October gets in the swing of things

ArtsWatch Weekly: The doors swing open on live shows, PDX/NYC Tony connection, monthly guides & more.

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IT’S ALMOST AS IF THE WORLD’S WAKING UP. Yes, the summer outdoor shows have ended. But that’s so last month. Take a look ahead:

  • The Oregon Symphony Orchestra‘s getting ready to return this weekend to its home space in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, after a year and a half of wandering in the Covid wilderness, with a season-opening performance of Mahler’s grand-scale Second Symphony, the aptly named “Resurrection,” complete with choruses, a new artistic leader, and a sonically improved performance hall.
  • Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s dancers are preparing for their own long-delayed return to the stage, under a new interim artistic director, Peter Franc, after the company’s abrupt split with Kevin Irving earlier this year.
  • Portland Opera, which opens its season with a new Tosca late in the month, continues to reshape its leadership, adding the prominent Portland singer and composer Damien Geter as interim music director.
  • October is Textile Month across the city, with exhibitions, lectures and workshops in galleries, online, and in museums. 

Things are happening out of the limelight, too. The public/private Regional Arts & Culture Council, which has a hand in a lot of what transpires culturally in the Portland metropolitan area, announced Thursday morning that Executive Director Madison Cario will leave effective Dec. 4 to become CEO of the Minnesota Street Project and the Minnesota Street Project Foundation in San Francisco. Cario came to Portland in 2019 and radically reshaped RACC, laying off many longtime staffers and hiring new ones. 

And on Wednesday RACC’s board of directors voted to recommend to the city that statues and monuments toppled during last year’s social-justice demonstrations – among them statues of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson – not be returned to their original spaces. The recommendation is controversial, with fierce advocates on either side, and there’ll be public comment before anything’s approved.


Swinging with the stars: The Tony connection

As Broadway reopens, a Portland-to-NYC team counts the trophies. A wildly excessive 15th century poet for our times. Imago’s Jerry Mouawad gets melodramatic. A theatrical phoenix rises.

Producers Jessica Rose Brunish and Corey Brunish cutting a rug with daughter Olivia on the Broadway red carpet before Sunday’s broadcast of this year’s Tony Awards. Photo courtesy Corey Brunish

IT’S BEEN A STRANGE YEAR ON BROADWAY, and Sunday’s Tony Awards, a year late and celebrating a season in which the Great White Way began to lower its curtains and lock its doors, was a strange one, too, broken into two parts on two broadcast networks. But at least one thing was familiar: The Portland/New York producing team of Corey and Jessica Rose Brunish were there, and had a hand in yet another Tony winner.

Five Tonys, actually, all for the same show. The Brunishes were investors in the most recent seasonal adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which took home five Tonys in Sunday night’s ceremony. The show was a technical triumph, winning for best scenic design of a play and best costume design of a play (both to Rob Howell), best lighting design of a play (Hugh Vanstone), best sound design of a play (Simon Baker), and best score (Chris Nightingale). Nightingale’s win was the first time the best-score Tony has gone to a play rather than a musical. This Christmas Carol, Corey Brunish said, “was a revelation – an expert and moving retelling of the familiar story. It sneaks up on the viewer, and the tears flow.” The show, he added, is set to tour the United States “every December for the foreseeable future.”

For the Brunishes, it adds to a Tony-winning list that also includes Porgy and Bess, Pippin, and Once On This Island, in addition to producing credits on such hits as Come From Away, Tootsie, Slave Play (which has just announced its return to Broadway this fall), and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Among their credits as investors are Matilda, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Portland Center Stage will bring its own production back to The Armory this season, Jan. 22-March 26), The Color Purple, the Bette Midler Hello, Dolly!, and The Band’s Visit, which won 10 Tony Awards in 2018, including best musical, and which will play Jan. 4-9, 2022 at Keller Auditorium in the Broadway in Portland series.

After a lengthy stay at their home in Lake Oswego, the Brunishes are back in New York, and have been taking in shows as Broadway theaters begin to reopen. It’s a cautious restart, with smaller house capacities, mask requirements, and the ever-present possibility that things might get shut down again. But it is a fresh start, and despite mixed reviews of the Tony broadcasts themselves, audiences for the reopened shows have been enthusiastic. “Of the five shows we’ve been to so far, the audience response has ranged from ecstatic to enraptured to euphoric, with all the accompanying roars of approval and stopping of the show,” Corey Brunish said. “The audience added fully 15 minutes to Wicked due to all the standing ovations mid-show. Never seen anything like it in 10 years on Broadway.”  

