Here, there, and everywhere:
BROOKS ASHMANSKAS, the busy Broadway actor who grew up in Beaverton, has a new show in previews, and the New York Times has taken note. The four-hander musical comedy The Prom, which opens Thursday in the Longacre Theater, is a sendup of theatrical egotism, in which “an out-of-work Broadway troupe,” in The Times’s words, “descends on an all-American town to support a teenage girl who wants to pin a corsage on her girlfriend.” Ashmanskas stars as Barry Glickman, “who reminds everyone in earshot of his Drama Desk Award.”
Ashmanskas started out doing shows with the late James Erickson, the legendary razzle-dazzle director at Beaverton High School, and moved on to musicals at the old Portland Civic Theatre and elsewhere before heading for New York, where he landed as a replacement in a Broadway revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1995, and just kept going, in shows ranging from Little Me to The Producers to Gypsy, Present Laughter, Something Rotten!, Candide, Sunday in the Park with George, and more. Along the way he’s been nominated for a Tony and (like his character in The Prom) a Drama Desk Award, both for his featured role in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.
The Times, in its preview feature Greatest Star of ‘The Prom’? Why It’s Me, Me, Me, Me, quotes Ashmanskas on why he got the role: “I can’t imagine what they see in me other than neediness and tiredness.” Spoken, presumably, tongue in cheek.
AND IN ANOTHER Portland to Broadway connection, Corey Brunish (who also goes back to Portland Civic Theatre days, and still performs and directs now and again in and around Portland) has a role in six current Broadway shows. He’s a producer on Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Come From Away, The Play That Goes Wrong, and Once on This Island, and an investor in Dear Evan Hansen and The Band’s Visit. As the admiring gamblers might’ve said about Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, he’s on a roll.
REED ARTS WEEK, that annual dive at Reed College into the new and often provocative, runs Thursday through Sunday at various locations on the college’s Southeast Portland campus. Called Reed Arts Week: Sensation (and sometimes just RAW Sensation), this year’s version ranges from a series of art installations to a lecture by Diné poet and multimedia artist Esther G. Belin to dance to film to a play called Bad Avocados to an exhibition by the U.K.-based artist (and Reed alumna) Stephanie Gervais based on her visits to refugee camps in France.
As its title suggests, it’s all about sensation. Let the festival organizers explain:
“What does it mean to inhabit a body? To rub scent on flesh? To lick? To cradle, scar, kick? Teeth chattering, jumping out of your skin, ‘Don’t DO that! you scared me.’ Goosebumps and bliss, a heart beating out of your chest just long enough to demand a ransom. It isn’t all fear. It’s bubblegum filled with your own CO2 and your mother telling you to swallow it. Forgetting about your hands until they fall asleep and demand a reintroduction, shaking one another wildly. Changing your name and watching it gurgle out of everyone’s mouth, closer to a song than a stumble. Sore knees, where are my glasses? Yes, I did cut my hair. Thank you for noticing.”
STAN LEE, the giant of the comic-book world who reinvented Marvel as a home for conflicted superheroes, died Monday at age 95. His stamp was pretty much everywhere in the comics world, from Spider-Man to Iron Man to Black Panther to the Incredible Hulk to the X-Men and many more. Lee helped swing the comics industry beyond Archie and Little Lulu, and helped reshape Hollywood with its growing reliance on superhero blockbusters, and neither’s been the same since.
Bobby Bermea, the actor, director, and frequent ArtsWatch contributor, is a fan, and on Monday he offered his Facebook followers the following tribute:
“For me, I’m not sad. The Man lived a good long life and definitely left his mark. He was a man, so of course there was some dross with the gold, some things I wished he did differently, some bad choices, but he was more — much more than his failings. Like few other public figures, he impacted my life. He — along with Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Colan, Buscema, Heck, Severin, Steranko (and others I’m sure I’m forgetting) lit my imagination and absolutely changed my life and shaped who I am. I am so, so grateful to the guy for the worlds of wonder, the hours and hours of delight and imagination and maybe most of all, for making me part of the club. ‘Face front, True Believers!’ That’s me. I’m one of the True Believers, one of the M.M.M.S., one of the New Breed of comic readers in THIS, the Marvel Age of Comics. These comics [pictured] are my first two Stan Lee comics when I think he was really at the top of his game. Thank you, Stan Lee.
EARLY WARNING on an interesting event coming Nov. 21: Art & Power: Centering the Voices of Native Artists, at Portland State University’s Native Student and Community Center. Part of a conversation series sponsored by the Regional Arts & Cultural Council, it’ll look at the challenges and successes of Native artists in Portland in finding platforms for their work. Featured artists, all of them Portlanders, will include Diné/Ihanktonwan Dakota writer Jacqueline Keeler; Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde multidisciplinary artist (and occasional ArtsWatch contributor) Anthony Hudson, also known as drag clown Carla Rossi; and Deg Hit’an Diné executive Rose High Bear, co-founder of Wisdom of the Elders.
Tickets are free, but you need to order one. Details here.