GET OUT OF TOWN. No, seriously. Summer’s here, and it’s travel time in Oregon: ah, the possibilities! You could grab a dashing neck scarf, put the top down on your convertible and zip on down the open road toward the California border and Ashland, where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is in full swing. Suzi Steffen’s been spending a lot of time there for ArtsWatch this season, and has sent back several insightful posts in her quest to cover the 2016 season like a fog smothering a bay in a John Carpenter summer horror flick.
Here’s what she’s reported so far. And watch soon for her reviews of Roe, the festival’s world-premiere production of Lisa Loomer’s play inspired by the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion, and The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s late romance. Read, and plan:
- ‘The Wiz’-bang: a showy spectacle. Steffen eases on down the road to consider the charms of the outdoor musical The Wiz.
- The guitar strings at midnight. Reviewing the festival’s newest Hamlet, which haunts the stage with some heavy-metal smoke and thrash.
- Pow, Bam, Love, M*therf!$&er! A review of the festival’s small-theater production of Qui Ngyuen’s powerful (and foulmouthed) postwar play Vietgone.
- Skiing the mountain of Hamlet. A fascinating, insightful interview with Danforth Comins, this season’s great Dane.
- From shipwreck to fairy tale. Steffen reviews the season first four show, which opened in February: Twelfth Night, The Yeomen of the Guard, Great Expectations, and The River Bride.
NEARBY, IN THE OLD GOLD-MINING town of Jacksonville just a spit and a whistle up the road from Ashland, the Britt Festivals are about to kick off. That’s festivals, plural, because Britt, in a big outdoors setting conducive to picnics, ranges from very pop to very classical, usually with very different audiences. Pop and country first: Things kick off Thursday with his royal country hairness, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (also at the Oregon Zoo amphitheater in Portland on July 3), followed by an Independence Day-weekend lineup leading up to Motown legend Diana Ross, now 72, on Tuesday, July 5 (she’s also at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale this Friday).
LILLIAN PITT AT WARM SPRINGS. Over the mountain pass in the high plateau of central Oregon, The Museum at Warm Springs has just opened Kindred Spirit: The Artistic Journey of Lillian Pitt, a wide-ranging exhibition of work by one of the Northwest’s most distinguished and influential Native American artists, whose art balances contemporary ideas and materials with the traditions of the people of the Columbia River. The show stays up all summer, through September 10.
MEANWHILE, IN EUGENE: Down in the southern Willamette Valley, the Emerald City is once again crowded with visitors to the annual Oregon Bach Festival, which kicked off late last week with a performance of the magnificent Mass in B Minor – this time, reflecting changes under the leadership of Matthew Halls, in the softer, leaner, and more delicate tones of historically informed style, an approach that founder Helmuth Rilling did not follow, preferring a broader, more modern sound. It continues tonight, Tuesday, with an OBF Chamber Orchestra performance of two works by Sir James MacMillan (who will be conducting) plus some Mendelssohn, Britten, and Shostakovich.
And if you want a break from all that Baroque (even with the festival’s several modern spins), you might slip on over to the nearby Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus, where among other things you’ll find the show Aliens, Monsters, and Madmen: The Art of EC Comics, which continues through July 10. It’s ripped from the pages of Weird Science, Tales from the Crypt, Mad Magazine, and other pulp fictions that shocked the morals of 1950s America and twisted the minds of its wayward teens. High culture, meet low culture: you never can tell what might pop out.
DREAMS AND ALLUSIONS IN SALEM. At the Hallie Ford Museum of Art through August 28 is the retrospective Royal Nebeker: Dreams and Allusions. Nebeker, a modern symbolist painter who died in 2014, is an apt subject for the Hallie Ford, which regularly does major exhibitions of work by Pacific Northwest artists with national and international reaches. A gifted figurative painter with influences ranging from Munch to Klimt to Schiele blended with his own more modern eye, he lived for many years in Astoria, a town that allowed him to immerse himself in his Scandinavian roots. His following ranges from curators to casual art lovers: his work is approachable yet often psychologically complex, and is in collections from Poland to the U.S. West Coast, from which curator John Olbrantz has drawn the 36 paintings and drawings in this show.
