Portland sketch comedy

Spectravagasm ‘Holidaze’: Come one, come all

The reliably great comedy series is finally accessible in more ways than one

Can this be the year that Spectravagasm stops feeling like a secret? Because I’m tired of having to explain how funny it is. Everyone should just go see it.

If the tight-knit crowd who’ve already followed this show for years can don their earmuffs for a moment, we’ll review: Spectravagasm is a series of original sketch comedy shows that each address one of life’s broadest topics. So far, they’ve skewered religion, death, drugs, gender, art, love, camp—and now, finally, holidays. Armed with a bouncy, sarcastic ensemble cast, a barrage of kitschy video segments, a Spectravagasm theme song that changes lyrics to support each show’s theme, and at least one all-new musical number every time, Spectravagasm is one of the most complete packages available in Portland-artisan-crafted theater entertainment. Why doesn’t everybody know?

L to R: Keith Cable, Jessica Tidd, Jim Vadala, Sam Dinkowitz, Jessi Walters, Phillip Berns

L to R: Keith Cable, Jessica Tidd, Jim Vadala, Sam Dinkowitz, Diane Kondrat, Jessi Walters, Phillip Berns. Photo: Kathleen Kelly

I can see a couple reasons for this. Up ’til now, Spectravagasm has always been a Post5 Theatre property, holding down that house’s late-night spot after whatever play they were officially billing as part of their season. Post5, up through its closure last week, had always occupied the city’s geographic fringes, starting on 82nd Avenue and finishing in Sellwood. Furthermore, there’s seemed to be an unfortunate inverse correlation between the buzz ‘gasm has generated over the years and the time that’s been put in. Why? Because the show’s producer and mastermind, Sam Dinkowitz, performs in many other shows around town—perhaps most relevantly committing his last three Christmases to Twist Your Dickens at Portland Center Stage. While that role raised his profile, it also limited the time he could pour into his pet project; hence, the ‘gasms that finally garnered the most public buzz—”drugs” and “art”—also least demonstrated the scope of the troupe’s talents.

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Out There: Holiday Edition

Circus Christmas, cash-and-carry paintings, Post5 expats, and a belly dance potluck. For yuletide thrills, get out there!

While families may prefer to play it safe with their holiday celebrations, sometimes wise ones wander farther, guided by more distant stars. It was ever so.

Welcome to the winter edition of Out There, a semi-regular roundup of special, surprising, or lesser-known arts events. This December, ditch Bing Crosby’s White Christmas in favor of braver fare! Pluck fresh paintings right off a gallery wall and pay for them on the spot! Potluck with belly dancers! And give displaced Post5ers a Christmas to remember.

Wanderlust's Circus Carol features a ringmaster Scrooge haunted by circus-act spirits.

Wanderlust’s Circus Carol features a ringmaster Scrooge haunted by circus-act spirits.

The Big 500

Want to shop for original art the same way you’d load up a cart at the Cash ‘n’ Carry? Then hit the 9th annual Big 500. As its name suggests, this show/sale will unveil 500 paintings by various local artists, available for purchase on the spot. The works are as diverse as you might imagine, yet conveniently uniform in size and price: each 8″ x 8,” and $40. Curated by Chris Haberman (the artist behind the Eagles Lodge mural at 50th and Hawthorne and the now-closed People’s Gallery) this show may have moved from its former home at The Goodfoot Gallery to the Ford Gallery, but it still offers the same unbeatable deal as ever to gift-buyers and decorators on the prowl for original paintings.

Scary Puppet Film Night

Has anticipating the debut of Imago’s puppet masterpiece La Belle put you in the mood for more puppet magic? Then you may want to check out the significantly-more-sinister Scary Puppet Film Night. Beady Little Eyes will show rare and new puppet movies at The Steep and Thorny Way To Heaven. (Make reservations as this is technically a private club.)

Portland Bellydance Guild’s Winter Hafla+ The Art of Bellydance

Mourning the hidden midriffs of bleak midwinter? Then you may enjoy Portland Bellydance Guild’s Winter Hafla. What’s that, you ask? A free, family-friendly party and potluck with a few pro and student performances, plus open dancing and drumming. Feel free to “BYO” any of the following: food, non-alcohol drinks, percussion instruments (drums, tambourines, etc), and of course donations to buoy PBG’s general effort. Or if you’d prefer a more formal sitdown show, head to the Clinton Street Theater for The Art of Bellydance, a lineup of solo and group performers that, unfortunately, happens to be the swan song of four-year belly dance presenter From the Hip.

