David Bates

 

Newberg professional theater goes beyond “The Hamlet Show”

Penguin Productions offers Shakespeare and Wilde. Also on tap: Wildwood MusicFest in Willamina, da Vinci Days celebrates the intersection of art and science

There are surely stretches over the year when not much is going on in Yamhill County, artistically speaking. Those lazy weeks will afford opportunities for deep dives into our scene, with in-depth interviews and profiles of individual artists. But July is not one of those times. So grab a pen, or fire up the calendar app on your phone — whatever you’re using these days to organize your life — and get ready, because we have a lot to cover.

Nathaniel Andalis and Patricia Alston of Penguin Productions rehearse a scene from Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” which opens July 19 in Newberg. Photo by: Kris Klancy

This is especially true in Newberg, where a remarkable thing has happened. A small group of talented and endlessly energetic young people have joined forces to launch a theater company — a professional theater company. Penguin Productions was formed in 2017 by Chris Forrer and fellow Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) alums Daphne Dossett and Garrett Gibbs, on whose family property the outdoor productions are staged. Their mission to create “classical theater for a contemporary world” began last summer with gender-fluid productions of As You Like It and Macbeth.

This week, they kick off the 2018 season with what Forrer promises will be a brisk Hamlet (around 2 hours and 40 minutes) and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, in which politics with a capital “P” plays out in contemporary Washington, D.C. (thanks to a 1895 script that falls well within the public domain). Shows start Thursday, July 19, and run through Aug. 4, with four performances of each. Tickets are $8 to $15 and may be purchased at the website.

Hamlet, directed by co-founder Gibbs, sounds particularly interesting. The company’s take, basically, is that Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius have, in their own way, been painted into the corner of caricature over the years in ways that are not necessarily supported by Shakespeare’s text. The play, Forrer told me, is much more interesting with a charismatic and even likable Claudius. Gertrude isn’t necessarily cold and distant, and Polonius (played here by a woman) is not an idiot. Forrer thinks the text supports Gibbs’ direction and makes for a much more exciting story than what all too often becomes “The Hamlet Show.” Sure, it is that, but you know what he’s saying.

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Summer concerts: from opera to outlaw country

Performances in Yamhill County offer something for all musical tastes

Now that the sound and fury of the Fourth of July is behind us, let’s talk live music. There’s an abundance of it in Yamhill County this summer, literally anything you yearn for: pop, blues, 70s dance rock, Latin jazz, gypsy jazz, Celtic, soul, Scottish, blues, bluegrass, folk, retro, Louisiana zydeco from the Pacific Northwest … see what I’m saying? If you live here, you don’t need to head to Portland for outdoor summer concerts, and if you live in Portland, you might check out this list to ensure that your trip to wine country aligns with great music.

Before we get to lawn-chair summer fare, let’s zero in on opera. McMinnville’s music scene this month has an 800-pound gorilla, the Aquilon Music Festival, an ambitious project organized by Anton Belov. Linfield College, where Belov has taught 11 years, serves as the center ring in an event that features two fully staged operas and a multitude of lectures, recitals, and concerts, including some at area wineries.

Portland Opera’s Opera a la Cart will serve up operatic specials du jour at Ponzi Vineyards and Argyle Winery this summer. Photo: Jonathan Ley.

Belov has assembled an impressive team of opera pros from around the United States., and many names will be familiar to aficionados: Daniel Helfgot, Byron Schenkman, Barbara Day Turner and Richard Zeller.

But many may not be — the more than 30 young artists Belov invited who are poised at the dawn of their musical careers. Some are local, while others are from beyond Oregon and have already appeared on the boards in the U.S., Europe and South America.

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Suddenly, a major music festival

The new Aquilon Music Festival, a three-week feast of "delightfully affordable" opera, recitals, lectures and more, sets sail in McMinnville

McMINNVILLE – When I agreed this spring to come aboard as the Yamhill County correspondent for Oregon ArtsWatch, the first thing I did was to create a calendar. I’m a wordsmith by trade, but I like my information visualized so I can literally see the big picture. I wrote down every arts event I knew about, and then looked up ones I didn’t know about. Having lived out here in wine country since the mid-1990s, I have a good sense of the year’s cultural rhythms, so it came together quickly.

Then I got a note from Bob Hicks, one of ArtsWatch’s editors, referring me to possible “fodder” for my column, something called the Aquilon Music Festival.

He didn’t know anything about it; I’d never heard of it. I didn’t even look it up for a few days. How big a deal could it be?

Aquilon Music Festival logo, detail from Sandro Botticelli’s late 15th century painting “The Birth of Venus,” in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Aquilon in myth is the God of Northern Wind.

Pretty freaking huge, it turns out. And I can be forgiven (this time) for not having heard about it, because it’s new. This summer’s Aquilon Music Festival is the brainchild of Linfield College music professor Dr. Anton Belov, and he’s swinging for the fences with an artistic project that, if successful, could join the ranks of Oregon’s finest cultural events.

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