The first thing we do, let’s count all the layers. He’s been updated, squeezed down, rethought, rewritten, cleaned up, dirtied down, worshipped unabashedly, reviled occasionally, shrugged off as a front man for some more sophisticated writer (Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, is the latest in a long line of contrarian candidates), quoted out of context ’til the cows come home.
And still, four hundred years after his death, old Will Shakespeare’s a survivor. In a lot of ways, it seems, he’s never been healthier. He’s translated into pretty much every language of any size on Earth, and adapted into everything from ballets to symphonic musical scores to teen-movie comedies. And he’s an economic powerhouse: towns from Ashland, Oregon to Stratford-upon-Avon, England are built on the sturdy foundation of the money and visitors he draws in.
So, happy anniversary, Will. No one’s absolutely sure of the precise date he was born, but he was baptized on April 26, 1564 (probably three days after his birth), and died on April 23, 1616, and April 23 – this Saturday – is the day that much of the world will be celebrating his legacy. In Portland, the biggest party might be Shakespeare at 400, an all-day event (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. It’s presented by PSU, the Portland Shakespeare Project, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Play On! Project” of contemporary “translations” of the plays (that word’s caused a lot of ruckus in the Church of Shakespeare), with input from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s The Wonder of Will celebration. There’ll be lectures, and readings, and a sonnet slam, and excerpts from three of OSF’s controversial translations by contemporary playwrights. Come see and hear for yourself what Amy Freed’s done with The Taming of the Shrew, Ellen McLaughlin with Pericles, and Douglas Langworthy with Henry VI: fresh approaches, or sacrilege?
Everything’s free, but organizers want to know how many people will be showing up, so click that link above and send in your RSVP.
Once upon a time the woods were mighty, and so were the men who worked in them. Paul Bunyan could clear-cut a hillside with a single swing of his ax (such activities are frowned upon these days) and hard-working, hard-living woodsmen were memorialized in folk songs: I see you are a logger, and not just a common bum, for nobody but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb.
Was ever a show more made for Portland, with its wood industry past and its plaid-shirt, logger-chic present, than Timber!, the Cirque Alfonse extravaganza playing tonight and Wednesday in Schnitzer Hall as part of the White Bird dance series? Arriving from the rugged environs of Quebec, Timber! promises acrobatics, dancing, folklore, music, and lumberjack feats “of agility and strength.”
Once upon another time, when I was much younger, I sold cans of Copenhagen every early morning to a long line of work-bound loggers and mill hands as they stopped by the convenience store that foolishly employed me. Chewing tobacco’s frowned on these, days, too, and truth be told, I have no nostalgia for it. Still, who knows? After Timber!, could we resist a show called Chew!?
A few more things to watch for on this week’s calendar:
Classical Up Close free concerts. Subtitled “Oregon Symphony Musicians on the Loose,” this series is pretty much that: some of the finest musicians in town, getting out of their monkey suits and into relaxed, intimate sites around town. And, yes, every concert’s free. The series starts Saturday with double bassists Jon McCullogh-Benner and Christopher Kim at Powell’s City of Books, then Monday with cellist Nancy Ives at the symphony’s ticket office downtown, and lots more, both daytime and evenings, through May 6.
Snow White. Northwest Children’s Theater’s new, anime-inspired musical adaptation opens Saturday and continues through May 22.
Night, Too, Shall Be Beautiful. Choral Arts Ensemble sings homegrown music written here and now by Oregonians and other Northwesterners in the Cascadia Composers organization, along with classics by Brahms and ever-popular contemporary choral composer Eric Whitacre. Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon, The Old Church.
Critical Mass. Oregon Repertory Singers pair some 1920s choral classics: British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’s late Romantic Mass in g minor, and Swiss composer Frank Martin’s magnificent Mass for Double Chorus. Saturday and Sunday, First United Methodist Church.
Age before (and beside) beauty. “Crabbèd age and youth cannot live together,” Martha Ullman West notes, quoting, in her review of Nicolo Fonte’s Beautiful Decay for Oregon Ballet Theatre. Fortunately, she adds, they can dance together, and exquisitely. Shows continue through Saturday.
The Pianist of Willesden Lane; Overview Effect. Brett Campbell reviews a pair of solo musical plays at Portland Center Stage.
Frederick Wiseman talks Titicut Follies. ArtsWatch’s Marc Mohan talks with the legendary documentary filmmaker about his notorious 1967 breakthrough film, an unflinching look at shoddy care in mental hospitals that was almost impossible to get screened for decades.
Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead. Marc Mohan reviews the new Miles Davis biopic: “Cheadle the actor revels in the chain-smoking, serpentine danger, and the enigmatic, unpredictable cool emanating from behind those ubiquitous dark shades. But Cheadle the director doesn’t quite know what to do with his star’s performance.”
Boom Tic Boom and Blue Cranes. Mitch Ritter drops in on the Alberta Street Pub for a night of free-form sounds.
Alan Sonfist: in the nature of things. Paul Sutinen creates an environment for viewing the Cooley Gallery’s exhibition of work by an artist who wants to “give the viewer an awareness that can be translated into a total unraveling of the cosmos.”
Church Basement Ladies. Christa Morletti McIntyre discovers a tasty slice of fading Midwest American pie in Broadway Rose Theatre’s newest musical.
Newsies, Snow White, Chrysalis: kids’ stuff onstage. Children’s theater, like children themselves, comes in a dizzying variety. We take a look at several current and recent variations.
A Pulitzer for Jack Ohman. The sly, irreverent, and piercingly pinpoint Ohman was named yesterday as winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for political cartooning. He was a fixture at The Oregonian for 29 years before moving on in 2012 to the Sacramento Bee, which now gets to bask in the glory. His many fans in Oregon, including us here at ArtsWatch, congratulate him.
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