oregon shakespeare festival

Live shows & Hunter Biden’s art

ArtsWatch Weekly: Performances break out all over; a presidential son and the art market; a hoop star's big art gift; photo giants; art outdoors

THE GRAND REOPENING CONTINUES, inside, outside, sometimes in a park. After almost a year and a half of coronavirus shutdowns and occasional virtual productions, Oregon’s performing arts world is climbing back on the boards and putting on a show. Several shows, in fact. Here are just a few that might nudge you out of your home bunker and back into the semi-bustling crowd:

  • Westside Shakespeare Festival. Experience Theatre Project is back in Elizabethan action with a free outdoor festival this weekend – Friday-Sunday, July 16-18 – on the south lawn of  Beaverton Library. There’ll be Renaissance dancers, wandering minstrels, a 1591-style cursing contest (!), sword-fighting demonstrations, general Shagspurian frolicking, and performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday of the amusingly irreverent yet oddly affectionate comic theatrical riff The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Beyond the free stuff, you can plop down a few shillings and chow down like Sir John Falstaff and Sir Toby Belch at Saturday’s Queen’s Feast. Later in July and August, the festival’s Complete Works will tour to a trio of Oregon wineries.
     
  • Bag&Baggage goes Elizabethan. Hillsboro’s adventurous theater company gets back into the live-performance saddle by going one step beyond in the Shakespeare sweepstakes with a fresh production of The Complete Works of Willam Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised]! (Note the addition of that [Revised].) The free shows began last week and will continue tonight, July 15, at Shute Park, then Saturday-Sunday at Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, and July 22-25 at Hidden Creek Community Center.
     
  • Ashland swings back into action. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, birth mother of all things Shakespearean in Oregon, is finally back on stage with a live show – but it’s not by Shakespeare. Instead, the reopener in the open-air Allen Elizabethan Theatre is Cheryl L. West’s Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a celebration of the leading civil rights activist and one of the organizers of the Freedom Summer of 1964. The show continues through Oct. 9.
     
  • Lots at The Lot at Zidell Yards. The new outdoor performance spot on Portland’s Southwest Waterfront continues with a round of live shows this weekend: veteran soul outfit Ural Thomas and the Pain on Friday the 16th; the popular Y La Bamba for a pair of shows on Saturday the 17th; Portland Cello Project and the Extreme Cello Summer Dance Party Extravaganza (yes, cellos can be taken to extremes) on Sunday the 18th.
     
  • MOMENTUM & Old Moody Stages. Next Wednesday, July 21, DanceWire kicks off a mini-festival of performances and classes by a broad variety of dancers in a broad variety of styles at Zidell Yards. Check the link for details on who, what, and when: The dancing continues through Saturday, July 24.
     
  • Analog & Vinyl at Broadway Rose. The musical-theater experts at Tigard’s Broadway Rose continue their live production (you can also see it via stream) through Aug. 1 of Analog & Vinyl, an upbeat musical comedy with a twist about a vintage record shop owner who “is obsessed with LPs while hipster Rodeo Girl is obsessed with him,” and the mysterious stranger who drops in on them with a devilish proposition.
Alec Cameron Lugo, Molly Duddlesten, and Jessica Brandes in “Analog & Vinyl” at Broadway Rose Theatre Company. Photo: Mark Daniels

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$1.1 million for poets laureate

ArtsWatch Weekly: Oregon Laureate Anis Mojgani has projects for the money. Plus: Classical gets up close, theater busts out all over, Mosaic, egg art, more.

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY THAT ARTSWATCH GETS TO ANNOUNCE MORE THAN A MILLION DOLLARS GOING TO THE POETS OF AMERICA. Today is one of those days. On Thursday morning the Academy of American Poets announced awards of $1.1 million for the 2021 Poet Laureate Fellowships, “given to honor poets of literary merit appointed to serve in civic positions and to enable them to undertake meaningful, impactful, and innovative projects that engage their fellow residents, including youth, with poetry, helping to address issues important to their communities.” Funding comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. That breaks down to $50,000 each for 23 state or city poets laureate in the United States ($25,000 each for the two poets who share Montana’s laureate position). And Anis Mojgani, Oregon’s poet laureate, is among the award winners.

Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani: $50,000 for projects around the state. Photo: Tristan Paiige

If large sums of money and the quiet pursuit of poetry seem somehow incompatible, consider the words of Dolly Levi, as she famously declares in Hello, Dolly!, the Broadway-musical adaptatation of Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker: “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”

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Vanport Mosaic’s flood of memories

ArtsWatch Weekly: A festival to remember, theater heats up, All Classical's leap forward, whither Europe, Chachalu steps up, more

MONDAY IS MEMORIAL DAY, a national remembering of soldiers who have died while on duty, and this is a week for other meaningful anniversaries, too. Tuesday marked a full year since George Floyd was murdered at the knee of a Minneapolis policeman, setting off national protests, accelerating a nationwide battle over race and cultural and political life, and reverberating through the presidential election and the failed Capitol takeover of January 6.

