Portland Fall Arts Calendar

The can’t-miss shows, events, and festivals that will define Portland’s cultural agenda this season

By Aaron Scott, Marty Patail, Nathan Tucker, and Schuyler Keenan September 2, 2014 Published in the September 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Richard Mosse’s The Enclave, at Portland Art Museum


The Canticle of the Black MadonnaSept 5–6
Given the extraordinary cost of an opera, it’s not every day an indie production makes it to the stage. Oregon composer Ethan Gans-Morse recruited Portland directer Kristine McIntyre (her credits include the Metropolitan Opera) and first-rate singers for the ambitious story of a US soldier returning from Afghanistan with PTSD. Newmark Theatre. 

Literary Arts’ 30th BirthdaySept 8
Portland’s premier literary nonprofit celebrates a big birthday with a performance from the Decemberists’ proudly bookish Colin Meloy, an appearance by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love, The Signature of All Things), and a return of the first-ever Portland Arts and Lectures guest speaker, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. 

Artists Rep's Intimate ApparelSept 9–Oct 5
In Pulitzer-winner Lynn Nottage’s most celebrated play, a young African American woman in 1905 New York works as a seamstress, sewing lingerie for both midtown shops and downtown brothels. She hopes to make enough money to open a beauty shop, but her search for love threatens to derail her dream. 

Owen PallettSept 10
Pallett has toured with Arcade Fire, garnered an Oscar nod for his compositions on Spike Jonze’s Her, and arranged for everyone from the National to Taylor Swift—yet he’s still got creative energy left to pen the intricate, lyrically bold, electro-baroque pop for which he gained acclaim as Final Fantasy. 

XOXO 2014Sept 11–14
XOXO’s lofty ambition: take the head-in-the-clouds ideation of TED Talks, the fun-loving party vibe of SXSW, and artists, programmers, entrepreneurs, and writers from around the country, and cram it all into Southeast Portland. If you didn’t score a ticket, you can stream the festivities online afterwards. 2014.

Portland Center Stage's DreamgirlsSept 20–Nov 2
This Tony-winning Broadway musical is (unofficially) based on the story of Diana Ross, the Supremes, and their manager Berry Gordy’s quest to bring Motown to the mainstream. You might also know it as a little movie starring Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson. 

Portland Playhouse's The Piano LessonSept 24–Nov 2
Given the company’s outstanding record producing the work of playwright August Wilson, it’s surprising Portland Playhouse hasn’t yet tackled the play many regard as Wilson’s finest. The Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of an African American family in 1930s Pittsburgh and its members’ disagreement over what to do with an heirloom piano. 

Third Rail Rep's MiddletownSept 26–Oct 19
 Taking inspiration from Our Town, playwright Will Eno plunges into quotidian life in a small hamlet—but in his world, the townsfolk are clever wordsmiths who philosophize on life’s big questions. The play was the hit of the 2009 JAW Festival. Winningstad Theatre.  

Time-Based Art Festival: Sept 11–21

Every September the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s TBA Festival washes over Portland in a tsunami of performances, art, glitter, and late-night soirées, attracting artists and audiences from around the world. Dive in with one of these anchor events. 

Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort: In the US debut of Germinal, four performers build a civilization from scratch on stage, reinventing language, culture, and the wheel in an absurdly hilarious show that literally deconstructs the theater—and has consequently become one of the world’s most-talked-about works.

Mammalian Diving Reflex: This Toronto-based company makes art from its audiences. At TBA seven years ago, it tested trust and vanity by putting volunteers in the barber’s chair in Haircuts by Children. This time, it stages All the Sex I’ve Ever Had, a piece made and performed by a group of elderly Portlanders looking back at their sex lives. Not your grandma’s ... oh, never mind. 

Tanya Tagaq: This vocal shape-shifter mixes grunts, growls, and rhythmic breathing from Inuit throat singing with electronica to reach a global audience, performing alongside the likes of Björk and the Kronos Quartet. At TBA, she’ll provide a live score to the controversial silent film Nanook of the North.

Cynthia Hopkins: Hopkins made her name with a trilogy of over-the-top works mixing musical theater, vaudeville, comedy, and costumes. For the West Coast premiere of A Living Documentary, she pares down the scale—but not the insightful dark humor. 


