ArtsWatch Weekly: Berlin stories

Andrea Stolowitz's "Berlin Diaries," world premiere at the ballet, new on stage, Brett Campbell's music picks, lots of links

The corner of culture, art, and politics is a busy intersection these days, when suddenly each seems to have something significant to say about the others, and so Andrea Stolowitz’s new play Berlin Diary, although it deals with events three-quarters of a century ago, also seems very much of the current moment.

Stolowitz, the Portland playwright and Oregon Book Award winner, spent a year in Berlin on a Fulbright scholarship retracing the steps of her “lost” Jewish family, those stuck in the archives after her German Jewish great grandfather escaped to New York City in the late 1930s. Shortly after, he began to keep a journal to pass along to his descendants, and it’s that family book that prompted Stolowitz’s sojourn in Berlin and the construction of this play.

Playwright Andrea Stolowitz, creator of “Berlin Diary.”

The past comes forward in recurring waves, touching futures as they unfold. “It’s not easy to get a Berlin audience to laugh at jokes about the Holocaust,” Lily Kelting of NPR Berlin wrote when Berlin Diary premiered there last October. “But American playwright Andrea Stolowitz manages to do just that in her latest premiere at the English Theater Berlin.” Kelting continues: “She says that writing the play has helped her realize that the guilt of surviving the Holocaust was a secret that ultimately tore her family in the States apart — even generations later.”

Hand2Mouth’s Portland premiere of Berlin Diary opens Saturday and continues through April 30 at CoHo Theatre, with Jonathan Walters directing two fine actors, Erin Leddy and Damon Kupper.




Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Martina Chavez. Photo: James McGrew

Terra. Oregon Ballet Theatre’s newest show features the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s Terra, company premieres of Nacho Duato’s El Naranjo and Jardi Tancat, and Pickett’s Petal. Thursday through April 22, Newmark Theatre.

The Fever. Readers Theatre Rep, the company that does short plays monthly at a bargain price inside Blackfish Gallery, stars Chris Porter in Wallace Shawn’s one-man play about an unnamed traveler struck by fever in a shabby motel in an impoverished country, forced to confront entitlement and privilege. Friday-Saturday only.

Deep End Theater debuts. The women-run, open-to-everyone company celebrates the grand opening of its new space at 211 S.E. 11th Ave. with some stand-up, a little music, and some performance. 7:30-9 p.m. Friday.

Beyond Doom: The Legend of Tuan Mac Cairill. The storyteller Will Hornyak knows how to hold an audience as he spins a tale, and this one involves an Irish monk, a shape-shifting Druid, and … well, let him tell the rest. Final performance 7 p.m. Saturday, First Unitarian Church.

A-Maze-ing: the band works through the maze of life.

A-Maze. Theatre Vertigo, which premiered Rob Handel’s prickly and fascinating I Want To Destroy You a little more than a year ago, opens his A-Maze, which was workshopped at Portland Center Stage’s JAW festival of new works in 2010. This one involves a teen girl recreating her identity after eight years as a hostage in a basement; a band figuring out what’s next after rehab and a hit song; and an artist whose 15,000-page comic book inspires a cult following. Friday through May 13 in the Shoebox Theatre.

Manifesto. An all-women team delivers excerpts from the 150-page manifesto of Isla Vista mass killer Elliot Rodger in a theatrical experiment to prompt discussion about misogyny and its effect on everyone’s lives. Rodger killed six people and wounded 14 others before taking his own life in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Saturday through April 23.

How Now, Dow Jones. Ron Daum’s innovative Lost Treasures Collection, which brings scaled-down concert/cabaret versions of classic but semi-forgotten Broadway musicals to Lakewood Theatre’s Side Door Stage, takes a look at Wall Street in this 1967 comedy with a score by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, and book by the puckish Max Shulman. As one of the show’s tunes notes, They Don’t Make ’em Like That Anymore. Three performances, Friday-Saturday.





Oregonophony: Works Inspired by the Sounds of Oregon. In this latest in a string of inventive and enticing projects, the ever-intrepid Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble selected five composers, emerging and veteran, from around the state (Jim Olsen, Jessika Smith, Eddie Bond, Sam Hunt, and Andrew Endres) to create new music for 12-member jazz ensemble incorporating field recordings of Oregon sounds such as trains, the wind in the Columbia River Gorge, a rainy day at a Portland park, a bicycle ride through the neighborhoods of Eugene, and rumblings of the Portland bridges. The composers will be there to chat with audience members about their work. Thursday at Willamette University, Rogers Hall, Salem; Saturday at Fremont Theater, Portland.

Eugene Symphony. The orchestra’s performance of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust with the symphony chorus and vocal trio led by Sasha Cook is enhanced by digital projections from Harmonic Laboratory. Thursday, Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.

FearNoMusic. Following the path of fellow Portland native and FNM artistic director Kenji Bunch, composer Ryan Francis recently returned to his native Portland after winning acclaim in New York’s formidable new music scene. At Bunch’s invitation, Francis curated this show featuring his own Pocket Studies, a cycle of compositions based around a calculator-sized series of synthesizers and collaborative composition, inspired by collective animal behavior, with rock star composer/singer/violinist Emily Wells, who moved in the opposite direction, from PDX to BKLN, around the same time. Friday, The Old Church.

