ArtsWatch Weekly: farewell jazz fest, young lovers, noblesse oblige

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Well, that was quite a week, wasn’t it?

  • We saw Downton Abbey off to that great fox hunt in the sky, with a whizbang final episode that brought babies and pairings-off tumbling into the untaped future and put a stamp on the age of noblesse oblige. All in all it was, we noted (quoting the most excellent Dowager Countess Maggie Smith, for so we tend to think of her), “happy enough.”
  • We wrapped up the latest PDX Jazz Festival, which was dedicated to John Coltrane and his fellow reed players but was at least as notable, Angela Allen writes, for the excellence of its pianists. Allen praised the likes of sax virtuosos Nicole Glover, Sonny Fortune, Ravi Coltrane, and others, then added: “The keyboardists, though, stole my heart — not only the soloists but the sidemen who played in trios and quartets, duos and big bands, alongside the headliners.” The esteemed jazz journalist Doug Ramsey was in town for the festivities, too, and filed several reviews on his excellent site Rifftides, which we’ve reprinted with his permission here. Also, do take a gander at Mark Sheldon’s wonderful photos accompanying both stories of musical moments frozen in time, including this one, of 77-year-old sound explorer Charles Lloyd:
Charles Lloyd © 2016 Mark Sheldon

Charles Lloyd © 2016 Mark Sheldon

  • And we took a multifaceted look at Oregon Ballet Theatre’s newly announced season and its just-closed revival of James Canfield’s Romeo and Juliet, a long-missing company cornerstone: Canfield, OBT’s founding artistic director, brought it into the company with him when OBT was formed in 1990, but until this production it hadn’t been seen onstage here in more than fifteen years. First, in Sweet tragedy: rehearsing ‘R&J’, Martha Ullman West delves into the rehearsal hall and the ballet world’s history with Shakespeare’s teenage tragedy. Then, in Ballet masters of the 21st century, dance journalist and former dancer Gavin Larsen follows OBT’s ballet masters Lisa Kipp and Jeff Stanton as they prepare the company’s dancers for the ballet. Finally, in A fresh ‘R&J,’ a fling with the giants, Ullman West talks about OBT’s just-announced 2016-17 season (called Giants) and reviews the performance of R&J, in which she finds Ansa Deguchi revelatory as Juliet.

Michael Linsmeier as Mrecutio in James Canfield's "Romeo and Juliet." Photo: Jingzi Zhao

Michael Linsmeier as Mrecutio in James Canfield’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo: Jingzi Zhao



A few things to note on the coming week’s calendar:

  • We Are Proud To Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. The show with probably the longest title of the season is also one of the season’s most eagerly anticipated. Kevin Jones directs Jackie Sibblies Drury’s tale of an acting company preparing a play about colonial genocide, and the cast – Vin Shambry, Joshua Weinstein, Chantal DeGroat, Chris Harder, Joseph Gibson, Rebecca James Ridenour – looks first-rate. Opens Saturday at Artists Rep.
  • Consonaire ChoraleComposer Rachel Brandewein, a harpist and a string quartet join the singers in Agnus Dei (the choral version of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings), a new Shakespeare sonnet setting by Oregon composer Jason Heald, contemporary music by the young Norwegian American choral composer Ola Gjeilo, New Mexico composer Kevin Memley, and the great medieval poet/composer/abbess Hildegard of Bingen’s words arranged by Northwest native Jason Michael Saunders. Saturday, First Congregational United Church of Christ.
  • Chicago. The big, brassy Kander & Ebb jazz age musical takes a spin around the Brunish Theatre of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts in a fresh production by the Metropolitan Community Theatre Project. Song, dance, murder, Roxie Hart, and all that jazz: It’s so American! Opens Friday.
  • Luck of the Irish. Portland Story Theater gets a jump on St. Patrick’s Day with this evening of, in the company’s words, “lively stories, rowdy songs, a dash of cheeky Irish humor, and fabulous raffle prizes.” Host will be singer and dancer Brian O’Hairt, who speaks Irish Gaelic fluently. Saturday at Alberta Abbey.



You might have noticed (we certainly hope you have) that with the addition of  the estimable Marc Mohan to our group of writers, we’ve amped up our coverage of the world of cinema and the movies. Portland loves not just mainstream flicks, although blockbusters tend to do just fine here, but also foreign films, documentaries, experimental stuff, and the classics. We’re keeping an eye on ’em. Here’s what we’ve come up with in the past week:

  • Masters of Cinematography: more than pretty pictures. Mohan takes a close look at the Hollywood Theatre’s series of visual masterworks from the 1960s and ’70s, including McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Godfather, Days of Heaven, Seconds, and Target. They shoot movies, don’t they?
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: what’s up with Tina Fey? Kourtney Parenteau takes in Fey’s odd blend of comedy and war drama and walks out unimpressed: it “can’t justify its shifts,” she writes, “because it falls short in both genres it’s attempting to straddle.”
  • Chimes at Midnight and what makes a “great” film. Orson Welles’ neglected Shakespearean masterpiece, Mohan writes, is gloriously messy art. And it’s being shown at Cinema 21.
  • Travels with Wim: a baker’s dozen of Wenders wonders. The Northwest Film Center is in the midst (through April 3) of a monthlong immersion in the movies of the great German director, and Mohan dives deep into the Wenders waters.
  • BAM! POWFest strikes a blow for gender equality in filmmaking. “In a year when attention has been drawn to the continuing lack of diversity in the film industry like never before,” Mohan writes, “an event like the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival would seem more vital and necessary than ever.” The stories last weekend’s festival, he adds, “come fast and fairly furious.”
Orson Welles as Falstaff in "Chimes at Midnight."

Orson Welles as Falstaff in “Chimes at Midnight.”



ArtsWatch links

Sexts, lies, and videotape. Boom Arts’ American premiere of the Indian play Free Outgoing, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes, plunges into the aftermath of a teenage sex tape that hits the Internet, highlighting the uncomfortable axis of privacy and technology.

Memories are made for this. Patrick Collier muses on the role of memory and personal experience in the way we think about art: simply seeing the online images for Jonathan Berger’s installation A Future Life, he writes, “set off a cascade of memories from my young adulthood and family history, and I wanted to tell those stories. The art struck a nerve.”

Minimalism and Millennials: generation gap? Millennial music/composer Tristan Bliss went to Third Angle’s performance of Steve Reich’s Sextet and discovered himself feeling manipulated by the music: “There’s been a shifting of the aesthetic tide towards the unpredictable and abrasively violent: Something which we [millennials] perceive as a more honest representation of the world events we have been unsuccessfully sheltered from.”

Bad is good: the cat’s meow. Christa Morletti McIntyre takes in the world premiere of Bad Kitty at Oregon Children’s Theatre and declares it purrty good.

Siren songs: divas descend on Oregon. The weather report is calling for a rain – or is that reign?– of talented recitalists, and Jeff Winslow, for one, is excited. Let him count the ways.

Ton Koopman and Tini Mathot, playing together. The legendary Baroque interpreter Ton Koopman, Portland Baroque Orchestra’s original leader, was back in town from The Netherlands over the weekend to play a concert with harpsichordist Mathot, who is his wife. Angela Allen writes about what makes them special.

Stupid Bird, damned love. Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird at Portland Center Stage, I write, is a “prickly, passionate, speech-spouting, erratic, profanity-laced, and sometimes very funny contemporary riff” on Chekhov’s The Seagull.

The boys in the Stupid Bird band: Charles Leggett, Ian Holcomb, Darius Pierce. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/

The boys in the Stupid Bird band: Charles Leggett, Ian Holcomb, Darius Pierce. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.


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