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Stage & Studio: Reflections on 2021

Dmae Lo Roberts talks in her newest podcast with ArtsWatch's Bob Hicks, Steph Littlebird, Brett Campbell, and Amy Leona Havin about the highs, lows, and landmarks of the cultural year.


It’s safe to say 2021 was a better year than 2020. With the vaccine, life this year became a little less fearful. People started to gather, first in small groups, and then with larger audiences for theaters and public events. Schools reopened, offering both in-person and online attendance. We learned to live a hybrid existence of virtual meetings and viewings, and for those with boosters, actual public attendance at movies, performances or parties.

Twenty twenty-one also marked the year Stage and Studio found  a new home at ArtsWatch, and the year moved quickly along with a mixture of  artists profiles featuring BIPOC women who aren’t usually featured, such as costume designer Wanda Walden, visual artist Roberta Wong, and Indigenous artist Lillian Pitt, or arts patron Ronni Lacroute, as well as the most recent audio tour of the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit.


Dmae Lo Roberts, host and producer of Stage & Studio, joins Bob Hicks, senior editor of ArtsWatch, for an in-depth conversation about the highlights of 2021 and the trends they see happening in the arts landscape for 2022.  They also  remember the losses the arts community endured and the resilience shown by artists and organizations in Oregon and beyond.

ArtsWatch senior editor Bob Hicks, left, and Stage & Studio host and producer Dmae Lo Roberts.

We’ll also hear from arts editor Brett Campbell and arts contributors Amy Leona Havin and Steph Littlebird about their best picks from 2021, a year in which the arts community drew inspiration from the world around it and showed true creativity in its expression despite the challenges of COVID-19.


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Subscribe and listen to Stage & Studio on: AppleGoogleSpotify, Android and Sticher.

Hear past shows on Stage & Studio website. Theme Music by Clark Salisbury. 

Podcast highlights include…

Analyses of how art responded to the pandemic:

Hicks: “Art is a response to what’s around it. It’s a response to its own time. And it’s a response to its own culture and, you know, one way or another, the arts always reflect the culture and the times they come from.”

Roberts: “I think back to … Moliere, for instance, and all his comedies came out of the plague. I think about even, Shakespeare times and the great (London) fire, and art did continue and live performance did continue, and it was a way to respond to horrific circumstances of the world around them. … I personally feel changed by this experience, especially about the way I want to live and work.”

Hicks: “Watching something stream isn’t the same as being in a live space, experiencing something, but it also challenged the creators to figure out new ways to create. And some of (the experiments) were very, very good. And I think it’s possible that we will see, for instance, in the world of theater, maybe film (and) video aspects that people have learned will become parts of new shows as we go forward.”


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Roberts: “Arts funders have, because of recovery money perhaps, and also because of a great compassion have, have been more responsive to what arts groups, organizations, individual artists need in order to create now and about the changes that are needed to take place in order for them to create and for organizations to survive. So in many ways there was a great compassion that I would like to see continue.”

How ArtsWatch differs from mainstream journalism and excels at getting the insider view of the arts:

Hicks: So many of our contributors are artists themselves of one form or another. So you don’t have that, “here are the artists, and here are the critics” dichotomy setup, which is so standard in newspapers and magazines. I think it’s really good to have people who do the work also write about work. Not necessarily their own work, and not necessarily in a critical capacity, but to be able to get artists writing about other artists.”

Top three pieces from the Indigenous History & Resilience Series by Steph Littlebird, featuring Grand Ronde artist and teacher Greg Archuleta, artist and drag clown performer Anthony Hudson, and Oregon Symphony stage manager Lori Trephibio.

Best in-person and streamed events came from Amy Leona Havin, including Gary Shteyngart at the Portland Book Festival, dancer Linda Austin at Performance Works Northwest, and audio performances here, here, and here from Cygnet Radio Hour.


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Best in-person and streamed performances from Brett Campbell, such as Bag & Baggage Productions, 45th Parallel, Fear No Music, Oregon Symphony, Portland Baroque Orchestra, to name a few.

All in all, despite the pandemic, art lived on in Oregon in so many ways and shows the true power of the arts to overcome the worst situations.

Also in “2021: The Year in Review”

  • Marc Mohan’s 10 Best Films of the Year. ArtsWatch’s chief film columnist picks ’em and praises ’em, from The Lost Daughter to Memoria to The Tragedy of Macbeth.
  • 2021: The people who made the art. From Damien Geter and Leapin’ Louie to Bonnie Meltzer and Willy Vlautin, celebrating almost 30 artists in Oregon whose visions stood out and helped define and rethink a precarious year.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Dmae Roberts is a two-time Peabody winning radio producer, writer and theatre artist. Her work is often autobiographical and cross-cultural and informed by her biracial identity. Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII. She adapted this radio documentary into a film. She won a second Peabody-award for her eight-hour Crossing East documentary, the first Asian American history series on public radio. She received the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the Asian American Journalists Association and was selected as a United States Artists (USA) Fellow. Her stage plays and essays have been published in numerous publications. She published her memoir The Letting Go Trilogies: Stories of a Mixed-Race Family in 2016. As a theatre artist, she has won two Drammys, one for her acting and one for her play Picasso In The Back Seat which also won the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been produced in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, NYC and Florida. Roberts is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit multicultural production organization and co-founder of Theatre Diaspora, an Asian American/Pacific Islander non-profit theatre that started as a project of MediaRites. She created the Crossing East Archive of more than 200 hours of broadcast-quality, pan-AAPI interviews and oral histories. For 23 years, Roberts volunteered to host and produce Stage & Studio live on KBOO radio. In 2009, she started the podcast on, which continues at ArtsWatch.


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