The Essentials

12 Things to See and Do in Portland: January 2018

Photographer Pete Souza makes us nostalgic for the Obama days, the Oregon Symphony mashes up Brahms and Radiohead, and Oliver Twist gets a hip-hop spin.

By Rebecca Jacobson and Fiona McCann December 28, 2017 Published in the January 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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Pete Souza, chief official White House photographer for Barack Obama's two terms, swings through Portland this month. Let the nostalgia commence.

Brahms v. Radiohead

Jan 4, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Remember the heyday of mash-ups? Like that Frankenstein number “Boulevard of Broken Songs”? Or—le duh—Girl Talk? The Oregon Symphony shakes up its own compositional cocktail, blending eight tracks from Radiohead’s 20-year-old icon OK Computer with Brahms’s 142-year-old First Symphony, aided by vocalists and conductor Steve Hackman. 

Pete Souza

Jan 9, Revolution Hall
One bright spot in an otherwise cloudy political climate has been this former White House photographer’s trolling of Trump on Instagram, via the timely posting of photographs of his predecessor (see above). Souza, chief official White House photographer for Obama’s two terms, is in town with Obama: An Intimate Portrait, a visual biography of our onetime leader in 300 intimate, iconic images. Bring tissues.


Jan 12–Feb 4, Northwest Children’s Theater
When Bess Walder and Beth Cummings were being evacuated as children from Britain in 1940, a torpedo hit their ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The two survived and solidified a lifelong friendship while hanging on to a lifeboat for 16 hours, awaiting rescue. This true story of fortune and fortitude premieres here in a coproduction between Corrib and Northwest Children’s Theater. 

Maria Bamford

Jan 13, Revolution Hall
The Minnesota-raised comedian and star of Netflix’s Lady Dynamite has made a career of channeling her own mental health issues—she’s struggled with bipolar disorder and OCD—into bizarro, brainy stand-up. Last fall, she further burrowed her way into our hearts with a frank New York Times essay about learning to be loved for who she is. 

Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years

Jan 15–June 24, Oregon Historical Society
The Oregon Black Pioneers—a nonprofit dedicated to African American history—curate a new exhibit about the ’60s and ’70s in this state, from protest movements to clashes with police to housing and employment discrimination.

Jason Marsalis

Jan 18, Jack London
The youngest son in a family of jazz royalty—you might have heard of brothers Branford and Wynton—Marsalis grew up as a drummer, and more recently began to perform on the vibraphone. The New York Times calls his drumming “eccentric within graceful boundaries” and says he’s “an exact and articulate” vibraphonist. Either way, this is jazz at a level both disciplined and accomplished. He plays two, separate-ticket sets at the Jack London.


Jan 20–Feb 18, Artists Repertory Theatre
Oregon playwright E. M. Lewis unveils her five-hour epic about the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer, set in 1985 at the South Pole Research Station. Science! Love! Global politics! Don’t fret: audiences get a dinner break midway through the show.  

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St. Vincent

Jan 20, Keller Auditorium
After a stretch of self-imposed isolation—her "monastic fantastic," she told the New Yorker—Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) returns in all her glam glory with Masseduction. It's the shape-shifting musician's most personal album to date, with songs about pills and heartbreak and suicide, but also replete with Technicolor hooks and giddy strings. And don't even get us started on the first single, "New York": a morsel of wondrous melancholy. 

Elena Passarello & Jesse Donaldson

Jan 25, Powell’s City of Books
Passarello’s exquisite treatises in last year’s Animals Strike Curious Poses, on subjects ranging from a 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth to Cecil the Lion, marked her as one of the state’s most interesting essayists. She’s joined here by fellow Oregonian Jesse Donaldson, who reads from his memoir On Homesickness: A Plea.

Rennie Harris Puremovement

Jan 25–27, Lincoln Hall
In Lifted, the acclaimed hip-hop choreographer riffs on the story of Oliver Twist, following a young black man who finds redemption through his church. Expect complex footwork, set to both house music and a live gospel choir.

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Read It

You want more dystopia? Leni Zumas’s new novel is set in an America where Roe v. Wade has been repealed and abortion is a crime. Four women in an Oregon town fight for equality in Red Clocks (January 18, Little, Brown), a timely tale about patriarchal power structures and their effect on women from all walks of life. 

Hear It

Jessica Boudreaux’s No Fury is a pop-synth, love-steeped solo debut for the Summer Cannibals front woman. Out: the furious fretwork and raw rock of said band. In: synth fuzz and clear, catchy tunes with an edge. Think Lykke Li without the twee. 

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