Oregon ArtsWatch

New voices of ArtsWatch 2017

A dozen writers have joined the ArtsWatch ranks this year. Find out who they are, and what they're bringing to the cultural mixer.

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

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

CAUGHT IN A LIE, OR A TRUTH

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.

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ArtsWatch’s hit parade 2017

Readers' choice: From a musical fracas to rising stars to a book paradise, a look back on our most read and shared stories of the year

Here at ArtsWatch, it’s flashback time. It’s been a wild year, and the 15 stories that rose to the top level of our most-read list in 2017 aren’t the half of it, by a long shot: In this calendar year alone we’ve published more than 500 stories.

Those stories exist 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.

Here, back for another look, is an all-star squad of stories that clicked big with our readers in the past 12 months:

 


 

Matthew Halls conducted Brahms’s ‘A German Requiem’ at the 2016 Oregon Bach Festival. Photo: Josh Green.

The Shrinking Oregon Bach Festival

In June Tom Manoff, for many years the classical music critic for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, looked at the severe drop in attendance and cutbacks in programming at the premiere Eugene music festival. He summarized: “Thinking ahead, I ask: If this year’s schedule portends the future, can OBF retain its world-class level? My answer is no.” His essay, which got more hits than any other ArtsWatch story in 2017, got under a lot of people’s skin. But it was prescient, leading to …

Bach Fest: The $90,000 solution. This followup that had the year’s second-highest number of clicks: Bob Hicks’s look at the mess behind the surprise firing of Matthew Halls as the festival’s artistic leader and the University of Oregon’s secretive response to all questions about it.

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DanceWatch Weekly: close partners

Spenser Theberge talks about “Rather This, Then” and his partnership with Jermaine Spivey; L-E-V comes to White Bird; Mood Factory; more

Dancer and Portland native Spenser Theberge and his partner in life and dance, Jermaine Spivey, are back in town to perform Rather This, Then, a work they developed last September during a residency at Disjecta here in Portland. They will perform it twice on Friday, Nov. 17, once at 12:15 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. at Reed College’s Massee Performance Lab in the Performing Arts Building.

Jamuna Chiarini

Theberge grew up in Portland dancing at The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre and Columbia Dance in Vancouver and went on to attend Juilliard and dance with the Netherlands Dance Theatre and The Forsythe Company.

Spivey also attended Juilliard, and went on to dance for Ballet Gulbenkian and the Cullberg Ballet, joining Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s company Kidd Pivot in 2008, where he dances now. You might have seen him perform back in April 2016 when White Bird brought Betroffenheit to Portland—a collaboration between Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theatre that combined dance and theater, which ArtsWatch’s Nim Wunnan captured in his review, which you can read here.

Therberge describes this collaborative work as “highly physical and highly human, calling on body, voice, and visual elements to reveal truths about each other. It’s privacy made public, it’s tenderly voyeuristic, and the result is an opportunity for the audience to see something of themselves represented in another.”

When Theberge was here last year I interviewed him via email about his life in dance in the United States versus Europe. “Working as a dancer in Europe means you’re really well taken care of,” he said. “You get paid all year, have health care, vacation time, physical therapy, a pension plan. Dancing is the same as any other job there (for the most part, although Europe is beginning to see similar budget cuts in the arts as we do in America) and the conditions and benefits of the all jobs are the same.” You can read the full interview here.

Since then, he and Spivey have been quite busy. Therberge has restaged works from Nederlands Dans Theater on companies in Rome, Lyon, and Tulsa, and Spivey just finished a long tour of Betroffenheit with Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theater that included being awarded an Olivier Award in London. The Olivier Award, or The Laurence Olivier Awards, is an annual award given by the Society of London Theatre in recognition of excellence in professional theater in London.

Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Somewhere in there they moved to Los Angeles and are settling in for the first time in two years, Theberge said when we spoke recently via email. “We’ve been focusing a lot on establishing roots and connecting with our new community which has felt so enriching after missing that home feeling for so long. We’ve been teaching a lot and creating short works on dancers around L.A. and America. Now we’re talking about what we want our future to look like and how we can facilitate those experiences.”

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ArtsWatch Weekly: making it work

You can help us keep the engine running; summer music festivals, "Cabaret" and "The Addams Family," "Baskerville" and more

We have a lot on our minds here at ArtsWatch this week, from the kickoff of the Chamber Music Northwest season to free ballet in the park to a chorus line of Broadway musicals. We’ll get to all of that, and more.

But first, we want to talk about something basic.

