Live theater’s back in town

ArtsWatch Weekly: In a pandemic era first, Triangle opens a show indoors. Plus: Art in the Pearl, Venice & elsewhere, virtually and "real."

“WE HAVE TO MOVE FORWARD,” Don Horn, who founded Portland’s Triangle Productions more than 30 years ago, said on the phone. “I would rather have the house used than vacant. I think spaces die if they’re not used.”

Somebody had to be first. And in Portland theater, when Triangle opens a 10-performance run of Rick Cleveland’s solo play My Buddy Bill next Thursday, Sept. 10, it’ll be the first time since Covid-19 restrictions shut down theater spaces almost half a year ago that anyone in the greater metro area’s put on a show inside an actual theater space, with a paying audience in the seats. (At least a couple of other companies in Oregon have done live shows, too: Medford’s Collaborative Theatre Projects has been doing indoor radio plays with paying audiences, and Ashland’s Oregon Cabaret Theatre has been doing The Odd Couple.)

Grocery stores, hardwares, and big box stores are open. Restaurants are open, for sidewalk and some indoor seating. Zoos and gardens and aquariums are open. Beaches and hiking trails and camping sites are open, at least many of them, and you can book rooms at motels and vacation getaways. A little bit of outdoor theater and concertizing’s happened. Museums and art galleries have reopened, with restrictions. But live theater, dance, and music have lagged behind, mostly because of strict limits on audience size and spacing inside performance halls, the cost of running shows for the resulting relatively tiny audiences, and the tougher logistics of making tight theater spaces safe enough to use.

Buddy and buddy in the Oval Office. Photo: Barbara Kinney/White House/1997

Triangle’s auditorium, inside The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza on close-in Northeast Sandy Boulevard, ordinarily seats 154 people. Because of a state restriction of 25 people in such a space at a time, the audience for My Buddy Bill will be limited to 23, leaving room for one actor (Joe Healy, playing Rick, the playwright) and one tech person. The bigger the cast and crew, the smaller the allowable audience. In the meantime, Horn and crew are busily getting everything ready so the space can meet multiple safety requirements. “I’ll be spending Friday cleaning everything out of the lobby so we can shampoo,” he said. 


August DanceWatch: Streaming right along

Dance doesn't hibernate: It dances. Even during a pandemic.

Welcome back to DanceWatch. The dancers are still here and they are dancing!

I know, I know, watching virtual dance performances isn’t the same as watching live performances, but who cares? This is where we happen to be. So let’s celebrate and enjoy it as it is, in all of its uniqueness. Someday we may even look back on this moment nostalgically, though I’m not taking any bets.

There are some benefits to these new viewing conditions. You don’t have to get dressed up and put on those uncomfortable shoes you only wear to performances. You don’t have to fight traffic and time and look for parking. And if you don’t like what you are watching, you can turn it off or switch the channel and no one will be the wiser, and no one will be offended. Sometimes you can even watch it again, if you want.

So get comfy, invite your friends (virtually), order or make some great food, grab a cold drink, ‘cause it’s really hot out there, and enjoy the virtual dance world brought to you by a whole lot of dancers who just want to keep dancing, no matter what!

Dance performances in August!

Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater. Photo courtesy of Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater.

Virtual Last Thursday Online
Hosted by Last Thursdays On Alberta and Alberta Main Street
7-9pm July 30
Live streamed from the Blind Insect Gallery
To view go to YouTube #SummerofAlberta

Take a virtual art walk down Alberta Main Street and experience live streamed performances by African drummer Alex Addy; singer, songwriter and performer Justin Leon Johnson; and dance company Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater. 

On the Alberta Main Street YouTube channel you can also dance and make masks with renowned multi-disciplinary artist Bobby Fouther, take a dance class with Rashad Pridgena, who teaches a remix of the Soul Line creating an African American line dance, and engage with a high-energy fitness class with Broadway dancer and choreographer Kemba Shannon, to name just a few options. 

Japanese dancer Sahomi Tachibana (foreground) teaching Chisao Hata (background) traditional Japanese dance. This photograph was taken by Folklife Coordinator Leila Childs in 1998 and is courtesy of The Oregon History Project.

Virtual Obon Fest fest 
Hosted by the Oregon Buddhist Temple
10-8pm August 1 

Obon, also known as the Festival of Lanterns, is a summertime Japanese festival that joyfully remembers and pays tribute to the dead. It involves dancing (Bon Odori dances), visiting with friends and family, offering food to the ancestors, and hanging lanterns in remembrance of loved ones.

