Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Portland Oregon

Arts notes: Jewish Museum to open

Plus: Governor's Arts Awards; what isn't playing at the Roxy (but is coming via Portland theater companies).


IT’S BEEN A LONG HAUL for the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, which like so many other destinations has been shut down for months by the Covid-19 crisis. But things are looking up: The museum has announced it’ll reopen to visitors next Thursday, Aug. 6, on a limited schedule and with restrictions. The Portland museum joins several others – among them the Portland Art Museum, Oregon Historical Society museum, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Architectural Heritage Museum (which reopened last weekend with the exhibition Darcelle XV at Home, photographs by Tom Cook of the famous female impersonator and his richly decorated 1896 Queen Anne style house) in Portland; Bend’s High Desert Museum, and the Schneider Museum of Art, in Ashland – that have ventured into open hours again.

The Jewish Museum will reopen its first-floor galleries and gift shop, continuing through Sept. 5 with the exhibit Southern Rites, photographer Gillian Laub’s pictorial profile of racial progress and regression in Montgomery County, Georgia – including the integration of previously segregated high school proms, and then the murder by a white man of an unarmed young black man. Laub spent a decade documenting the tensions in the community. Friderike Heuer wrote in ArtsWatch about the exhibition in February, before the museum shut down, calling Laub’s work “beautiful.” She added: “It is not the beauty that matters here, though. It is the package of three elements that make this not just an artful, but an important exhibition: a longitudinal project executed with skill and courage in the light of tremendous obstacles, for one. Secondly, a slew of smart curatorial decisions on how to present that project, equally important for creating a narrative. And finally, the flexibility of a Jewish museum bent on going beyond the traditional role of keeper of memory, whether Holocaust-related or preserving the history of the local community.”

“Amber and Reggie, Mount Vernon, Georgia,” 2011, © Gillian Laub, Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery. Included in Laub’s photographic exhibition “Southern Rites,” reopening Aug. 6 at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education.

To begin, the museum will be open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with a strict limit on the number of visitors allowed at any one time, and with advance timed tickets required. Face masks, of course, will also be required for anyone ages 5 or older. And while you’re visiting – or if you just happen to be walking through the neighborhood – take a look at the museum’s window displays, which include a showing of five of Portland sculptor Mel Katz’s bright anodized-aluminum wall sculptures, plus panels from the museum’s core exhibition Discrimination and Resistance: An Oregon Primer. The full exhibit is in the museum’s upstairs galleries, which are not yet reopening.


BETWEEN DEALING WITH COVID-19 MANDATES, making a deal with Vice President Pence to get the feds out of the downtown Portland protest zone, and navigating through the state’s troubled financial waters, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s had a lot on her mind lately. But on Friday she took a little time to announce the winners of this year’s Oregon Governor’s Arts Awards.

The 2020 Oregon Governor’s Arts Award winners. Top: Darrell Grant (Thomas Teal photo). Middle, from left: Roberta J. Kirk, Toni Pimble, John Laursen (Aaron Johanson photo). Bottom: Portland Gay Men’s Chorus.

It’s an interesting group of four individual artists and one organization:

  • Darrell Grant, the Portland jazz pianist, composer, and educator, is one of the busiest and most admired figures on Oregon’s contemporary music scene, and has a rich resume of recording and performing with top musicians internationally.
  • H’Klumaiyat Roberta Joy Kirk, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, is a much-honored traditional beadworker and teacher. A graduate in museology and three-dimensional arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe, she’s worked at the Museum of Warm Springs and the National Museum of the American Indian. She’s also a traditional food gatherer for the Simnasho Longhouse.
  • John Laursen has owned and operated Portland’s Press-22 for four decades, specializing in high-quality art books (including the much-admired Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867–1957, with the late Oregon photographer Terry Toedtemeier) and other text-based public art works.
  • Toni Pimble, the British-born ballet choreographer, has been a leading light of Oregon’s dance scene for more than forty years. She began her career in Germany and co-founded Eugene Ballet Company, which she still leads, in 1978. It’s been a model of American small regional ballet companies, continually doing new work (Pimble has choreographed more than sixty pieces for the company herself, and many have been performed by other companies as well) and collaborating with other arts groups.
  • The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus has been making music for almost as long as Eugene Ballet has been making dance: Established in 1980, it’s the fourth oldest gay men’s chorus in the nation. Over the years its contributions have been both artistic and cultural, including its significant role as a gathering place and haven during the years of the AIDS epidemic.

The winners were chosen from among 48 nominees. The awards will be celebrated during a free virtual ceremony at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, on the Oregon Arts Commission Facebook page.


ALL RIGHT, MAYBE NOT. The Roxy movie palaces of the nation are still shut down, and that headline’s just a snatch of lyric from the fabulous musical Guys and Dolls, which I’d love to see again sometime soon on a real, live theater stage – but they’re shut down for the duration, too.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have theater news. Here’s some of it:

A virtual Black Box from CoHo. Recently actors Marcella Laasch and James Luster, working on a socially distanced stage, filmed four scenes taken from CoHo co-founder Gary Cole’s novel Black Box. A week ago, on its “Page to Stage” platform, the company began to release the scenes, one a week: Click on the link for details. Portland script guru Mead Hunter calls the project “a lot of fun.” That’s a good recommendation.

Black voices from the Community Voices Project. Portland Center Stage is kicking off this promising video project with offerings from a constellation of a dozen stellar Black Portland theater artists, including Cycerli Ash, Ayanna Berkshire, Bobby Bermea, Delphon “DJ” Curtis Jr., Phil Johnson, Treasure Lunan, Tamera Lyn, Lauren Modica, Vin Shambry, Ithica Tell, Wanda Walden, and Damaris Webb.

Remixing the season. The Community Voices Project above is part of PDX Remix, Portland Center Stage’s radical rethinking of how it’s going to approach its coming season in the Time of Pandemic. Click the link for details, and look forward to encounters one way or another with the likes of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; the Frida Kahlo play Frida … A Self Portrait; a return engagement for Hedwig and the Angry Inch; the 2010 Pulitzer finalist The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity; August Wilson’s superb Gem of the Ocean; the Jane Austen adaptation Emma; the world premiere of Young Americans, by the playwright of Cambodian Rock Band; and a time-traveling revival of the musical Hair. When will all this happen, you ask? The theater is eagerly awaiting an an answer from Mr. Covid & Co.

Profile Theatre on the Air. Profile is also radically rethinking how it’s going about its business in shutdown times, and has decided that audio plays are the way to go. It’s an audacious move: not just excerpts, but whole plays; and not just whole plays, but challenging contemporary works. The company’s 23rd season continues its deep dive into the works of playwrights Paula Vogel, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and the fall lineup includes Nottage’s M’lima’s Tale and Las Meninas, and Vogel’s Hot ‘n’ Throbbing. Check it out here.

A Kids Play About Racism. Portland’s Oregon Children’s Theatre is one of 41 companies nationally to be presenting this new streamed play, whose time absolutely seems right now. It’s a musical, aimed at kids 5 and older, and lead producers are the Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. It’s stream free Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1-2, on Broadway on Demand. Get the details here.

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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