick DiOrio’s The Visible World, a sort of modern madrigal treating the struggle for marriage equality with a quilt of texts ranging from Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis” and a love poem by Catullus to quotes from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and civil rights activist Paul Barwick. The title comes from Théophile Gautier’s quote “I am a man for whom the visible world exists,” but the piece was dominated by a line taken from a poster spotted outside Seattle City Hall in 2012: “Sorry it took so long.”

PRIDE Executive Director Debra Porta with Resonance Ensemble’s Katherine FitzGibbon at ‘Bodies.’ Photo: Kenton Waltz.

That phrase spooled out through the ensemble in a Proverb-type canon that immediately put me in mind of Renaissance counterpoint, Meredith Monk, Caroline Shaw, David Lang. The harmony often veered into very chromatic realms, not dissonant (if the word even means anything anymore) but those dense, jazzy, Manhattan Transfer jazz chords that Resonance knows how to sing better than anyone else in Portland. Wolfe-style post-minimalist pulsations and flashes of Gabriel Kahane’s populist lyrical sensibility elevated quotidian lines like “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives” while two millennia of queer poetry intermingled over drones and semitone shimmers and cascades of “sorry it took so long.”

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Gallery Theater: 50 years, 340 plays, thousands of stories

McMinnville's community theater celebrates a half-century partnership between actors and audiences

Gallery Players of Oregon has been cranking out plays in downtown McMinnville since 1968, which means we’ve arrived at the 50th anniversary. That kind of endurance for any artistic project is worth celebrating.

I cannot hide my enthusiasm about it, and you ought to know why: For many of the past 20 years, I’ve acted on Gallery’s stage. Candidly, this is a bit weird for me. I’ve been a journalist since moving to McMinnville in the mid-1990s, and I’ve been involved at Gallery (both as an actor and a director) for most of that time. But those two lives haven’t intersected — until now.

Like many who will attend Saturday’s 50th anniversary gala, which will include a catered dinner and an evening program, I was introduced to theater in high school. Instead of letting it become just another memory from my youth, I remained active in theater and, more than three decades later, have accumulated a wealth of memories, characters, thrills, laughs, life lessons, friendships and stories.

Seth Renne, who has managed Gallery Theater since 2014, considers the
perils of growing carnivorous plants in 2013’s production of “Little Shop
of Horrors.” Photo: Gallery Theater

I’ve worn suits, ties, armor, stars and stripes, pajamas, a bathrobe, a dress, fake breasts, tighty-whities, and a burlap sack while smeared with mud. Actual, homemade mud, because I learned that mud washes off faster for a quick scene change than oil-based makeup. I also learned, over the course of that production, that dirt is alive and, if allowed to sit in a jar with just enough water, will grow things that smell awful.

I’ve learned the hardest thing to do onstage is not to cry, laugh or even passionately kiss a friend while your spouse (and hers) watches from the audience, but to eat. Appearing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I had in my field of vision one evening Dr. Dean Brooks, who headed the Oregon State Hospital for 27 years and played a character similar to himself in the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson; he was seated in the first row. Having played Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men, I’ve found myself in the absurd position of being compared to Jack Nicholson.

I’ve been killed by and slain good friends, then gone out drinking with them afterward. I’ve come to understand how and why the show must and ultimately does go on, even when the director walks out, or when an actor vanishes on the eve of opening night or — for any number of reasons I’ll not get into here — in the middle of a show’s run. As an audience member, I broke down at Atticus Finch’s “Thank you for my children, Arthur.” And I’ll never forget the stunned silence at the end of a fantastic Cabaret, where the biggest Nazi flag I’ve ever seen unfurled over the stage for the final scene.

But the most important thing I’ve come away with is an appreciation of the audience – both as an actor and director and as a theatergoer.

Here’s the thing: The audience wants you to succeed.

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Art on the Road: Trieste pilgrimage

Hordes follow James Joyce's trail to this Italian city. A fascinating pioneer of art history and archaeology has his own Trieste tale to tell.

TRIESTE, Italy –

Scores of people come to this ancient seaport town each year to pay homage to James Joyce, who wrote his Ulysses here. The city accommodates them by putting up plaques at about every corner, bridge, staircase, churchyard ever touched by his foot, seemingly not a millimeter of Trieste not once traversed by the master.

