Bob Hicks

 

‘Fauna & Flora': an inside look

ArtsWatch's Bob Hicks tells the stories behind his new book about the artist Beth Van Hoesen

Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna & Flora, a new art book with images by the California artist Beth Van Hoesen (1926-2010) and essays by Bob Hicks, has just been published by Pomegranate, the Portland-based international publishing house that also has European headquarters in England. The Portland Art Museum holds the largest collection anywhere of Van Hoesen’s prints, and she was represented in Portland for many years by the legendary Fountain Gallery. The book, available this month, includes dozens of full-color reproductions of Van Hoesen’s prints of plants and animals. Hicks, a writer and editor for Oregon ArtsWatch, talks for ArtsWatch readers about the book project and Van Hoesen’s life and art.

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No artist is an island, entire of herself. Timothy Berry, the San Francisco painter and fine printer who was a friend and collaborator with the printmaker Beth Van Hoesen, once told me he thought of Van Hoesen and her artist husband, Mark Adams, as being “out of time” – eccentrics who, while living and working in the midst of the revolutionary ferment of the mid-20th century Bay Area art world, considered themselves inheritors and practitioners of a much deeper art history uncluttered by the revisions and excesses of contemporary life.

beth-van-hoesen-fauna-flora-42Looking at Van Hoesen’s art, as I’ve been doing for the past five years through a series of projects, it’s easy to understand what Berry means. My involvement with Van Hoesen and her circle began in 2009 when I reviewed a large exhibition of her prints at the Portland Art Museum, which two years earlier had been given the largest collection of her printed works anywhere: a print each from about 650 of her editions. In my new book, Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna & Flora (Pomegranate, 2014, 144 pages, $40), you can look at print after print that seem tied more closely to the long traditions of pre-modernist European art than to the work of the groundbreaking contemporary California artists she knew well and socialized with often: people like Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Arneson, Imogen Cunningham, Roy DeForest, Elmer Bischoff, and her longtime drawing-group companions Wayne Thiebaud and Theophilus Brown.*

Dürer and Audubon and the masterful Hudson River School painter Martin Johnson Heade come to mind as artists she might have considered her true contemporaries, not so much for their specific styles or achievements as for their subject matter and devotion to meticulous realistic technique. While the big ideas of abstract expressionism and the California counterrevolution of funk and raw, freewheeling representation exploded around her, Van Hoesen was enraptured by the microcosm of everyday life: flowers, fruits and vegetables, animals both wild and domestic, bodies and faces, dolls and babies, domestic scenes. In her devotion to the everyday she might have been working under the influence of Vermeer and De Hooch – great painters, but hardly the stuff of mainstream American art in the mid and late 20th century.

Continues…

America, America: ‘Carousel’ and ‘Best Little Whorehouse’

A pair of summer musical entertainments at Clackamas Rep and Broadway Rose reflect today's headlines

“Legislating is only a hobby for members of this Congress,” Charles M. Blow wrote in a Monday op-ed piece in the New York Times bemoaning the simultaneous shenanigans and torpor of the current do-nothing Congress. “Their full-time job is raising hell, raising money and lowering the bar of acceptable behavior.”

As it happens, I read Blow’s depressingly rational screed the morning after catching that grand old flimflam of a musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at Broadway Rose, and I couldn’t help thinking, What else is new?

The women's chorus in "Best Little Whorehouse." Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

The women’s chorus in “Best Little Whorehouse.” Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

Whorehouse first opened on Broadway in 1978, and is based loosely on real events a few years earlier when a crusading television reporter started a campaign that finally shut the doors of the Chicken Ranch, a century-old institution of widely if reluctantly tolerated repute outside the rural town of LaGrange, Texas. The resulting political fallout, at least in the fictionalized version onstage, is less a matter of actuality than of appearances, which in the topsy-turvy world of politics have a way of becoming reality. Life has been rolling along pretty much as humanly usual, with most of the human appetites being accommodated in some sort of agreed-upon manner closely associated to a wink and a nod and a turning of official heads in the opposite direction. But times are changing. Raise enough of a stink and eventually someone’ll be forced to do something about it, not so much to stop the stink as to stop the noise and keep the incumbents safely in office.

