What wedding? — on Chekhov, string quartets, bridges, drums and locavores

  • The royal whatzis
  • The Cherry Orchard at Artists Repertory Theatre
  • Noble Viola on Opus at Portland Center Stage
  • Brian Libby on the failed Columbia River Crossing
  • Portland Taiko tells a tale
  • James E. McWilliams on eating locally and globally

Portland Taiko. Photo: Rich Iwasaki/2009Portland Taiko. Rich Iwasaki/2009

By Bob Hicks

We’re given to understand some sort of white-tie wedding is taking place in the wee hours of Friday morning, and much of the world is agog. Art Scatter does not plan to cover it. With any luck — if the cat doesn’t come slapping at our cheek with her paw, demanding to be let outside — we’ll be snoozing.

And now, on with the news.

Chekhov the composer: On Wednesday night the Scatters took in The Cherry Orchard, playwright Richard Kramer’s world-premiere adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s final dramatic masterpiece, at Artists Rep. It struck us again that, like so many leading playwrights, Chekhov thought like a musician.

Like a string quartet: Linda Alper, Tim Blough (background), Michael Mendelson and Tobias Andersen in "The Cherry Orchard." Photo: Owen CareyThere isn’t much story to The Cherry Orchard, but there are themes, counter-themes, motifs. It’s chamber music, and the way we hear it can be startlingly different from production to production, depending not just on our own life experiences (interpreting Chekhov relies to an extreme on what the audience brings to it) but also on the emphases of interpretation on the stage: Do we concentrate on the cello tonight, or the bassoon? In truth, I suspect that even more so than ordinarily, every member of the audience sees a different play when watching Chekhov.

Kramer’s intermissionless adaptation, which I like quite a lot, sets out to rough up the Chekhov-as-wistful-yearning school of thought, and it succeeds. To extend the musical metaphor, it’s a bit like Bach rearranged by Bartok: depths and balances and gorgeous tones, but syncopated and spiked up.

Continue reading What wedding? — on Chekhov, string quartets, bridges, drums and locavores

R.I.P.: Janet Bradley, Harold Schnitzer

Two significant figures in Portland arts and culture have died, and we express our appreciation to them and our condolences to their friends and families.

Harold Schnitzer, the prominent businessman who was a major supporter of the Portland Art Museum and many other organizations, died early this morning at age 87. In the past several years he and his wife, Arlene, have given $80 million to Portland and Oregon causes — an immense reinvestment. They were also astute and generous art collectors; Arlene founded the important Fountain Gallery that gave a commercial kick-start to the Portland art scene. D.K. Row has this report at Oregon Live. UPDATE: The Oregonian has filed this much expanded obituary on Oregon Live.

Janet Bradley, co-founder and for all of its years the vital organizing force behind the puppet company Tears of Joy, died unexpectedly yesterday, April 26. She was a warm, practical and generous woman, always behind the scenes but well-known and well-liked in the performance community. Tears of Joy is a company for kids but it’s also always been hooked in with some of the most innovative international practitioners of the art, and Janet’s openness and determination had a great deal to do with that. We don’t have a lot of details, but her daughter, Emily Alexander, posted this yesterday on Facebook:

My warm and perfect mother, Janet Bradley, passed away early this morning. She was, as you know, a vibrant, electric, and beautiful woman. Her passing is a shock. The cause can best be described as a birth-defect of her aorta that none of us, including my mother, knew about. She was an elegant queen with a green thumb who could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. And she truly loved and enjoyed her life. My mom was my very best friend, and a second mother to my children. I am so grateful to have had the time we did.

UPDATE: Michael Griggs, executive director of Portland Taiko and a longtime close friend of Bradley, sends this:

“Janet collapsed at work Monday afternoon, was rushed to Legacy Emanuel hospital and underwent surgery at 2 p.m., but died at 2 a.m. from a previously undetected congenital problem with her aorta.

“Janet was a leader not only in Portland and Southwest Washington, but nationally in the world of puppetry and performing arts touring. She was a tireless advocate for performing arts for children and arts education, and she will be greatly missed by her many colleagues, friends, and the Tears of Joy family and friends.”

A celebration of Janet Bradley’s life will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 16, in downtown Portland’s Newmark Theatre.

Contributions to Tears of Joy in Janet’s name may be made to:

Tears of Joy Theatre
323 N.E. Wygant St. #201
Portland, OR 97211
www.tojt.org
503-284-7540

Ballet in do-si-do; Mueller flies high

Anne Mueller in Christopher Stowell's "Eyes on You" at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.Anne Mueller in Eyes on You. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

By Bob Hicks

“Oh, look!” Mr. Scatter said, glancing up from his program. “The music is by Wiwaldi and Corelli. You’ll like that.”

