Saturday’s official opening night of Cuba Libre (it’s already in preview performances) will do the downbeat on one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of Portland’s theater season, and if ticket sales are your measure, it’s already a hit: it’s been held over before it even opens, and several infill shows have been added, too.
Why all the excitement? It’s a world premiere – not just any premiere, but one with big national ambitions, and a national cast and creative team to match. Dámaso Rodriguez brought the project with him when he came north from Los Angeles to take over as artistic director at Artists Rep, and everyone’s eyes are on bigger things: it can’t hurt that it arrives at a time when Cuban/U.S. relations are finally thawing after more than 50 years. Splitting its time and tensions between Cuba and Miami, Cuba Libre takes its cues from the lives and rhythms of the multiple Grammy-nominee timba band Tiempo Libre, which will play at every performance. Dance, Latin fusion, and a drama stretched across two cultures make up the core of what Artists Rep is calling a “Broadway-scale new musical.” The 21 performers will be squeezed into downtown’s Winningstad Theatre, which is a boost in size from Artists Rep’s home stages but smaller than any Broadway house. The show runs through November 15.
While Cuba Libre‘s kicking up the sights and sounds of Havana and Miami on Saturday night, Oregon Ballet Theatre starts its own season with a trip to Italy – or Amore Italiano, as the company’s labeling the show. (Here at ArtsWatch World Headquarters, we’re abashed to admit that the program’s overtly alluring title immediately brought to mind Connie Francis’ mid-’60s album Love, Italian Style. This does not reflect well on the adolescent priorities of ArtsWatch management.) OBT’s season kickoff will feature Sub Rosa, a new piece by Almost Mozart choreographer James Kudelka, to music by Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, plus the third act of August Bournonville’s snappy Napoli. For ballet fans, it’s always fascinating to see the company’s first show of the season and discover who’s new and who’s picked up the pace. Bonus: violinist Aaron Meyer and band will play Italian tunes. Amore.
A few things to scribble on your calendar:
- MOMIX. White Bird brings the legendary illusionist dance troupe to town for four shows Thursday through Saturday of its full-length piece Alchemia. Portland has a special affinity with MOMIX: Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton, founders of BodyVox, performed with MOMIX earlier in their careers, and although the companies have developed along very different lines, you can still see the family tree.
- Cock. Defunkt Theatre opens Mike Barlett’s gender-teasing play about a guy who falls in love with a woman, which upsets his longtime boyfriend. Then there’s a dinner party designed to hash things out, and, well … the metaphorical crockery starts to fly. Jon Kretzu directs. Thursday through November 14.
- Ekphrastasy: Seven Poets Respond to Art. Culture happens in all sorts of situations around Oregon, and at all sorts of price points. This one happens to be free. The poets – John Morrison, Jon Sinclair, Kristin Koebke, Michael Jarmer, Michael Kerr, Michelle Delaine Williams, Woesha Hampson – will read new and old works responding to the art on the wallsof Gallery 114 by Curtis Settino, Jerry Wellman, and Rich Powers. 7 p.m. Friday.
- Poets Between Worlds: Steve Cleveland & Eric Walter. While we’re thinking about poetry, a subject Portlanders take far from prosaically, these two writers and musicians will read from their work at the Multnomah Arts Center, stripping it down to the words and the sound. 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
- Rope. The nights are chilly, we’re veering toward Halloween, and Bag&Baggage is here with a little mayhem on its mind: Patrick Hamilton’s play Rope, based on the infamous Leopold & Loeb thrill-killing case. Hitchcock used Hamilton’s play as the base for one of his most disturbing movies. Thursday through November 1.
PDXOS sounds like a Greek island or a computer operating program. In fact, it’s the new moniker for Portland Open Studios, one of the city’s more intriguing annual events. Open Studios is a two-weekend event – this year, Saturday and Sunday, October 10-11 and 17-18 – and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a chance to visit the studios of working artists, see what they’re working on, what their creative spaces look like, chat with them and maybe even see them at work.This year’s lineup features 106 artists, some with gallery representation, some not, and a broad range of styles and media. Some, like Christopher Mooney and Shawn Demarest, are known for their urbanscapes. Some work in fabric (Beth Yazhari) or wood (Christopher Wagner, Stan Peterson) or encaustic hot wax paint (Karl Kaiser) or steel and enamel (Joel Heidel and Angelina Marino-Heidel, who make sculptural bike racks). All are happy to open their doors to you. And who knows what you might pick up?
When art and world tensions collide. Pakistani American artist Sabina Haque’s newest installation, Storylines: Art & Remote Conflict, opens Wednesday in the Littman Gallery at Portland State University and continues through October 28. The Portland artist spends part of each year in Karachi, where she grew up. Storylines, a three-part installation exploring loss, memory, and renewal, is an extension of her video performance Remembrance, about the devastation of drone warfare, which ArtsWatch wrote about last year in the essay Remember This: The Price of Drones.
Blair Saxon-Hill: Fit To Be Tied. Sabina Poole’s trek across Oregon to capture artists in their studios and photograph them turns this week to an Industrial Southeast Portland studio and an extraordinary photo session that involved some highly unusual gift-wrapping.
Katherine Longstreth’s Marginal Evidence. In her most recent Weekend DanceWatch, Jamuna Chiarini gets down to the details of Longstreth’s installation, which is rooted in her discovery of an accidental film recording of a dance rehearsal twenty years ago. The piece continues through November 14 at White Box Gallery. Look for new versions of DanceWatch and MusicWatch later this week on ArtsWatch’s home page.
A tightly sprung turn of the screw. I look into the shadows of Portland Shakespeare Project’s spry and stimulating two-actor version of Henry James’s classic ghost story, which “seeps in and slithers out, raising the hair on your neck and revealing almost nothing but impressions of what may or may not have taken place.”
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