Bob Hicks

 

News & Notes: Maya Lin, Jewish Film Festival, Dad’s Day, more

A weekend gathering of cultural items, with a little Picasso and a caterpillar named Neener thrown into the mix

Along the Columbia River, the Confluence Project continues to grow and deepen. A vast artistic sweep into the history, culture, and natural environment of the Pacific Northwest, it stretches 438 miles from the mouth of the Columbia to Hells Canyon on the Idaho border, following stopping points on the 1804-06 Lewis and Clark Expedition as it explored the western reaches of the continent. That journey led to far-reaching transformations in the land itself, and in the lives of the people who lived along the river, as well as those who were to come.

Maya Lin's walkway at Celilo Falls, as it will look. Confluence Project rendering.

Maya Lin’s walkway at Celilo Falls, as it will look. Confluence Project rendering.

The artist Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Memorial in the nation’s capital, has been a key figure in the Confluence Project, and her elegant, quietly gorgeous pedestrian bridgeway at Celilo, designed to suggest the memory of the native fishing platforms that jutted over the river before Celilo Falls disappeared in 1957 beneath the waters of The Dalles Dam, is bound to be one of the project’s key elements. The Dalles Chronicle has this illuminating update on the project, which is due to be completed in Fall 2016.

Confluence sites at Cape Disappointment (Ilwaco, Wash.), Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, Wash.), the Sandy River Delta (Troutdale), and Sacagawea State Park (Pasco, Wash.) are completed. Only the Celilo Falls site and one at Chief Timothy Park (Clarkston, Wash.) remain to be finished.

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Jewish Film Festival. Here it is mid-June already, and the Northwest Film Center’s 22nd annual Portland Jewish Film Festival is here. Co-presented with the Institute for Judaic Studies, the 17-film festival opens Sunday with Friends from France, the tale of two cousins who travel behind the Iron Curtain in 1979 to meet with persecuted Jews in Odessa, and ends June 29 with The Last of the Unjust, Claude Lanzmann’s long and deep historical film centering on the story of Benjamin Murmelstein, who in 1975 was the only surviving “Jewish Elder” appointed by the Nazis to run the “model ghetto” camp in Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia. The story is complex. Lanzmann had interviewed Murmelstein for his landmark Holocaust documentary Shoah, but didn’t use it in that film. Many years later, he presents it as its own story. Festival passes are available from the film center.

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Sunday is Father’s Day, and the Portland band Nu Shooz Orchestra has a terrific little dad’s day tale. John Smith, who leads the band with his wife Valerie Day, has always been a doodler, a compulsive drawer.

Momo and Neener. Drawing: Malcolm Smith

Momo and Neener. Drawing: Malcolm Smith

He passed his talent on to their son, Malcolm Smith. When Malcolm was young, they spent hours drawing side-by-side, and in the process John created a pair of storybook characters – Momo and his giant caterpillar pal, Neener – that father and son drew over and over again. The years went on, and Malcolm moved on to other art projects, eventually learning animation as well. And then, in 2010, Nu Shooz put out a new record called Pandora’s Box, which included John’s song Right Before My Eyes, about watching Malcolm grow up. And then John asked Malcolm if he’d make a video to go with the song, and eventually – eventually! – Malcolm did.

It’s a sweet tale, told well here. Read the story, then click on the music video at the end. To fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters, too.

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Curtain down, curtain up. In case you’ve been following the curious story of what the New York Times calls “L’Affaire Tricorne,” Charles V. Bagli has this update in the Times. The tale involves a famous restaurant, a famous art collector, a more famous artist, and a theatrical curtain, Le Tricorne, created for a 1919 performance for impresario Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The restaurant is Manhattan’s Four Seasons. The collector is Aby J. Rosen, who owns the Seagram Building, where the Four Seasons has held culinary court since 1959. The painter is Pablo Picasso, and his theatrical curtain has hung in the Four Seasons since the day it opened. But Rosen wanted the curtain gone so the restaurant could be modernized. The New York Landmarks Conservancy, which actually owns the curtain, said “no.” And now, finally, a compromise has been struck: the 19-by-20-foot painted curtain will move (after cleaning and restoration, which Rosen will pay for) to the New-York Historical Society, where it will be the centerpiece of the second-floor gallery. And no matter what you think of the whole kerfuffle, one thing’s true: far, far more people will be able to see it at the Historical Society than at the exclusive restaurant. Let’s hear it, one more time, for museums, those great democratizers of culture.

