The Essentials

12 Things to See and Do in Portland: December 2019

John Waters hits the Aladdin, Milagro rewrites Dickens, and NW Dance Project fills your winter cup.

By Conner Reed November 26, 2019 Published in the December 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Angel Olsen in full All Mirrors garb. 

1. Angel Olsen

Singer Angel Olsen’s latest, All Mirrors, is the shimmering baroque freak-out she’s been hinting at for years—full-throated choruses, swelling orchestral strings, fur-donned, high-haired concept art. It’s also, for one of indie’s preeminent sadgirls, a turn toward hope. “I’m happy, and it’s great,” she recently told Fader. On songs like “Tonight,” she puts the music where her mouth is: “I like the air that I breathe / I like the thoughts that I think / I like the life that I lead.” Dec 9, Roseland

2. A John Waters Christmas

Everyone’s favorite pencil-mustached punk returns for his annual holiday appearance, “like a damaged St. Nick for the Christmas corrupted,” per the shock film director’s press release. It may not be an ideal family affair (unless your family regularly screens Female Trouble) but consider it a moment of Yuletide respite for the trash lovers in your brood. Dec 6,

3. The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

This “dizzyingly funny” drama (says the Guardian) follows Scottish folklore scholar Prudencia Hart from a literary conference to a run-in with Satan. Staging it pub-style in the Tiffany Center, complete with a whiskey list and a dinner menu, Artists Rep brings this buzzy, barrier-busting UK export stateside. It looks like a welcome holiday tonic for sufferers of Nutcracker fatigue. Nov 30–Jan 5,

4. Joy of Cooking

Portlanders John Becker and Megan Scott, fourth-generation standard-bearers of Joy of Cooking, celebrate the recipe bible’s fresh 2019 edition, which features more than 600 new recipes. Our advice is to check any Thanksgiving-size kitchen trauma at the door.
Dec 8, Powell’s City of Books

5. Gabriel Kahane and Prokofiev’s Fifth

Back in August, the Oregon Symphony named Los Angeles–born wunderkind Gabriel Kahane its new creative chair. This month, he performs selections from The Ambassador and Book of Travelers—his albums about LA architecture and a cross-country train journey, respectively—in a program with Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev’s triumphant Fifth Symphony. If this is the future of classical music, count us in. Dec 7–9, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall,

6. A Xmas Cuento Remix

Milagro stalwart Maya Malán-González workshopped this contemporary rewrite of A Christmas Carol last winter in a staged reading—this year, the company mounts it as a full-blown production, billed as “a modern-day, Latinx take” on the Dickens classic. Nov 29–Dec 22,

7. Winter Wonders

For the ninth year, NW Dance Project performs a company-developed winter show, complete with complimentary wassail. This year’s Lincoln Hall program, inspired by “famous fairytales, fantastic fables, and wintertime wonders,” comes with a bonus piece by Ihsan Rustem, the company’s celebrated resident choreographer. Dec 12–14,

8. Visual Fluidity

Seattle animator Neely Goniodsky presents a 13-year survey of her trippy, inventive shorts at the Whitsell Auditorium. From an homage to poet Edward Smyth Jones to a jazzy meditation on mortality, Goniodsky’s work is spry, lively, and moving. She’ll stick around for a post-screening Q&A. Dec 5,

9. Nat Meade

The Massachusetts-born, Portland-raised, Brooklyn-educated painter debuts a new show called Sheesh at Old Town’s Froelick Gallery. Meade’s work—blocky, exaggerated, full of oppressive saturated color—dissects masculine tropes with humor and a dash of the surreal. It's all there in the NSFW “Pecker,” which you can glimpse on Froelick’s website. Dec 3–Jan 11, Froelick Gallery

10. No Human Involved

STROLL, a sex-worker-run harm-reduction/education group, cocurates a show of new work from 15 artists in PICA’s NE Hancock space. The show’s title comes from ’80s police slang for violent crimes targeting sex workers. Nov 8–Dec 14,


ABC’s Stumptown is in full swing, and it’s honestly much better than we expected—a spry TV procedural that’s familiar in all the right ways, with a terrific performance from Cobie Smulders and an admirable commitment to showcasing little-seen corners of the Rose City.


Local harpist/composer/deeply compelling weirdo
Dolphin Midwives released an album of beautiful, sinister noise called Liminal Garden back in January. This month, she hosts the final two parts of her six-part Magic & Composition workshop series (details at

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