The Essentials

13 Things to See and Do in Portland: January 2020

Hedwig and Beckett hit the stage, the folk festival returns, and a beloved local painter showcases new work

By Conner Reed December 31, 2019 Published in the January 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Lavender Country

Patrick Haggerty’s band of gay country heroes swings by Mississippi Studios, fresh off their first album in 46 years. In a musical landscape that’s come to include the twangy gay stadium-pop of Steve Grand and the smoky queer camp of Orville Peck, it’s nice to remember these guys took the stage at the first-ever Seattle Pride and sang the words, “I’m fightin’ for when there won’t be no straight men / ’Cause you all have a common disease.” Jan 3

Beckett Women

The Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble weaves together four rarely produced, female-led shorts from the Irish master. Not to set the bar too high, but the ensemble’s last show (2019’s knockout Our Ruined House) transformed a suburban living room into a Russian submarine and included free chocolate babka from Trader Joe’s at every performance. Jan 11–25, Reed Performing Arts Building

Min Jin Lee

The author of Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko (which was shortlisted for the 2017 National Book Award) comes to the Schnitz for Literary Arts’ lecture series. A saving grace for anyone who spends the months between book festivals missing the book festival. Jan 15

We the People

The folks at the Immigrant Story share two exhibitions at Beaverton City Library. Who We Are collects responses from Muslim women about the 2017 Portland MAX attack, and What We Carried showcases photos of objects taken by Iraqi and Syrian refugees as they fled political violence at home. Jan 6–Feb 28


Profile Theatre is in the middle of a two-season program exploring the works of Pulitzer winner Paula Vogel, her Pulitzer-winning protégé Lynn Nottage, and her Pulitzer-nominated protégé Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Sweat, which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, is the play that netted Nottage her prize—a simmering Rust Belt drama the New Yorker called “the first theatrical landmark of the Trump era.” Jan 16–Feb 2, Imago Theatre

The Making of The General

Former state librarian (yes! Oregon has those!) Jim Scheppke hosts a screening of Buster Keaton’s Cottage Grove–shot classic The General at the Kennedy School. It’ll include a Q&A for anyone prepared with notes about that notorious train scene—the most expensive in silent film history. Jan 27


Portland powerhouse (and sometime Pink Martini guest) Edna Vazquez performs with Hillsboro’s Mariachi Una Voz and the Oregon Symphony at the Schnitz, hot on the heels of her elegant, stirring October EP Bésame Mucho. Jan 4–5 

Brave, Beautiful Outlaws

Donna Gottschalk’s black-and-white photographs, by turns tender and furious, document the day-to-day life of radical lesbian organizers in ’70s California and New York. For this retrospective, Gottschalk sourced images from her own 50-year personal archive, with a special focus on early work. Jan 2–Feb 2, Blue Sky Gallery

Portland’s Folk Festival

Vortex mag and local record label Fluff & Gravy team up for the third fiddle-filled folk fest at the Crystal Ballroom. Portland staples like Horse Feathers join promising newcomers like Maita, whose single “Japanese Waitress” loomed large on our fall playlists. Jan 10–11 

2 Up and 2 Back

Portland painter Arvie Smith’s provocative, many-hued show is on at Disjecta through the beginning of February. One of the city’s sharpest talents, Smith explores bias, racism, cultural consumption, and more, with welcome humor and breathtaking skill. Through Feb 2

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

In a word ... duh. John Cameron Mitchell’s glitter-streaked masterwork, as funny and moving and mind-bending now as it was 20 years ago, will always, always (always) be worth seeing. Portland Center Stage’s production lifts the script from the 2014 Broadway revival, complete with bookable onstage tables and new (good) jokes about Hurt Locker: The Musical. Dec 28–Feb 23


Tin House puts out a memoir by award-winning poet E. J. Koh this month. The Magical Language of Others explores Koh’s teenage years in California, after her parents left to find work in Korea. Her spare prose is all but guaranteed to get you misty on the morning commute.


In October, Portland rapper Myke Bogan dropped Cult Beauty, and it might be his best work: darker than his breezy hit “Pickathon,” but just as smooth and invigorating. Other local favorites, including Blossom and Donte Thomas, hold down memorable guest spots. 

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