ArtsWatch Weekly: November roars in like a lion

A new month stirs up a storm of cultural activity, from a big book fest to galleries to stage, screen, and sound.

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WE MIGHT BE MIXING OUR MONTHS UP, but November seems to be roaring in like a lion, and here at ArtsWatch we can hardly keep up. From peeking backstage at the Oregon Symphony to perusing the pages of the upcoming Portland Book Festival to taking in a night at the opera, stitching a giant parachute in the middle of a museum, tuning in on a Portland rapper on a roll, touring a city full of new art shows, and a lot more, we’ve been following the action of a very busy week.

Let’s just get down to business and see what’s going on:


Lori Trephibio, keeping the symphony on the beat

Lori Trephibio at Schnitzer Hall, taking care of business for the Oregon Symphony. Photo: Joe Cantrell

IN THE WORLD OF PERFORMANCE IT’S A LITTLE-KNOWN BUT CRUCIAL SKILL: Somebody’s got to make sure everything happens in the right place at the right time. For the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, that somebody is Lori Trephibio. In How one Indigenous person keeps the Oregon Symphony organized, Steph Littlebird talks with Trephibio, a member of the Diné or Navajo Nation who was born in Arizona, went to school in Gallup, New Mexico, and lived in Chicago and London before moving to Portland, where she’s now in her third year as the symphony’s stage manager.

Part of her job, Trephibio says, is keeping cool and collected under crisis: “When things go wrong, you’re the person that everyone’s going to come to. And I actually like troubleshooting. I don’t really like it when something goes wrong during the middle of the show, but it does, and it keeps me on my toes and that’s really cool … Sometimes, behind the scenes is messy, but if we do our job right, people don’t see that messy side … It’s chaos, but it’s a beautiful chaos in some weird way.”

“I didn’t grow up rich,”  she says in the newest chapter of Indigenous History and Resilience in Oregon, Littlebird’s continuing series for ArtsWatch. “I didn’t grow up middle class. I grew up on a reservation. It’s not a lavish lifestyle, but you understand what’s important, what one needs to survive.” And wherever she goes, she keeps her heritage with her: “Every day I wear turquoise. Whether it’s the necklace my grandma gave me or rings that are turquoise, that’s just a part of my identity, that’s what my people wear. And especially when we’re far away from our homeland, it is a protection stone.”

  • SUPPORTING THE STORIES THAT REVEAL OREGON’S INVISIBLE INDIGENOUS. Here at ArtsWatch we’re used to writing stories about what other people are doing. But Shelby Oppel Wood, writing for the Oregon Community Foundation, turns the tables on us with this story about writer Littlebird, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and the Indigenous History and Resilience series. The series was seeded by OCF, whose $30,000 grant in 2019 made the project possible and helped ArtsWatch more than double the investment from other contributors. “Creativity and crafts are a huge part of what keeps us together as a community,” Littlebird tells Wood. “So when you talk about the idea of resilience — the act of making, the act of continuing tradition — those things are arts education but they’re also contributing literally to the survival of our culture.” 


Here’s looking at you: A busy week in art

A visitor to the installation “Tikkun Olam: Mending the Social Fabric” at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education lends a hand to the the mending of the parachute. Photo courtesy of Kayley Hoddick

“TIKKUN OLAM”: REPAIRING THE WORLD A STITCH AT A TIME. “A sewing bee that can help mend our society”: At the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, textile artist Bonnie Meltzer and a lot of helpers transform a giant parachute into a symbol of hope and justice. Beth Sorensen stitches the story.

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VIZARTS MONTHLY: EXPLORATORY WORK IN FRESH SPACES. Lindsay Costello’s monthly column highlights some of November’s art offerings – many in new or scattered spaces – in Portland and around the state.

KATARINA ZDJELAR’S “PROXIMITIES, A REHEARSAL, AN ARCHIVE” AT OREGON CONTEMPORARY. “Fingers curled in here and there, locking together and doubling down on a shared grasp.” Hannah Krafcik reviews the Serbian artist’s first solo show in the United States.