Whorehouse isn’t the best musical to come roaring down the two-lane blacktop of rural Americana, but it knows what it wants to do and it does it well, and as I hadn’t seen it in a number of years I was happy to make its acquaintance again, especially in this agreeable production directed (as was Broadway Rose’s pert and winning revival of The Music Man earlier in the summer) by the stage-smart Peggy Taphorn. Like most musical comedies it’s really mostly about its surfaces, but it does make a difference what’s underneath, and Whorehouse survives partly because its book latches onto some enduring American themes: a strong libertarian bent, an equally strong moralistic fervor, a thirst for fame and power and the various pleasures of the flesh, and the destruction derby that occurs when the soft tissue of human desire meets the driving metal of religious extremism and unshackled careerism. The resulting ruckus brings to mind such political and religious fast-shuffle hall of famers as Wilbur Mills and Lyndon Johnson and Aimee Semple McPherson, and the shenanigans of such latter-day politician/entertainer/perpetrator/scolds as Michele Bachmann, Elliott Spitzer, Sarah Palin, Anthony Weiner, Glenn Beck, and that comeback champ Newt Gingrich. Ooh, they love to do the little sidestep: It’s like watching Molière performed on a pedal steel guitar.

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The Bard’s great American play

Portland Shakespeare Project's provocative 'Tempest' explores a new land of conquest and colonization

“We like to think of the old-fashioned American classics as children’s books. Just childishness, on our part.”

These are the first lines in The Spirit of Place, the opening essay of Studies in Classic American Literature, D.H. Lawrence’s brilliant headfirst dive into the soul and cultural compulsions of the invented nation as evidenced in the creations of its early nativist storytellers, and they came to mind once again, for a few reasons, upon seeing Portland Shakespeare Project’s new production of The Tempest.

Kerrigan and Alper as antagonists Caliban and Prospera. Photo: David Kinder

Kerrigan and Alper as antagonists Caliban and Prospera. Photo: David Kinder

First, although The Tempest will never be mistaken for The Comedy of Errors or The Merry Wives of Windsor, its late-period reverie is counterbalanced by a brisk and overt playfulness that PSP’s production captures rollickingly – a childishness, if you will, to go with the familiar magic that so many of Shakespeare’s plays share with fairy tales.

Second, in addition to its undeniable place as a masterwork of the English dramatic literary canon, The Tempest has long struck me as a peculiarly American sort of work, the Shakespearean play that most clearly draws from early seventeenth century European acknowledgment and limited understanding of the so-called “new world.”

Third, Lawrence himself hinted at an almost soul-connection between The Tempest and the makers, or transgressors, of the new land.“Ca Ca Caliban/ Get a new master, be a new man,” he chants in The Spirit of Place, the doorway into a book that relentlessly explores the creation of the American character through the writings of Franklin, Crèvecoeur, Cooper, Poe, Hawthorne, Dana, Melville, and Whitman. I’m not sure how he missed Twain, whose satiric burlesques so effectively ripped aside the curtain of American “democratic” orthodoxy, but there you go. New masters, or no masters. New men, whatever the cost.

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Reviews: ‘Music Man,’ ‘Philadelphia Story’

Broadway Rose and Clackamas Rep take on a couple of comic classics, right (almost) here in River City

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, those days of soda and pretzels and beer. And, on stages from Maine to California, comedy classics from the Great American Nostalgia Playbook.

One of the geniuses of the American comedy and musical stages is that when the shows get most playful, the best ones also unveil genuine insights into the national character. O’Neill creates an Ah, Wilderness! as a counterbalance to the likes of The Iceman Cometh. Thornton Wilder introduces us to the escapades of the Antrobus clan in The Skin of Our Teeth. Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows make national sensations of a bunch of two-bit hoodlums and holy high-rollers in Guys and Dolls. And audiences settle into a ritual of laughter, immersing themselves in the sunny pleasures of true play.

