Fun Home

ArtsWatch’s hit parade 2017

Readers' choice: From a musical fracas to rising stars to a book paradise, a look back on our most read and shared stories of the year

Here at ArtsWatch, it’s flashback time. It’s been a wild year, and the 15 stories that rose to the top level of our most-read list in 2017 aren’t the half of it, by a long shot: In this calendar year alone we’ve published more than 500 stories.

Those stories exist 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.

Here, back for another look, is an all-star squad of stories that clicked big with our readers in the past 12 months:

 


 

Matthew Halls conducted Brahms’s ‘A German Requiem’ at the 2016 Oregon Bach Festival. Photo: Josh Green.

The Shrinking Oregon Bach Festival

In June Tom Manoff, for many years the classical music critic for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, looked at the severe drop in attendance and cutbacks in programming at the premiere Eugene music festival. He summarized: “Thinking ahead, I ask: If this year’s schedule portends the future, can OBF retain its world-class level? My answer is no.” His essay, which got more hits than any other ArtsWatch story in 2017, got under a lot of people’s skin. But it was prescient, leading to …

Bach Fest: The $90,000 solution. This followup that had the year’s second-highest number of clicks: Bob Hicks’s look at the mess behind the surprise firing of Matthew Halls as the festival’s artistic leader and the University of Oregon’s secretive response to all questions about it.

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DanceWatch Weekly: A very large nutshell

The week in dance wanders from drag to Tiny Dances to solos to a book about older dancers

Two drag performances, a musical based on a graphic novel, a book release party, some solos and not solos, and a fundraiser performance featuring Ten Tiny Dances: your dance weekend in a nutshell.

Jamuna Chiarini

On Thursday night at Performance Works NW in Southeast Portland, dance writer Emmaly Wiederholt and photographer Gregory Bartning will unveil their new book, Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond. A gorgeous, 9×12, hardcover book, Beauty is Experience contains 210 pages of interviews and photos of 54 West Coast dance artists over the age of 50. Out of the 54 artists, 19 are from Portland. The book is for sale on Amazon.com and on Wiederholt’s website, Stance on Dance. I highly recommend checking it out.

Within its pages you will find intimate portraits of Portland dance artists Linda Austin, Susan Banyas, Mike Barber, Gregg Bielemeier, Nancy Davis and Jim Lane, Tracey Durbin, Patrick Gracewood, Jamey Hampton, Laurel and Gene Leverton, Carla Mann, Tere Mathern, Jim McGinn, Josie Moseley, Jayanthi Raman, Eric Skinner, Melissa St. Clair and Carolyn Stuart, plus 35 more dancers from up and down the coast.

Why is this book important? By simply acknowledging dancers over the age of 50, the book subverts the patriarchal dance orthodoxy that says, “younger is better.” Showing everyone, everywhere, how beautiful and amazing dancers are at any age (and that you can’t actually age out of dancing) can change the dance world as we know it and how audiences see dancers. So buy the book, support the cause, subvert patriarchy, and keep dancing.

Performances this week

Portland dancer Mike Barber photographed by Gregory Bartning for his new collaborative book project with Emmaly Wiederholt called Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond.

Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond-Book Launch Party
Emmaly Wiederholt and Gregory Bartning
7 pm September 21
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Avenue
See above.

Drag artist Lahore Vagistan in Lessons in Drag with Lawhore Vagistan. Photo courtesy of Reed College Performing Arts.

Lessons in Drag with Lawhore Vagistan
A Lecture Demonstration by Kareem Khubchandani
Presented by Reed College Performing Arts
6:30 pm September 21
Reed College Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab 128, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
FREE
Combining his research in dance studies, queer nightlife, South Asian diaspora, global queer politics, performance ethnography, critical race studies, masculinity, femininity, and drag, Khubchandani brings to life his drag persona LaWhore Vagistan, “your favorite desi drag aunty,” to enable “conversations about dance cultures, Third World feminisms, globalization, and queer pleasures.”

Kareem holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and is working on a book titled Ishtyle: Improvising Gay South Asian Nightlife, a performance ethnography of gay nightlife spaces in Bangalore and Chicago.

Check out Khubchandani’s interview with by Rajit Singh in 2016 and his music video Sari. You won’t be sorry.

The musical Fun Home featuring actors Aida Valentine as Small Alison, Karsten George as Christian Bechdel, and Theo Curl as John Bechdel at The Armory. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

Fun Home
Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, directed by Chris Coleman
September 16-October 22
Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.
The winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2015, Fun Home, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, allows the audience into the intimate world of the author at three different stages of her life as she tries to make sense of her closeted and distant father, his death, her family, growing up in a funeral home, and coming out as an adult.

Photo of dancer/choreographer Carlyn Hudson. Photo courtesy of Carlny Hudson.

Solos, and Not-Solos…(But Mostly Solos)
Carlyn Hudson
September 22-24
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Avenue
SubRosa Dance Collective co-founder Carlyn Hudson presents her first independent evening of choreographic works, Solos, and Not Solos…(But Mostly Solos). The program includes six solos, a duet, and a quartet that effortlessly slip between contemporary dance styles, ballet and vaudeville, and weave together stories of love, loss, and beauty in whimsical and sometimes not so whimsical ways.

