Tag Archives: Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Does this blog make me look fat? Musicals, comedy and a true confession

Cast and set of "She Loves Me" at Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Jenny Graham

By Laura Grimes

Mr. Scatter has been hogging the blog of late. I forgive him, though. It’s not like he’s been eating bonbons. I know full well that he’s the muscle to my muse, the bacon to my trifle.

Art Scatter works to deliver a full-course meal, and I don’t mind being the pastry chef. There’s no shame in that. Funny writing comes with its own tricks and techniques, craftsmanship honed to a sharp wit.

I can’t do what Mr. Scatter does, and, I hate to tell him, but … let’s just say he suggested adding a line to one of my posts a little while back, which was a great idea in thought, but the words – well, I was at a loss how to delicately tell him that he just cast a lead weight in my lightly flowing stream.

I explained that one of the first rules of humor writing is not to reveal an obvious punchline straight off the bat. Take a joke and yank it in another direction and then yank it again. Come in sly on the side, tease it, stretch it and make people reach for it and discover it for themselves. Therein lies all the fun.

And then I stopped talking. I blinked at my current first husband a couple of times. He blinked back at me. I realized I was explaining the craft of writing – to my husband, of all people. But I was explaining a different type of writing than what he’s practiced for eons. It takes a whole different brain from a whole different angle.

Continue reading Does this blog make me look fat? Musicals, comedy and a true confession

Ashland 4: the quality of mercy, the surprise of love

Antonio (Jonathan Haugen, left), Shylock (Anthony Heald, center) and Bassanio (Danforth Comins) discuss the terms of Antonio's bond. Photo by Jenny Graham.

By Bob Hicks

Art Scatter’s ramble through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s 75th anniversary season is closer to its end than its beginning, and it strikes us once again how much this thicket of theater interconnects. A lot of that has to do with the nature of rotating repertory, which gives audiences the chance to see the same actors in a variety of roles and a variety of plays.

Amali Balash (Lisa McCormick) shows off her new dress for her first date with her anonymous pen pal. Photo by Jenny Graham.Brooke Parks and Christian Barillas, for instance, who play sister and brother Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, return as sister and brother Caroline and Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. Lisa McCormick, who calculates her future so carefully as the practical Charlotte Lewis in P&P, stumbles headstrong into love as the shopgirl heroine in She Loves Me. Dawn-Lyen Gardner, survivor of rape and warfare in Ruined, becomes a lucky lady-in-waiting in The Merchant of Venice. One way or another, love is in the air all over these plays. And couldn’t Merchant almost have been titled Pride and Prejudice?

Sometimes the connecting game is tougher. What could the troubling and abrasive Merchant of Venice and the little musical gem She Loves Me have in common? Not a lot, unless you consider that the source material for She Loves Me (and for the movies Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail) is the Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, and then go a step further to remember that the Hungary of 1937, the year that Laszlo wrote his little bubble of innocence, held little truck with Jews and would as soon have done without them — a desire that was in the process of being satisfied.

Continue reading Ashland 4: the quality of mercy, the surprise of love

Ashland 3: Hamlet the Fool

By Bob Hicks

Lanky and improbably lean-headed, with a cliffside of forehead pierced by a widow’s peak of bristling orange hair, Dan Donohue looks a little like the late-night television host Conan O’Brien — or maybe an O’Brien sired by Loki, the god of mischief.

Hamlet (Dan Donohue) considers the bitter business at hand. Photo by David Cooper.As Hamlet in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s current production of the Danish play, Donohue wears his jester’s cap naturally, less like a disguise than a key accoutrement to an essential part of his makeup: Hamlet the Fool.

We’ve come a long way from Olivier, the quintessence of the romantically doomed heroic prince. Olivier once talked about the advantages of being not quite short and not quite tall: at about five-foot-eleven, he could shift the sense of his body big or small. Donohue is similarly poised between the comic and the dramatic, at ease in either direction and often, onstage, using elements of one to feed the other: He defies type. In the impenetrable yet irresistible question mark that is Hamlet, it’s an excellent place to begin.

