Link: OCT does the Locomotion

Tyler Andrew Jones and Andrea White in "Locomotion" at OTC. Photo: Owen Carey.

By Bob Hicks

Today I posted this essay, Doing the Locomotion with kids’ theater, at Oregon Arts Watch. It’s about Oregon Children’s Theatre‘s terrific production of Locomotion, Jacqueline Woodson‘s stage adaptation of her National Book Award-finalist children’s book, which is something of a tree-grows-in-Brooklyn tale. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, to be exact, where a kid nicknamed Locomotion learns to deal with some tough stuff through the power of poetry. An excerpt:

… I like to drop in every now and again on a show for kids. No audience experiences the give-and-take between stage and seats more directly or honestly. If an audience of kids tunes out, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad show: It might just not be right for kids. But if you’re an actor or director it’s a good idea to pay attention to where the kids zone out, because maybe you’ve got a problem on your hands. And if the kids are with you, they’re gonna let you know. Loudly.

Above: Tyler Andrew Jones and Andrea White in “Locomotion” at OTC. Photo: Owen Carey.

Link: Dancing the weekend away

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter spent a good share of his weekend with the sons and daughters of Terpsichore, watching and thinking as they sliced through space.

Bob Eisen in performance.The performances he took in were 4 Men Only at Conduit and Troika Ranch’s Enter Comma Prepare at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium. He then posted his thoughts on Oregon Arts Watch, in an essay titled Dance weekend: 4 men and a chancy machine.

An excerpt about Bob Eisen’s For Lulu, part of 4 Men Only:

His distinctive appearance helps him pull the thing off. Eisen is long and whooping-crane lean, with a prodigious wingspan, and he wears his 65 years with an easy economy of motion and head-banging intensity of effect. Dressed in pajama tops and multi-pleated harem pants, he looks like Ichabod Crane in a white shock of Art Garfunkel hair.

An excerpt about Enter Comma Prepare:

Finally audience and performers alike moved into the larger auditorium, where chairs were clustered cleverly in several small islands so the dancers could flow around them like electrons coursing through a mother board. And so they did, to a drone of computer-generated instructions intoned over loudspeakers in a metallic voice like Hal 9000’s in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Jonathan. Southwest,” it would say, or “Nancy. North,” and off the performer would go. At one point I had a fleeting image of Cary Grant ducking into a cornfield while a homicidal pilot chased after him from above, shouting “North by northwest!”

Photo: Bob Eisen, one of “4 Men Only.”

Timeless TBA: art & politics in ‘Giselle’

“We could do with a regiment of Wilis to haunt the halls of Congress,” Martha Ullman West declares, and then she tells us why. Art Scatter’s chief correspondent, who reviewed Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s current production of “Giselle” here for The Oregonian, expands on her ideas for us, moving the conversation into the twilight territory between arts and politics.

Giselle (Haiyan Wu) and the peasants in "Giselle" at OBT. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

By Martha Ullman West

With no apologies whatsoever to PICA and its annual TBA festival, Giselle is a sterling example of time-based art.

The creators of this collaborative piece from 1841 – composer Adolphe Adam, choreographers Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, and librettists Vernoy de Saint Georges and Theophile Gautier – were seasoned, rather than young, creatives.

Coralli and Perrot were making some distinct innovations in ballet technique, particularly pointe work, which gave new prominence and independence to ballerinas. You can see this particularly in Act II, where the women balance in unsupported arabesques. And the librettists were expressing, or reflecting, some political ideas just seven years before Karl Marx (who came from the Rhineland, in which the ballet is set) issued the Communist Manifesto.

So the ballet is at once time-based and timeless, a great work of art, providing a cathartic experience in the theater as well as much food for thought. Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new production (staged by Lola de Avila, and repeating this weekend) looks distinctly old, but because of the commitment and talents of the dancers, it speaks to our concerns as well as our hearts.

Think about the libretto. The class divide (or “war,” to use Republican hyperbole, and which our president isn’t causing) drives the plot.

