Your Guide to the 2016 Spring Arts Season

From thrash metal to Thornton Wilder, acrobat lumberjacks to Leon Bridges, we present our picks for the season’s sweetest tickets.

By Ramona DeNies March 1, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Slayer: set to destroy the Roseland in March

Image: Andrew Stuart 


Forest for the Trees - THRU MAR 19

EUTECTIC GALLERY Matte black birds on silver twigs, chalky sculptures that evoke tree limbs—or severed veins. Witness this exhibit of new, nature-inspired ceramic work from Jeff Irwin and Ted Vogel. eutecticgallery.com

Gigi Conot: Coalesce - THRU MAR 25

PUSHDOT STUDIO The Portland-based photographer meshes hundreds of images culled from city walks into vivid, “digitally blended” kaleidoscopes of color. pushdotstudio.com

Stupid F**king Bird - THRU MAR 27

PORTLAND CENTER STAGE Chic actresses, suicidal playwrights: Chekhov’s 1895 drama The Seagull gets an update in Aaron Posner’s take on classic themes of generational schism and aging. Gerding Theater. pcs.org

Ani DiFranco - MAR 3

Independence is the name of this Righteous Babe’s game; the folk star builds on 20 years of self-produced success. revolutionhallpdx.com

Kevin Nealon - MAR 3–5

The cast member of Saturday Night Live and Weeds is at work on crowd-funded film The Pleaser. (Tip accordingly!) heliumcomedy.com

POWFest - MAR 3–6

Portland’s annual female-director-themed festival is back for its ninth year, with guest of honor Catherine Hardwicke. (She’s the director of Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and Twilight—the biggest opening weekend for a female director at the time it was released.) Hollywood Theatre. powfest.com

Marvel Universe LIVE! - MAR 3–6

For its first-ever arena event, the massive comic franchise unleashes 25-plus villains and superheroes—think Captain Marvel, Green Goblin, and Thor—in an epic battle royale. Moda Center. marveluniverselive.com

John Prine - MAR 4

The legendary songwriter’s songwriter boasts tunes that appear in the catalogs of Johnny Cash, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, and innumerable other folksy greats. Now, audiences can thrill to a serenade from the “singing mailman” himself. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. portland5.com

Alex Cooper - MAR 8

The recent Portland transplant was held for eight months in a “residential treatment program” in Utah. Luckily, she lived to tell the tale—witness new book Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began. Powell’s City of Books. powells.com

Justin Bieber - MAR 13

Biebs is back, minus the bad-boy act (for now). Glistening new album Purpose is a study in club-ready redemption. Girl, you know he’s sorry. Moda Center. rosequarter.com

Louder Than Words - MAR 17–19

NORTHWEST DANCE PROJECT Three works make up one of the company’s biggest spring shows, including Airys, from artistic director Sarah Slipper, and an as-yet-unnamed world premiere from Zurich-based choreographer Ihsan Rustem. Newmark Theatre. nwdanceproject.org

The Lady Aoi - MAR 18–27

IMAGO THEATRE Yukio Mishima’s erotic thriller invokes both medical stasis and midnight incubi in what director Jerry Mouawad calls the Japanese version of Fatal Attraction. imagotheatre.com

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Institutional thrills: Yukio Mishima’s The Lady Aoi at Imago Theatre

Image: David Deide

Slayer - MAR 20

This fall, the thrash metal titans released 11th album Repentless to mixed reviews. But these maniacs thrive on controversy—and Rolling Stone, for one, counts this as the band’s most “vital, bloodthirsty offering since 2001’s God Hates Us All.” roselandpdx.com

Joanna Newsom - MAR 28

The pixeish indie songwriter/harpist woos fans with Divers, a recording the New Yorker calls her prettiest and brainiest to date. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Kidd Pivot - MAR 31–APR 2

WHITE BIRD DANCE Following a residency in Frankfurt, Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite cocreated Betroffenheit (“speechlessness” in German), a work of hybrid theater and dance the Globe and Mail called “rare and staggering.” Newmark Theatre. whitebird.org

The Sinatra Century - APR 2 & 3

OREGON SYMPHONY Fly us to the moon! Vocalist Curtis Stigers honors Ol’ Blue Eyes, who would have turned 100 last fall. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. orsymphony.org

Blue Door - APR 7–24

PROFILE THEATRE Tanya Barfield, the pen behind Profile’s 2016 season, won rave reviews for this 2006 tale of an insomniac mathematician confronting complex issues of black American identity. The Portland-raised playwright also writes for the screen, with credits in Starz’s upcoming series The One Percent and the new season of The Americans on FX. Artists Repertory Theatre. profiletheatre.org

