Post5

ArtsWatch Weekly: tweet charity

"Hamilton" and Trump's tweets, artists in crisis, new holiday shows, shakeups at Disjecta and Post5, Moses(es) and more

And then he tweeted. The president-elect of these United States is, of course, a thumbmeister of prodigious proclivity, hurling 140-character putdowns and opinions into the Twittersphere with disruptive glee and strategical savvy. It’s a brave new political world out there, and Donald Trump has shown a mastery of its evolving mechanics.

This particular tweet, as most any arts follower knows by now, was a finger-wagging at the cast and creators of the Broadway musical hit Hamilton, a show that Vice President-elect Mike Pence had attended, and where he became the recipient of a post-show plea from the stage to recognize and support the American diversity that the people on the stage represented. It was a highly unusual shout-out, but these are highly unusual times, and Pence, who has a history of hardline opposition to LGBTQ rights (he is even widely believed to have supported shock therapy to “cure” people of their homosexuality, though Snopes.com says that’s not entirely true) seemed a highly unusual attendee at a Broadway musical, an art form suffused with gay culture.

Teddy Roosevelt advocated the "bully pulpit." Donald Trump prefers Twitter.

Teddy Roosevelt advocated the “bully pulpit.” Donald Trump prefers Twitter.

Was the Hamilton cast rude or presumptuous? Maybe, although its spokesman spoke softly and carried only a verbal stick, lecturing in the politest of tones. He implored the audience not to boo Pence, and yet boo it did, which in its own way is intriguing, because a theater full of people who can afford tickets to the highest-priced show on Broadway is hardly a cross-sampling of the downtrodden.

Pence, asked later about the incident, said he wasn’t bothered by it, and the pushback was “what freedom sounds like.”

Trump was not so mild. “The theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” tweeted the man who tosses out insults with abandon and does not apologize.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost: on Post5’s uncertain future

The scrappy theater company hits a crossroads, with no artistic leadership, the loss of its nonprofit status, and no shows in the immediate future

From its beginnings in 2011, Post5 Theatre has had its fingers on a vital part of Portland’s pulse. The often packed houses have swayed between a rowdy fellowship and an emotional entourage, depending on the comedy or tragedy on stage. And it’s done it at bargain ticket prices, allowing it to develop a younger and broader audience than many of the city’s higher-budget companies.

Now all of that is endangered, and the company’s survival is in question: there will be no new productions at least through the first few months of 2017. The leadership triumvirate of artistic directors Paul Angelo, Rusty Tennant and Patrick Walsh resigned early this month after announcing the company had lost its Sellwood district home and revealing that it had also lost its vital 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which is crucial for fundraising and tax purposes. The company’s board expects Post5 to regain its nonprofit standing. But even with that, it now faces the difficulty and expense of finding a new performing space in a tight real-estate market. And it has no artistic leadership.

Bill Cain's "Equivocation," directed by Paul Angelo and featuring Todd Van Voris (left) and Keith Cable, was a hit for Post5 in September 2015. Russell J Young photo

Bill Cain’s “Equivocation,” directed by Paul Angelo and featuring Todd Van Voris (left) and Keith Cable, was a hit for Post5 in September 2015. Russell J Young photo

Earlier this year in an interview with Willamette Week, Angelo, Tennant and Walsh commented on the changes taking place at Post5 under their leadership after months of silence to the press and ticket buyers. The trio’s artistic direction was a departure from that of founders Ty and Cassandra Boice, who had come to embody what the company was about. Ty was a handsome leading man and deft comic actor with a devoted following. Cassandra was a smart and canny director with deep comic chops. Together they worked long and hard and set the tone for what became known as a scrappy, creatively populist company that was counted on for, among other things, smooth and accessibly populist Shakespeare productions. When they left, Post5’s image and reality seemed bound to change.

The new leadership group told Willamette Week that the next productions’ budgets would be conservative, but they hoped to create more sophisticated and edgier approaches to plays. The artistic directors also mentioned they’d been dealing with a few unexpected struggles, but felt they were now contained. As one of them told WW, “Every theater here is one big mistake from going under.”

After seven productions in the current season, the trio tendered their resignations on Nov. 1. Things were not, to put it mildly, as they had expected. With three months of back rent due, Post5 was about to lose its space. Angelo directed his last play there, Coyote on a Fence. The Post5 board members hustled to find spaces for their final production of the season, company member Philip J. Berns’ unique spin on A Christmas Carol. As of today, Nov. 21, the company’s website lists the play as part of its season, but the ticket link says “there are no current dates or times.”

