Not to give anything away, but it ends tragically. Maybe you’ve heard the tale: hot young guy, eager young miss, ardent passions, balcony scene, feuding families, stroke of violence, thwarted plan, poison potion, doom. Yes, it’s true: Romeo and Juliet‘s back in town. And not just any R&J, but James Canfield’s sumptuous ballet version. Canfield created it in 1989 for Pacific Ballet Theatre, and brought it with him to the new Oregon Ballet Theatre the following year when PBT and Ballet Oregon merged, and made it a mainstay of OBT’s repertory. It hasn’t been seen onstage here in more than fifteen years, since before Canfield and the OBT board parted ways abruptly in 2003, and Canfield’s work largely disappeared from town. Under artistic director Kevin Irving, OBT has been renewing the acquaintance, healing old wounds, and now one of Canfield’s signature pieces is back on the OBT stage at Keller Auditorium, opening Saturday and continuing through March 5. A little history is about to happen, and we’re not talking about the Shakespeare.
On the other hand, with this one we are talking about the Shakespeare. And about the multitalented Portland stage and screen veteran Tobias Andersen, who at the beginning of his ninth decade is crawling out on the heath in the title role of the great King Lear. This is in many ways the pinnacle role in Shakespeare’s plays (although that’s open to a lot of argument), even more so than Hamlet or Prince Hal or Prospero or Macbeth, all of whom will get votes, along with some of the comic characters like Falstaff and Beatrice and Benedick. Andersen opens on Friday night at Post5 Theater, and we expect some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and, more to the point, a performer capable of diving deeply and profoundly into the tragedy. It continues through March 19.
Sunday, as you might have heard, will be the outpouring of the celebrity orgy that is the Academy Awards, and though it’s one of the most watched television spectacles on the planet, one of its dirty little secrets (it has quite a few) is that vast swaths of the broadcast audience won’t have seen most of the movies that are vying for statuettes. “I’ll catch it when it comes to Netflix,” people tell themselves, and then … well, where does the time go?
Don’t worry. In Oscars 2016: How to see all the nominees before Sunday’s ceremony, ArtsWatch’s Marc Mohan clues you in on how and where you can still catch every single nominee – every one, that is, except for Embrace of the Servant, the Colombian nominee for best foreign film. If you missed that one in the Portland International Film Festival, you’ll have to wait until March 11, when it opens at the Living Room Theaters. Go ahead; you can do it. And, as Marc points out, it’s so worth it, because “(d)espite their predictable lameness, and their lamentable whiteness, the Oscars remain a cultural touchstone for moviegoers, celebrity hounds, and fashion mavens around the globe.”
This year’s Portland Jazz Festival continues through Sunday, the 28th, and we’ve been out and about, checking the sounds and the scene. Here’s a look at our coverage so far:
Rhythm in the Rain. Portland jazz writer, performer, and radio host Lynn Darroch’s new book from Ooligan Press arrived just in time for the start of the festival. A history and evocation of jazz in the Pacific Northwest, it neatly lays the groundwork for what’s happening now. With permission, we reprinted Darroch’s introductory chapter, which lays out several of his themes. You’ll want to read the inside story that links Miles Davis to Thara Memory to Esperanza Spalding, and back again.
Jazz Fest preview: Trane’s tracks. Angela Allen tracks some of the highlights, and reminds us that this year’s festival is in memory of the late great John Coltrane, who would have been 90 years old. She quotes Portland-grown sax player Nicole Glover: “Coltrane has the power to move people. He can reach that special place in you that only you have access to.”
Pat Martino: In the moment. “The past doesn’t exist,” Charlie Stanford quotes Martino in this wide-ranging interview with the legendary jazz guitarist. “The future doesn’t exist. What exists is now.”
Elvin Jones tribute: straight from the heart. The terrific Portland drummer Alan Jones led an all-star tribute to the great drummer Elvin Jones, and we asked one of Alan’s students, Kaleb Davies, to talk with his teacher about Elvin’s influence on jazz. It’s an illuminating discussion.
ArtsWatch has been poking around the museums and galleries a bit in the past week, and after poking, we wrote, as we tend to do. From Edward Curtis to the Zero Project, here are a few of the things we saw:
Considering The Art Gym’s abstractions. Barry Johnson takes a deep long look at the varied abstract works in The Art Gym’s group show and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive, and wonders how it all fits with Renaissance ideas of art as “an allegory of the mind of God.”
Beyond Edward Curtis: Native lens. I review the Portland Art Museum’s exhibition Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy, tracing the responses, reactions, and separate viewpoints of three contemporary artists to the romantic worldview embedded in Curtis’s famous images of what he saw as a disappearing Native America.
A dictionary of water, petroglyphs in motion, cowboys and Indians revisited. Reviews of Shu-Ju Wang’s series of invented words and images about water, James Luna’s stereotype-subverting images of Native America, and Gail Tremblay’s elegant traditional-looking basketry woven out of film stock from old Western movies.
Zero Project: Fighter plane as art. Grace Kook-Anderson fills us in on Katsushige Takahashi’s extraordinary Zero Project, which landed at Reed College’s Cooley Gallery. Gallery staff and volunteers assembled 25,000 photographic images to construct a life-scale Mitsubishi A6M Zero warplane flown by Imperial Japanese Navy pilots during World War II. As you might imagine, much more was going on here than the mere building of a model plane.
The Oscars are coming, but the Portland International Film Festival‘s already here (it continues through Saturday, the day before the big red-carpet blowout), and Marc Mohan and Erik McClanahan have been keeping ArtsWatch readers up-to-date on what’s screening and what’s good. How up-to-date? Try today’s movies, which they write about in PIFF best bets for Tuesday, Feb. 23. On the docket: the Greek Chevalier; the Italian L’Atessa, a “somewhat overwrought drama” that nevertheless affords another chance to experience the grace and dignity of the great Juliette Binoche.
Dance Weekly: Race and ballet. In her weekly column about what’s happening on the dance scene in and around Portland, Jamuna Chiarini writes about Misty Copeland, the African American ballerina who was recently named a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, and considers the general paucity of dancers of color in the American ballet ranks.
Claire Chase: Leading from inside out. Brett Campbell tells the tale of the contemporary flutist, who was in town for shows with Third Angle New Music, and her entrepreneurial quest to nurture new models for new music.
Trying (and failing) to cash in on feminist irreverence. Courtney Paranteau considers the new flick How To Be Single, with Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson, and decodes how it “quickly squanders … any timeliness or contribution to a genre riddled with disappointingly reductive routines when it comes to imagining the lives women lead while predominantly around only each other.”
Animal instinct: Corrib’s Chapatti. I review this tender and dangerous stage vehicle for the veteran actors Allen Nause and Jacklyn Maddux, a tale of one dog, nineteen cats, one budding relationship, and the shadow of another.
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