Beach Boys bingo: We get around

ArtsWatch Weekly: As both vaccination rates and Covid concerns grow again, the arts world moves half-speed ahead. But it IS moving.

“GET AROUND GET AROUND I GET AROUND,” the Beach Boys warbled in 1964, and it’s been something of a theme song for ArtsWatch writers in the past week. Not that we’ve been booking international flights or jamming into the sardine can with the Lollapalooza crowd. But there’s been a definite sense of flexing our muscles and taking the world out for a spin, checking out places from New Zealand to the Pacific Islands to Holmes & Watson’s London to an arts hideaway amid the antique shops of Aurora, Oregon. Have we really been napping in place for the past sixteen months? Can’t we just hit the road again?

It’s a strange time following strange times. People are moving around, restless, doing things, going places. The world seems to be opening up – and also shutting down again, as if our left and right hands are in sharp disagreement about where we are and what comes next and what we should or shouldn’t do. More and more people are vaccinated – and yet, ant-vax heels are digging in deeper, and the Delta variant is shooting Covid cases higher than they’ve been in months. The governors of heavily hit states such as Texas and Florida are actively impeding efforts to contain the spread of disease. In Oregon, the state government is largely leaving public-safety decisions up to the counties as the variant spreads, and the counties are largely keeping their hands off the wheel.

Back to showbiz or bust: “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” shown in a 2019 performance, returns to Portland and Eugene in November.

Meanwhile, the arts and cultural worlds are stirring. Plan are being made. Seasons are being announced. Touring acts are on the road again. Places that have been shut down for more than a year, among them the five theaters of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, are announcing acts and dates: Jesus Christ Superstar, on yet another tour, at the Keller Aug. 28-Oct. 3. Singing satirist Randy Rainbow popping into the Schnitzer on Sept. 24, trying to discover if there’s musical-parody life after Donald Trump. Portland’s own Stumptown Stages performing Bojangles of Harlem, a musical about the great tap dancer and actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, in the Winningstad Oct. 8-30. Comedian Louis C.K. at the Newmark, Nov. 21-22. The Hip Hop Nutcracker, straddling traditions at Eugene’s Hult Center Nov. 12 and Portland’s Keller Auditorium Nov. 16. A touring bluegrass show featuring the likes of Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer at the Schnitzer on Dec. 7.

Outdoor and open-air venues that sprang to life during the pandemic are expanding their offerings, too: Portland’s Profile Theatre, for instance, continues its run of plays by Paula Vogel with a production opening Thursday of The Oldest Profession, Aug. 5-15 at the Barge Building at Zidell Yards on the city’s South Waterfront. The show’s got a crackerjack cast, including Brenda Phillips, Elizabeth Elias Huffman, JoAnn Johnson, Jane Bement Geesman, and Amalia Alarcón Morris, to go wiith Vogel’s sharp cultural and political bite. (And, yes, it’s about that oldest profession, and what happens as its practitioners age.)



A Pacific Islanders festival – and vaccines, too

Hawaiian singer and composer Kalani Pe’a will be at Saturday’s Pacifika Unity Festival.

BUT, BACK TO THE BEACH BOYS AND WHAT ARTSWATCHERS HAVE BEEN GETTING AROUND TO. In her latest Stage & Studio podcast, Pacifika Unity Festival + Kalani pe’a, Dmae Lo Roberts tips our readers and listeners to this weekend’s free outdoor Pacific Islander celebration in Hillsboro. Roberts talks with the gathering’s organizers, Manumalo “Mālō” Ala’ilima of UTOPIA PDX and Kumu Leialohaokeanuenue Ka’ula of the Oregon Pacific Islander Coalition – and with Ka-ula’s childhood friend Kalani Pe’a, who’s a two-time Grammy Award winner, and who’ll be giving his first live performance since before the pandemic. The festival, happening Saturday at Hillsboro’s Ron Tonkin Stadium, will feature music, craft vendors, food trucks – and vital health information. Bringing it all back home, Covid vaccinations will be available – and the first 200 people to get vaccinations will also get $100 gift cards. Pacific Islanders, Roberts notes, had the highest rate of Covid hospitalizations in Oregon in July.



