ArtsWatch Weekly: One for the books

Portland Book Fest turns the page, downtown gets a new museum, music and theater light up the stage, it's beginning to feel a lot like ...

WORDSTOCK IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE PORTLAND BOOK FESTIVAL. And the city’s big blowout of a book festival, by any other name, is just around the corner: Saturday’s the day. Portland’s South Park Blocks is the site, centering on the Portland Art Museum but sprawling like free verse across the territory. “A circus is a good analogy for Portland’s big annual book event, with its 100+ authors appearing on nine stages all in one dense, delirious, daylong literary orgy,” Katie Taylor writes in her aptly titled ArtsWatch preview, Portland Book Festival: Sometimes too much is a good thing. “It’s intentional FOMO,” or Fear of Missing Out, festival director Amanda Bullock told Taylor. “There’s always something happening, a new event starting every 15 minutes. Even if one thing is full, there’s always something else to check out.”

Checking the goods at 2018’s Portland Book Festival. Photo courtesy Literary Arts

Among this year’s headliners will be the big-idea journalist Malcolm Gladwell and former Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. As always, the party will be overflowing with authors, readers, speeches, workshops, browsers and impromptu discoveries – a blossoming of language for a book-besotted town. As for that name change, the beloved Wordstock rebranded itself last year, trading in its smart, snappy, cheeky, and memorable monicker for something that sounds a little more boardroom drab. On its web site, the festival explains the change. I’m not convinced. Then again, open book, open mind: Maybe I’m just reading too much into it. 


ART FOR ALL AT PORTLAND STATE’S NEW MUSEUM


In the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University:Vanessa German, no admittance apply at office, 2016, mixed media assemblage, 70 x 30 x 16 inches. Photo: Spencer Rutledge, courtesy PSU

BEGINNING TODAY, PORTLAND HAS A NEW MUSEUM – the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University, a two-floor, 7,500-square-foot space that opens with a smart contemporary show, Art for All, drawn from the Schnitzer collections. “’Art for All’ might well also be the new museum’s motto,” I write in my preview story At PSU’s new museum, art for all. The new museum at the downtown urban university gives the campus and the city “something that’s common across Europe but almost as rare as hen’s teeth in the United States: a free art museum. That’s free, no strings attached: free admission for any PSU student or staff member; free for anyone and everyone, from anywhere and everywhere, who wants to visit.” Read the story, then check the show. This could be the start of something big.

  • VIZARTS MONTHLY: ANTIDOTES FOR ANXIETY. Looking at art can help relieve anxiety and stress, Martha Daghlian declares in her look at what’s coming up in the galleries in November. And, boy, the world could use some relief along those lines. On the other hand, she continues, the galleries aren’t exactly putting placebos out there: Among the new show are “visions of a more peaceful world, radical calls for action, reclamations of discarded materials, and sensitive reconsiderations of collective and personal histories.”
Erika Rier, Pageant. Photo courtesy Wolff Gallery

A GRAND GATHERING FOR DÍA DE MUERTOS


Celebrating the Day of the Dead at the Portland Art Museum. Photo: K.B. Dixon

DÍA DE MUERTOS, OR THE DAY OF THE DEAD, is a national holiday in Mexico – a celebration, as K.B. Dixon writes, “of the lives of departed loved ones and the larger life of a diverse and vibrant community. It mocks the fear of death with ornately decorated images of the macabre.” Dixon tells the story, in words and a dozen splendid photographs, of last Sunday’s Día de Muertos celebration at the Portland Art Museum: “The event, which drew a huge crowd, included food, art, Aztec dancers, Mexican cowboys, poets, lectures, music, and an exhibition of altars. It is slated to become a regular annual offering.”


MUSIC: A HARVEST FEAST, BIG AND SMALL


Jazz legend Chick Corea plays with the Oregon Symphony tonight, Nov. 7. 

BIG BANDS, BIG CHOIRS, CHAMBER CLASSICAL, AND HYBRID MUSIC from Indonesia and the British Isles spice up the music week, and music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is pretty darned hyped about it – and also about what he’s been hearing lately, including Third Angle’s recent show at the Jack London Revue. “Artistic Director Sarah Tiedemann saved the best, grooviest, flashiest music for herself, like a boss–but like a good boss, you know?” Andrews writes in his new MusicWatch Weekl. “The rare type of boss who approves all your sick days, keeps meetings on topic, knows how to use Excel, and not only can fix the copier but actually does.”  

