ArtsWatch Weekly: let’s start over

A new year, a fresh start: Oregon gets set for a cultural revival in January and 2017

We’ve got that nasty old 2016 in our rear-view mirror now, and as our newest Nobel Laureate for Literature once warbled, Don’t look back. Nothing to see there. Or too much to contemplate. Sure, sure: what happens in 2017 will build on what happened in 2016, which built on what happened in 2015, and on and on down the line. But right now, let’s look ahead.


TRADITIONALLY, JANUARY IS IN THE MIDDLE of the artistic season and also the beginning of what’s called “The Second Season” – a chance to buckle down after the holidays and reinvigorate. Here are a few things, big and small, coming up this month to keep your eye on:

Kara Walker (American, born 1969), “The Emancipation Approximation (Scene 18),” 1999–2000, courtesy the artist. Part of “Constructing Identity” opening Jan. 28 at the Portland Art Museum.

Fertile Ground 2017. This is one of the biggies, made up of all sorts of “smalls.” Begun as an annual festival in 2009, it’s blossomed into one of the biggest, most sprawling, and most intriguingly unpredictable events on Portland’s cultural calendar. For eleven days, in venues scattered across the city, dozens of new performance works by Portland artists will take the stage: plays, dances, solo shows, puppet shows, interactive shows, musicals, more. Shows will range from the biggest companies to indie pop-ups, and from full-blown world premieres to workshops and readings. Trying to keep up is bound to leave you breathless. Jan. 19-29.

Finding Neverland at Broadway in Portland. Get Hooked on the road-show version of the Broadway musical, which tells a tale of playwright J.M. Barrie and his inspiration for Peter Pan. Tuesday through Sunday, Jan. 3-8, Keller Auditorium.

Divided We Stand: Portland Artists React to Post-Election America. A panoply of artists including Jim Lommasson, Alea Bone, Bonnie Meltzer, Shu-Ju Wang, Mark Woolley, Chris Haberman, Christian Hooker, Elizabeth McDonald, and others have created work in response to the election and the divisions it revealed. Ford Gallery, 2505 S.E. 11th Ave., Saturday (Jan. 7) through Jan. 21.

Cabaret: White. Pianist and ace theater musical director Darcy White teams with musical-theater and cabaret singer Debbie Hunter and guests for an evening of sophisticated and entertaining singing. White is a survivor of lung cancer caused by radon poisoning, and proceeds will benefit the group Free to Breathe. Monday, Jan. 9, Classic Pianos, 3003 S.E. Milwaukie Blvd.

db at CoHo. Tommy Smith’s play about Dan (D.B.) Cooper, the infamous hijacker who disappeared with a big bag of money after boarding a plane in Portland in 1971, stars Duffy Epstein, Dana Green, Rebecca Lingafelter, Don Kenneth Mason, and Alex Ramierez, directed by Isaac Lamb. Jan. 13-Feb. 4.

Annie Baker’s Flick, Third Rail Rep at Imago. Michael O’Connell directs the 2014 Pulitzer-winner by Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, Body Awareness), a comedy set in a run-down Massachusetts movie theater. Jan. 20-Feb. 11.

Tahni Holt Dance at White Bird Uncaged. The Portland dance presenters White Bird have a long tradition of blending local choreographers into their mix of national and international acts, and this month it’s Holt’s company in the hour-long Sensation/Disorientation for six female performers of various ages. Jan. 18-22.

BodyVox’s Urban Meadow at Lincoln Performance Hall. The popular contemporary dance troupe is promising a “surprise that the company is keeping top secret and under wraps.” Jan. 19-29.

Astoria: Part One at Portland Center Stage. Northwest history through a broad dramatic lens: the world premiere of artistic director Chris Coleman’s adaptation of Peter Stark’s best-selling book Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire, a Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival. It’s a bold undertaking, and the first act might end before the book’s subtitle does. Jan. 20-Feb. 12, The Armory.

Matthew B. Zrebski’s Carnivora. The world premiere of the Portland playwright’s latest begins with a woman waking up screaming in a burlap bag, and involves mythical creatures, ghosts, and haunting memories. Theatre Vertigo at the Shoebox, Jan. 20-Feb. 18.

Rodin: The Human Experience and Constructing Identity at the Portland Art Museum. A show of 52 Rodin bronzes, and a fascinating-looking survey of African American art from the 1930s and earlier to contemporary. Rodin opens Jan. 21, Identity opens Jan. 28.

Chamber Music Northwest Winter Festival. The city’s leading summer music festival has been expanding into other seasons, and has a solid lineup for this year’s winterfest, from David Finckel & Wu Han to Black Violin, the Emerson String Quartet, Dover Quartet, Montrose Trio, and Miró Quartet. Jan. 26-29.



Emily Wobb, “X5 Mulch,” 2015. Duplex Gallery

THURSDAY IS THE FIRST FIRST THURSDAY (say that fast three times) of 2017, and we’ve taken a look to see what’s coming up soon in the galleries and museums. Here’s our handy quick guide to what’s up (or about to be) in the galleries, from Oregon icons Carl Morris and Louis Bunce to Kris Hargis and Kendra Larson to Alex Lilly’s conflagrations on canvas to tapestry art to the final show at Duplex Gallery and a key Oregon historical player, C.C. McKim, at the Tacoma Art Museum. There’s lots more to see, but this should give you a good start.



Susannah Mars as Mrs. Lovett and David Pittsinger as Sweeney Todd at Portland Opera, June 2016. Photo: Portland Opera.

100 MOMENTS IN A VERY STRANGE YEAR. All right, then. Let’s ignore Bob Zimmerman’s sage advice and do look back. That’s what ArtsWatch’s writers did, and the result is this mosaic portrait of the year 2016 in Oregon arts and culture, from the death of the Museum of Contemporary Craft to the birth of a $50 million drive to build a new pavilion honoring long-ago Portlander Mark Rothko (and connecting and reorganizing the museum’s two confusingly separate buildings).




ArtsWatch links

Messiaen Plus: “Turangalila” with Rose Bond’s projections. Photo: Jacob Wade

Turangalila gang-review: Illumination from many angles. The Oregon Symphony’s multimedia performance of Messiaen’s mega-symphony, with projections by animation whiz Rose Bond, was so big and bold that ArtsWatch sent five – five! – reviewers to cover it. The result is fascinating, like the old tale of the blind men describing an elephant by each feeling a different part of it.

A cozy chat with Hershey Felder. Alice Hardesty sat down with the pianist/singer/playwright/solo performer Felder, who spent his December in town impersonating Irving Berlin at Portland Center Stage, and talked with him about just about everything from shoes to ships to sealing wax. That included his play The Pianist of Willesden Lane, which played to sold-out houses at Center Stage last June and will return for repeat performances this year, June 17-30.

Oregon new music recordings 2016: small beauties. Haul out your earphones and settle in for some good long listening: Brett Campbell has the word on a treasury of great new releases from Oregon artists in 2016, from Paul Safar’s The Warbler Sings to Andrew Durkin’s Breath of Fire.

In Mulieribus: a decade of delicious dissonance. Bruce Browne sings the praises of the Portland women’s vocal ensemble, for whom a visit to the year 1125 is not unusual, and anything beyond the 1800s is a rare and wondrous encounter.

Isabelle Huppert: world’s greatest actor. “May as well just say it,” Marc Mohan writes after seeing the French movie star’s recent performances in Elle and Things to Come: “Isabelle Huppert is the best screen actor working in the world today.” Sorry, Vince Vaughn.

Isabelle Huppert and friend in a scene from “Elle.”



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this once a week 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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