Augusten Burroughs - APR 8

The Running with Scissors scribe returns with seventh memoir Lust and Wonder, on life after rehab. Powell’s City of Books. powells.com

The New Electric Ballroom - APR 8–30

THIRD RAIL REPERTORY In Enda Walsh’s wide-touring black comedy, three aging sisters in rural Ireland compulsively rehash a starry teenage night of near seduction. Imago Theatre. thirdrailrep.org

Love and Information - APR 8–MAY 7

THEATRE VERTIGO Caryl Churchill’s racing kaleidoscope (57 separate plays in two hours) features a cast of 15 playing more than 100 characters. The New York Times calls it a tender surrender to data overload that “teases, thwarts and gluts.” theatrevertigo.org

Oregon Book Awards - APR 11

LITERARY ARTS The 29th annual shindig this year honors 30-plus finalists—among them, Turtleface and Beyond author Arthur Bradford, poet Carl Adamshick, and Erika Moen, of graphic novel Oh Joy Sex Toy. Gerding Theater. literary-arts.org

Astronauts, etc. - APR 11

Toro y Moi keyboardist Anthony Ferraro embraces mad chillwave for his third solo EP, Eye to Eye. mississippistudios.com

Sallie Tisdale - APR 12

The laser-minded local writer proved her fearlessness decades ago, with essays on pornography (for it), abortion (performed it) and death (accepts it—she’s Buddhist). Such gems stud new volume Violation: Collected Essays. Powell’s City of Books. powells.com

Beautiful Decay - APR 14–23

OREGON BALLET THEATRE This two-part meditation on youth and aging offers new choreography from Ballet West’s Nicolo Fonte alongside local contemporary dancers Greg Bielemeier and Susan Banyas. Newmark Theatre. obt.org

Sharon Jones and the Dap–Kings - APR 15

The Brooklyn soul queen ascended her throne later in life, but she’s made up for lost time, winning Grammys and selling out the Apollo Theater. Also on this very funky bill: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Keller Auditorium. portland5.com

Ron Funches - APR 16

The Portland expat and Undateable star, on tour for new comedy album The Funches of Us, drops by his old hometown for National Record Store Day! aladdin-theater.com

2Cellos - APR 16

This wildly popular Croatian duo scrapped their 2015 North American tour when self-described “rock animal” Stjepan Hauser suffered a neck injury. (Yes, it is possible to headbang while celloing.) They’re back, with a 41-city tour for latest album Celloverse. Keller Auditorium. portland5.com

Bonnie Raitt - APR 17

In February, the redheaded rock and country diva released 20th studio album Dig In Deep—a self-produced recording with five tracks penned by Raitt herself. Keller Auditorium. portland5.com

TIMBER! - APR 19–20

WHITE BIRD DANCE Dancin’ Quebecois lumberjacks! Cirque Alfonse’s beardy acrobats wield crosscut saws and wagon wheels while attempting feats of “agility and strength.” Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. whitebird.org

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White Bird brings Cirque Alfonse’s forestry-inspired acrobatics to the Schnitz.

Peter and the Starcatcher - APR 27–MAY 29

PORTLAND PLAYHOUSE Humorist Dave Barry’s take on the Lost Boys skips the stardust for a coming-of-age tale equal parts misfit and swashbuckler. portlandplayhouse.org

TeatroSOLO/LONETheater - APR 30–MAY 15

BOOM ARTS AND C3:INITIATIVE This is next-level theater, folks: Argentine artist Matías Umpierrez’s innovative short plays are performed for just one person at a time. (Show up at an appointed location with ticket, the “actor” finds you.) The series is already a global hit; now watch as it literally pops ups across Portland. c3initiative.org


Andrés Wertheim and Thomas Bilanges - MAY 4–29

BLUE SKY GALLERY For The Museum’s Ghosts, Wertheim superimposed teens and tourists on Bruegels and Rembrandts; in Vis-à-Vies, Bilanges pairs old portraits with modern doppelgangers. blueskygallery.org

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In the Dragon’s Maw, by Andrés Wertheim—at Blue Sky this May

Malpaso - MAY 4

WHITE BIRD DANCE Artistic director Osnel Delgado’s Cuban troupe burst onto US stages just two years ago. Now the contemporary dance company makes its Portland premiere. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. whitebird.org

