Fall Arts

20 Can't-Miss Portland Shows in Fall 2018

From Young Fathers to aquatic romance, Ukrainian puppets to Drake v. Tchaikovsky, here's what you have to catch this season.

By Rebecca Jacobson and Fiona McCann August 14, 2018 Published in the September 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

In LeBrie Rich's Felt Grocery, corn muffins get fuzzy.

LeBrie Rich

Sept 5–Oct 28, Wolff Gallery
In Felt Grocery, Portlander LeBrie Rich examines food as both political statement and cultural connector with a series of 20 felted food sculptures of products she grew up eating. Hostess Donettes, Ritz crackers, Jif peanut butter: she painstakingly renders each in fuzzy, tactile form as one-off, nostalgia-evoking representations of mass-produced products the artist says she sees as both sinister and representative of familial closeness.


Sept 6–16
Portland’s annual contemporary art and performance festival returns, curated jointly for the first time by PICA’s crack team of artistic directors: Roya Amirsoleymani, Erin Boberg Doughton, and Kristan Kennedy. Expect political pop tunes, a sidewalk-based dance piece, and “terrorist drag.”

Florence and the Machine, St. Vincent, and Lizzo

Sept 11, Moda Center
This is arena rock for a new era: three of the most badass women making music today, together on one powerhouse bill. The Moda Center may never recover.

John Prine

Sept 21, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Feeling glum about the world? Not only does septuagenarian country troubadour John Prine have a song about that, but this year’s The Tree of Forgiveness, arriving 13 years after his last release, is solace enough. Catch him at the Schnitz as a reminder that not all the good ones are gone after all.  

Lily Tomlin

Sept 22, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
The actor, comedian, and general force of nature—she’s spent a half century on both stage and screen, from Laugh-In to Grace and Frankie—brings her stand-up act to the Schnitz.

Pop-Up Magazine

Oct 2–3, Revolution Hall
A magazine onstage with world class storytellers, film, photography, animation, and a live score? Small wonder Pop-Up Magazine has been a returning favorite here. This time, buckle up for stories from the likes of Call Your Girlfriend’s Ann Friedman, Jenée Desmond-Harris of the New York Times, and filmmaker Veena Rao, among others: given that nothing is recorded or available online afterward, you really do have to be there. 

Pilobolus brings its bendiness to the Newmark stage.

Pilobolus Dance Theater

Oct 4–6, Newmark Theatre
Dance presenter White Bird last brought Pilobolus to Portland in 2011. Now the 47-year-old company, known for its bendy acrobatics and surreal stagecraft, returns with a new multimedia program called Come to Your Senses.


Oct 5–28, New Expressive Works
To hurl in Ireland is to play an ancient Irish sport that’s a cross between field hockey and magic, and it’s from the popular game that this Corrib production gets its name. The hurling team in question largely comprises immigrants to Ireland, from Africa, the Americas, and Asia, who come together under the tutelage of an alcoholic priest and a has-been trainer to take on the national sport. Politics and identity, turns out, can occasionally take a back seat to the sliotar (that’s a hurling ball to you).


Oct 6–13, Keller Auditorium
Between the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water and the merman erotica of The Pisces, aquatic romance is very hot these days. Oregon Ballet Theatre taps into the trend with August Bournonville’s 1842 story ballet about a Neapolitan street girl who falls for a fisherman (and is at one point transformed into a sea nymph). It’s an ebullient but difficult work, with fast, fancy footwork, lots of jumps, and a good dash of mime work.

Small Mouth Sounds

Oct 7–Nov 4, Artists Repertory Theatre
A weeklong silent retreat in the woods would not seem, at first blush, the best fodder for the stage. But with its minimal dialogue, Bess Wohl’s 2015 play mines quiet for humor, via carefully tuned facial expressions and body language. The LA Times called it “a comedy with satiric bite,” taking aim at “commodified spirituality that has encouraged the thinking that inner peace ... is just a guru, mantra or self-help book away.”

Back Fence 10th Anniversary

Oct 8, The Armory
Portland’s beloved, homegrown storytelling staple—the brainchild of local writer B. Frayn Masters—celebrates ten years of edge-of-your-seat, laugh-out-loud, weep-in-your-beer stories, with the last ever show in its existing, five-story format. This one’s theme? “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” Come for stories from each of the five Portland quadrants, stay to find out what comes next for Back Fence & Co. 

TseSho?/What’s That?

Oct 19–27, Paris Theater
Sure, you could rail against fake news on Twitter. Or, if you’re avant-garde Ukrainian troupe Teatr-Pralnia (Laundry Theater), you could explore the phenomenon via boisterous puppet cabaret. The group, touring the US for the first time, unites puppetry, poetry, social media feeds, and live music to comment on our modern-day mess.

Edward Hopper's Cape Cod Morning features in the Portland Art Museum's Modern American Realism exhibit.

Modern American Realism

Oct 20–Apr 28, Portland Art Museum
That feeling when the Smithsonian lends you, like, 70 paintings and sculptures from some of the country’s preeminent 20th century artists—think Isabel Bishop, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence—and you get to show them for six months. See the arc of the century and modern realist representations of a changing America in this wide ranging exhibit.

Portland Film Festival

Oct 22–28
Portland’s annual movie buff’s delight returns with a monster line-up—literally. This year, the festival doubles down on the horror theme, with daily showings of classic and new movies. Among them, 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter, playing for the first time in Portland in all its remastered glory. 

Tchaikovsky v. Drake

Nov 8, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
What can a 19th-century Russian composer and a 21st-century Canadian rapper possibly have in common? One Oregon Symphony show, at least, where three vocalists and a rapper (Drake not present) join the symphony to mash up the composer’s Fifth Symphony (Tchaikovsky not present) with some hip-hop hits. Steve Hackman conducts. 

Portland Book Festival (Wordstock)

Nov 10
The kickass literary extravaganza formerly known as Wordstock returns with a new name—Portland Book Festival—and the same one-day event full of readings, conversations, and authors galore. This year’s lineup includes novelists Aja Gabel and Leni Zumas, poet Ashley Toliver, and kids’ book author Jory John.

Young Fathers bring their catchy Scottish sound to town.

Young Fathers

Nov 14, Wonder Ballroom
The members of this Scottish trio met as teenagers at a hip-hop night in Edinburgh, and their music is still often described as such. But Young Fathers—who won a Mercury Prize in 2014 and earlier this year released their third full-length album, Cocoa Sugar—aren’t so easily pinned down, with a sound that’s by turns catchy and esoteric, gorgeous and discordant. 

The Little Prince

Nov 30–Dec 2, Winningstad Theater
Family-friendly opera: not an oxymoron! Opera Theater Oregon, which aims to inject the form with social relevance, presents Rachel Portman’s contemporary riff on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s much-loved novella. The kids’ll be ready for Carmen in no time.


Nov 30–Dec 22, CoHo Theater
Annie Baker is one of the sharpest, most empathetic playwrights working today, and Third Rail Rep has chewed into the Pulitzer winner’s work with aplomb. The gothic-tinged John, the third Baker play the company has staged, is set in a B&B in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where a tchotchke-obsessed proprietor watches over a young couple as they navigate a rift in their relationship. 

Tara Westover

Dec 4, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
When Tara Westover showed up at college, she’d never heard of the Holocaust. She’d never seen a doctor. She didn’t have a birth certificate. Westover, who turns 32 in September—she doesn’t know her exact birthday—was raised by Mormon survivalist parents in rural Idaho, a world she left at age 17. She went on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University and publish a 2018 bestselling memoir, Educated, that chronicles her dizzying journey.

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