Best of the City 2016: Seven Curators and Creators Share Top Picks from Portland’s Arts Scene

From in-your-face theater to a bold magazine for women guitarists, here are some of Portland’s best things to watch, hear, and read.

By Fiona McCann and Rebecca Jacobson June 13, 2016 Published in the July 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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"It’s a tiny space in close-in industrial Southeast, barely big enough to flex your elbows, with enough seats for 32 to 39 people at a time. And especially since Theatre Vertigo took over as its main tenant, the Shoebox Theatre offers a gritty, in-your-face, sensory sweatbox experience: great big theater in a teeny-tiny room. You can’t possibly doze off here: the actors are almost in your laps. Watch for January 2017’s premiere of Portland writer Matthew B. Zrebski’s horror tale Carnivora." —Bob Hicks, writer and critic

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Image: Ashley Clark

Performance Art

"Choreographer and performer Allie Hankins is one of the most compelling artists anchoring the experimental dance and performance scene in Portland. She exudes fearlessness and vulnerability. Hankins is a formidable performer, who unabashedly embraces awkward and authentic moments that make her work both rigorous and human. —Angela Mattox, PICA artistic director

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"It’s hard to believe Late Night Action with Alex Falcone is in its sixth season, but also not hard to believe. I’m super-attracted to comedy mined from a variety of angles, including moments that come from featuring top-notch performers. But the pièce de résistance is how host Alex Falcone and sidekick Bri Pruett (both also write for the show), deftly interview nonperformers like local candidates and entrepreneurs. They create fantastic, surprising moments and give voice to those who don’t typically get to shine in the spotlight. —B. Frayn Masters, host and producer of Back Fence PDX

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One of the best things in this city full of writers and readers is the wide range of excellent reading series. Each month, all over the city, working writers hone their craft and then read—often to packed houses. Three series you shouldn’t miss: Get Nervous, centered on the nagging, swirling, frazzled feeling you get when you have to do a thing (in short: anxiety); Grief Rites, about all things grief, loss, death, and dying; and Unchaste Readers, promoting writing that takes risks, showing the raw, vulnerable, ecstatic, complicated lives of women.” —Kate Carroll De Gutes, winner of a 2016 Oregon Book Award for Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

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Image: Michael Novak


I love the Living Room. It’s quiet and intimate, you can get nice food and a drink, and just sit back and watch a movie. Lounge chairs with movable armrests, little footstools—it’s relaxing. It shows great arthouse films and a selection of foreign films as well. It’s a place that encapsulates what the city is about.” —Russell Hornsby, Grimm’s Detective Hank Griffin

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Portland has an independent film scene brimming with accomplished documentary makers. Next up for national recognition is Irene Taylor Brodsky, whose Beware the Slenderman is headed for prime time on HBO (this fall). An account of the tragic true story of two 12-year-old girls who tried to murder a friend at the behest of a fictional, modern-day Internet bogeyman, Brodsky’s inquiry explores the cusp between real and online lives. —Bill Foster, director of Northwest Film Center

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My favorite thing to come out of Portland lately is She Shreds magazine. It’s about damn time there’s a magazine for women guitarists and bassists—and it’s really well done! Creator-founder Fabi Reyna and the She Shreds team have accomplished something monumental. They’re filling a huge hole by showcasing the majorly underrepresented: women, women of color, and women of varying gender identities. And they’re engaging us to fight against misrepresentation. We are not sexy objects to sell guitars. We shred!” —Kathy Foster, Thermals bassist

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