Carla Rossi and a place for Native arts

Writer and performer Anthony Hudson, a.k.a. Carla Rossi. Photo: Joe Cantrell

RECONNECTION AND RESILIENCE: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY HUDSON. In her continuing series on Indigenous history and contemporary resilience in Oregon, Steph Littlebird talks with writer and performer Anthony Hudson, also known as Carla Rossi, Portland’s Premiere Drag Clown. Hudson, a registered member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and a descendant of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, talks with Littlebird about the racial and gender aspects of the Carla Rossi character, and of being Two Spirit, or nonbinary. They talk about walking a line between multiple identities and cultures. “I think when I talk about honoring my ancestors and why that’s the driving force in my work,” Hudson tells Littlebird, “it’s that especially confronting the cycles of trauma and confronting this kind of never-ending loop of settler colonialism and seeing, especially right now during the pandemic, seeing how we’re already gaslighting the survivors of this pandemic and privileging some lives over others, just like we did in the HIV AIDS pandemic.”

WATER, MEMORY, EXCHANGE: MARIANNE NICOLSON AT YALE UNION. Luiza Lukova writes about the running-water illusions of Nicolson’s installation on the top floor of Yale Union, A Feast of Light and Shadows. It’s an exhibit, Lukova writes, that “reframes the artist’s Native tradition of potlatch into a modern context” and “channels her personal connection to her Kwakwaka’wakw heritage and the tools, technologies, and space of the colonizer to weave a compelling narrative.” It’s also, Lukova declares, a fitting final exhibition for Yale Union before it turns its property over to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation for its new national headquarters. 



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At the movies: Stories of Oregon and beyond

Ryan Findley plays the leader of a biker gang in “Lorelei,” a filmed-in-Oregon story about a felon who reconnects with his high school girlfriend, a single mother of three kids.
Ryan Findley plays the leader of a biker gang in “Lorelei,” a filmed-in-Oregon story about a felon who reconnects with his high school girlfriend, a single mother of three kids.

RYAN FINDLEY: FROM DOING GUTTERS TO THE SET FOR LORELEI. David Bates didn’t have to travel far to discover the fascinating inside world of the critical indie hit Lorelei and its costar, Findley: Both men live in McMinnville, where Bates carries out a busy writing career, including creating a regular column for ArtsWatch, and Findley holds down a gig as a construction contractor – and also finds time to act on stage and television and in the movies. Lorelei is turning into a major hit among made-in-Oregon movies (see Marc Mohan’s ArtsWatch interview with director Sabrina Doyle), and Findley, who plays an ex-con who finds a new family with his old girlfriend and her three kids, is a big part of it. The ability to ride a motorcycle played into getting the role, says Findley, who pays attention to his day job (he just finished putting up an addition to his uncle’s pole barn), and is selective about the acting roles he takes: “I don’t want to be a dancing monkey. I need to enjoy it.”

WORLD FILM: SATIRE AND DRAMA. Friderike Heuer stayed even closer to home to travel the world, making some fascinating comparisons between two films available via her television set. The Pursuit of Love, she writes, is “a three-part BBC adaptation of a 1945 novel by Nancy Mitford that skewered the foibles of English gentry – a barbed satire of class and gender relations, xenophobia, and a paean to English fortitude against German War aggression” that is lush and over the top but also “has some tricks up its sleeves.” The New Zealand film Cousins, about “the intertwined fates of three cousins from a Maori background whose lives are upended by racism, colonialism, greed, and just tragic blows of fate,” has a tougher, meatier core: “I cannot recommend [it] highly enough.”

FILMWATCH WEEKLY: OPERATIC ‘ANNETTE,’ ‘WHIRLYBIRD’ & ‘NINE DAYS.’ Marc Mohan goes to the movies and reviews a busy musical starring Adam Driver, a harrowing documentary about pioneering news hawks in the sky, and a metaphysical movie about who gets born that’s served with a big ladle of philosophical gravy.



Music: Covering the territory from C to shining C

NOBODY AT ARTSWATCH HAS TRAVELED FARTHER SONICALLY, VIRTUALLY, AND IN REAL SPACE in the past week than our squad of music writers, who’ve been covering the broad swath of organized sound from C to shining C. Give ’em a listen:

Members of Oregon Repertory Singers, making music through their masks.

