Love’s Labor’s strikes up the band

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's new musical version on the outdoor stage delightfully updates "LLL" for a modern age

ASHLAND – One of the great joys of seeing plays in repertory at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is seeing the same actors in multiple roles, showcasing the rare abilities of repertory company members.

This is on display nowhere more clearly than the Allen Elizabethan Theatre stage in this summer’s production of Love’s Labor’s Lost, which continues through October 14. Many of the actors who take on major roles here are also in major roles in other plays.

Longaville (Jeremy Gallardo), Dumain (William Thomas Hodgson), Berowne( Stephen Michael Spencer) and Ferdinand (Daniel José Molina) disguise themselves as Muscovites as they set out to woo the Princess of France and her ladies. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

There’s Vilma Silva as Boyet, who is the driver of so much dark action (and comedy) in this season’s sell-out hit, Destiny of Desire.

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Inclusion and exclusion in St. Louis

When actors in red- and yellow-face strutted onstage, theater people of color at the TCG conference protested. Samson Syharath reports back.

By SAMSON SYHARATH

When theater companies of color from across the country witness a performance including red face, yellow face, and brown face, questions arise regarding activism and its relationship to art.

Every year the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the nonprofit theater world, gathers for its national conference to hold workshops, share knowledge, and engage in deep, meaningful discussion. I had the honor of being part of the Rising Leaders of Color (RLC) cohort last year, when the conference was held in Portland.

In St. Louis, theater leaders of color collectively read aloud the statement from the Theaters of Color Breakfast and work session for the How We Move Forward Session. Photo: Jenny Graham

That experience skyrocketed my professional growth and helped me develop a community with artists of color in the Portland region. This year’s conference was in St. Louis, Missouri, overlooking the Gateway Arch, a monument that many people do not realize glorifies colonialism and the subsequent removal of indigenous people from their land.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Summerfest!

CoHo's short-run festival and the Risk/Reward fest put the movement into theater. Also: "Sense and Sensibility," last chance for "Fences."

A year ago, when Sayda Trujillo approached Jessica Wallenfels about directing a solo performance she was developing, she had a particular contribution in mind.

“She did come to me with a very specific ask: ‘I want this to be physically demanding and difficult, and I want your help with that,’” Wallenfels recalls.

Trujillo is hardly a stranger to physicality herself — she teaches voice and movement at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. Nor, for that matter, to solo shows — she’s created three previous ones that have been presented internationally, including at such prestigious theatrical incubators as REDCAT in Los Angeles. But she and Wallenfels have some familiarity with each other as well, having met as undergraduates at California Institute of the Arts and later taught together at California State Summer School of the Arts. Wallenfels, a multi-faceted Portland artist, brought expertise as one of the top theater choreographers in the Northwest.

Sayda Trujillo in her solo show “Right, Up, Left (Definitely Oops!.” She’ll perform “Win the War or Tell Me a Story” at CoHo Summerfest.

The resulting show, Win the War or Tell Me a Story, serves as the kick-off to CoHo Summerfest 2018, beginning Thursday, June 28. It should make a fine introduction, reflecting CoHo Theater’s longstanding interest in solo performance and personal storytelling, yet also hinting at the distinguishing characteristic of this year’s selections, which are more movement-oriented overall.

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DanceWatch Weekly: World Beat!

In Salem, the World Beat Festival takes over the waterfront with an inclusive celebration. In Portland, Risk/Reward pushes boundaries.

Twenty-one years ago, two stay-at-home moms, Kathleen Fish and Mona Hayes, created the World Beat Festival in response to growing racial intolerance in Salem, Oregon. Today the festival, which opens Friday evening, June 29, has grown dramatically and involves more than 1,000 volunteers.

The festival spans three days, takes over Salem’s entire Riverfront Park, comprises five “villages” representing different regions of the world, and presents the dances, music, food, and crafts of more than 70 nations and cultures. There are also drumming classes, dance lessons, dragon boat races, kids’ activities, cooking classes, three Powwows, and, yes, much, much more.

“We didn’t want to raise our kids in a community where that kind of thing happened,” Fish said in an interview last year with Heather Rayhorn for the Statesman Journal in reference to the the racist incident that was a catalyst for the festival. “We thought the best way to prevent those incidents of racism was to get rid of the fear. A lack of exposure to other cultures, not knowing, drives that fear.”

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MusicWatch Weekly: festivalpalooza!

Festivals erupt this week in Oregon with Makrokosmos, Oregon Bach Festival, Astoria Music Festival, Salem World Beat Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, PianoPushPlay and more

Acclaimed piano duo Stephanie & Saar once again return to Northwest Portland’s Vestas building Thursday to collaborate with Portland Percussion Group and other Portland performers in a five-hour marathon show. This time, the Makrokosmos Project 4: Dadapalooza program features one of the mid-20th century’s groundbreaking works: John Cage’s justly celebrated Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. Even listeners befuddled by Cage’s later detour into aleatoric (chance) music can appreciate the restrained, mysterious beauty the composer conjured from his modifications of the piano’s strings and hammers.

Stephanie & Saar performed with Portland Percussion Group last year at Makrokosmos.

The cheerfully overstuffed extravaganza also includes another 20th century classic: the third Makrokosmos composition by project patron saint and Pulitzer Prize winner George Crumb: Music for a Summer Evening, written in 1974 for two amplified pianos and percussion, plus new music by Gregory Hutter, Karen Tanaka, Portland’s Texu Kim (the Portland composer’s dazzling 300+ MicroVariations on a Bach Theme, one of my favorite local discoveries this year) Wang Jie and more. It’s the kind of event where you can wander in and out as you please, sample food and wine, the better to sample unfamiliar yet often enticing music of our time. Search our site for our extensive previous coverage to get an idea of what it’s like.

A piece that would have fit snugly into Dadapalooza would have been George Antheil’s 1924 Ballet Mecanique, whose sirens, airplane propellers, percussion-laced orchestra player piano, and crazy rhythms — scandalized Paris, sparked riots, delighted surrealists and avant gardists, and made the young American composer’s reputation as the Bad Boy of Music, which became the apt title of his autobiography. After returning to America, he wrote an advice column (!), collaborated with actress Hedy Lamarr on the technology that much later made wi-fi possible (for which he was short-shrifted in last year’s documentary Bombshell) and mostly wrote film music.

But recently, Portland violinist and Antheil scholar Hannah Leland learned about some previously unknown music from the mid-1940s that Antheil wrote for a German-American violinist friend. With her pianist partner Aimee Fincher, their Duo Odéon (named after the Paris street where Antheil, who died in 1959, lived above Sylvia Beach’s famous bookstore) recorded a splendid new Sono Luminus album of that music and more. Their album release party at Portland’s Santé Bar, 411 Northwest Park Avenue, features Antheil’s exuberant, virtuosic mid-century music from their ebullient new recording Specter — think sassy Prokofiev with an American twist. The bar is creating two craft cocktails, the Odéon and Specter, for the occasion.

PianoPushPlay’s annual free kickoff event at the Portland Art museum courtyard brings together ten donated pianos that have been wonderfully weirded out by local artists, and they’re played by various local pianists (classical, jazz, pop) and even random passersby who sign up. They keep them out in the courtyard for anyone to play as they walk by, and at summer’s end they’re auctioned off and donated to local  schools, community centers etc. Paste the name into the OAW search field to read our previous coverage.

Pianopushplay founder Megan McGeorge poses next to a piano she donated to the cause at last summer’s opening event.

Saxophonic Sequels, Festival Fever

“It cries, sighs and dreams,” wrote Berlioz. “It possesses a crescendo and can gradually diminish until it is only an echo of an echo. I know of no other instrument that possesses this particular capacity to reach the outer limits of audible sound.” The French romantic composer was talking about the then-newly invented saxophone. We had an outbreak of sax attacks a couple weeks back and now the saxes return Wednesday night with Chamber Music Northwest’s musical-theatrical show Adolphe Sax and the Creation of the Saxophone at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre. The latest in CMNW’s recent run of theater about music, this one features actor Harold Dixon, the dynamic young Kenari Saxophone Quartet, and a story with live music about Sax’s life and instrument.

Kenari Quartet performs at Chamber Music Northwest

Kenari plays recent pieces for sax quartet by Corey Dundee (inspired by the young composer’s struggle with depression) and John Leszczynski plus a viola solo by the great Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and a duo by Daniel Temkin (inspired by a childhood memory box) on Friday’s New@Noon concert at PSU, which also has a viola solo and violin duo.

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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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Improv meets ASL

Jay Flewelling and Blake Wales want to unite deaf and hearing audiences

When actor Blake Wales first watched a performance by the improv comedy group J Names, he was deeply impressed. There was just one problem. He wished that his father, who is deaf, could have the opportunity to enjoy the show.

“I remember thinking, ‘This would be amazing if my dad could laugh with a hearing audience,’” Wales says. “That’s something a lot of deaf people don’t get to do.”

Now they can. Since last year, Wales has been working with J Names—and the group’s founder, Jay Flewelling—as an ASL interpreter. It’s a challenging and rewarding job that takes all of Wales’ skills as both an ASL speaker and an improv performer (as play-goers who attend the group’s Friday show at Curious Comedy Theater can see).

“’This is amazing. Why aren’t more people doing it? When are you doing it again?’ Those are the questions that I get after I do a show with J Names,” Wales says. “Hearing that need just made me more inspired to respond to it.”

The J Names Group. Photo: Andy Batt

J Names is one of the best-known improv groups in Portland, and Flewelling—who has also worked with Wales at Oregon Children’s Theater—jumped at the chance to expand their audience. “No one has been as excited about this as Jay has,” Wales says.

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