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ArtsWatch Weekly: vote, and other opportunities

Looking back, looking ahead: a week's worth of theater, dance, music, film, and art in and around Portland

After all that feuding and fussing it’s election day, and nothing on this week’s calendar is more important. In Oregon, with its vote-by-mail elections, that means today is last chance, not first chance. Remember, ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday, not just postmarked by today. That means it’s too late to mail your ballot: You’ll need to drop it off. You can do that at your branch library and other designated spots. If you haven’t turned your ballot in yet, stop reading this right now and get ‘er done. If your vote is safely cast, scroll on down and take a look at a few visual reminders that the United States has been doing this for a long time. Except for the Bingham painting, the images come from the Library of Congress’s 2012 book Presidential Campaign Posters: 200 Years of Election Art:

"The County Election," George Caleb Bingham, 1852, oil on canvas, 38 x 52 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum

“The County Election,” George Caleb Bingham, 1852, oil on canvas, 38 x 52 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum

 


 

A FEW THINGS HAPPENING THIS WEEK:

Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. The 43rd edition of the Northwest Film Center’s annual regional showcase runs Thursday through Tuesday at the Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium and Portland State University’s nearby 5th Avenue Cinema and Skype Live Studio. Shorts, features, and documentaries ranging from the battle over water rights to an internet horror tale to life in a modern medieval village.

Epoch. An evening of new dance from Samuel Hobbs (November) of push/FOLD and ArtsWatch dance columnist Jamuna Chiarini (The Kitchen Sink), with music by Hobbs and Lisa DeGrace. Friday and Saturday, BodyVox Dance Center.

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November surprise at Post5

As "Coyote on a Fence" opens, the company is rocked by resignations and the news that it is losing its Sellwood space. (P.S.: the show is good.)

The true drama of Coyote on a Fence, Post5’s newest show, came after the performance: It’ll be the company’s last production in its Sellwood home. What’s more, ArtsWatch has learned, artistic directors Rusty Tennant, Paul Angelo, and Patrick Walsh tendered their resignations on Nov. 1.

While passing the traditional Post5 giving basket, Coyote  lead actor Jeff Gorham told the audience the company had put on some good productions over the last five years, but this would be it in Sellwood. Board member Stefan Feuerherdt said Monday in an email that the company has found other spaces for the last productions of its current season, and will be exploring options for what’s next with Post5. Oregon ArtsWatch will report more as the story unfolds.

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Farewell, Sellwood: Post5 jumps off the fence.

Farewell, Sellwood: Post5 jumps off the fence.

Almost anticlimactically, Coyote on a Fence has a lot going for it, beginning with a Death Row inmate named John Brennan, who has the sort of sensitive intelligence that we often underestimate in our stereotypes about the South. He carries a torch for the English language and its infinite possibility to tell a story with precision and care. His wardrobe is dictated by the times, doing hard time on Death Row. Post5’s Coyote on a Fence is a well-rounded look into prison and the people in its orbit.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Framing Wordstock, and other tall tales

Hitting the books with Portland's literary festival, First Thursday, gamesmanship on the Oregon Trail, coyote on a fence

“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” the movie director Jean-Luc Godard famously said, and that’s as good a prompt as any to remind you that Wordstock, Portland’s annual orgy of all things literary, is coming up Saturday at the Portland Art Museum and other easily walkable venues along the South Park Blocks.

Take a deep breath. The list of writers taking part, local and far-flung, is long, and this is just a few of them: Diana Abu-Jaber, Sherman Alexie, Nicholson Baker, April Baer, David Biespiel, Carrie Brownstein, Peter Ames Carlin, Liz Crain, Monica Drake, Brian Doyle, Zach Dundas, Renée Ahdieh, Rabih Alameddine, Rivka Galchen, Yaa Gyasi, Karen Karbo, Shawn Levy, Gigi Little, Richard Russo, Sallie Tisdale, Colson Whitehead. It’s a veritable library of contemporary writing in the flesh.