Viva’s Holiday

This gloriously notorious Portland-made “stripper opera” retells a true tale from Magic Gardens, the memoir of legendary local stripper Viva Las Vegas. Chris Corbell (formerly of Classical Revolution PDX and Muse:forward) conceived of the project, composed the opera and debuted it last season with support from members of Opera Theater Oregon and the blessing of Viva herself. With a twelve-piece orchestra, four singers, and a bit of tasteful nudity, it’s the only Christmas show of its kind.

White Album Christmas

Do you tire of the usual Christmas carols and winking 1950’s fireside kitsch? Have you ever yelled at Bing Crosby, “You’re no Beatles!”? Then Wanderlust Circus has a treat for you. This production is just what it says on the tin: a show set to the Beatles’ White Album, only “Christmas” to the extent that it happens in winter and it’s family-friendly. While The Nowhere Band plays the whole double album—horns, roars, refrains and all—cirque-bohemian dancers, aerialists, jugglers and clowns run helter skelter, embodying the psychedelic spirit of each song and together celebrating the album’s halcyon splendor.

A Circus Carol

Wanderlust’s other holiday tradition is much more in the Christmas-y canon, but still pretty full of surprises. Ringmaster Noah Mickens plays Scrooge, and each “spirit” that visits him is a different style of circus performer. Gypsy-jazz Christmas covers played by the brilliant Three Leg Torso and sung by various characters propel the storytelling and give each act something to swing to.

N.E.W. Residency Performance

There’s no telling what to expect from this culminative dance showcase by the participants of New Expressive Works’ 8th 6-month residency: Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills. Well, maybe there’s some telling. Though soundscape maestro Jay Clarke humbly downplays his contribution of new music to the show, claiming “The music is fine but the dancers are the main attraction,” audiophiles and film buffs who remember Clarke’s gorgeous score from the  2010 documentary Marwencol  will be resoundingly sold.

Spectravagasm: Holidazed

Spectravagasm, the twisted brainchild of brilliant comic actor Sam Dinkowitz and a handful of Post5 Theatre clowns, is a long-running sketch comedy series that’s already covered many themes including Camp, Love, Art, Death, and Drugs. Bum luck that as Dinkowitz emerged from three winters in PCS’s Twist Your Dickens to prep a Holiday ‘gasm, he learned Post5 was losing their proverbial room at the inn. With Post5 closing their Sellwood location, Shaking The Tree has now agreed to host Spectravagasm‘s wayfaring players. Anyone who’s wistful for Twist can count on similar irreverence from Dink in his new digs.

A Christmas Carol: A One-Man Ghost Story

Another orphaned show from Post5’s sudden closure is Phillip Berns’ solo version of A Christmas Carol. Even if you’ve seen the Christmas classic performed solo elsewhere before, this rendition is a rare treat because the spry, youthful actor playing all the roles is much more of a Tiny Tim/Cratchitt/Nephew type than a Scrooge sort. The planned full run has been compressed into three dates of dinner theater at Picnic House. Go partake in this comfort and joy.

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These events occur at various venues throughout the month of December. For further details, click directly on event titles.

 

 

 

Spectravagasm’s ‘Gender-gasm’ goes all the way

The sixth installment of Post5's frankly undersung late night sketch series "offends everyone equally," and amuses ArtsWatch a lot.

It’s a small, special club of people who’ve had the pleasure of witnessing all six of Post5 Theatre’s Spectravagasms, a series of sketch shows tackling various themes (horror, the future, religion, etc.) devised by wily buffoon Sam Dinkowitz and a small, brilliant team of other clowners-around. Too small, really. The work that obviously goes into these smartly written, tightly timed shows continues to be less than halfway met by potential audiences not bothering to venture all the way “out” to Post5, or those already on site for an earlier show who decide not to stay. Their loss! Why buy an evening of theater and not go for the ‘gasm?

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The current installment, Gendergasm, is onstage through Valentine’s Day in the late-night time slot following Woman on The Scarlet Beast and Gender Tree, and takes its thematic cue from the latter. In addition to Dinkowitz, the players are Nicole Accuardi, Chip Sherman, Brett Wilson and Rebecca Ridenour. Fast-paced, unpredictable and sometimes literally winking, it’s one of those rare satires that you could reasonably call a “romp.” And it’s faaaabulous, Bitches!

Oh. Wait. Sorry. I didn’t mean to call you “Bitches.”

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