The past year saw a seismic shift in leadership among Portland's arts organizations. We introduce a number of the new faces in our Fall Arts Preview: The New Class. But if what you want is a guide to help you plan your cultural calendar, look no further—we've selected the season's sure bets, along with a playful slide show of our featured artists getting a little zany in the Holocene photo booth.
August 31–October 27
This surrealist fantasy about the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life premiered in 2009 at London’s Theatre503 before going on to win an Olivier Award for Best New Play and then be a Broadway smash starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.
MFNW continues to soundtrack Portland with a formidable lineup of nationally acclaimed headliners (Young the Giant, Animal Collective, and Neko Case), local blood (Chromatics, the Thermals, and Typhoon), and the second year of its TechFest NW.
John O’Hurley, better known as J. Peterman, Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld, plays the plum role of lawyer Billy Flynn in this touring production of Bob Fosse’s Broadway smash.
Get ready for a new Pearl District gallery (not just for tourists), founded by former Rand Corporation think-tanker Theo Downes-Le Guin. Upfor, specializing in new and digital media, debuts with LA video artist Frances Stark’s “My Best Thing,” which premiered at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
Lily Tomlin →
September 7 at 7:30
From her salad days in Laugh-In as child philosopher Edith Ann, perched on a giant rocking chair, to her movie heyday in Nine to Five to her continuing TV roles, Tomlin has evolved into a Grammy winner, a Tony winner, and a six-time Emmy winner. She’s also a brilliant observational comedian with a deep well of profound things on her mind.
Stephen Hayes: A 30-Year Retrospective
September 10–December 15
This homegrown painter and printmaker gets and gives his due with 30 years of evocations of people and landscape, aptly titled Figure/Ground.
Fiddler on the Roof
September 14–October 27
Portland Center Stage artistic director Chris Coleman has dreamed of doing this Tony Award–winning classic for 20 years. “The music is so simple, but so moving,” he says. His patience paid off: he’s staging it with the largest known cast in PCS history.
Bouchra Ouizguen: Ha!
Morrocan choreographer Ouizguen performs alongside three aitas, the traditional caberet singers who live and perform on the margins of Moroccan society. These women belong to singing tradition that is both deeply respected and the subject of scorn for its erotic overtones, and Ouizguen's collaboration with them is meant to explore societal constructions of madness and convention.
September 19–October 13
Musicals don’t get any zanier than this whodunit farce by the Tony-winning musical team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Just try to keep track of the fast-paced action amid the slamming doors, mistaken identities, and a surprisingly mobile corpse.
Sweet and Sad →
September 27–October 20
Last season, Third Rail Rep’s That Hopey Changey Thing introduced us to the Apple family, the fictional clan at the center of a four-play series by Tony winner Richard Nelson. Sweet and Sad picks up with the family while they gather for a memorial service on the 10th anniversary of September 11.
Oregon Symphony's Scheherazade
September 21 & 23
Few works of music are as beautiful, richly nuanced, and dynamically varied as Russian composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s brilliant interpretation of stories within stories, complemented here by a highly unusual and delicate percussion concerto by renowned Japanese composer Takemitsu.
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell
Steve Martin used to fill stadiums with nothing but a bango and an arrow through his head. Now he’s backed by a Grammy-winning bluegrass band and a celebrated singer-songwriter, but you can bet the picking and the humor are just as sharp.
The wittiest word-crafters in the country mingle with small press and independent publishers at the largest celebration of literacy in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t miss linked events, like the Independent Publishing Resource Center’s annual Text Ball fundraiser (theme: “Literary Devices”) and the variety show Entertainment for the People.
Pet Shop Boys
October 4 at 7:30
From “West End Girls” to “New York City Boy,” this Brit-pop duo has spanned the globe with its chart-topping songs. Despite performing for 32 years, they continue to stay relevant, whether creating a ballet or appearing at the Olympic closing ceremonies.
← Portland Baroque Orchestra's Bach Concertos: Violin and Oboe
Over two weekends, PBO will perform and record 10 concertos by J. S. Bach that highlight leading period oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz and PBO artistic director/violinist Monica Huggett.
October 5–January 12
Beautiful, terrifying, and more than a little sexy, Samurai! is the Portland Art Museum’s blockbuster look at the warrior couture of the legendary Japanese private armies. Eat your heart out, Blackwater mercenaries! (In conjunction, the NW Film Center will be screening films featuring the iconic warriors, October 6–December 21.)
October 8 at 7:30
Though a controversial figure (he’s been the target of both lawsuits and a fatwa), the best-selling author of The Satanic Verses and the Booker Prize–winning Midnight’s Children is unanimously described as a brilliant writer. He kicks off the 29th season of Portland Arts and Lectures.
October 9 at 7:30
Titans in the realm of classical music, the celebrated string quartet opens Friends of Chamber Music’s 75th anniversary season (and celebrates its own 40th).
Compagnie Maguy Marin
The 2002 performance by this eminent and provocative European choreographer left Portland audiences deeply divided—some walked out, others thought it was brilliant. Now she returns for her only US performance, the premiere of Salves, a (far more accessible) thrill ride of mystery, suspense, and humor.
Incoming artistic director Kevin Irving makes his presence known with Por Vos Muero, a contemporary ballet from the much-in-demand Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato. The Spanish Renaissance–inspired piece shares the program with former OBT director Christopher Stowell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Portland Museum of Modern Art
October 12–November 24
Never heard of the great midcentury artist Mr. Otis? Label yourself a newcomer. His satirical riffs on modernism earned him infamy—at least among the wryer Portland cognoscenti who knew him as the alter ego of notorious journalist Stewart Holbrook. To get the maximum tongue-in-cheek, consider pairing with a trip to Portland Art Museum’s modern galleries.
