Raymond Carver

Profiles & Conversations 2017

From poets to painters to dancers to actors to musicians, 21 tales from ArtsWatch on the people who make the art and why they do it

Art is a whole lot of things, but at its core it’s about people, and how they see life, and how they make a life, and how they get along or struggle with the mysteries of existence. That includes, of course, the artists themselves, whose stories and skills are central to the premise. In 2017 ArtsWatch’s writers have sat down with a lot of artists – painters, actors, dancers and choreographers, poets, music-makers – and listened as they spun out their tales.

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Here are 21 stories from 2017 about Oregon artists and artists who’ve come here to do their work:

 


 

Erik Skinner. Photo: Michael Shay

Eric Skinner’s happy landing

Jan. 18: “On the afternoon that Snowpocalypse struck Portland, Eric Skinner walked into the lobby at BodyVox Dance Center after a morning in the studio and settled easily onto one of the long couches in the corner. As always he looked trim and taut: small but strong and tough, with a body fat index down somewhere around absolute zero. If anyone looks like a dancer, Skinner does. Even in repose he seems all about movement: you get the sense he might spring up suddenly like a Jumping Jack on those long lean muscles and bounce somewhere, anywhere, just for the sake of bouncing.” In January, after 30 years on Portland stages, Skinner was getting ready to retire from BodyVox – but not from dance, he told Bob Hicks.

 


 

Les Watanabe in ‘Sojourn’ by Donald McKayle, Inner City Repertory Company. Photographed by Martha Swope in New York. 1972. Photo courtesy of Les Watanabe

Les Watanabe on Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovich, Donald McKayle and his life in dance

Jan. 20: In a wide-ranging Q&A interview, Jamuna Chiarini hears a lot of modern-dance history from Watanabe, who was in the thick of it and now teaches at Western Oregon University:

“During Alvin Ailey’s CBS rehearsals, Lar Lubovitch was teaching in the next studio. I ran into him at the drinking fountain. While living in L.A., I had read articles about him in Dance Magazine. So while he was stooped over drinking, I exclaimed, ‘Lar Lubovitch! I’ve read all about you!’

“At that point he stood up facing me wiping his mouth and looking incredulous like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I then asked, ‘Do you ever have auditions? I would love to dance with you.’

“’Are you dancing now?’ he asked.

“’Yes, with Alvin Ailey next door, but it is only for five weeks.’

“’Where do you take class?’ Lar asked. ‘At Maggie Black’s,’ I answered. ‘Good. Let’s meet at her first class. Then you can rush back to rehearsal. See you next week.’”

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DramaWatch Weekly: Bedsheets and Bongos

Start clicking those links: It's time to play The YouTube Theater Research Game

You play, I play, we all on-the-sly play …The YouTube Theater Research Game!

A.L. Adams

Admit it, Kids: When you see that a show is starring So-and-So, or that it’s from Such-and-Such company, you probably can’t slap those names in a search window fast enough. What comes up may or may not be relevant to their latest work. It may or may not be what their PR people would prefer to show you. But it comes up in a flash, and it at least answers a few who-and-whats, and soon you’re making a slightly more informed showgoing decision.

Shall we?

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Rose City Shakespeare actors append “Lysistrata” in rehearsal. Photo: Jeremy Gardels

The Rose City Shakespeare Company’s current offering at Alberta Rose promises “burlesque, aerial dance and giant paper maché dongs,” but all they brought to this rehearsal video were some bedsheets and bongos. Is Lysistrata holding out on us? Ah. Right. I see what they did there.

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I thought maybe serial theater had died off with Action/Adventure…but no [cue Frankenstein organ music]…IT’S ALIIIIVE! In this video, it sounds like Theatre Vertigo is reanimating the form for its October offering, Joel Patrick Durham’s Nesting: Vacancy. Three things I like about this: 1) Joel Patrick Durham’s been acting-about-town and seems to have a steady hand. 2) Watching several episodes of a play is the perfect TV/theater hybrid. 3) The cast has some strong players and seems gung-ho. One caution: Vertigo does not mess around when they cry “horror.” They’ve mounted some horror there before (in their tiny Shoebox Theatre space) that legit made me want to kill or die. Hopefully in this series, the horror will be cut with the hint of comedy that Durham’s general demeanor suggests.

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Triangle’s “Pageant” crowd at Darcelle XV Showplace

Triangle Productions, in cooperation with Darcelle XV, has uploaded a glittering preview video of their current drag-stravagant audience-interactive musical, Pageant. Going a little off-script, here’s a profile of one of the show’s most charismatic queens, Poison Waters.

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Finally, let’s misbehave and watch a video that PR people would deem flagrantly off-topic, but I’d say permanently pertains to the career of Portland actor Isaac Lamb. Lamb stars in Every Brilliant Thing, which opens at The Armory this Friday, but never mind that. He also perma-stars on the internet as a trailblazer of The Lip Sync Performance Proposal. Enjoy.

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Oh! And ICYMI:

Barry Johnson caught Imago’s take on Raymond Carver, Human Noise, which runs one more weekend, and Brett Campbell got the last word on Bag&Baggage’s Spinning Into Butter, which just closed.

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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Tess Gallagher on Raymond Carver

The celebrated poet, who'll be in Portland for Imago's Carver stage adaptation "Human Noise," talks about life with and after Carver

It’s difficult to imagine a question that has not been asked of the poet, short story writer, essayist, playwright and teacher Tess Gallagher. As one-half of the legendary literary partnership with the revered, Oregon-born poet and short story writer, Raymond Carver, there was a time when Gallagher, well-published on her own, was one of the world’s most interviewed artists. If you’re familiar with her writing, you are not surprised.

Gallagher’s been generating poetry and prose for decades that shocks and moves with its vast range of expression. All of her work, even the most emotionally raw, seems to be guided by a steadfast intelligence and relentlessly penetrating vision.

Tess Gallagher: writing a life.

She’s published and taught extensively while also being the devoted steward of Carver’s work since he died in 1988. After reading Gallagher’s Moon Crossing Bridge and seeing the invaluable Carver collections that Gallagher shepherded to posthumous publication, one gets a sense that the communication between the two never really stopped.

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