Hudson is originally from New York, attained her BFA from SUNY Purchase, performed with Connecticut Ballet and co-founded SubRosa Dance Collective in 2011 with Cerrin Lathrop, Jessica Evans, Kailee McMurran, Lena Traenkenschuh, Tia Palomino and Zahra Banzi.

Photo of Wayne Bund by Wayne Bund.

Critical Engagement Series: Wayne Bund / Feyonce
8:30pm September 22
Flock Dance Center in the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave., Studio 4
In this month’s Critical Engagement Series at Flock Dance Center, multidisciplinary artist Wayne Bund presents Feyonce, an evolving performance piece that uses comedy, theater, music, dance and drag to discusses the power of femininity and sass – more succinctly put as “genderfuck,” as Feyonce says in her performance.

The Critical Engagement Series is curated by dance artist Tahni Holt, and “brings together audiences and choreographers in hopes to reveal some of the mystery surrounding the languages around dance and the unique practices of individual choreographers. We start with the question: What does the choreographer need at this particular moment in their process and how might this also serve the wider community.”

The Ten Tiny stage used for Ten Tiny Dances establish by Mike Barber in 2002. Photo courtesy of Ten Tiny Dances.

Inspiring Amity: A Ten Tiny Dances Fundraiser for New Expressive Works
5:30 pm September 23
810 SE Belmont (corner of SE 8th & Belmont)
Join Ten Tiny Dances in a performance fundraiser for New Expressive Works (N.E.W.). N.E.W., established in 2013 and directed by Subashini Ganesan, is home to a diverse dance community and provides space and support to contemporary dance and arts of all kinds. DanceWatch featured New Expressive Works in several previous stories which you can read here and here. The evening will be catered by Art Fortuna & Vibrant Table Catering and Division Wines, and will feature performances by Unit Souzou, Natya Leela, members of Obo Addy Legacy Project’s Okropong, Raul Gómez-Rojas (artistic director of Metropolitan Youth Symphony), Oluyinka Akinjiola (artistic director of Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater), Jessica Hightower, Shaun Keylock, Stephanie Lanckton, Ruth Nelson and Luke Matter.

Upcoming Performances

September
September 29-30, Diphylleia Grayi (Skeleton Flower) + Matriarch, Degenerate Art Ensemble and Mizu Desierto, presented by Mizu Desierto and Water In The Desert
September 29-30, Episode III, jin camou, Julia Calabrese, Mary Sutton, Leah Brown, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
September 30, Katha – A Thematic Classical Dance Presentation w/ Live Music, presented by Kalakendra

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DramaWatch Weekly: A test, a lull, lean prose

On Portland stages, it's a week for "Fun Home," Raymond Carver, catching up with "An Octoroon," and checking the horizon

Let there be more than one female character.

Let them talk to each other.

Let them have a conversation that’s less than 100 percent about men.

A.L. Adams

That’s The Bechdel Test, a set of guidelines Graphic Novelist Alison Bechdel sensibly suggested in 1985 as a way to vet narratives for basic fairness. In my theater reviews, I’ve used it—not because it’s a buzzword, I could give a rip—but because when I find myself already bothered by a 2-D plot, applying this test gives me an impartial reason why. #notallmen. See what I did there? Never mind.

Here’s something extraordinary: Alison Bechdel has an autobiographical musical, Fun Home.

What’s more, it’s won a Tony, and I bet it passes the Test. It opens this week at Portland Center Stage at The Armory.

Aida Valentine (left), Karsten George (center), and Theo Curl in “Fun Home.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

Think-piece brinksmen on Bechdel’s level, those whose theories have become common knowledge, rarely produce their own art. Malcolm Gladwell, for instance, rode “The Tipping Point” to the edge, but not to Broadway. Richard Florida, who championed and later renounced “The Creative Class,” never made a musical about it (arguably, The Music Man scooped him). Yet here comes Alison Bechdel—the mind behind the pen that’s pinpointed exactly what was wrong with so many others’ stories—striding into the spotlight* to answer a dare critics-who-are-also-artists hear daily: “Let’s see you try it.”

Okay. Bam. Tony.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: barking mad

Biting into September's shows, Brett Campbell's music picks, Miss Ethnic Non-Specific, West African drumming & dance, more

Here we are in the Dog Days of Summer, and we pretty much know what the phrase means: that hot and often muggy stretch of August that seems to last forever, when the sun saps energy and the whole world seems to lag. But where did the saying come from?

Maybe from the rising of the dog star, Sirius – a period, as Wikipedia describes it, that “Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” Not to mention this week’s Dog Days interloper, the lunar blotting-out of the sun. The story ambles down from Zeus to Achilles, Hector, Seneca, and Pliny, on into the medical lore of the early modern age and even the Age of Reason: The Clavis Calendria of 1813 declares that in the Dog Days “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, Quinto raged with anger, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

It’s their time: “Pierrepont Edward Lacy and His Dog, Gun,” attributed to Milton W. Hopkins, 1835-36, oil on canvas, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

All of which, frankly, has us looking forward to September, which in the cultural world (maybe as a carryover from the traditional school calendar) is the true time of fresh beginnings. Theater seasons begin to kick in. The dance calendar gets busy. The Oregon Symphony gets ready to swing into action again. TBA, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art festival, overtakes the city Sept. 7-17.

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