Two such summer-season classics have just opened in Portland’s suburbs, providing a comic alternative to that other great American summer staple, Shakespeare in a Thousand Parks: The Music Man at Tigard’s Broadway Rose, which has been doing polished musicals for 23 years; and The Philadelphia Story at Clackamas Repertory Theatre, which is in its 10th season on the campus of Clackamas Community College near Oregon City. Both shows continue through July 20.

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Professor Harold Hill (Joe Thiessen) gives Iowa a try. Photo: Meg Williams

Professor Harold Hill (Joe Theissen) gives Iowa a try. Photo: Meg Williams

 

The Music Man

Broadway Rose’s funny and crackling new Music Man opens with a giant locomotive steaming toward the audience, bright searchlight piercing the auditorium, a sweeping powerhouse of theatrical entertainment pulling confidently into the station a century overdue.

The train stops, and the engine unfolds like the bellows of a squeezebox to reveal the familiar interior of a passenger car filled with traveling salesmen talking territory and the tricks of the trade. It’s like a babushka doll, or a Fabergé egg of the Iowa cornfields. Then the toy men inside begin to bob and sway and sputter like the clattering pieces of a Rube Goldberg contraption.

The sense of something toylike and mechanical is at the heart of director and choreographer Peggy Taphorn’s bright, appealing production, which bounces to the brassy march of pop-up pieces and interlinking motifs. Every movement’s matched to the rhythm of the music, which is borrowed, in composer and author Meredith Willson’s brilliant opening rail-car scene, from the steam and clack of the train itself. Plus, the harmonies! We got treble, right here in River City.

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PAMTAs: a little song and dance

Portland Center Stage scores big at musical-theater awards with 'Fiddler,' 'Lizzie'; 'Zombie' and 'Piazza' also take home hardware

The enduring and still radical classic Fiddler on the Roof led the parade Monday night at the seventh annual Portland Area Musical Theater Awards, scoring wins in six categories, including best production, actor (David Studwell as Tevye the milkman), and director (Chris Coleman). Center Stage dominated the evening, taking three more awards for its current Lizzie Borden rock musical, Lizzie, including outstanding song (House of Borden), score, and orchestrations.

David Studwell took top actor honors for his Tevye in best-production winner "Fiddler on the Roof." Photo: Patrick Weishampel

David Studwell took top actor honors for his Tevye in best-production winner “Fiddler on the Roof.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Portland Playhouse’s The Light in the Piazza, which beat out Fiddler for best musical production just two weeks ago at the larger Drammy Awards, took four wins in three categories, including a tie for best actress for Meredith Kaye Clark and Susannah Mars. And Oregon Children’s Theater’s sweet little high school comedy Zombie in Love, another multiple winner at the Drammys, won for best original musical and best performance by a young actor (the rubber-limbed zombie in question, Blake Peebles). Peebles tied with his Zombie costar, Madison Wray, who won for her starring role in OCT’s Fancy Nancy.

A crowd of about 250 settled into downtown’s Dolores Winningstad Theatre for the ceremony, a swift and generally entertaining affair that lasted a little longer than two hours – a veritable 40-yard dash compared to the marathon Tonys and Oscars. Master of ceremonies was the wryly funny actor Darius Pierce, who kept things clipping with a finely calibrated internal stopwatch and an ear for improvisational comedy to go along with his prepared jokes. He noted drily that next year’s PAMTA winner for sound design (Monday night’s went to Brian Moen for Stumptown Stage’s Ain’t Misbehavin’) will make eight in eight years – or one more than the Tonys, which began naming a sound winner just seven years ago and lately announced to considerable protest its plans to drop the category – will have awarded in its entire existence.

