ArtsWatch Weekly: Media Blitzen

A pair of premieres at Center Stage, dance and theater openings, Brett Campbell's weekly music picks, Christopher Rauschenberg & more

It’s a busy weekend at the Armory, where Portland Center Stage hangs its hat: world-premiere opening nights Friday for Wild and Reckless, the new concert/play from the band Blitzen Trapper, and Saturday for Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Both will be playing on the Main Stage, in repertory.

We haven’t (of course) seen either show yet, so we’ll quote the company on what’s up with Wild and Reckless: It “traces the unforgettable tale of two kids on the run, in a futuristic vision of Portland’s past. Evoking a bygone era of Portland, this sci-fi love story features a rock-and-roll score that pairs unreleased songs with favorites from the band’s catalog, including Black River Killer and Astronaut.” And what, precisely, is a futuristic vision of Portland’s past? Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy tossing a coin in spacesuits to name the city? Probably not. But tune in Friday, or anytime through April 30, to find out.

Eric Earley as The Narrator and Leif Norby as The Dealer in “Wild and Reckless.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel/

Lauren Weedman we know a little better from her smart and edgy previous one-woman shows at Center Stage and elsewhere. She could run a clinic on how to grab and hold an audience’s attention: She can be funny, and she can be fierce, and she has the focus of a hawk hunting rabbits in an open field. This newest show, also through April 30, homes in on heartbreak and how to mend it, and arrives with big hair, tight jeans, and a passel of country tunes. Plus, a backup band.





Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble. Photo: Christopher Peddecord

Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble. The Portland favorites, led by longtime partners Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk, return to their annual slot at BodyVox Dance Center with a program including the hour-long premiere Burn It Backwards, with a four-piece ensemble playing music by the late Elliott Smith. Skinner recently retired from BodyVox after two decades as a founding member (see Eric Skinner’s happy landing), but Skinner/Kirk continues to go strong. Thursday through April 1.

Alembic Double Bill @ Performance Works Northwest. The latest fruit from the tree of the Alembic Artist Residencies for new and exploratory dance at PWNW: claire barrera’s Fifth Sun and Noelle Stiles’s work-in-progress This One Is. Friday-Saturday.

Jaffa Gate and Noisemaker Northwest Theatre Workshop opens two world premieres – Wayne Harrel’s Jaffa Gate, a Scheherazade-style tale set in 1900 Palestine, and Ciji Guerin’s Noisemaker, an adventure about three guys ricocheting through a carnival of grief in the desert. Friday through April 8 at Shaking the Tree Warehouse.

Tales from the Vault: New Shorts. Matt Haynes describes his company The Pulp Stage as “live storytelling for fans of science fiction, fantasy and suspense,” and its latest chapter includes a trio of tales: Psycho Blvd. by Johnny Drago, Princess Talia’s Dowry by Greg Lam, and Buki, Buki, Buki by John Kelly. Laughter is quite possible. So is beer: It’s at O’Connor’s Cafe & Bar in Multnomah Village, Thursday night.

Third Rail Rep’s The Angry Brigade. The American premiere of James Graham’s drama about an explosive confrontation between police and young anarchists trying to bring down the establishment in a fractiously divided nation. Sound familiar? It’s England in the 1970s. Friday through April 15 at Imago Theatre.

“The Angry Brigade” at Third Rail Rep: What we have here is failure to communicate. Photo: Owen Carey





Future Flux, the 51st annual conference of National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, descends on Portland and the Oregon Convention Center Wednesday through Saturday, and in anticipation many of the city’s art galleries have focused their March exhibitions on ceramic art. Blackfish, Elizabeth Leach, Augen, Eutectic, Russo Lee, Butters, Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art (which will be throwing an open party 6-8 p.m. Thursday for the artists in its ceramic show Pretty Not Pretty), Guardino, and other galleries are featuring artists who work in clay. Froelick has three veteran favorites on hand: Ronna Neuenschwander, Joe Fedderson, and Whitney Lowe. All three will be in the gallery at 11 a.m. Saturday for an exhibition tour and discussion.

At Froelick Gallery: Ronna Neuenschwander, “Red-Blooded American”, 2017; porcelain, ceramic, tile grout; 12 x 11 x 6 inches. Photo: Kevin McConnell





Charles Trenet, chanteur and songwriter, sang of La Mer.

How does a favorite song become a favorite song? How does it stick with you, over decades through thick and thin, like a best friend? How does it become a part of you? What does it mean?

“Once when I was challenged to name my Top Ten Favorite Songs,” Portland writer and actor Stephen Rutledge begins his essay Beyond the Sea, awash in La Mer, “I expressed to my friend a desire to be able to erase from my memory all of my favorite songs so that I might have the experience of hearing them again for the first time. It seemed to me that if I listened to a favorite song too often, I might run the risk of wearing it out. I was afraid that eventually it wouldn’t move me in quite the same way. I would still want, maybe even need, to hear it, but the emotional intensity simply wouldn’t be as high. With every listen, I might be searching for that magic and it would be gone. Now I know that this is not true with the great songs. They are the ones that sound new every time.”

You’ll want to read this beautiful essay to its final word.





This week’s spring break gives us a chance to throw a deserved spotlight on some non-Portland music events as well as recommendations from the Rain, er, Rose City.

