ANNIE PROULX. “I like difficult places,” the writer recently told an audience in Ireland. Her fiction movingly articulates the challenges of human connection in complicated territories, whether it’s the Newfoundland of her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Shipping News, or a lonely Wyoming, where two ranch hands fumble through love in her acclaimed short story Brokeback Mountain—whose wrenching last line serves as a sublime example of her gift for mapping emotional terrain: “There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.” She’ll share that gift when she talks here for Seattle Arts and Lectures. October 7, Benaroya Hall, 206-621-2230; lectures.org


Listen to Proulx and writers Uzodinma Iweala and Michael Ondaatje debate the ethics of writing private stories for the public good.

{page break}

BLOOD AND CANDLE SMOKE. Or, your new favorite album. Almost four decades into his career, songwriter Tom Russell, whose tunes were covered by Johnny Cash, sings about life in a sentient Grand Ole Opry–atic rumble that’s the auditory equivalent of the crow’s feet around an old cowboy’s eyes. Blood pours out brooding, battered songs recorded in the same Tucson studio that produced Tex-Mex rock band Calexico (members of which perform on the album). The melodies seem to waft out of some south-of-the-border honky-tonk, while the lyrics cut deep to convey either Russell’s own experiences (he spent time teaching in Africa, which is “East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam”) or the ardently imagined tales of American underdogs (two modern-day Apaches go for a drive in “Crosses of San Carlos”). Hearing Russell live, you’ll sense the ghosts of Cash and troubadours like Marty Robbins hovering happily. December 16, Tractor Tavern, 206-789-3599; tractortavern.com

Behind the scenes of the making of Blood and Candle Smoke:

{page break}

COLLABORATION. Laid-back chamber music ensemble Simple Measures tours the city’s cafés, churches, and community centers. An element theme (i.e., Earth, Fire, Air, and Water) distinguishes their new season—as does a willingness to reach out: Simple Measures invited a dance company to mount a fully produced show on the second half of the ensemble’s opening program. “I’m really interested in nonprofits working together for the greater good, not being territorial,” says Rajan Krishnaswami, artistic director of Simple Measures. For the season opener, Seattle Dance Project, an audacious troupe led by former Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, moves to both classical music and classic rock (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones) newly arranged for Krishnaswami’s superlative string quartet plus a guitar and drums. “Economically it’s symbiotic,” he says. “We get the benefit of tapping into the dance community, and they don’t have to use recorded music.” November 6–15, Spectrum Dance Theater and Fremont Abbey, 206-853-5672; simplemeasures.org, seattledanceproject.org

Simple Measures play on the South Lake Union Transit:

{page break}

DRAWINGS FOR THE SISTINE CHAPEL. Michelangelo, aware of the power of hype even in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, wanted everyone to believe the Sistine Chapel and other masterpieces sprang fully formed from his mind. Though he burned most of it, some evidence of his methodical preparation survives in Florence’s Casa Buonarroti, which provides the drawings in the Michelangelo Public and Private exhibition. On display are black chalk sketches—a muscled arm outstretched, a contemplative face—that would later end up in more glorious forms on a certain ceiling. Even geniuses fudge the truth. October 15–January 31, Seattle Art Museum, 206-654-3100; seattleartmuseum.org

The Michelangelo Public and Private exhibition is showing at Seattle Art Museum October 15–January 31.

{page break}

EIGHTY-EIGHT. It’s the number of keys on a piano. It also happens to be the age of Dave Brubeck, the legendary musician who’s kept jazz moving, both across those keys—in the tricky time signatures of the landmark album Time Out, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—and in cultural efforts that have been (forgive the pun) instrumental to the scene (he helped launch the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958). Expect him to take his Dave Brubeck Quartet through classics like “Take Five.” September 10–13, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, 206-441-9729; jazzalley.com



Dave Brubeck Quartet live in June 2009 playing "Take Five":

The Brubeck Quartet back in the day (which featured a different ensemble of players):

{page break}

FOUR SEASONS. Make that The 8 Seasons, which is how chamber ensemble Northwest Sinfonietta bills its pairing of Antonio Vivaldi’s enduring The Four Seasons with The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Las cuatro estaciones porteñas), the less familiar but hypnotic quartet of baroque concertos composed from 1965 to 1970 by Astor Piazzolla. Buenos Aires acknowledges the eighteenth-century classic without mimicking it. Parts of Piazzolla’s exquisite Winter, for instance, weep with a similarly stringed sorrow, but feature suggestions of the swirling, romantic sweep and dark-hued, defiant dignity of the Argentinian tangos that brought him worldwide renown. October 9 (Benaroya Hall) & October 10 (Rialto Theater, Tacoma), 253-383-5344; nwsinfonietta.org

