The Top Things to Do in Seattle This Spring

Nikki Glaser talks sex, Spectrum Dance Theater tackles race and climate change, and Bill Nye erupts onto the scene.

By Stefan Milne February 25, 2020 Published in the March 2020 issue of Seattle Met

Books & Talks

► Rick Barot 

Mar 19 Rick Barot’s poetry collection, The Galleons, travels into colonialism and consumerism. Broadway Performance Hall, $5–$80 Read more ►

Kristen Millares Young

Postponed to Oct 2 A longtime local journalist and essayist and currently the prose writer-in-residence at Hugo House, Kristen Millares Young now releases her first novel, Subduction, on April 14. Set in Neah Bay, the book follows a Latina anthropologist as she escapes her broken marriage to live on the Makah Indian Reservation and falls into another fraught romance with the troubled Peter—all told in prose at once poetic and punching. Hugo House, Free

Bill Nye

May 16 Bill Nye’s most notable public work in 2019 involved cursing up a storm about climate change on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and again in an Instagram video for Google. When the small-screen scientist comes to the Moore, he’ll talk more, and answer questions about science and climate, all in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption, which, he’ll be the first to tell you, was a big fucking deal. Moore Theatre, $50$275

Classical & More

Celebrate Asia returns to Seattle Symphony.

Celebrate Asia

Mar 8 In Seattle Symphony’s 12th annual Celebrate Asia concert, Tianyi Lu conducts in support of the Asian American pianist Conrad Tao. They’ll delve into works like Huang Ruo’s Folk Songs for Orchestra, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and Tao’s own The Oneiroi in New York in which his fingers coax from the keys pure, sophisticated intensity. Benaroya Hall,  $33$100

Jim James with Seattle Symphony

May 12 Generally when a popular musician—Brandi Carlile, Sir Mix-a-Lot—joins forces with Seattle Symphony, the songs undergo a translation for Benaroya Hall. But Jim James’s new album, The Order of Nature, made with conductor Teddy Abrams, comes already scored for the orchestra: a set of introspective Americana tracks that nicely match the My Morning Jacket front man’s strapping voice. Benaroya Hall,  $47$102


Nikki Glaser

Postponed Stand-up comedian Nikki Glaser readily admits she is “obsessed with talking about sex.” No shock—her recent Netflix special is called Bangin’ and her current tour is Bang It Out. But if that obsession gets occasionally tiresome over a set, mostly what shines are her keen, gleeful chops and her (occasional) forays elsewhere: “Your [maiden] name is nothing after you get married. All it is is like your shithead son’s bank account security question answer.” Neptune Theatre, $34

Lewis Black

Postponed "If yoga's not relaxing you, you're just paying to fart in public. And that's why I use Uber!" Consistently enraged yet winning, The Daily Show’s longtime rant machine arrives with his It Gets Better Every Day tour. Moore Theatre, $33


► Kassa Overall

Mar 1 In Kassa Overall's new album, experimental jazz and rap brilliantly collide. Triple Door, $15 Read more ►


Mar 6 On its first album, Habibi, a quartet out of Brooklyn, sounded like many contemporary groups doing 1960s garage rock. Its more recent work, though, draws increasingly on lead singer Rahill Jamalifard’s Iranian American roots. That’s most obvious when Jamalifard switches from English to Farsi, but most artistically surprising when the band finds common ground between Persian scales and surf riffs. Barboza, $12

Bikini Kill

Postponed Last April, when Bikini Kill walked on stage in LA and kicked off the band’s first full show in two decades, it appeared as if someone had simply unpaused Kathleen Hanna and company from their 1990s heyday. Now the riot grrrl progenitors return to their home state, bringing their exceptional feminist songs, which finally align with larger conversations in U.S. culture. Paramount Theatre, $40


Mar 19 The music Dan Bejar makes as Destroyer has no easy antecedent—you could say David Bowie or Nick Cave, but neither quite fits—though that’s apt for a songwriter who so recklessly blends ease and unease into a single, funny, dark aesthetic. Just consider the opening lines, which spill over a canvas of off-kilter synths, on his newest album, Have We Met: “I was like the laziest river / a vulture predisposed to eating off floors.” Neumos, $20