OUR INTENT IS NORMALCY: OREGON CHOIRS ADAPTING. It’s been a tough year-plus for choirs, which are ordinarily among the strongest features of Oregon music-making – and which also, in these far from ordinary times, are potent potential spreaders of viral particles. Daryl Browne surveys the scene, talking with members of several choirs to see how they’ve handled things. Zoom? Well … let’s just say, there are problems. So, how about zing? Why, yes! And … what’s zing? Read the story to find out. Oh: And there’s much more to it than that.

OPERA: THERE AND BACK AGAIN. They call themselves Renegade Opera, and as Bennett Campbell Ferguson discovers, there’s some truth to that. He takes in the small company’s rousing production of Orfeo in Underland – an updated adaptation of Gluck’s 1762 opera Orfeo ed Euridice – in the courtyard of downtown Portland’s First Presbyterian Church. The adaptation begins at a funeral. And as it turns out, that’s a good thing. 

NOW HEAR THIS: AUGUST. Robert Ham takes his monthly trek through the wilds of the music distributor Bandcamp’s catalog, looking for good new stuff from Oregon musicians, and emerges with a lode of lively sounds from smoldering hip hop to unaffected bluegrass and experimental music inspired by obscure paintings.

MUSICWATCH MONTHLY: THROUGH THE WEEDS. Charles Rose peers through the wildfire smoke and Covid haze and discovers, in addition to the height of blackberry season, a wealth of August music, from album release shows to neighborhood concerts, a renamed synth library, and Portland Hip Hop Week.

A HARMONIOUS MATCH FOR THE SENSES. Angela Allen gets the lowdown on this summer’s Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival season, which kicks off Saturday and continues through Sept. 4. Ordinarily a civilized Bacchanal of wine, food, and music among some of Oregon’s finest wineries, it’s a hybrid affair this year – some concerts (mostly sold out) at the wineries, and more livestreamed. 

ART & MUSIC: AKI ONDA’S COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS. Music and dance, of course, go together like love and marriage. But music and art go together at least like a horse and carriage, and often much more. That’s the case, Hannah Krafcik discovers, with A Letter from Souls of the Dead, the sound-and-art exhibit at PICA in which Japan-based artist Aki Onda and several local artists “perform with the exhibit’s signature decorative hand bells—an offering that Onda described as ‘a small ritual for activating the works and pouring energy into the space.’”



Here, there, and everywhere: Art from all over

Chris Johanson, “Backwards painting” (2018). Paint on linen. 22.25 x 28 inches, at the Courtyard House in Aurora. Image courtesy Fourteen30 Contemporary.

SHOWING OFF IN AURORA: “BITTER CHERRY, BLEEDING HEART.” Lindsay Costello takes a jaunt down the Willamette Valley to the onetime utopian religious colony (and now antiques hub) of Aurora, Oregon and its glass-walled, modernist architectural showplace called the Courtyard House. There, Jeanine Jablonski of the Portland gallery Fourteen30 Contemporary has installed Bitter Cherry, Bleeding Heart, a fascinating mixture of public and private art space.

LITWATCH MONTHLY: MYSTERY AND METAPHYSICS. Amy Leona Havin checks out August’s literary events and finds a range of possibilities, from James Lee Burke talking about his new mystery to a virtual poetry open mic to a Literary Arts treatise on “the metaphysics of deep gossip” (or so they say).

HOLMES RENOVATION: A CLASSIC TWIST. In July Portland Center Stage revived its annual summer JAW New Play Festival, which gathers national and local writers for intensive workshops and readings, offering a chance for playwrights to see how things are working when professional actors move their works-in-progress from page to stage. Valarie Smith went along for the ride, following the reading of popular playwright Kate Hamill’s latest, an updated twist on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries called Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson –  Apt. 2B.

SAM JACOBSON’S FASCINATION WITH FACES. Lori Tobias talks with the Oregon Coast clay sculptor, whose show Have We Met? opens Saturday at the Newport Visual Arts Center. “I’ve discovered how little difference there is in faces,” Jacobson says of her primary artistic obsession. “Just a slight difference in the nose or the chin and you completely change the face. A lot of what we associate with a different look has nothing to do with the face at all. It has to do with the context.”

“Late Bloomer,” by Sam Jacobson (clay sculpture, 12 by 8 inches)
Sam Jacobson, “Late Bloomer,” clay sculpture, 12 by 8 inches, in the exhibit “Have We Met?” opening Saturday at the Newport Visual Arts Center.



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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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