And importantly, he added, “slowly, gradually, 97,000 people are going back to work.”

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LIFE, DEATH, AND THE DANSE MACABRE. Out of the Covid crisis rises the specter of a wildly excessive 15th century poet for our times. Marty Hughley scratches beneath the skin of Danse Macabre: The Testament of François Villon, the captivating (and Covid-delayed) brainchild of writer/director Stepan Simek and actor Jean-Luc Boucherot, from Hand2Mouth Theatre. The show, Hughley writes, “takes the form of a sort of loose-limbed monologue by Villon, as if he were regaling a crowded tavern with his misadventures and musings.”

JERRY MOUAWAD: RE-ENVISIONING OPERA. Mouawad, the co-founder with Carol Triffle of the brilliantly visual theater company Imago Theatre, has an ear as well as an eye for things, and lately he’s been delving into the world of theatrical sound – of opera, in fact. Brett Campbell talks with Mouawad about his forays into musical drama (remember; “melodrama” simply means “drama with music,” a pretty good shorthand summary of opera) as director of Eugene Opera’s recent Lucy and, back at Imago, with his own and composer Marisa Wildeman’s Satie’s Journey, based on the life and work of the uber-eccentric French composer Erik Satie. The Satie opera premieres Oct. 9.

PHOENIX RISING: THE THEATRE COMPANY. Covid clipped the wings of a new Portland theater troupe just as it was taking flight. Now it’s back, with an ambitious series of six filmed solo shows – the latest, Capax Infiniti, written by DeLanna Studi and starring Laura Faye Smith. Marty Hughley tells the tale of the rise and fall and rise of The Theatre Company.




Suddenly, making a musical splash in autumn

At last, the Oregon Symphony gets back in the concert hall, with Mahler and choirs, too. Portland Opera makes a hire. Resonance rings out. Bandcamp has a free day. Jeffrey Silverstein keeps the music moving, and more.

Jeffrey Silverstein under the St. Johns Bridge. Photo by Shade Standard.
Portland musician Jeffrey Silverstein under the St. Johns Bridge. Photo: Shade Standard

WEEKLY (P)REVIEWS: MAXIMALIST EMOTIONAL OUTPOURINGS. In his weekly look at the sounds of music coming and going, Robert Ham talks with Jeffrey Silverstein about the shifting nature of his musicmaking, (“he heard the music getting dirtier and heftier”) and why it seemed like a good idea to add a drummer. Also: Negativland with visual artist Sue-C at Holocene; Mdou Moctar at Mississippi Studios.

THEY HAVE THE WORDS: SINGING MAHLER WITH THE OREGON SYMPHONY. As the orchestra prepares at long last for a return to the concert hall with new music director David Danzmayr and Mahler’s “Resurrection” symphony, choral master Ethan Sperry is preparing the Oregon Repertory Singers and Portland State Chamber Choir to join in. Daryl Browne has the story.

NOW HEAR THIS: OCTOBER 2021 EDITION. Once again Robert Ham checks out the new releases from the music distributor Bandcamp and discovers a trove of new releases from local musicians – this time around, darkwave, splashy psych-pop, mental cinematheque, jazz for fly fishing, a griot tape, and plenty more.

DAMIEN GETER PICKS UP THE BATON. Portland Opera announced Monday that Geter, the prominent Portland composer and bass-baritone, has been named interim music director of the company. Longtime conductor George Manahan left the post earlier this year. Geter has been a co-artistic advisor to the opera company since July 2020, and last season curated the company’s production Journeys to Justice.

THE ART OF KNOWING: RESONANCE ENSEMBLE & OPERATION NIGHTWATCH. Daryl Browne gets the word on the Resonance choral ensemble’s newest work, Home, a collaboration this weekend with Operation Nightwatch, which since 1981 has been “open(ing) its doors, welcoming Portland homeless citizens to share in conversation, to relax, to play board games and to just hang out for a few hours.” Portland actor, writer, and storyteller Vin Shambry will be on hand, and Dr. Alexander Lloyd Blake, artistic director of the Los Angeles choral ensemble Tonality, will be guest conductor.