{page break}

GRUNGE. In his new book photographer Michael Lavine commemorates Seattle’s most famous subculture with a frank affection and bears that word only as a necessary evil. “Grunge? Bad name,” writes Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, who provides the book’s text. “Lame name, actually. But kinda funny in its lameness. That was the point, to some degree. The kids were so uncool, they were beyond cool.” Although Grunge doesn’t lack for images of music icons emanating uncool cool—i.e., baby-faced Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder—the true stars of Lavine’s photos turn out to be average Seattle kids in all the pierced, mussed, and truculent glory that fed the music in the first place. One street photo from 1983 shows Bruce Pavitt, years before he and Jonathan Poneman opened Sub Pop’s offices, sporting a leather jacket, sunglasses, and mohawk. His surly look implies he could take on the world if he felt like it. Guess what happened. Grunge is due out in October, visit abramsbooks.com for more information 

In his new book Grunge, due out in October, photographer Michael Lavine commemorates Seattle’s most famous subculture with a frank affection.

{page break}

HITCHCOCK. HERRMANN. Arguably the greatest director and composer team in film history: Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, and Bernard Herrmann, whose mastery in the art of movie music added propulsive kinks to Hitch’s mischief. It’s safe to say they’re both best known for making us feel un safe in the shower. Watch Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ with Seattle Symphony playing Herrmann’s piercing soundtrack live beneath a big screen. The sound of the orchestra’s string section screeching into Janet Leigh’s motel bathroom is this Halloween’s classiest fright. October 29–31, Benaroya Hall, 206-215-4747; seattlesymphony.org


The Psycho shower scene:


{page break}

INDIAN DANCE. The man who leads and performs with San Francisco’s Chitresh Das Dance Company moves with the ease of an Eastern, barefoot Astaire. Das trained in his homeland of India from the age of nine to impart the Kathak tradition to the rest of the world. Kathak, a nimble, North Indian dance with remarkably fast footwork, requires gestural elegance and a kind of graceful stomp, an ancient pronouncement at once commanding and lighter than air. Chitresh Das performs in Seattle with two dancers from his troupe, meeting the beat of a furious tabla and increasing the heartbeats of all those in attendance with his virtuosic agility. October 17, Meany Hall, 206-543-4880; uwworldseries.org



 

 

Chitresh Das:


{page break}

JEREMY ENIGK. No, the front man for Seattle’s Sunny Day Real Estate didn’t invent emo. But when his wounded murmur exploded into a bloody cry on the first chorus of “In Circles,” he set the emotional pulse for the postpunk movement’s next wave. Diary, the band’s 1994 full-length debut album, placed front man Enigk, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer William Goldsmith, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Hoerner among Sub Pop’s elite. But by the time their second effort was released they’d already broken up. The original quartet reunites for the first time in over a decade to kick off a fall tour—and hail the remastered rerelease of both albums with bonus tracks. October 16, Paramount Theatre, 877-784-4849; stgpresents.org


Sunny Day Real Estate performing "In Circles" live in 1994:

{page break}

KIDS. And parents. The Parenthesis group exhibit collects videos and photography that focus on families as fraught, funny, and everything in between. Ingenious Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner, seen last season at the Henry Art Gallery in an adaptation of Moby-Dick filmed in his house, shot Stealing Beauty in various Ikeas around the world with his wife and kids. Three videos provide testament to the last years in the lives of artist Neil Goldberg’s parents. And Ann Hamilton narrates the feed from a tiny camera attached to her finger while tracing the lines of a baby’s face in a photo. September 26–December 19, Western Bridge, 206-838-7444; westernbridge.org


A trailer for Guy-Ben Nar’s Stealing Beauty at Western Bridge:

