Raised Voices

Fall Arts 2017: Who and What to See This Season

Get ready for a season of diverse performances, challenging ideas, and personal stories.

By Darren Davis August 30, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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⇾ Comedy

Trevor Noah

Dec 1 & 2 When Jon Stewart signed off his last episode of The Daily Show in August 2015, few thought his replacement, a thirtysomething South African comedian basically unknown in the U.S., would prove a worthy successor. But these days Trevor Noah’s daily irreverent check-ins on the current political circus mirrors his predecessor’s dispatches during the Bush years—in levels of catharsis if not comedic stylings. While Stewart really channeled blue-collar anger behind the iconic Comedy Central news desk, Noah’s boyish playfulness and befuddled intellectual distance empower him with the language of a younger, but no-less-angry, generation. Paramount Theatre, stgpresents.org

Jen Kirkman

Sept 8  “I meditated today, motherf*cker!” Jen Kirkman is just trying to muster a little daily bliss in between fits of road rage and heckling catcallers on the street. Her 2017 Netflix special, stints on Chelsea Lately, and I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman Podcast teem with the aggressive musings on life as a woman in 2017. Neptune Theatre, stgpresents.org

Mike Birbiglia

Nov 3 & 4  A respected run of comedy specials, two off-Broadway shows (and an indie film spin-off), regular contributions to This American Life; somewhere along the way in his 17-year career, Mike Birbiglia transformed from stand-up workhorse to esteemed humorist. Though the gently self-­deprecating and good-­natured comedian would never admit that. Moore ­Theatre, stgpresents.org 

Rhett and Link’s Tour of Mythicality

Dec 2  The term internet comedian sounds like a pejorative, but Rhett and Link turned it into something meaningful to a whole lot of people (at least to the four million subscribers on YouTube). The comedy duo performs the act IRL with a mix of music, banter, and audience interaction. Neptune Theatre, stgpresents.org

John Mulaney

Dec 12 & 13  John Mulaney might not have become the next Seinfeld, as some foretold. But when his self-titled Fox sitcom didn’t deliver on this formidable promise, the former Saturday Night Live writer doubled down on the stage: a successful run as one half of the crotchety New York elderly bromance in Oh, Hello on Broadway, and now on a national stand-up tour. Paramount Theatre, stgpresents.org

⇾ Concerts


Sept 17  Though 26 years old, and with only one full length record to her name, Sza carries with her the poise and lyrical confidence of a world-wise, spiritually attuned songstress. The haunting, neosoul of this year’s Ctrl holds a sharp edge while hiding in it something timeless and otherworldly. Neptune Theatre, stgpresents.org

Arcade Fire

Oct 15  Each Arcade Fire album, including Everything Now, released in July, is an experience filled with turmoil, elation, and spiritual curiosity. Everyone seems to have a song from the Canadian art rockers that marks an emotional entry in their personal soundtracks and hits notes of inexplicable longing and aching nostalgia with orchestral gravitas. KeyArena, keyarena.com

Ani DiFranco

Nov 8  Though she tends to get lumped in with the Lilith Fair MTV feminism that cropped up in the late 1990s, Ani DiFranco never once played the female-led festival. There was always something more punk, more impolite about her than, say, the Sarah McLachlans of the world. The songwriter, entrepreneur, and activist remains a feminist icon today, and not by banking on the success of her earlier years. She’s released 11 records since 2001, including this year’s Binary—a project she’s used as a platform to expound paths through the patriarchy, demand protection for reproductive rights, and just generally be a badass. Neptune Theatre, stgpresents.org

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Dec 3  The Boston alt-rock quartet came up and then disbanded at just about the same time as Nirvana on our coast. But the Pixies made a second act out of their earlier success—prompted at least in part by a rediscovery of their 1988 track “Where Is My Mind,” aka the song in Fight Club. Paramount Theatre, stgpresents.org


Dec 13  Ten consecutive number-­one solo albums over a decades-spanning career, and now another stunner of a record, 4:44, perhaps his most personal and complex yet. After a few years’ worth of conversation dominated by his marriage to a certain pop demigoddess, Shawn Carter offers a new reminder why he’s one of the greats. KeyArena, keyarena.com

⇾ Books & Talks

Mary Ruefle

Oct 13  In her collection of lectures Madness, Rack, and Honey, poet Mary Ruefle evaluates the act of writing not just as a craft but as a relationship with one’s own brain. As part of Hugo House’s Word Works series, she will discuss the pleasure center and tool kit that is a writer’s imagination. Hugo House, hugohouse.org


