Oregon ArtsWatch

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New voices of ArtsWatch 2017

December 21, 2017
Culture, News & Notes

In one important way it’s been a very good year for Oregon ArtsWatch: We’ve added a lot of good writers to our mix, deepening and broadening our coverage of everything from dance to theater to music to visual arts to literary events and more.

ArtsWatch has been able to add the voices of a dozen new contributors because of support from you and people like you. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit cultural journalism organization, and your gifts help pay for the stories we produce. It’s easy to become a member and make a donation.

In 2018 we hope to add even more fresh voices and perspectives to our continuing engagement with Oregon’s complex and diversified cultural life.

Meet 2017’s new writers, from A to Z (all right; A to W), and sample their work:



TJ Acena

A Portland essayist and journalist who studied creative writing at Western Washington University, TJ was selected as a 2017 Rising Leader of Color in arts journalism by Theatre Communications Group. He writes about theater and literary events for ArtsWatch, and also contributes to American Theatre Magazine and The Oregonian in addition to literary journals such as Somnambulist and Pacifica Literary Journal. Web: tjacena.com


Greg Watanabe with Mao on the wall in “Caught.” Photo: Russell J Young


Acena reviews the installation and performance Caught at Artists Rep, a play that crosses the line between fact and fiction, fake news and real. “If it feels like there’s something I’m not telling you about Caught, you’re right. Don’t take it at face value: There’s a hidden conceit to the show. But discovering that conceit is what makes Caught compelling.”



Bobby Bermea


A leading actor, director, and producer in Portland and elsewhere, Bobby specializes in deeply reported and insightful profiles of theater and other creative people for ArtsWatch. A three-time Drammy Award winner for his work onstage, he’s also the author of the plays Heart of the City, Mercy, and Rocket Man.


Shaking the Tree’s Samantha Van Der Merwe. Photo: Dmae Roberts


Bermae profiles the creative force behind Shaking the Tree Theatre and her highly visual approach to creating compelling moments on the stage. “Her aesthetic is deeply feminine, infused with magic and ritual and, as often as not, whimsy. As with any good director, story is paramount with Van Der Merwe. What makes her work highly unusual is that story is first encountered through the visual.”



Anthony Hudson

Anthony Hudson is a multidisciplinary artist, performer, and filmmaker perhaps best known as Portland’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi, an immortal trickster whose attempts at realness almost always result in fantastic failure. Anthony and Carla host and program their LGBTQ film series Queer Horror bimonthly at the Hollywood Theatre, and Anthony’s new play Still Looking for Tiger Lily is in process through Artists Repertory Theatre’s On the Workbench program. TheCarlaRossi.com.


Pepper Pepper’s “Diva Practice (Solo)” at 2017 Risk/Reward Festival. Photo: Chelsea Petrakis


Hudson explores the surface and historical underpinnings of Pepper Pepper’s solo dance-drag performance. “Being a diva is exacting and it’s lonely. Look at the tragic lives of Maria Callas, Judy Garland, and Edith Piaf. The life of a diva is one of expectation, work, and the pain that comes with it. For a freelance artist, drag queen, and dancer, the same is true – but with an obligation to say yes to any and every opportunity that could mark a big break or financial well-being. To become a diva takes practice – maybe even enough to break your back – and unless you’ve gone viral on social media or hit reality TV gold, you’re going to do all the hard work yourself. Luckily the perks of being a diva include champagne.”



Hannah Krafcik

Hannah is a Portland writer and practice-oriented dancer who writes about dance and broad cultural issues for ArtsWatch from the perspective of her interest in the intersection of artistic processes and organizing work. She’s also written for Stance on Dance and Critical Correspondence.


“Britney Spears,” Dawn Westover, colored pencil and pen on paper, in the Self-Taught Artist Fair.


