While families may prefer to play it safe with their holiday celebrations, sometimes wise ones wander farther, guided by more distant stars. It was ever so.
Welcome to the winter edition of Out There, a semi-regular roundup of special, surprising, or lesser-known arts events. This December, ditch Bing Crosby’s White Christmas in favor of braver fare! Pluck fresh paintings right off a gallery wall and pay for them on the spot! Potluck with belly dancers! And give displaced Post5ers a Christmas to remember.
Want to shop for original art the same way you’d load up a cart at the Cash ‘n’ Carry? Then hit the 9th annual Big 500. As its name suggests, this show/sale will unveil 500 paintings by various local artists, available for purchase on the spot. The works are as diverse as you might imagine, yet conveniently uniform in size and price: each 8″ x 8,” and $40. Curated by Chris Haberman (the artist behind the Eagles Lodge mural at 50th and Hawthorne and the now-closed People’s Gallery) this show may have moved from its former home at The Goodfoot Gallery to the Ford Gallery, but it still offers the same unbeatable deal as ever to gift-buyers and decorators on the prowl for original paintings.
Has anticipating the debut of Imago’s puppet masterpiece La Belle put you in the mood for more puppet magic? Then you may want to check out the significantly-more-sinister Scary Puppet Film Night. Beady Little Eyes will show rare and new puppet movies at The Steep and Thorny Way To Heaven. (Make reservations as this is technically a private club.)
Mourning the hidden midriffs of bleak midwinter? Then you may enjoy Portland Bellydance Guild’s Winter Hafla. What’s that, you ask? A free, family-friendly party and potluck with a few pro and student performances, plus open dancing and drumming. Feel free to “BYO” any of the following: food, non-alcohol drinks, percussion instruments (drums, tambourines, etc), and of course donations to buoy PBG’s general effort. Or if you’d prefer a more formal sitdown show, head to the Clinton Street Theater for The Art of Bellydance, a lineup of solo and group performers that, unfortunately, happens to be the swan song of four-year belly dance presenter From the Hip.
This gloriously notorious Portland-made “stripper opera” retells a true tale from Magic Gardens, the memoir of legendary local stripper Viva Las Vegas. Chris Corbell (formerly of Classical Revolution PDX and Muse:forward) conceived of the project, composed the opera and debuted it last season with support from members of Opera Theater Oregon and the blessing of Viva herself. With a twelve-piece orchestra, four singers, and a bit of tasteful nudity, it’s the only Christmas show of its kind.
Do you tire of the usual Christmas carols and winking 1950’s fireside kitsch? Have you ever yelled at Bing Crosby, “You’re no Beatles!”? Then Wanderlust Circus has a treat for you. This production is just what it says on the tin: a show set to the Beatles’ White Album, only “Christmas” to the extent that it happens in winter and it’s family-friendly. While The Nowhere Band plays the whole double album—horns, roars, refrains and all—cirque-bohemian dancers, aerialists, jugglers and clowns run helter skelter, embodying the psychedelic spirit of each song and together celebrating the album’s halcyon splendor.
Wanderlust’s other holiday tradition is much more in the Christmas-y canon, but still pretty full of surprises. Ringmaster Noah Mickens plays Scrooge, and each “spirit” that visits him is a different style of circus performer. Gypsy-jazz Christmas covers played by the brilliant Three Leg Torso and sung by various characters propel the storytelling and give each act something to swing to.
There’s no telling what to expect from this culminative dance showcase by the participants of New Expressive Works’ 8th 6-month residency: Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills. Well, maybe there’s some telling. Though soundscape maestro Jay Clarke humbly downplays his contribution of new music to the show, claiming “The music is fine but the dancers are the main attraction,” audiophiles and film buffs who remember Clarke’s gorgeous score from the 2010 documentary Marwencol will be resoundingly sold.
Spectravagasm, the twisted brainchild of brilliant comic actor Sam Dinkowitz and a handful of Post5 Theatre clowns, is a long-running sketch comedy series that’s already covered many themes including Camp, Love, Art, Death, and Drugs. Bum luck that as Dinkowitz emerged from three winters in PCS’s Twist Your Dickens to prep a Holiday ‘gasm, he learned Post5 was losing their proverbial room at the inn. With Post5 closing their Sellwood location, Shaking The Tree has now agreed to host Spectravagasm‘s wayfaring players. Anyone who’s wistful for Twist can count on similar irreverence from Dink in his new digs.
Another orphaned show from Post5’s sudden closure is Phillip Berns’ solo version of A Christmas Carol. Even if you’ve seen the Christmas classic performed solo elsewhere before, this rendition is a rare treat because the spry, youthful actor playing all the roles is much more of a Tiny Tim/Cratchitt/Nephew type than a Scrooge sort. The planned full run has been compressed into three dates of dinner theater at Picnic House. Go partake in this comfort and joy.
These events occur at various venues throughout the month of December. For further details, click directly on event titles.