1. Outdoor Cinema
Big screens will bloom all over Portland this summer as the city takes everything—including movie watching—outdoors. The annual Flicks on the Bricks series returns to Pioneer Courthouse Square, with the 12th Movies in the Park series visiting a green space near you. NW Film Center’s annual Top Down Rooftop Cinema series lands in a new location atop a PSU parking garage, while the Hollywood brings back its outdoor movie series with showings at state parks all over Oregon. For golden age vibes, take a jaunty ride down to Newberg to the 99W Drive-in (pictured above), a 66-year-old exemplar still operated by the family who opened it, boasting double features through the summer months.
2. Alia Ali
July 5–29, Blue Sky Gallery
The figures are swathed in lushly patterned fabric, their faces obscured by the folds of cloth. These are the unconventional portraits of Borderland, Ali’s beautiful yet unsettling photo series of textile artisans and collectors from around the world, Yemen to Indonesia to New Orleans.
July 28, Skyline Tavern
Half a century after Johnny Cash’s performance at Folsom Prison—which produced one of the greatest live albums of all time—Portlanders Danny Wilson and Tracy Schlapp have put together a series of shows in prisons across Oregon, involving a musical performance of the entire album interspersed with details of Cash’s life and his prison shows. This fundraiser treats Portlanders to the full show to raise money for upcoming performances.
July 8–14, Reed College Cerf Amphitheatre
As the heat rises in Portland, another packed shelf of wondrous writers—among this year’s cohort are novelists Tayari Jones and Alexander Chee, essayist Melissa Febos, and poets Shane McCrae and Danez Smith—take to Reed College’s leafy outdoor amphitheater and share their work.
July 23, Powell’s City of Books
In her new memoir, Sick, the Iranian-born author writes of anxiety, drug addiction, and late-stage Lyme disease—and how the invisibility of illness can exacerbate the suffering. She’s joined at Powell’s by a bang-up panel: Janice Lee, Cari Luna, Karen Russell, and Leni Zumas.
July 27–Aug 4, Newmark Theater
Journey to hell and back with this dose of early classical opera, which comes with showers of rose petals, a full chorus, and a ballet, all employed by Portland Opera to tell the ancient tale of Orfeo’s descent to the underworld to bring back his wife.
July 17, 24, 31, Lan Su Chinese Garden
Cuban pianist Dayramir Gonzalez, Hawaii-born soul singer Deva Mahal, and Portland’s own Bossa PDX bring their distinctive talents to the pocket of Zen that is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Summer vibes for the win.
8. PDX Pop Now!
July 21–22, AudioCinema
Fifteen years in, the mandate at this beloved music fest hasn’t changed: all ages, 100 percent local, entirely free. Highlights this time around include ethereal folk outfit Lenore, rapper Donte Thomas, and fiery instrumental trio Máscaras.
July 12–14, Siren Theater
A dozen groups descend upon Old Town’s Siren Theater for this second-annual celebration of short-form comedy. In addition to hometown troupes like the Aces and Nacho Gold, expect funny folks from Los Angeles, Vancouver, BC, and beyond.
July 27–29, The Armory
Come summer, theater often means Shakespeare in the park. Not so at Portland Center Stage’s annual playwriting festival, which features free staged readings of four fresh works. In its 20th year, the offerings riff on school integration, nail-salon pilgrimages, and a man with many avian friends.
All-around funny person Courtenay Hameister—former host and head writer of radio’s Live Wire—has just dropped her debut book, Okay Fine Whatever, chronicling a year of queasy-making experiences: water aerobics, burrito night at Ron Jeremy’s sex club, and many OkCupid dates. It’s a heartfelt account of living with anxiety, dished up with plenty of lip.
Immigrants from France, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Brazil, Iraq, Mexico, and more feature in We the People, a new web series from Portland immigrant Swati Ali released this month, which takes a lighthearted look at how newcomers perceive America and negotiate the challenges of finding their place here.