{page break}

LIVE TELEVISION VARIETY SHOW. Yeah, Lisa Smith-Putnam’s Los Angeles friends thought she was kidding, too, when she told them Back Home with Lisa Smith-Putnam meant she’d be hosting a late-night program in the Emerald City, where she was born and raised. She paid her showbiz dues in California, including an early stint as production coordinator on the original Entertainment Tonight. Such experience gives her confidence she can wake up Washington State. “I want to bring something here that Seattle can stick its chest out about,” she says. The TV show, recorded in front of an audience at the downtown King Cat Theater every Monday afternoon, promises to spotlight local talent and lifestyle segments and, after its September 25 premiere, possible “A-list” guest stars—perhaps the musicians Smith-Putnam convinced to donate to the Experience Music Project’s hip-hop exhibit (Queen Latifah, Will Smith, Ice Cube, and others). “I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to be a part of so many people’s lives,” she says, “so I can at least pick up the phone years later and say, Hey, I can use your help. Could you come up and do the show?” Stay tuned. KING 5 Sun at 2am & KONG 6 Fri at 10am, backhomewithlisasmithputnam.com

{page break}

MORT. As in Petite Mort, a 1991 dance choreographed by Nederlands Dans Theater’s Ji˘rí Kylián which appears on the Pacific Northwest Ballet Director’s Choice program. It’s also French for “the little death,” a term which describes the out-of-body satisfaction you get after…being satisfied. No promises as to that particular reaction, but we bet you’ll at least gasp. Petite Mort begins in silence with six half-naked men who balance fencing foils on their fingertips. They slash them through the air, dangle them to the ground, then pick them up with their feet. A Mozart piano concerto kicks in. The dancers rush upstage and return swiftly, covering the space with billowy fabric. They retract it to reveal six women lying in wait on the floor. Kylián calls the dance his way of recognizing “a world where nothing is sacred, where brutality and arbitrariness are commonplace.” We call it breathtakingly bold, erotic, and the piece most likely to cause a stir at PNB since soloist James Moore strutted, strained, and raged to the punk music of the Cramps during Mopey, another stunner that returns for this program. November 5–15, McCaw Hall, 206-441-2424; pnb.org

{page break}

NEIGHBORS. When indie filmmaker Craig Downing moved here from Austin he caught the notorious Seattle Freeze: “It seemed to take time for people to warm up to other people.” His antidote combines movie love with a good neighbor policy. The casual charm of Couch Fest, inaugurated last September, encourages Seattleites from Belltown to Ballard to volunteer their homes as all-day screening rooms for experimental, comedy, music, and other short films—and, Downing adds, as venues for social interaction: “There’s always a five- to 10—minute intermission to give people a chance to sit there awkwardly or to just naturally hold a conversation.” Many festgoers bike from house to house, offerings in tow. Downing recalls one attendee who brought out pita bread and hummus to share. “I thought that was just so pure and unsolicited,” he says. “And people began talking. It was so beautiful I almost wanted to cry.” Well, it’s okay to cry at the movies, isn’t it? November 7, visit couchfestfilms.org for locations

{page break}

OCTOGENARIAN. OSCAR-WINNER. OSAGE COUNTY. Estelle Parsons earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Gene Hackman’s flighty wife in Bonnie and Clyde. She’s got fighting spirit as pill-popping matriarch Violet Weston in August: Osage County, Tracy Letts’s fearsome but deadly funny, three-and-a-half-hour Pulitzer Prize–winning play. During a Jerry Springer–style family reunion, Violet storms through her three-story Oklahoma manse admonishing her daughters with drug-fueled venom—one of them lunges at her in response—then finally proclaims, “When nothing is left, when everything is gone and disappeared, I’ll be here.” Parsons might say the same of herself: The 81-year-old spent a year in the punishing role on Broadway, will tour it for about 40 weeks, and shrugs off the busted metacarpal bone she incurred while taking one of Violet’s many tears through the house: “I was trying something new, and my body was used to the old way. I like to challenge myself. Actually, the night I hurt my finger, I made a very great discovery about the end of the play. That was more exciting to me than my broken hand.” October 27-November 1, Paramount Theatre, 206-443-2222; stgpresents.org


Estelle Parsons talks about her role in August: Osage County:

{page break}

POLAROIDS. Sylvia Wolf, the Henry Art Gallery’s director, once gained open access to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation archives. Hoping to find something beyond the controversial photographer’s homoerotic nudes, she found herself flipping through six three-ring binders filled with roughly 1,500 Polaroids in plastic sleeves. “I actually felt like I was reading a diary,” she remembers. The intimate black-and-white shots span the years 1970 through 1975 and capture spontaneous portraits of friends (roommate Patti Smith, a positively dewy Marianne Faithfull) as well as fleeting moments with lovers and strangers in New York’s Chelsea Hotel before Mapplethorpe’s rise to fame. The Polaroids: Mapplethorpe exhibit, which Wolf originally curated for the Whitney Museum of American Art in May 2008, gathers 90 images—some with a flagrant erotic charge, others disarmingly tender—that reveal an artist’s eye. “This was a very distinct body of work without which he wouldn’t have gotten from A to C,” Wolf explains. “This is point B. This is where he learned how to see photographically. You see his heart and his sense of humor.” October 24–January 31, Henry Art Gallery, 206-543-2280; henryart.org


Click HERE to view images from the exhibit.

