Anthony Hudson

The arts: After the deluge, what?

ArtsWatch Weekly: Planning for a post-Covid Oregon cultural scene; pancakes and the art of dissent; good things come in multiples

AS OREGON HESITANTLY REEMERGES FROM ITS LONG COCOONING – baby steps, everyone: take it cautiously, and wear your masks – it’s not too early to think about what the “new normal” might look like for the state’s arts and cultural organizations. A couple of highly respected onlookers have been considering the changed landscape long and deep, and while they disagree on some fundamental issues, on one thing they’re in accord: It’s highly unlikely that enough money will be available to support everyone in the manner to which they’d like to be accustomed.

What to do, then, when financial push comes to shove?

Fear No Music playing music by Middle Eastern and emigrant-diaspora composers at The Old Church Concert Hall: Will the future of arts in Oregon by small and adaptable? Photo © John Rudoff/2017

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Under ‘Suspiria’s’ spell

A new online course from Movie Madness University, led by Anthony Hudson, probes a horror remake.

A new online course from Movie Madness University probes a horror remake.

In a sickening scene from director Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of the Dario Argento horror classic Suspiria, a dancer is literally torn apart. Her gruesome final moments—punctuated by contorted flesh and cracking bones—were notorious even before the film was released.

Yet after seeing Suspiria with friends on Halloween in 2018, film programmer Anthony Hudson was both shocked and entranced. “Honestly, we were all silent and in a state of rapture,” says Hudson, also known as the drag clown Carla Rossi. “I think the first thing I said after seeing it was, ‘I can’t believe that was a great horror movie and it summed up all of my politics.’”

Hudson will share the rapture this Thursday in an online Suspiria course (offered by Movie Madness University, the Hollywood Theatre’s film education program) that spotlights the movie’s progressive politics, queer love stories and moral ambiguities. “It’s not easily read as black and white,” Hudson says of Suspiria. “Even the protagonist, this goddess, is still a primordial witch deity who has to sacrifice people for her magic, and I think that just speaks to the complications of the world we live in.”

Anthony Hudson will teach an online course on the remake of Suspiria through Movie Madness University and the Hollywood Theatre

Set in 1977 (the year that the original film was released), Suspiria stars Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion, the American star of a West Berlin dance company that is also a coven of witches. The film is filled with supernatural shenanigans, which are juxtaposed with the German Autumn, when the Red Army Faction was involved in a series of kidnappings and other violent incidents. 

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Drammys: Where’s the party?

DramaWatch: Attendance dropped and the drama crept behind the scenes at this year's Portland theater awards. What comes next?

Once upon a time I had a dream about the Drammys.

I don’t mean dream as in a sleepytime movie, but rather a hope, a wish, an ideal of a future. When I first began to care about the Drammy Awards, the annual celebration of Portland-area theater was held at the Crystal Ballroom. At one end of the oblong room, outstanding theater work was honored onstage. At the other end, the combination of the entrance and the bar catalyzed a sometimes raucous social scene as friendly acquaintances convened. There was tension between the two elements, with the loud, lubricated chatter from the back sometimes drowning out the official proceedings, but it had the feel of a fabulous party. That feeling continued once the event was done, as the crowd spilled outside into a stream of sidewalk clusters stretching around the block and into Cassidy’s, which suddenly boasted more actors than you could shake a script at. 

Drag clown Carla Rossi was emcee at this year’s Drammy Award ceremony, where attendance was down. Photo: Scotty Fisher/Sleeper Studios

I was writing about theater for The Oregonian, and was thrilled about all the interesting and talented local artists I was encountering. Seeing so many of them all together, as one big, convivial community, celebrating one another and the fine work they’d done over the past season, was exhilarating. 

I figured that excitement should be shared.

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New voices of ArtsWatch 2017

A dozen writers have joined the ArtsWatch ranks this year. Find out who they are, and what they're bringing to the cultural mixer.

In one important way it’s been a very good year for Oregon ArtsWatch: We’ve added a lot of good writers to our mix, deepening and broadening our coverage of everything from dance to theater to music to visual arts to literary events and more.

ArtsWatch has been able to add the voices of a dozen new contributors because of support from you and people like you. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit cultural journalism organization, and your gifts help pay for the stories we produce. It’s easy to become a member and make a donation.

In 2018 we hope to add even more fresh voices and perspectives to our continuing engagement with Oregon’s complex and diversified cultural life.