There is no such thing as a definitive Hamlet. A lot of good actors have stumbled in the prince’s shoes, perhaps daunted by the familiarity of the language and previous performances, perhaps unwilling or unable to choose a Hamlet rather than reach for the Hamlet. Donohue is ready for the role. Consciously or subconsciously, he’s been preparing for Hamlet for a long time. On the Ashland stages he’s played Iago, Caliban, Mercutio, Prince Hal — all excellent prep for Hamlet. And anyone who recalls his Dvornichek in Tom Stoppard’s Coward-like farce Rough Crossing, or who sees his brief turn as the waiter in this season’s sparkling revival of the musical She Loves Me, understands his brilliance at deadpan comedy. He knows precisely who he wants his Hamlet to be, and that, combined with his potent craftsmanship and willingness at key moments to simply drop off the cliff and into the abyss, makes this one of the extremely few truly satisfying Hamlets I’ve seen. It’s a wonderful performance, and you really ought to see it.

Continue reading Ashland 3: Hamlet the Fool

Ashland 2: pride, prejudice, ruin, respect

Mama Nadi's approach gets her girls' attention (from left, Chinasa Ogbuagu, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Victoria Ward). Photo by Jenny Graham.

By Bob Hicks

Art Scatter, despite its name, is mostly about pulling things together. We examine the daunting scatter of incident that is contemporary culture — this endlessly broad turmoil of emotions, beliefs and events — and gather them together, looking for patterns, similarities, fragments of coalescence. Out of chaos, we seek structure and story. We do this for you, our readers, but also for ourselves, because story, we’ve come to believe, is how we make sense of the subterranean roil of chaos that is life.

Maybe that’s why the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has become an annual touchstone in our lives. Mr. Scatter first came to this company, many years ago, as a professional observer. He’s stuck with it, gradually becoming friend, admirer, devil’s advocate, occasional scold, and in his own small way, participant — as are all who feed the festival with their time, money and attention. Whatever its faults, the festival believes in story, and in the essential wrestling with chaos that story represents: the quest to wrest comprehension from the incomprehensible.

Ah, but how to make sense of a glorious day of theatergoing that begins with the iron filigree of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and concludes with the hellfire and brimstone of Ruined, Lynn Nottage’s corrosive drama of Congolese warfare and rape? How, that is, besides the minor comparisons of stagecraft, plot, style and technique (all of which, in both productions, are admirable)? These are two peas that at first, second and even third glance do not appear to come from the same pod.

Your Honor, we call to the witness stand Aretha Franklin and Rodney Dangerfield.

Continue reading Ashland 2: pride, prejudice, ruin, respect

Traveling a jumbled, rambly literary road

Oregon Coast near Devil's Churn and Cape Perpetua

By Laura Grimes

We’re traveling, we pack of five breathing each other’s air and bumping inside each other’s heads. We eat the same food. We stop from spot to spot, sightsee, and mere snippets intermingle, weave together something anew and haul us along.

Everywhere we go we pick up words and take them with us. They lift us. They quiet us. We break bread with them. We swirl wine with them. They hang in the air among us.

Our books go from suitcase to table to car to kindle to stereo to suitcase to car to lap to bed.

Each time, bits let loose. Literary crumbs pinch and mold into a new story, unique and unashamed. It becomes our own literary travel journal. Jumbled. Weird. Scattered. And somehow cohered.


The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy FarmerWhen The Large Smelly Boys bicker in the car, I hit play and they magically silence before the almighty audio book. Nancy Farmer, god bless her. Past summers we plowed through her The Sea of Trolls and The Land of the Silver Apples. Just to be safe, we have along her The Islands of the Blessed on iPod, CD and hard copy. Thank heavens, because we’ve used all of them. In less than a week, the hard copy was devoured by two members of the Scatter Family.

