A pop singer, an artist, a director of commercials, a composer, a trio of designer/landscape architects, a songwriter, a violinist and physical therapist, an orchestra conductor, a celebrity journalist, and a bunch of dancers walk into a studio.
There are many ways to think about Pearl Dive Project, which opens Thursday evening at BodyVox, but it doesn’t involve a bartender, and it’s no joke. It is a gamble, and an experiment – a roll of the dice that tests the definitions of amateur and professional and the elasticity of the creative mind. Can a person who’s successful in one creative discipline transfer that success to a totally different form, one in which she or he has little or no experience? Or is that like trusting a top-tier dentist to do a heart transplant?
Or a pop singer to create a dance? Because that’s what the pop singer – China Forbes of Pink Martini, along with several other creative Portlanders, among them Oregon Symphony conductor Carlos Kalmar, artist Malia Jensen, songwriter Jeremy Wilson, and writer Byron Beck – are doing in Pearl Dive Project. Not a one of them has been a dancer, and yet, they’re creating choreography for BodyVox’s highly trained professional dancers to perform. “What will happen when artists and innovators working at the peak of their profession immerse themselves in a craft they’ve never considered?,” the company asks. What, indeed? You can find out during a run that continues through April 23.
Oregon lost one of its most vital artists on Saturday when Rick Bartow, whose drawings, paintings, and sculptures are known internationally, died from congestive heart failure at age 69. He was a beloved figure, legendary in his own way, and as news spread, a tsunami of responses and stories came, too. In A death in the family: Rick Bartow, I remember his life and his art, “which freely blended European and Native influences, (and) was mostly about transformations: animal spirits, human spirits, meeting, mingling, becoming expressions of one another. This was fascinating, and somehow reflective of an inner turmoil, because, as he once told me, ‘I don’t deal well with change.’ He had a little bit of Egon Schiele and Odilon Redon and Francis Bacon in his brushes and pencils, and also a lot of Coyote the Trickster, and Raven, and Owl, and his art was equally admired in contemporary and Native art circles.”
Must be something about spring: it’s a busy week for performance, with new shows popping up all over town. Several to keep in mind:
The Pianist of Willesden Lane. Pianist and actor Mona Golabek comes to Portland Center Stage to tell the inspirational tale, complete with music, of her mother, a young Jewish musician who survived Vienna in 1938 and London during the Blitz. Through May 1.
The New Electric Ballroom. Third Rail Rep takes on Irish writer Enda Walsh’s tale of three sisters and a guy called the Roller Royle, with a promising cast that includes Maureen Porter, Lorraine Bahr, Diane Kondradt, and Todd Van Voris. Through April 30 at Imago.
Blue Door. Profile Theatre continues its season of works by Porland native Tanya Barfield with this play about a mathematician, insomnia, the ghosts of several ancestors, and the Million Man March. Bobby Bermea directs Victor Mack and Seth Rue, Through April 24 at Artists Rep.
A Doll’s House. Shaking the Tree presents Frank McGuinness’s adaptation of Ibsen’s classic tale of domestic angst. Through May 7.
Love and Information. Theatre Vertigo tackles Caryl Churchill’s quick-paced story about a cavalcade of occurrences, with more than a hundred characters in the tiny space of the Shoebox Theatre. Through May 7.
Urban Tellers. Portland StoryTheatre joins forces on its latest Urban Tellers – “real, true stories” – with a group of tellers from the intensive youth performance group PlayWrite, Inc. Saturday, April 9, Alberta Abbey.
The Amish Project. Portland Actors Conservatory takes on Jessica Dickey’s play about the aftermath of a mass shooting in which 10 Amish kids were shot in their schoolhouse by a lone gunman. Beth Harper directs. Through April 24.
ODC/Dance. The San Francisco company makes its Portland debut in the White Bird series with performances Thursday through Saturday in the Newmark Theatre.
Ashland: the early-season festival report. Down in Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s getting into the swing of things, and Suzi Steffen went down to take a look at the 2016 season’s first four (of an eventual eleven) shows: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, some countryfied Gilbert & Sullivan in an updated Yeomen of the Guard, a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ sweeping Great Expectations, and Marisela Treviño Orta’s The River Bride. In her ArtsWatch essay From shipwreck to fairy tale, Steffen responds to what she saw with detail and deft analysis, plus a keen sense of what matters to the audience: “Theater, from the audience side, often feels like a beautiful dream. You go in, the lights go down, and if all goes well, you’re captivated for somewhere between 90 minutes and at a stretch, four hours.” Grab your schedule, use Steffen as a guide, and put on your traveling shoes.
Kidd Pivot: a confusion deep and meaningful. Imps, demons, theater, dance: In the dance troupe Kidd Pivots’s recent collaboration with the Electric Company Theatre for White Bird, a real, horrific tragedy underpins a tormented work of fiction. Nim Wunnan dives inside to tell the tale.
Alzheimer’s onstage in Eugene. Oregon Conservatory Theatre’s Blackberry Winter and the Eugene Vocal Arts’s premiere of Oregon composer Joan Szymko’s Shadow and Light, both coming up soon, grapple with the realities of dementia. Gary Ferrington has the lowdown.
Rabbit, run: a miraculous tale. Oregon Children’s Theatre’s adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s picaresque novel The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane takes a remarkable journey of its own, I write.
Kill Your Friends is served cold, but not exactly fresh. Erik McClanahan on the new Brit serial-killer flick: “The characters here mistake their insane levels of drug-taking and entitled positions in life for something of value, but unfortunately so do the filmmakers, who perhaps thought that by upping the nihilism and over-the-top nastiness in this adaptation of the 2008 novel by Scottish author John Niven they could gloss over their movie’s most glaring flaw: it has absolutely nothing new to say.”
Radio Redux: radio days revived. Listen up, Gary Ferrington writes: This Eugene company tunes in expertly to the tones and tales of the golden days of radio, and it has a couple of live performances coming up this weekend.
Tony Glausi: finding musical identity. The young Oregon trumpeter is defying the stereotype of jazz as an old-people’s art form, Gary Ferrington writes.
Elizabeth Woody, Oregon’s voice. I sat down with Woody, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Oregon’s new poet laureate, to talk about what it all means: “At some point in our conversation it struck me once again that, like other art forms, poetry is a verb as well as a noun: it takes a finished form, but it’s also a way of thinking and doing and being. In a sense, one creates a poem because one is in the state of being a poet. … Woody’s history involves a lost voice, a voice common to a particular people, an understanding that is veiled by time and events and leaves its impression on the way she thinks and writes and speaks. Words are central to her being.” (Photo courtesy Oregon Cultural Trust)
Midnight Special shines its ever-lovin’ light on you. Marc Mohan sings the praises of Jeff Nichol’s sci-fi thriller, and fears for it: “It’s the best of both worlds: a ripping character-driven yarn with action, suspense, and even some snazzy special effects. I have this terrible feeling, though, that as a money-maker, it’s going to sink like a stone.”
Jake Gyllenhaal breaks it down in Demolition. The director of Wild and Dallas Buyer’s Club serves up another story of a soul in existential crisis, Marc Mohan writes. That soul is Gyllenhaal, as a guy who’s “in finance.”
Weaving words and music. Don’t look now, but story’s making a comeback, and contemporary composers are leaping at the chance to make music that goes with tales. Brett Campbell takes a look at a trio of intriguing combination packages, two recent and one coming up.
Post5’s Othello: less is more. The Portland company’s new “Shakesqueer” take on the delicate dance of power, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes, gets down to the basics of power and passion.
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