Spring Arts Date Book

Mark your calendar now for this season’s top shows to know.

By Randy Gragg, John Chandler, Anne Adams, and Martin Patail February 23, 2012 Published in the March 2012 issue of Portland Monthly


March 8-11 | Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival

Hollywood Theatre
Known to its fans as “POWfest,” this five-year-old celebration of female filmmaking typically boasts two-thirds of its films’ directors in the audience—one of them picking up the annual POWfest Pioneer Award. Past winners include Irene Taylor Brodsky (The Final Inch) and Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career). This year’s fest features documentary Sisters in Arms, about Canadian women serving in combat in Iraq. Portlander Megan Johnson will premiere her feature film Stealing Roses, a tragicomedy about a man who starts robbing banks to pay for his dying wife’s cancer treatments. Jacqueline Gualt will debut Dinner Party, a short from her five-part series “about friendship … and revenge.” $7.50–10. powfest.com

March 9-10 | Best of Now

Northwest Dance Project
Chinese-born Canadian choreographer Wen Wei Wang features in this trio of world premieres with the latest of his visually striking mix of martial arts and street dance. French choreographer Patrick Delcroix and NW Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper add their own seductively energetic, ballet-rooted pieces. Newmark Theatre, nwdanceproject.com

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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Craft

Generations: Betty Feves

March 10 through May 19 | Portland 2012: A Biennial of Contemporary Art

Back in 1992, Prudence Roberts, then an associate curator at the Portland Art Museum, was part of a team that resuscitated the Oregon Biennial after its death many years before. Now teaching and running the gallery at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus, she’s returning as the picker-in-chief for the reinvented biennial put on by the alt-arts space Disjecta. Culling from 280 entries and more than 50 studio visits, Roberts selected 24 artists and collaborative teams for four different venues. If you want a seasoned pro’s view of the brightest lights of contemporary Portland artmaking, look for the glow here with work like Cynthia Lahti’s emotionally layered ceramic sculptures, Akihiko Mioshi’s confounding photographic abstractions, Wendy Red Star’s meditations on the powwow, and the collective Future Death Toll’s Internet-based sound art. Various venues; disjecta.org

March 10 through June 17 | Emerging

Portland Art Museum
Upon the sudden death of the Portland Art Museum’s much-beloved curator of photography, Terry Toedtemeier, local photographers Christopher Rauschenberg and Stu Levy called in some chits, asking the many artists around the world whom Toedtemeier had shown, helped, and otherwise engaged (and sometimes peeved) to give a print in his memory. More than 100 ponied up, among them Jerry Uelsmann, Linda Connor, Mark Klett, Suzanne Opton, and many others who can be labeled among the greatest living artists of the photo medium. This “new acquisitions” show offers a look at some of them, along with other pieces reeled in by Toedtemeier’s successor, Julia Dolan, by equally important artists like Bea Nettles, Ray Metzker, Drex Brooks, Chris McCaw, and Frederick Henry Evans. pam.org

March 15 through July 28 | Generations: Betty Feves

Museum of Contemporary Craft
One of the pioneers of mid-20th- century modernist pottery, Betty Feves never achieved the renown of Robert Arneson or Peter Voulkos. But among potters, she was no less influential. Having studied with painter Clyfford Still during his brief stint in the late ’30s at Washington State University and later at the Art Students League and Columbia University in New York, she learned the iconoclasm of abstract expressionism firsthand and then turned it to her own, cooler ends in her studio in Pendleton. Curator Namita Gupta Wiggers is pulling together the first serious survey of Feves’s work ever in Oregon. It’s about time. Whether drawing, throwing pots, sculpting, or investigating experimental firing techniques, she created a graceful, gritty beauty that will excite far more than the pottery set. $4. mocc.pnca.edu