Continue reading Traveling a jumbled, rambly literary road

Ashland the first: night the twelfth

Viola in disguise (Brooke Parks) discovers an affection for Orsino (Kenajuan Bentley), as Feste (Michael Elich, center), Curio (Fune Tautala Jr., back left) and Valentine (Jorge Paniagua) look on. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

By Bob Hicks

Ah, the adventures of the road. The brain trust at Art Scatter World Headquarters has packed up and squeezed itself temporarily into the Scattermobile, partaking of adventures large and small. We’ve ingested the oyster and the clam, descended into Devil’s Churn, gazed upon the gathered elk, spied osprey and eagle and hawk, felt the chilling spray of Hellgate Canyon as it soaked the curl from our hair. We’ve dined in the company of Jack London’s ghost at the Wolf Creek Inn. We’ve discovered disturbingly misplaced apostrophes on public signs, dangling hopefully like unacknowledged offspring at the reading of a rich man’s will.

Now we’re in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where we’re settling in long enough to take in the nine plays still in repertory, having missed the already departed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Well. It’s a marathon that’s become a tradition of shared argumentation and pleasure. Mr. Scatter, Mrs. Scatter, the Learned Sister and the Large Smelly Boys experience it all, each from his or her own vantage, each with the advantages and handicaps of his or her own delights and prejudices. Late August is high season, and a good time to be doing this: The shows have hit their groove and become pretty much all that they can be.

Continue reading Ashland the first: night the twelfth

Monday links: Polaris, Heald, Dixon

By Bob Hicks

On Saturday night, tucked between a Friday night chocolate truffle-making soiree and a groaningly good Sunday night dim sum dinner (the Scatters bought places at both convivial tables last month at the estimable Portland Taiko‘s annual benefit banquet) Mr. Scatter trekked to the studios of Polaris Dance Theatre for another benefit fund-raising event.

Polaris Dance Theatre's "Simple Pleasures" All Access dance programThis time he was working, covering the event for The Oregonian, and it turned out to be remarkable — well worth twisting and ducking twelve blocks through the crowds and police blockades for the Rose Festival’s Starlight Parade. Mr. Scatter does not know if Ivory floats, but pretty much everything else in downtown Portland was either riding a float or watching from the sidewalk as the floats floated by.

The benefit was to support Polaris’s All Access program, which teaches dance to all sorts of people who wouldn’t ordinarily think of dancing: think wheelchairs, paralysis, Down’s Syndrome. A lot of those students performed during the party, and it was eye-opening. Keep an eye out for the extraordinary Wobbly Dance. Read about it here in Oregon Live.


DON’T MISS Marty Hughley’s terrific profile of actor Anthony Heald in Sunday’s Oregonian.

Shylock (Anthony Heald) listens in the court. Photo by Jenny Graham.Heald, the Broadway and Hollywood vet who gave it up to move to Ashland and join the acting company at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, tells what prompted him to make the leap into relative obscurity, and why he’s happy as a clam about it. Heald is getting ready to open as Shylock in the festival’s new production of The Merchant of Venice. Interesting side note Marty dug up: Heald is the first Jewish actor ever to play the role on the festival stage.


AND DO CATCH local beer baron and Scatter friend John Foyston’s review of K.B. Dixon’s slim novel A Painter’s Life, also from the Sunday O.

K.B. Dixon's "A Painters Life," Inkwater PressBetween epic motorcycle trips and learned sessions with master brewers, Foyston’s been known to paint up a modest storm of his own. And Ken Dixon, who in the great long-ago wrote an occasional witty and perceptive art review for Mr. Scatter at a Large and Important Daily Publication, is a writer with a singular miniaturist approach to the puzzle of the written word. His books are wry and elegant, carefully measured for precise effect, and they maintain a sly satiric distance. At a time when the art world sometimes seems nearly strangled in a tangle of theory and jargon, even the name of Dixon’s artist-hero seems perfectly chosen: Christopher Freeze.



— All Access performers from Polaris Dance Theatre’s “Simple Pleasures” program.

— Anthony Heald as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice.” Photo: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/2010

— K.B. Dixon’s “A Painters Life,” Inkwater Press

O brave new world that has such lobbies in it!

Alder Street lobby at Artists Repertory Theatre. Photo: Jessica Gleason

Mr. Scatter has been inside more theaters over the years than Hamlet’s father’s ghost, and he is sometimes haunted by what he sees — not the plays so much as the spaces themselves.