The origin of the festival comes from a story in a Buddhist text about a monk who had a vision that his mother was suffering in the World of Hungry Ghosts. Buddha instructed him to provide a feast for the monks returning from their summer retreats. Upon doing so, his mother was released from her suffering and he danced with joy. This joyful dance became the Bon Odori dances that people perform today.

In Japan, the Bon Odori dances differ from region to region and depict the area’s history, geography and trades. To explore the different Odori dances, click here!

Portland’s Obon festival streaming schedule: 

10-11am ObonFest Service that includes commemorative lanterns and sutra chanting by Reverend Sugahara and a dharma Message by Reverend Sugahara. 
6-7pm Obon Dance Radio Tribute on KBOO radio at 90.7 FM in Portland/104.3FM in Corvallis/ 91.9 FM in Hood River.
​7-8 pm Virtual ObonFest  (Zoom link to be announced)

Photo courtesy of Andrea and Alseny Yansane of the West Africal Cultural Arts Institute

Galaxy Dance Festival 
Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre
11 am – 7 pm August 1
In lieu of tickets Polaris Dance Theatre is asking that you make a donations of $10+ here. 

Celebrating 10 years of bringing dance outdoors to the public, Polaris Dance Theatre goes virtual, bringing you eight hours of fantastic, prerecorded dancing, by a wide array of dance groups representing styles from around the globe. 

The festival features performances by: West African Cultural Arts Institute, Chisao Hata, Rangeela Dance Company, Trainor Dance, Soomi Kim, Dance Inspired, Sébé Kan Drum and Dance Company, Sinha Danse, ELa FaLa Collective, push/FOLD, Noelle Simone, Polaris Junior and NEO Youth Companies, Manasi and Mahathi Sridhar, Echo Pro Lab, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, and Polaris Dance Company. For detailed information on the companies, choreographers, and the works that they will be performing, please visit the event link here.

If you are unable to attend the LIVE event, a recording of the performance will be posted afterwards to the Polaris Dance Theatre Youtube channel.

Dancer Javan Mngrezzo. Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler Dance/Northwest

Cooped Up Festival Three: Body Is home
Presented by Heidi Duckler Dance/ Northwest and the Halprin Landscape Conservancy
5:30 pm August 3
RSVP here on Zoom

Heidi Duckler Dance/ Northwest and the Halprin Landscape Conservancy present two short films created in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Keller Fountain. A fountain inspired by the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, designed by Angela Danadjieva, a designer for Lawrence Halprin who was the husband of renowned post modern dancer, Anna Halprin. It was dedicated in 1970 shortly after a series of violent clashes between police and anti war protestors and became a symbol of the Portland community and the power of public space.

Following the films there will be a Q&A with the artists and members of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy.

Artwork by maximiliano. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW. 

Happy Hour with maximiliano
Presented by Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance
5-6 pm August 5
RSVP here by 3 pm Aug 5 in order to get the Zoom link!

In a mindful approach that provides financial support to artists of color in the community, while centering dance and experimental performance, PWNW has created a Happy Hour on Zoom that features a variety of artists, twice monthly! The evening includes a cocktail demo (featured drink this week is the Moscow Mule), a toast, a performance, PWNW-themed Bingo, and prizes, of course! 

This week’s featured artist is Alembic Resident Artist maximiliano whose multimedia performance will include video, audio, lighting, and space, with the intent to slow down and glitch the embodied narrative. 

Photo courtesy of the Indian Cultural Association of Portland

India Day Portland 
Hosted by the Indian Cultural Association of Portland
4 pm August 15
livestream of pre-recorded videos at ICA of Portland

Celebrating India’s Independence and cultural diversity, Portland’s Indian Cultural Association hosts a day of music, dance, and culture from across India. 

#Instaballet Heart in Motion 2020
Artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
6-7 pm August 15
Live Streamed from here 

In this virtual fundraiser gala, #instaballet, directed by Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan, continues to reimagine the audience’s involvement in the making of dance. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet or a musical score but aren’t a dancer, choreographer, or musician, now is your chance! The #instaballet gala program offers several ways for you to get involved. If you would like to dance in the heART in Motion Community Dance video, click here! If you would like to create a solo for the MC of the event, Bill Hulings, click here! All proceeds go towards paying artists and keeping #instaballet creating. 

If you are interested in learning more about Instaballet and how it came to be, Eugene ArtsWatch correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Sitara Razaqi Lones, a performer from last year’s Multicultural Day at the Oregon State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Sitara Razaqi Lones. 

Multicultural Day Reimagined
Hosted by Oregon State Capitol
l0 am-2 pm August 15
Connect to the online event here

Stay tuned for a celebration of Oregon’s cultural diversity with postings of video activities, music, stories, dancing performances, and much more!

Artist claire barrera playing games. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance.

Happy Hour with claire barrera
5-6 pm August 19
Presented by Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance
RSVP HERE by 3pm Aug 19 to get the Zoom link

This week’s Happy Hour on Zoom at PWNW features2016 Alembic Resident Artist  claire barrera. Barrera is a Portland-based organizer, educator and artist whose current projects include the zine anthology When Language Runs Dry, organizing for Brown Girl Rise, and a 2021 group performance about the transformation capacity of games. Barrera’s Happy Hour performance explores how play and games are a space for discipline, imagination, liberation and kinship for both youth and adults.

Oluyinka Akinjiola, Decimus, Michael Galen, Bethany Harvey and Jamie Minkus in “A Midsummer Night at the Savoy”/Photo by Andy Batt

Virtual Last Thursday Online
Hosted by Last Thursdays On Alberta and Alberta Main Street
7-9 pm August 27
Live streamed from the Blind Insect Gallery
To view go to YouTube #SummerofAlberta

Take a virtual art walk down Alberta Main Street and experience live streamed performances by musician, singers, and dancers, as well as prerecorded dance and mask making classes with multi-disciplinary artist Bobby Fouther, a dance class with Rashad Pridgena who teaches a remix of the Soul Line creating an African American line dance, and a high-energy fitness class with broadway dancer and choreographer Kemba Shannon, to name just a few. 

Out of town festivals to check out!

Drive East 
August 9-16

Emerge Fusion Dance Festival
August 13

Battery Dance Festival 
August 14-22

The Dance Enthusiast
Dance performances and events from around the world listed by date.

A list of online platforms that are presenting performances, films, and talks. 

White Bird on the brink

The venerable Portland dance presenter faces a major deficit due to concert cancellations during the pandemic

Have you noticed that it’s the arts we are all turning to right now to survive? 

While we wait out our “sheltering at home” and attempt to dodge the covid-19 virus long enough to keep our hospital beds and intensive care units from overfilling, it’s the free dance performances, free music concerts, free books, free museums exhibits, free art classes—all online—that are making this horrible situation bearable. 

But the question is, will these same arts organizations be there when life gets back to normal, whenever that is? 

Unfortunately, from where I stand right now, it doesn’t look good.

On Tuesday afternoon White Bird, Portland’s biggest dance-only presenter and one of the few dance-only presenters left in the United States, announced that if the organization can’t make up a $350,000 shortfall by June 30, it will have to consider the painful possibility of shutting down for good. The shortfall is the result of show cancellations due to the pandemic. You can read their full announcement here

In addition, White Bird will also see a 20 percent increase in rent from Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, which comprises the Schnitzer, Winningstad, Keller, Newmark, and Brunish halls: White Bird is a frequent renter of the Schnitzer and Newmark halls. The venues are owned by the City of Portland and managed by the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission for Metro.

The situation is dire, White Bird co-founder Walter Jaffe said to me this morning when we spoke on the phone, but it’s dire for all arts organizations, he stressed. 

White Bird is a nonprofit organization that brings a variety of well-known and emerging, national and international dance companies and choreographers to Portland. It was launched in 1997 by Walter Jaffe and Paul King and was named for their beloved cockatoo, Barney, who is now 32.

Paul King, Walter Jaffe and Barney, of White Bird. Photo by Jennifer Alyse.


Sketching ‘Volcano!’ at the museum

ArtsWatch Weekly: Big crowds & small artists take in the Portland Art Museum's big boom, March's new art & dance, a fresh film fest

ON SATURDAY I DROPPED BY THE PORTLAND ART MUSEUM to spend a little quality time with Volcano!, the sprawling exhibit designed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. (The mountaintop blasted sky-high on May 18, 1980; the museum’s show closes on May 17, a day before the anniversary.) On a rainy afternoon the place was packed with curious or nostalgic visitors. Some came to revisit their experiences of one of the most memorable days in modern Pacific Northwest history. Some came eager to learn a little more about a cataclysmic event they didn’t live through themselves but knew was a Really Big Deal. And most seemed engaged: The crowd wasn’t just walking through quickly with a glance here and a glance there – people were studying the paintings and photographs, sometimes doubling back to take a closer look at something they’d already seen. One way or another, this show seemed a part of their lives.

