Janice Scroggins

Drammy Awards and Janice Scroggins benefit tonight; Oregon at the Tonys

With two major events in Portland, it's a Monday night to step out

No staying home Monday: It’s a big night out.

Drammy host Isaac Lamb, from his "Defending the Caveman" days. Photo: Jenni Girtman

Drammy host Isaac Lamb, from his “Defending the Caveman” days. Photo: Jenni Girtman

The 36th annual Drammy Awards, celebrating the best in Portland’s theater during the past season, take over the Crystal Ballroom (1332 West Burnside Street) starting at 6 o’clock, with the ceremony at 7 p.m. Actor Isaac Lamb will be master of ceremonies, and he promises surprises. This is traditionally the biggest theater bash of the year in Portland, and it’s open to everyone: free at the door, buy your own drinks. This year, for the first time in several years, the Drammy jurists are choosing a single winner in each category from a pre-announced list of finalists (see the nominees on the Drammy link above), making the awards more in the tradition of the Oscars and Tonys.

For a taste of what’s to come, read Marty Hughley’s profile for ArtsWatch of Grant Turner, who’ll be receiving this year’s Special Achievement Award.

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Janice Scroggins: a joyful noise in her memory.

Janice Scroggins: a joyful noise in her memory.

Another big event tonight is For the Love of Janice: An All-Star Benefit for the Family of Janice Scrogginsstarting at 7 p.m.  (doors open at 6) at the Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 Northeast Alberta Street. The concert’s sold out, demonstrating both the quality of the lineup and the love and respect Portlanders feel for Scroggins, the pianist and keyboardist who’s been a leading figure in the city’s blues, jazz, and other scenes for decades, died in late May of a heart attack. She was 58. You can read ArtsWatch’s remembrance here. Tonight’s benefit will feature a mighty gathering of musical talent, people who were Janice’s friends and colleagues: Curtis Salgado, Norman Sylvester, Julianne Johnson, Mary Flower, Linda Hornbuckle, Thara Memory, Lyndee Mah, Duffy Bishop, Lloyd Jones, Patrick Lamb, Michael Allen Harrison, Peter Damman, Terry Robb, Reggie Houston … the list goes on and on.

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Congratulations, meanwhile, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for last night’s Tony Award wins for best play for Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, and best actor for Bryan Cranston, who stars in All the Way as Lyndon Baines Johnson. Festival actor Jack Willis originated the role when Schenkkan’s play premiered in Ashland as an OSF commission in 2012. David Stabler has the scoop on OregonLive.

Congrats, also, to the Portland producing team of Brisa Trinchero and Corey Brunish, whose shows pulled in 22 Tony nominations and went home with six, scoring with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and others. Here’s the complete list of winners and nominees, via The Hollywood Reporter.

Janice Scroggins: rest in peace

The great Portland jazz and blues pianist dies of an apparent heart attack

The last time I saw Janice Scroggins she was playing the blues. It was a Monday night, March 3 of this year, at the regional finals of the August Wilson Monologue Competition on the Main Stage at Portland Center Stage. While the competition judges were deliberating and getting ready to send three of the 15 high-school contestants on to the national finals in New York, the singer Marilyn Keller, in a long blues-diva gown reminiscent of the imperial title character’s in Wilson’s great play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, was singing from the bottom of her soul. And Janice, with that trademark energetic thump that had a little bit of Oklahoma and a little bit of Oakland and a little bit of gospel and a whole river of American musical history in it, was driving the songs with rolling clarity from the piano bench.

Most people in the crowd were stretching their legs or chatting or taking a break in the lobby or just too excited about the competition to pay much attention. But for anyone who cared to actually listen, there it was: the sound of a nation, genuine and jumpy and unalloyed, the rhythm and passion that also suffused Wilson’s great dramas of African American life, piercing the fog of corporate-pop and playing down to the bones. Janice loved doing that.

Janice Scroggins, in a photo from her Facebook page.

Janice Scroggins, in a photo from her Facebook page.

Janice Scroggins died on Tuesday evening, May 27, 2014, in Portland, apparently of a heart attack. She was 58. Her death came as a shock: She had been as active as ever on the music scene, and just last year had been inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. Oregon Music News announced her death, but not before word already had begun racing around social media.

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