ArtsWatch Weekly: a full house is a good house

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Location, location, location, as the realty saying goes, and in the performing arts you can take it a step further: If you have a space, use it. An empty building is a wasted building. Keep it busy, as much as you can. In Portland, the idea’s spreading: If you’ve got it, share it. Third Rail Rep has moved in with Imago. Portland Center Stage‘s Armory building is alive with activity. Miracle Theatre is a mini-arts center.

Vana O'Brien's solo performance in the play Broomstick closed Sunday, but Artists Rep's spaces stay packed for action all year long. Photo: Owen Carey

Vana O’Brien’s solo performance in the play “Broomstick” closed Sunday, but Artists Rep’s spaces stay packed for action all year long. Photo: Owen Carey

And Artists Rep, with its two performance spaces and ramble of office, shop and storage space, is like a little arts village. Two other theater companies, Profile and Portland Shakespeare Project, present their seasons there, as do the experimental Hand2Mouth and the annual summer Risk/Reward Festival. Five small arts groups have offices here, the Geezer Gallery provides art on the walls, and the place is always buzzing with short-term projects. Last night – while the Oregon Media Production Association’s Oregon Actor Awards were being held at Center Stage, filling that space on an off-night – I went to Artists Rep for the fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration of the avid theater supporters Leonard and Susan Magazine, and the place was packed with their friends and well-wishers in the business. The Monday before, I was there for Poof, Flies, & Everything, the first look at a trio of chamber operas by Portland composers Theresa Koon and John Vergin, with libretti by the Portland poet and playwright Sandra Stone. Between those two events, actor Jonah Weston popped in for three late-night solo performances of Shel Silverstein’s The Devil and Billy Markham. Tonight, Tuesday, it’s an evening of short plays on climate change, with Boom Arts and Theatre Without Borders. Resident artists routinely bring side projects into the buildings. Staged readings, workshops, special shows happen all the time – things that might not be ready for review, but are getting their legs underneath them; one-offs of polished pieces that won’t, for one reason or another, have longer runs. I’ve seen a Noel Coward cabaret and an evening of short gay plays, and plenty of works from the city’s annual Fertile Ground new-works festival. Concerts happen here: next Tuesday, December 1, it’s the Oregon Trail Trio, the wonderful traditional instrumentalists Phil and Gayle Neuman and Mick Doherty, playing Appalachian music. The point is, keep the joint jumping. Artists need spaces to work and play. Audiences? They never know what might pop up next. And that can be a very good thing.


"The Book of Merman": blow kisses, Gabriel, blow. Photo: Triangle Productions

“The Book of Merman”: blow kisses, Gabriel, blow. Photo: Triangle Productions

A few things to consider this week:

  • The Book of Merman. Triangle Productions’ newest is the West Coast premiere of Leo Schwartz’s musical-comedy mashup of The Book of Mormon and the legendary Broadway belter Ethel Merman (played by the deft musical comedienne Amy Jo Halliday). Two Mormon missionaries land on Merman’s doorstep, and … well, go see for yourselves. Through December 19.
  • "Firebird" Performance,The Portland BalletThe Portland Ballet and PSU Orchestra. The collaboration by these two groups of talented student artists has become a Thanksgiving weekend tradition, and this year’s version has some extra spark: the premiere of Anne Mueller‘s Day by Day, set to Mozart’s String Quartet in B-flat Major and promising some of Mueller’s trademark choreographic wit. The other half of the smart-looking program is John Clifford‘s fiery Firebird, to Stravinsky’s music. Five performances at Lincoln Performance Hall, Friday through Sunday. (Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert: Charlotte Logeais in Clifford’s Firebird.)
  • Calder Quartet. The celebrated string quartet brings a couple of the B boys – Beethoven and Britten – to Friends of Chamber Music, along with some Schubert (Death and the Maiden), Janáček, and a couple of leading contemporary composers, Thomas Adès and Andrew Norman. Monday-Tuesday, November 30/December 1, different programs each night; Lincoln Performance Hall.
  • A KBNB Kristmas Karol. Things get a little seasonally wacko out at Bag&Baggage. Tough to resist the slogan “The pain. The anger. The suffering. The violence. It’s going to be wunderbar!” Opens Friday, through December 23, The Venetian in Hillsboro.
B&B's twisted "Kristmas Karol" 1940s radio spoof. Casey Campbell Photography

B&B’s twisted “Kristmas Karol” 1940s radio spoof. Casey Campbell Photography


Here at ArtsWatch we try not to to overindulge in nostalgia. But Thanksgiving is partly about indulgence, and so we offer you George Henry Durrie’s 1867 Home to Thanksgiving, published by Currier and Ives. There was a time when nearly every American home boasted at least one print from Currier and Ives, the lithographers who advertised themselves as “The Grand Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints.” They were superstars of the 19th century, and devoted to multiples long before Andy Warhol and his soup cans came along. Here’s wishing you a happy holiday. And if the snow drifts too deep for your electric car to navigate the country roads, we fervently hope your horse knows the way to carry the sleigh to grandmother’s house. Cheers!




ArtsWatch links


A very contemporary ballet, thank you. Nim Wunnan goes to see BC Ballet perform in the White Bird dance series, and concludes: Yes, it’s contemporary. And, yes, it’s ballet. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Hollywood Theatre doubles down on 70mm. Erik McClanahan explains why a pair of brand new lenses is going to make a big difference when you line up to see Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight for Christmas: Where you see it really does make a difference.

In praise of Bones: TV’s bridge between the 1990s and now. The long-running police procedural, Kourtney Paranteau declares, might be stiff and formulaic, but it’s pointed the way to better things: “before it’s too late, I want to sing its gentle praise now, while it’s still alive and almost kicking.”

45th Parallel non-review: much unfamiliar, little new. Tristan Bliss finds little to review at the ensemble’s most recent concert, and does so at length.

Another Saturday night: Staged! has a Dogfight. Christa Morletti McIntyre finds much to admire in the contemporary musical play, which blends Vietnam bravado with emerging ’60s feminism.

National Choir Festival review: choral cornucopia. Some of the best collegiate choirs in the nation were in Portland recently, and Bruce Browne was on hand to celebrate the sounds.

Third Angle New Music: text fatale. Jeff Winslow listens keenly to the cross of music and language in Third Angle’s recent concert: “the poets not only had the last word, they also left a trail of, if not broken hearts, at least spurned overtures.”

Erik Stotik: the horror surrounds us. Grace Kook-Anderson considers the Portland painter’s huge, circular, apocalyptic painting in the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College.

A panel from Erik Stotik's set of 11 panels, stretching 45 feet long, at the Hoffman Gallery. Photo: Bill Bachhuber

A panel from Erik Stotik’s set of 11 panels, stretching 45 feet long, at the Hoffman Gallery. Photo: Bill Bachhuber



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We’ve been sending a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers. Now we’re also posting it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.

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