The greatest moment in my on-and-off love affair with the TBA festival came in the rising moonlight of Jamison Square on the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The performers were the great, New York-based Japanese dancers Eiko + Koma, whose slow, deliberate, breath-stoppingly beautiful butoh-inspired movement simply tore a hole in the sky. Their piece, danced in and around the water on that evening in 2003 and suffused with light, was called Offering, and it was exactly that: a sad, deep, hopeful blessing. “It strikes me, on this anniversary of death, that the world’s war-makers would detest this dance, which is about deep truths that can’t be glossed or managed,” I wrote at the time. “It is the holy and profane, inseparable, wrapped into one.”
This year’s festival, TBA:15, kicks off on Thursday, and runs pretty much nonstop through September 20, with a handful of exhibitions carrying through to October 11. There’s always the chance that something might rise out of it to such heights. A good deal probably won’t come close: TBA is about breaking molds and trying things out and taking chances, and when you take chances, the odds of failure rise. Contrarily, only by taking chances do you make the likes of Eiko and Koma’s Offering possible, and that’s what keeps audiences coming back. So, who’ll it be this year? Okwui Okpokwasili? Lars Jan? Tyondai Braxton? Lucy Yim? Radhouane El Meddeb? Dynasty Handbag? Dana Michel? Amy O’Neal? Someone else? The full schedule’s here. Let the games begin.
WELCOME TO ARTSWATCH WEEKLY. We’ve been sending a letter like this every Tuesday for a couple of years now to a select group of email subscribers. We’ll continue to do that, and beginning today we’ll also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and often head off on little arts rambles that we don’t include anywhere else: the allure of drive-in movies, for instance, or the meanings of the high-end art supermarket, or even the comfort and joy of stopping at the Otis Cafe on the way to the coast. From now on, you can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.
THE OLD AND THE NEW OF IT: While you’re waiting for the Portland Art Museum’s Seeing Nature, the big landscape show opening October 10 of paintings from the Paul Allen family collection, lots of smaller exhibits are worth a visit now. The print galleries are showing Now on View, recent acquisitions ranging from Canaletto to Whistler, Mark Tobey, Rita Robillard and others, through December 13. (Left: Dürer‘s 1518 engraving The Virgin and Child Crowned by Two Angels.) And the contemporary master Anish Kapoor has an exhibit of 18 bright prints from the Jordan D. Schnitzer collection, on view through October 25. (Right: Burgundy Red, from the series Shadow IV, 2011, etching, 28 3/16 x 37 5/16 inches. © Anish Kapoor and Paragon | Contemporary Editions Ltd.)
THEATER, THEATER, WHO’S GOT THE THEATER? A few shows, such as Triangle’s Looped (see below) and Post5’s enormously entertaining Equivocation, have jumped the gun, but Portland’s new theater season begins with a wallop this weekend. Among this week’s new shows:
“Passion Play.” Profile Theatre continues its Sarah Ruhl season with parts 1 and 2 of this time-traveling trio, leading up to a longer run of part 3 September 25-October 24 at Shaking the Tree. Short run; Wednesday through Sunday.
“The Best of Everything.” Bag& Baggage throws dips into the secretarial pool of the wayback machine with this adaptation of a Rona Jaffe best-selling 1958 novel. B&B calls it a cross between Mad Men and Peyton Place. Opens Thursday; through September 27.
“One Man, Two Guvnors.” Clackamas Rep grabs the local premiere of Richard Bean’s enormously popular, very free adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century physical farce The Servant of Two Masters. Opens Friday, through October 4.
“Waiting for Godot.” Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative brings a promising lineup to Beckett’s classic cross of spiritual angst and baggy-pants comedy: Pat Patton directs Don Alder as Estragon and Grant Byington as Vladimir, with Todd Hermanson, Steve Vanderzee, and Eric Lyness. Opens Friday; through October 11.
“Anything Goes.” Why, yes, we do believe the glorious music and lyrics are by the inimitable Cole Porter. Lakewood Theatre’s revival uses the Lindsay/Crouse updated book and features Amy Jo Halladay as Reno Sweeney,Brian Demar Jones as Billy Crocker, and Malia Davis as Hope Harcourt, with reliable support from the likes of Shawn Rogers and Darius Pierce. Anchors aweigh. Opens Friday; through October 18.
“A Time in September: Honoring Harry Widman.” Readers Theatre Rep begins its 15th season with a pair of short plays honoring Widman, the longtime Portland artist, teacher, and gentleman, who died last October from Alzheimer’s disease. Widmer was also a member of Blackfish Gallery, where Readers Rep performs. The plays: Steering Into the Skid, by Arnold Johnson and Deborah Ann Percy; In the Garden, by Widman’s son, Matthew Widman. Short run; Friday through Sunday.
“The Understudy.” Artists Rep kicks off its season with Theresa Rebeck’s backstage comedy, a three-hander about a fictional Kafka play, a Hollyood action star, and the hapless understudy who must work with the stage manager whose life he pretty much ruined a long time ago. Opens Saturday; through October 4.
“Founders, Friends & Faves.” This one-night stand kicks off Portland Story Theater’s season, with a promising lineup of Lawrence Howard, Lynne Duddy, Penny Walter, Leigh Hancock, Warren McPherson, and John Ming. Plus the debut of the new house band: Bamberger, Engel, Hines and Eave. Saturday only.
THE MILLION DOLLAR BABY? Since it started nine years ago, the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Work for Art program has funneled $6.2 million to local arts groups – a big boost to bottom lines. The basic idea is simple and effective: employees pledge a certain amount annually, and their donation is matched. Last year’s total: $750,000. This year, Barry Johnson reports, RACC is pushing for a big leap, all the way to $1 million. That would be good news all around.
THIRD RAIL CROSSES THE RIVER. Big changes have happened at Third Rail Rep, one of Portland’s most adventurous theater companies. Barry Johnson sat down with company leaders and got the lowdown on the move from downtown’s Winningstad Theatre to Imago Theatre on the East Side, the company’s gamble on a new business model that features memberships with multiple possibilities, and other affairs of the current state.
CELEBRATING THE SOUNDS OF OREGON. The young Eugene ensemble Delgani String Quartet, Gary Ferrington writes, is exploring the art of the entire state, leaning heavily on collaborations with theater and visual artists, and performing modern and contemporary music by the likes of Lou Harrison, Paul Safar, and Terry McQuilkin.
PURE AS THE DRIVEN SLUSH. Triangle Productions’ Looped, a play about Tallulah Bankhead trying for eight hours to record a single-line overdub for a horror flick, is a triumph for star Margie Boulé, Christa Moreletti McIntyre writes: “Boulé gives us Tallulah: the glamour, the calculated and fractured moments of an alcoholic, the long drawn face of a nicotine addict, the overconfidence of someone who has spent her life alone, the sexiness of a woman who knows what she wants, and the rapier wit for which Tallulah was famous.”
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