Meet 2017’s new writers, from A to Z (all right; A to W), and sample their work:

 


 

TJ Acena

A Portland essayist and journalist who studied creative writing at Western Washington University, TJ was selected as a 2017 Rising Leader of Color in arts journalism by Theatre Communications Group. He writes about theater and literary events for ArtsWatch, and also contributes to American Theatre Magazine and The Oregonian in addition to literary journals such as Somnambulist and Pacifica Literary Journal. Web: tjacena.com

READ:

Greg Watanabe with Mao on the wall in “Caught.” Photo: Russell J Young

CAUGHT IN A LIE, OR A TRUTH

Acena reviews the installation and performance Caught at Artists Rep, a play that crosses the line between fact and fiction, fake news and real. “If it feels like there’s something I’m not telling you about Caught, you’re right. Don’t take it at face value: There’s a hidden conceit to the show. But discovering that conceit is what makes Caught compelling.”

 


 

Bobby Bermea

 

A leading actor, director, and producer in Portland and elsewhere, Bobby specializes in deeply reported and insightful profiles of theater and other creative people for ArtsWatch. A three-time Drammy Award winner for his work onstage, he’s also the author of the plays Heart of the City, Mercy, and Rocket Man.

READ:

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And suddenly it’s October. Among other things – pumpkin patches, Yom Kippur, the World Series, Halloween – that means we’re two days from First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery hop of new shows. This week’s visual art calendar is a doozy, from open studios to Warhol with lots between.

A few of the highlights:

James Lavadour Ruby II, 2016 oil on panel 32" x 48"

James Lavadour, “Ruby II,” 2016, oil on panel, 32″ x 48.” PDX Contemporary.

James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary. It’s always a good day when new work by Lavadour, the veteran landscape expressionist from Pendleton, comes to town. This show, called Ledger of Days, furthers his exploration of the land and its mysteries. “A painting is a structure for the extraordinary and informative events of nature that are otherwise invisible,” he writes. “A painting is a model for infinity.” Lavadour is also one of the moving forces behind Pendleton’s innovative and essential Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Watch for what’s coming up.

The new Russo Lee Gallery: 30 years. What you’ve known for years as Laura Russo Gallery is celebrating three decades with a showing of new work by its distinguished stable of artists – and with a new name. The name is a fusion of the gallery’s long tradition and current reality. After founder Laura Russo died in 2010, her longtime employee Martha Lee bought the business and continues to operate it. This show promises to be a statement of sorts, and will have a catalog available.

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Risk/Reward 2016: Creative tensions

Multi-disciplinary performance festival explores the contrasts between multimedia elements

Ah, summer: that season when the only arts our sun-drunk brains are capable of handling are explosion-laden superhero films and simplistic beach read books. Or so the entertainment-industrial complex would have us believe.

Not in Portland. Portland Center Stage devotes its annual July Just Add Water festival to workshop readings of new plays in progress. The end-of-summer Time Based Art Festival is dedicated to edgy, category-free performance and visual art developed by fringe festival-style artists from around the world. The city’s season of experimentation really gets started with the annual Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance, “a developmental platform for the creation of new performance works,” according to its mission statement, which cites criteria including “adventurous,” immersive,” and “cross-disciplinary”; it’s like a mini-TBA Festival, but geared exclusively to artists from our region.

Anthony Hudson as Carla Rossi at 2016 Risk/Reward Festival, Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

Anthony Hudson as Carla Rossi at 2016 Risk/Reward Festival,
Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

This year’s ninth annual edition, which ran June 17-19 at the valuable arts hub at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, showcased new works whose quality and appeal often matched and sometimes surpassed those higher-profile incubators. The most successful drew their power, and often their humor, from the interaction of two or more media forms—artistic friction that struck sparks.

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11 questions: Anthony Hudson talks about the end of the world

Portland's drag clown talks about his new show “Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World”

By SARAH SENTILLES

On November 20, 2014, at 8 pm at the Alberta Rose Theatre, Carla Rossi, Portland’s premier drag clown, will host, for one night only, “Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World,” which its creator Anthony Hudson calls a “riotous multimedia cabaret show.”

Armed with a songbook of Berlin theatre standards (with pianist Maria Choban) and dance support from cabaret girls The Dolly Pops, Carla will make a (satirical) comparison between 1920s Weimar Berlin and contemporary America – covering everything from immigration policy to drones to racism to DOMA to the Voting Rights Act. Hudson combines humor, theory, drag, dance, politics, song, and critique to make visible what most people want to ignore – and somehow manages to make you have a good time anyway.

I sent Anthony Hudson (a.k.a Carla Rossi) eleven questions about the show – and here is what Hudson had to say.

You’ve said that “Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World” is the story of two star-crossed lovers: Weimar Germany and contemporary America. What parallels do you see between these two time periods?