Oct 17 Philadelphia-based CAConrad often employs something he calls “somatics”—poetic forms and personal exercises used to produce new work, like immersing one’s self in a single color for a day. His new book, While Standing in Line Waiting for Death, will be released this year by Seattle’s Wave Books, publishers of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Open Books, ­openpoetrybooks.com

Amy Tan

Oct 25  It’s always about childhood, says every therapist. The author of The Joy Luck Club dives into her own in a new, deeply personal work of nonfiction, Where the Past Begins. In it, Tan digs through trauma memory and artifacts of her past to find the buried seed that led to her becoming a writer. Seattle Public Library, spl.org

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Nov 5  As a best-selling memoirist, educator, contributor to The Atlantic, and writer for a revived and wildly successful Black Panther Marvel comic series, Ta Nehisi Coates is one of our most vital cultural arbiters. In his forthcoming book, due out in October, Coates gathers his essays on the Obama presidency—an uplifting and challenging era for Coates as a writer, years that saw him rise alongside the president as a dynamic voice on black America, only to watch efforts enacted to undo the president’s legacy. The title of the book acknowledges this narrative: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.  Benaroya Hall, lectures.org 

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Ta-Nehisi Coates

Reza Aslan

Nov 14  As a religious scholar, Reza Aslan writes extensively on Islam, Christianity, and extremism, challenging tired discourse over these hot-button topics. His new book, God: A Human History, questions society’s understanding of its own religious constructs. McCaw Hall, lectures.org

⇾ Dance

Jody Kuehner/Cherdonna Shinatra

Oct 12–15  The drag alter ego of wild arts maven Jody Kuehner looks like something out of a child’s messy coloring book. How appropriate for her new dance/drag/theater piece, in which Cherdonna explores the theme of childhood in a very Cherdonna way: with a live brass band and kitten therapy. On the Boards, ontheboards.org

Cuba Vibra!

Nov 16–18  This year marks the 25th anniversary of Litz Alfonso Dance Cuba, one of the most renowned cultural exports of a long-isolated nation. The company celebrates a quarter century of award-winning performance with Cuba Vibra!, a visual history lesson of Afro-Cuban dance starting in the 1950s. Cuba permeates our American dance floors well beyond Miami—the steps and rhythms of packed Havana dance halls appear in conga lines at weddings, the cha-cha, the mambo. Litz Alfonso’s dancers, both classically trained and steeped in the dance hall practice, make for spectacular guides through this sensuous and storied tradition. Meany Center, meanycenter.org

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

Nov 24–Dec 28  Unlike snow days, The Nutcracker is a winter guarantee every year in Seattle. Now in its third production, after replacing Pacific Northwest Ballet’s long-tenured Maurice Sendak run, the George Balanchine iteration offers all the timeless staging and iconography that this classic ballet is known and loved for. It’s never too early to buy tickets. McCaw Hall, mccawhall.com

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Next Fest NW

Dec 1–4  Think of Velocity Dance Center’s Next Fest NW as a preview, a salon even, of what’s new and exciting in Seattle dance. The annual string of performances brings emerging and veteran choreographers presenting new work. This year’s fest concludes with Next Dance Cinema, two screenings of filmed local and international dance. Velocity Dance Center, ­velocitydancecenter.org

⇾ Special Events


Sept 30 & Oct 1 Wander the floor of Sakura-Con. PAX. Emerald City Comicon. Lots of dudes, right? And yet surveys of science-fiction, video-game, and comic-book fandom reveal women make up significant portions of these communities. The seventh-annual GeekGirlCon provides a positive and empowering space for them, with all the trappings of the larger cons: industry panels, rowdy exhibitor floor, and workshops for science geeks in the making. Washington State Convention Center, geekgirlcon.com

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GeekGirlCon 2016

Image: Danny Ngan 

Tasveer South Asian Film Festival

Oct 6–15 In the fest’s 12th iteration, Tasveer continues its mission to elevate films from South Asian countries and their diaspora, sparking dialogue about the region’s social and political issues. This year’s country of focus is Nepal, with over 50 film screenings in Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Redmond, and Bothell. Various venues, tasveer.org