Broadway Across America's Kinky BootsOct 1–5
It seems like every maturing pop star these days wants to pen a Broadway musical, but few have succeeded like Cyndi Lauper—in part because the smash hit’s plotline sounds like it sashayed right out of one of her music videos: a shoe factory owner tries to save his failing business with the help of a drag queen in need of some stilettos. Keller Auditorium. 

Portland Center Stage's The Typographer’s DreamOct 4–Nov 16
A geographer, a typographer, and a stenographer walk into a theater.... We’d tell you the punch line, but we don’t want to ruin this spare drama by PCS favorite Adam Bock (he wrote last season’s A Small Fire) about three professionals whose panel discussion skids into dangerously personal territory. 

Zena Zezza's Artist Project Season—Anthony McCallOct 12–Dec 6
 This New York–based British artist is best known for his “solid light” installations that project particular patterns of light in dark rooms to create what feel like radiant sculptures. Arts organization Zena Zezza will invite him to transform Hallock & McMillan, Portland’s oldest commercial building, dating back to 1857. 

White Bird Dance Presents DiavoloOct 9–11
This California-based troupe returns to White Bird for the first time in 10 years with director Jacques Heim’s new work, Fluid Infinities. The Los Angeles Philharmonic commission features a huge dome, a 12-foot plexiglass tube, and music by minimalist composer Philip Glass. Intrigued? Newmark Theatre. 

The New PornographersOct 8
This Vancouver, British Columbia, supergroup has churned out catchy melodic jams since its 2000 debut, Mass Romantic, despite the heavy touring schedules of individual members like Neko Case, Dan Bejar, and A. C. Newman. The entire band descends on Portland to promote its first album in four years, Brill Bruisers.

Oregon Ballet Theatre's OBT 25: Oct 11–18
OBT celebrates the opening of its 25th season by toasting its history through a series of duets from founding artistic director James Canfield, former resident choreographer Trey McIntyre, and former artistic director Christopher Stowell, combined with the Balanchine-Stravinsky collaboration Agon and a full-company world premiere by choreographer Nicolo Fonte. How’s that for a retrospective? Keller Auditorium. 

Northwest Film Center's Reel MusicOct 11–27
The annual cinematic celebration of all things music—features, documentaries, concert footage, music videos—opens with the highly anticipated Elliott Smith documentary, Heaven Adores You. Directed by NWFC School of Film alum Nickolas Dylan Rossi, the intimate tribute includes interviews with Smith’s friends and some 20 unreleased songs. Whitsell Auditorium. 

Michael Clark Company

White Bird Dance Presents Michael Clark CompanyOct 16–18
This iconoclastic British choreographer’s six-member dance company presents come, been, and gone, an evening of intense and demanding dance set to music and video of David Bowie. Here’s hoping for a “Space Oddity” re-creation—or at the very least some “Life on Mars” makeup. Newmark Theatre. 

Blue Sky at the Portland Art MuseumOct 18–Jan 11
 Originally called the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts, Blue Sky Gallery has grown into one of the preeminent West Coast photographic arts centers over its 40-year history. Along the way, it’s featured works by renowned photographers like Robert Frank and John Divola, 120 of which will be displayed in this retrospective. 

Lena Dunham and Carrie BrownsteinOct 19
Girls meets riot grrrls as the creator/star of HBO’s Girls talks with the Portlandia creator/star and former Sleater-Kinney guitarist about Dunham’s new book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” Newmark Theatre. 

Northwest Dance Project's New Now WowOct 23–25
Every fall, NWDP brings three new works to the stage. This year they’re choreographed by Portlander Minh Tran; China native and New York City resident Yin Yue; and Czech Jiri Pokorny, who debuts his first work ever in the US. Lincoln Performance Hall.

Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto with the Oregon Symphony: Oct 25-–27
 The youngest guitarist to perform with the New York Philharmonic and the only one to win Spain’s prestigious “El Ojo Crítico” classical award, Sáinz Villegas is one of the hottest guitarists touring today (and we’re not referring to his soap-opera good looks). Here, he’ll perform Joaquín Rodrigo’s celebrated Concierto de Aranjuez. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. 

