Black Music Matters, Vol. 3: Smell the roses

Amenta Abioto takes a walk, Tony Ozier conceptualizes

Last year, Third Angle New Music released a list of local composers they’d be working with on their new “Soundwalks” series. It was an exciting list, and the series is now five episodes in, including this month’s episode with percussionist and sound wizard Loren Chasse. The biggest names in that lineup are Darrell Grant and Andy Akiho, with the entire series being a study in artistic diversity, but one name stood out: Amenta Abioto. Because out of all the various local and/or living composers Third Angle has worked with over the years (and in series like this one), Abioto is the Oregonian musician I’d most like to see in a Caroline Shaw-style profile concert.

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DanceWatch: Pandemic downs and ups

Everyone's course through this year of isolation has been different—and sometimes it leads to growth

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns last March, it was exciting to have EVERYTHING go online. Dance classes, performances, lectures, and community conversations were suddenly available at the touch of a button. 

In the past, as a dance artist, I’d felt like I was never in the right place at the right time to get what I needed to succeed in my dance career. It felt like I was living in the wrong place, wasn’t studying with and being seen by the right teachers, and was missing out on auditions and opportunities. I felt like I was always out of step. FOMO (fear of missing out) was real for me. This was significantly exacerbated when I decided to have a baby, which took me right out of the game. But not anymore, thanks to Covid-19. (I feel yucky saying that.) Because suddenly everything I ever wanted was online. 

But, as you all know now, it’s hard to go at it alone in our tiny houses month after month. As you also know, trying to get time and space alone to be creative in a house with other people is REALLY HARD.

I tried connecting to what was available online. Still, it couldn’t keep my attention, and the sheer volume of choices became overwhelming. 

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Riverbend Players goes to the dogs

After a quiet year, the Nehalem theater company is back with a fundraising play in which all the characters are canine

When Marilyn Karr first read the script for the upcoming Riverbend Players performance, she could barely finish it. The language was coarse, the males aggressive, and her character, Maggie, found them “disgusting.” 

But then, said Karr, “I thought, it’s just dog language.” Not woof-woof, of course, but the way a dog would talk were he one of us.

In the end, Karr signed on for two roles in the upcoming The Dog Logs. She’ll play Maggie, a golden retriever, and Savoir Faire, a greyhound.

Marilyn Karr, here with her border collie Journey, plays two roles in “The Dog Logs”: Savoir Faire, a single-minded greyhound, and Maddie, a golden retriever, who finds life, especially boy dogs, strange. Photo courtesy: Riverbend Players
Marilyn Karr, here with her border collie, Journey, plays two roles in “The Dog Logs”: Savoir Faire, a single-minded greyhound, and Maddie, a golden retriever who finds life, especially boy dogs, strange. Photo courtesy: Riverbend Players

After a year of mostly quiet, Nehalem-based Riverbend is putting on a live, virtual performance of the play by CJ Johnson in which all of the characters are canine, but with a take on life that is “touching and surprisingly human.” The performance is free, but donations are gladly accepted. All proceeds go toward relieving hunger through local North Coast organizations including the Little Apple Fund, which donates to several other nonprofits around the area.

“A lot of people are really hurting,” said Jeff Slamal, president of the Riverbend Players. “There are people that need to be fed, but some are reluctant to come forth and say, ‘I need help.’ We wanted to make it a local, direct situation where any donations we get go to these organizations and all money is put toward feeding people.”

Through their efforts, the theater group is hoping to draw attention to the fact that the programs exist and are available to anyone, as well as reaching out to the Hispanic community to let them know the same.

Selecting a play wasn’t easy. Virtual performances don’t allow for interaction with the audience or within the cast, and producing a play in which the cast will be live on stage at the North Coast Recreation District, but performing separately, is challenging, said Linda Makohon, producer and director.  

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LitWatch Monthly: It’s National Poetry Month

April marks National Poetry Month – along with eight of the most exciting ways for you to celebrate

A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” Salman Rushdie

April marks National Poetry Month, a 30-day-long event created in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets to honor poetry writers across the country and spark an increased appreciation for poetry in the United States. This year marks the 25th anniversary of an event that has become one of the largest literary celebrations in the world. 