Actors are a hardy lot. Give ’em a script and they’ll perform almost anywhere, from pond-side amphitheaters (Classic Greek Theater of Oregon) to 100-degree attics (the old Chateau l’Bamm) to the sidewalks of New York (buskers of all sorts, from break-dancers to sword-swallowers to mimes).

There are barns and basements and back rooms. Old churches, old schoolhouses, old movie houses (the fabled Storefront Theatre once moved up in the world into a gritty ex-porn theater, scrubbing away most of the grime and soiled dreams but never quite nuking the cockroaches). Even, now and again, buildings actually built as legit theaters. As often as not, actors and designers are fighting the houses they play in, trying to turn the unlikely into the inevitable. Whole theories of performance have flourished based on the absence or presence of sophisticated theatrical technology.

Sometimes spaces that audiences love are disasters behind the scenes. The 350-seat bandbox that was the Main Stage at the old Portland Civic Theatre unfurled the chorus lines of musical comedies almost into the crowds’ laps, creating an exhilarating closeness that concealed multitudinous booby traps backstage. Audiences loved the intimacy of the old Black Swan at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Actors who had to duck outdoors and race through the rain to make an entrance on the opposite side of the stage weren’t as thrilled.

The New Theatre, Ashland, arranged for "Macbeth" in 2002. Photo: David Cooper/Oregon Shakespeare FestivalA person develops favorites, spaces that somehow work for the kinds of theater presented in them. Spaces that have developed personality. Theaters need to be worked in, like a good pair of slippers. They need to develop their own memory-ghosts friendly and fearsome, and who is Mr. Scatter to deny the devout claims by some practitioners of the craft that a good theater must also have a resident cat?

Some Broadway and West End houses have all of that, although I’m guessing about the cat. The grandly old-fashioned Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, home to what in the West is called the Kirov Ballet, is shabby and imperial and somehow blissfully outside the dictates of time. In Ashland, the Angus Bowmer Theatre and the New Theatre, which replaced the Black Swan as the festival’s black-box space, are extraordinary theatrical machines that work for audiences and performers alike. The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Alan Ayckbourn’s home space in Scarborough, England, is the house that farce built (or maybe the house that built farce). At the Joyce Theatre in New York, all sorts of dance explode from the stage. San Francisco’s original Magic Theatre was more a verb than a noun. The original Empty Space in Seattle, a rickety third-floor walkup hard by the freeway, exuded adventure and discovery.

In Portland, I like the stripped-down intimacy of CoHo Theater, although I avoid the cramped back-row seats, which can crack your knees like they’re wishbones dried in the oven. I’m less fond than a lot of people of Portland Center Stage’s rehab of the old armory building — its industrial-chic public spaces seem a bit self-conscious to me, and I wonder how well they’ll wear — but I love how the building has become a genuine public gathering spot, inviting and important even beyond its main purpose of providing a space for shows. The Dolores Winningstad Theatre, when it’s used right (for budgetary reasons, it rarely is) can be terrific.

The grand interior of the Newmark Theatre. Photo: Portland Center for the Performing ArtsThe Newmark, the Winnie’s bigger sister at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, is sometimes slagged for the distance of its stage, the dryness of its sound, and the nosebleed pitch of its upper balcony. But it feels luxuriant, like a special place for a special occasion, and audiences love it. It re-creates the old-fashioned sense that a theater is someplace out of the ordinary — and that, I’ll argue, is a good thing for a city to preserve in at least a few of its performance spaces.

So imagine how Mr. and Mrs. Scatter felt, a week ago Friday, when they arrived at Artists Repertory Theatre for the opening-night performance of Holidazed, the seasonal comedy by Mark Acito and C.S. Whitcomb. We happened to enter through the Morrison Street lobby, which is a city block and a cascade of stairs above the Alder Street level, where the play was being performed.

The stairs are new. They tie together the two buildings that make up the Artists Rep complex, which sits on a hillside and includes two similar intimate performance spaces, both in three-quarter thrust configuration. The theaters’ size and shape — seating is on a sharp rake, so even the highest seats are close enough to the stage that you can see the sweat on the performers’ upper lips — create the company’s style, which is in-your-face intimacy, with an overlay of white-collar comfort.

