ArtsWatch Weekly: Solstice!

Here comes summer. Here comes summer art. Take off your shoes, put on your swimsuit, and dive right in.

Raise a glass, if you’re of a mind, to summer, which according to the wise old heads of The Old Farmer’s Almanac officially begins at 9:24 Pacific Daylight Time this evening – Tuesday, June 20. If you’re reading this on the East Coast you’ll need to wait until 12:24 on Wednesday morning for the solstice to kick in.

That makes it high time to start thinking about summer arts, too.

The eclectic Siletz Bay Music Festival in and around Lincoln City on the Oregon coast opens Wednesday with some Mendelssohn and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and continues through July 4 with concerts ranging from classics to rock violin to swing jazz and cabaret.

Chamber Music Northwest kicks off its summer season in Portland on Monday evening, June 26, with a program of music by Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Amy Beach (plus a little Bach), and continues through July 30. The opener’s a good introduction to this year’s celebration of women composers – and that ties in neatly to Choreography XX, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s swiftly approaching program of free performances June 29-30 in the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater, featuring works by three women choreographers. For a deeper look, see Jamuna Chiarini’s interview with Helen Simoneau, one of the three, in DanceWatch Weekly.

Falstaff (K. T. Vogt) bemoans his difficulties wooing Mistresses Ford and Page, unaware that he’s speaking to Master Ford (Rex Young) in disguise. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The granddaddy of Oregon summer festivals, Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival, continues full steam ahead through October with eleven plays moving in and out of repertory during the season. Sir John Falstaff, that great gross night, makes a big splash, making appearances in all three plays in which he’s a character. For more on that, read Suzi Steffen’s Five questions for the Falstaffs, an interview with festival actors K.T. Vogt and G. Valmont Thomas, who between them cover all of the big guy’s bases.

Speaking of Shakespeare (a midsummer sort of guy if ever there was one) Portland’s Original Practice Shakespeare takes to the summit of Mt. Tabor with its own brand of quirky bardic improv on Wednesday, than fans out to parks around the city with All’s Well That Ends Well, The Tempest, and the like. And on Thursday at Shaking the Tree, Enso Theatre Ensemble opens The Romeo and Juliet Project, its own take on two kids who probably should have just skipped that party.

In Northwest Portland, CoHo Summerfest continues Thursday through Sunday with New York comedian Kelly Kinsella’s How To Do a One Person Show. It is, unsurprisingly, a one person show.

Also Thursday through Sunday, at Milagro, Live on Stage’s Portland’s Many Mini Musical Festival strikes up the band with a lineup of half a dozen short homegrown musicals (about 15 minutes each) and a lively group of creators and performers including the likes of Kurt Misar, Eric Nordin, Jessica Wallenfels, Matthew B. Zrebski, Margie Boule, Reece Marshburn, and Dru Rutledge.

At Artists Rep, a couple of special events are coming up. The Risk/Reward Fest celebrates its 10th anniversary with performances Friday-Sunday by six acts swimming in waters that flow from dance to film to clowning to performance art. And Monday through June 28, Pakistan’s Theatre Wallay will be in town to give free performances of On Common Ground, which blends comedy and music into a tale about artists living in Islamabad. Artists Rep’s Linda Alper helped shape the show, which will also play June 30-July 4 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Greenshow.




As usual, we turn over this section of ArtsWatch Weekly to our chief music writer and music editor. This week, Brett’s got musical theater on his mind. His report:


With Portland Opera’s new summer season joining the Shedd’s summer theatricals series, Astoria Music Festival and others, opera and musical theater are turning into summer treats in Oregon.

Astoria Music Festival
One of Oregon’s most valuable summer music events continues with Tuesday night’s second baroque music concert at Grace Episcopal Church featuring chamber music by J.S. Bach for a period instrument quartet.

Wednesday’s chamber music concert at Liberty Theater sports the seemingly oxymoronic title The Intimate Wagner, which includes Met Opera soprano Deborah Mayer singing the German romantic composer’s songs, Liszt’s arrangement of some of Wagner’s Rheingold music, and ArtsWatch contributor and Portland composer Jeff Winslow’s arrangement for piano quartet of Wagner’s famous “Prelude to Tristan und Isolde,” plus music by Debussy, Chabrier and more.

Favorite son Israel Nebeker of Blind Pilot will share a bill with a fellow named Beethoven at the Astoria Music Festival.

Thursday’s Beethoven and Blue Jeans show at the Liberty brings back one of Astoria’s most famous native sons, Blind Pilot singer-songwriter Israel Nebeker, in chamber arrangements of his songs for cello, piano and string quartet, reminiscent of the highly successful similar show at Grace two summers past. He’s also generously making space for chamber music by some composer named Beethoven.

Friday’s recital at the Clatsop Performing arts Center showcases Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Zeller and classical guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan in a splendid program of music by Franz Schubert, Manuel De Falla, J.S. Bach, and John Cage.

Saturday’s pay-what-you-will show at Liberty features the Beaumarchais play that inspired Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, plus music by Tchaikovsky and Bugs Bunny, while Saturday night’s chamber music concert brings Oregon Symphony stalwarts Sarah Kwak and Vali Phillips along with festival fixtures Sergey Antonov and Cary Lewis in the famous Kodaly violin/viola duo, Joaquin’s second piano trio and Brahms’s second piano quartet.