I actually have a game show section in my show where contestants have to guess which culture – Weimar Germany or contemporary America – is described by a basic clue. But there are so many overlaps and parallels that the game show becomes impossible to win. Both cultures are sandwiched by war. The Weimar Republic was established after WWI and gave way to the Third Reich and WWII. I came of age with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and am watching them occur all over again now, only we’re not calling them wars. Throw in economic trouble, xenophobia and racism toward immigrants, and “tolerance” for queer people despite existing legislation against queerness and you’ve got yourself quite the mirror image cocktail.

Portland drag clown Carla Rossi (aka Anthony Hudson) has some serious issues to discuss.

Portland drag clown Carla Rossi (aka Anthony Hudson) has some serious issues to discuss.

Why drag?

I’m interested in the edge – that line between satire and sincerity, between critique and reification – as a site where transgression and transformation occur. That’s why I’m drawn to drag as artwork. Drag often reinforces heterosexist projections of what makes a “woman,” but – as the theorist Judith Butler argues – it can also expose the cracks in binary sexism by blurring (or queering) gender. Queer drag exposes gender as a performed historical construction rather than as a biological reality. Carla’s the edge for me. With her I’m not trying to emulate femininity (although I’m sure that’s what she thinks she’s doing), I’m trying to break down our preconceived notions of identity to expose them as performances rather than as innate, core ways of being. Not to reignite the Madonna/Lady Gaga feud, but philosophically I’m much more “Express Yourself” than I am “Born This Way.”

What role does humor play in your work? What does humor make possible that other kinds of performance may not?

There’s an unofficial rule to my work – it has to be funny. Even if my subject matter is dreadful I have to find a way to laugh at it. I have a hard time finding respect for something if it doesn’t have a bit of comedy to it. I think in performance, humor breaks down resistance and provides an immediate entry point for the audience. To laugh at something you have to first find relevance in the joke being made – and for a whole audience to laugh at something, something wonderful happens. It creates a kind of collectivity, a sense of togetherness, like we are all in on the joke. It’s a powerful way to create and harness collective energy, and as a performer I depend on that energy flow with the audience like a battery.

I think that my love of humor is cultural – I’m half Native American, and I can’t think of any group of people more ready to laugh than Natives. The biggest and most memorable laughs I’ve ever heard are from my family that live on the Rez. You need to be able to laugh there. Humor is something the oppressed & underprivileged need to survive.

Why this topic? Why now?

One answer is that it’s the natural culmination of my interests – Weimar Germany, Dada performance, the music of Kurt Weill & Lotte Lenya, and monologue-based theatre – over the last two years. Another answer is that I’m terrified that World War III is on the brink of happening, if it’s not already.

You’ve been performing in Portland for three (four!) years, and you’ve noted that more and more performance venues (gay bars) are closing down, in part as a result of gentrification. What has been lost with these closures? And what do you hope performing at the Alberta Rose Theater might make possible?

Gay bars and venues provide a safer space for queer performers to make and show work. And since drag is so subcultural it’s hard to get it seen in a fine arts and context, and heteronormative audiences often don’t appreciate its value. It’s culturally relevant artwork. Portland used to have a bustling queer scene – performance troupes like Sissyboy and DKPDX (the latter being an amazing group of drag kings, which you hardly see anymore) took Portland by storm just a decade ago and sold out shows to audiences in the hundreds. Portland queers are still here of course, but with the bar closures we have more of a “pop up” culture now – renting spaces that are queer-owned, or just down to play, that may not necessarily be bars or even have stages. Some of my friends just put on a great show called “Dungeons & Drag Queens” at a local game store and it was at capacity. Even so, it’s still hard to connect with your core audience when they may not feel safe going to a space that isn’t queer, and it’s hard to find funding to make it happen without the old venues too. My hope is to find that crossover – to get queer audiences to pay a few more dollars than they’re used to in support of talent and technical support (which we don’t always get in bars), while getting an arts audience to take a chance on queer cabaret – and see what happens. I’m hoping for some good cross-pollination. And of course my evil plan is to recruit and convert more unsuspecting audience members into disciples of Rossi-anity.

Carla-End-Of-World-PDF-8x10How many outfit changes does Carla have in this show – and which is her favorite look?

Oh no! You got me! I was originally going for two or three costumes in this show (you know, because Cher does it) but I decided to settle on one particularly wonderful costume made by my friend Sarah Dee. Sarah runs a business called Scrafts and makes a bounty of reclaimed leather harnesses and accessories for the queer community in Portland (when she isn’t teaching sewing to youth and her students). For this show Sarah is creating a beautiful bodysuit inspired by my love of fringe and the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. She’s also creating me a delightfully silly boudoir look to throw over my costume for the one and only cute, lighthearted song in the show.

