Portland Opera Puccini

News & Notes: Eugene Weekly and Dell’Arte school claw back; ‘Gorgeous’ extends (twice) in NYC; a bucketful of grants

The Eugene paper, which had laid off its entire staff in a financial emergency, is making progress, and the Dell'Arte theater school is bouncing back. Triangle's Off-Broadway show extends; artist grants announced.

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The cash-strapped Eugene Weekly continues to publish online: Above is an excerpt from its webpage on Tuesday morning, Jan. 9.

Still down, but far from out: Eugene Weekly, the longtime news source for greater Eugene and Lane County that laid off its entire staff and stopped printing its weekly editions just before Christmas, is running a spirited campaign to raise enough money to rehire its staff and start printing again.

The paper’s executives said the shutdown, which ArtsWatch wrote about here and which has since been reported on in news outlets from The Oregonian to The Seattle Times to The New York Times and The Washington Post, was prompted by the discovery of a long-term embezzlement that left the coffers empty and the paper in debt to many of its vendors, including its printers.

The Weekly’s supporters set up a GoFundMe campaign with a $188,000 goal. As of Tuesday morning, Jan. 9, the campaign had a long way to go but had raised more than $84,000 — an impressive beginning. You can see the GoFundMe site here.

The paper has been a vital news source since its founding more than 40 years ago, and has been noteworthy for its strong and consistent coverage of its region’s arts and cultural scenes.

In the meantime, several laid-off staff members are continuing to report and publish on the paper’s website, and more contributions have come in from sources other than the GoFundMe drive: A separate fund-raising site is here.

Dell’Arte stages a comeback

Among the Dell'Arte school's many programs are summer residencies for rural children. Photo: Albert Cervantes / 2022
Among the Dell’Arte school’s many programs are summer residencies for rural children. Photo: Albert Cervantes / 2022

Back in October 2023 we reported on another fiscal emergency — a shortfall that threatened to shut down the venerable Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, in Blue Lake, Calif., which has sent countless graduates versed in the skills of commedia dell’arte and other physical theater styles to theaters and communities internationally, including many in Portland and elsewhere in Oregon. The school announced that it needed to raise $125,000 by Dec. 31 to keep its doors open.

Dell’Arte made it, and then some. On Jan. 4 it announced that its various fund-raising efforts had brought in $167,345.

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“We have simply been blown away by the love and support,” Board Chair Pat Bitton said in a news release. “Dell’Arte’s Leadership Council – Tony Fuemmeler, Julie Douglas, Alyssa Hughlett, and Kimberley Haile – pulled out all the stops to remind the world of the treasure that Dell’Arte is – for Blue Lake, for Humboldt [County], and for theater lovers everywhere. Plans are in place to begin rebuilding the organization. … It will be a slow process, but we are determined to joyfully celebrate our 50th anniversary this summer.”

That’s good news that stretches far beyond the woods of Northern California. Fuemmeler, the highly talented theatrical maskmaker who lived and worked in Portland for many years and is now one of Dell’Arte’s core teachers and a key member of its leadership team, noted in October the strong Portland contingent of Dell’Arte grads: “Over the past decades, Dell’Arte has fed the artist pool in Portland — my last count was over 50 living and working there.” 

“Make Me Gorgeous!” extends Off-Broadway

“Make Me Gorgeous!” star Wade McCollum, left, and writer-director Donnie at the post-opening night party in New York. Photo courtesy Don Horn.
“Make Me Gorgeous!” star Wade McCollum, left, and writer-director Donnie at the post-opening night party in New York. Photo courtesy Don Horn.

Meanwhile, Triangle Productions! honcho Don Horn’s trip back home to Portland after more than two months in the Big Apple was short-lived: On Tuesday morning he was back in Manhattan, checked into his hotel, and ready to walk to the theater.

Horn’s play Make Me Gorgeous!, written under his pen name Donnie, has begun a three-week extension at the Off-Broadway theater Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s, where it had been playing a limited run Nov. 10-Dec. 31 starring former Portland favorite Wade McCollum in a bravura solo performance as the trans trailblazer Kenneth Marlowe. It reopened Jan. 7 and will continue through Jan. 28. And since Horn is not only the playwright but also the director, a return trip seemed a very good idea.

Max Tapogna wrote from New York for ArtsWatch about the show’s rehearsals, opening, and laudatory press reception back in November, and our New Year’s Day retrospective on the 2023 arts year opened with the tale of Make Me Gorgeous!, calling it “one of the feel-good stories of the year.”

And what happens after Jan. 28? Well … wait and see. (UPDATE: On Wednesday, Jan. 10, the production announced a second extension, to Feb. 25. McCollum will continue in the starring role through Jan. 28, then depart for a commitment to a new Broadway musical, Water for Elephants. Beginning Feb. 1 he’ll be replaced in “Make Me Gorgeous!” by Darius Rose/Jackie Cox, a veteran of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Cox has begun rehearsal with Horn for “Make Me Gorgeous!”)

A double batch of grants for artists

Fields Artist Fellows Chava Florendo (left) of Ashland and Eddie Melendrez of Ontario. Photos courtesy of Oregon Humanities.

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A pair of significant Oregon arts grants were announced Monday: the newest Fields Artist Fellowships, which give $150,000 each to four artists; and the first round of the 2024 Career Opportunity Program awards from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Ford Family Foundation, which split $105,103 among 24 Oregon artists.

The Fields Fellowships, one of the largest unrestricted fellowships available to artists in the United States, are awarded by Oregon Humanities, in partnership with Oregon Community Foundation. They are given to artists “whose work cultivates social change in their communities,” and are distributed over the course of two years.

The latest fellows are:

  • Myles de Bastion (Portland). de Bastion “creates immersive art installations that center Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing audiences.”
  • Chava Florendo (Ashland). Florendo “focuses on collaborative programs providing cultural, arts and education opportunities for Indigenous youth and artists.”
  • Scott Kalama (Warm Springs). Kalama “leads drum-making classes and music workshops for youth and performs as Blue Flamez.”
  • Eduardo Melendrez (Ontario). Melendrez “paints portraits, mentors youth through boxing and serves on the Ontario City Council.”

In addition, eight other finalists will receive one-time awards of $10,000 each. They are Esteban Camacho Steffensen (Eugene), Adolfo Cantu-Villarreal (Beaverton), Anthony Hudson (Portland), LaRonn Katchia (Portland/Warm Springs), Ernesto Martinez (Eugene), Yanely Rivas (Salem), Shalanda Sims (Troutdale), and Vo Vo (Portland).

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Career Opportunity Grant awardee Elizabeth Arzani’s “Curious Distance from Foot to Fingertip,” at Carnation Contemporary in Portland. Photo courtesy of Oregon Arts Commission.

Twenty-four Oregon artists share in the newest Career Opportunity Grants, with all 24 receiving part of $44,202 from the Oregon Arts Commission in a variety of disciplines and 16, all visual artists, also sharing $60,901 from The Ford Family Foundation’s Visual Arts Program.

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Awardees include Elizabeth Arzani, Avantika Bawa, David Paul Bayles, Dru Donovan, Elsa Dougherty, Nancy Floyd, Anne Greenwood, Sabrina Haque, Wendy Heldmann, Diane Jacobs, Katie Janovac, Horatio Law, Claire Lorenzo, Cas Majewski, Ido Radon, Sweta Ravisankar, Anthony Roberto, Joe Robinson, Lilith Rockett, Stephen Slappe, Jessie Vala, Mike Voss, Samantha Wall, and Vicki Wilson.

For specific amounts awarded to each artist and details about each artist’s project being funded, see this release from the Oregon Arts Commission.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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