Venice, good reads, tall tales, statue woes, cartoon life

Arvie Smith is headed to the Venice Biennale. Amy Leona Havin chats with book lovers. The Angry Filmmaker writes a book of stories. Prudence Roberts thinks about the trouble with “heroes” in bronze. A zigzag path to cartooning.

Portland painter Arvie Smith: Headed to the Venice Biennale. Photo via Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore

WHAT ARE YOU READING? IN THE LATE SUMMER SUN. Amy Leona Havin opens the book on a new occasional series, What Are You Reading?, in which she chats with Portlanders about the books they’re taking with them as they go out and about the town. It’s a public/private pleasure – as Havin puts it, “Wishing you all a good cup of coffee, a nice place to sit, and a great book.”

ARVIE SMITH AND THE VENICE BIENNALE. Smith, the oustanding Portland painter whose work often blends pop-cultural elements with pointed scenes of American racial history, got good news this week: He’ll be part of the 2022 Venice Biennale, in a group exhibit, The Afro-Futurist Manifesto: Blackness Reimagined, from his Baltimore gallery, Galerie Myrtis. The show will have a lengthy run: April 23-Nov. 27, at Venice’s Palazzo Bembo. 

KELLEY BAKER’S TALES FROM THE UNDERSIDE. In his new collection of short tales Dennis Barton Is a Bastard, Portland’s Angry Filmmaker creates a string of stories that drip a kind of sad and sorry and strangely funny lost love. The damnable thing is, they also make for remarkably good company.

MALIGNANT MONUMENTS: ON PERMANCENCY, “PROTOTYPES,” AND YORK. Prudence Roberts considers the tumbling-down of public monuments to men ranging from Robert E. Lee to Thomas Jefferson; the surprise appearance of a statue of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Black slave, York; and Converge45’s consideration of potential future replacements. On York? “This is one unsolicited gift I think the city should accept.”

THERESA McCRACKEN: A ZIGZAG LIFE. Cheryl Romano, in a story first published by ArtsWatch community partner YachatsNews.com, tells the tale of McCracken, a cartoonist who lives in Waldport and brings to the drawing table a background as a world traveler, a cartographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a firefighter, and the co-author of a book about an Oregon religious love cult.


Here comes October. A look at what’s falling in place.

ArtsWatch writers glimpse into the near future and discover what’s coming up in October in the worlds of film, music, dance, literary arts, and visual arts. Read on, and draw your own map.

Sarah Wertzberger’s woven piece in her exhibit “Heat Wave” at Holding Contemporary is part of October’s Portland TextileX Month. Image courtesy Holding Contemporary

VIZARTS MONTHLY: TEXTILES AND TRUE STORIES. October is Textile Month in Portland museums and galleries, and Lindsay Costello finds the warp and weft of the celebration. That’s just the beginning of a lively visual month that also ranges from the Western paintings of Ed Quigley to Molly Jae Vaughan’s updatings of the 18th century French artist François Boucher, Dean Wong’s The Future of Chinatown at the Portland Chinatown Museum, and more.

DANCEWATCH: BACK ON STAGE! After a long Covid layoff, the movement’s finally getting back into performance spaces in October. Celebrate its return, Jamuna Chiarini advises – if you’ve been vaccinated.

OCTOBER LITWATCH: WELCOMING FALL. Amy Leona Havin begins her monthly look at literary events with a 1913 poem to October by Robert Frost, and moves on to several virtual readings and chats, some online classes, and a few in-person events, including an autumn poetry series at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden.

FILMWATCH WEEKLY: CANNES WINNER “TITANE,” LOVECRAFT FILM FEST, GODARD’S “BREATHLESS.” If this is (almost) October, it must be horror and Halloween and H.P. Lovecraft Time. Plus, in Marc Mohan’s latest look at the movies, a Breathless bit of film history.

MUSICWATCH MONTHLY: RAIN OR SHINE, THE MUSIC’S FINE. Listen in as Charles Rose checks the October offerings, a stylistic sprawl that moves from symphonies to concerti, chamber collaborations, extracurricular improv, progressive jazz and more. 


 

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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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