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Saturday morning at the Wall: News and notes

By Barry Johnson

July 7, 2012

Rembrandt, “An Actor in his Dressing Room,” Devonshire Collection

ArtsWatch is ever-vigilant, even when summer in Oregon suggests that we leave our post for more undisciplined activities. No, we are at the ramparts. Just like Colonel Jessup: “…deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall…”  Wow! At this point, brunch would be nice, wouldn’t it?

And while we pull an imaginary mimosa lipward, a few bits of news and few links. From the Wall.

 Good words: From Cornelius Swart, we learned a little more about the 90-day rescue of the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival and the reasons the venerable festival needed a rescue in the first place. Maybe a new generation of arts organizers can breathe new life into our old institutions? (I can just barely suppress a Rose Festival rant…) ArtsWatch certainly hopes so.

And Marty Hughley, The Oregonian’s indomitable theater critic, assembled a little story on Portland Storyteller’s Lawrence Howard’s acceptance into New York City’s relatively new United Solo Festival to perform his one-man show, “Shackleton’s Antarctic Nightmare: The 1914 Voyage of the Endurance.” Bob Hicks wrote the definitive account of this show for ArtsWatch in January.

By the way, news of both of these developments has popped up on the ArtsWatch Facebook page, which I hope you’re following!

We just can’t keep up with Milepost 5because there’s just too much going on over there on NE 81st, from innovative art openings to Shakespeare. Check out the website if you don’t believe me. The artists’ community is also hosting the Portland Outdoor Shakespeare Festival, July 20-22  and 27-29, which brings together several of the city’s Shakespeare-engaged ensembles—Northwest Classical Theater CompanyOriginal Practice Shakespeare FestivalPortland Actor’s EnsembleWillamette ShakespeareFuse Theatre Ensemble and Post5 Theatre itself. This is a GREAT idea, and we’ll get you the schedule as soon as we can.

Maybe it’s weird, here in the middle of festival season, but after seeing the TBA festival schedule from PICA, we suddenly wanted to fast-forward to September. On second thought, missing July and August might not be such a good idea, but that line-up is juicy.

Each local theater ecology has its problems, even the one in Los Angeles. The LA Times’ Charles McNulty conducted a round-table with the leaders of some of that city’s most progressive theater companies to explore one of those problems in LA: The delay in getting challenging new work by national-level playwrights onto the city’s stages. The names of 2012 Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, Annie Baker, Will Eno, Christopher Shinn, Lisa D’Amour, Young Jean Lee and Amy Herzog all came up. So did Quiara Alegría Hudes’ “A Spoonful of Water,” winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for drama. I’ve been wondering the same thing about new works by Annie Baker, Will Eno, Christopher Shinn, Lisa D’Amour, Young Jean Lee and Amy Herzog. David Harrower and Martin McDonagh.

The major issue seemed to be getting the rights to the plays: Playwrights and their agents hold off on granting the rights to the smaller, more adventurous companies if there’s any chance they might land a production at one of the Big Boys, Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, South Coast Repertory, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe, which pay  much greater royalties—but are much more conservative in their programming. Only at the end of the roundtable did one potential solution arise: Maybe the companies should nurture their own set of playwrights and plays, because LA has loads of writers.

Of course, this problem isn’t exclusive to LA. Every city has its pecking order when it comes to securing rights to new work, basically in order of size. So, in Portland, generally, Portland Center Stage gets first pickings, followed by ART and then down the line. Of course, the adventure level of the selections is another matter for another time.

This week in Old Master drawings: Which is “more important,” the discovery of 100 drawings by the young Caravaggio in an Italian castle or an exhibition of wonderful drawings from the Devonshire collection by Rembrandt, Raphael and Leonardo, among others, that haven’t been seen for 100 years? I don’t know, but I guess I’d go for the sampling of drawings assembled by the various Dukes of Devonshire over the years, the second-largest collection in England after the Queen’s, per the Guardian. On the other hand, why even bother answering that silly question? Mostly, I just wanted an excuse to show that Rembrandt (above) of an actor preparing for his role, apparently he’s playing a well-fed bishop, if the robes on the hook behind him are any indication. Maybe a farce by Gerbrand Adriaensz Bredero, not that I’ve seen one, but I’d like to. You see where drawings get you? Far afield…

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