Poetry has been continually making its way into mainstream media and the world of television commercials and radio ads, particularly so after the spellbinding success of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda S.C. Gorman’s internationally broadcasted poem recitation during President Joe Biden’s inauguration. It is important to remember that as poetry becomes increasingly popularized, its true preservation will come from our everyday actions. Just as the greatest poetry comes from the minds of ordinary people seeking to “shape the world, and stop it going to sleep,” the greatest advocacy for poetry comes not from commercial conglomerates, but from the dedicated patronage of individuals. 

We should remind ourselves that to keep our favorite bookshops open, we must each choose to purchase their books. To keep our independent presses publishing, we must subscribe to their publications. To keep our poets writing, we must endeavor to show our support for the work they do to further the literary world. 

In honor of National Poetry Month, I have created a list of eight great ways to celebrate, appreciate, and support Oregon poetry this April, in addition to a full calendar of literary events. Enjoy!

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VizArts Monthly: Day trips, local favorites, and virtual viewings

April's art offerings brim with the potential of spring embracing topics from collaboration to cultural heritage to much-needed laughter

The cherry blossom trees are blooming! It can only mean one thing: the slow ascent into spring has begun. Let’s brighten our days with some fresh art, shall we? Galleries are remaining COVID-safe, with ample opportunity to set private viewing appointments. For Portlanders itching to ditch the city for the day, this month’s round-up includes must-see shows in Astoria, Eugene, and Newberg. Those who prefer to stay home can still enjoy new virtual exhibitions at Upfor Gallery and Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Common exhibition themes this month include identity, cultural heritage, and shifts in landscape. There’s plenty of opportunity to challenge your perspectives, but Well Well Projects’ What’s So Funny? promises some long-overdue laughter, too. Enjoy, and don’t forget your mask.

Work by James Castle, image courtesy Adams and Ollman

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Diversity and inclusion can’t accomplish what we need

Art institutions have embraced the call for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Why does this model fall short of what it promises?

In the weeks following George Floyd’s murder—when people all over the country were taking to the streets in force, in anger, and in desperation for change; when an acrid cloud of tear gas was hanging over downtown Portland every night—my beloved art institutions were quiet. At first, I hoped it might be a productive silence, during which they were starting to take a hard look at themselves to determine what part they had played in upholding white supremacy, the force that put its knee on George Floyd’s neck, that shot Breonna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson in their own homes, that lynched Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a jog.

I waited for the statements to come, the ones announcing each organization’s plans to meet this moment. After weeks, the silence became deafening, embarrassing.

Then, all at once, my inbox was choked with anemic statements in support of Black Lives Matter. The majority of these messages were shoehorned into press releases announcing other things: You can now visit our virtual galleries from the comfort of your home! Now is a great time to become a member! Pre-register for our Zoom lecture series! Really?!?! I thought. This didn’t even merit a separate email? This wasn’t important enough to stand alone?

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Beverly Cleary: Plucky, adventurous kids can be fun!

Children’s book author Beverly Cleary passed away at 104 on Thursday, leaving a legacy of characters that changed the genre – and our youth

When Oregon-born author Beverly Clearly wrote Henry Huggins, an endearing tale of a young boy who lived on Portland’s Northeast Klickitat Street, the common attitude toward writers of such tales was similar to that of small children at the time: they should be seen and not heard. In the early 1950s, it was common for writers of books for children to shy away from the spotlight, avoiding the disappointed looks of children as it dawned on them that an adult had written the fantastical stories they so closely related to. Beverly Cleary felt similarly then.

In her 1985 New York Times archive article titled Children’s Books; Why Are Children Writing to Me Instead of Reading?, Cleary wrote, “When I was growing up, I felt that authors should stay out of sight. I decided this because their pictures appeared on cards in that educational game called Authors. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his long gray hair did not look like a grown-up Hiawatha… the biggest disappointment was Louisa May Alcott with her hair in a snood. She should have had short dark curls like Jo in Little Women after she sold her beautiful long hair.”

“A writer should be writing…” she continued, “To me, writing involves my imagination, a handful of 29-cent ballpoint pens, a stack of paper, and time free from interruption. I often begin books in the middle or at the end and play about with my characters in my poor handwriting until I am satisfied with their behavior, which is often a surprise to me. That is the fun of writing…. telling stories quietly and privately with pen on paper is my joy.”

Over a span of 71 years, Beverly Clearly’s personal joy has translated into the hearts of many. Cleary, who passed away last Thursday evening in her California home at the age of 104, has become one of the most beloved children’s book authors in the country, penning more than 40 books including favorites like Beezus and Ramona, Ramona the Pest, Henry Huggins, Ribsy, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. 

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