The Essentials

13 Things to See and Do in Portland: November 2019

Carla Rossi clowns around, Sleater-Kinney shreds at the Crystal, and national treasure Nicole Byer hits Helium.

By Conner Reed, Fiona McCann, and Rebecca Jacobson October 23, 2019 Published in the November 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Sleater-Kinney doing their thing

1. Sleater-Kinney

In August, the indomitable rockers dropped their new, St. Vincent–produced album, The Center Won’t Hold. A looming question: who will permanently replace force-of-nature drummer Janet Weiss, who announced in July she was departing the band. Nov 19–20

2. Smokefall

“If Thornton Wilder had dropped acid, he might’ve written Smokefall”—so said Variety when Noah Haidle’s strange, beautiful play about one family’s intergenerational ripples premiered in 2013. The proud weirdos at Defunkt are a promising match for the material. One act is set entirely inside a womb. Oct 18–Nov 15

3. Redwood

What happens when an online ancestry search reveals that your fiancé’s ancestors kept your forebears as slaves in antebellum Kentucky? Playwright Brittany K. Allen chomps into that thorny question, assisted by a hip-hop dance chorus, in this world-premiere production at Portland Center Stage. Oct 26–Nov 17, The Armory

4. Brenda Mallory

The mixed-media artist and Cherokee Nation member transforms unremarkable, often discarded objects—firehoses, rubber drive belts, honeycomb packaging paper—into striking sculptures. In this solo exhibit, Mallory digs into “ideas of reclamation and reformation.” Nov 6–Dec 21, Upfor Gallery

5. Portland Book Festival

Bibliophiles, rejoice! The jam-packed, one-day Portland Book Festival returns to the South Park Blocks with 100-plus authors, among them pop culture demigod Malcolm Gladwell, former ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Eisner-winning graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier, poet Morgan Parker, and local (and national) literary treasure Karen Russell. Nov 9

6. Jenny Slate

Everyone’s favorite disgraced-SNL-F-bomb-dropper-turned-comedy-supernova hits Rev Hall to support her new book of essays, Little Weirds, hot on the heels of her first-ever Netflix special and (most important) her supporting role in last fall’s Venom. Nov 11

7. The Art of Reading

It was the end of the 19th century, and posters were having a moment. Produced using color lithography, they advertised periodicals—Harper’s, Lippincott’s, the Century—with illustrations from the likes of art nouveau designer Will Bradley and painter Maxfield Parrish. Now Portland Art Museum puts some of the brightest representatives of this design moment on display, many drawn from the collection of Portlanders Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler. Nov 16–June 21, 2020

8. Lindy West

One of our reigning queens of cultural criticism, West follows Shrill—her dagger-sharp essay collection–turned–Hulu series—with The Witches Are Coming, which tackles patriarchy, the myth of reverse sexism, and the maddening ways our culture refuses to hold men accountable for objectively awful deeds. Nov 21, Powell’s City of Books

9. CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston

To celebrate Centralia-born dance icon Merce Cunningham’s centennial, White Bird brings France’s National Center for Contemporary Dance to perform two of Cunningham’s best at the Newmark: Biped, which features towering streams of ghostly light developed using motion capture technology, and Beach Birds, which is a very funny joke. Nov 21–23

10. Nicole Byer

Aside from her tenure voicing virtually every supporting character on Tuca & Bertie, you might know Nicole Byer from one of her three incredible podcasts or for hosting Netflix’s baking-fail show Nailed It! She’s everywhere right now, and deservedly so—as fate would have it, “everywhere” includes five shows at Helium late this month. Nov 21–23

11. Clown Down: Failed to Mount

Gloriously potty-mouthed drag clown Carla Rossi (a.k.a. Anthony Hudson) takes the stage for an hourlong investigation of mental health, environmental destruction, and the dangers of shoddily constructed Swedish furniture. Nov 14–17, PNCA 


Out now, André Aciman’s Find Me is the sequel to 2007’s Call Me by Your Name (perhaps you’ve heard of it), and it picks up several decades after we last heard from Elio and Oliver. Aciman will be at Powell’s on November 8 to sign your books/peaches/life-sized Chalamet cutouts.




Thrumming guitars make a hazy ’60s sound in the surprisingly bright Dark Thoughts, the latest release from local band the Shivas. Catch their live show later, though: they’re on tour in Europe, leaving us with this release to fill our earbuds until they’re back on home turf.

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