Young performer co-winner Blake Peebles in original musical winner "Zombie in Love." Photo: Owen Carey

Young performer co-winner Blake Peebles in original musical winner “Zombie in Love.” Photo: Owen Carey

The mood at the ceremony was convivial and upbeat, lifted by performances of several songs from nominated shows and the smooth onstage accompaniment of a lightly jazzy trio: pianist Reece Marshburn, drummer Ken Ollis, and acoustic bassist Brett McConnell. Singer Julianne Johnson brought the house down with a bluesy, gospelly, sometimes scatted performance of Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, egging the trio on playfully as she shifted tempos.

But the festivities also carried a bit of an unnerving echo underneath. Many winners weren’t on hand to accept their statues, an MIA pattern that dampened the fun. It was especially notable when Portland Center Stage’s name kept being announced. Company manager Don Mason, who once wrote an entertaining essay about the pleasures of being a perennial bit player, filled in at, well, center stage, popping up from his front-row seat in category after category to accept the company’s hardware.  It became a running gag, and he milked it well, at one point promising all of the PAMTA winners that if they brought their statues to the theater, he’d see they got free tickets to Lizzie. Toward the end, under prompting from the audience, he expanded the offer to all of the nominees, too – and joked about whether he’d still have a job in the morning.

Actress co-winners Merideth Kaye Clark (left) and Susannah Mars in "The Light in the Piazza." Photo: Brud Giles

Actress co-winners Merideth Kaye Clark (left) and Susannah Mars in “The Light in the Piazza.” Photo: Brud Giles

The PAMTAs began seven years ago partly to celebrate the achievements of musical theater specifically and partly as a response to the broader-based Drammy Awards, which some musical-theater people felt didn’t pay sufficient attention to musicals. The makeup and methods of the awards are somewhat secretive, although Portland performer and Broadway producer Corey Brunish is acknowledged as their driving force. “The [voting] members are anonymous, even to one another,” PAMTA’s website says. “This way members cannot be influenced by performers, designers, theatre companies or even each other. Opinions cannot be swayed at meetings because there are none. Voting is done by secret ballot. All members see all productions to the degree that it is humanly possible. Members purchase their tickets. No member of the committee is active in the theatre community.”

Monday evening, the crowd was there to celebrate. As Emily Sahler put it after bounding onstage with costar Lisamarie Harrison to accept the best-ensemble award for Broadway Rose’s The Bikinis: “Unbridled joy and love is valid, and we need lots of it.”

PAMTA winners are listed below. You can see the list of nominees (five in each category) here.

 

PRODUCTION

Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

ORIGINAL MUSICAL 

Zombie in Love, Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

DIRECTOR

Chris Coleman, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

ACTRESS (tie)

Meredith Kaye Clark, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

Susannah Mars, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

 

ACTOR

David Studwell, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Pam Mahon, Beauty and the Beast, Pixie Dust Productions

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie)

Burl Ross, Spamalot, Lakewood Theatre

Ben Farmer, Spamalot, Lakewood Theatre

 

ENSEMBLE

The Bikinis, Broadway Rose

 

YOUNG PERFORMER (tie)

Blake Peebles, Zombie in Love, Oregon Children’s Theatre

Madison Wray, Fancy Nancy, Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

SCORE

Alan Stevens Hewitt, Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

 

SONG

House of Borden, Alan Stevens Hewitt, Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

 

MUSICAL DIRECTION

Eric Nordin, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

 

ORCHESTRATION

Alan Stevens Hewitt, Lizzie, Portland Center Stage

 

CHOREOGRAPHY

Wes Hanson, Kiss Me Kate, Clackamas Repertory Theatre

 

COSTUME DESIGN

Allison Dawe, The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse

 

SET DESIGN

G.W. Mercier, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

LIGHT DESIGN

Ann Wrightson, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

SOUND DESIGN

Brian Moen, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stumptown Strages

 

PLAYBILL COVER DESIGN

Julia McNamara, Fiddler on the Roof, Portland Center Stage

 

JAMES PEPPERS MEMORIAL AWARD (three)

Eric Little

John Quesenberry

Drew Harper

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

 

 

 

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