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News & Notes: Turner shakes things up; weekend dance & theater

Dance at Conduit, Northwest Dance Project, and Polaris; a short double feature at Imago; 'Invasion! returns

When Grant Turner accepted his Special Achievement Award at the Drammy ceremonies Monday night, he advised the theater crowd to keep its ears tuned for an announcement “soon” about his future.

It didn’t take long.

Turner

Turner

On Tuesday morning, Portland Shakespeare Project announced that Turner will join the company as co-artistic director with co-founder Michael Mendelson. Turner founded Northwest Classical Theatre Company in 1998, and is resigning from that post because he’s moving to LaGrande in eastern Oregon, where his wife has taken a job, and Northwest Classical needs a full-time artistic leader in Portland. But he wanted to continue to do projects in Portland, and the Shakespeare Project, which Mendelson founded with Karen Rathje in 2011 as a summer program in the Artists Rep complex, seems a good fit.

Mendelson, who is also a core company member at Artists Rep, continues to be one of the busiest actors in town. And he credits Turner with some of the inspiration for founding his own company. “His inviting me to play Shylock in 2009 was a re-awakening of my passion for classic work and I have Grant to thank for that,” Mendelson said in a statement. “We have like minds in our faith in the words and the power of the text, and our different approaches to the material complement one another beautifully.”

Turner will help Northwest Classical make its transition to new leadership through the end of this year.

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Which came first, the dancer or the choreographer? Friday through Sunday, Conduit Dance will host Co/Mission, an intriguing program of dance that flips the tables on the ordinary way of doing things. Four soloists will present a new work each – and each soloist chose a choreographer to set the piece on her, rather than the usual other way around. The show is produced by dancers Suzanne Chi and Jamuna Chiarini (a contributing writer to ArtsWatch), who’ll be joined by dancers Jen Hackworth and Rachel Slater. Choreographers taking up the challenge include veteran contemporary dance makers Linda Austin and Linda K. Johnson, plus Lindsey Matheis and Franco Nieto, performing mainstays at Northwest Dance Project. Will the flip-flopped nature of the dancer/choreographer relationships make a difference? Let’s find out.

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Matheis and Nieto, meanwhile, will be busy performing in the final weekend of Northwest Dance Project’s appealing and very strong season-ending program, Summer Splendors, at the company’s Mississippi District studios. If all goes as planned, it’ll be the company’s last program in that space before a projected move to a much bigger home on the close-in East Side. Final performances are Wednesday through Sunday; Saturday night’s show is sold out. I reviewed the program after last weekend’s opening.

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"Homegrown" at Polaris. Photo: Troy Butcher

“Homegrown” at Polaris. Photo: Troy Butcher

Also finishing its two-weekend run will be Polaris Dance Theatre’s choreographers’ showcase, Homegrown. Artistic director Robert Guitron wanted to emphasize the work of local artists, so he charged each of his choreographers – himself, Gerard Regot, former Oregon Ballet Theatre star and interim artistic director Anne Mueller, and company dancers Kiera Brinkley, Briley Neugebauer, M’Liss Stephenson, and Blake Seidel – with finding a Portland musician or sound designer to create work for his or her new dance. In some cases, the search stopped close to home. Guitron wrote his own music, an easygoing, danceable piece called Moot. Regot wrote music for his own piece, and also for Brinkley’s nervous, edgy Post-Op, a down-in-the-trenches dance punctuated with hospital beeps. The most interesting soundtrack on the program may well be playwright Claire Willet’s memoir-like taped monologue One of Everything, for Neugebauer’s dance of the same name. Choreography and story are about growing up in a family of four siblings, and the attendant pleasures and pains of wherever you happen to land in the chronology. It made me think of Sibling Revelry, the sweet but pointed cabaret act of the singing sisters Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway: all things equal, much better to have a sister than not.

