The Essentials

13 Things to Do and See in Portland: December 2017

From Hillary Clinton to Ian Karmel, Explode Into Colors to serpentwithfeet, here's what you can't miss this month.

By Rebecca Jacobson and Fiona McCann November 20, 2017 Published in the December 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

1217 arts essentials change or2rpt

Chang(e) explores an artist and activist's complicated message.


Nov 30–Dec 16, BodyVox Dance Center
Motion capture: not just for Gollum anymore. The ever-inventive BodyVox—the company previously incorporated lasers and green screens in its work—harnesses that technology, along with live video and infrared sensors, for a new dance show. 

The Most Wonderful Season

Dec 1–3, Newmark Theatre
You can simultaneously kick off the holiday season and banish your 2017 blues at the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus’s annual all-singing, some-dancing event, The Most Wonderful Season. Research—fine, personal experience—shows it is physically impossible not to be buoyed by a PGMC show, and their holiday spectacle is the most life-affirmingly schmaltzy of them all.

Pericles Wet

Dec 1–17, Artists Repertory Theatre
In this Portland Shakespeare Project world premiere, local playwright Ellen Margolis puts a modern spin on the Bard’s fable of secrecy, guilt, and incest.


Dec 7–10, Headwaters Theatre
On an October morning in 1996, an artist and activist named Kathy Change—born Kathleen Chang—walked onto the University of Pennsylvania campus, doused herself in gasoline, and set herself on fire. This show (pictured above), created by Suzi Takahashi and Soomi Kim (who was raised in Beaverton), explores Change’s complicated life and message.

1217 arts essentials serpentwithfeet nrklh4

serpentwithfeet opens for Grizzly Bear at the Roseland.


Dec 9, Roseland Theater  
If you missed serpentwithfeet’s mesmerizing opening for Perfume Genius at Revolution Hall earlier this year, you’re in luck: the Baltimorean with the ethereal voice and operatic R&B sounds is back to support Brooklyn indie rockers Grizzly Bear at the Roseland this month. Be there and bear witness.

In the Beginning: Minor White’s Oregon Photographs

Dec 9–May 6, Portland Art Museum
In 1938, the Works Progress Administration hired 30-year-old Minor White to photograph the architecture of downtown Portland. Some images—expect about 70 in this exhibit—show grand façades, while others reveal the effects of the Great Depression: run-down buildings soon to be demolished, or men huddled outside a junk shop, hoping to make a sale.

Dan Rather

Dec 9, Powell’s City of Books
The 86-year-old icon of broadcast journalism recently returned to the fray as an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, blasting the president’s volatility and his blatant disregard for facts. Rather’s new essay collection, What Unites Us, muses on patriotism in turbulent times. 

Hillary Clinton

Dec 12, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Like a real life delegate from an alternate reality in which women are not grabbed, harassed, abused, and disrespected by those in power but are in fact—gasp!—in power themselves, Hillary Clinton comes to town to tell us all What Happened. (Not that you need any reminding, a mere year on from that particular, painful social schism.) Find your way to the Schnitz to be with her (or at least, in the same room). 

Ian Karmel

Dec 22, Revolution Hall
The Portland-raised comic titan—he now lives in LA and tears it up writing for The Late Late Show with James Corden—brings an uncanny blend of fury and charm to the mic. He returns to his home turf for a show titled “30 Minutes About Trump, And Then 30 Minutes to Make You Forget About Trump.” Fair trade.

Explode Into Colors

Dec 30–31, Mississippi Studios
For roughly three years in the late aughts, the three women of this Portland band enjoyed a short but fiery run, fusing dancy beats, post-punk, fuzzy reverb, arty funk, kicky drums, and a sludgy grunge streak. They broke up in 2010 but reunited for a pair of shows in fall 2016, and now they’re back to kick good riddance to 2017.

1217 arts essentials hitler saved my life v7warx

Read It:

Portland advertising scene mainstay Jim Riswold intersperses his dictator-themed artworks with wry, personal accounts of his bouts with cancers various in the high-design coffee-table book Hitler Saved My Life. 

Hear It:

Mo Troper gives elaborate power pop some acerbic lyrical pep in Exposure & Response, his anthemic, throwback sound aimed at contemporary targets.

Show Comments