“A Sondheim Celebration”

Prominent Portland actor and musical-theater star singer Susannah Mars joins Portland Opera’s 2017 Resident Artists Antonia Tamer, Kate Farrar, Aaron Short, and Ryan Thorn to perform music by the greatest living theater composer, Stephen Sondheim. Wednesday, Alberta Rose Theatre.


St. Paddy’s day may be done for this year, but traditional Irish tunes and originals still ring from the veteran worldwide touring band of Irish music all stars, now celebrating their quarter-century anniversary. Wednesday at The Shedd in Eugene; Thursday at Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland.

Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson

Two generations of Hawaiian slack key guitar masters and hula dancer and singer Moanalani Beamer bring warm music to a region that sorely needs it. Thursday, The Shedd, Eugene.

Davina, kickin’ it in Eugene.

Davina & the Vagabonds

Charismatic front woman Davina and her band (trumpet, trombone, standup bass and drums) rock the old church with their bluesy, retro-swing that bubbles with New Orleans and Memphis soul and funk influences and other traditions spanning a century of American music.  Friday, The Shedd, Eugene.

“Piano Showcase: From Bach to Boogie to Jazz” 

The Sunriver Music Festival’s newest event brings a variety of pianistic pleasure, including classical piano duo Jill Timmons and Judith Cohen, the great Portland jazz pianist Randy Porter, boogie-woogie bluesman Arthur Migliazza, and a passel of workshops, master classes, recitals and more. Friday-Saturday, Tower Theater, Bend.

Mamma Mia!

The farewell tour of the treacly, long-humming musical contrived from some of the finest pop music ever written lands in Portland. Friday through Sunday, Keller Auditorium.

Oregon Mozart Players

The orchestra’s wind section plays serenades by Dvorak, Mozart and Richard Strauss. With spring arriving this week, it’s an ideal occasion for some breezy music. Saturday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene.

Newport Symphony Orchestra

Pianist Alexander Schimpf stars in high Romantic classics by Liszt and Schumann, and the orchestra also plays Berlioz’s trippy Symphonie Fantastique and Mendelssohn’s sparkling overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Saturday-Sunday, Newport Performing Arts Center, 777 W. Olive Street, Newport.


Janet Reiter and April Duvic, co-directors of the Clark College Chorale, debut a new choir across the Columbia River with jazz, Renaissance, Romantic, and contemporary classical and pop music. Saturday, Faith Baptist Church, Hazel Dell; Sunday,  St. John Presbyterian Church, Camas.


Quartet San Francisco

Friends of Chamber Music brings the award winning string quartet with guitarist Alex de Grassi, a staple of those 1980s Windham Hill acoustic Americana albums. Together, they’ll play tango, jazz, classical and global music by composers ranging from Gershwin to Piazzolla to Lennon & McCartney to Mongolian folk music and beyond, including founder/leader Jeremy Cohen. Listen to Fred Childs’ Performance Today interview with the group. Sunday, The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave.

Oregon Renaissance Band

If it was your 500th deathday, you’d be ready for a party too, so we can only assume that the spirit of the great renaissance composer Heinrich Isaac will be delighted that his music is still being performed half a millennium after he shuffled off this mortal coil, and on home-made replicas of instruments he would recognize, no less, including violin, viols, recorders, racketts, sackbutts, spinettino, bagpipes and of course voices. Sunday, Community Music Center, 3350 S.E. Francis St., Portland.



ArtsWatch links


Francesco Lecce-Chong conducted the ESO last Thursday at Eugene’s Hult Center.

Eugene Symphony music director search: clear choice. Composer and classical music critic Tom Manoff has listened and watched as all three top candidates have auditioned in concert with the symphony, and for him, the choice is clear: Francesco Lecce-Chong, whose conducting “was exciting beyond my expectations.”

Portland Baroque Orchestra: Shakespearean sounds. Terry Ross appreciates the passion, skill, and first-rate performances at PBO – and yet, he argues, in the period between Byrd and Purcell (the latter of whom was fortunately on board), English Baroque composition was largely a second-rate thing.

The red and the visible dark. We review two world premieres from NW Dance Project: Ihsan Rustem’s humor-laced Carmen in a beauty shop and Patrick Delcroix’s moving reflection on trauma and recovery, Visible Darkness.

Music news & notes. New jobs and reshuffles, farewells and hellos, an opera company inching back from the brink, a battle of the bands, the fabulously good idea of Portland Piano International’s Piano Day (it’s happening on March 29, the 88th day of the year) and more: Brett Campbell updates us on comings and goings in the world of Oregon music.

FearNoMusic: church of new sounds. The adventurous ensemble’s latest concert at The Old Church of music by Oregon composers, Matthew Andrews writes, was appropriately placed: It performed as something of a bully pulpit for the vitality and variety of these contemporary composers’ work.

Christopher Rauschenberg: the beauty of the bucket. In a wide-ranging interview with Paul Sutinen, the globe-trotting Portland photographer reveals he began using the camera when he was 5 years old. That would be 60 years ago, in 1957. Like John Cage, he looks for beauty underfoot: “I photograph the bucket, not the Taj Mahal.”

Christopher Rauschenberg, Warsaw, 2016



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.

And finally…

We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome!

Become a member now!

Comments are closed.

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives