Autumn Preview

30 Seattle Events to Catch This Fall

From a monthlong festival at Town Hall to Bon Iver to fresh takes on Jane Austen and Dracula, this season is packed.

By Stefan Milne August 20, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Arbus Bonus at the Frye dives into Diane Arbus’s considerable magazine work.

Books & Talks

Homecoming Festival

Sept 2–29 Though Town Hall reopened its building in May after a two-year, $35 million renovation, it hasn’t really celebrated its updated digs. Now, coinciding with its 20th anniversary, the organization throws a homecoming festival, with over 40 events spread across September. Want Jonathan Safran Foer talking meat and the environment? Ibram X. Kendi on antiracism? Marilynne Robinson with essays on U.S. politics? Kids singer-songwriter Caspar Babypants? You got it. Town Hall Seattle, $5–$45

Naomi Shihab Nye

Sept 19 Naomi Shihab Nye has spent much of her poetic career moving between supposed worlds and finding their unity. In her new book, The Tiny Journalist, Nye explores her Arab American identity through the lens of Janna Jihad Ayyad, who at age seven started filming Palestinian anti-occupation protests on her mom’s phone. Town Hall Seattle, $20

Malcolm Gladwell

Sept 23 Even if you haven’t read a word by Malcolm Gladwell, or listened to his popular podcast, Revisionist History, you know his ideas. Ten thousand hours. The tipping point. Whether you find his thinking refined or platitudinous, he knows how to brand a best-selling thought. In Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, out this fall, he turns this skill to encounters with others, from Hitler meeting Chamberlain to the interactions of sitcom characters. Benaroya Hall, Sold Out

Jeanette Winterson

Oct 16 English writer Jeanette Winterson’s 23rd book is called Frankissstein. If the name appears a mash-up, lit with humor, then it’s a fine fit for the novel behind it, which begins as Mary Shelley writes Frankenstein, then slips forward to the present and tells the stories of Ron Lord, a sex doll entrepreneur, and Ry Shelley, a transgender doctor who falls in love with a professor studying AI. Seattle Public Library, Free

Classical & More

Mahler Symphony No. 1

Sept 19–21 Gustav Mahler’s first symphony was known as Titan, nodding to a novel of the same name in which the hero, through inner resolve, combats evil. Mahler’s work was finished before the composer was 30, but already revealed his style and concerns—beginning in something like ease, then descending into a dark roiling, which it escapes only in its last moments. Benaroya Hall, $24–$134

Bryce Dessner’s Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

Oct 9 As Jonny Greenwood is to Radiohead, Bryce Dessner is to the National. The besuited rock band’s guitarist, Dessner has, since 2006, led a parallel career as classical composer (even penning the soundtrack to The Revenant). Here his score forms one corner of an ambitious triangle (music, photos, words), which investigates the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and its provocative, sometimes fraught, binaries, like gender, sexuality, and race. Moore Theatre, $43–$73

Madeleine Peyroux

Oct 17–20 Madeleine Peyroux is like a blueprint of a mainstream jazz vocalist. Her voice is unimpeachable, full of flint and old-school gravitas (yes, that’s Billie Holiday influence). Her song choices trot from “La Vie en Rose” to Bob Dylan to originals. And she and her band carry it off with enough vim to keep “America’s only true art form” sounding like a living thing. Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, $65

Blue Note Records 80th Anniversary Tour

Nov 21 Record label Blue Note has since 1939 issued records from every corner of jazz—Albert Ammons’s old-school boogie-woogie, Thelonious Monk’s breathtaking syncopations, even Norah Jones. But instead of indulging in some retrospective for its anniversary, the label has smartly chosen three of its brightest current artists: the James Carter Organ Trio, Kandace Springs, and 24-year-old James Francies, whose piano runs tumble out with preternatural eloquence. Moore Theatre, $25–$53

This season, the Seattle Symphony digs into Mahler's first.


Marc Maron

Sept 7 Has Marc Maron calmed? Perhaps it’s age. Perhaps it’s that he’s now over 1,000 episodes into his WTF podcast. True, the comedian still grumps through sets in which he unpacks his neuroses like so many Russian dolls. But in his recent specials, like 2017’s Too Real, his bits—such as a story about going to a Rolling Stones show, which becomes a meditation on mortality, both personal and generational—have such relaxed confidence that they feel less like performance than funny, insightful chats. Moore Theatre, $33–$43

Bianca Del Rio

Nov 20 This June, New York Magazine named Bianca Del Rio the “most powerful drag queen in America.” The RuPaul’s Drag Race star owes that eminence in part to her ability to make various cultural roles—stand-up insult comic, clown, business mogul—converge under the mantle of “drag.” When she takes the stage for her “It’s Jester Joke” tour, where she’ll dish on politics, family, and social media, expect a show hedonistic and heedless. Moore Theatre, $37