The level of dancing at Polaris is less sophisticated than what you’ll find at the likes of BodyVox, Oregon Ballet Theatre, or Northwest Dance Project. But the company’s developed a true sense of community (in addition to a lot of work: Guitron says it’s introduced 304 new works, including pieces by 37 guest choreographers) and ways to connect with its audiences that other companies might emulate. Part of it is Guitron’s low-key, genuine friendliness in his brief talks with the audience. Another is the company’s simple acceptance, with utterly no sensationalizing, of all sorts of people as dancers. I first saw the terrific and wheelchair-using Yulia Arekelyan and Erik Ferguson of Wobbly Dance at a Polaris show. Current Polaris dancer Brinkley is a quadruple amputee, and she can be an electrifying performer. Another plus: Homegrown demystifies the dance process and pulls audience members into the company fold highly effectively by screening short video interviews (by Mike Dawson/Soulplay) with each choreographer before her or his dance takes the stage. It’s a humanizing, stress-relieving technique: audience members get to know a little bit about the dance makers and the dances, and it helps them relax and enjoy what follows.

Homegrown finishes its run with performances Friday through Sunday, June 13-15. Ticket and schedule information here.

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Carol Triffle and Mark Mullaney in "Pimento" at Imago. Photo: Jerry Mouawad

Carol Triffle and Mark Mullaney in “Pimento” at Imago. Photo: Jerry Mouawad

What are Jerry Mouawad and Imago Theatre up to these days? Fresh off of Allen Nause’s best-actor win at the Drammys for his Mouawad-directed performance in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, Imago’s unveiling a very short run of an intriguing-looking double feature: Thornton Wilder’s rarely performed one-act metaphysical comedy Pullman Car Hiawatha; and Mouawad’s own Pimento, which features, in his words, “three clowns in innocent yet ‘accidentally’ lewd encounters.” We can only imagine – or catch the show, which runs Thursday through Sunday, June 12-15. One way or another, Mouawad’s experiments tend to be highly interesting. Ticket and schedule information here.

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One of last year’s most audacious shows, Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s satiric political comedy Invasion!, reopens Wednesday night right where it left off, onstage at Miracle Theatre. Director Antonio Sonera and his original cast – Gilberto Del Campo, Chantal DeGroat, John San Nicolas, and Nicole Accuardi – are back in the saddle, rocking the horse of expectation until it darned near tips over. Invasion! was the debut show of Badass Theatre Company, and as word of mouth grew it became a hit. A.L. Adams reviewed last year’s production for ArtsWatch, declaring, “I went from wanting to punch the actors, to wanting to hug them.” That’s quite an arc. The run continues through June 27. Ticket and schedule information here.

Del Camp, DeGroat, San Nicolas, Accuardi in "Inasion!" last year. Russell J Young Photography

Del Campo, DeGroat, San Nicolas, Accuardi in “Invasion!” last year. Russell J Young Photography

 

 

 

Drammy Awards: a Playhouse double play

Portland Playhouse's 'Light in the Piazza' and 'A Christmas Carol' take both top production trophies

Portland Playhouse pulled off a tough double play at Monday night’s Drammy Awards, taking top honors in both major production categories – best play of the season for its stripped-down version of A Christmas Carol, and best musical play for The Light in the Piazza. 

The crowd gets into the action for the opening puppet-show strut to "The Circle of Life." Photo: Henk Pander

The crowd gets into the action for the opening puppet-show strut to “The Circle of Life.” Photo: Henk Pander

The celebration of the best achievements in Portland theater during the 2013-14 season packed the house at the Crystal Ballroom with theater folk and theater fans, many dressed to the nines and others to the twos or threes. The mood was convivial verging on rowdy, punctuated during one long stretch by the drone of a punk band playing loudly somewhere downstairs, and hosted with wit and dash by actor Isaac Lamb, who occasionally ceded the spotlight to his vigorously tap-dancing wife-to-be, Amy Beth Frankel. If anyone caught their act on videotape, it could go viral.

Dapper Isaac Lamb, the Drammys' emcee. Photo: Owen Carey

Dapper Isaac Lamb, the Drammys’ emcee. Photo: Owen Carey

Piazza was the evening’s closest thing to a runaway, walking off with five prizes: best production, actress in a musical (Meredith Kaye Clark), supporting actress in a musical (Jennifer Goldsmith), supporting actor in a musical (David Meyers), and musical direction (Eric Nordin). A Christmas Carol took top awards for ensemble in a play and director in a play (Cristi Miles) in addition to best production.

Well Arts Institute's Youth Program accepted the Mary Brand Award. Photo: Ann Singer

Ann Singer, Well Arts Institute’s youth program coordinator, accepted the $2,000 Mary Brand Award from Julie Accuardi of the Portland Civic Theatre Guild.