The Small Large Smelly Boy snickered. “Why do you always say ‘Wiwaldi’ for ‘Vivaldi‘?” he asked.

“Because sometimes you need to do things just for the fun of it.”

One works small life lessons into the conversation when one sees the opportunity.

Julia Rowe (foreground) and Olga Krochik in George Balanchine's "Square Dance." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.When George Balanchine created Square Dance for New York City Ballet in 1957, he must have done it at least partly just for the fun of it. What a mashup! — the measured musical courtliness of two Baroque master composers, a stage filled with neoclassically trained ballet dancers, a small Baroque-style orchestra about the size and sonic configuration of an acoustic hillbilly band, and off in the corner, resplendent in Western shirt, bolo tie and cowboy hat, a 20th century American square-dance caller shouting out the do-si-do’s. It took a brilliant creative leap, on a much higher level than the whimsical substituting of a few “w”s for “v”s, to make these cross-century connections, and to make them seem so obvious after the fact: the balanced regularity of Baroque music and country-dance music; virtuoso turns on the 18th century violin and the 20th century fiddle; the stylized courtship patterns in both Baroque and modern country dance; the easy back-and-forth between high and popular art; the backward glance, from the modern ballet stage, to the more rudimentary yet charming forms of the art in Corelli’s and Vivaldi’s times. The incongruities work because, underneath, they really aren’t incongruous at all.

Continue reading Ballet in do-si-do; Mueller flies high

Nan Curtis? Pick up the phone, please

Portland interdisciplinary artist Nan Curtis is the 20th recipient of the annual Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award. There’ll be a free public reception for her from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Gray Lounge of Kaul Auditorium at Reed College.

Nan Curtis, "My Mom's Cigarette Wrapper" 2009 cigarette wrapper, paper, frame“My Mom’s Cigarette Wrapper,” 2009

By Bob Hicks

Don’t call them. They’ll call you. But you really do need to pick up the phone.

“My cell phone rang at 8:30 at night,” Portland artist Nan Curtis recalled the other day over coffee at inner Southeast Portland’s J&M Cafe. “My kids had just gone to bed, and — I didn’t know that number, so I didn’t pick it up.”

Then her land line started ringing. This time Curtis figured something must be up, so she answered.

Nan Curtis, "Mom Rocket," 2010. Steel, afghan, pillow.It was Christine Bourdette, the Portland sculptor who was the first recipient of the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award 20 years ago and is chair of the Bronson fund advisory committee. Congratulations, Bourdette  said. We chose you. Oh — and you can’t tell anyone for two months.

Just like that, Curtis joined a distinguished list of Oregon artists who have been named Bronson fellows. In order, the fellows include Bourdette, Judy Cooke, Ronna Neuenschwander, Fernanda D’Agostino, Carolyn King, Lucinda Parker, Judy Hill, Adriene Cruz, Helen Lessick, Ann Hughes, Malia Jensen, Christopher Rauschenberg, Kristy Edmunds, Paul Sutinen, Bill Will, Laura Ross-Paul, MK Guth, Marie Watt, David Eckard, and Curtis.

“Those are totally the artists that I grew up beneath. It’s a pretty cool list of people,” Curtis said.

Continue reading Nan Curtis? Pick up the phone, please

Balls, burritos and blasts from the past

I got balls.

By Laura Grimes

Dear Mr. Scatter,

I finished dusting my balls, recurating them, and I added an avocado pit to the collection. Can you guess which one it is?*

I know you think I just lobbed you a big fat softball (I have two in my collection) so you can make a smartass comeback, but then I would just have to emphasize softball, so let’s leave it at that.

Continue reading Balls, burritos and blasts from the past

Caution: Blogjacking in progress

By Laura Grimes

Quick. Mr. Scatter is on the road, so let’s post while he’s not looking.

Some people call. Some people text. I believe in the more sneaky form of communication — surprise blog posts broadcast to the world. Consider them entertainment and information all scrolled into one.

Dear Mr. Scatter,

What’s news since you left this morning?

Holy hot tub, I received an email with the below attached picture of a souvenir for the upcoming royal wedding (it’s good to have friends in low places). If you can’t tell, they’re tea bags.

Royal tea bags

Continue reading Caution: Blogjacking in progress

Portland Photo Month, all over town

"Still Life with Lemons, Grapes and Apple," Kerry Davis, at 12x16 GalleryKerry Davis/12×16 Gallery

By Bob Hicks

Quit fooling around with Photo Booth stretchy faces on your new iPad: time to get serious about this shutterbug thing. April is Portland Photo Month, aligning itself with the biannual Photolucida portfolio extravaganza, and high-quality photo shows are all over town.

On Saturday, a big handful of Pearl District galleries will be open late for receptions, generally until 7 in the evening and generally with the featured photographers on hand. Get details at the Portland Photo Month Web site, which has the advantage of also being an excellent virtual photogravure of what’s going on this month. You’ll also find listings of various artists’ talks: for instance, the excellent nature photographer Ron Cronin speaks at noon Saturday at Augen Gallery.