The British Film Institute has restored the celluloid legend’s nine earliest surviving works in 35 mm and sent them on tour. Made between 1925 and 1929, these rarely seen entries will be accompanied at the NW Film Center by live musical scores.
Oregon Symphony's Portland’s Indies
October 19 at 7:30
After last season’s perfect pairing with local indie band Blind Pilot, the symphony’s upping the ante with a night of not one but three guitar- and banjo-plucking acts: Black Prairie (with members of the Decemberists), Holcombe Waller, and Mirah.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis →
October 22 at 8
Wandering the vintage-filled streets of the Rose City, it’s hard to believe this Seattle duo behind the multiplatinum hit “Thrift Shop” (not to mention a single about gay marriage and a bazillion-selling self-released debut) isn’t from Portland. Could we be any prouder of our neighbor to the north?
Sydney Dance Company
October 23 at 7:30
Australia’s leading contemporary dance company returns to town after a six-year absence with a new artistic director, Rafael Bonachela, and a giant, pulsing, pixelated LED matrix. “This is all-out dance,” says Walter Jaffe, cofounder of local presenter White Bird.
Think & Drink
For the last in Oregon Humanities’ series of happy-hour talks on “How to Love America,” the featured speakers are two veterans: Karl Marlantes, the Seaside-based author of the Vietnam War novelMatterhorn, and Cameron Smith, the 35-year-old new director of Oregon’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs. "Marlantes’s What It Is Like to Go to War still has me reconsidering my own beliefs about fighting," says O. Hm's incoming artistic director, Adam Davis.
Northwest Dance Project
October 24–26 at 7:30
NWDP’s annual program of new works, New Now Wow!, highlights pieces by two winners of its annual Pretty Creatives choreographic competition, as well as the company’s first work from Danielle Agami, who introduced the Israeli dance technique called Gaga to the US (no relation to the Lady).
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
October 25–November 23
Up to four actors play Mr. Hyde in this 2008 reimagining by noted playwright Jeffrey Hatcher of the classic story about the tension twixt social mores and primal instincts.
Twelfth Night Of The Living Dead
Shakespeare is timeless and zombies supposedly live forever, so why shouldn’t the two go hand in hand in this Halloween mash-up. “It isn’t the best iambic pentameter that Shakespeare ever wrote,” says director Dallas Myers. “But then again, Shakespeare never imagined Viola would bite someone’s finger off.”
October 29–December 1
Artists Rep’s new artistic director, Dámaso Rodriguez, saw this sci-fi futuristic parable about totalitarian rule and an insidious fox infestation in London and snatched the US premiere before the play became a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Powerful, intense, salacious—since its premiere in 1905, Strauss’s operatic adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s retelling of this biblical tale continues to shock and thrill audiences. Portland Opera will create a new, modern, main-stage production (its first since 2007), starring soprano and Metropolitan Opera regular Kelly Cae Hogan in one of the form’s most demanding roles.
November 7–January 11
Elizabeth Leach Gallery brings The Reading, videos, prints, and sculpture by MacArthur “genius” Ann Hamilton from the Asia-inspired Guggenheim Museum show The Third Mind.
Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet
November 9 at 8
Well known as one of the best guitar improvisers of his generation, Frisell has also used music to probe the soul of Americana, blending jazz with blues, country, rock, and folk. With the Big Sur project, he turns this signature style to sonically paint the sun-drenched stretch of California coast. $35.
Forget those regular world premieres; how about a modern-world premiere? That is, the Athenian virtuoso cantor Achilleas Chaldaiakis will return to lead Cappella Romana in a program of recently unearthed Byzantine chants by the early-18th-century Archbishop of Constantinople that have never been heard by modern ears.
The Other Place
November 13–December 8
This intense, surreal psychological character study of a medical expert who’s starting to breakdown herself closed earlier this year on Broadway, where it starred Laurie Metcalf and wracked up gushing reviews. It's a feather in Portland Playhouse's cap that it got the show so soon after Broadway—and then cast it with the incomparable Gretchen Corbett.
New arts organization Zena Zezza’s mission is to “invert the public art project model,” according to founder Sandra Percival, an undertaking which drives their series Interrogating Ideas, which "brings together artists, curators, and writers who have a fascination for ideas and have been talking about a subject over a period of time.” On November 16, internationally renowned artist Josiah McElheny will talk with former Reina Sophia curator Lynne Cooke about how domestic spaces shape our perception of art.
November 19 at 8
At their “In the Dark” live show last year, the cohosts of the hit NPR program Radiolab transformed the Keller Auditorium into a night sky of twinkling LED stars. This year, they promise to tell stories of cataclysmic destruction in their new show “Apocalyptical.”
Portland Arts & Lectures: Ann Patchett
The author of the best-selling novels Bel Canto and State of Wonder, Patchett was the writer most requested by the Portland Arts & Lectures audience in a recent survey. Ask and you shall receive.
Equally renowned for his work with orchestras, as a recitalist, and on recording, Bavouzet was named "Artist of the Year" at the 2012 International Classical Music Awards. His performance at Lincoln Hall will include Beethoven's Sonata No. 15 and Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, the latter of which is among his most well-regarded recordings.