WE ARE FAR FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF COVID. With new viral strains and anti-vaccination heels dug deep in the mud, it looks to be a global reality for many months to come. And yet we’re also in a reawakening phase. While performance spaces have emptied out or shifted or cautiously reopened with restrictions, some projects have moved boldly forward, anticipating the day when cultural life is free and fully open again.
In Rising in Beaverton: West Gate, Brian Libby has reported on the rapid progress of the new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, a performance and visual hub in Beaverton that’s on schedule to open in March 2022 and bring a new cultural focus to the large population of Washington County.
And this week, Gary Ferrington reports in Realizing the Impossible Dream: Eugene’s Midtown Arts Center on that city’s recently opened arts hub, a seven-story project that combines ballet studio, school and office space with forty condominiums that help make the development possible. The combination of homes and art spaces appears to be working well: The center provides ample studios for Eugene Ballet, space for its affiliated Eugene Ballet Academy, and administrative office space for seven other leading cultural groups, among them the Lane Arts Council, Eugene Opera, and Eugene Concert Choir.
WHERE AND HOW DO WE SEE THE SHOWS WE WANT TO SEE? As summer fades away in the rear-view mirror, some makeshift or seasonal performing spaces disappear with it. The Lot at Zidell Yards, on Portland’s southwest waterfront, heads into its final week of the season, ending a five-month string of seventy spring and summer outdoor attractions with five more shows, starting with the Waterfront Blues Festival’s presentation of Seattle’s The Dip on Thursday, Sept. 23, and concluding with a blowout concert next Thursday, Sept. 30, featuring the soul band Ural Thomas and the Pain, the trio Joseph, and vocalist Stephanie Anne Johnson fronting The Hidogs.
Also gone for the summer season are such outdoor or in-the-parks stalwarts as Original Practice Shakespeare, which Valarie Smith wrote about back in June, and Classical Up Close’s summer festival of fourteen chamber concerts amid the elements, a series that photographer Joe Cantrell covered from beginning to end.
But other, more traditional spaces are beginning to reopen, with restrictions, including the concert hall Alberta Rose Theatre, where blues queen Duffy Bishop returns to her old Portland stomping grounds on Friday, Sept. 24. And virtual space remains a viable player in the space game, with a lot of once and presumably future outlets streaming shows. The notable choir Cappella Romana, perhaps taking a cue from Chamber Music Northwest’s successful summer run in a hybrid format, has announced that its 30th season – fittingly titled “Resurrection” – will include both live and streamed concerts, with each live concert filmed and then released a week later on demand. The season opens this weekend with A Covid Requiem.
The five theaters that make up Portland’5 Centers for the Arts are sneaking back into action, having spent their many months of down time strenuously cleaning, disinfecting, and upgrading their approach to infectious-disease prevention. As usual, programming is wildly eclectic. This week, for instance, brings the musical satirist Randy Rainbow to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Friday, Sept. 24, and a touring version of the eternal Broadway musical Jesus Christ Superstar opening Tuesday, Sept. 28, at Keller Auditorium.
SOME FAMILIAR HALLS, MEANWHILE, have been or are being renovated. When the Oregon Symphony Orchestra finally returns to its home space in Schnitzer Hall with its season opening-night performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony on Oct. 2, it’ll be with a new artistic director, David Danzmayr, conducting – and in a hall that’s had a radical new acoustical system installed, which the orchestra hopes will result in a much better sound, but which also will take some time to get used to and make adjustments.
And Artists Repertory Theatre is still waiting to get back into its own home, which is undergoing a lengthy and complete renovation, and which the company hopes to start using sometime in 2023. When Dámaso Rodríguez announced his impending resignation recently after nine years as artistic director, he alluded to the task ahead in getting used to the new/old theater. In his post-resignation interview The end of an era for Artists Rep, he told Bennett Campbell Ferguson: “(F)or a couple of years there, as fun as it will be to be in the new space, you’ve got to learn how to use it, what its strengths and weaknesses are, how to maximize it all and staff it up. That seems like a three-to-five-year journey minimum.”
Of course, by that time, Covid might actually have flown the coop – dug-in anti-vax heels or not.
Looking at the world: A feast of ideas & images
Oregon’s visual artists take some leaps and bounds this week, jumping swiftly from giant desert works to the murky territory of cryptocurrency, meandering adventures along the path of the hero’s journey, and a Seussian world of playfully compelling images.
FACING THE SUN (TUNNELS). Lindsay Costello checks in on Thunderstruck 2.0: black hole sun, a response at Carnation Contemporary by the group Thunderstruck Collective to Nancy Holt’s iconic 1970s Utah desert project Sun Tunnels. “How does the original artwork change when interpreted by a collective group?” Costello asks. “How do larger-than-life ideas of perception, time, landscape, and sunlight rely on human interaction? What new relationships between land and hand are formed in this collaboration?” The artists pull it off, she adds, with “a joyous, playful style.”
CERAMICS TAKE ON TECH. The mysterious world of NFTs, or non fungible tokens, is usually associated with nonmaterial things like the cryptocurrency market. More lately it’s invaded the art market, bringing a new kind of fevered speculation to the buying and selling of things valued more, it seems, for their singularity and manipulable market value than their innate aesthetic worth. But what if the very tangible world of ceramics and NFTs were brought together in a creative fashion? Jennifer Rabin takes a look at the exhibit New Ownership at Eutectic Gallery and discovers a possible new use for the hot technology: an improved approach to provenance – verifying and authenticating artworks that actually exist in the physical world.
THE MEANDERING ADVENTURER. Blake Andrews asks the questions and Shawn Record gives the answers in this fascinating conversation about Record’s new book Hero, which collects photos Record made following a loose narrative framework based on the mythologist Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey.”