Friends of Chamber Music Presents Salzburg Marionette Theatre and Orion WeissOct 26
Founded in 1913, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre still uses the puppetry technique its founder invented 101 years ago, the same year Debussy wrote The Toy Box. The theater will bring the ballet to life tonight with the help of the virtuoso Weiss, whom Portlanders know for his other regular collaboration: with his pianist wife, Anna Polonsky, for four-hand performances at Chamber Music Northwest. Lincoln Performance Hall. 

Design Week: Oct 4–11

If you’re curious about our city’s increasingly rich design world, have a gander at the schedule for the third annual Design Week. From a new geodesic-domed hub in Pioneer Courthouse Square to a Ziggy Stardust rock-and-roll gala to a calendar of national names, open studios, workshops, and interactive events, it offers tantalizing treats for looky-loos and professionals alike.

Stefan Sagmeister—Design and Happiness: Few stars in the world of graphic design elicit awe like Sagmeister. A veritable trickster, he has carved an event poster into his body, dangled from an Empire State Building window, won a design Grammy for a Talking Heads box set, and created an art exhibition called The Happy Show.

Susan Szenasy: As the editor-in-chief of the New York–based magazine Metropolis since 1986, Szenasy has had a front-row seat to almost 30 years of architecture, design, and culture, becoming an internationally recognized expert on sustainability along the way. 

Design a Shoe Workshop: Now is your chance to make your dream kicks with shoe god Tinker Hatfield (he oversees Nike’s Innovation Kitchen and has designed many of the company’s most well-known shoes, including more than a dozen Air Jordans) and senior designer Wilson Smith.

Biomimicry Thinking for Sustainable Design: Evolution is like a research and development lab that’s been operating for 3.8 billion years. Velcro, bullet trains, windmills, swimsuits—they’ve all found inspiration in nature. Learn how to apply nature’s lessons to your design problems.


The Portland Opera returns to the first opera it performed 50 years ago, Johann Strauss II’s comedy Die Fledermaus.

Profile Theatre's True WestNov 6–23
Sibling bonds get stretched to the extremes in Sam Shepard’s play about two brothers—one a Hollywood playwright, the other a drifting thief—who reconnect after years of separation only to clash over ideals and lifestyles. Like many Shepard plays, it makes your family’s Thanksgivings look downright wholesome. 

PNCA’s Feldman Gallery Presents Eva and Franco MattesNov 6–Jan 10
This duo delves into the nature of the Internet and its intense capacity for emotional impact through trickster stunts and crowd-sourced participation. Their works range from the banal (instructions to people around the world to record themselves and post it online) to the highly controversial (recording web-cam reactions on Chat Roulette to Franco hanging himself—and never revealing that it’s faked). 

Portland Opera Presents Die FledermausNov 7–15
To kick off its 50th-anniversary season, the opera revisits its first-ever production, a comedy of intoxicated scheming and romantic intrigue set around a Venetian masked ball. Featuring soprano Mary Dunleavy as Rosalinde (last seen as Donna Elvira in 2012’s Don Giovanni), Daniel Belcher as Gabriel von Eisenstein (last seen as Figaro in 2010’s The Barber of Seville), and surprise Portland guest stars every night. Keller Auditorium. 

Richard Mosse’s The Enclave at the Portland Art MuseumNov 8–Feb 8
Irish visual artist Richard Mosse spent several years in the Democratic Republic of Congo documenting its deeply entrenched conflict using a discontinued infrared film technology that renders the landscapes in Technicolor hues of crimson, pink, and lavender. (It was invented to negate camouflage during World War II.) The exhibition will include six simultaneous projections and a soundscape, immersing the viewer in the haunted landscape. 

Justin TimberlakeNov 20
While other pop superstars look to the future, seeking to shock and awe with state-of-the-art pyrotechnics, Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience Tour looks to the past, with 600 bespoke suits for the cast by garment guru Tom Ford, slick Cary Grant hair, and covers of Elvis and Michael Jackson. (And there are also neon lasers galore.) Moda Center. 

Bernadette Peters with the Oregon SymphonyNov 22
Peters is widely considered one of the finest living musical theater performers, as well as the greatest interpreter of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim’s work. Sondheim agrees, having told the Washington Post, “Bernadette is flawless as far as I’m concerned.” Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. 

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