Bon Iver

Sept 6 It’s been difficult to connect work Justin Vernon has made under his Bon Iver moniker. For Emma, Forever Ago still soundtracks local coffee shops and yoga studios with its 2007 isolated, falsetto folk, while 2016’s 22, A Million sounds like a pop computer meltdown, auto-tune scribbling all over Vernon’s vocals. His newest work i,i offers, finally, some glue. Electronic effects burble but don’t overtake these pretty songs that come eccentric yet direct. The Gorge Amphitheatre, $27–$126


Sept 14 Blackalicious is most known for 1999’s “Alphabet Aerobics”—a virtuoso gimmick in which MC Gift of Gab runs through ludicrously alliterative couplets at ever-increasing speed. But that same year, the duo released Nia. The album is ruled by the same finely diced syllables, but here technique supports passion and intelligence—an album of the same moment as Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides and the Roots’ Things Fall Apart. Now, two decades later, Blackalicious embarks on a celebratory tour. Nectar Lounge, $18

22-year-old Jay Som's latest album, Anak Ko, drops August 23.

Jay Som

Sept 18 While plenty of music on Bandcamp can be pegged “bedroom pop,” Jay Som’s first two albums on label Polyvinyl were recorded in her actual bedroom, and they arrived with manifold shadings, hush and lush and fuzzed. Her third and newest, Anak Ko, wipes a layer or two of haze to flaunt part of what’s made Jay Som compelling from the start—pop hooks drawing you toward tender intelligence. Neumos, $17

Cigarettes After Sex

Sept 27 A purveyor of libidinous lullabies, Cigarettes After Sex makes songs for falling: in bed, in love, asleep. When the band released its first album, after playing for nine years, it made a decent amount of cultural noise for something so quiet. Music this wispy—high, slight voice, guitars that tiptoe—slips away even as you try to grasp it. If you’re willing to be still, though, it can seduce. Neptune Theatre, $24

Nilüfer Yanya

Sept 28 Nilüfer Yanya’s ambitious, impassioned album Miss Universe is simply one of the strongest debuts of the year. On it, the London-based singer sails assuredly between, and sometimes above, genre. She blends soul vocals—spangled falsettos and husky lows, sometimes in the same bar—and compulsively grooving guitar pop. Tractor Tavern, $16

Devendra Banhart

Oct 19 It’s easiest to imagine Devendra Banhart working alone, bearded and barefoot, in some musical playhouse flush with 1960s records. Yet he’s rarely a dull revivalist. Sure, on his new record, Ma, the song “Memorial” nearly quotes the melody of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat.” But in Banhart’s world, influences like Cohen, the Beatles, Haruomi Hosono, maybe a little bossa nova, get stitched together into their own sort of quilt. Moore Theatre, $24

Lucy Dacus

Oct 22 “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit / I mistakenly called them by your name,” begins Lucy Dacus’s 2018 album Historian. Writing like that—able to swerve from breakup-song convention two or three times in a pair of lines—sets her apart from the scads of others singing over guitar rock. That, and her voice, which contains enough warmth and depth to console even when streaming through earbuds. Neumos, $20


Ligia Lewis: Water Will (in Melody)

Sept 19–22 This May, On the Boards staged the first two parts of choreographer Ligia Lewis’s Blue, Red, White trilogy. Now comes the final piece, Water Will (in Melody), which aesthetically appears like Blade Runner via a Berlin art house, its four dancers clothed in shining futurist black and white. Yet rather than robots, this dystopia explores the idea of “will” and its limits. On the Boards, TBA

Savion Glover

Nov 4–6 Savion Glover, whose tap is so syncopated and percussive he may as well perform on a drum, is among the most crowd-pleasing dancers working today, with enough charisma for venues holding a couple thousand. So part of the pleasure of this tour is witnessing his singular presence up close, amid Dimitriou’s candlelit and dinner-tabled intimacy. Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, $50

Locally Sourced

Nov 8–17 The three world premieres that comprise Pacific Northwest Ballet’s mixed bill are not yet finished. No matter. The local choreographers behind the works are draw enough: PNB’s Miles Pertl, with his first piece on the main stage; Eva Stone, the choreographer behind the Eastside’s long-running Chop Shop Dance Festival; and Donald Byrd, the artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theatre, who four decades into his career is simply one of the most important Northwest choreographers since Merce Cunningham. McCaw Hall, $30–$190

Freakout Festival returns to Ballard for its seventh year.