Lucinda Parker, “The Seething Saint,” 2019, acrylic on canvas, in the exhibition “Volcano!” at the Portland Art Museum. Courtesy Lucinda Parker and Russo Lee Gallery


ArtsWatch Weekly: Keeping the beat going

It's end-of-the-year donation time. Help us keep the arts & culture clock ticking. Also: Whole lotta holiday-season shows goin' on.

AS THE HOLIDAY SEASON GETS INTO SWING and the end of the calendar year approaches, I’m turning over the top of this week’s column to Laura Grimes, ArtsWatch’s talented executive director, who says this better than I can:


I’m incredibly proud of the phenomenal work my colleagues publish every day on ArtsWatch. We never sleep. And I mean that. I wake up in the morning and new stories are up, as if elves have been working in the night. 

I work with the best editors, the best writers, the best photographers. It’s a giant labor of love to bring you quality independent arts journalism – the criticism, news, profiles, and heart-warming essays that are hard to find anywhere else as traditional news outlets continue to shrink dramatically.

Donations from you make all that possible. We’ve doubled in size in three years, and we still find it hard to keep up. This is what you can look forward to in the coming months: 

– In January we are running 20 interviews for our Vision 2020 project, which evaluates the arts scene and forecasts how it might change in the years to come. Some of the stories are already in, and they’re as telling and insightful as you might expect. We’re pretty excited to share them with you.

– We’ll have expanded Visual Arts coverage in 2020, thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Family Foundation.

– We have more deeply reported stories in the works in our occasional series about the Art of Learning – how do art and education impact each other? – and the Art of Space: In an escalating real estate market, how and where do artists and arts groups find places to make and show their work?

As I said, we never sleep. Every penny of your donations pays for stories. Please join us as we prepare for another year of essential arts journalism and donate today.

My heartfelt thanks to you,
Laura Grimes
Executive Director


ArtsWatch Weekly: Breaking cultural ground in Beaverton

Work begins on the new, $51 million Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, a long-held dream for the city's center-in-the-making

ON A DRY AND CHILLY MORNING, BEAVERTON BROKE GROUND Wednesday on a significant slice of its future. The official groundbreaking of the long-awaited Patricia Reser Center for the Arts drew a big crowd to the site of what’s hoped to be a new city center, at The Round in the Creekside Urban Development District, near a MAX light rail station, City Hall, and Beaverton Creek. The 45,000 square foot arts center, which is expected to open in 2021, puts a huge stamp on the western suburb’s push to re-establish its own identity separate from downtown Portland: As the metropolitan area grows, its cultural and economic scenes expand with it and assert their own identities.

Patricia Reser speaks at Wednesday’s groundbreaking for her namesake public arts center in Beaverton. Photo: Joe Cantrell


DanceWatch: a big yes to November

As a new season settles in, Oregon's dance calendar overflows with opportunities

“No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! – November!” This line begins the chapter on November in my favorite childhood book, A Time to Keep, the Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays, and is also the last line of a poem by poet and humorist Thomas Hood (1799 -1845) called NO!

The story line of  A Time to Keep is prompted by a little girl asking her mother, “What was it like when mommy was me?” Tudor lovingly illustrates each month of the year and that family’s holidays and traditions for each of them.

Tudor (1915-2008) was an American author and illustrator whose stories and beautifully detailed illustrations created whimsical, magical worlds for children of all ages to enter. 

I particularly liked November in A Time to Keep, because it describes a family coming together from all around and celebrating the holiday with food and impromptu performances as entertainment. I like to imagine that this is what we are doing here in Portland in the winter, gathering together in warm, cozy spaces, eating, drinking, and watching dance.

And this November has no shortage of dance: twenty performances, from a few Halloween carryovers to important anniversary celebration performances, circus performances with a social justice bent, Shakespeare, ballet, and much more. Scroll down to see it all! 

Dance Performances in November

Week 1: November 1-3

Members of the cast of Redwood by Playwright Brittany K. Allen that runs November 1-17 at Portland Center Stage at The Armory.
Photo by Russell J. Young/Courtesy of Portland Center Stage.

Redwood (World Premiere)
Playwright Brittany K. Allen 
Directed by Chip Miller
Choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie
November 1-17
Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 N.W. 11th Ave.

A young Black woman’s relationship with her white boyfriend is upended when her uncle’s exploration of their family’s lineage reveals that her ancestors were enslaved by her boyfriend’s ancestors. Guided by a hip-hop dance class chorus, choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie (choreographer of Instinctual Confidence and Fluidity Of Steel for Oregon Ballet Theater), this American family learns to live and love in a present that’s overpopulated with ghosts.