ArtsWatch has been here when you’ve needed coverage. Now we ask you to support our important work. Unlike many media outlets, we don’t operate behind a paywall. Everything we publish is freely available to you and anyone who wants to read it. That means we’re in a partnership with our readers, and to continue to grow and thrive we need your support.
It’s especially key right now, as coverage of the fine and performing arts in other media continues to drop dramatically. ArtsWatch has become the leading source for substantial, informed arts news that you don’t find anywhere else.
 If you’re an arts organization, you count on us to get your word out. If you’re a devoted follower of the arts, you count on us to know what’s going on. You count on us to begin and continue compelling conversations. ArtsWatch can’t continue to do that without your contributions.
ArtsWatch is a crucial part of the arts ecosystem in the community. You rely on ArtsWatch to provide vital feedback, smart and substantive coverage, validation for grants, marketing gold in quotes and links, and a way to keep yourselves and your audiences engaged and educated.
Now we ask for your help.
How can you support us? It’s simple.
  • Make a donation. Click this link to pay online or send us a check.
  • Buy an ad and promote your good work. Contact Laura Grimes at laura@orartswatch.org.
  • Give us a shout-out on social media, in your newsletters, and at your events.
EVERY donation and ad sponsorship goes to pay writers and editors for their professional time and effort. ArtsWatch is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, and you may be able to deduct your charitable contribution from your taxes.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to cover the vibrant arts community in Portland and throughout Oregon. Everyone at ArtsWatch is deeply grateful for all our readers and supporters.

 

With heartfelt thanks,

Barry Johnson
Bob Hicks
Brett Campbell
Laura Grimes
and all of our talented freelance writers

 


 

Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Xuan Cheng in rehearsal for Giaconda Barbuto’s new work in “Choreography XX” at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater Thursday and Friday. Photo: Yi Yin

 

WHAT’S COMING UP THIS WEEK:

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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.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: season of gifts

Closing out 2016, giving to the groups that keep Oregon's culture alive and help it thrive

We are almost to an end and almost to a beginning, and neither is truly an ending or a beginning except in the way we divide and parcel time. Because we are a calendar- and clock-driven species, though, and because we live in a culture that regulates the trading chips we call “money,” the division of time between one year and the next has consequences. One such consequence is that we are in the time of giving, to the nonprofit organizations we believe in, and taking, of the tax credits available when we give those gifts before the end of the calendar year.

Like other nonprofits, arts groups large and small can’t cover their costs on ticket income alone. Figures vary, but it’s not unusual for cultural organizations to cover roughly half of their costs through earned income, and rely on grants and gifts for the rest. And while large donations are crucial, the lifeblood of most cultural groups is those smaller, regular, individual or family donations from everyday people – from you and me.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Blue Ribbon Special

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Summertime, and the feeling is scattered. The rhythm of the season is both relaxed and jagged, irregular, prone to long gaps and sudden leaps. Quick: a day in the mountains, a weekend at the beach, a backyard barbecue before the weather turns and the kids head back to school.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 1.55.34 PMIn the past week or so I’ve spied a lovely giant wood-carved Bigfoot lurking by the side of the road on the way to Timberline Lodge, which whetted my appetite for funky folk art; and a swayback, smudged-white horse grazing idly beneath a giant Trump for President sign on a farm north of Ellensburg in central Washington, which whetted my appetite for oddball juxtapositions. Both are peculiarities that seem congruent with an August day.

Down in Salem the Oregon State Fair opens on Friday (“Here Comes the Fun!” the promos shout) and I doubt I’ll make it this year, but if I do I’m also pretty sure I’ll find some blissful oddities to contemplate. I note, for instance, that one of the ongoing features is something called Machine Mania, in which “Pistons Rule!” Plus, this year there’ll be a blue ribbon for marijuana crops. The mind boggles.

 


 

AUGUST ARTS EVENTS are often quick-and-dirty affairs, too, here and gone again almost before you can blink. A couple of short-term things coming up this week, plus a longer-running show to get on your calendar before it disappears:

"The Reimagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman." Photo: Chain Reaction Theatre.

“The Reimagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman.” Photo: Chain Reaction Theatre.

The Re-Imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman. The world premiere of Elizabeth Huffman’s reimagining of a 1967 Josef Bush play will run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Milagro Theatre. A co-production of Huffman’s Chain Reaction Theatre and Cygnet Productions, it’s directed by Cygnet’s Louanne Moldovan and stars Huffman in the dual roles of a wealthy Austrian queen caught in the aftermath of the French Revolution in 1793 and a wealthy Syrian bon vivant caught in an Arab uprising in 2016.

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