Special Events

Freakout Festival

Nov 15 & 16 The annual festival from Freakout Records stands out from the pack in good ways. It arrives in the dip between the summer crush and the smattering of winter festivals. It takes over small venues in Ballard (Tractor Tavern, Conor Byrne, Caffe Umbria) with a lineup that sidesteps typically homogenized posters, pulling smaller bands from France, Mexico, BC, and all over the U.S., to play alongside locals like Monsterwatch and Khu.éex for rowdy shows. Ballard, $40–$100


As You Like It

Sept 6–8 Speak to any arts organization in the city and the importance of “community” arises posthaste. With this production of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, Seattle Rep makes quantifiable good on the fuzzy ideal. The theatre company has hosted over 100 workshops in the past year and from them culled 80 people to perform alongside professional actors and dancers in this season opener. Seattle Repertory Theater, Free

Is God Is

Sept 6–23 Spaghetti westerns have always had a steady existential undercurrent, but in Aleshea Harris’s western-inspired Is God Is, that turns to giddy excess—a little bit fabulist, a little bit Afropunk. God is a woman and she lies in hospital bed, a burn victim. She tasks her twin daughters with a revenge mission: Kill the man who harmed her. This is the West Coast premiere, but last year’s New York rendition apparently saw gobs of blood, with critics invoking Quentin Tarantino (fitting since a film adaptation is in the works). 12th Avenue Arts, $25

People of the Book

Sept 6–29 Yussef El Guindi has produced two works with ACT: Threesome, a sex farce with serious undercurrents, and Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World, a culture-straddling rom-com. The local playwright’s newest, People of the Book, sees its world premiere in Seattle this fall and is more serious in tone, following an Iraq veteran who has written a best-selling war memoir that may not be as true as it appears. ACT Theatre, $27–$47

Pride and Prejudice gets broken down and set to song. 

Austen's Pride

Oct 4–27 Jane Austen sits center stage, reworking a manuscript called First Impressions, something she started 15 years before. Around her spin the singing, acting contents of her mind—Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy—all of which will eventually cohere into Pride and Prejudice. 

This is Austen’s Pride, a new musical that sees its first full-scale professional production at the 5th Avenue Theatre this October. The fun of this layered meta Pride and Prejudice, according to director Igor Goldin, is that even if you know the book, it’s been restructured. Things here might happen in alternate ways, before Austen has changed her mind. “It takes these twists and turns, both in terms of the story of the novel and in terms of her own story.” To enact this imagined tableau, Goldin will use a pair of concentric “doughnut” turntables on stage, so action and song whirls around Austen as she invents and revises. “There’s a freshness,” Goldin says. “It doesn’t feel like Masterpiece Theatre.” 5th Avenue Theatre, $29–$149


Oct 18–Nov 17 In the 1990s Seattle playwright Steven Dietz reread Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula and realized that, though it’d been successfully adapted before, many versions departed significantly from the text. So he drafted his own take, emphasizing the actual, instead of metaphorical, aspects of the Count. Now, he’s revisiting the story again in a new adaptation, focused on Dracula’s bride, Mina, and her agency. ACT Theatre, $27–$87

Julie Himel's Seasonal Amnesia IV.

Visual Art

Susan Christensen

Sept 5–28 Local painter Susan Christensen’s latest pieces recall, at first glance, Joan Miró’s charmed visions—exploding the space between abstract and figural. Look longer and similarities complicate and fade. Christensen’s bright, ink-and-watercolor works come with greater detail and the underlying images appear pulled from some deeply strange graphic novel. Gallery 110, Free

Pierre Leguillon: Arbus Bonus

Sept 21–Jan 5 Though famous for documenting those who society then deemed “freaks,” Diane Arbus was in fact a prolific photographer for publications like Esquire and Seventeen. French artist Pierre Leguillon’s Arbus Bonus collects her magazine spreads along with related paraphernalia (cartoons, album covers) for a look at how popular culture absorbed and consumed one American art’s most inimitable lenses. Frye Art Museum, Free


Oct 3–26 In Sedimentary, two painters take on that oldest subject—landscapes—with brio. Julie Himel works in thick oily strokes, so the canvas becomes its own topography and nature scenes appear in strobing, prismatic color. Meanwhile Sarah Winkler spikes acrylics with crushed minerals. The resulting pieces look like collages of every earthly layer, from mountain and sky to striated soils. Foster/White Gallery, Free

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation

Nov 2–Jan 26 This traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center aims to move beyond not only Bollywood but other common stereotypes of Indian Americans—gurus, elephants, spices. Telling its story largely through photographs, the exhibit shows people going about their daily lives not as a cultural monolith, but divergently, as scientists, football players, musicians, families. Museum of History and Industry, $22

At MOHAI, Beyond Bollywood stretches Indian American representation beyond stereotypes.

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