39 steps to a new and better Mr. Scatter

Leif Norby on the lam in "Alfred Hitchcock's 'The 39 Steps'" at Portland Center Stage. Photo: OWEN CAREY

It’s been a busy few days around Scattertown.

First, on Thursday night, Mr. and Mrs. Scatter took a break from the gala festivities of Science Night at Irvington Elementary School to scoot up the hill to Talisman Gallery on Alberta, where their friend Cibyl Shinju Kavan was having an opening of new assemblages. Scrolls, bamboo, feathers and rocks figure into the work, which is quite pleasing.

Cibyl Shinju Kavan at Talisman GalleryThen, at midday Friday, the Scatter duo showed up at the Gerding Theater in the Armory to see dancer Linda Austin and her cohort J.P. Jenkins tear up the joint with a fascinating visual, musical and movement response to Mark Applebaum‘s elegant series of notational panels, The Metaphysics of Notation, which has been ringing the mezzanine railings above the Gerding lobby for the past month. Every Friday at noon someone has been interpreting this extremely open-ended score, and this was the final exploration. California composer Applebaum will be one of the featured artists this Friday at the Hollywood Theatre in the latest concert by Third Angle New Music Ensemble, the band of contemporary-music upstarts for whom Mrs. Scatter toils ceaselessly.

Austin and Jenkins began by racing around the mezzanine and literally playing the hollow-steel guard rail, which was quite fun. They moved from pre-plotted base to pre-plotted base, always coming up with surprises, as the small crowd followed like Hamelin rats mesmerized by a piper’s tune. Mr. Scatter enjoyed the red fuzzy bargain-store microphone and the Sneezing Chorus and especially the shower of discarded clothing items floating down from the mezzanine into the path of the startled flower-delivery guy in the lobby below. Mr. Scatter took no photos, partly because the little camera doohickey on his cellular telephone is pretty much useless for anything more complicated than an extreme closeup snapshot of an extremely still object, and partly because he was just having too much fun to bother. But Lisa Radon of ultra was more disciplined and took some fine shots which you can ogle on her site.

On Friday evening
it was back to the Gerding for opening night of Portland Center Stage‘s comedy Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps,’ which takes the 1935 movie thriller and blows it to preposterous proportions.

Christine Calfas is stuck on Leif Norby -- or SOMETHING's stuck. Photo: OWEN CAREYY, ChaiA droll project, fit for our times: It’s chock-full of paranoia, delivered with a knowing wink. And very theatrical: Four actors zip through about 130 roles, often at breakneck speed.

Ebbe Roe Smith and Darius Pierce do most of the zipping, and Christine Calfas plays all of the women, including one with a knife stuck in her back. That slacker Leif Norby plays only one role — Richard Hannay, the story’s hero, who is square of jaw and lively of step.

All told, bravo. Scatter friend Michael McGregor, reviewing for The Oregonian, wraps it up superbly here.

Speaking of mysteries: Somehow, back at the Scatter Ranch, some cheeses and crackers and a bottle of Eyrie pinot gris disappeared after the show.

Saturday began slowly but picked up speed. In the afternoon Mr. Scatter dropped off the Large Large Smelly Boy at ComedySportz, where he learns how to be improvisational and funny, and then dropped in for a spell at Pearl Bakery, where Mr. Scatter drank coffee and munched on something pastryish and picked up a loaf of challah bread to take home.

Yuka Iino and Chauncey Parsons in the Sanguinic variation of "The Four Temperaments" at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo: BLAINE TRUITT COVERT Then, in the evening, Mr. Scatter accompanied the Small Large Smelly Boy to Keller Auditorium for opening night of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s current show, a twin bill of George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments and Christopher Stowell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Mr. Scatter was on assignment to cover the event for The Oregonian, and you can read his resulting review here. The big, welcome news was the return of the ballet orchestra for Midsummer from a budget-mandated layoff. After watching Temperaments, SLSB made the wise observation that the dancers had moved everything except their faces: “They did their expressions with their bodies.”

(On Sunday afternoon, while the Scatters were otherwise engaged, a power outage hit downtown as OBT’s dancers were performing Midsummer, necessitating a cancellation. Audience members left in the dark have been offered free tickets to a later performance.)

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Scatter scurried over to Northwest Dance Project in North Portland to watch choreographer Maurice Causey work on a new piece with the company dancers. Then, while a small and congenial crowd munched on cheese and sipped wine at an event called Dance Flights, Mr. Scatter conducted an onstage interview with Causey, who did most of the talking because that’s the way it was planned.

Choreographer Maurice CauseyAnd he talked quite well. About his career (he danced with, among others, Pennsylvania Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, and several years for William Forsythe at Ballet Frankfurt, and was ballet master for the Royal Swedish Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theatre). About being an American working mostly in Europe for the past 20 years.

About being a classically trained dancer who these days is much more interested in creating new work to new music. About public and private support for dance, and his exploratory, let’s-see-what-happens approach to creating new work, and in general about how he loves the openness of young dancers in companies like NDP.

Causey, too, is open, friendly, generous: despite his impressive resume, no airs in the studio, just a joy in the process.

His new dance will be part of Northwest Dance Project’s March 12-13 program in the Newmark Theatre. And this coming Sunday, Mr. Scatter will be back at NDP’s studio at 3 p.m. for another Dance Flights interview with another big-name choreographer setting a piece for this program, Italian dancemaker Luca Veggetti.

But first, he believes he’ll have a day of rest.


PHOTOS, from top:

Leif Norby on the lam in “Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps'” at Portland Center Stage. Photo: OWEN CAREY

Cibyl Shinju Kavan at Talisman Gallery

Christine Calfas is stuck on Leif Norby — or SOMETHING’s stuck. Photo: OWEN CAREY

Yuka Iino and Chauncey Parsons in the Sanguinic variation of “The Four Temperaments” at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo: BLAINE TRUITT COVERT