Don’t look now (or do), but while the center of cultural gravity in Portland might still be on the downtown side of the Willamette River, it’s been shifting and expanding. The restaurant crowds started heading for the inner East Side a good fifteen years ago, and theaters escalated the eastward march. Things didn’t stop there. Immigration and population shifts created booming pockets of culture farther out, both east and west: the new Chinatown along the East Side’s 82nd Avenue, a Russian community along Foster Road, several Latino enclaves, a large Indian community in parts of Beaverton and Hillsboro, near the Silicon Forest. Suburbs have grown, and begun to assert their own identities separate from the city core. They’ve built or broadened their own cultural centers, from the nascent Beaverton Center for the Arts to established theater companies like Lake Oswego’s Lakewood Theatre and Tigard’s Broadway Rose.
While much of Portland Proper wasn’t looking, the onetime farm town of Hillsboro has become a city of more than 100,000 people, many looking for culture without having to trek to downtown Portland. Bag&Baggage theater settled into the suburb’s downtown core eleven years ago, performing sometimes on an outdoor stage and mostly in the Venetian Theatre, an old vaudeville and movie house. A little more than a year ago it bought an old Wells Fargo bank building on Main Street and began the long quest to raise $1.4 million to transform it into a new performance center.
Let Scott Palmer, B&B’s founder and artistic director, pick up the story from there, as quoted in a recent press announcement:
“The phone call came in the middle of a meeting with the Hillsboro Library. ‘We were sitting in a meeting chatting about partnerships with the Library when my phone rang,’ Palmer said. ‘I looked at the incoming number on my phone and didn’t recognize it, so I just let it go to voicemail. But then our managing director’s phone rang, a call from the same number, and she answered.’ The call was from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust with the news that Bag&Baggage’s grant request for $250,000 to support the capital campaign had been approved. ‘Needless to say, our meeting with the library took a break while we celebrated,’ said Palmer.”
That brought the campaign’s total just $300,000 shy of its goal (fundraising continues) and means that renovation will begin in November, six months ahead of schedule. The aim is to have the new home open and operating six months later, in April 2017. “In our new space, our audiences will be much closer to the performers, and we will also have a larger range of lighting, sound, and projection equipment available to us,” Palmer said, adding that the new space “will transform the way we perform and the way audiences experience our work.”
In the meantime, Bag&Baggage’s production of The Graduate (here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson) continues through October 2 (read Brett Campbell’s ArtsWatch review here), and B&B will open The Drowning Girls, based on a notorious string of murders in England in the late 1800s, on October 13.
A FEW POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE COMING WEEK:
Bluebeard’s Castle (with Chihuly). The Oregon Symphony will perform Béla Bartók’s lean and lively 1910 one-act opera based loosely on the strange fairy tale of a forbidding man, a string of wives, a series of locked rooms, and some dark and bloody secrets. Viktoria Vizin sings the most recent wife, Judith; Gábor Bretz sings Bluebeard; and celebrated glass artist Dale Chihuly has designed the set. Also on the program: Mozart’s Symphony No. 31, and the premiere of the young composer Chris Rogerson’s four-minute Among Mountains, commissioned to celebrate the Oregon Symphony’s 120th anniversary. Saturday, Sunday, Monday evenings.
August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned. Kevin Jones directs and Victor Mack stars in Todd Kreidler’s one-man play about the great American playwright, whose cycle of plays about African American life in the 20th century is a towering achievement. Portland Playhouse; produced with the August Wilson Red Door Project; opens Saturday.
Fly by Night. The musical-theater specialists at Broadway Rose bring this dark rock comedy conceived by Kim Rosenstock, who is maybe best-known for her 99 Ways To Fuck a Swan, a riff on the legend of Leda. Fly by Night is about a sandwich maker, two sisters, and the great Northeast blackout of 1965. Opens Friday.
Cappella Romana’s Orthodox Music: Ancient & Modern. The Portland and Seattle choir, which spent part of its summer singing across Europe, is back in town and kicking off its 25th season with Greek Orthodox music from ancient Byzantium and more modern compositions. 4 p.m. Saturday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.
The Trump Card. Monologuist Mike Daisey, who hits town now and again on his intrepid travels through the wilds of American culture, returns with his newest, this one about The Donald and his links to the American Dream. One show only, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Newmark Theatre.
Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. It’s September. School’s in session. Northwest Children’s Theatre & School is riding to the rescue of cooped-in kids with the good doctor’s classic tale of the frisky feline, opening Saturday.
Portland Chamber Orchestra. The venerable small-scale orchestra kicks off its 70th season with Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 in C minor, filmmaker Marina Labossier’s Little Red Shoes, and Grigory Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank. Saturday at Nordia House, Sunday at Lewis & Clark College.
Renée Fleming: Queen of the Night. Angela Allen was on hand when the legendary singer helped the Oregon Symphony open its 120th season, and was captivated: “The evening had a kind of variety-show vibe, but who cares when Fleming can sing just about anything so well, so fully, so emotionally, even when standing right next to the conductor. She completely defies any notion of the park-and-bark symphony/opera singer.”
Profile’s new boss, focusing the lens. Philadelphia writer Heather Helinsky, who’s followed Josh Hecht’s career in New York and elsewhere, profiles Profile Theatre’s incoming artistic director for ArtsWatch readers. One key point: He likes to help develop new plays.
Vreeland: The Artful Dowager. Christa Morletti McIntyre reviews Margie Boulé’s zestful performance as fashion legend Diana Vreeland in Triangle Productions’ Full Gallop: “Boulé captures a woman out of time, ahead of time and also deeply invested in it.”
Oh, the Horror: Devil Gets His Due. We review Portland Center Stage’s bright revival of the furtive musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors: “(T)he good news is, it’s a solid, straightforward, blissfully unconceptualized production of a reliably entertaining show that doesn’t need any embellishment. Director Bill Fennelly doesn’t try to reinvent the thing: he just makes sure it’s polished and paced and, yes, entertaining.”
A New Snow Queen: Cooking Up a Fresh New Score. In Part 3 of his series on the development of a new story ballet at Eugene Opera, Bob Keefer talks with Portland composer Kenji Bunch about how he’s approached the longest work he’s ever written: “I wanted to capture an Old World aesthetic that both supported the story and honored the long tradition of evening-length orchestral narrative ballet scores, so my influences here are closer to Prokofiev and Stravinsky than American folk or jazz idioms.”
About ArtsWatch Weekly
We send a letter like this once a week to a select group of email subscribers, and 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 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.
We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome!