ArtsWatch Weekly: dance royalty, studio dogs, scary stories

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Professor Harold Hill, as lovers of that great American musical The Music Man recall, was a drifter, a grifter, a smooth-talker, a salesman of nothing but a dream. But the biggest complaint against him, his gravest crime against the Code of the Traveling Salesman? “He doesn’t know the territory!”

Knowing the territory is a pretty good idea in all sorts of pursuits, including writing about the arts. And Gavin Larsen, author of ArtsWatch’s dance report Ching Ching Wong’s princess path, knows the territory. Gavin was a top dancer for eighteen years, performing with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alberta Ballet, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and Oregon Ballet Theatre, where she was a principal dancer. She retired in 2010 to focus on teaching, coaching, and writing.

The electrifying Ching Ching Wong: she's royalty now. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The electrifying Ching Ching Wong: she’s royalty now. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

That makes her an ideal journalist to write about Wong, the young, highly talented, and electrifying dancer for Northwest Dance Project. in August, Wong became the Portland company’s fourth performer since 2010 to win a prestigious Princess Grace Award, which comes with a grant that essentially underwrites her career for a full year. That’s an astonishing record, especially for a small, relatively young company far from the centers of the national dance world. All four winners still dance with the company, and as NWDP prepares for its annual New Now Wow! concerts Thursday through Saturday of this week, Larsen tells the twin tale of how Wong has reached such heady territory (as a teen she “clung to dance for dear life … I totally obsessed over it”), and how Northwest Dance Project has grown from a $30,000 summer program into a $1 million-plus touring and resident operation that has favorably impressed the Princess Grace Foundation’s decision-makers. Larsen tells the story well, lacing it with her deep understanding of the way the dance world works. Not, of course, that she’s territorial about it.


Christine Bourdette and helper, getting industrious in the studio. Photo: Sabina Poole

Christine Bourdette and helper, getting industrious in the studio. Photo: Sabina Poole

What’s your work space look like? One of those gray office cubicles designed to promote businesslike efficiency but feeling instead like some sort of demented B.F. Skinner experiment? A warehouse, concrete and muscular? A classroom, maybe, with desks lined up in orderly rows or slung into a loose circle for conversation? A field planted with corn or grapes or hay? A certain member of the ArtsWatch intelligentsia who shall not be named works in a tiny kitchen cubby, two steps from the refrigerator and three steps from the stove, making it possible for him to sometimes write or edit a story and fix dinner at the same time.

Visual artists, of course, work in studios. But, as followers of Sabina Poole‘s series of photographs and essays about Oregon artists know, studios take all sorts of forms. And sometimes, they come with dogs. In this week’s segment, There’s a Dog in My Studio …, Poole shows off a handful of artist studios that come canine-equipped – plus one, just to be fair, with a cat. Well, do you get to take your pet to work?

Shelley Jordon and sidekick, seeing patterns. Photo: Sabina Poole

Shelley Jordon and sidekick, seeing patterns. Photo: Sabina Poole


Coming up this weekend on Portland stages:

  • The Drunken City. Theatre Vertigo opens a play about “the bar crawl to end all crawls,” by Adam Bock, who is, as one long-ago city journalist used to write, “no stranger to Portland.”
  • The Realistic Joneses. What happens when the Joneses live next to the Joneses? A Will Eno comedy, with a promising cast at Third Rail Rep.
  • Junie B. Jones: The Musical. A Jones of an utterly different nature. Junie B., that spunky heroine of first grade going on second, stars in her own musical at Oregon Children’s Theatre.
  • Carrie: The Musical. And a musical of an utterly different nature. Just in time for Halloween, it’s Stephen King’s high-school horror tale, translated to the stage at Stumptown Stages. Revenge! Revenge!
  • Spellbound. And speaking of Halloween, Portland Story Theater spins a few yarns, hosted by Sam A. Mowry of Willamette Radio Workshop, who knows a scary voice when he speaks one.




ArtsWatch links

Translate this: Hitomi Manaka as Lavinia in Yukio Ninagawa's Titus Andronicus (Taitasu Andronikasu) at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Wikimedia Commons

Translate this: Hitomi Manaka as Lavinia in Yukio Ninagawa’s Titus Andronicus (Taitasu Andronikasu) at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Wikimedia Commons

Fresh Shakespeare from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Unlike a lot of people who are loudly Viewing With Alarm, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner does not have his codpiece in a twist over Ashland’s plan to have all of the Bard’s plays translated into modern English. Pollack-Pelzner, who teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and British literary history at Linfield College, notes that everybody’s doing it, and it’s been going on for centuries: out there in the greater galaxy, even the Klingons have got in on the act. “There’s no law, and I’m not outraged. On the contrary, I think OSF’s project could be one of the most exciting things to happen to Shakespeare in years.”

They came, they saw, they conquered, they quit. Well, it’s been a good long run for the wonderful Anonymous 4, and as much as we might not like it, they have a right to retire. So Saturday’s performance in the Friends of Chamber Music’s Vocal Arts Series, sadly, was the group’s last in Portland. But, as Jeff Winslow reports, this year’s Vocal Series has had a lot of winners. Simply put, it’s brought great classical singing to Portland. That’s included perennial favorites Chanticleer, whose concerts are always something to crow about.

Octopus Nixon greets the crowd at Brody improv. Illustration: Brian Kierney

Octopus Nixon greets the crowd at Brody improv. Illustration: Brian Kierney

The Mouse Mayor of Space Town. That is not, in fact, the name of the show. It’s a prompt tossed out by a member of the audience at Brody Theater’s Micetro comedy improv game. And with that, the performers are off and running, tangling tentacles along the way. Brian Kierney reports on the mouse that roared.

Post5’s Equus: ride alone. Christa Morletti McIntyre goes looking for the crucial center of Peter Shaffer’s tale of a boy who blinds horses and the psychiatrist who tries to tame the boy.

Vintage Tharp, defining America. Martha Ullman West on the irreplaceable Twyla Tharp and her company’s performance in Portland last week: “On her golden anniversary, she puts on one helluva show. That’s enough for me, though I hope it’s not enough for her: I want to see what she does next.”

Truscott: asking, telling, and provoking. Photo courtesy Boom Arts

Truscott: asking, telling, and provoking. Photo courtesy Boom Arts

Asking For It: funny about unfunny. Rebecca Waits goes to Adrienne Truscott’s comedy provocation – it’s about rape and rape culture, and Truscott performs naked from the waist down, except for those six-inch spike heels – and discovers that shock comedy can make you laugh and think.

Live from Beall Hall. ArtsWatch’s man in Eugene, Gary Ferrington, takes a look at what’s popping in the University of Oregon’s fine musical performance hall and discovers a feast of new music (and a little old, too) coming up this fall.

70 and singing out strong. This weekend, the venerable Portland Symphonic Choir presents its 70th anniversary concert, a longevity matched only by its continuing liveliness. Bruce Browne, who led the ensemble for 22 years ending in 2001, gives ArtsWatch readers a preview and a long look back at the nurturing of an institution.

Border-crossing in an anxious time. Nim Wunnan takes a trip through the “post-national, trans-disciplinary movement” of L-E-V, the Israeli dance troupe that by dint of its home knows a thing or two about borders and their shifting meanings. The company played Portland last week in the White Bird series, and Wunnan discovered movement from “a time and place of shifts and fractures.”

L-E-V's Killer Pig. Photo: Gil Shani

L-E-V’s Killer Pig. Photo: Gil Shani



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We’ve been sending a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers. Now we’re also posting 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 sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. 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.

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