The days may be getting shorter, but Portland’s social calendars are filling up. Most of the city’s major arts organizations have reared back to life, and things have, dare we say, begun approaching some sort of “normal” for on-the-town hopefuls. This week brings John Waters, Heath Ledger, a Thesis anniversary show, Funhouse Lounge's Die Hard musical, and much more. Here’s what we have our eyes on.
8 p.m. Tue, Nov 30, Aladdin Theatre, $37–115
To cop a long-dead meme: could nature really heal until John Waters returned to the Aladdin for one of his regular Yuletime appearances? The ever-tasteless filmmaker, author, and actor will be back in the Rose City for his signature Christmas nastiness this season. Dreck the halls.
7:30 p.m. Mon, Nov 29, Hollywood Theatre, $8–10
Former PoMo style editor Eden Dawn's Fashion in Film series returns to the Hollywood with this classic ’90s twist on The Taming of the Shrew. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger are a Katherina and Petrucchio, of sorts, pitted against each other in a Seattle high school to a soundtrack of Letters from Cleo and Semisonic. Before the film, the theater will screen an interview with the film's costume designer, Kim Tillis.
9 p.m. Sat, Dec 4, Wonder Ballroom, $21
The otherworldly Big Thief lead singer dropped a stunning solo collection last year, titled simply Songs. (The accompanying, wind-chime heavy Instrumentals LP makes for top-tier mood music.) She's currently pounding the pavement in support of both—she'll hit Eugene on Sunday after her Saturday Portland show—and it's sure to be an intense good time. If nothing else, it should help you get hyped for the release of Big Thief's sprawling February double album, incredibly title Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You.
6 p.m. Thu, Dec 2, The 1905, $10 (plus $20 food/beverage minimum)
North Portland jazz club the 1905 regularly hosts the beloved vocalist (with pianist Randy Porter and bassist Tom Wakeling) in its intimate, pizza-slinging space just off N Mississippi—if you've never been, give yourself a holiday treat.
9 p.m. Thu, Dec 2, Kelly's Olympian, $15
Formed in 2014 as a response to police and venue discrimination against Portland rap shows, the Thesis has grown to become the city’s foremost hip-hop showcase. Once a month at Kelly’s Olympian, our most talented emcees gather for thrilling, high-energy, hyperlocal sets. This month, the Thesis celebrates its seventh anniversary with sets from Bird Bennett, Swiggle Mandela, Kingsley, and Rain Ezra. Don't miss out.
Various dates & times (see website) through Jan 15, $0–20, PICA
This audio-based piece—the first solo exhibition from performance artist Faye Driscoll—invites participants into PICA's space, littered with a series of "listening stations." Each one features a different set of prompts or scenarios which individual audience members then listen through or carry out. It sounds illuminating, inventive, and a little stressful: in other words, classic PICA.
5 p.m.–Late Nov 24–Jan 9 (excluding Dec 25), Oregon Zoo, $19–65
The holiday stalwart is back full-flame after a COVID pullback, illuminating the Oregon Zoo with holiday-themed displays well into the new year. Zoo members can hit preview dates on November 22 and 23 before the festivities open to the public on Nov 24—a majority of nights are walk-through, but there are also a handful of drive dates, with tickets running $65 per car load.
7:30 p.m. Wed–Sun, 2 p.m. Sun through Dec 24, Portland Center Stage, $34–87
Simon Stephens's immersive stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 bestseller, about a boy on the autism spectrum who investigates the death of his neighbor's dog and uncovers family secrets along the way, has racked up an embarrassment of accolades. Marianne Elliott's 2012 National Theatre production, which transferred to the West End and then to Broadway, took home seven Olivier Awards and five Tonys—now it returns to PCS in a production directed by Marissa Wolf, after COVID cut its initial run short in March 2020.
6:45 p.m. Thu–Sat, 2 p.m. Sun through Dec 18, Funhouse Lounge, $40–65
The SE Portland bar's beloved holiday tradition has returned: equipped with 13 original songs, the folks at Funhouse Lounge have effectively turned everyone's favorite nontraditional Christmas movie into a ridiculous, drunken romp. Enjoy it in their newly revamped digs with a cocktail or seven, for maximum effect.
Noon–5 p.m. Fri–Sun through Jan 2, Oregon Contemporary, FREE
In place of this year’s Portland Biennial, Oregon Contemporary (née Disjecta) is launching a program called Site, “a series of large-scale solo exhibitions by Oregon artists.” First up are Natalie Ball and Annelia Hillman pue-leek-la’, whose work deals with water sources in their respective Tribal communities.