Artists Rep has grown slowly and cautiously: It started as a loose actors’ collective in a little upstairs space at the downtown YWCA, and moved with baby steps once it switched its home to what’s now called the West End of downtown, on the west side of the I-405 freeway and within easy yodeling distance of downtown proper, the Pearl District, and old Northwest. Over many years and a few relatively quiet campaigns the company’s expanded and improved its holdings, buying its original space on Alder and adding the Portland Opera’s old headquarters above it on Morrison when the opera moved into its own building near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on the east bank of the Willamette River.

The second building expanded the company’s space to a remarkable 89,000 square feet — a huge amount of real estate for a company of Artists Rep’s size and budget. It allowed the construction of a second stage, which sometimes houses Artists Rep productions and sometimes is rented out to other companies. And it gave Artists Rep ample space to gather its scenic and costume shops and its office and rehearsal spaces in the same complex.

The new staircase at Artists Rep, designed by Opsis Architecture. Photo: Jessica GleasonBut the two buildings always felt like two buildings — until now. Walking through the buzz of the upstairs lobby and looking down the stairwell into the Alder Street lobby below was a startling and heart-leaping experience. All of a sudden, little Artists Rep seemed grown up. The new stairwell — designed by the Portland firm Opsis Architecture, which has been working with Artists Rep through several phases of its expansion — takes what was two things and fuses them into a single, lavishly flowing building.

The photos at top and right give a sense of the skeleton of the united building but not of the way it comes alive when the theaters are in use and two sets of audience are milling about, laughing and gazing and murmuring the way excited groups of people do. The new space (an elevator will be added when finances allow) shoots sound up and down the stairwell, which has the accelerating quality of white-water rapids on a mountain stream. The old cramped Alder lobby is now unfettered, expanded in space and imagination, linking in creative ways to the action in the Morrison lobby upstairs. Suddenly theatergoers are in a space not just to scrunch their shoulders together and wait, but a space where something’s happening.

That’s exciting. And that excitement is bound to have a spillover to the upstairs and downstairs stages themselves (which, in case you’re worried, are well-insulated against the racket in the common spaces). What strange and wonderful ghosts are waiting to be created here?


PHOTOS, from top:

  • Artists Rep’s new Alder Street lobby and stairwell to the Morrison Street level, designed by Opsis Architecture. Photo: Jessica Gleason.
  • The New Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, configured for a 2002 production of “Macbeth.” Photo: David Cooper.
  • Interior of the Newmark Theatre of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. Photo: PCPA.
  • Another view of the stairwell linking the two buildings of the Artists Rep complex. Photo: Jessica Gleason.
  • Oregon Ballet Theatre: Showdown at the No-K Corral

    UPDATE: Barry Johnson takes the story further on his Oregonian blog, Portland Arts Watch, with this post on Friday. This appears to be very much a hot issue. Keep watching Portland Arts Watch.

    Oregon Ballet Theatre's version of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

    Ever since last spring’s remarkable bailout from its equally remarkable tumble down the financial rabbit hole, Oregon Ballet Theatre has been trying to assure everyone that things are really OK now — and rumors have been rumbling that they most decidedly are not.

    Bet on the latter. Willamette Week’s Kelly Clarke reported online Thursday that 41 members of the company — including many of the dancers, highly respected school chief Damara Bennett, ballet master Lisa Kipp and artistic director Christopher Stowell’s executive assistant, Rebecca Roberts — have signed a letter to the board asking for reviews of the leadership of both Stowell and executive director Jon Ulsh. Our good friend Barry Johnson joined in with this report on his Portland Arts Watch blog for The Oregonian. Do read them both to understand the background.

    Although Stowell’s name is mentioned, it seems clear that Ulsh is the focus of what amounts to an anguished cry from the ballet’s rank and file — a mutiny, almost, in a business that takes its traditional hierarchy as a matter of fact.

