Bob Hicks

 

ArtsWatch Weekly: a Persian R&J

Outdoor Shakespeare with a twist; more music festivals; Mozart & Bach; an ArtsWatch apology; a profusion of prints

Summer and Shakespeare seem to go together like Abbott and Costello, or toast and jam: You can have one without the other, but somehow they’d feel incomplete. Little danger of that in Oregon, where we get our summer Shakespeare aplenty, often with a twist.

 

Nicholas Granato as Romeo/Majnun in Bag&Baggage’s “Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun).” Casey Campbell Photography

Consider Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun), an interweaving of Shakespeare’s romance and the 12th century Persian poet Nizami’s epic tale of a feud between families. Bag&Baggage’s premiere opens Thursday on the outdoor stage of the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza in downtown Hillsboro, in a production that B&B artistic director Scott Palmer believes blends R&J with one of its primary sources. “When you read the texts side by side, the parallels between the two tales are really astounding,” Palmer tells ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell. “There’s no smoking gun, but we do know (Shakespeare) was reading Italian sources and those were heavily influenced by Persian masterpieces from the 11th and 12 centuries. There is just no question that Layla and Majnun had a powerful, although indirect, influence on Romeo and Juliet.” Read Campbell’s full story here.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: hail & farewell

Dance and dancers on the move, jazz in Cathedral Park, women composers, taiko and Bach, Mozart's spicy little sex opera

Last Thursday at Lincoln Performance Hall, the line to pick up tickets for Éowyn Emerald & Dancers’ performance ran across the lobby, down a partial stairwell and up the other side, like a restless snake shifting and stretching in the midday sun. Eventually the crowd slithered into the theater’s 450-plus seats, packing the place with people eager to see the company’s final show of contemporary dance in Portland and give it one last cheer before Emerald & Co. move to Scotland, where they’ve scored enthusiastically reviewed successes during two recent appearances at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Emerald, on top of the world in Edinburgh for the 2014 Fringe Festival.

As it happens, the first piece I wrote for ArtsWatch, back in January 2012, was about Emerald’s first show in town as a choreographer, at BodyVox, where she’d been dancing with BodyVox-2. Now here I was again, with a lot of other people, to witness her farewell gig in town. An eagerness bubbled in the crowd, a sense that a fresh contemporary voice was moving on to new things, and ought not be let to slip away without a warm farewell.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: pop bang boom

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and freedom of the press; Gore Vidal's visitor from outer space; Shakespeare in the parks; music fests

It’s the Fourth of July, by general agreement the 241st birthday of the great American Experiment, although some might date the nation’s existence from the ratification on March 1, 1781, of the weak and short-lived Articles of Confederation, which declared a central government while reserving most authority to the independent states; or the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War; or the creation of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, or its ratification on June 21, 1788, or its effective date of March 4, 1789. Others might argue for something earlier and more gradual, dating to the establishments of the various colonies far from the British throne, a situation that gave rise to a sort of natural independence long before any official break. And many point out that the “new” continents and islands of the Americas contained thriving civilizations long before the permanent arrival of Europeans in 1492, and that the descendants of those civilizations justifiably might have radically differing points of view on what precisely the American Experiment means.

“A VIEW of the FIRE-WORKES and ILLUMINATIONS at his GRACE the Duke of RICHMOND’S at WHITEHALL and on the River Thames on Monday 15 May 1749. Performed by the direction of Charles Fredrick Esq.,” hand-colored etching, 1749, artist unknown.

Right now the Experiment, launched on the principles of an Age of Reason that seems to be slipping from our grasp, feels waist-deep in troubled waters. The First Amendment to the Constitution, which among other things guarantees the freedoms of speech and the press on which organizations such as Oregon ArtsWatch rely, is under strenuous attack from the center of the government that is supposed to be protecting them. The history of the Second Amendment is being so magnified and radically reinterpreted that you’d almost swear Moses had hauled it down from the mountaintop engraved in smoking Day-Glo lettering by an open-carrying Lord High Almighty Himself.

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Art notes: new grads, old pros, big names, prison art

From Picasso to new college art grads, a quick guide to July's First Thursday and other gallery openings

First Thursday, the monthly walk of openings in the city’s art galleries, is this week, with a few holdovers and a few shows opening on slightly different dates. A few of the many new exhibits to watch for:

David Slader in the studio. His new exhibit opens Thursday at Gallery 114.

 

Erin Law, Lewis & Clark College, “Untitled 2,” 2017. Plywood, paint, plant, video loop. 84″ x 18″ x 36″. Blackfish Gallery.

Recent Graduates Exhibition 2017 at Blackfish. For the 22nd year, Blackfish presents its group showing of work by art school graduates from colleges and universities, private and public, throughout Oregon. With two each, selected by their respective schools’ art faculty at fifteen schools, that’s thirty artists. This is always a good opportunity to see the work of up-and-coming artists just entering the market. In the curious lingo of the art world, they’re known as “emerging artists,” a title that seems to be almost magically attached to young artists until at some point they mysteriously become “mid-career” artists and finally become … what? Veterans? Eminences grises? Old masters? Geezers? (Portland has, as you may know, a thriving Geezer Gallery.)

Miró and Picasso at Augen. Meanwhile, a couple of fully emerged artists – Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard who was active in France, and Barcelona-born Joan Miró, who worked in Paris and his native Spain – are showing prints and, in Picasso’s case, some ceramics, too. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re good artists to know. Paired nicely with a back room show of prints by the veteran Northwest artist Thomas Wood.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: making it work

You can help us keep the engine running; summer music festivals, "Cabaret" and "The Addams Family," "Baskerville" and more

We have a lot on our minds here at ArtsWatch this week, from the kickoff of the Chamber Music Northwest season to free ballet in the park to a chorus line of Broadway musicals. We’ll get to all of that, and more.