My first-day pilgrimage, though, honored a different man – one who is a serious contender on my who to take to a deserted island list. (Remind me to do a week of blogs about the rest of them.) Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the founder of art history and art criticism as we know it, and known as the father of modern archaeology, is buried here.

The man’s life reads like a Russian novel. Born into extreme poverty in Prussia, his father a cobbler, he dug his way out by his wits. Scholarly excellence landed him at a number of universities, studying first theology, then medicine, but ultimately falling in love with ancient languages and developing a passion for Greek art. He devised a system of learning new languages in what is claimed six weeks, eventually able to converse in 12 of them. He was appointed to ever more prestigious posts as researcher/librarian/envoy for German aristocrats and then various Italian cardinals who opened their ancient art collections to him and enabled him to participate at the digs of Pompeii and Hercanuleum. As papal antiquarian and later secretary to Cardinal Albani he had found a space that allowed for his intellectual acumen to blossom. And, one might add, his homosexuality to be silently tolerated.

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Oregon Bach Festival review: vision vacuum

Lacking a coherent artistic vision, venerable festival flounders

By TOM MANOFF

You can’t really assess what was at this season’s Oregon Bach Festival without acknowledging what wasn’t: erstwhile artistic director Matthew Halls, the multi-talented conductor whose questionable dismissal last year was widely covered throughout the arts world. Would this new season put an end to the shocking (for many) episode? Would this year’s music reassure audiences and musicians that OBF will continue at the highest levels of artistry? Most crucial, could the festival of founding artistic director Helmuth Rilling and Matthew Halls remain world class — without a music director?

Baroque on Steroids

OBF 2018 started June 29 at Silva Hall with audience favorite Monica Huggett leading the Festival’s 30-member Baroque Orchestra in four of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. In first half lineup of Brandenburgs 2, 4, and 5, No.4 was best performed, with Huggett’s virtuosic violin passages shimmering through Bach’s delightfully dense harmony and counterpoint.

The other two Brandenburgs fared less well with poor ensemble playing. The tempos were quite brisk and not all sections kept up with the pace.

Monica Huggett conducted Bach’s music at this year’s Oregon Bach Festival. Photo: Athena Delene.

The OBF Berwick Academy — the festival’s workshop orchestra of 30 young period instrumentalists — joined the OBF pros to make an unusually large orchestra for Bach, but suitable for Silva’s large space. Perhaps in keeping with this “Baroque-on-steroids” ensemble, Huggett led an irreverent (but somewhat charming) interpretation of Brandenburg One. The longtime Portland Baroque Orchestra leader and renowned Baroque violinist asked the audience to imagine that the two horn players in the ensemble were drunk, low-born musicians who had crashed a royal musical occasion. Whenever they played, Huggett pointed her bow to them, exhorting a loud, over the top effect. At other times Huggett stomped her feet with the music. Not your standard Bach, but the audience loved it. I remain on the fence. Since the concert I’ve listened to the work several times on CD with the score to restore the music to a more pristine version in my mind.

The concert ended with a tidy performance of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4, led from the keyboard by visiting conductor Alexander Weimann, but, following the “Bach Bacchanale” that was the Brandenburg One, the Suite came off as too straight-laced.

Silva’s acoustic was problematic. The sound was unfocused and without warmth. But last year, in the same hall, a splendid OBF performance of Handel’s Hercules proved that some Baroque fare sounds fine in Silva space. But Handel’s textures are generally less dense than Bach’s, especially the Brandenburgs. How to use Silva (and its electronic enhancement system) is an ongoing issue for OBF, ideally addressed by a future artistic director.

Berwick Academy

My favorite performance of the festival was by the Berwick Academy. The first half of their July 3 concert featured Telemann’s Overture in E minor, Händel’s Concerto Grosso in A major Op.6, No.11, and the suite from his 1706 opera Rodrigo in B flat.

This performance featured what every good Baroque outing must have: a decisive, forward moving bass line from the continuo instruments. In too many performances, the bass line plods along with no regard for the melodic richness. But here, the energized and nuanced phrasing by the cello and double bass Berwick players enlivened the lower part of the musical structure.

Phrasing from the entire ensemble was wonderful. Renowned Dutch harpsichordist Jacques Ogg directed from the keyboard. Concertmaster Chloe Fedor was particularly elegant leading the string section, and moving with the phrasing almost like a dancer.