SING & SWING AT SILETZ. Of course, if you’re getting out of town, chances are decent that you’ll be heading for the Oregon Coast, where the clam chowder’s better and the beaches are as rugged or as friendly as you want. And if you’re heading for the coast, you might want to make it Lincoln City and the nearby Salishan Resort, where the eclectic Siletz Bay Music Festival is continuing through Sunday, July 3. Programming at this low-key festival ranges from traditionally classical to jazzy to pop, with some intriguing cross-fetilizations. On Wednesday, for instance, the venerable jazz pianist and composer Dick Hyman leads a small group in a concert of songs taken from Shakespeare’s plays: He started working on them back in the 1960s, when he was music director of Arthur Godfrey’s radio and TV shows. On Thursday things get downright theatrical, with Portland stalwarts Tobias Andersen and Lorraine Bahr playing George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell, respectively, in Dear Liar.
OR, YOU MIGHT STAY IN TOWN. This is a perfectly valid choice, even if you don’t have an overriding reason like, oh, a job that’s keeping you in the city.
One excellent reason to hang around town is Chamber Music Northwest, one of the most civilized musical events on Portland’s annual calendar. The festival, which attracts a large family of world-class musicians to town every summer, opened Saturday and continues through July 31, mostly at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium but also in several other places around town, some of them appealingly casual. This week, for instance, brings together young composer Andy Ahiko and members of the festival’s Protégé Project for some marimba and other percussive sounds on Wednesday at Alberta Rose Theatre, followed at Kaul on Saturday by a visit from Eugene by Robert Levin and a group of Oregon Bach Festival stars playing some period-instrument Beethoven and Mozart. ArtsWatch is sending out a squadron of writers to take in CMNW concerts; watch for their reports.
Or maybe you like your beats a little broader and more down-home. Don’t forget the elephant in the downtown living room, the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, which sprawls along the riverfront Friday through July 4 with the likes of Jimmie Vaughan, the fabulous Dr. John, Liv Warfield, Maceo Parker, and hometown hero Curtis Salgado Band. This is the invaluable Oregon Food Bank’s biggest fundraiser of the year: put your money where someone else’s mouth is.
AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, ORLANDO SWEEP THE DRAMMYS. Portland’s annual theater awards ceremony, the city’s version of Broadway’s Tony Awards, was Monday night in the Newmark Theatre, and two shows – Portland Center Stage’s Fats Waller musical and Profile Theatre’s adaptation of a gender-bending Virginia Woolf novel – took home a passel of significant trophies. ArtsWatch was in the crowd and gives you the lowdown on the scene and all the winners.
Broadway looks for the weird, the wonderful, and the reliable. In the Age of Hamilton, veteran West Coast theater critic Misha Berson takes a look at the Great White Way and reports to ArtsWatch readers that “the trend is really no-trend, or all-trend. Everything is up for grabs; anything could be a hit (or flop).”
Portland’s contemporary choral ecosystem. The city’s lively and engaged choral scene could be ready for a breakthrough, Brett Campbell writes, and asks, is there enough contemporary in the mix to make it happen?
FilmWatch Weekly. Marc Mohan gives the lowdown every week, with lots of links.
Dance Weekly. Jamuna Chiarini’s weekly look at the issues and events on the city’s dance scene.
MusicWatch Weekly. Brett Campbell keeps you current on the weekly sounds of music.
Procedures for Saying No: The office cataclysmic. Barry Johnson considers the puzzlements and many charms of Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s latest plunge into the waters surrounding Herman Melville and Moby-Dick, this one with a sizable side splash of Bartleby the Scrivener in a contemporary office setting.
The radically mused: improv summit of Portland. Matt Marble hangs around the happenings at the Creative Music Guild and discovers a vital cacophony – a place “where joyful noises erupt and drone on, where genres are fused and exploded, where everyday objects become artistic tools, where risks are taken—a space is made in which anything and everything is welcome.”
About ArtsWatch Weekly
We send a letter like this every Tuesday 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.
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