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The arts in 2013: The first six months

By Barry Johnson

December 30, 2013

ArtsWatch brothers and sisters, 2013 was… good grief, what WAS 2013? Let’s see: sad, tense, conflicted, uncertain, amazing, glorious, strange, crazy. Please feel free to add your own adjectives if you don’t like those. You won’t hurt my feelings, honest.

For any of us, summing it all up also means admitting that we can’t help but be incomplete. The arts are so pervasive here, so wide-reaching, that even a team of us dedicated to seeing as much as we can, inevitably falls short of the mark:  A commitment to one subject leaves a thousand more (at least) untouched. That’s one of the limitations we live with, uncomfortably.

We can’t go on, but we must go on!

So, here we offer Part One of a re-cap of the ArtsWatch Year in Stories. It’s not comprehensive, not even of the stories we wrote, because this year we managed to write something like 500 of them.  But maybe they’ll give you enough of a taste to get your own memories working.

Anne Mueller left Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2013/Oregon Ballet Theatre

Anne Mueller left Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2013/Oregon Ballet Theatre


The changing of the guard at Artists Repertory Theatre meant that long-time assistant artistic director Jon Kretzu left the company at the beginning of the year.

Brett Campbell started a big argument with his contention that holiday concerts (and really most classical concerts) are too long and not audience friendly enough. I joined in because the point (less is more) seemed so obvious.

Jamuna Chiarini did a set of three choreographer interviews at dance rehearsals, the first with Anne Mueller.

Portland playwright Sue Mach’s new play for Third Rail Repertory Theatre, “A Noble Failure,” took on the subject of the testing mania that has seized our schools, among other things.

The Warhol Foundation and PICA created the Precipice Fund, dedicated to financing artist collaborations that have often been unfundable by foundations and government agencies. Later in the year, they announced the first class of recipients.

Fertile Ground 2013 was a microcosm of the year in arts: overflowing and various as you can imagine. The ArtsWatch scouting crew managed to hit a LOT of the performances and got a taste of the Future!

The lumber room’s Terrain Shift exhibition, reported Patrick Collier, caught the discipline of photography in a moment of transition.


Bob Hicks wrote about what happened when the Portland Opera rode a warhorse named “Tosca” with a lithe and lovely touch.

Profile Theatre’s season of Athol Fugard plays reminded us of apartheid history past and how that history resonated down to the family level in “The Road to Mecca.”

The sudden late-2012 resignation of Christopher Stowell left Oregon Ballet Theatre at the crossroads.

Profile Theatre and Theatre Vertigo were kicked out of their home in the Theater! Theatre! building, which decided to take the theater out of the building. Later in the year, happy endings were realized.

The great maestro James DePreist, who led the Oregon Symphony for nearly a quarter of a century, died. leaving us to consider his vast influence on the orchestra and the city.

A Portland Art Museum retrospective of native Portlander Carrie Mae Weems focused the city’s attention on the personal politics of race, reported S. Renee Mitchell.

Brett Campbell proposed that Oregon seize on its strength by investing in New Music Incubators, using Brooklyn’s Original Music Workshop as a model.

AL Adams served up some short-order art at PLACE gallery and kept a diary of the experience.


How does Portland paint itself? And is its “style” changing? AL Adams addressed the questions with illustrations!

Martha Ullman West remembered choreographer and costume designer Jann Dryer, who helped pioneer modern dance in Portland in the 1970s.

Carter Hudson, Christopher Livingston, "Whipping Man." Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Carter Hudson, Christopher Livingston, “Whipping Man.” Photo: Patrick Weishampel

Issues around race popped up a lot last spring, including Profile’s “Blood Knot” and Portland Center Stage’s “The Whipping Man,” which Bob Hicks reviewed together.

Jamuna Chiarini interviewed Eric Skinner on choreographing with confidence.

We started Sabina Samiee’s diaristic take, My Year in Tango, as it unspooled over several weeks.

Classical Revolution PDX founder Mattie Kaiser decided to step down from her post, and we conducted her exit interview.

The Portland arts tax, which passed overwhelmingly in 2012 providing arts classes to Portland elementary students and funding to arts groups, was adjusted to make it fairer.


White Bird’s ongoing relationship with Paul Taylor Dance Company has given us lots of chances to think about his loopily beautiful work.

Annie Baker’s “The Aliens” from Third Rail gave us a disturbing picture of life in our times and a way of considering it.

Portland is rapidly becoming a city of storytellers (among other things), and Lawrence Howard at the Singlehandedly festival is a good reason why.

Christopher Corbell was picked to replace Mattie Kaiser at Classical Revolution PDX, and we got him on the record right after he started.

Jana Hanchett kept a good eye on piano performance in Portland in 2013, including Arnoldo Cohen’s last performance before he took command at Portland Piano International.

Tom Prochaska's "Ensor's Boat"/Courtesy Froelick Gallery

Tom Prochaska’s “Ensor’s Boat”/Courtesy Froelick Gallery


The new artistic director of Artists Repertory Theatre, Damaso Rodriguez, directed “Ten Chimneys,” and may have sent some smoke signals about his intentions.

Jeff Winslow and Bruce Browne offered authoritative double-barreled looks at Oregon’s fertile choral music scene.

A new Portland Playhouse adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s great novel, “The Left Hand of Darkness,” got us thinking about a multitude of issues.

Patrick Collier went visiting to Tom Prochaska’s imaginary city at Froelick Gallery.

After falling afoul of the official rules of journalism (most notably: Thou shall not make stuff up), Mike Daisey explained himself, and Brett Campbell assessed the damage.

Bob Hicks went backstage for tech night of “A Bright New Boise” to see the chefs at work.


How do classical pianists connect with audiences in the new millennium? Jana Hanchett considered four approaches to the problem.

Oregon Ballet Theatre principal Lucas Threefoot headed for Europe and the Monte Carlo ballet, but stopped first to talk to Martha Ullman West.

New plays by Andrea Stolowitz and Carol Triffle, “Ithaka” and “Beaux Arts Club,” both featured great performances by their leading actors while exploring different precincts of the theater universe.

Oregon Ballet Theatre chose Kevin Irving to replace Christopher Stowell as artistic director, and we supplied the entrance interview.

Isamu Noguchi, "Cloud Mountain"/Portland Japanese Garden

Isamu Noguchi, “Cloud Mountain”/Portland Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of great art exhibitions, including one of work by Isamu Noguchi, which turned around Patrick Collier’s thinking about art.

Graham Bell interviewed Portland photographer Evan La Londe about his recent conceptual and seductive work.

While we were doing exit interviews, we sat down with Anne Mueller to look back at her time at Oregon Ballet Theatre and what lies ahead.

In June, The Oregonian announced another round of layoffs, which trimmed its already small staff of arts writers even further, and ArtsWatch made its bets about the future.

Naturally, much more happened in the first six months of 2013 (including my favorite show of the year, “Something’s Got Ahold of My Heart,” which I never even wrote about!). But that gives you some idea, yes? And tomorrow we’ll have the exciting conclusion of 2013 in the arts!

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives