Portland’s a provisional sort of town, a place to try things out, take a chance, experiment a little and see what happens. It might have something to do with the town’s rough-and-tumble history, its roots in fishing and logging and shipping, its historical country-cousin status among West Coast cities, without the swagger of San Francisco or glitter of L.A. or sun of San Diego or deeper pockets of Seattle. You can hide in Portland, and just do stuff, and make a life while you’re at it. In the arts, this can be both a blessing and a curse: the extra polish of high-level professionalism doesn’t always get applied, but the sheer guts of working things out, the passion of the process, don’t get ironed away, either.
And as an audience member, you can find bargains – deals to see something genuinely interesting but unfinished or in the works. For eight bucks last weekend I dropped down to the basement Ellen Bye Studio Theatre at Portland Center Stage to catch a staged reading of Julia Cho’s smart and insightful comedy The Language Archive, produced by Theatre Diaspora and directed by Dmae Roberts, whose MediaRites is the small theater company’s mother ship. Diaspora specializes in plays written or performed by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and in addition to doing its own thing it chips away at some stubborn patterns on the city’s theater scene, opening doors for AAPI performers and cluing people in to a wealth of potential dramatic material from Asian American writers. The Language Archive will have one more reading, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Milagro Theatre, which itself has been a pioneering force in town for Hispanic performance.
Without going in to a lot of detail, it was a rewarding afternoon. The performances were well-cast and well-rehearsed, and the racial blend was part of the woodwork, as it should be, a natural occurrence. Asian American actors Leo Lin and Wynee Hu play the leads affectingly, Mexico natives Sofia May-Cuxim and Enrique Eduardo Andrade provide some brilliant comic relief as the last two speakers of a dying language, Tonya Jone Miller and stage direction narrator Alex Haslett round out the cast nicely, and Cho’s script, about an archivist of endangered languages who doesn’t know how to communicate with the people in his own life, is genuinely funny and touching. Roberts noted that, although the play is by a Korean American writer, it’s usually performed by white actors. Odd, and yet distressingly ordinary. This production helps counterbalance that. It takes a small chance, and succeeds for everybody. Plus, it’s a bargain.
Portland’s flooded with printmakers and print geeks this weekend: FLUXPortland, the annual conference of the Southern Graphics Council International, is in town Thursday through Saturday. Besides all the usual razzle-dazzle that accompanies any big conference in any profession, it means that print shows are also being featured in galleries scattered all across town. Fittingly, some shows are also popping up in places that supply the trade, including the group show Iteration, including work by ten professors, staff, or alumni of the Pacific Northwest College of Art, showing Thursday through Saturday at Hand-Eye Supply. And Upfor Gallery’s Variable States: Prints Now, which includes work by eight national and international artists, continues through April 9.
A few things to watch for on this week’s calendar:
Othello. Post5’s new adaptation arrives with a gender twist: Ithica Tell as Othello, Jessica Tidd as Iago. A great role is a great role: why eliminate half of the potential acting pool? Friday through April 23.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Oregon Children’s Theatre hops into the Winningstad Theatre for this tale of an arrogant rabbit who embarks on a long journey and grows a bigger heart. Adapted from the novel by Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie). Saturday through April 24.
The Sinatra Century. The Oregon Symphony Pops teams with the stylish, jazzy pop singer and saxophonist Curtis Stigers for a cruise through Ol’ Blue Eyes’ songbook. Two shows, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Schnitzer Hall.
Grupo Corpo. White Bird dance’s busy week starts with the return of this popular Brazilian troupe performing a pair of new works by Rodrigo Pedernairas blending ballet and contemporary Afro-Brazilian. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Schnitzer Hall.
Kidd Pivot. Another White Bird favorite, Canada’s Kidd Pivot, returns in the Uncaged series with Betroffenheit (Bewildered), a collaboration with Vancouver, B.C.’s Electric Company Theatre. Thursday through Saturday, Newmark Theatre.
Claire Chase: flutes of fancy. “Whatever you expect at a solo flute concert, chances are it’s not a chorus of coruscating sounds, all apparently kicked off, shaped and directed by one performer,” Jeff Winslow writes about the virtuoso Chase’s performance for Third Angle New Music.
Dancing Gatsby in Eugene. Gary Ferrington slips behind the scenes of Eugene Ballet’s new adaptation of The Great Gatsby (choreography by Toni Pimble, score by Wynton Marsalis) to watch the Jazz Age take shape for a production opening April 9.
The movable film feast of City of Gold. Marc Mohan gets into the trenches with the legendary L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold, who celebrates the gustatory glory of the city’s many cultures in this delicious documentary.
On a scale of more. Patrick Collier considers the meanings of Emily Counts’s Moves Moves and its companion sculptures at Carl & Sloan Contemporary.
The few and far between. Long-haul truckers, isolated trailers, and millennium paranoia make a potent theatrical stew in CoHo’s new production of The Few, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes.
Chamber music crossovers: anti-genrefication activists. ArtsWatch”s Brett Campbell goes where too few dare to go: into the land of musical crossovers and genre mixing, where a heartening number of good musicians have been venturing lately. Mister Music, tear down that wall.
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