ArtsWatch Weekly: step into spring

Portland and Oregon leap toward spring with a teeming tumble of theater, dance, and music

It’s almost spring, and arts events are popping up like tulip scapes in a Portland rain. So let’s get right down to what’s looking like a very busy week.

We’ll start with:


“Lydia,” opening Friday at Milagro Theatre. Photo: Russell J Young

Lydia at Milagro. This play by the talented Octavio Solis (El Paso Blue; Gibraltar) is a family tale with touches of magical realism about a girl who’s been disabled in an accident and her caretaker, Lydia, who is the only person she can communicate with. El Teatro Campesino veteran Kinan Valdez directs. Through April 8.

Cabaret White at Wilf’s Restaurant & Bar. Musical director and pianist extraordinaire Darcy White, who operated the popular Cabaret Chanteuse with singer Gretchen Rumbaugh at Tony Starlight’s, is back with a new series, this time at Wilf’s in the Amtrak station below the Broadway Bridge. The new cabaret kicks off Monday, March 20, with singers Amy Jo Halliday, Dan Murphy, Lauri Jones, and Malia Tippets. Let the good times roll.

The City of Conversation at The Reading Parlour. What happens when a famous D.C. liberal hostess’s son shows up with a new Reaganite girlfriend and a suddenly conservative world view? The Parlour, which regularly brings together top actors for readings of interesting scripts, turns this time to Anthony Giardina’s 2015 Drama Desk best-play nominee about dysfunction in the nation’s capitol way back in 1979. Sound familiar? 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Studio 1 Room, Artists Rep.

School Dance at Action/Adventure Theatre. Care to relive that personal history? The inventive kids at A/A open the North American premiere of Matthew Whittet’s comdy about “a group of endearingly awkward teens and their hormone-fueled quest for social acceptance” in “the special kind of hell that is the high school dance.” I’m with the band. Friday through April 9.

Playhouse Creatures at CoHo. April de Angelis’s comedy-with-a-sting looks at women and their struggle for equal status in the theater through the tale of the groundbreaking Nell Gwynn and friends on the Restoration stage. Alana J. Byington directs Lorraine Bahr, Brenan Dwyer, Jackyln Maddux, Dainichia Noreault, and McKenna Twedt. Friday through April 8.

“Playhouse Creatures,” opening Friday at CoHo Theatre. Photo: Gary Norman




Carmen at NW Dance Project. Ihsan Rustem, NDP’s talented resident choreographer, unveils a new version of the tale of bullfights and cigarette girls and other passions, set to Bizet’s music with set by Luis Crespo and costumes designed by Project Runway winner Michelle Lesniak. Another NDP favorite, Patrick Delcroix, is back from France to premiere his newest work. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Newmark Theatre.

Dancing with Rameau and J.S. Bach. In this intriguing program from the Baroque Dance Project, clavier player Alice Sheu and baroque dancer Julie Iwasa, who bases her choreography on period manuals published by French and German dance masters, collaborate. Noon Wednesday, The Old Church and 8 p.m. Friday, Performance Works Northwest.

Clavier player Alice Sheu and baroque dancer Julie Iwasa, shown here at Portland’s Old Church, perform baroque music and dance Friday at Performance Works Northwest.

Castles and Wizards at the Oregon Symphony. In this kids’ concert at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, actor Pam Mahon narrates, the Pacific Youth Choir sings, the orchestra plays music from the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and BodyVox’s Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton contribute choreography. 2 p.m. Sunday.




As with Western Oregon’s landscape, this week’s forecast calls for a veritable saturation of choral music, most of it featuring contemporary compositions by today’s composers, though a few shows also feature players who have to use something other than their mouths to make music. As with the rains, the only objection to this profusion is the fact that having so much at the same time is too much of a good thing: there’s no way for choral music fans to experience all, or even most, of these fine shows.


The Ensemble of Oregon

The all-star vocal group sings music from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, an operatic version of the Orpheus myth. This vocal ensemble includes the cream of Portland’s considerable crop of world class classical singers, including Laura Beckel Thoreson, Catherine van der Salm, Susan Hale, Nicholas Ertsgaard; David Stutz, bass. They’ll be accompanied by string quartet, harpsichord, bassoon, recorder and harp, playing the music close to the way the composers intended. 7 p.m. Friday, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene; 3 p.m. Sunday, The Old Church, Portland.


“Take Flight”

The award-winning Portland State Chamber Choir presents the diverse music it’ll be singing in a prestigious international choral competition in Bali this summer: music by Bruckner, Frank Martin, spirituals and gospel music, plus Buddhist, Russian Orthodox and — appropriate for the world’s largest Muslim nation — Islamic music. Friday, Lincoln Performance Hall, PSU.


Oregon Chorale

Hillsboro’s 70-voice choir, revitalized under new director (and Ethan Sperry protege) Jason Sabino, sings Henryk Górecki’s Miserere, a 20th century choral classic that’s not as famous, but is as powerful as his famous Symphony #3. The fabulously fresh program also includes contemporary music by folksinger/songwriter and composer Eliza Gilkyson, Dominick DiOrio, Norman Luboff and more. Saturday, Living Savior Lutheran Church 8740 S.W. Sagert St., Tualatin; Sunday, St. Matthew Catholic Church, 447 S.E. 3rd Ave., Hillsboro.


