DramaWatch: Airing Ireland’s dirty laundry

Corrib Theatre tells the sordid story of Magdalene Laundries in "Eclipsed." The week in Portland theater also boasts new plays, pirates, and a lady's choice of a musical.

It was, as Gemma Whelan puts it, “a medieval system.” Women who became pregnant out of wedlock were confined to convents or the like, not for prayer and contemplation, but to labor in institutional laundries. Shunned and half-forgotten by their families and society, these women were imprisoned, effectively, sometimes for the rest of their lives. The babies mostly were put up for adoption. But the unmarked graves of babies and women have been discovered in churchyards. 

As a Catholic novice in the 1960s, Patricia Burke Brogan caught a first-hand look at what was known as a Magdalene Laundry and the lives of these “fallen women,” for whom she was a sort of jailer. She didn’t last long in the religious life.

Jamie M. Rea and Dainichia Noreault as involuntarily penitent women in Corrib Theatre’s Eclipsed. Photo: Adam Liberman.

In 1992, Brogan revisited the experience in Eclipsed, a play about unwed mothers in the convent laundry of the fictional St. Paul’s Home for Penitent Women in Killmacha, Ireland. Since then, various accounts and investigations have brought more of that sordid history to light, yet it’s a history that remains obscure. 

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Art review: Through the pinhole, vastly

Julia Bradshaw’s "Survey" at Truckenbrod Pop-Up Gallery imagines new planets from a long way up

In 1920 Marcel Duchamp invited his friend Man Ray over to his studio to practice documenting artwork with his large format camera. Instead, Man Ray photographed dust that had accumulated on the glass backside of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23). To look at the image, one doesn’t immediately think of a dusty surface but of a barren landscape photographed from miles above. In fact, Man Ray said as much after he published the image two years later, describing it as a “view from an aeroplane.” Eventually given the title, Dust Breeding (1), the photograph has been a residual inspiration for generations of artists thereafter.

Not that Dust Breeding is a starting point for Julia Bradshaw’s exhibition, Survey, at Truckenbrod Pop-Up Gallery in Corvallis through September 29. It is merely my unavoidable point of reference. Instead, Bradshaw credits an oversight—not unlike Duchamp’s neglect in keeping a clean studio—for this series of photographs. Discovering an underused darkroom at a residency she was attending, Bradshaw regretted not bringing an analog 35mm camera along. Fortuitously, she had brought along her pinhole camera. She started a project by taking her own advice to students when teaching the use of a pinhole camera: take an image of a concrete sidewalk.

Still, one can readily see a direct link to Man Ray’s photograph. The grittiness of the concrete taken out of its original context suggests a larger landscape, and perhaps one that is otherworldly. For Bradshaw, she found herself thinking about the long history that photography has with astronomy, particularly James Nasmyth’s 19th century photographs of the moon’s topography. At the time, photographs of the night skies did not work well with telescopes because of an inability to track the movement of planets. Instead, Nasmyth built and photographed models of the moon’s surface. It was this fiction that brought Bradshaw to create her own silver-gelatin prints of interstellar and planetary surface fictions.(2)

Julia Bradshaw, Sinuous Rille from 2671 Altitude Kilometers

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The Week: See you in the dock

Autumn settles in swiftly, and with it the rhythms of a new cultural season, from "In the Heights" to the sidewalks of Forest Grove

AUTUMN’S SETTLED IN EARLY ACROSS MOST OF OREGON, and with it the rhythms and traditions of a new cultural season. Music, theater, dance – each has its own history and pattern, its own set of rituals. 

Corey Brunish, the Portland and New York performer and producer who has a handful of Tony Award statuettes as a producer on Broadway, has just been named one of more than two dozen nominees for this year’s Broadway Global Producer of the Year Award, on a list that also includes the likes of Gloria Estefan, John Legend, and Jada Pinkett Smith. 

Brunish, whose nomination is for the aggregate of his Broadway work, has an abiding love for the rituals of the theater, and often expresses it in musings about the still time before the curtain rises. He wrote this one, he says, during a California run of the new musical Empire, about the building of the Empire State Building, a show that’s still trying to raise backing for a Broadway run. But, he adds, it could be any show, any time, anywhere:

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Dancing is a highlight of Portland Center Stage’s In the Heights. Above: Alexander Gil Cruz, Eddie Martin Morales, Alyssa V. Gomez, UJ Mangune. Photo: Owen Carey

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Hearing injustice

Monday’s FearNoMusic concert features new music composed in response to last year’s Supreme Court confirmation battle over alleged sexual harassment

As Portland composer Kenji Bunch watched last year’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which included accusations of sexual assault, he “had this weird idea of a concert” based on the hearings.

“It was such a fraught moment, a watershed event,” Bunch recalled. “Something about the theatricality of that hearing just seemed to me that it could work for this kind of artistic exploration.”

Violinist and composer Kenji Bunch. Photo: Bob Keefer.

Bunch, artistic director of Portland new music ensemble Fear No Music, mused about the notion on Facebook. Immediately, New York composer Daniel Felsenfeld endorsed the idea. So did others, including fellow Oregon composer Andrea Reinkemeyer.

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Dualing & dueling at the easel

Landscape painters Michael Orwick and Anton Pavlkenko have a friendly showdown at Cannon Beach's Earth & Ocean Arts Festival

It all started five or so years ago with one of those “what if” conversations — the kind no one really expects to go anywhere. But in this case, it did. They call it “dualing easels,” or, if you’re painter Michael Orwick, “dueling easels”: “It is a little bit antagonistic in a way,” he notes, adding, “Playfully.”

 The showdown is part of this year’s Earth & Ocean Arts Festival, a new event in Cannon Beach aimed at blending art with environmental awareness. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to five ecology-focused nonprofits.

 It’s the best of the Plein Air & More Arts Festival, which ended in 2018 after a 10-year run, with some added twists, Orwick says. Along with Anton Pavlenko, he’ll lead the “Painting Coastal Color and Light 2019” plein air workshop leading up to the festival.

Orwick and Pavlenko, at work …

“I was part of the Plein Air Festival every single year,” says Orwick. “I think there is no better way to appreciate the Oregon Coast — the wind, the sun, the smells. To be out there and letting that affect you and your image. People can tell; there is a freshness and vitality that comes through. I love painting in my studio, but there is nothing like painting on location.” You can learn more about that here.

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MusicWatch Weekly: How to decide

Your guide to choosing a balanced musical diet

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey Mr. Music Editor Guy, how the [redacted] am I supposed to pick one of these million shows you’re always telling us about?” Good question, dear foul-mouthed reader. The short answer, as always, is: follow your bliss!

But you want a real answer, don’t you? Normally, you might use genre as a guideline. But genre is dead and can’t help you anymore. Instead, I have three recommended methods for picking a weekend of concerts. First: rely on institutions. Second: use this newfangled interweb thingy to listen ahead of time to whatever’s happening on whichever morning/afternoon/evening you happen to be free. Third: ask your friends!

Rely on institutions

It may sound strange to hear a certified Discordian Pope telling you to rely on institutions, since any organization stuffy enough to earn the name “institution” is pretty reliably unreliable. But Oregon is blessed with several well-established music organizations that have earned our Trust in such matters.

Two of these are Cascadia Composers and Fear No Music, both of whom celebrate contemporary “classical” music and the (usually living) composers who create it, both of whom have concerts at The Old Church in the next week (Cascadia Saturday, FNM Monday). Stay tuned for Senior Editor Brett Campbell’s FNM Hearings preview tomorrow, and he’ll have something to say about Cascadia in just a moment. For now, I’d like to tell you about two other Portland institutions with shows coming up: School of Rock and Creative Music Guild.

Yes.

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‘In the Heights’: A transportive musical time capsule

Portland Center Stage takes you to Washington Heights in the early aughts with a grand, energetic production

By SHAWNA LIPTON

The majority of new Broadway musicals are jukebox compilations of pop and rock hits, restagings of campy Hollywood films, and reimaginings of Disney animated blockbusters. Among these iterative rehashings of popular culture, Lin-Manuel Miranda has innovated with his musical mashups and compelling original stories.

Portland Center Stage’s “In the Heights”/Photo by Owen Carey

Miranda is known for being a fresh voice in a medium prone to pandering to tourists rather than pushing artistic boundaries, infusing the mainstream musical theatre world with hip hop and Latin musical influences, and creating dynamic and varied roles for people of color, most famously with Hamilton: An American Musical.

Before he created Hamilton, there was In the Heights, now playing at Portland Center Stage, a high-energy entertainment with an impressive ensemble cast.

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