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Photo: Courtesy PICA

Keith Hennessy, PICA

March 23-25 | A Head of Time

Linda Austin
From her tiny, former St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church just off SE Foster Road, Linda Austin has built an experimental stronghold with Performance Works Northwest. In a simple, bleachered room, she helps young talents flower and brings out the movement latent in nondancers (among them, prominent Portlanders like former Metro head David Bragdon and Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale) with her everchanging troupe, the Boris and Natasha Dancers. But Austin is also a serious, accomplished choreographer who weaves the more ethereal concerns of dance with Chaplinesque physical humor for an allegorical magic. This is a rare opportunity to see her work on a full-production-equipped stage. Imago Theatre, performanceworksnw.org

March 28 | East Coast Chamber Orchestra

Chamber Music Northwest
The Occupy Wall Street movement offered a glimpse of pure democracy—warts, beauty marks, and all. For some lessons in harmony, the protesters might look to East Coast Chamber Orchestra, which operates with some of Occupy’s anarchic style. Calling itself “democratically principled,” the 27-member group makes all of its arrangement decisions by discussion and consensus—this by some of the music world’s biggest names: Jonathan Vinocour (viola) of the San Francisco Symphony, Grammy-nominated Melissa Reardon (viola), and Raman Ramakirshnan (cello) of the internationally renowned Daedalus Quartet. $15–45. Reed College, Kaul Auditorium, cmnw.org

March 29 through May 13 | Brother/Sister Plays

Portland Playhouse
In the annals of graduate school theater, few productions have rocketed to the success of the Brother/Sister Plays. First workshopped at the Yale School of Drama in 2006 by then-second-year-student playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, the project won rave reviews at New York’s Public Theater, ultimately earning McCraney a prestigious Whiting Award. The autobiographically inspired tale of an African American family’s two-generation plight of poverty, addiction, disease, a hurricane, and the youngest son’s gay sexual awakening is “operatic, while the gritty moment-to-moment truth was as sharp as Sam Shepard,” says Portland Playhouse Artistic Director Brian Weaver. “These plays will illuminate the pre-Katrina Louisiana bayou community for our Portland audience.” $15–28. portlandplayhouse.org


April 3-29 | Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Portland Center Stage
Seattle writer Kevin McKeon has adapted literary epics A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, so giving him the job of whittling the pages of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina down to a bite-size production seems like a smart call. A doomed romance set in politically turbulent 19th-century Russia, the story follows the titular heroine, as she exchanges the role of dutiful wife and mother for that of a woman driven to desperate deeds by her all-consuming desire for another man. “Love. The reason I dislike that word is that it means too much for me, far more than you can understand,” she says of her untenable predicament. $34–59. Gerding Theater, pcs.org

April 7 and June 21-24 | PICA Gets Physical

No local arts group has seen more change than the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Founded in 1995 by the charismatic Kristy Edmunds (now curating the UCLA Live festival in Los Angeles), it began as a series of performances and exhibitions in borrowed spaces, grew into a full-fledged “institution” in Wieden & Kennedy’s sparkling headquarters, then shrank and reincarnated into the annual Time-Based Art Festival. But with the phenomenal success of TBA and a new curator, Angela Mattox, from San Francisco’s dynamic Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, PICA’s reaching for a year-round presence again. Its latest digs are smack-dab in what might be called the new “Stark Street District” cultural hub at 415 SW 10th Avenue. Look for the April open house and mark your calendars for June 21–24: PICA will host legendary San Francisco choreographer Keith Hennessy and his company for a series of symposia and in-progress performances for “Turbulence,” a new “dance about the economy” the group will premiere at September’s TBA Festival. pica.org

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Photo: Courtesy White Bird Dance

Göteborg Ballet

April 12-14 | Göteborg Ballet

White Bird Dance
Plenty of companies work hard to reach new audiences. The Sweden-based Göteborg Ballet reaches for a new kind of ballet. The classically trained, full-scale company can move from “crashing wildness” to “luscious glut of physical imagery” to “wrenchingly plaintive and beautiful” in a single evening, according the Boston Globe. Artistic Director Johannes Öhman has created a showcase for some of Europe’s leading choreographers that, on this tour, will make only two US stops. Count yourself lucky, Portland. $26–64. Newmark Theatre, whitebird.org