Hangin' in the balcony at last year's Wordstock. Photo: Angie Jabine

Hangin’ in the balcony at last year’s Wordstock. Photo: Angie Jabine

Ah, but what if your story doesn’t have an end? I thought of that yesterday, flying home to Portland from the East Coast, when I boarded a connecting flight in Chicago at just about the time the sixth game of the World Series was beginning. The Cubs, of course, were in the thing, for the first time since 1945, and the Cleveland club (itself a longtime also-ran) was threatening to walk away with the rubies. Spirits were high on the plane as Chicagoans, many of them rabid fans, walked on and began to fill the cabin: It was a full flight, with no empty seats.

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Richard III: The shape of a man

Post5's lean and lively approach to Shakespeare's play about power, politics and morality seems made for our time

Our winter of discontent is upon us, judging from midnight presidential campaign Twitter outbursts and anxiety inducing Gallup polls. There is no better time to revisit Shakespeare’s Richard III, then now: the story of a quicksilver-tongued megalomaniac trapped in a “rudely stamped” body who bends and breaks the law.

Post5 theater presents their dysphoria-out-of-order production in a sterile land which hints at a Peronist dictatorship. The women of court are hung up in pin curls and neat tailored suits, with flashy kicks and red lips. The men march and gesture in uniforms befitting a Stalinist purge, except the cuckold Buckingham who wears false regalia satin chested. Political speeches are given by circle flood light to the gleam of an old ribbon mic.

Rusty Tennant and Matt Smith. Greg Parkinson Photography

Rusty Tennant and Matt Smith. Greg Parkinson Photography

This production removes Shakespeare’s history within a tragedy and tragedy of history from the haunting specter of a devil looking man, who according to superstition, must have a soul to match his bearing. Matt Smith’s Richard does not ride us like a saddle into hell. His Richard is not the stuff of official portraits and nightmares, but leans in like the poet Christy Brown- his menacing is smart and rapacious. He wears a constant pain in a struggle to keep his center of gravity which pitches his character into more arrogance. He spins chaos out of the wreckage he creates with a honey coating that traps humans like flies. His solitary comments break out into a sarcastic wit that is like the sharp points of an iron maiden closing. This Richard is a dark deformed soul eaten by the cancer of hate. Smith’s Richard blames his mother and god for deformity and sees his physical frame as a false prison, a punishment without due cause and has lost his sense of reality. He spreads the tyranny of his rage for a simple reason, he was not loved.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Bluebeards, villain kings, black art’s soul

The feminine mystique of "Bluebeard's Castle," Shakespeare's "Richard III," the trouble with Tiger Lily, black art and meaning in America

The naked truth about Bluebeard’s Castle, Béla Bartók’s astounding hour-long opera that the Oregon Symphony performed Saturday through Monday nights, is … well, let Elizabeth Schwartz explain it, in her typically erudite program notes:

“Bartók worked on the opera over the summer of 1911, when he and his wife Márta spent their holiday at a Swiss nudist colony near Zurich. [Librettist Béla] Balázs, who visited the colony that summer, noted in his diary how the industrious Bartók would spend hours in the solarium, wearing nothing but sunglasses, as he worked on the score.”

Viktoia Vizin as Judith, with Chihuly glass, in "Bluebeard's Castle." Photo: Jacob Wade/Oregon Symphony

Viktoria Vizin as Judith, with Chihuly glass, in “Bluebeard’s Castle.” Photo: Jacob Wade/Oregon Symphony

John and Yoko have nothing on that. And in a way, Bartók’s curious compositional strategy made sense: emotional nakedness is essential to the Bluebeard tale as Balázs retold it. The opera has just two singers: the aging, mysteriously private Bluebeard himself, and his new (fourth) bride, Judith, who insists on bringing some sunshine into the castle, and her new marriage, by demanding that Bluebeard open the seven locked doors that hide his secrets. Maybe not the best idea. At a talk Friday night with symphony director Carlos Kalmar, Christopher Mattaliano of Portland Opera, and the Portland Art Museum’s Bran Ferriso (the show’s set included marvelous glass works by Dale Chihuly), stage director Mary Birnbaum talked about Castle as Judith’s quest for knowledge and openness, which Bluebeard is loath to grant, and I’m inclined to agree that it’s really Judith’s story. Contrary to popular opinion, her soul sisters Eve and Pandora seem the heroes of their stories, too, the ones who provide the essential spark of humanness: How can one be fully human without curiosity and the compulsion to learn? Remember: the last bee to escape Pandora’s bonnet was hope.

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