ArtsWatch Weekly: ice, ice, baby

Your guide to staying culturally cool while the heat wave shimmers

As Cole Porter put it in his musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, it’s Too Darn Hot. Maybe not quite, in the words of another musical-theater chestnut, 110 in the Shade. But, well, shading perilously close to it. How hot is it? So hot that the Northwest Film Center’s breezy Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series, which usually screens al fresco atop the parking garage of the Hotel DeLuxe, is moving indoors this week to the cool and comfy Whitsell Auditorium of the Portland Art Museum. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne will be heating up the screen, but not the air temp, on Thursday evening in the 1937 screwball comedy classic The Awful Truth. Museums, as you know, are carefully temperature-controlled to protect the artwork from the elements. Just chill.

As a public service on this hottest week of the year, ArtsWatch Weekly brings you this cooling image by the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, “The Sea of Ice” or “The Polar Sea.” We will not mention the painting’s third alternate title, “The Wreck of Hope,” which refers to the ship crashed among the floes, not the rising temperature. 1823/24. oil on canvas, 50 x 38.1 inches, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany.




First Thursday. Portland’s monthly gallery walk is this week, with most openings on Thursday and a few scattered on other days. Among the many exhibitions opening, we have an eye on veteran historical illusionist Sherrie Wolf’s new show Postcards from Paris, which includes paintings of postcards of paintings in still life settings, at Russo Lee; Sara Siestreem’s new show of paintings equidistant, at Augen; Butters Gallery’s 29th anniversary group exhibit; and Blackfish Gallery’s We the People, a “participatory installation” by thirty Blackfish artists and others.

Sara Siestreem, “August,” 2017; acrylic, charcoal, graphite & pastel on paper;
22.5 x 30 inches. Augen Gallery

Anonymous Theatre. It’s back: Portland’s annual one-night stand of anonymous theater, which means that no one but the director knows who’s been cast in the show – including the actors, who sit in the audience until it’s time to make their entrance and only then learn who the rest of the cast is. It’s an exhilarating high-wire act, made all the tougher this year because the choice of play – the satirical music Urinetown: The Musical – means juggling not just lines but song and dance, too. Keep an eye out for ArtsWatch’s preview soon. Monday, Gerding Theatre at The Armory.

The Melody Lingers On. Clackamas Rep takes on the bouncy Irving Berlin musical, with a cast including stalwarts such as Mont Chris Hubbard, Meredith Kaye Clark, Susannah Mars (sharing a role with Lauren Steele), and Don Kenneth Mason. Saturday through Aug. 29.

Lungs. Rebecca Lingafelter directs Darius Pierce and Cristi Miles in Duncan Macmillan’s play about babies and whether they should be brought into the world. Thursday through Aug. 26, Third Rail Rep at CoHo Theater.

Miles and Pierce in Third Rail’s “Lungs.” Photo: Owen Carey

Proscenium Live Festival of New Work. Portland Shakes and Proscenium Journal present five new plays in three days, with good-looking casts and all free with general seating: Steve Rathje’s Signs on Friday; C.S. Whitcomb’s Santos on Saturday; and a triple-header of short plays on Sunday: Aleks Merilo’s A Maiden of Venice, Susan Mach’s Coyote Play, Patrick Wohlmut’s Patchwork Dreams. Alder Stage, Artists Rep.

Stumptown Improv Festival. For three days, more improv comics than you can shake a Keystone Kops nightstick at. Thursday-Saturday, Morrison Stage, Artists Rep.




Oregon Festival of American Music

This summer’s annual celebration at The Shedd in Eugene is dedicated to American songbook hits from the 1920s- through the ’50s. Along with films and talks, OFAM features 14 concerts performed by a mix of national (Byron Stripling, Ian Whitcomb, Howard Alden, et al) and local (director Jesse Cloninger, Tony Glausi, Shirley Andress, Vicki Brabham, Evynne Hollens, Siri Vik, and many others) music aces.

Wednesday’s opening sampler featuring classic tunes by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington and more, including “Bewitched (Bothered & Bewildered),” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “How Deep Is The Ocean?” and a dozen more.

Thursday’s “If I Were a Bell” concert showcases the music of Frank Loesser (Guys And Dolls, whose film version will be screened free at the Shedd that morning, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, Some Like it Hot, and many other musicals) and Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity and more). Singer Siri Vik fronts a crack jazz sextet on songs like “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “Big Spender,” and “If I Were a Bell.”

Rogers and Astaire in 1937’s “Shall We Dance.” RKO Radio Pictures

Friday morning kicks off with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ Gershwin-graced film classic Shall We Dance. In the matinee concert, Cloninger and The Emerald City Jazz Kings play unforgettable hits from mostly forgotten musicals (or no musicals at all, but rather revues or jazz records), including “My Blue Heaven,” “Skylark,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Mood Indigo,” and more. The evening concert celebrates one of the 20th century’s greatest lyricists, Ira Gershwin, who kept writing hits (“The Man That Got Away”) even after his brother George’s tragically young death ended their string of collaborative classics, including “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Love Is Here to Stay,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and more, sung by a vocal quartet featuring Shirley Andress, backed by a big-horn-fueled band.

