By Bob Hicks
Bless us, Father, for we have sinned. It’s been six days since we entered our last post here at Art Scatter, which is just … embarrassant. Pardon, if you please. It’s not that we haven’t been busy. In fact, that’s the point. We’ve been so busy we haven’t had time to keep the faith and commit good bloggery. We’ll try to do better.
So let’s play catch-up.
On Friday, having survived the Great February Blizzard of 2011, which dropped all of a third of an inch of snow on the Chez Scatter front lawn but managed to snarl the city and shut down its schools, Mr. Scatter took a tour down the valley to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem to catch Memory and Modern Life, an expansive retrospective of the oils, watercolors and drawings of Henk Pander, the Dutch-born Portland artist.
Art historian Roger Hull, who has put together several other fine retrospectives of works by leading Northwest artists, has done a terrific job here and in the accompanying book. Catch this show if you can: It’s up through March 27. My review will be running this Friday in The Oregonian’s A&E.
On Thursday, when he was shuttered indoors against the bitter elements, Mr. Scatter spent a good part of his day rustling around in the documents that describe the upcoming March exhibits in Portland’s art galleries. He sent a few emails, made a few phone calls, gathered some images and eventually prepared a mini-guide to the March First Thursday shows that is scheduled to run this Thursday in The Oregonian’s How We Live section. Hint: Keep an eye out for Blue Sky.
On Saturday afternoon Mr. Scatter found himself motoring through the hills to Lake Oswego High School, to a rented theater space where the cast and crew of the musical The Ghosts of Celilo were rehearsing before their opening this Friday night at the Newmark Theatre downtown. This is a revival — the play had its premiere three years ago — and it’s gone through a few changes, mainly tightening up and bringing the story into sharper focus.
The story is compelling, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. The catastrophic event is the inundation of Celilo Falls by waters backing up from The Dalles Dam on March 10, 1957 — “the day the falls died,” as actor and co-composer Thomas Morning Owl puts it — wiping out the fishing grounds that had been the center of Columbia River culture for roughly 10,000 years.
But the play also deals with the issue of the old Indian boarding schools, in which Native children had the old ways rigorously and sometimes ruthlessly rubbed away. In addition to a mostly Native American cast, the show also has a score that blends show tunes and traditional native music.
Mr. Scatter talked with four key figures: Morning Owl; actor Noah Hunt, who plays the crucial role of Chokey Jim, a native kid who’s kidnapped and forced into one of the boarding schools; actress Tila Salas, who plays one of the school students; and Marv Ross, the successful pop and folk musician (Quarterflash, The Trail Band) who wrote the book, composed the non-native music, and is even a co-producer this time around.
What Mr. Scatter discovered will be part of a package in the A&E section of this Friday’s Oregonian, along with a story by the O’s graceful Marty Hughley and photos (plus online video) by the paper’s talented Torsten Kjellstrand.
Mr. Scatter rushed home from Celilo rehearsal in time to pick up the Small Large Smelly Boy and head to Keller Auditorium for Saturday night’s opening of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s evening of all-Stravinsky works. The run, which concludes this Saturday, includes works originated for OBT: revivals of Yuri Possokhov’s 2004 Firebird and Christopher Stowell’s 2009 The Rite of Spring, plus the premiere of The Stravinsky Project, a contemporary collaboration by choreographers Rachel Tess, Anne Mueller, Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland.
The Scatters particularly enjoyed the evil ways of Chauncey Parsons as the wicked Kaschei (a guy who carries a mean fingernail) and the flutteringly birdlike Yuka Iino as the title character in The Firebird; Alison Roper’s centering performance in The Stravinsky Project; and Mueller’s elegance in The Rite of Spring, in which it was also good to see dancers Grace Shibley and Artur Sultanov back on the boards after absences. For a much more nuanced and perceptive view of the evening, see The Oregonian’s review by Martha Ullman West, Art Scatter’s chief (and indeed, highest-paid) correspondent.
After spending the morning at a board gathering of the excellent performing group Portland Taiko (and being cholesterolically seduced by the presence of a platter of delicious deviled eggs) Mr. Scatter had a good time Sunday afternoon leading a discussion with choreographer Patrick Delcroix at the Northwest Dance Project. It was a congenial affair. The first 45 minutes was taken up with watching rehearsal of Delcroix’s new piece, Harmonie Defiguree,Â while sipping some good French wines (including a tasty, lightly toasty Burgundian blanc de blanc bubbly).
Delcroix is French, although he spent most of his dancing career with Nederlands Dans Theater, and a lot of the crowd consisted of French speakers, so even though Delcroix speaks excellent English the conversation was bilingual. Unfortunately, Mr. Scatter is pretty darned monolingual. Fortunately, good translation was available: Marie-Pierre Wolfe of Alliance Francaise de Portland was onstage with us, bridging the gaps and adding some good questions and comments of her own. The audience was lively, too, chipping in with a lot of questions.
Delcroix was articulate, open, and very much committed to contemporary works. He’s had his fill of story ballets and pieces with narrative “meaning,” and he seems to think only 5 percent of the dance audience really relishes innovation instead of wanting to be washed in the warm glow of tradition. Maybe that’s just the natural frustration of an artist, or maybe he’s a clear-eyed rationalist. What do you think? Is he right?
He’s using all nine of the Dance Project’s dancers (six women, three men this season) in his piece, which is very musical and was shaping up well. The score is Icelandic, and not just generically hypnotic in that electronic way, but formed. Mr. Scatter left impressed once again with the skills of these young dancers, who work with new choreography and new choreographers all the time and have become shape-shifters par excellence.
Harmonie Defiguree will premiere along with a new piece by Sarah Slipper and a remounting of Lucas Crandall’s Blue on March 18 and 19 at the Newmark Theatre.
This morning, Mr. and Mrs. Scatter went grocery shopping. (Among other emergencies, they were out of whipped cream for the SLSB’s morning and afternoon hot chocolates.) Then they lunched at Helser’s on Alberta, where they shared orders of the estimable potato cake torta and a special of caramel apple crepes.
There. Is it OK to leave the confessional now?
ILLUSTRATIONS, from top:
- Confessionals, Church Gesu Nuovo, Naples. Photo: Heinz-Josef LÃ¼cking/Wikimedia Commons.
- “Henk Pander: Memory and Modern Life,” by Roger Hull, 2011. Published by Willamette University, distributed by University of Washington Press.
- CD cover image for “The Ghosts of Celilo.”
- Alison Roper in “The Stravinsky Project” at OBT. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.
- Choreographer Patrick Delcroix.