{page break}

QUESTION AND ANSWER. One is the greatest living composer of musicals. The other is the crusading New York Times columnist and former critic. They’re here together for A Life in the Theater: An Onstage Conversation with Stephen Sondheim and Frank Rich. Though they became friends after Rich’s tenure as the principal Times theater reviewer, the two men still surprise each other in front of an audience. “Nothing is rehearsed,” Rich explains. “I try to go with what’s fresh and what interests me, quite frankly. [Sondheim’s] very unguarded, he’s extremely candid; he’ll answer really almost any question and you never know what he’s going to say.” In Portland last year, Sondheim responded to Rich’s queries by telling a terrific story about playing the Gypsy score for Cole Porter and catching the older legend jolt at an unexpected rhyme (the “egos/amigos” bit from “Together Wherever We Go”). A remembrance of Sondheim’s mentor Oscar Hammerstein II, meanwhile, brought the composer to tears. With West Side Story back on Broadway, the new Road Show on CD, and an autobiographical book about his lyrics on the way, there’s more from Sondheim to hear. October 26, Benaroya Hall, 206-215-4747; benaroyahall.org

{page break} 

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. Playwright Tom Stoppard’s epic starts in 1968 when Jan, a Cambridge grad student, returns to his native Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Prague. Jan believes in communism and rock music, not necessarily in that order. Over the decades, he discovers neither Communism nor rock music can be properly ordered and that the combination of the two is more complex than he originally thought. Stoppard processes over 20 years of European upheaval (not just in Czechoslovakia but in England, too) and comes out with a bracing comprehension of the difference between theory and practice, brain and mind, body and spirit, and, most urgently, the kinship of culture to politics. Any artist who can equate disrespect for Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett with the downfall of free thought is all right by us. October 9-November 8, ACT Theatre, 206-292-7676; acttheatre.org


A scene from London’s production of Rock N Roll, plus a talk with playwright Tom Stoppard:

{page break}

SOCIAL CHANGE. The UW’s resident professional dance troupe, Chamber Dance Company, heads into its 21st season of reviving historically significant pieces with a program that honors choreographers who’ve contributed to a forward-thinking society. Lynchtown, created by Charles Weidman in 1936, twists the bodies of hopping, stamping dancers in a reflection of mob hysteria; the late choreographer Eve Gentry shows concern for the plight of a homeless woman in her 1938 solo Tenant of the Street; Jane Dudley’s Harmonica Breakdown solo from the same year summons Depression-era despair with defeated shuffles set to the blues of renowned musicians Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee; Donald McKayle gives sonorous Southern chain-gang songs physical life in his 1959 Dink’s Blues; and the evening closes with Bill T. Jones’s D-Man in the Waters, a 1989 memorial to a company member who died of AIDS. October 22–25, Meany Theater, 206-543-4880; depts.washington.edu/uwdance/cdc.html

Donald McKayle’s Rainbow Round My Shoulder, the piece from which Dink’s Blues is taken:

{page break}

TIGER LILLIES. Careful—these guys have a theremin and they know how to use it. England’s macabre musical trio paint their faces and clown through The Songs of Shockheaded Peter and Other Gory Verses. Front man Martyn Jacques squeezes sorrowful notes out of an accordion while plying a plaintive falsetto that could shatter glass. Adrian Huge’s percussion sometimes utilizes kitchenware. Adrian Stout amps the gloom with the aforementioned theremin and an occasional saw. The tunes—ridiculously sober cautionary tales of unwise children and others who meet terrible fates—are more cunning than camp, more Gorey (the late author and illustrator Edward, who provided some lyrics for one album) than gory. Imagine an artful cabaret run by Tim Burton and you’ve got the idea. November 6, Moore Theatre, 877-784-4849; stgpresents.org