Saturday morning’s movie is a rarer Astaire-Rogers gem, Roberta, featuring a stellar score by Jerome Kern. Vik returns Saturday afternoon to lead a jazz septet in poignant songs by the unmatched team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, not just standards like “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “Blue Moon,” but also rarer gems. Cloninger, Andress, and a small combo return Saturday night to perform music by one of the earliest superstars of the American musical, Jerome Kern (Showboat) including “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “All the Things You Are,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and a dozen more, some seldom encountered these days.

Sunday’s the annual afternoon jazz party, including both reserved and cabaret seating, full bar, and Cloninger leading a nonet playing jazz versions of songbook standards.


“Summer Sings”

Portland Symphonic Choir’s annual summer sings concert supplies scores and invites community members — experienced singers, rank amateurs, students and anyone else — to join them in performances of choral masterpieces. Willamette Master Chorus director Paul Klemme leads the first of the summer’s three weekly performances: Vaughan Williams
Wednesday, PCC Cascade Moriarty Arts Auditorium, located at 705 N. Killingsworth.


Kelly Sina in “Gypsy” at Broadway Rose. Photo: Craig Mitchelldye


Arthur Laurents, Julie Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s classic midcentury American musical about the price of pursuing fame gets a second big Oregon production this summer at Broadway Rose, starring company founders Sharon Maroney as Mama Rose and Dan Murphy as Herbie. Read ArtsWatch’s preview of June’s Eugene production. Thursday-Aug. 20, Broadway Rose Theater, Deb Fennell Auditorium, 9000 S.W. Durham Road, Tigard.


The Little Match Girl Passion & The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

Portland opera’s shift to a summer season concludes with a double bill of contemporary one-act operas by David Lang. (Read my ArtsWatch profile of Lang.) The company asked Imago Theater founder Jerry Mouawad, justly celebrated for inventive design and direction in shows like Frogz, to transform Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning spare, poignant choral setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic fable The Little Match Girl Passion into a staged work. Mouawad also directs Lang’s earlier one-act chamber opera (string quartet and voices), The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, based on an Ambrose Bierce story. Read Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch review of the opening weekend.
Thursday and Saturday, Newmark Theatre.


Britt Festival

On Friday, frequent Oregon visitor Jeffrey Kahane joins the Britt Orchestra in the southern Oregon town of Jacksonville for Beethoven’s powerful fourth piano concerto, and the wide-ranging Britt Festival concert also features Mozart’s dazzling “Haffner” symphony, one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, and more music by Schubert, Monteverdi, Byrd and more.

Saturday’s program includes three orchestral works influenced by Asian music: Mahler’s magnificent 1909 Song of the Earth (with singers Tamara Mumford, mezzo-soprano and Richard Cox), Stravinsky’s enchanting Song of the Nightingale (a 1917 symphonic adaptation of his opera score based, like David Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion, on an H.C. Andersen tale) and contemporary composer Bright Sheng’s Shanghai Overture, inspired by traditional Shanghai folk tunes. Come early (6 pm) for the excellent opening act, flutist Tessa Brinckman and koto queen Mitsuki Dazai, featuring an Emily Dickinson setting by Japanese composer Yuki Takahashi and works by John Kaizan Neptune, Australian composer Jim Franklin, Shingo Ikegami, and the two performers themselves.

Sunday’s concert features soundtracks by film score eminence John Williams, including Superman, ET, Hook, Harry Potter, War Horse, Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course, Star Wars.



ArtsWatch links


Improvisation Summit of  Portland: spontaneous discovery. The Creative Music Guild assembles a cluster of experimental and jazz musicians and dancers for a give-and-take, and Patrick McCulley listens in.

Romeo & Juliet (Layla & Majnun): fertile fusion. Brett Campbell reviews Bag&Baggage’s audacious stage blend of the Shakespeare romance and the twelfth century Persian epic that helped inspire it.

Philip Setzer, keeping it fresh. Alice Hardesty sits down with one of the founders of the august Emerson Quartet, which took a starring role in this summer’s Chamber Music Northwest festival, and talked about everything from old music to new music to what a violinist actually thinks onstage.

Play it, Sam: remembering Shepard. Bob Hicks writes about the great American playwright and actor Sam Shepard, who died last week at age 73, and how he helped us rethink the theater.

Can Modernism be “new” anymore? Paul Sutinen takes in the exhibition New Modernism at Elizabeth Leach Gallery and wonders, at this late stage in the game, what does “modernism” mean? “I suppose I came for the title and stayed for the work itself.”

Joanna Pousette-Dart, “Cañones #3,” 2007-08, acrylic on canvas on shaped panels, 79 x 92 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

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