Tuesday notes: Profile’s new artistic director, Oregon Book Awards, more

The Oregon Book Awards and the announcement of both a new season and a new artistic director at Profile Theatre made for a busy Monday night.

We’ll start with Profile. Jane Unger started the company in 1997, dedicating each season to the work of a single playwright, until this 15th season, which honored ALL of the previous playwrights in one season. The company has always punched above its weight, attracting some of the cream of the city’s theater community to a succession of small performance spaces, most recently Theater! Theatre! on Southeast Belmont.

It would have been easy enough for the company to call it quits when Unger was ready to leave, but instead the company is transitioning to a new artistic director, Adriana Baer, who was the associate artistic director at  San Francisco’s The Cutting Ball Theater (2004-2007), where her productions of No Exit and Woyzek received accolades and awards. She has been working as a freelance director, based in New York, and most recently was Staff Repertory Director for The Acting Company’s 2012 national Shakespeare tour.

Baer with help from Unger will be working on a new season devoted to Athol Fugard, the South African playwright whose plays have examined the personal moral consequences of living through apartheid and its collapse.

Unger’s 15 years at Profile Theatre contain far more “life,” theater and otherwise, than we can possibly hope to contain in a few sentences, and its an important achievement  that she built a platform on which others can express themselves, even without her.

On to the Oregon Book Awards. The least surprising winners were Patrick deWitt’s “The Sisters Brothers,” which was a Booker Prize finalist after all, in the fiction category, and Joe Sacco’s “Footnotes in Gaza,” in the Graphic Literature Category, a new category in the competition. (We agree with Steve Duin that this prize should be awarded every year—the quality and quantity of entries in this category is sufficient, as this year’s finalists proved.)

Graham Salisbury won his sixth Children’s Literature Award (“Calvin Coconut: Hero of Hawaii”); Emily Whitman won in Young Adult Literature (“Wildwing”); Kenneth J. Ruoff won in General Nonfiction (“Imperial Japan at Its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2600th Anniversary”); Gary Estreich won for Creative Nonfiction (“The Shape of the Eye: Down Syndrome, Family, and the Stories We Inherit”); Carl Adamshick won for Poetry (“Curses and Wishes”); Lidia Yuknavitch won the Readers Choice Award (“The Chronology of Water”); and Dr.  Ulrich Hardt received the Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award. There was no playwrighting award this year.

Sarah Jessica Parker to the rescue! King School in Portland is one of eight schools in the nation participating in the Turnaround Arts Initiative, a federal/private program that is experimenting with providing a healthy dose of arts education to schools that need help, and Parker will be one of the helpers. Naturally, this is a program that is close to the heart of ArtsWatch so we’ll be following it closely.

The Eugene Symphony has a new executive director, Scott Freck, and arts reporter (and ArtsWatch contributor) Suzi Steffen interviewed him about his plans for the orchestra.

Suzi Steffen: What about new music, or new formats, to draw in new audiences?

Scott Freck: The whole industry is grappling with it right now. I’ve had the great luck to deal with that [in North Carolina]. First and foremost, the primary driving force is that you have a program balance. You don’t want just things people already know, and you don’t want just things people don’t already know. You want to challenge the audience; you don’t want to drive them away, but you want to keep them hungry.

That goes for concert format as well. That time when you just come in and sit down and listen to a concert straight through might be over. I’m open to exploring what would be right for Eugene. I don’t have preconceived notions to say we’re going to do this or that. I hope to come in and learn about the community, learn what makes [attendance at the Eugene Symphony] stick, and do our best to stay ahead of that curve.

A river-driven science/music project/Flow illustration Nicholas Kirk

Combine river science with hydro-driven musical instruments? Actually, I’m surprised that Portland wasn’t there first. We have a river that needs study and constant monitoring, and we have inventive composers/instrument makers. So, yes, OMSI sits on the river, and, well, it doesn’t take a LOT of imagination….

 

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