Nov 18  The independently produced Seattle version of the international clearing house for ideas (and PowerPoint presentations) takes the TED conference format and zeroes in on regional themes. Titled “Changing Places,” this year’s TEDxSeattle aims to engage in cross-community dialogue by asking attendees to consider the universe of individuals around them. McCaw Hall, tedxseattle.com

Welcome to Night Vale

Dec 7 The fictional setting for the Welcome to Night Vale podcast is a perfectly normal American desert town, except for the mysterious lights in the canyon and the hooded figures who loiter in the dog park. Night Vale’s local radio station hits the road to bring the creepy to Seattle, live. Neptune Theatre, stgpresents.org

⇾ Theater

Dragon Lady

Sept 5–Oct 1 On her grandmother’s 60th birthday, a 20-year-old Sara Porkalob learned something…interesting…about the matriarch of her family: Back home in the Philippines, Grandma had been a gangster. In Dragon Lady, Porkalob steps into the shoes of her grandmother (and her mother, and other members of the family) in a biographical musical that zooms around from the Philippines to Bremerton. “How a person chooses to remember their history is pretty complicated,” says Porkalob. Her play is less a history lesson and more about honoring the women in her life, telling one of the many fascinating stories that people carry with them to America. Intiman Theatre, intiman.org

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Sara Porkalob

Image: Joshua Taylor

The Barber of Seville

Oct 14–28  Even if you’re no opera head, you probably know Figaro’s aria. It’s the one with all the “la la la la las” and “Fi­garo Figaro Figaros.” The bighearted scoundrel in Gioachino Rossini’s 1816 classic, surrounded by a colorful and light-footed stage production, leads a lively experience that pushes back on the stuffy opera stereotype. McCaw Hall, seattleopera.org

The Humans

Nov 17–Dec 17 Stephen Karam’s one-act play, about three generations of the Blake family convening at Thanksgiving, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2016. And it’s easy to see why. A story that tackles interfamilial culture clash—rural Scranton versus urban Manhattan—the vagaries of aging and dating, and more than one family secret revealed, is… well, just like your Thanksgiving dinners, right? Seattle Repertory ­Theatre, seattlerep.org

Howl’s Moving Castle

Nov 29–Dec 30 Based on the 1986 novel by Diana Wynne Jones, this new musical finds young Sophie Hatter in a bit of a pickle. After crossing the Witch of the Waste, she’s transformed into an old woman and must win over the good but ambivalent wizard Howl (who has a moving castle) in order to break the curse. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Book-It Repertory Theatre, book-it.org

⇾ Visual Art

Shawn Huckins

Oct 5–21 What if instead of “Four score and seven years ago” Abraham Lincoln opened the Gettys­burg Address with “OMFG.” Shawn Huckins’s classic American portraits adorned with internet slang provide a stark juxtaposition between the grand stateliness of our country’s mythology and the juvenile transformation of our contemporary language. Foster/White Gallery, fosterwhite.com

Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect

Oct 19–Jan 15  Andrew Wyeth captured both the vastness and the ennui of the American landscape with a grace unrivaled in the twentieth century. Exemplified in his most famous work, Christina’s World, Wyeth’s paintings evoke a profound loneliness in pastoral living; scenes fraught with emotional stakes despite their tranquil and seemingly idyllic simplicity. Seattle Art Museum, ­seattleartmuseum.org

The Time. The Place. Contemporary Art from the Collection

Nov 4–Apr 15  For the 20th anniversary of its contemporary collection, the Henry lets it all hang out with a museumwide exhibition. Over 50 works of drawing, sculpture, video, and photography each enunciate the museum’s larger mission to showcase art as a catalyst for empathy, a bridge to meaningful civic dialogue and engagement. Henry Art Gallery, henryart.org

Seattle On the Spot: The Photographs of Al Smith

Nov 18–June 17  There is perhaps no better visual documentarian of twentieth century African American life in Seattle than Al Smith. The prodigious photographer shot everything in his day: street scenes, festivals, marches, sporting events, and the night clubs that used to line the Central District in the 1940s. But it wasn’t until the 1980s when his work started to be recognized as a vital historical record (an exhibition or book on the history of jazz in Seattle is bound to feature a Smith photograph). The new MOHAI exhibition offers the largest gathering of Smith’s work to date; an excellent entry point into an often overlooked swath of Seattle history. Museum of History and Industry, mohai.org

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Left: A couple dances the jitterbug in 1944. Right: A Cadillac on Jackson Street takes part in the 1950 International Festival parade.

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