Sexmob. Composer and slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein’s acclaimed New York jazz quartet (including the great drummer Kenny Wollesen) returns to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a splendid, stylistically diverse (“from parlor-esque jazz rumba… to Sun Ra-style exotica,” writes NPR and former New York Times jazz writer Nate Chinen) and often surprisingly subtle new album, Cultural Capital, its first of all-Bernstein compositions. Friday at Whirled Pies, Eugene, Saturday at Star Theater, Portland.

The Shedd Vocal Arts Festival. The annual event includes a community vocal workshop (emphasizing shape note singing and body percussion) on Friday; Honey Whiskey Trio singing bluegrass and other folk music on Friday; and a Saturday show that includes the University of Oregon Gospel Singers, Divisi, Mind The Gap, UO Euphonics, and Sforzando. Thursday through Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene.

Lady Sings The Blues: A Tribute to Billie Holiday. More than a dozen singers from various genres perform at the 11th annual tribute to the great jazz chanteuse. Proceeds benefit the 2017 Siren Nation Festival. Saturday, Alberta Rose Theatre.
Väsen. For more than a quarter-century, the Swedish acoustic trio (nyckelharpa, viola, 12-string guitar) has won acclaim for its performances of traditional folk music from Uppland and originals growing out of that sturdy tradition. Stay tuned for Daniel Heila’s ArtsWatch preview. Saturday at Aladdin Theater, Portland; April 20 at The Shedd Institute, Eugene.

Wild Sound: Third Coast Percussion and Glenn Kotche. Two Chicago stalwarts — the Wilco drummer (who composed the score) and 2017 Grammy winning percussion quartet — teamed up with Notre Dame engineering students, audio engineer and video artist to create this fascinating multimedia project that marries field recordings of natural and human sounds (from rain to trains) with live performances on DIY electronic instruments (amplified tabletops, cardboard tubes, bike tires, metal pipes, glass and ceramic objects, workbenches, etc.) that are actually constructed and deconstructed onstage during the performance, with those sounds incorporated into the mix. They’ll probably play other music by Kotche and Steve Reich too. Saturday, Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.

Ten Grands. Michael Alan Harrison’s benefit for his music education foundation features his arrangements of pop, classical, jazz and other music for ten grand pianos played by prominent pianists, plus singers and other guest stars. Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Crossing Borders: A Benefit Concert for BRAVO Youth Orchestras. Portland jazz pianist/composer Darrell Grant joins BRAVO students in his own arrangements of spirituals, blues, and pop tunes for this benefit concert for one of Oregon’s most valuable music organizations, which brings classical music instruction and performance to kids who might not otherwise be able to afford it. The show also features Portland’s excellent Mexican-American singer-songwriter and guitarist Edna Vazquez playing her own music, and French-Canadian tunes from fiddle virtuoso Lisa Ornstein. Saturday, Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University.

Chamber Music Amici. Oregon composer Zachary Gulaboff Davis, who is studying at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory, won the ensemble’s composition contest for his new piano quintet, which the group (most current or former University of Oregon faculty members) perform along with Mozart’s lilting Clarinet Trio and Beethoven’s exuberant Op. 18 No. 3 string quartet. Monday, April 17, Wildish Theatre, Springfield.



ArtsWatch links


What’s jazz got to do with it? Jazz writer and radio DJ Lynn Darroch gets the inside story on pianist/composer Darrell Grant’s concert in the Elliott State Forest on the southern Oregon Coast, and how jazz fits into the fight to keep it open as public land.

Sound of Late: harp attack. Matthew Andrews listens in as the venerable harp gets a jolt of contemporary musical juice.

Random order: a trick of fate. Bob Hicks reviews Portland Actors Conservatory’s sharp and wry production of Steven Dietz’s This Random World.

45th Parallel: critical approach. Terry Ross reviews a contemporary music concert spurred partly by a piece in Oregon ArtsWatch by the young writer/composer Tristan Bliss excoriating a previous 45th Parallel concert, and the group’s subsequent challenge to him to write his own piece if he thought he could do better. He did, and it’s on the program, and Ross found it less interesting than the rest of the show.

45th Parallel: horror show. On the other hand, Maria Choban went to the same performance and declares it a thrill ride of programming: “A few flubs aside, this was one of the funnest horror shows I’ve lived through!”

Snow Queen: taking the stage. Bob Keefer’s seventh and final installment in his series on Eugene Ballet’s long process of bringing the world premiere of Toni Pimble’s story ballet to the stage takes us to opening night.

Miss Anthology teaches the power of comics. Hannah Krafcik goes behind the drawings in a PICA Precipice Fund undertaking to open the world of “sequential art” (aka comics) to young racially, economically, and gender diverse artists.

A theater eases into company status in stages. A.L. Adams writes that Northwest Theatre Workshop is playing the long game with its approach to two new works, Ciji Guerin’s Noisemaker and Wayne Harrel’s Jaffa Gate.

Dave Holland Trio: all about the bass. Angela Allen talks with the jazz star before his recent show in town about, among other things, his care of the late, great, legendary Portland bassist LeRoy Vinnegar’s bass, which Holland has inherited.

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