Krafcik encounters the Self-Taught Artist Fair: Flying Like a Rock at Pacific Northwest College of Art, much of it by artists experiencing disability. Quoting organizer Lara Ohland: “You know, a flying rock only has one choice to make, but it also feels like this very persistent spirit of continuing to try to make connections despite barriers. … [Self-taught artists] will make what they will make because they have a need to make that thing or do that thing, and follow that practice through, regardless of whether it’s seen or whether there are barriers that exist for it being seen.”



John Longenbaugh

A recent Portland arrival from Seattle, John spent 20 years writing for Seattle Weekly and other publications, first as a theater reviewer and later as a theater columnist. He’s also a playwright whose plays have been produced regionally and across the country. In addition to writing for ArtsWatch, he’s busy working on his current project BRASS, a multi-platform steampunk story available as a podcast, in short films, and as live stage shows: battlegroundproductions.org


Andrea White in “Pericles Wet.” Photo: David Kinder


Longenbaugh tells the tale behind the premiere of Ellen Margolis’s world-premiere adaptation for the Portland Shakespeare Project. “Can you adapt a work whose value is its roughness, a convoluted narrative mixing drama and comedy, destructive sex and gentle love, without allowing some of that into your own creation? If the goal of an adaptation like this isn’t to ‘fix’ Shakespeare’s play, but to wrestle, interrogate and confront it, Margolis has impressively succeeded—greatly aided by Michael Mendelson’s compassionate direction.”



Paul Maziar

Paul is a writer and small-press editor who writes mostly about the visual arts for ArtsWatch. His first pamphlet of poems, Little Advantages, was published in 2013, and was followed by three others. His first full-length poetry collection, Opening Night, is forthcoming from BlazeVOX [books]. He’s also written for artcritical, Whitehot Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as his blog rrealism.com.


Robert Frank, “San Francisco,” 1956


Maziar looks deeply inside a quintessential American photograph from 1956, included in the Portland Art Museum’s American Photographs exhibition. “To appreciate this photograph is to enlarge the moment: What happened right before this photo was taken; or maybe more interesting, what happened just after Frank’s shutter slammed shut? In this moment, Frank captured an encounter between two worlds, and it makes the photograph so keenly, and tragically, American.”



Patrick McCulley

Portland saxophonist, educator, and composer Patrick McCulley maintains a private teaching studio as part of the Portland Music Collective, where he also acts as director. He has performed in a variety of classical ensembles as part of the Cascadia Composer’s Forum, and also performs frequently in Portland’s underground classical music scene at Classical Revolution PDX, Muse: forward, and as one-half of the McCulley-Falconer Duo. Recently he has composed solo pieces for saxophone in a more experimental style. These compositions can be heard on his 2015 debut EP Fierce.


Moon Hooch. Photo: Kenneth Kearney.


McCulley reviewed the New York trio, which popped into Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge on tour: “Moon Hooch’s name doesn’t sound like a band with saxophonists in it as much as it sounds like an old-timey bluegrass band from Appalachia, but these guys are full of surprises. The New York-based trio … has married many of the technical complexities found in jazz saxophone approaches with the form and function of pop and electronic dance music. They’ve taken advantage of the peculiar times we live in, where popular audiences are willing to take unusual instrumentations seriously, and operate as a trio of drum set and saxophones.”



Laurel Pavic

Laurel is an art historian whose academic research dealt with painting in 15th and 16th century Dalmatia. Since receiving her PhD she’s broadened her scope considerably, often considering the manipulation and presentation of cultural patrimony and how art and art history entangle with identity. She teaches a variety of courses at Pacific Northwest College of Art including courses on the multiple, the history of printed matter, modernism, and protest art.


Bill Will, “Undertow.” Photo: Robert M. Reynolds


Pavic reviews the longtime Portland “tinkerer artist’s” sprawling installation about the state of the union as he sees it. “I’m not sure what it says about my upbringing, or me, but I’ve never been to a ‘funhouse.’ I have an impression of distorted mirrors, menacing clowns, and squeaky mechanical projectiles. I associate the whole concept with a horror movie in which the (stupid) protagonist tries to escape a deranged killer by hiding in the carnival funhouse. Obviously, this ends with visions of knives and blood spatters. So perhaps I went into the exhibition with warped expectations.”