Continue reading Timeless TBA: art & politics in ‘Giselle’

At ‘Giselle,’ the view from on high

Before the fall: a joyous Haiyan Wu and Chauncey Parsons as Giselle and Albrecht at OBT. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

By Bob Hicks

Seeking to rise above the weather under which he’s been submerged these past several days, Mr. Scatter elevated to the balcony of Keller Auditorium on Saturday evening so he could take in the grand sweep of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s new Giselle. The air was a little giddy up there – or maybe it was just the gyroscope wobbling inside Mr. Scatter’s overstuffed head – but the view was magnificent.

Mr. Scatter ordinarily sits on the orchestra level, closer to the stage, where the sounds of scraping slippers are more strenuous and the actorly expressions of the dancers are as revealing as they can get in a 3,000-seat hall. Upstairs, he missed some of the dramatic detail (how was the gifted Chauncey Parsons interpreting the two-timing rich dude Albrecht? – easy to tell choreographically, tough to tell psychologically) but had a better chance to appreciate the breadth and patterns of the dancing, which can unfold so much more fully from above. What he lost in intimacy he gained in scope: a sort of whole-picture Cinemascopic sweep of design; what the movie people call mise-en-scène.

And what a scène it was.

Continue reading At ‘Giselle,’ the view from on high

Link: Pander in war, Wilis on the loose

Henk Pander, "Resistance Asleep," oil, 1995.

By Bob Hicks

I just posted this story, Pander transported: memories of a time of war, on Oregon Arts Watch. It’s a look at Dutch-born Portland artist Henk Pander’s remarkable series of paintings and drawings at the Oregon Jewish Museum based on his childhood memories of World War II in his hometown of Haarlem. An excerpt:

“Even more cadaverous, and ravenous, is the 1999 ink drawing ‘Soup Kitchen,’ in which thin skull-eyed children bend over bowls of thin liquid. This might be Pander’s memory of the winter of 1944-45, the hongerwinter, a time of famine caused by harsh weather and a German blockade, during which those who survived (18,000 did not) did so partly on a diet of tulip bulbs and sugar beets. War is an act of waiting, and people wait in these drawings and paintings. They endure, if that’s the right word, and they anticipate, and they simply – wait. For the next bad thing. For the end of the next bad things.”

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And in Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian, my preview interview with the charming Lola de Avila, stager of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s new version of Giselle, ran. Besides talking with de Avila, one of those great old-time dancers who wastes no time declaring that today’s dancers are better-trained (well, she’s one of the people doing the training), I spent a couple of hours in rehearsal watching her teach the corps de ballets how to act like perfectly ghastly Wilis. Which, of course, is what they’re supposed to be. You can read the story here.

ILLUSTRATION: Henk Pander, “Resistance Asleep,” oil, 1995. Courtesy Oregon Jewish Museum.

Link: The Scatters, beautiful and beastly

The Scatters celebrate Valentine's Day. (Actually, that's Dane Agostinis and Emily Behny.)

By Bob Hicks

Through a series of coincidences too complicated to describe, Mr. and Mrs. Scatter spent Valentine’s Day evening at the opening performance of the latest touring version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Mr. Scatter then wrote his impressions of the production for The Oregonian; you can read them here.

It may come as no surprise to you that Mrs. Scatter assumed the role of Beauty while in attendance, and Mr. Scatter stayed in character as Beast. Among other things, it was pleasant to see all the little girls in the audience in their party dresses and hair-bows, paying rapt attention: It was like The Nutcracker with mirrors and fangs. The chocolates and Cognac after the show were lovely, too.

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Photo: The Scatters celebrate Valentine’s Day. (Actually, that’s Dane Agostinis and Emily Behny.)

Link: a little theater, cradle to grave

By Bob Hicks

Luisa Sermol and Ted Schulz in "Boleros." Photo: Russell YoungI’ve posted Teen to twilight: a theater weekend for the ages at Oregon Arts Watch. It recounts my adventures at the theater over the weekend, when I caught the Jason Robert Brown teen musical 13 at Staged! Musical Theatre, the theater-games comedy Circle Mirror Transformation at Artists Rep, and Jose Rivera’s memory-play Boleros for the Disenchanted at Miracle Theatre.