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Tomorrow, tomorrow: We love ya

Clackamas Rep's "Annie"brings the orphans in from the cold and heats things up for the audience

“Never work with animals or children” was the sage actorly advice from legendary actor and comedian W.C. Fields. Luckily for us, Clackamas Repertory Theatre steered far from this piece of advice with its production of Annie at Clackamas Community College’s Osterman Theatre in Oregon City.

This production’s title character is a child actor, eighth-grader Ava Marie Horton, who is a true delight as Annie. She is joined in the cast by the children who play the rest of the orphan girls under the charge of Miss Hannigan (Cassi Kohl). Each one of the child actors is a delight, but together — when singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” for example — they really shine. The choreography and musicality of that song helps, as the girls use buckets and brushes to make music while cleaning the floor and are in lock-step with their dancing — one even swings from the lights! It is perfectly choreographed orphanage chaos that will have audiences singing along.

Andrés Alcalá is the center of attraction as Daddy Warbucks. Photo: Travis Nodurft

But Clackamas Rep didn’t stop at the children. The golden dog playing Annie’s orphaned dog Sandy — who is not credited in the program, so I can’t give him or her proper name recognition — wasn’t in many scenes but stole the show each time (he or she) appeared onstage.

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Joan Tower: ‘The voice is in the risks’

The esteemed American composer, in Oregon for Willamette Valley Chamber Music festival, talks about music, teaching, risk-taking, and the future of classical music (not)

By MATTHEW ANDREWS

I love Joan Tower’s music. It’s right there in the Goldilocks zone: serious but not stodgy, zealous but not brash, subtle but not understated, big and bold but also immediate and intimate, fun and exciting and weird but also somber, emotive, complex, heartfelt. It’s expansive, stimulating stuff, neither overly planned nor chaotically aleatoric but organically developed from simple generative ideas, grown from seed to plant to harvest with a minimum of fuss and fluff.

It’s rich music that fills your soul like a hearty meal. When I’m done with a typical 13-to-15-minute Tower composition (say, 1976’s Black Topaz, or the Grammy-winning Made in America), I don’t want more, at least not right away; I want to savor. No obsessive munching on hours of Glass opera, no blissing out in Oliveros trances, no Kahane singalongs.

Tower is, above all, a narrative composer. Not in the sense that there is a poem or story dictating each detail like in a tone-poem by Strauss or Berlioz, but in the more abstract isomorphic sense that led Debussy to affix descriptive titles to the ends—not the beginnings—of his preludes. The music comes first, and has its own peculiar narrative language; titles and subheadings come later, as a description of music that has already been written.

American composer Joan Tower.

Tower will be in Oregon for the opening weekend of the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival, whose founders Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi are among what seems like an endless river of Tower friends (David Ludwig is another name in that river, and when I mentioned him she said she had just been texting him). As this year’s composer-in-residence, Tower will attend open forums to discuss her work, and the first weekend’s concerts feature her fifth string quartet (“White Water”, which I remember quite fondly from Calidore’s performance at last year’s CMNW) and Rising for string quartet and flute, sandwiched between Haydn’s Joke and Beethoven’s second Rasumovsky quartet. Portland area superstars Amelia Lukas, Marilyn de Oliveira, Greg Ewer, Charles Noble, and Megumi Stohs Lewis join Callahan, Eguchi, and former composer-in-residence Kenji Bunch, whose String Circle for String Quartet features in the second weekend.

I spoke with Tower by phone while she waited to board a plane to Oregon and drink wine in the country with classical musicians.

On composing

“It’s totally organic. It’s like writing a novel. You start with a character and an environment with a particular profile and then you try and figure what that character is going to do.”

“What is technique? I don’t know. You see, I’m not a pitch person. The world’s all pitch pitch pitch, and that’s not what my music is about. It’s about everything else. The register, the texture, the rhythm, the action, is it going up, is it going down, all that other stuff is what I’m concerned about. Pitches are not that important to me. I can say that now. Pitches to me are like, okay, I’m going to use bricks, I’m going to use marble, but they mean nothing to me until I start shaping. They don’t drive the music, the music drives them. It took me a long time to figure that out, after all the schooling.”

“If you look at Beethoven, who is one of my biggest influences, he is very much about the texture, the rhythm, where is it going, where is it coming back to; those kinds of issues are very significant to Beethoven. If you just did just a pitch analysis of Beethoven, it’s not that interesting.”

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