YAMHILL COUNTY GALLERIES: FROM CONTEMPLATIVE LANDSCAPES TO THE HARD WORK OF AGRICULTURE. David Bates takes a look at this month’s art, including Christie Tirado’s prints at Newberg’s Chehalem Arts Center that explore the arduous work of bringing in the crops. Plus: A new life for McMinnville’s historic Mack Theater.

“NOBODY’S FOOL” AT CARNATION CONTEMPORARY. Luiza Lukova reviews curator Ella Ray’s latest project, which brings together the work of six artists who are imagining an “otherside” of the art world.

CLARK COUNTY OPEN STUDIOS TOUR. Just across the Columbia River from Portland, fifty artists in Vancouver and Clark County, Washington, are holding their annual open-studio tour this weekend, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6-7. See what’s being made, where it’s being made, and who’s making it. Details at the Artstra link above.


On with the shows: Stage, screen & sound

The voices have it: Noah Stewart as rebel artist Mario Cavaradossi and  Alexandra LoBianco as Tosca at Portland Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

“TOSCA” REVIEW: GORGEOUS SINGING, A WARHORSE TALE AT PORTLAND OPERA. The singing’s terrific, Angela Allen writes, and the crowd shouted “Bravo!” for a full five minutes. But the story in Puccini’s 1900 hit can’t keep up with 21st century times.

DRAMAWATCH: A WEEKEND OF OVERLAPPING PLAYS. Columnist Marty Hughley discovers echoing and recurring themes in Portland Playhouse’s “Barbecue,” Artists Rep’s “The Chinese Lady,” and “The Weir” in Astoria.

FILMWATCH WEEKLY: MOVIE MANIA WITH “ARREBATA” AND “LABYRINTH OF CINEMA,” PLUS POWERFUL CLANS IN “SPENCER” AND “THE ETERNALS.” Marc Mohan’s week at the movies bounces from audacious revivals to the cinematic Houses of Windsor and Marvel.

FOUNTAINE CONTINUES HIS HOT STREAK WITH “SOUTH OF NOWHERE,” “BLUE II,” AND BACK-TO-BACK APPEARANCES AT KELLY’S OLYMPIAN. One of Portland’s most impressive and alluring rappers/producers outdoes himself, Jenni Moore writes – and he’s performing live twice this week.

TAYLOR PASQUALE AND PATRICK FOIT’S EVENING OF DANCE AND JAZZ. “Though the evening’s weather created an air of melancholy as rain poured outside on Northeast Killingsworth Street, the energy inside Shaun Keylock’s SKC Studio was buzzing.” Amy Leona Havin was on the scene – along with several others attending their first indoor performance since pre-Covid times – when partners Pasquale and Foit presented a two-part event featuring lighthearted movement and a lively four-piece jazz band, followed by a slice of pumpkin pie.

NOW HEAR THIS: NOVEMBER 2021 EDITION. Robert Ham’s monthly shuffle through the lists of musical distributor Bandcamp, looking for good new releases from Oregon musicians, comes up with some likely listens, from Cuchulain to Lillian Dunham, Fly Kin Mountain to In Seance, and more.

DANCE REVIEW: A BODYVOX HALLOWEEN. The Portland contemporary dance company got spooky—and silly—over the Halloween weekend with BloodyVox, its seasonal splurge of the macabre. Bennett Campbell Ferguson was on the scene for ArtsWatch, writing it all down (but not in blood).

NOVEMBER DANCEWATCH. It’s alway a good idea to check back on ArtsWatch’s monthly art, literary, and performance columns to see what’s coming up in any particular week. And this is a good week to give Jamuna Chiarini’s DanceWatch a second reading. A lot’s happening in the coming week: Toni Pimble and Eugene Ballet’s Cinderella; NW Dance Project premieres by Ihsan Rustem and Sarah Slipper, with a largely new company of dancers; Union/PDX’s Festival:21; A-WOL Dance Collective’s “steamy, late-night, make-you-blush” After Hours.

