Kate DiCamillo

ArtsWatch Weekly: diving for pearls

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

A pop singer, an artist, a director of commercials, a composer, a trio of designer/landscape architects, a songwriter, a violinist and physical therapist, an orchestra conductor, a celebrity journalist, and a bunch of dancers walk into a studio.

There are many ways to think about Pearl Dive Project, which opens Thursday evening at BodyVox, but it doesn’t involve a bartender, and it’s no joke. It is a gamble, and an experiment – a roll of the dice that tests the definitions of amateur and professional and the elasticity of the creative mind. Can a person who’s successful in one creative discipline transfer that success to a totally different form, one in which she or he has little or no experience? Or is that like trusting a top-tier dentist to do a heart transplant?

BodyVox's Jamey Hampton (left) and songwriter/musician Jeremy Wilson (center), novice choreographer, in a February rehearsal for "Pearl Dive Project." Photo © Blaine Truitt Covert

BodyVox’s Jamey Hampton (left) and songwriter/musician Jeremy Wilson (center), novice choreographer, in a February rehearsal for “Pearl Dive Project.” Photo © Blaine Truitt Covert

Or a pop singer to create a dance? Because that’s what the pop singer – China Forbes of Pink Martini, along with several other creative Portlanders, among them Oregon Symphony conductor Carlos Kalmar, artist Malia Jensen, songwriter Jeremy Wilson, and writer Byron Beck – are doing in Pearl Dive Project. Not a one of them has been a dancer, and yet, they’re creating choreography for BodyVox’s highly trained professional dancers to perform. “What will happen when artists and innovators working at the peak of their profession immerse themselves in a craft they’ve never considered?,” the company asks. What, indeed? You can find out during a run that continues through April 23.

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Rabbit, run: a miraculous tale

Oregon Children's Theatre's "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" follows a marvelous picaresque path

In the beginning a little girl lived in a house on Egypt Street. One day her grandmother gave her a very fine rabbit, almost three feet tall, made mostly of china, with real rabbit fur for its ears. Those of you who’ve read Kate DiCamillo’s novel The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane know what comes next: As fine as Edward Tulane looked (for that was the toy rabbit’s name), he was not a very nice rabbit. He was, in fact, exceedingly vain and careless of other creatures’ feelings, although the little girl showered him with love.

You might say that Edward was selfish and irritating. You might say he was callous, even cruel. You might also ask, why, then, should we care? And that’s where at least a part of the miracle comes in. Because, as things turn out, we do. We care very much.

Luster, Edward in the chair, Newton: a battle of wills. Photo: Owen Carey

Luster, Edward in the chair, Newton: a battle of wills. Photo: Owen Carey

A remarkable emotional alchemy is taking place through April 24 inside Portland’s intimate Dolores Winningstad Theatre, which is hosting a swift and smart and breathless stage version of DiCamillo’s 2006 tale, adapted for a small and nimble cast by Dwayne Hartford. Oregon Children’s Theatre’s new production, under Marcella Crowson’s direction and performed on a spare and clever trap-door set designed by Polly Robbins, is very, very fine: a deft picaresque that somehow gives this story of a rather silly rabbit a good deal of humor and joy and suspense and yearning, and an altogether unexpected (for me, at any rate) emotional depth.

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