  • MUSICWATCH MONTHLY: A HARVEST FEAST. More down-low from Andrews on November’s music in Oregon, including Chick Corea’s performance with the Oregon Symphony tonight.
     
  • THE WARHORSE DILEMMA. Angela Allen considers the advantages and disadvantages of scheduling and listening to the familiar “warhorse” operas, through the lens of Portland Opera’s recent Madama Butterfly.

THEATER: LOVE & WORK IN BLACK & WHITE


From left: Sam Hannigan, Edgar Lopez, and Isaiah Alexander rehearse Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” opening Thursday. Photo courtesy: Linfield College Theatre

IN A FAMILY HISTORY IN BLACK AND WHITEMarty Hughley talks with director Chip Miller about the potent issues raised by Brittany K. Allen’s play Redwood, which is in the midst of its world-premiere production at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. “Redwood examines the fallout from modern genealogical testing in the life of an inter-racial couple,” Hughley writes. “Meg Wilson and Drew Tatum have recently moved in together when they find out their relationship goes back further than they’d thought. Undertaking a deep dive into family history, Meg’s uncle Steve Durbin finds the descendants of the family that owned the Durbins during slavery. And yep — it’s the Tatums. Complications ensue.”

  • THIS IS AMERICA: LINFIELD STAGES EPIC SWEAT. David Bates talks with director Adleane Hunter from McMinnville about a college theater program’s ambitious tackling of a major recent American play, Lynn Nottage’s working-class epic Sweat. “I was drawn into this play in a way that I wasn’t projecting what was going to happen,” Hunter told Bates. 

DANCE: DEATH, DELIGHT, A BLOW TO THE NOGGIN


Darvejon Jones as Oberon, king of the fairies, in BodyVox’s twist on
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo: Randall L. Milstein 

A BUMP ON THE HEAD LAST WEEKEND in a performance of BodyVox’s spooktacular BloodyVox has knocked dancer Andrés Peraza out of early performances of BodyVox’s new show, Death and Delight, which opens a three-week run tonight. It’s the sort of situation dance companies often deal with, and BodyVox has brought in junior company member Jenelle Gaerlan to take the roles of Benvolio and Bottom in the first few shows. That’s Benvolio as in Romeo and Juliet and Bottom as in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespearean double-header that makes up the program. As for the title: Guess which one’s Death and which one’s DelightJamuna Chiarini sorts it all out.

  • DANCEWATCH: A BIG YES TO NOVEMBER. Chiarini’s monthly look at Oregon dance is worth checking out all month long. It includes details for several shows in the coming week: Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group and its “post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances” at White Bird; Brazilian choreographer Barbara Lima’s ELa FaLa Collective at Polaris; PDX Contemporary Ballet; Living Room Circus; Eugene Ballet and Orchestra Next’s Swan Lake

CRUISING THE COAST IN CASUAL MODE


Joseph Ohmann-Krause’s photographs and poetry, inspired by Danish Symbolist painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, are at the Newport Visual Arts Center.

THE SUMMER RUSH HAS SETTLED DOWN AND THE QUIET SEASON’S SETTLED IN along the Oregon Coast, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cultural pleasures to be had. Our coastal columnist Lori Tobias has a few options for you, from a banner event at Nye Beach to theater in Newport and Lincoln City to a visit by poet and essayist Floyd Skloot to the Manzanita Writers’ Series and a showing of exquisite photographs and poems by Joseph Ohmann-Krause at the Newport Visual Arts Center.


END NOTE: IT’S BEGINNING TO FEEL A LOT LIKE …


Portland Revels celebrates its 25th anniversary in December.

ARTSWATCH HESITATES TO BRING THIS UP, but the holiday season’s moving in fast. Next stop, Thanksgiving – and the push begins even before then. There’ll be Nutcrackertraditional and hip-hop, and a Petrushka, and a Singing Christmas Tree, and a Christmas Carol and a Scrooge in Rouge, and a trip to Pemberley, and a Tuba Christmas, and a Gospel Christmas, and … well, you get the drift.

This year a special nod goes to one enduring celebration of seasonal tradition: Portland Revels, which marks its 25th anniversary with its winter solstice show The Ghosts of Haddon Hall, Dec. 13-22 in the Newmark Theatre. (There’s also a little preparatory singing and reveling this weekend at an English Hearthside Celebration, Saturday at Kells Irish Pub.) The Revels are all about singing and foolery and Morris dancing and the playing of traditional instruments and the crowning of the Lord and Lady of Misrule, and it’s a genuinely family sort of gathering. It’s all quite, well, jolly. That’s the word. 

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