Mitch Dobrowner, "Bear's Claw," Blue Sky GalleryMitch Dobrowner/Blue Sky Gallery

In print: Meanwhile, I have brief reviews in this morning’s Oregonian A&E section of several gallery shows: Sean Healy’s small-town cultural lament Upstate, which involves a lot of cigarette butts, at Elizabeth Leach; Isaac Layman’s big manipulated household photos, also at Leach; Eirik Johnson and Julie Blackmon’s radically differing but equally appealing photos, at Laura Russo; and Kentree Spiers’ small bright semi-abstract landscapes at Blackfish. Pick up a dead tree and check it out, or see it online here.

Previews of coming attractions: This afternoon I’ll be having coffee with artist Nan Curtis, this year’s winner of one of Portland’s most coveted arts prizes, the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award. We’ll be passing along some of what she has to say. A public reception is coming up 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the lounge of Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium.

Last week I sat down with the excellent Portland actor Michael Mendelson (he’s opening soon in The Cherry Orchard at Artists Rep) to talk about his newest passion, the Portland Shakespeare Project. The new company, for which he’s artistic director, opens this summer with one of the Bard’s best comedies, As You Like It, plus a staged reading of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty, a comedy about English theater in the days when men and boys still played the women’s roles. More to come.

Finally, Mr. Scatter is getting ready to embark on yet another expedition into the wild and woolly northlands, on beyond the concrete canyons of Microsoftia and into the frontier territories of Bug and Jam. Who knows what wondrous unanticipated adventures might occur?

Jacques d’Amboise, dancing and talking

Groundbreaking ballet dancer Jacques d’Amboise, who created memorable roles in works by Balanchine and other stars of ballet’s American golden age, will be in Portland on Thursday, April 14, to talk about his new book I Was a Dancer. D’Amboise also choreographed for Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, and appeared in dancing roles in the movie-musical classics Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Carousel. Art Scatter’s chief correspondent, Martha Ullman West, will introduce him before his talk at the Portland Ballet Studio. Come hear ‘em both — and read what Martha has to say about d’Amboise below.

By Martha Ullman West

Writing about dancing ain’t easy, as you’ve all heard me say more than once. Like visual arts and music, this is non-verbal communication, and, to paraphrase William Butler Yeats, people dance to say the things there are no words for.

Jacques d'Amboise in "Apollo." Courtesy New York City Ballet.Few dancers are as capable of eloquence with words as they are with their bodies, but there are exceptions. Jacques d’Amboise, one of this country’s first homegrown great male ballet dancers, is one of them, and he’ll be in town to talk about his new book, I Was a Dancer, this Thursday, April 14, at the Portland Ballet Studio. (6250 SW Capitol Highway, 7:30-9 pm, for reservations call 503-452-8448.)

I’ll introduce him, briefly. Then he’ll read from the book, show some clips from the superb DVD Jacques d’Amboise, Portrait of a Great American Dancer, take some questions from the audience and sign some books, which thanks to Annie Bloom’s Books, will be available for purchase at the studio.

Continue reading Jacques d’Amboise, dancing and talking

First Thursday: better than the movies?

 Allen Ginsberg, "Neal Cassady and Natalie Jackson conscious of their roles in Eternity," Market Street, San Francisco, 1955 gelatin silver print 16 x 20" framedAllen Ginsberg/Elizabeth Leach Gallery

By Bob Hicks

Tonight is First Thursday, the monthly gallery walk when spaces across town (but mostly downtown and in the Pearl) throw their doors open and hope at least a few party-hoppers will drop back soon to actually buy something. There are lots of other openings as well, of course, but First Thursday is the marketing focus. And thanks to Photolucida, April is Portland Photo Month. We ran this incomplete guide in this morning’s Oregonian; check it out.

Here are a few Scatter possibilities:

Continue reading First Thursday: better than the movies?

Le Carré for kids: Parry at the Berlin Wall

By Bob Hicks

“Tuesday, May 22, 1990,” Rosanne Parry heads the first chapter of her newest novel. “West Berlin.”

Rosanne Parry's newest. Cover illustration Blake Morrow; jacket design Heather Palisi.Like a lot of writers, Parry just picks her scene and throws you right into the middle of it. Ah. Berlin. Nineteen-Ninety. Scant months after the jubilant tearing-down of the Wall.

Feels like yesterday — except that for the vast majority of Parry’s readers it wasn’t yesterday, it was before they were born, and so it might as well be a tale of the Peloponnesian War: it’s all ancient, and it’s all brand new.

Continue reading Le Carré for kids: Parry at the Berlin Wall

a Portland-centric arts and culture blog