And Sunday will be the 73rd anniversary of the Vanport Flood, which on May 30, 1948, burst through a a 200-foot section of railroad berm just north of Portland on land where Delta Park and its surrounds now sit. Floodwaters from the Columbia River poured in, inundating the wartime city of Vanport, sweeping away its infrastructure, killing at least 15 people, and leaving 18,500 homeless. It was a sudden cultural reshaping with historic consequences. Built in 1942 to house workers at the Portland and Vancouver Kaiser shipyards and their families, Vanport had a population of 40,000 at its height, making it the second-largest city in Oregon at the time. It was also, for its few years, the most racially and ethnically diverse city in Oregon: Wartime workers came from all over, creating an instant city that looked and acted very differently from the Oregon of its time, and more like the multicultural nation that the United States is becoming in the 21st century.

A few of the faces of Vanport, Oregon’s most racially diverse city before floodwaters washed it away in 1948. Photo: City of Portland Archives

SIX YEARS AGO THE VANPORT MOSAIC FESTIVAL sprang into being, building on the memories of Vanport to expand upon its meanings in contemporary life. Created by Laura Lo Forti and Damaris Webb, it began as a Memorial Day Weekend event at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, with a historical display, play productions, and other events. It’s grown since into a citywide event lasting several weeks in various venues, including online. This year’s festival, which involves about 200 artists, activists, historians, collaborating groups, and others, began Wednesday and continues with both virtual and in-person events through June 30. 

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Derek Chauvin, George Floyd & the art of crisis

ArtsWatch Weekly: A Portland Oscar nod; Dawson Carr's big day; diving into dance; conversation with a laureate; musical BRAVO; fish tales

ON TUESDAY, THE BIGGEST CULTURAL NEWS OF THE WEEK – maybe the biggest since the January 6 insurrection in the nation’s capital – came down. Derek Chauvin, who almost a year ago, as a Minneapolis police officer, pressed the life out of George Floyd with his knee, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. It was a rare case of a police officer being held accountable in the killing of a citizen – even, as with Floyd, of an unarmed citizen – and it seems, at least for now, to have topped off a year and more of intense cultural division. Any other decision by the jury most likely would have set off a firestorm across the nation.

The political and cultural fissures of the past year have pulled the arts & cultural world into the fray, perhaps inevitably: If art reflects its culture, how can it possibly stay uninvolved? In Portland, public statues have come tumbling down and institutions have been under attack: Two men were arrested and charged with smashing another $10,000 or more worth of windows at the frequently targeted Oregon Historical Society during rioting last Friday. The window-smashing and other acts of destruction came during protests against recent national killings of Black citizens by police, and a police killing in Portland’s Lents Park of a man with a history of mental illness.

George Floyd was the focus of a Black Lives Matter mural painted by Emma Berger and others last year at downtown Portland’s Pioneer Place.

In the past year a rapid growth of public protest art has transformed the sides of many buildings in the city and the plywood covering boarded-up storefronts. Across the nation, in arts and cultural organizations large and small, racial equity has become the issue of the day, an overdue conversation in search of action, and an issue that is unlikely to be resolved by a single decision in a single courtroom on a single day.

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The race is on. Ready for live events?

ArtsWatch Weekly: Ready or not, things are opening. Plus Lillian Pitt & Friends, opera breaks the mold, movie time, poetry all over

THE RACE IS ON, as George Jones famously crooned, and if it’s not pride up the backstretch and heartaches goin’ to the inside, as the song’s lyrics breathlessly declare, the stakes may be higher: Can we get the nation and world successfully vaccinated before relaxed safety standards and unchecked viral variants send us back to the starting gate? As warmer months approach, and vaccination rates improve, and people become more restless after more than a year in shutdown, the urge to get out and do things grows stronger – but is it jumping the gun? This week the state reclassified Multnomah and Clackamas counties, with a combined population of more than 1.2 million, from “moderate” to “high risk” for coronavirus. (Washington County, with a population of almost 600,000, maintained its “moderate” status.) The question is vital and controversial, and it goes beyond schools and workplaces and houses of worship and even a weekend at the coast. It has a deep and direct impact on cultural life, too.