{page break}

UNITED STATES. Welcome to The Old, Weird America, an exhibition of works by 18 artists in various mediums that ponders the blend of fact and fiction in our nation’s history. Greta Pratt, for instance, muses on the many possible faces of Honest Abe in an 18-photo piece that gives us Nineteen Lincolns. Sam Durant’s motorized Pilgrims and Indians, Planting and Reaping, Learning and Teaching, meanwhile, presents a trenchant, two-sided diorama peopled with life-size wax figures. The structure rotates to expose the truth behind a cheesy tableau of Native Americans sharing corn with the original colonists: Captain Myles Standish killing a Pequot Indian whom he felt had insulted him. Frye Art Museum, October 3–January 3, 206-622-9250; fryemuseum.org


Click HERE to view images from the exhibit.

{page break} 

VISITING HOURS. Over the summer, Amazon.com granted $35,000 to support Richard Hugo House’s ongoing efforts such as its fine Hugo Literary Series, a quarterly event that invites writers and performers to read new work created around a specific theme. November’s Visiting Hours motif—which could mean emotional hospital trips or cringe-worthy family gatherings—spotlights Elizabeth Austen, producer of KUOW poetry segments for almost 10 years now; Portland novelist Benjamin Parzybok, whose offbeat debut novel Couch imagined three Northwest slackers sailing out to sea on a stubborn piece of furniture; and local one-man-show pro Matt Smith. November 20, Richard Hugo House, 206-322-7030; hugohouse.org


Listen to Elizabeth Austen’s poetry program on KUOW.
{page break} 

WAINWRIGHT, RUFUS. What a pliable, plush whine the young Canadian songwriter’s distinctive voice has proved to be since his 1998 debut. He can stretch it up and settle into covers of everybody from Leonard Cohen (a dazzling “Hallelujah”) to Judy Garland (who else would have dared perform live the entirety of her classic Judy at Carnegie Hall?). His own quirky, confessional pop melodramas evoke everything he’s ever listened to—Cohen, Garland, opera (Prima Donna, his opera, debuted in July), old Cole Porter ditties, etc.—and demolish boundaries without falling into derivative novelty. Performing alone at the piano, which he’ll do here, he stakes a claim as one of the finest musicians of his generation. November 8, Benaroya Hall, 206-215-4747; seattlesymphony.org

Rufus Wainwright performing "Hallelujah:"

{page break}

 X-RATED. Okay, maybe just a hard R. “That people don’t expect shadow puppets to be so profane is part of the fun,” says local playwright Scot Augustson, who created Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes in 1998. The Rigsby tradition continues in Teensploitation: Crude cutout figures, bopping behind a screen, enact perversely clever misadventures voiced by expert comic actors who sit onstage in the style of a live radio play. Three main stories involve “Judy Blume–esque” teen girl woes; whorish hen Chicken Jenny’s efforts to save a high school drama club; and a kid whose imaginary friends tell him to get real. October 8–31, Theatre Off Jackson, 800-838-3006; theatreoffjackson.org

Longtime Rigsby vet Stephen Hando returns to give the notorious Chicken Jenny her inimitable cluck.

{page break}

YOUNG JEAN LEE. The New York Times and The New Yorker lavished profiles and praise on rising young Korean American playwright Young Jean Lee for her explorations of African American identity politics in The Shipment. Five black actors perform songs, sketches, and subversive comedy, asking whether anyone knows what it means to be black or, more to the point, if it’s racist to provide a definition. Trash-talking comics, aspiring young rappers, party—goers in a penthouse—do we expect them to behave in assigned ways? Do they assign themselves roles according to those expectations? Lee unloads tough questions yet asks them with humor more than vitriol. “Anger,” she told the Times, “is the last vestige of a dying argument.” October 1–4, On the Boards, 206-217-9888; ontheboards.org

An interview with Young Jean Lee:

{page break} 

ZEPPELIN. Not the ship full of air but the music full of Led. House of Thee UnHoly #3 features a live band’s raging Led Zeppelin covers as inspiration for brazen burlesque. “When we started choreographing the show, everything wanted to turn into an orgy,” recalls creator and producer Paula the Swedish Housewife. Not much changed. Singer Nick Garrison wails the sexy, psychedelic blues of “The Lemon Song,” while performers Miss Indigo Blue and Leroi the Girl Boy get graphic and Sapphic with fruit for the line, “Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg.” Yes, they go there—and then some. September 16–18, Triple Door, 206-838-4333; tripledoor.net

Filed under
Show Comments