Lori Tobias

 

Strutting and fretting along the Oregon Coast

Actors take the stage from Newport to Cannon Beach this summer

Theater fans could do worse than to find themselves on the Coast this summer. Performers are taking the stage in multiple venues from Newport to Cannon Beach.

Ed Asner is scheduled to make an appearance as God twice next month in Newport.

Let’s start with a reminder that tickets are still available, but going fast, for God Help Us!, the play starring Emmy-award-winning actor Ed Asner and scheduled for just two performances – Aug. 10 and 11 – at the Newport Performing Arts Center.

Inspired by the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debates of the summer of 2016, the play, written by Samuel Warren Joseph and Phil Proctor, premiered in Chicago last August.  The 90-minute show is described as “a political comedy for our times, and centers on two opposite-leaning pundits who are transported to purgatory by the Supreme Being himself for the purpose of debating today’s political and social issues.”

Asner’s daughter, Liza Asner, is the show’s producer.  Local actors Marc Maislen (New Visions Arts) and Darcy Hogan (Red Octopus Theatre Company) will play the roles of Larry and Randi, politically opposite media pundits who were a couple in college. Students Kylie MacDonald and Cole Theodore play angels.

Tickets are $50 and $75, with proceeds benefiting the Performing Arts Center’s Entertain the Future! Capital Campaign and helping fund renovations to the newly named David Ogden Stiers Theatre, previously known as the Studio or Black Box theater.   

Stay tuned for my planned interview with Asner next week.

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Lincoln City’s big culture boost

A $1.5 million state grant will transform the Cultural Center plaza. Other grants help projects in Bend, Beaverton, Portland, Cottage Grove.

Lincoln City got some welcome news Tuesday evening with the announcement from Rep. David Gomberg, D-District 10, that the Oregon State Legislature has awarded the Lincoln City Cultural Center a $1.5 million grant for its Cultural Plaza Project. The work will transform the 2.5 acres surrounding the historic building. The Cultural Plaza was one of five projects approved by the Cultural Advocacy Coalition. Other projects to be funded include Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland ($500,000), High Desert Museum in Bend ($250,000), Cottage Theatre in Cottage Grove ($375,000) and the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton ($1.5 million).

We talked with Lincoln City Cultural Center director Niki Price about the grant and what it means to the Center.

OAW: You call this a game changer. Why is that?

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Festival changes with tide and time

Siletz Bay Music Festival, with roots stretching back 32 years, begins Wednesday and offers chamber, jazz, cabaret, and symphonic concerts, but no hip hop -- yet

Can a festival founded three decades ago and dedicated to chamber music remain relevant today with a younger crowd?  

As a matter of fact, says Siletz Bay Music Festival conductor Yaacov Bergman,  it can and does. The festival hasn’t been about only chamber or classical music for some time, opening its program to performances of jazz, cabaret, big band, musical theater, and beyond.

Yaacov Bergman, artistic director of the Siletz Bay Music Festival since 2009, says of artistic fusion at the 32-year-old festival, “let’s bring it on.”
Yaacov Bergman, artistic director of the Siletz Bay Music Festival since 2009, says of artistic fusion at the festival, “let’s bring it on.”

“It started out so much more conservative from where we are today,” said Bergman, who has been the festival’s artistic director since 2009. “This festival attracts remarkable composers and performers. They come with a repertoire they always wanted to do, one that stretches the imagination. This is so advanced and so stimulating, I imagine that will be one of the things that helps us bring in a younger audience in the future, too. We already see younger members in our audience. My philosophy is artist fusion, let’s bring it on. Anything in good taste, anything not mediocre, I’m totally open to.”

Even, I ask, hip hop?

Bergman laughs. “Are you kidding? I grew up with hip hop.”

The festival begins Wednesday, June 19, and runs 16 days. Performances in four Lincoln City-area venues include eight chamber music concerts; four evenings of jazz, cabaret, musical theater and American songbook concerts; and three symphonic concerts, including a free Young People’s Concert, Peter and the Wolf. Seating is full for two other free concerts, but concert rehearsals also are free.

Sarah Kwak
Sarah Kwak

Performers include Sarah Kwak, violinist and concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony; Mei-Ting Sun, gold medal winner in the 2005 National Chopin Competition; and Ken Peplowski, the clarinetist often referred to as the “living Benny Goodman.”

The festival’s roots stretch back to an informal series of salons held in the 1980s in the home of music professor and part-time Coast resident Sergiu Luca. In 1987, the  Cascade Head Music Festival was born, with Luca as artistic director. The festival was renamed the Siletz Bay Music Festival in 2011.

But as the festival racked up the years, so did its most loyal fans, leaving its fate in the hands of a younger audience.

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School’s out, but art classes are in on the Coast

From children making masks to adults learning about the Japanese art of fish-printing, the Coast offers a multitude of artful happy happenings this summer

School’s out, but here on the Coast, classes are just beginning, and they’re not just for kids.

Mary Ann Gantenbein will teach a class for adults on collage during the Cannon Beach Summer Art Camp.
Mary Ann Gantenbein will teach a class for adults on collage during the Cannon Beach Summer Art Camp.

The Cannon Beach Arts Association has opened registration for its 17th Annual Art Camp, July 8-12. Five-day classes for the younger set include yoga (ages 4-12), 3D mask-making (8-12) and for the really wee ones — ages 3-5 — “Mini Makers.” The brochure describes the class as a “happy happening” for young and aspiring artists, who will draw, paint, create collages, and just plain play. 

Adult Art Camp offers three classes including “Watercolor by the Sea,” an introductory class in which artists will create a watercolor inspired by Cannon Beach and learn tips and tricks about painting with watercolors. It’s open to all levels, but designed for beginners.