Consonare Chorale

Percussionist T.J. Arko in collaboration on vibes and percussion for Kanaval, which vibrates with the sound of the Haitian equivalent of Mardi Gras, plus more floral choral music by contemporary composers Ēriks Ešenvalds, Eric Whitacre, John Clements, and more. Saturday, Imago Dei Community, 1302 S.W. Ankeny St.


Satori Men’s Chorus

The wildly and wonderfully diverse program of love songs includes an English sea shanty, a Queen classic (no, not that one) and another by the Platters, plus songs by composers as diverse as English Renaissance master Thomas Morley, Harlem jazz master Fats Waller, and contemporary country singer Martina McBride. Much more, including several new works. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Central Lutheran Church, 1820 N.E. 21st Ave.


“Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding”

The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus sings music about a couple of themes in dire need of reaffirmation these days: the equal worth of all people, and hope. The show includes the 10th anniversary performance of a PGMC milestone: the commissioned work BraveSouls & Dreamers, dedicated to the memory of Robert Espindola, its librettist. Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Saturday-Sunday.


The Northwest Boychoir

Cappella Romana brings the acclaimed Seattle group to Vivaldi’s ever-popular Gloria and to Symphony of Psalms, Stravinsky’s gorgeous 20th century classic. Sunday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.



What’s that you say? You want music bereft of human voices? Fine: check out the exciting recent addition to Oregon’s new music scene, Sound of Late, performing new music for harp and chamber ensemble one of the great living composers, Kaija Saariaho, American composers Tina Davidson and Angelica Negron, and the guest star, harpist Jennifer Ellis (video above). The Saturday night concert at Portland’s New Expressive Works makes a fine addition to Women’s History Month.


Orchestra fans: On Thursday, the Eugene Symphony plays Bartok, Strauss and Mozart, and the Oregon Symphony backs the Indigo Girls. On Friday and Sunday the Beaverton Symphony plays Debussy, Dvorak, and Saint Saens’ mighty organ symphony, while Portland Columbia Symphony plays Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven.


World music fans: Brazil’s Danilo Brito and Portland’s own Choro de Alegria perform Brazilian Choro music at Portland’s Old Church Tuesday, and Sreevidhya and Narayanan Chandramouli play South Indian classical music on the veena lute with percussion at the same venue Saturday.



ArtsWatch links


Jessi Walters as Anne and Morgan Cox as Emily in Bag&Baggages “Brontē”. Casey Campbell Photography

B&B’s Brontē is one for the books. More specifically, one for the stacks at the Brockwood Branch of the Hillsboro Public Library, which is where Bag&Baggage is performing Polly Teale’s literary tale of the writing Brontē sisters and their lunk of a brother. A.L. Adams reads the mood and finds it something of a page-turner.

The Odyssey of These Days: from tragedy to hope. Rachel Carnes digs deep into the collaboration of visual artist Wesley Hurd and composer/performer Elliot Grasso in their multimedia response to personal and public loss, in particular the mass shooting on Oct. 1, 2015, at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, which killed ten people including the gunman and wounded eight others.

Dance without women. “Ballet is woman,” the famously non-woman George Balanchine famously said. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Jamuna Chiarini tests that proposition and how well the dance world does or doesn’t live up to it. Chiarini’s DanceWatch Weekly column also includes a good calendar of dance events from now until August.

Arvo Pärt Festival: Timeless and timely. John Pitman, music director at All Classical Portland radio, weighs in on Cappella Romana’s “remarkable, and moving” celebration of the lauded contemporary Estonian composer.

Art notes: Maryhill springs up. A roundup of visual art news, from the opening of the 2017 season at the Maryhill Museum of Art to last call for Louis Bunce to Portland Open Studios’ new be-a-patron lineup.

Sounds of Spain: borders and time. The Byrd Ensemble’s choral concert of sacred music from the 16th century gets us thinking about how and why we listen to the sounds of the past, and what it means to the present and future.

Golda Meir: a life onstage. In William Gibson’s one-woman play about the groundbreaking Israeli leader, veteran actor Wendy Westerwelle displays “a range of fatigue and fierceness, sometimes a sense of loss and longing, and every now and again a comic shrug as she tosses off a joke.”

Eugene Symphony music director search: Next star? Choosing a new leader from the three finalists is important for Eugene and its orchestra, Brett Campbell writes, but the nation’s keeping its eye on this pick, too, because of the small orchestra’s track record: Three of its recent music directors have gone on to stardom.

Studio show: a time to dance. Martha Ullman West drops in on the kids and likes what she sees from the pre-professional dancers of The Portland Ballet and their guests, the young members of the Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe.

Feathers and Teeth: monsters win. A.L. Adams checks out the blood & guts & ghoul factor in Artists Repertory Theatre’s little monster mash of a dramedy.

Agatha Day Olson, Darius Pierce, and Sarah Hennessy in “Feathers and Teeth.” Photo: Russell J Young




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