Somehow, the matter of age kept popping up: eventually it’ll be the death of us. Sound cheerful? Surprisingly, it sort of was. An excerpt:

“13” may be a stock teen comedy, but it’s also very much about growing up: after all, a bar mitzvah marks a boy’s passage into manhood. Jose Rivera’s “Boleros for the Disenchanted,” at Miracle Theatre, picks up chronologically a little after “13″ ends and breaks the age barriers right down the spine. It hurtles its characters directly into the romance and perils of youth and then pushes them on to the regrets and consolations of old age, leaving all of the muddled middle areas implied. The kid in “13” might think his life’s over. For old Flora and Eusebio in “Boleros,” it almost is.

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Luisa Sermol and Ted Schulz in “Boleros.” Photo: Russell Young

Link: Opera warhorses into the fray

Kelly Kaduce as Cio-Cio-San in "Madame Butterfly," with Gustav Andreassen (left) as the Bonze and Roger Honeywell as Pinkerton. ©Portland Opera/Cory Weaver.

By Bob Hicks

Today I posted this story, Song of the warhorses: charge of the Butterfly brigade, on Oregon Arts Watch. Somehow, it seemed, a disconnect was going on. Audiences and critics alike were loving Portland Opera‘s current production of Madame Butterfly. Yet there were grumblings in the land: Why this steady diet of warhorses, also known as chestnuts, and all too rarely referred to as classics or core operas? Are we living in the past? If we are, is that a bad thing? Woe, perhaps, are we.

“The question then becomes: Is opera a museum art form? Yes, and no. If the question means, is it an art form rooted in and even dominated by strong traditions, the answer is yes. If the question means, is it a mummified art form, the answer is no. Is Shakespeare mummified theater? Are Vermeer and Rembrandt mummified artists? Not when every new generation that encounters them does so with the shock and thrill of encountering something deep and penetrating and new.”

Photo: Kelly Kaduce stars in “Madame Butterfly,” with Gustav Andreassen (left) and Roger Honeywell. ©Portland Opera/Cory Weaver.

Link: Skinner/Kirk and Moseley

Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk in Josie Moseley's "Flying Over Emptiness." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

By Bob Hicks

I’ve just posted this story at Oregon Arts Watch on last night’s opening show of Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble’s run at BodyVox Dance Center. Four good dances, including Josie Moseley’s splendid new Flying Over Emptiness. Pictured above: Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk in Moseley’s new dance, a tribute to fellow choreographer Mary Oslund. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

Scatter update: Deemer’s hyperdrama, Mothers of God, women with whips

By Bob Hicks

With Mrs. Scatter on the road eating fresh pineapple and downing margaritas with childhood friends, Mr. Scatter and the offspring have been batching it the last few days.

Mrs. Scatter's fresh pineappleWhile that’s led to a somewhat more relaxed sense of structure (oh, my goodness: is it midnight already?), the basics have been covered: boys showered, sheets washed, fruit or vegetables shoved down reluctant teenager’s plant-averse throat, same reluctant teen’s homework swiped at (eek! it’s finals week!).

It’s also led to a more, well, scattered approach to Mr. Scatter’s schedule. While Friends of Scatter Barry Johnson and Marty Hughley have been dutifully hitting the theaters and discovering interesting things (Barry wrote about the Fertile Ground new-works festival’s Famished, Meshi Chavez and tEEth for OPB; Marty wrote about the fascinating-sounding The Tripping Point: An Exhibition of Fairytale Installations, also at Fertile Ground, for Oregon Live) Mr. Scatter’s been going with the flow.

This is how the flow went.

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On his way to Mochitsuki on Sunday afternoon (one son was watching Jane Campion’s The Piano for his English class, with a welcome assist from Ms. Reality’s Netflix account; the other was home listening to Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King on CD), Mr. Scatter ran into actress Eleanor O’Brien, who was standing on a sidewalk outside the Tiffany Center with a stack of postcards for her new show, Girls’ Guide: Dominatrix for Dummies, which will run at Theater! Theatre! Feb. 10-26.

Continue reading Scatter update: Deemer’s hyperdrama, Mothers of God, women with whips

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