April 12-15 | Chromatic Quartet

Oregon Ballet Theatre
Accompanied by everything from Stravinsky to African drums, this eclectic evening of four short pieces is anchored by a rerun of an audience favorite, the explosive “Lambarena.” But get ready to stretch with two new works: a company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Liturgy,” an exploration of the architecture of the duet; and a still-to-be-titled world premiere by Canadian choreographing sensation Matjash Mrozewski. “Equally at home in ballet or contemporary dance,” writes Toronto’s Globe and Mail, “Mrozewski’s works are hallmarked by his fearless love of innovation, with each successive piece radically different from the one before.” $23–140. Newmark Theatre, obt.org

April 26-27 | New Ideas in Music

Third Angle New Music Ensemble
Nothing stokes the mind’s fires like a competition—which is why Third Angle Ensemble is hosting its first-ever contest to identify the most innovative local, regional, and national new ensemble compositions. Mirroring Third Angle’s wide repertoire, among the judges are Portland State University’s Bryan Johanson, the Charles Ives Living Award–winning Chen Yi, and Zygmunt Krauze of the Academy of Music in Warsaw. $30. thirdangle.org

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Photo: Courtesy Portland Opera

Candide, Portland Opera


May 9 | Compagnie Käfig

White Bird Dance
French choreographer Mourad Merzouki is one of that country’s leading movers with his mashups of hip-hop and contemporary dance. But after feasting his eyes on the work of 11 self-taught street dancers from Rio’s favelas, whose energetic acrobatics earned them a berth at the Lyon Dance Biennial in 2006, he was inspired to blend their bootstraps-up ambition and spirit with his own vision. The result is two genre-blasting mashups of hip-hop, capoeira, and samba set to high-energy electronic music and bossa nova that will make their US premiere here. $25–60. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, whitebird.org

May 11 through June 2 | Hard Times by Charles Dickens

CoHo Productions
Could there be a more topical drama than CoHo Productions’ streamlined adaptation of Hard Times? In the book, Charles Dickens depicted mill owners and well-fed, pragmatic scholars in Victorian England as contemptuous swine, who felt nothing about turning workers into beasts of burden during the Industrial Revolution. CoHo’s cast of four actors should have little trouble tapping more contemporary versions of the economic dissatisfaction Dickens so powerfully expressed. $25. (Thursdays: pay what you can) cohoproductions.org

May 11-19 | Candide

Portland Opera
The operatic stars align over Portland as coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore—fresh off a tour that included stops at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Opera de Vichy, and the Met—joins tenor Jonathan Boyd and award-winning baritone Robert Orth in Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 reimagining of Voltaire’s Renaissance satire. The tale follows the unlucky Pangloss (Orth) and his ever-naive student Candide (Boyd) on a humorous romp through plague, war, famine, and death in pursuit of his increasingly debased and ugly love, Cunégonde (Gilmore). Is this, as Pangloss philosophizes, the best of all possible worlds? Probably not, but don’t let facts spoil a good theory. Keller Auditorium, portlandopera.org

May 18-19 | NW Animation Festival

If your idea of animation stops at the Cartoon Network and Coraline, Sven Bonnichsen has a fast way to expand your imagination: the second annual NW Animation Festival. The first year brought 78 films from nine countries. This time, in a two-day, cartoon-and-Claymation bender, director Bonnichsen plans to take the festival up a notch with everything from the Academy Award nominees (rarely screened beyond clips on the annual TV starfest) to possibly, just possibly, whispers Bonnichsen, a sneak peek at local animation juggernaut Laika’s new schoolboy-and-zombie title ParaNorman, set for release in August. Hollywood Theatre, nwanimationfest.com.