FILLING IN THE SILENCES WITH HARMONY AND FLAVOR: PORTLAND SYMPHONIC CHOIR RETURNS TO CENTER COURT. Portland’s a choir-studded town, and Daryl Browne continues her tour of the city’s chorale multiverse with a look at the venerable PSC, which kicks off its 76th season by backing up singing superstar Andrea Bocelli at Moda Center – the second time they’ve appeared with Bocelli.

DRAMAWATCH: THE MALEVOLENCE OF BIRDS. Marty Hughley talks with Imago Theatre’s Jerry Mouawad about the Covid-era fear factor in Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s The Birds – based, like Hitchcock’s movie, on a Daphne du Maurier story, and opening Friday at Imago. 

WEEKLY (P)REVIEWS: CRACKING THE SURFACE WITH MARIA ALLEN’S CANDLEPOWER; JAMES TAYLOR AND JACKSON BROWNE EASE BACK INTO ARENA WATERS. In his weekly look at what’s coming up and what’s just happened on the music scene, Robert Ham talks with Allen about her new album and visits Moda Center as the veterans Taylor and Browne crank up the touring machine.

Portland’s Milagro Theatre concludes its 25th annual Día de Muertos Festival with performances by the group Son Huitzilín Friday and Saturday evenings, Nov. 5-6, at Milagro. Details here. Photo: Russell J Young

Booking it: A festival arrives, a poet speaks

Among the writers in this year’s Portland Book Festival, from left: Rene Denfeld (photo: Owen Carey), Rita Dove (photo: Fred Viebahn), Louise Erdrich (photo: Jenn Ackerman). Photos courtesy of Portland Book Festival 

PORTLAND BOOK FESTIVAL. Literary Arts’ annual giant book bash (the festival formerly known as Wordstock) is almost here: It opens Monday, Nov. 6, and continues in a virtual format through Nov. 12 before turning the page to a single day of live appearances on Saturday, Nov. 13. There’ll be more writers than the ArtsWatch brain trust could count on all of our fingers and toes, ranging from stars such as Rita Dove and Louise Erdrich to Oregon standouts such as Rene Denfeld and Willy Vlautin. Check the festival link above, and watch for Amy Leona Havin’s ArtsWatch preview soon.

POET’S Q&A: LISA STEINMAN ON LANDSCAPES, COMMUNITY, AND THE EMBODIMENT OF THE PAGE. ArtsWatch’s Amy Leona Havin talks with poet, author, and Reed College professor Lisa Steinman about reading, writing, community, and the landscapes of her childhood.


Meanwhile, (still) back on the home front

All settled in with the Roman de la Rose, 14th century illuminated manuscript, National Library of Wales. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

IN PRAISE OF ISOLATION: ENJOYING OREGON MUSIC FROM HOME. “It’s been over a year and a half since I attended an honest-to-gods concert,” Matthew Neil Andrews, ArtsWatch’s music editor, writes in this confessional/manifesto. “And I have a confession to make, dear reader: I don’t miss it. At all. Many of you have been aching to get back to live music, as performers and audients, and no doubt you’re all celebrating the return to some kind of normal as the choirs and orchestras and operas and touring bands and hip-hop nights come back online. That’s great. I’m happy for you.” 

But. Andrews then extolls the joys of listening to music from home, away from the crowds, in the many ways available. And even as the world wakens from its long Covid slumber, I suspect he speaks for a lot of people – the introverts, the cautious, the ones for whom a night out presents physical difficulties, the ones who’ve grown comfortable being home, the ones who don’t think going out so soon is worth the possibility of contracting or spreading disease. As cultural groups gear up for live performances once again, it’s the elephant in the living room: Are their audiences ready to join them?

About the author
Senior Editor

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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