CLAUDIA CAVE’S PLAYFUL VISIONS. David Bates immerses himself in “the playful, surreal worlds” and “vaguely Seussian architecture” of the Corvallis artist’s work in her exhibit Claudia Cave: Interiors and Interiority at Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Her work, he declares, creates a kind of enchantment – “expressionistic and nonsensical, with crooked chimneys, rain gutters that seem to have a mind of their own, and ribbons of Rapunzel-like hair fluttering through scenes that will surely resonate in as many different ways as there are viewers. … Parents, take note: This is a show that, more so than others, would appeal to children.”
That’s the way the music flows: Stories in sound
This week the music moves from innovative operas in Portland and Detroit about Black life in America, to a conversation with a genre-defying Pakistani/jazz star heading to Holocene.
STAGING ‘BLUE’: CONTEMPORARY OPERA AT MICHIGAN OPERA THEATRE. Angela Allen travels to Detroit and catches one of the biggest-buzz new works on the American opera scene – Tazewell Thompson and Jeanine Tesori’s Blue, named at least in part for the color of police uniforms. Named the best new opera of 2020 by the Music Critics Association of North America, it promptly ran into Covid postponements but is regaining its speed: It’ll show up in the Pacific Northwest in February 2022, at Seattle Opera. Blue, which premiered at about the time of George Floyd’s murder, is both of and beyond its moment: A Black teen, whose father is a policeman, is killed by a white cop, and the family, like so many others, must deal. “The opera ends in a kind of communion, an imagined meal with The Father, The Mother and The Son sitting around the family table, nattering about the meal, dreaming of the son’s future in the arts,” Allen writes. “With elegance and resonance, the shared meal is a cathartic ending to a daily American tragedy.”
‘SANCTUARIES’: AN OPERA TO INSPIRE ACTION. Charles Rose writes about the issues and meanings behind Sanctuaries, the new opera about gentrification and its continuing cost in what was once the core of Portland’s Black community. Composed by jazz star Darrell Grant, with a libretto by Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani and direction by Alexander Gedeon, Sanctuaries was performed outside Veterans Memorial Coliseum – which sits on land that was once a part of the vibrant Albina District.
WEEKLY (P)REVIEWS: WASTING NO TIME. Robert Ham talks with Arooj Aftab, who brings her Pakistani/slash/jazz sound to Holocene on Sept. 26, and looks back on recent shows by Latinx pop star María Isabel and New York-based multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily.
Around & about: Latin films, play prize, historic henge
FILMWATCH WEEKLY: LATIN AMERICAN FILM FEST, HORROR BY WOMEN, ‘AZOR,’ AND ‘THE CARD COUNTER.’ Marc Mohan’s latest look at the movies spotlights the Portland Latin American Film Festival, which continues on Sunday with the charming Los Lobos (no, it’s not about the band). He also checks out the Argentine sort-of-thriller Azor, discovers a festival of female-directed horror films coming to the CineMagic Theater, and catches up with The Card Counter, “another solid late-career effort” by Paul Schrader, who rose to prominence as the writer of the 1976 Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver.
E.M. LEWIS WINS THE THEATRE GUILD’S NEW PLAY AWARD. Lewis, the Oregon playwright who has such hits as Magellanica and The Gun Show to her credit and is working on The Great Divide, a co-commission by Artists Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, just got a boost on yet another project. The Portland Civic Theatre Guild has named her the winner of this year’s tenth annual New Play Award, for Dorothy’s Dictionary, the story of a friendship between an angry teen and an ailing librarian. Among other things, the award will make possible a virtual staged reading of the play at the next Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, in January and February 2022.
MARYHILL’S STONEHENGE ADDED TO NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES. The Stonehenge sitting on a bluff above the Columbia River Gorge a little more than a hundred miles east of Portland is, of course, a replica of the much more ancient monument in England. But in the hundred-odd years since construction began on the Pacific Northwest Stonehenge, it’s seen a lot of history on its own. Self-styled Druids show up here; solstice celebrations happen. But it was conceived with a deep historical purpose, as a memorial to soldiers from Klickitat County, Washington, where the monument stands, who died in World War I. You can walk around the circular enclosure, and read the memorials carved in stone, and realize that most who died were hardly more than boys, sent thousands of miles from their homes. It’s a moving experience, perhaps more so if you know that Sam Hill, who conceived of the memorial and ordered its construction, was a Quaker and a pacifist. In the century-plus of almost constant war that’s followed the end of The War To End All Wars, it’s stood as a reminder and a hope and a place of deep and quiet beauty. This week, the nearby Maryhill Museum of Art, under whose wing it shelters, announced that the Stonehenge Monument has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
A fund for Yulia Arakelyan of Wobbly Dance
HELP FOR YULIA ARAKELYAN DURING A HEALTH CRISIS. This week, friends and family established a Go Fund Me drive to help pay medical expenses for Arakelyan, cofounder with her husband, Erik Ferguson, of the innovative Portland troupe Wobbly Dance. (You can read Brett Campbell’s ArtsWatch interview with Arakelyan and Ferguson here. “From a choreographer’s point of view,” Campbell quotes Arakelyan, “the more body diversity there is, the more opportunity for creativity and uniqueness.”) Arakelyan and Ferguson both use wheelchairs, and on August 24 Arakelyan was out on her own when she suffered a ventilator malfunction and passed out. She was taken to a hospital and spent 10 days in ICU, fighting for her life. She’s now under close watch and receiving therapy and evaluation in a progressive cardiac care unit. “Yulia’s road to recovery is going to be long, winding at times, full of difficult medical decisions the family will be facing, as well as financial impasses already beginning to take their toll, and this is still just the beginning,” the Go Fund Me page reads.
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