    “Either (Ulsh) does not have the skill set” to deal with the multiple challenges of his job, the letter stated, “or he does not have the capacity to handle all of them at once. It seems to me that if he did, we would not be in such deep difficulty after three years under his leadership.” The letter, composed by company historian Linda Besant, continues: “… I do not feel that the organization can afford to be a training ground for its executive director in this very crucial year.”

    OBT dancers Gavin Larsen and Artur SultanovHarsh words. And it seems odd that they were written by someone as relatively on the sidelines as the company historian. You could dismiss it as internal grumbling except that so many major players took the extraordinary step of signing it, potentially putting their own jobs on the line.

    I want to make it very clear that I haven’t talked with Ulsh, Stowell, or any member of the board about OBT’s administrative troubles since the letter was sent. My thoughts are based on the news reports I’ve read, past observations, and second-hand reports from people close to the scene. I’m hoping to start a conversation here, not end one, and I hope people inside the company will feel free to respond openly.

    It seems telling that while the actual artists in the ballet company are underpaid and thus prone to unrest, so are the musicians in the Oregon Symphony — and from what I can tell, most of the symphony musicians, who have accepted stiff pay cuts and reductions in benefits to help cope with the orchestra’s own fiscal troubles, are solidly behind their leaders, music director Carlos Kalmar and and president Elaine Calder.

    So what’s the difference?

    Hard to say, except it appears that while the symphony musicians have faith in Calder’s efforts to rethink how the orchestra presents itself to the community, a significant and perhaps majority percentage of the ballet dancers and staff have no such faith in Ulsh’s abilities. The letter, in fact, amounted to a vote of no confidence in Ulsh’s ability to carry out his duties.

    Is there an element of scapegoating here? I don’t know. Maybe. I do recall that after the ballet’s emergency call last spring to raise $750,000 to keep it from folding (an astonishing outpouring of generosity brought in more than $900,000) one person extremely close to the company told me, “There’s going to be a scapegoat for this, and it’s going to be Jon Ulsh.”

    And here we are. I’ve heard other theories, as dark and murky as a Dan Brown book plot, circling: Ulsh has stacked the board with his own supporters, and Stowell will take the fall. I see no evidence of that. I’ve known Ulsh casually for several years, and he seems both an honorable and an earnest man — and as even Besant notes in her letter, a man committed to the company’s success. Stowell has gained deserved recognition nationally for transforming this small company into a rising force in the American ballet world, and if the board doesn’t understand that, it ought to just give up the ghost and disband. Boards aren’t social clubs. They have strict duties, and the first is to understand the nature of the organization they oversee. The nature of this organization is this: Stowell has reshaped it into one of the most exciting small ballet companies in the nation. Period.

    So what’s the trouble? M-O-N-E-Y.

    No surprise there. Nonprofit organizations across the country, from museums to major universities, are in deep trouble, and sometimes because they got caught up in the go-go Wall Street frenzy themselves, as Stephanie Strom reported in the New York Times today. That’s surely no problem in Portland, where no nonprofit I know of has enough money in reserve to play the market. Arts groups here are in trouble (partly) because of the market, not because they play the market.

    OBT spent some months last year without a development director — a crucial position in a company of the ballet’s size. I asked a board member over the summer how the company was approaching fund-raising. It wouldn’t have a development director, he told me: That was one of the positions cut in the ballet’s budget belt-tightening. Then how are you going to raise money? I asked. Ulsh and Stowell will do it themselves, he replied. Most big donors want to talk with the artistic director, anyway: It’s a big part of his job.

    True enough. But the artistic-director shmooze is supposed to seal the deal, not start it. He’s the artistic director, after all, and while pragmatics dictate that he or she has a role in bringing in the bucks, other people (including the board) have to do the major hauling.

    I noted with both optimism and pessimism that when the ballet raised more than $900,000 in its emergency drive last spring, no single donation was over $25,000. That meant a huge number of people were sending in their $10, $50, $250 checks. It also meant the big-bucks crowd was keeping its pockets buttoned — and no arts group can hope to thrive in the long term without some deep-pocket supporters. Where are OBT’s deep pockets? And if they don’t exist, why not? I don’t know.

    This maybe-divorce proceeding is also significant because, in a sense, OBT has seemed reborn since its emergency bailout in the spring. The company seems to have rediscovered that it’s part of a local community, and that that’s a good thing. OBT dancers have been all over town, taking part in events by other companies, dancing and choreographing in fund-raising events for the beleaguered contemporary-dance center Conduit. Stowell’s been everywhere, shaking hands, giving talks, supporting other groups, being part of things. People have begun to feel that the ballet is connected, and they’ve appreciated it. Why risk that good will? Apparently, because so many members of the company feel it’s necessary.

    On a personal level, I want to be very clear here. The rise of OBT to its current level of performance has been one of the most encouraging and thoroughly pleasing arts stories that I’ve covered in the past 15 years. I would be devastated if this gutsy, talented, polished, personality-laden company lost the momentum it’s worked so hard to achieve.

    In July I was talking on other matters with Paul Nicholson, executive director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which has seen a steep decline in its own endowment but has maintained its institutional stability. The subject of OBT’s recent bailout came up.

    “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” Nicholson told me. “And it would be a shame if Oregon Ballet Theatre did not take this and use it as a springboard to build those stronger relationships with those donors. If they just said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and that was the end of it. … Think of the incredible data base they’ve now compiled. There’s not much more signal that those donors can send to the theater that they care.”

    A whole lot of people care, deeply. Can we now please try to solve this thing?

    Now I’ve got that job: a back-breaker before it begins

    The Crooked Man, Project Gutenberg

    Bent beneath the weight of sudden responsibilities and an uncooperative lower back, Mrs. Scatter staggers to the first meeting of her Important New Job. Drawing: “The Crooked Man,” from Project Gutenberg.


    Did you hear I got a new job? If you missed the first two installments, read …

    Part 1: The short-lived dream of running for president.
    Part 2: The bizarre, twisted tale of how the job found me.

    A brief recap:

    • Blissful summer.
    • No job and no plans for a job.
    • Alvin and the Chipmunks.
    • A mysterious Jane nominates me for president.
    • White House hopes dashed.
    • Two Large Smelly Liabilities.
    • Love Jane.
    • Love Third Angle.
    • Love Ron.
    • Earflap hats.
    • Flying rockets.
    • Killer water fights.
    • Trick-or-treat.
    • Urinating dog.
    • FaceBook.
    • Frozen Music – City Dance.
    • Date night.
    • Sunny beach.
    • Typing into phone.
    • Junior Rose Parade.
    • Auto parts store.
    • Pickles!

    I made the big announcement on FaceBook:

    Say hello to the new managing director of Third Angle New Music Ensemble! I’m excited to work with my old friend Ron Blessinger. It’s the one job that could have lured me back to the work world before I had planned.

    And then I had a little exchange with one of my “friends.”

    Mighty Toy Cannon:
    “Hey congratulations. Welcome to the arts administrators’ club.”

    Miss Laura: “Will you show me the secret handshake?”

    “Once I’ve learned the handshake for the League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers! I’d also be happy to pass along the code book and the secret map to hidden treasures.”

    Miss Laura: “I hope finding the secret treasures doesn’t involve dark passageways filled with giant spiders and booby-trapped blades that take heads off.”

    OK, so I didn’t fully disclose on my resume that I had once worked as a clerk in an auto parts store.

    I really don’t think that’s any excuse not to be up front about the booby-trapped blades.

    Everything amazingly clicked into place. My grand scheme was to take the summer off, then come up with a whole new career. So I went on vacation, drove home on Labor Day and went to a meeting that night.

    It was to be my first job duty. My first impression. My first official act of my Whole New Career.

    But first … the day before my big debut I woke up in a nice cottage in Ashland, walked across the hall, stepped on the cold tile floor of the bathroom and suddenly went HOLY MOTHER OF GOD I’M SORRY I WAS BORN WITH LEGS!

    My entire lower back seized up and wouldn’t let go. I could hardly walk.

    I thought a nice warm shower would take care of it. No such luck. I took a couple of ibuprofen. Mildly better.
    Continue reading Now I’ve got that job: a back-breaker before it begins