The festival closes Sunday with a semi-staged version of The Barber of Seville, sung in Italian with English supertitles, starring Zeller, acclaimed Mexican baritone Luis Ledesma, Meagan Martin, Marco Panuccio, Deac Guidi, Nickolai Strommer and Beth Madsen Bradford.

The Pirates of Penzance
Mocks Crest Productions’ annual Gilbert & Sullivan operetta closes this weekend. Thursday-Saturday, Mago Hunt Theater, University of Portland.

The Woman of Salt
Laura Decher Wayte stars in this made-in-Eugene opera by Anice Thigpen, inspired by real-life tragedy and based on the story of Lot’s wife from Genesis. Stay tuned for Rachael Barnes’s ArtsWatch preview tomorrow. Friday, Wildish Theater, Springfield.


Resonance Ensemble
The estimable vocal ensemble sings a major new Oregon composition, Renée Favand-See’s five-movement 2015 setting of Wendell Berry poems written in response to the brief life of her newborn son, Owen. The choir and other Portland musicians will also perform new music by American composers Nikole Potulsky, Dominick DiOrio, Jake Runestad, and Steven Sametz, plus Bach’s famous Chaconne and more. Saturday, Yale Union, 800 S.E. 10th Ave.

Created by the all-star team of writer Arthur Laurents, composer Jule Styne, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and young lyricist Stephen Sondheim, the 1959 musical about the ultimate stage monster, er, mother still stands as one of the 20th century’s finest. Stay tuned for my ArtsWatch preview of this new production by The Shedd, directed by Peg Major, with music directed by Robert Ashens and choreography by Caitlin Christopher. Friday-Sunday, The Shedd, Eugene.

Two Yosemites Solstice Soiree Benefit
Meet the new leaders of Opera Theater Oregon at this fundraising house concert featuring the company’s upcoming production of Oregon composer Justin Ralls’s new opera about Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. Friday, private residence, Portland.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane
The music-theater performance starring Mona Golabek returns. Read my ArtsWatch review of last year’s performances. Saturday-June 30, Portland Center Stage.

Mona Golabek stars in “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” at Portland Center Stage. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/




This year, Portland’s two big theater-award ceremonies are coming back to back. The PAMTAs, the Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards, will be Sunday in the Winningstad Theatre with Darius Pierce as host. This is usually an entertaining, upbeat, well-produced event, and this year’s promises to keep the string going: Pierce is a dab and dapper hand at this sort of thing. Here’s a full list of the nominees in sixteen categories.

And this year’s Drammy Awards, the 39th edition of the all-theater awards ceremony, will be Monday night in the Smith Memorial Center of Portland State University. Here’s a full list of the nominees in twenty-seven categories. The celebration will include a lifetime achievement award for the notable set designer and visual artist Tim Stapleton. This will be the first Drammy year in which work at the city’s two biggest theater companies won’t be considered: Portland Center Stage and Artists Repertory Theatre opted out. What will that mean to the awards’ impact and attendance at the ceremony? Good question: Turn up and see.



ArtsWatch links


A scene from onetime Portlander Vivian Hua’s “Searching Skies,” part of the Seventh Art Stand film festival.

A film festival takes a stand against Islamophobia. Nim Wunnan has the lowdown on the screening and discussion series Seventh Art Stand, which focuses on contemporary Muslim and Muslim American experiences, and comes to Portland’s Open Signal on Wednesday.

Lou Harrison’s Portland origins. “Whenever Lou Harrison came home, it was like stepping into another culture. From as early in childhood as he could remember, wherever he looked in his family’s apartment in Portland, Oregon’s Silver Court Apartments, young Lou saw colorful paintings from various Asian cultures mounted on walls covered by Japanese grass wallpaper.” An excerpt from the new biography Lou Harrison: Musical Maverick, by composer Bill Alves and ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell, on the occasion of Harrison’s centenary.

Revenge tragedy, political farce. I take a look at the donnybrook in New York and across the Internet and cable TV over The Public Theatre’s Julius Caesar, in which JC is a Donald Trump lookalike and is, well, assassinated.

The journey, not the destination. Hailey Bachrach reviews Profile’s new production of Quiare Allegrïa Hudes’ road-trip play 26 Miles: a few bumps in the road, but the trip sticks with you.

Full Circle: a universe of theater. Dmae Roberts reports from inside Theatre Communications Group’s national conference in Portland about the growing movement to build an American theater that’s open to everyone.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Claudia Alick at TCG’s “Full Circle” in Portland. Photo: Jenny Graham

Sound of Late: free to have fun. Missy Mazzoli and other exuberant new-music composers take reviewer Matthew Andrews on a rhythmic, melodic, and – yes – fun ride.

Good with people, reluctantly. I reviews Our Shoes Are Red/The Performers Lab’s sharp production of David Harrower’s two-hander character study about a rough encounter in Scotland.

Tom(boy) Sawyer on the run. Hailey Bachrach reviews Connor Kerns’s new play about a contemporary Tom Sawyer, who happens to be a teenage girl.

Flux, ambiguity, the unknown. Laurel Reed Pavic considers sculptor and video artist Morehshin Allahari’s exploration of the jinn tradition in She Who Sees the Unknown at Upfor Gallery.

Morehshin Allahyari’s “Huma,” 3D printed resin. Courtesy Upfor Gallery. Photo: Mario Gallucci


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