Oregon Children’s Theatre took four awards for its sweet and funny high school outcast musical Zombie in Love, and Kristeen Willis Crosser was a double individual winner, taking home the hardware for scenic design (Gidion’s Knot) and lighting design (A Bright New Boise), both at Third Rail Rep. One category, best actress in a play, ended in a tie vote. Amy Newman (Gidion’s Knot) and Maureen Porter (Crooked, CoHo Productions) shared the prize.

After an hour of drinking, preening, and general hobnobbing, the ceremony got off to a rousing start with a long Irish yowl of a song from Chris Murray, who’s starring as the not-quite-murderous Irish lad Christy in The Playboy of the Western World at Artists Rep, followed by a Lion King-style puppet show threading rambunctiously through the crowd. Among the costumed paraders were a donkey, a latke, a fish, a teapot, a snake, and several bottles of booze. They set the tone for much of the rest of the evening: congenial, creative, a little outrageous, fun, and quite long. At the end of the ceremony, Lamb performed a hilarious Portlandified riff on the “River City” song from The Music Man that would’ve made a knockout opening number. By the time it finally came, much of the crowd was already heading for the bars or home – a shame, but an understandable one.

Horsing around at the opening puppet parade. Photo: Henk Pander

Horsing around at the opening puppet parade. Photo: Henk Pander

The 17-member Drammy Committee of writers and theater professionals considered almost 120 productions from the awards’ 36th season. Several current shows opened too late for consideration. This year, after several years of choosing multiple winners in each category, the committee returned to picking a single winner from a pre-announced list of finalists in each category, making the Drammys feel more like the Oscars or Tonys. The finalists in each category are listed here.

The cast of Portland Playhouse's "A Christmas Carol" celebrate their best-production Drammy. Photo: Owen Carey

The cast of Portland Playhouse’s “A Christmas Carol” celebrate their best-production Drammy. Photo: Owen Carey

Grant Turner, founder of Northwest Classical Theatre,  drew appreciative nods during his acceptance speech for his Special Achievement Award. “Take the time to hone your craft,” he advised, “and don’t take (a play) on until you’re able.” He continued: “Believe in your authors, and your audience will believe in you.”  Turner, who started the Shakespeare-centric classical company more than 15 years ago, is moving to eastern Oregon but will return to Portland for specific projects.

Van Voris (left) and Hoffman indulge in some interpretive oratory. Photo: Owen Carey

Van Voris (left) and Hoffman indulge in some interpretive oratory. Photo: Owen Carey

Actors Todd Van Voris and Gavin Hoffman sent titters racing around the room with their dramatic readings of “actual posts on PDX Backstage.” And when the Light in the Piazza company gathered onstage to accept the best-musical award, Susannah Mars drew extended cheers and a couple of boos when she proudly announced, “We did a musical without microphones!

It was that kind of night.

 

2014 DRAMMY AWARD WINNERS

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY

Michael Fisher-Welsh
The Quality of Life
Artists Repertory Theatre

 

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

Kristeen Willis Crosser
Gidion’s Knot
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

BEST PROPERTIES DESIGN

Drew Dannhorn
The Giver
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST DESIGN AND FABRICATION AWARD

John Ellingson
James and the Giant Peach
Northwest Children’s Theater

 

SPECIAL THEATRICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Atomic Arts
Trek in the Park
2009-2013

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Jennifer Goldsmith
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Annalise Albright Woods
pool (no water)
Theatre Vertigo

 

BEST YOUNG PERFORMER

Blake Peebles
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Meyers
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY 

Dan Murphy
Plaid Tidings
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

BEST PIT ENSEMBLE

9 to 5: The Musical
Stumptown Stages

 

PATA SPOTLIGHT AWARDS

Stage Manager: Emma Lewins
Crew Member: Don Crossley
Ballyhoo (formerly known as “Other”): Val and Jim Liptak

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Jen LaMastra
James and the Giant Peach
Northwest Children’s Theater

 

BEST MAKE UP DESIGN

Caitlin Fisher-Draeger
The Revenants
The Reformers

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Meghan Chambers
Crooked
CoHo Productions / Philip Cuomo and Maureen Porter

 

BEST PROJECTION DESIGN

Jeff Kurihara
The Giver
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Kristeen Willis Crosser
A Bright New Boise
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

 

Catherine Egan accepts her award for movement design for Push Leg's "Nighthawks." Photo: Owen Carey

Catherine Egan accepts her award for movement design for Push Leg’s “Nighthawks.” Photo: Owen Carey

BEST MOVEMENT DESIGN

Catherine Egan
Nighthawks
Push Leg

 

BEST DEVISED WORK

Nighthawks
Push Leg

 

Special Achievement Award winner Grant Turner. Photo: Owen Carey

Special Achievement Award winner Grant Turner. Photo: Owen Carey

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

 Grant Turner
Founding Artistic Director
Northwest Classical Theatre Company

 

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

Eric Nordin
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL

Marcella Crowson
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Studwell
Fiddler on the Roof
Portland Center Stage

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Merideth Kaye Clark
The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL

Plaid Tidings
Broadway Rose Theatre Company

 

Solo performance winner Damon Kupper in front of an image from his show, "Last November." Photo: Owen Carey

Solo performance winner Damon Kupper in front of an image from his show, “A Night in November.” Photo: Owen Carey

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE

Damon Kupper
A Night in November
corrib theatre

 

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY

 A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT

Michelle Elliott
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE    

Danny Larsen, Music
Michelle Elliott, Lyrics
Zombie in Love
Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

 

PORTLAND CIVIC THEATRE GUILD AWARDS 

Mary Brand Award $2,000
Recipient: Well Arts Institute

Portland Civic Theatre Award in Support of Theatre $3,000
Recipient: Action/Adventure Theatre

The Leslie O. Fulton Fellowship $5,000
Recipient: Jill Westerby Gonzales

 

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

Cristi Miles
A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

Best actor winner Allen Nause," "The Caretaker" at Imago. Photo: Owen Carey

Best actor winner Allen Nause,” “The Caretaker” at Imago. Photo: Owen Carey

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Allen Nause
The Caretaker
Imago Theatre

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY (tied)

Amy Newman
Gidion’s Knot
Third Rail Repertory Theatre

Maureen Porter
Crooked
CoHo Productions / Philip Cuomo and Maureen Porter

 

Best actress co-winner Maureen Porter, "Crooked," CoHo Productions. Photo: Owen Carey

Best actress co-winner Maureen Porter, “Crooked,” CoHo Productions. Photo: Owen Carey

BEST PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

The Light in the Piazza
Portland Playhouse

 

BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

A Christmas Carol
Portland Playhouse

 

 

 

Drammy Awards and Janice Scroggins benefit tonight; Oregon at the Tonys

With two major events in Portland, it's a Monday night to step out

No staying home Monday: It’s a big night out.

Drammy host Isaac Lamb, from his "Defending the Caveman" days. Photo: Jenni Girtman

Drammy host Isaac Lamb, from his “Defending the Caveman” days. Photo: Jenni Girtman

The 36th annual Drammy Awards, celebrating the best in Portland’s theater during the past season, take over the Crystal Ballroom (1332 West Burnside Street) starting at 6 o’clock, with the ceremony at 7 p.m. Actor Isaac Lamb will be master of ceremonies, and he promises surprises. This is traditionally the biggest theater bash of the year in Portland, and it’s open to everyone: free at the door, buy your own drinks. This year, for the first time in several years, the Drammy jurists are choosing a single winner in each category from a pre-announced list of finalists (see the nominees on the Drammy link above), making the awards more in the tradition of the Oscars and Tonys.

For a taste of what’s to come, read Marty Hughley’s profile for ArtsWatch of Grant Turner, who’ll be receiving this year’s Special Achievement Award.

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Janice Scroggins: a joyful noise in her memory.

Janice Scroggins: a joyful noise in her memory.

Another big event tonight is For the Love of Janice: An All-Star Benefit for the Family of Janice Scrogginsstarting at 7 p.m.  (doors open at 6) at the Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 Northeast Alberta Street. The concert’s sold out, demonstrating both the quality of the lineup and the love and respect Portlanders feel for Scroggins, the pianist and keyboardist who’s been a leading figure in the city’s blues, jazz, and other scenes for decades, died in late May of a heart attack. She was 58. You can read ArtsWatch’s remembrance here. Tonight’s benefit will feature a mighty gathering of musical talent, people who were Janice’s friends and colleagues: Curtis Salgado, Norman Sylvester, Julianne Johnson, Mary Flower, Linda Hornbuckle, Thara Memory, Lyndee Mah, Duffy Bishop, Lloyd Jones, Patrick Lamb, Michael Allen Harrison, Peter Damman, Terry Robb, Reggie Houston … the list goes on and on.