Young blues phenom Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, from Clarksdale, Mississippi, had the crowd roaring at the 2019 Waterfront Blues Festival. The festival, a Portland July 4 Weekend tradition, was canceled in 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions but will return in July 2021 at the new Lot at Zidell Yards, south of its usual sprawling location on the downtown waterfront. This year’s acts have not yet been announced, and crowd size will be controlled. Photo: Joe Cantrell

Things are stirring. Restaurants have opened for indoor dining. Even theater, beyond the Covid-special videotaped virtual version, is taking tentative steps. Portland’s Triangle Productions has just gone into rehearsal for Joe DiPietro’s four-performer throwback comedy Clever Little Lies, with plans to open to a live audience on May 6, and it could be just the sort of nostalgic escapism that cooped-up audiences will be craving. Movie theaters are reopening (see Marc Mohan’s “Streamers” column, linked below). A consortium of Oregon large-event venues, meanwhile, has written Gov. Kate Brown pushing for guidelines and permission to reopen, arguing that they know how to control crowds and should be part of the decision-making process. The letter includes about fifty signees, ranging from the Pendleton Round-Up to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Sisters Folk Festival, and the Portland and Eugene symphonic orchestras.

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Rebuilding a State of the Arts

ArtsWatch Weekly: All around Oregon, the cultural Covid freeze of 2020 begins to thaw. Will it continue?

WE’RE LIVING IN CURIOUS TIMES. Things thaw, things freeze up again. Things close, things open. Vaccines are available, but good luck getting a shot (let alone two). One day it’s snow, the next day it’s spring. People stay home, people flock to reopened restaurants. Schools start up, state Senate Republicans walk out. The national death count soars above half a million as rates of infection taper off. And, as I type this late Wednesday morning, here comes the sun. (Update Thursday morning: There it goes again.)

Here, too, comes a gradual revival of Oregon’s cultural life, in greater Portland and, hearteningly, around the state. Sometimes things look almost the way they used to look. Sometimes everything’s virtual: art exhibitions viewed online; concerts streamed from musicians’ living rooms to listeners’ living rooms; dance and theater via Vimeo or Zoom. Sometimes it’s a hybrid of virtual and carefully spaced live action. And more and more, things are beginning to happen in real space and real time, although with heightened restrictions on distancing, audience size (think small), and safety precautions (think masks and more).

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Virginia Darcé (born Portland, Oregon, 1910; died Los Angeles, California, 1985), “The
Market,” 1938, tempera on board, 22 ½ x 30 ½ inches, Portland Art Museum, Portland,
Oregon, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Collection, US General Services Administration, New
Deal Art Project, L45.3.2
Marwin Begaye (Diné, born 1970), “Columbia River Custodian,” 2018, ed. 18, eight-color lithograph, 28.25 x 22.25 inches, collection of the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, CSP18-101.

In Salem, the big news of the week is that the Hallie Ford Museum of Art reopens for visitors today – Thursday, Feb. 25 – with a particularly attractive lineup of exhibits (and virtual online tours on its web site if you can’t or won’t visit in person). It’s not entirely like the old days: You can’t just walk up and buy a ticket. The number of people inside the museum at any one time will be limited, and you’ll have to make a reservation from the museum web site (link above) for timed entry. But the museum will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, giving you plenty of options.

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Ashland’s season to shake it up

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival meets the times with a hybrid season of new and old: plays on video now, maybe live onstage later

Seasons change, as one of nature’s great truisms holds. In a sense, seasons also are about change, shaped by, yet also initiating, cycles of piecemeal progression and eternal return. 

So it all is, so to speak, for the recently announced 2021 season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Attempting a nimble and multifaceted response to the ongoing crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on the public gatherings that help define theater, OSF will roll out a slate of productions – both on stage and on digital video – that marks big changes from Ashland traditions and also is very much subject to change.

“Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!” cries Mark Antony (Jordan Barbour) over the slain Julius Caesar (Armando Durán). The 2017 Ashland production returns via video in 2021. Photo: Jenny Graham

The new season, OSF’s first to combine its expanding digital platform, called O!, with live performances on the Ashland campus, begins March 1 with, well, a re-run. A video capture of the powerful 2017 production of Julius Caesar – directed by Shana Cooper and starring Armando Duran, Danforth Comins and Rodney Gardiner — does keep with the tradition of starting each season with the festival’s namesake playwright. Two other recent hits, Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Manahatta, which contrasts Native American lives across centuries, and Snow in Midsummer, a modern ghost story based on a classical Chinese drama, complete the spring offerings. The streaming schedule, however, essentially serves up one show per month from March through May; you won’t be able to binge watch them all in an attempt to replicate an Ashland opening weekend.

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