If Anthony could invite any three people to attend this show (and they had to accept the invitation), who would he invite?

Sandra Bernhard. She’s influenced this particular show more than any other performer I can think of. Coco Peru, because she’s a drag queen I’ve always admired – and I’ve had the immense luck to become acquainted with her over this last year – and she’s the kind of story teller I’m aspiring to become. My third guest is dead, but I would want to invite Leni Riefenstahl, the director of the Nazi propaganda film The Triumph of the Will. At one point one of her “films” (retroactively created by me, and starring Carla) appears in the show. I’ve always been fascinated by the way she prided herself on the work she made for Hitler while simultaneously denying any guilt by association with the Third Reich. Leni has even influenced how I play Carla in this show – part of the premise is that Carla was alive in Berlin during the Weimar era and stayed in Germany after 1933 – and I’m really interested in how someone who perhaps passively participated in Nazism would describe that era and attempt to justify their presence there… and how selectively they would (or wouldn’t) remember certain events.

If Carla could invite any three people to attend this show (and they had to accept the invitation), who would she invite?

1. Mel Gibson, because he could make a really good unbiased movie about Carla’s time in Nazi Germany. 2. George W. Bush, because Carla really likes those paintings he did and she feels a lot more forgiving to him over that whole war and economic collapse thing now that she saw how sad he looked in the shower. 3. The Guy with the Drink Tickets because duh.

You’ve said Carla “satirizes culture by emulating it.” What do you mean?

Carla is my way of confronting whiteness, oppression, and privilege in the United States. I’m not a lecturer who excels at explaining these systems. I’m a performer. Luckily Carla is a trickster clown, and clowns and tricksters say one thing while doing the opposite. Carla embodies everything I find wrong in the world and demonstrates just how wrong it is simply by taking it to its next absurd step. She lives in a racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, classist, capitalist, celebrity-driven society, and she wants in on the action. She thinks the way to make it in society is to become a product fit for consumption, so she follows the media’s lead and tries to become a famous white woman. Lately she’s been calling herself the ghost of white privilege, and, as she says, that’s funny because white privilege will never die. She confronts audiences with their own biases and unchecked assumptions merely by being herself.

Carla Rossi in performance in 2013./Photo by Marty Davis

Carla Rossi in performance in 2013./Photo by Marty Davis

You use historical songs from Berlin theatre. Did you rewrite the lyrics or keep them intact? What is your favorite lyric?

Originally I had this Quixotic vision of rewriting the songs and placing them in a modern context. As time went on and I found different translations of the material (a lot of these songs were made into safe, English language versions in the ‘50s and ‘60s) I realized it would be a crime to rewrite the songs. They’re just as relevant today as ever, and way more bawdy, risqué, and disquieting than anything written today. I have, however, arranged lyrics from different translations (of the same song) to create the “definitive” versions I want to sing.

Almost every song has been altered musically in one way or another. I’m working with a completely amazing pianist named Maria Choban, who calls herself the “gangster of classical music.” She has a reputation for breaking pianos because she plays so aggressively and passionately. Together we’ve calculated when and where to play with the audience’s expectations – there are multiple mash-ups, and Maria’s injected some famous medleys into a few of these German standards to place them into a more American, almost USO-style context. The most well-known song in the show sounds nothing like itself – or any version you’ve heard before and – and it’s completely disturbing and seductive at the same time.

My favorite lyric in the show is from that song, but it’s too upsetting to print out of context. Here’s my next favorite – it’s from the Canon Song by Kurt Weill, originally from 1928’s Threepenny Opera: “We’ll meet a darker race / we’ll fight them face to face / ‘cause it is clear we’re better / we’ll kill them it doesn’t matter.”

What’s next for Carla?

That’s my favorite question lately, because after preparing for and thinking about and working on this show for the past year, I’m having a hard time seeing past this event. It’s like the flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, except that flaming sword is in my calendar for November 20th. But next year’s plans include a Carla Rossi webseries, a potential dinner theatre project with a friend of mine, the Austin International Drag Festival that I’ve been invited to perform in, and – surprise – more Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World! Since this is a one night engagement, I’m approaching it as an incubator for what will become an even bigger, multiple-night run next year and I want to tour it in a few cities. Everything’s coming up Rossi!

“Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World” is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. The show will take place on November 20, 2014, at 8 pm, at the Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta. Tickets are available through the Alberta Rose Theatre’s Box Office. $15 advance, $20 at the door. Presented with ASL interpretation. 21+.