Billie Eilish

Apr 10 In the video for “Xanny,” Billie Eilish sings with dulcet purity, but her lips lag. Then: Thick, discomfiting bass, and someone puts a cigarette out on her cheek. Eilish, who wrote and recorded and directed the video, had the best-selling album of last year. At 18, she is less the pop star du jour than a force. Tacoma Dome, Sold out 


One Thousand Pieces

Canceled Set to a recursive score by Philip Glass, choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces is based on stained glass. Specifically, the America Windows that famed modernist painter Marc Chagall gave to the city of Chicago in 1977: three large panes as profusely blue as anything in Picasso’s period and as fractured as any cubist work. What does that look like as ballet? Just as hued and glassy, but also a testament to the power of an ensemble in dynamic harmony. McCaw Hall, $30–$190

Change Festival

Mar 30–Apr 11 Led by artistic director Donald Byrd, Spectrum Dance Theater’s spring season tackles two eminently pertinent subjects: race and the climate. Both its productions Pool (performed at Madrona Beach) and After (performed at Washington Hall) are inspired by a series of visualizations that—like scenes from Atlantis—imagine London submerged in seawater in 2090. What drew the company was the surprising optimism within that grim vision. Various Locations, $15–$25 


Sister Act

Canceled This summer, Whoopi Goldberg will again star in Sister Act—this time a London musical adaptation. While Seattle’s production doesn’t flaunt such flashy callback casting, the proximity confers goodwill: All is right in the world of lounge singers who see their boyfriends murder someone and then end up in witness protection in a convent, teaching nuns to shake what the good Lord gave them. 5th Avenue Theatre, $32–$139


Performance Suspended Through March 31. See link for performances later than that.
Winner of the 2017 drama Pulitzer Prize, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat delves into the complexities of race and class in Reading, Pennsylvania, by placing us in a bar in 2000 and letting us eavesdrop on the talk between factory workers as the American middle class is slowly shaved away. That the play has become only more relevant since its 2015 premiere is no great shock. But it’s also surprisingly funny. ACT Theatre, $27–$65

► Small Human Festival

Canceled The new Small Human Festival is predicated on the idea that babies might dig abstract art just as much as adults. On the Boards, $15 Read more ►

► Lydia and the Troll

May 8–Jun 14 Lydia and the Troll invents an origin myth for the Fremont statue. Seattle Repertory Theatre, $48–$72 Read more ►

The Strange Case of Dr. Cher and Mr. Donna

May 1–18 Last time Seattle’s finest, oddest avant-drag-clown practitioner Jody Kuehner (who works as Cherdonna Shinatra) collaborated with Washington Ensemble Theatre, they manically deconstructed Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. In this new piece, Cherdonna plays an abortion doctor who’s contending with protesters outside her clinic. If that seems like a simple story, know that Kuehner’s work rarely plays it straight, exploring the political with rarefied humor and emotional finesse. Washington Ensemble Theatre, $25

Visual Art

Seattle Art Museum is bringing abstract back with Georgie O'Keeffe.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations

Mar 5–Jun 28 If you approach it as a Freudian, you’ll likely see the painting Music, Pink and Blue no. 1 as strictly vaginal. But for the rest of us, that old read of Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1918 abstract feels flat, since the work connotes so variously: layered minerals, perhaps, or music emanating. In Seattle Art Museum’s Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations, other O’Keeffe paintings and drawings gather around Music, Pink and Blue no. 1 to celebrate its induction into SAM’s collection. Seattle Art Museum, $30

American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith

Apr 25–Aug 16 Perhaps you’ve heard it’s a general election year? Well, you may, if you like, spend it in abject worry about our democracy again being undermined. You could also pop by the National Museum of American History’s traveling exhibition to learn about our previous stumbles through government of, by, and for the people. It contains everything from an 1888 campaign torch to a collection of buttons from candidates (Nixon, Kennedy) trying to clinch the “ethnic vote.” Museum of History and Industry, $22

Jordan Casteel’s Kevin the Kiteman is one of more than 100 works in Black Refractions.

Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem

May 9–Aug 2 To be drawn to Black Refractions, a traveling exhibition, you need only consider who’s being shown—Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley, David Hammons. But they’re the marquee names in a show far more sweeping. It spans from the 1920s to today and brings over 100 works by almost 80 artists of African descent. Frye Art Museum, Free

Updated on March 12. Various events were canceled or postponed due to coronavirus concerns. Please see links for the most up-to-date information on when and if events will occur. 

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