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Congratulations, meanwhile, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for last night’s Tony Award wins for best play for Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, and best actor for Bryan Cranston, who stars in All the Way as Lyndon Baines Johnson. Festival actor Jack Willis originated the role when Schenkkan’s play premiered in Ashland as an OSF commission in 2012. David Stabler has the scoop on OregonLive.

Congrats, also, to the Portland producing team of Brisa Trinchero and Corey Brunish, whose shows pulled in 22 Tony nominations and went home with six, scoring with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and others. Here’s the complete list of winners and nominees, via The Hollywood Reporter.

Review: NW Dance Project’s splendid ‘Splendors’

The company closes its 10th season on a high note, and looks ahead to a new and bigger home

Summer Splendors is very likely the last program Northwest Dance Project will present in its small light-filled studio on North Shaver Street, and if so the company’s going out in high style: this is one of the most appealing dance programs I’ve seen in months.

Forced out by the frenzied real estate roulette of North Mississippi Avenue (the studio is just around the corner from the hubbub of the Mississippi strip), NDP will move its busy summer schedule to the new glassed-in studios at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. And the company’s in negotiations to move permanently into a much larger space on Portland’s close-in east side. If all goes smoothly, that space will be converted for studios over the summer, and ready for NDP to begin its 11th season in the fall.

From left: Kilbane, Nieto, Labay in "Tis Is Embracing." Photo: Christopher Peddecord

From left: Kilbane, Nieto, Labay in “This Is Embracing.” Photo: Christopher Peddecord

In the meantime, nab tickets for Summer Splendors if you can. The program opened Friday night and continues through June 15, and not a lot of tickets are available.

Continues…

40 whacks and a bad attitude

Center Stage's Lizzie Borden musical chops a rock 'n' roll path into the American legend of family and violence

Turns out, it wasn’t 40 whacks.

Abby Durfree Gray Borden, Lizzie’s stepmother, took 19 blows to the back of her head on that fateful August day in 1892. Andrew Jackson Borden, Lizzie’s father, was dispatched with an efficient 11.

So much for legend.

As most schoolkids know, Lizzie, the most famous daughter or son of the mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts (sorry, George Stephanopoulos and Emeril Lagasse), was acquitted of the double ax murders. It took the jury just an hour and a half of deliberation to set her free, and no one else was ever charged.

Mary Kate Morrissey (left) as Lizzie, Kacie Sheik as Alice. Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Mary Kate Morrissey (left) as Lizzie, Kacie Sheik as Alice. Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Still, almost everyone thinks she dunnit. What most of us know about Lizzie Borden is neatly summed up in that famous, wryly understated doggerel, which neatly catapults her into the rarefied ranks of American folklore:

 Lizzie Borden took an ax

And gave her mother 40 whacks.

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father 41.

Lizzie, the new Broadway-hopeful musical at Portland Center Stage, bops along somewhere between folklore and fact. An unrepentant rock musical that mimics the overblown expressive style of arena rock, it revels in its own inventions (or at least, unprovable assertions): Lizzie’s dad repeatedly molested her; Lizzie and her neighbor, Alice Russell, were lovers.

Continues…

OBT serves a little dessert

The ballet company's intimate new show at BodyVox puts a capper on the season and hints at things to come

And now, for a little light dessert.

The last time we saw Oregon Ballet Theatre, in April at the Newmark Theatre, it was the end of an era – an ambitious program paying tribute to the retiring principal dancer Alison Roper, who had spent her entire distinguished ballet career at OBT. The program was fraught with meaning: a farewell to a beloved performer, and also an emphatic stamp on Kevin Irving’s first season as artistic director. The whole affair had the feel of a celebratory gala banquet.

Avery Reiners with Ansa Deguchi and Katherine Menogue in Michael Linsmeier's "Found You." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Avery Reiners with Ansa Deguchi and Katherine Menogue in Michael Linsmeier’s “Found You.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

On Wednesday night, OBT played progressive dinner, moving on for its seasonal dessert to the intimate and casual BodyVox Dance Center, where it opened CREATE, an evening of short works choreographed by company dancers. The setting is ideal for the program, which continues through Sunday, June 1: professional but close and conversational, almost like a studio except it has more seating and more sophisticated technical systems. It’s an energizing space that creates an instant connection between audiences and performers.

Continues…

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