Danielle Vermette

Danielle is a writer and actor. She arrived in Portland in 1998 with a BFA in theater from the University of Central Missouri and has been an Imago Theatre company member since 1999, appearing in a dozen shows and touring nationally and internationally for many years in Imago’s show Frogz.  She was a student in Portland State University’s MFA fiction program and writes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.  She works in the Abdominal Organ Transplant Department at OHSU as the Hepatobiliary Coordinator.


E.B. White, with his dog Minnie: a spirit, hovering over Wordstock. Photo: Tilbury House Publishers


In a packed day at Portland’s annual literary festival that ranged from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s contemplations on Harvey Weinstein to Rene Denfeld’s new novel and much, much more, Vermette turned to an old American voice to put things into context: “In a Paris Review interview in 1969, when asked about the role of the writer, E.B. White famously answered: ‘A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge.’ Despite his use of the male-centric pronoun, Mr. White’s sentiment seems to hit on something vital and true, and might also explain the 10,000 or so people lined up at various venues around the Park Blocks last Saturday for Portland’s annual book festival, Wordstock. This turnout, larger than in years past, felt hopeful somehow.”



DeAnn Welker

DeAnn was raised in rural Oregon to love MTV, soap operas, classic rock, and Shakespeare. She has written about television for MSNBC, Television Without PityThe Oregonian, and the Anchorage Daily News; and about theater for The Oregonian. She covers theater and family performances for Oregon ArtsWatch. She was also an arts and dining editor for five years before leaving journalism as a full-time profession. When she’s not absorbed in the arts, she is probably at her day job at an educational assessment company or with her husband and their three daughters (born within 12 months and 6 days).


Danna Schaeffer in her play “You in Midair.” Photo: Owen Carey


Welker reviews You in Midair, Danna Schaeffer’s startling and moving solo play about life before and after a stalker murdered her daughter Rebecca, a 21-year-old actress from Oregon who was a regular on the TV series My Sister Sam, in 1989. “It is as devastating as you might imagine, but it is also funny – Schaeffer shares some of the absurd moments that followed losing her daughter so publicly – and liberating for someone to share such real, raw grief.”



Elizabeth Whelan

A recent Portland arrival from Philadelphia, Elizabeth is a movement-based artist, choreographer, teacher, writer, and yogi who’s performed with the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with Putty Dance Project in Philadelphia, and elsewhere. In addition to writing about dance for ArtsWatch, she’s written for The Dance Journal in Philadelphia.


Anthony Michael Pucci and Samantha Campbell in NW Dance Project’s “Billie.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert


Whelan reviews the company’s Bolero + Billie, pairing Ihsan Rustem’s witty take on Bolero with a suite of dances featuring the songs of Billie Holiday. “As the first few piano riffs dance their way into the theater, the curtain rises in no rush, as if cueing the audience to sit back, relax, and let the sounds of Holiday’s enchanting voice paired with the dancers’ talent do the rest.”



Heather Wisner

Heather joins ArtsWatch as a seasoned and highly respected dance writer. She started ballet lessons at age 8 with a former member of Ballets Russes and graduated from the dance department at Portland State University. She has given ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop and salsa a whirl, and written about dance for The OregonianWillamette WeekPortland MonthlySF WeeklyDance MagazinePointe and Dance Teacher, among other publications. She is former associate editor at Dance Magazine and current managing editor of Dance Studio Lifehwisner@hotmail.com


BodyVox’s “Lexicon.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert


Wisner reviews the kickoff show of the Portland dance company’s 20th season and its full-on embrace of high tech as a partner in the dance: “Lexicon’s best pieces make you wonder why you haven’t seen another dance company play around with a particular bit of tech before, and what other possibilities remain.”






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