Among classes at Sitka Center for the Arts is an  August workshop on the “Art of the Letter. " Besides creating illustrated envelopes, the class will explore how letter-writing can survive in the digital age.
Among classes at Sitka Center for the Arts is an August workshop on the “Art of the Letter. ” Besides creating illustrated envelopes, the class will explore how letter-writing can survive in the digital age.

THE SITKA CENTER FOR THE ARTS is also gearing up for summer workshops — many are already full, but wait lists are available. Those still open include “Color Confidence for Artists,” a class for anyone working in any medium. Instructor Cynthia Herron will demonstrate mixing and matching paint, discuss color schemes for a variety of media, and talk about color as it is found in nature around the Sitka campus near Otis. In “Photography and Place,” students will examine the “potential of photographic practice to address contemporary issues of land use and environmental concepts.” And in “Mining Your Life for Laughs,” teacher Robert Balmer will take a look at “how humor writers turn the painful, the absurd, the odd, the embarrassing, the memorable,” into something to laugh about. Who couldn’t use that?

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Fermenting on South Coast: Live Culture

The 10-day celebration this fall is seeking proposals to build a "culture stand" that will be visitor center, merchandise table and gathering spot all in one

A press release recently landed on my desk seeking proposals to build a “Culture Stand” for the upcoming “Live Culture Coast” to be held on the southern Oregon coast in October. I confess I was duly – and dually – baffled. A Culture Stand? Live Culture Coast? I had no idea, so I put in a call to Amber Peoples, the creative director behind the event. We began with the obvious.  

What exactly is Live Culture Coast?

Peoples: It’s a 10-day celebration of food, art, and place that will travel the entire South Coast from Reedsport to Brookings, over 135 miles, Oct. 18-27. This is the first. We’re calling it the pilot.

And a Culture Stand?

The Culture Stand itself will be on a 5-by-10 trailer. We’ll put it on the back of a truck and haul it. It’s a traveling visitor center; it’s a merchandise table, a gathering spot. Its location will designate where the celebration is, where the Live Culture Coast is focused that day. We’re also creating a map.

Fermentation Fest in Sauk Country, Wis., bills itself as a “celebration of live culture in all its forms, from dance to yogurt, poetry to sauerkraut,” as well as home-grown sausage. The October event is the inspiration for “Live Culture Coast” to be held along 135 miles of the South Oregon Coast this fall. Photo by: Amber Peoples
Fermentation Fest in Sauk Country, Wis., bills itself as a “celebration of live culture in all its forms, from dance to yogurt, poetry to sauerkraut,” as well as home-grown sausage. The October event is the inspiration for “Live Culture Coast” to be held along 135 miles of the South Oregon Coast this fall. Photo by: Amber Peoples

Let’s say the Culture Stand is parked in Coos Bay on Saturday, October 19. The event happening that day could be a brewery demonstration. It could be an art class, or a coffee roasting. We’re hoping people will sign up for one of these experiences, and that will encourage people to travel and explore the South Coast.

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Aquarium creates a fishy fantasy with “Seapunk”

The new exhibit uses elements of steampunk to showcase sea life. Across the bridge, the arts center welcomes Evan Peterson back to Newport

If there was any doubt the new exhibit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium was a success, one only had to listen last weekend as visitors discovered Seapunk: Powered by Imagination.

“This is awesome,” said one.

“This is so cool,” said another.

 And from a third: “I’ve got to come back tomorrow. I forgot to charge my phone.”

 And those were the adults.

A moray eel makes itself comfortable in the “Helmet Memorial” in the “Seapunk” exhibit.

“Seapunk” is a punning nod to steampunk, a genre of science fiction, art, technology, and fashion inspired by 19th-century steam-powered machinery. The exhibit’s story concerns Phineas K. Brinker, “a retro-futuristic and intrepid inventor” who is stranded in his submarine at the bottom of the sea and must find a way to survive. To do so, according to the aquarium website, Brinker “rebuilds the crippled submarine into a modern marvel of engineering by constructing imaginative variations on contraptions one may be familiar with today.”

The underwater fantasy plays out in a series of galleries with exhibits that are at times poignant, at others, humorous, each built around art, antiques, and sea life.

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‘God’ lends a hand to Newport theater drive

Ed Asner stars in "God Help Us!," a fundraising political comedy scheduled for August

What started out as a plea for cash has turned into what likely will be the biggest draw at the Newport Performing Arts Center this summer.

It’s a play called God Help Us!,  and playing the title role is the actor with more Emmys — seven — than any other male performer. You may know him best as Lou Grant, the ornery TV news director with a soft spot for Mary. Yep, that would be Ed Asner.

Here’s how it happened.

For the past seven years, the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts has been raising money for its seven-phase capital campaign to expand and improve the Newport Performing Arts Center. That campaign is in the final stage, with efforts to transform the former Black Box Theater. The Black Box originally was designed as rehearsal space, morphed into a small theater, and recently was renamed for the late David Ogden Stiers. Improvements totaling $1.6 million will make it a fully functioning theater.

Ed Asner as God judges a debate in purgatory between a former couple — one liberal, one conservative — in the political comedy “God Help Us!”

Charged with figuring out how to raise the money, Andrea Spirtos, capital campaign consultant for the council, got her hands on an extensive resume of Stiers’ work. Stiers was a Newport resident and actor best known for his role as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III in the TV series M*A*S*H.

“It included all the shows he was on,” Spirtos said. “And then I researched each of those shows to find out which episode he was on and which actors would have been filmed with him, including what lines he may have said surrounding his appearance.”

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