Kate Tempest - MAY 6

Just days prior to this reading, the wildly talented blond British rapper (and poet, and playwright) sees the US release of her debut novel, The Bricks That Built the Houses. Tempest’s new novel even has its own hip-hop album, Everybody Down—because when you’re an insomniac genius, why stop at just one opus? Powell’s City of Books. powells.com

The Udmurts - MAY 6–JUNE 10

DEFUNKT THEATRE In a Portland premiere from David Zellnik, a castoff of religious fundamentalism meets a strange and vanishing culture in a Queens flat. defunktheatre.com

Back to the Future - MAY 7

OREGON SYMPHONY Great Scott! A 31st-anniversary screening with Alan Silvestri’s score played by a full orchestra? Electrifying! Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. orsymphony.org

A Streetcar Named Desire - MAY 14–JUNE 19

PORTLAND CENTER STAGE Grimm’s Russell Hornsby stars in Tennessee Williams’s Southern potboiler. Gerding Theater. pcs.org

The Skin of Our Teeth - MAY 17–JUNE 12

ARTISTS REPERTORY THEATRE Thornton Wilder’s millennium-spanning family saga starts with all-American Cain throwing rocks, then lasts a few ice ages. artistsrep.org

Red Dress Party - MAY 21

Since 2001, this slinky annual soirée has raised serious cash to help in the fight against AIDS. (FYI, all attendees must say yes to the dress.) Old Freeman Factory. reddresspdx.com

Betty Buckley - MAY 22

Grizabella from Cats. Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Buckley is a true stage icon; now she brings a night of classic cabaret. Winningstad Theatre. portland5.com

International Youth Silent Film Festival - MAY 23 & 25

Meet the Pacific Northwest’s next generation of silent filmmakers (all under the age of 20) at these live-scored screenings. Hollywood Theatre. makesilentfilm.com

Mark Kurlansky - MAY 26

The author of Salt and Cod—titles based on seemingly quotidian (but stupendously important) commoditiesreturns with Paper: Paging Through History. Powell’s City of Books. powells.com

Leon Bridges - MAY 28

Last summer at Pickathon, the tender Texan serenaded rapt fans in the tiny Galaxy Barn. To catch him now, they must pack the Schnitz. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. portland5.com


Jane Lynch: See Jane Sing - JUNE 1

She rocked a tracksuit on Glee, stole the show in Christopher Guest’s Best in Show, and stars in CBS’s Angel from Hell. Now, a live comedy cabaret! Newmark Theatre. portland5.com

Tiempo Libre - JUNE 3

The Miami-based Afro-Caribbean band behind Cuba Libre—an Artists Repertory Theatre 2015 world-premiere musical—returns for an encore of smoking-hot Latin dance numbers. Newmark Theatre. portland5.com

Sweeney Todd - JUNE 3–11

PORTLAND OPERA Stephen Sondheim’s demon barber dishes up savory revenge in this musical thriller. David Pittsinger stars alongside Susannah Mars as Mrs. Lovett. Keller Auditorium. portlandopera.com

Backfence PDX: Mainstage - JUNE 4

One of the city’s top live storytelling events returns with five cringe-worthy tales. Alberta Rose Theater. backfencepdx.com

Flirting with Disaster will be the theme of the evening’s readings. Already confirmed: LA’s Moon Zappa.

Native Fashion Now - JUNE 4–SEPT 4

PORTLAND ART MUSEUM Haute couture meets North American Native culture (Navajo to Luiseño) in this touring exhibit of nearly 100 high-fashion designs. pam.org

Case Work: Studies in Form, Space, and Construction - JUNE 4–SEPT 4

PORTLAND ART MUSEUM Allied Works Architecture—the local firm behind such spaces as Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum and PNCA’s light-bathed new digs—displays 15 years of scale models and drawings. pam.org

Summer Splendors - JUNE 9–11

NORTHWEST DANCE PROJECT The company’s turn-of-season event this year has premieres from artistic director Sarah Slipper, Reed College dance professor Carla Mann, and NWDP’s 2014 Pretty Creatives International contest winner Lesley Telford. Lincoln Hall. nwdanceproject.org

Roseanne Barr - JUNE 11

The famously cranky stand-up tours before the next season of Last Comic Standing. (She’s a judge with Norm McDonald and Keenen Ivory Wayans.) Remember when Barr made a bid for the White House? No? OK, it was 2012. (Check out new documentary Roseanne for President! If you must see to believe.) Newmark Theatre. portland5.com

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