The Essentials

13 Things to See and Do in Portland: May 2018

From an exploration of black hair to a poetic tribute to Janet Jackson and nacho cheese, here's what you can't miss this month.

By Rebecca Jacobson and Fiona McCann April 24, 2018 Published in the May 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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1. Crowns

Thru May 25, Ori Gallery
New York–based Alisa Sikelianos-Carter explores black hair as armor, weaponry, and royal symbol, through collages of braids, dreads, and black textured hair: what she calls a response to—and an escape from—the policing and dehumanization of black bodies. 

2. Tommy Pico

May 10, Powell’s City of Books
Pico writes poetry that skitters off the page, riffing on modern technology while musing on being a queer Native American who ditched his California reservation for life in Brooklyn. He describes his latest, Junk, as a book-length breakup poem (and also “a tribute to Janet Jackson and nacho cheese”).

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Jess Thom

3. Touretteshero

May 4–12, Echo Theater
Jess Thom is neurologically programmed to be unpredictable. The British performer and disability rights activist has Tourette’s, which means her live shows veer in surprising directions, and toward gloriously surrealistic turns of phrase. In her comedy piece Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over, audiences are also encouraged to move around and make noise.

4. Salt

May 1–6, Shaking the Tree
After Trump was elected, local theater company Shaking the Tree pledged resistance. Now the first act of protest arrives: nine multimedia installations—some live, some static—by visual and performing artists exploring civil disobedience. 

5. Nacho Gold

May 18–June 2, Siren Theater
Sketch comedy troupe the 3rd Floor spent 20 years plying their goofball trade in Portland before calling it quits in 2016. Then last year a half-dozen 3rd Floor alums decided to give it another go, under a new name. Behold the results.

6. Closer

May 24–June 3, BodyVox Dance Center
Oregon Ballet Theatre brings the audience, ahem, closer in this program of new work by the company’s own dancers, presented alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures to just 175 audience members at BodyVox. New tracks by Grammy-winning musician RAC are also in the mix.

7. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

May 25–June 16, CoHo Theater
Language is loaded—perhaps especially when it comes to sex and gender. Alice Birch’s play, presented here by Third Rail, blasts open those complications. “Kaleidoscopic, unruly, searing, sharply funny,” wrote the Guardian.

8. Hope in the Dark

May 7, The Old Church
Contemporary ensemble Fear No Music ends its series on the intersection of music and social advocacy with work from the likes of Arvo Pärt and Dobrinka Tabakova, each one the composer’s response to a tragic event. Readings from Rebecca Solnit’s 2004 clarion call to activists, Hope in the Dark, will be interspersed with the music.

9. Rain & Roses

May 10–19, North Warehouse
BodyVox brings its playful brand of dance-theater to a North Portland warehouse, accompanied by a live band performing songs composed solely by women musicians, from Björk to Billie Holiday to Dolly Parton.

10. Rachel Kushner

May 16, Powell’s City of Books
Kushner follows her National Book Award–nominated The Flamethrowers with The Mars Room, the story of a single mother and former stripper serving two life sentences for murder in a California prison.

11. Women Crush Music

May 16, White Eagle
Local nonprofit Women Crush Music spotlights performers who are also mothers—including Jen Deale of new wave pop band Camp Crush—at this month’s showcase, Mamas in Music.

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Read It

Get your ’90s Portland fix in Stray City, Chelsea Johnson’s winning debut novel about a queer artist, Andrea Morales, who makes a happy home in this “old industrial river town in a remote corner of the country,” among zines and basement bands and letterpresses.

Hear It 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra ruminates on two grand and nigh-on-universal obsessions on its new album, Sex & Food, drawing sonic inspiration from Prince and ’80s punk pop, with snarling guitar distortions and vocal fuzz as side dishes to the Portland-via-New Zealand band’s trademark psych rock fare. See them live May 9 at the Roseland.

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