But first, we want to talk about something basic.

ArtsWatch has been here when you’ve needed coverage. Now we ask you to support our important work. Unlike many media outlets, we don’t operate behind a paywall. Everything we publish is freely available to you and anyone who wants to read it. That means we’re in a partnership with our readers, and to continue to grow and thrive we need your support.
It’s especially key right now, as coverage of the fine and performing arts in other media continues to drop dramatically. ArtsWatch has become the leading source for substantial, informed arts news that you don’t find anywhere else.
 If you’re an arts organization, you count on us to get your word out. If you’re a devoted follower of the arts, you count on us to know what’s going on. You count on us to begin and continue compelling conversations. ArtsWatch can’t continue to do that without your contributions.
ArtsWatch is a crucial part of the arts ecosystem in the community. You rely on ArtsWatch to provide vital feedback, smart and substantive coverage, validation for grants, marketing gold in quotes and links, and a way to keep yourselves and your audiences engaged and educated.
Now we ask for your help.
How can you support us? It’s simple.
  • Make a donation. Click this link to pay online or send us a check.
  • Buy an ad and promote your good work. Contact Laura Grimes at laura@orartswatch.org.
  • Give us a shout-out on social media, in your newsletters, and at your events.
EVERY donation and ad sponsorship goes to pay writers and editors for their professional time and effort. ArtsWatch is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, and you may be able to deduct your charitable contribution from your taxes.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to cover the vibrant arts community in Portland and throughout Oregon. Everyone at ArtsWatch is deeply grateful for all our readers and supporters.

 

With heartfelt thanks,

Barry Johnson
Bob Hicks
Brett Campbell
Laura Grimes
and all of our talented freelance writers

 


 

Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Xuan Cheng in rehearsal for Giaconda Barbuto’s new work in “Choreography XX” at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater Thursday and Friday. Photo: Yi Yin

 

WHAT’S COMING UP THIS WEEK:

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Islamabad, on common ground

From Pakistan to Portland, an international project brings an insightful slice of life to Artists Rep's stage

On a sweltering Sunday afternoon in an upstairs rehearsal hall at Artists Repertory Theatre, a sitarist and a tabla player were sitting in a far corner, practicing a song that sounded strangely familiar, if not usually from that particular instrumentation. The sitarist, Wajih Ull Hussnain Hamid, motioned to a young singer in a hijab, Razia Abrar, who began to slice the air with a crystalline, mournful tone. “Halleluja,” she sang, to Irfan Masih’s circling tabla rhythm and Hamid’s version of Leonard Cohen’s secret chord. “Halleluja.”

In most ways it was just another familiar scene from another familiar rehearsal hall: people milling about a floor spattered with tape marks, slowly taking their places after break, grabbing quick conversations along the way. This one, though, was a little different considering the who and the where: The performers were from Theatre Wallay, in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and they were rehearsing a play created specifically for American audiences, On Common Ground. Considering that they had landed in Portland 37 hours earlier after a 36-hour flight, and then rehearsed for several hours on Saturday, the performers seemed surprisingly fresh – even, sometimes, chipper. “Thank goodness they’re young,” Linda Alper said with a wry laugh.

The cast of Theatre Wallay’s “On Common Ground,” rehearsing at Artists Rep on Sunday afternoon. Oregon ArtsWatch photo

Alper, an Artists Rep veteran and company member, is one of a team of American theater artists who traveled (three times, in her case) to Islamabad to work with Theatre Wallay on creating a show to bring to the United States. On Common Ground will perform twice at Artists Rep – a sold-out show tonight, Monday, and again on Wednesday, June 28. (That show is sold out, too, but a first-come first-served waiting list will give you a chance.) Then it moves on to Ashland for Green Show performances June 30 and July 2 and 4. In the fall Theatre Wallay will present a workshop at Ithaca College, one of the co-sponsors, in Upstate New York, and finally do a tour and workshops back home in Pakistan.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Solstice!

Here comes summer. Here comes summer art. Take off your shoes, put on your swimsuit, and dive right in.

Raise a glass, if you’re of a mind, to summer, which according to the wise old heads of The Old Farmer’s Almanac officially begins at 9:24 Pacific Daylight Time this evening – Tuesday, June 20. If you’re reading this on the East Coast you’ll need to wait until 12:24 on Wednesday morning for the solstice to kick in.

That makes it high time to start thinking about summer arts, too.

The eclectic Siletz Bay Music Festival in and around Lincoln City on the Oregon coast opens Wednesday with some Mendelssohn and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and continues through July 4 with concerts ranging from classics to rock violin to swing jazz and cabaret.

Chamber Music Northwest kicks off its summer season in Portland on Monday evening, June 26, with a program of music by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Amy Beach (plus a little Bach), and continues through July 30. The opener’s a good introduction to this year’s celebration of women composers – and that ties in neatly to Choreography XX, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s swiftly approaching program of free performances June 29-30 in the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater, featuring works by three women choreographers. For a deeper look, see Jamuna Chiarini’s interview with Helen Simoneau, one of the three, in DanceWatch Weekly.

Falstaff (K. T. Vogt) bemoans his difficulties wooing Mistresses Ford and Page, unaware that he’s speaking to Master Ford (Rex Young) in disguise. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The granddaddy of Oregon summer festivals, Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival, continues full steam ahead through October with eleven plays moving in and out of repertory during the season. Sir John Falstaff, that great gross night, makes a big splash, making appearances in all three plays in which he’s a character. For more on that, read Suzi Steffen’s Five questions for the Falstaffs, an interview with festival actors K.T. Vogt and G. Valmont Thomas, who between them cover all of the big guy’s bases.

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