May 20-21 | Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

Oregon Symphony
Conductor Carlos Kalmar closes the season on a dark note. Lizst’s haunting Black Gondola and Dvorák’s pensive Nocturne will set a somber tone before Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, a dissonant and increasingly frantic ballet score, gets our hearts racing. Finally, Bay Area composer John Adams will make the Portland premiere of his 30-minute symphony City Noir, a moody piece that seeks to evoke the tone and feeling of a Raymond Chandler-esque postwar Los Angeles. $21 and up. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, orsymphony.org

May 22-23 | Paufve Dance Theatre

Conduit Dance
Top-tier Bay Area choreographer Randee Paufve returns to Portland with one of her signature evenings of theatrically feminist dance: So I Married Abraham Lincoln…, a work based on the life of historical figure Mary Todd Lincoln. Paufve’s work blends the rigor (and sometimes personnel) of New York’s Wooster Group with the Bay Area postmodern tradition for a style that is at once conceptually complex and visually elegant. $15–18. conduit.org 

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Photo: Courtesy Augen Gallery

Picasso Ceramics


June 7-30 | Picasso Ceramics

Augen Gallery
Like so many turns in Pablo Picasso’s career, his first forays into ceramics in 1906 were devoted to a woman: small clay figurines of his tempestuous model/lover Fernande Olivier. And as with other turns, his interest later shifted to commerce: by the early ’50s, the Madoura pottery factory in Madoura, France, was pumping out multiples of everything he created, making the town a tourist mecca. This show includes 20 of these latter works, replete with the manic master’s Midas touch. augengallery.com

June 9 | 65th Anniversary Celebration

Portland Chamber Orchestra
Founded in 1947 as a ragtag collection of Lewis & Clark College music students under the direction of a war refugee from Finland, PCO is one of the nation’s oldest—and most respected—chamber orchestras. To commemorate the anniversary, conductor Yaacov Bergman will lead the 35 musicians in an all-Mozart extravaganza, moving from his Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major for Violin and Viola to the final Requiem. Carrying on PCO’s tradition of fostering young talent, teenage siblings Michael Siess (violin) and Lauren Siess (viola) will provide the link between past and future. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, portlandchamberorchestra.org

June 9 | Dance United

Oregon Ballet Theatre
For the third time in four years, OBT’s Christopher Stowell pulls the shiniest cards from his international-dance-world Rolodex for an evening that will include a sneak preview of the upcoming season, a pas de deux by British-born ballet sensation Christopher Wheeldon, and top-notch dancers visiting from companies in New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and Amsterdam. $47 and up. Keller Auditorium, obt.org

June 25 through July 29 | Summer Festival

Chamber Music Northwest
This monthlong festival, now in its 42nd year, is one of Portland’s gems. The verdant surrounds of its three venues—Portland State University, Catlin Gabel School, and Reed College, with preconcert picnics at the last—provide a lovely buffer zone of pure summer between the rest of your life and the music. And what music it is, played by the likes of the bassist, composer, and musical polymath Edgar Meyer, the bracing Emerson Quartet, the radiant mezzo Sasha Cooke, and the Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri, to name just a few of this year’s 50-plus performers in 26 concerts. For those who might like dance and humor mixed with their music, CMNW is also collaborating with Portland’s BodyVox and YouTube sensations Igudesman & Joo. cmnw.org

June 29 | Portland Youth Philharmonic

The nation’s oldest youth philharmonic pares down to a chamber-orchestra-size 35—perfect for a concert in Wieden & Kennedy’s soaringly beautiful atrium. Ingrid Arnett, the program’s coordinator, promises that WK’s airy space yet intimate setting will highlight the students in a way impossible in their usual venue: the huge and more formal Schnitz. The program will feature Beethoven’s Symphony no. 1, “worlds away” from the better known Ninth, says conductor David Hattner. “But the power of his ideas excite the young musicians as much as the virtuosity of his writing challenges them.” $15–20. portlandyouthphil.org

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