Arts & Entertainment

Circle Mirror Transformation

South Sound Arts - Fri, 02/12/2016 - 9:10am

Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 11, 2016 
from left: Jesse Morrow, Tim Shute, Meghan Goodman, Scott Douglas, and Chelsea Williams. Photo by Austin Lang.
And now for something completely and delightfully different — Circle Mirror Transformation at Olympia Little Theatre, written by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Annie Baker and winner of the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play .It might seem silly and disjointed at first, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. Some people didn’t stick with it opening night. I noticed that more than a couple of couples left at intermission. Perhaps it was too weird for them. Perhaps it seemed meaningless. Too bad for those who walked out. They missed out on a terrific show ably pulled together by first-time director Hannah Eklund and an outstanding ensemble cast.Cast photo by Austin C. LangMarty (Meghan Goodman) runs an acting class for adults. It’s a small class, four students only, one of whom is Marty’s husband, James (Tim Shute). It seems he doesn’t really want to be there, but is taking part in the class in order to support his wife. The other class members are Theresa (Chelsea Williams), a professional actor who doesn’t really need the class; Schultz (Scott Douglas), a recently divorced man who is uncomfortable being in the class; and Lauren (Jesse Morrow), a student with hopes of becoming an actor.The play begins with a series of seemingly unconnected scenes that parody the kinds of often bizarre exercises actors are known for engaging in — attempting to communicate without words, making animal noises, lying on the floor and shouting out numbers in an attempt to count to 10 without any two or more saying the same number and nobody knowing when someone else is going to call out a number (try it, you’ll see how hard it is), becoming various inanimate objects, and introducing each other and telling their personal stories each in the guise of one of the other people in the class. Time changes, from week one to week two and so forth, are cleverly introduced by projected videos of the actors, one at a time, in extreme close-up with lots of changes of expression and with background music. I do not know if the actors attempted to go through their medley of facial expressions with the music playing or if the music was added later, but they appeared to be delightfully synchronized—most enjoyably Shute frowning and laughing to the tune of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”The different scenes and exercises seem random and are often hilarious, but become increasingly revealing of intimate details, fears and desires. In the end, each of the class members has changed, and the audience knows them better. But not everything is revealed. As the actors tell their personal stories, the audience is challenged to figure out what stories pertain to which of the actors. Clues abound, but not necessarily the answers.Kudos to cast and crew for a job well done.Circle Mirror Transformation runs approximately two-and-one-half hours including intermission. It is an intelligent play for sophisticated adults.The set and lighting are deceptively simple and effective. (No one is credited in the program for set design, but Tom Sanders is listed as set construction, and Sam Arsenault is credited for props—primarily a big ball, a hula hoop and a cleverly designed combination bench and storage cabinet.) The projected videos are captivating (Eklund did them and the sound design; and as director she has to be credited for the complex and excellent blocking). And since I've listed half the crew I should list the rest of the unsung heroes behind this production, all of whom deserve praise: Stage Manager Austin C. Lang; Lighting design Lang and Vanessa Postil; light and sound booth George Dougherty, who is seldom acknowledged for the critical job of running lights and sound for Theater Artists Olympia, Olympia Little Theatre, and Olympia Family Theatre; and Producer Allison Gerst, longtime costume designer for OLT.Circle Mirror Transformation, Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 21, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia, tickets $11-$15, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., Olympia, 360.786.9484,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Evolution at W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

South Sound Arts - Fri, 02/12/2016 - 8:50am

Art, Science and Adaptation
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 11, 2016“Beioneural” mixed media sculpture with moss and LED lights by Jennifer RobbinsLisa Kinoshita curates art exhibits in fantastic venues and presents the work in such a manner that it blends in with, becomes a part of, and enhances what is already there. She did it beautifully at the Seaport Museum last summer and has now done it again at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park. In an exhibition called Evolution: Art, Science and Adaptation, Kinoshita has brought together the works of 13 artists including works of mixed-media sculpture, video, and ceramics displayed among the hundreds of exotic plants in the conservatory. The art fits in so naturally and organically that viewers can easily miss some works. It is a smorgasbord of beautiful, unusual and unexpected shapes, colors and materials on the floor and in the air — all of which plays upon the theme of evolution, sometimes humorously and sometimes with scientific seriousness.A trio of Claudia Riedner’s popular giant heads guard the entrance. They are like the Easter Island heads moved from a bare hillside to a lush tropical jungle, and can be seen as either welcoming or a warning. Enter at your own risk; you’ll be glad you did.There are three unique sculptural works by Yuki Nakomura in the exhibition, the most intriguing of which is one called “Tree Map.” She traced the shapes of peeling bark on an allspice tree in the conservatory, painted them in solid tones of red, yellow and blue and with black and white stripes, and then put them back on the tree trunk. It is an artist’s playful interpretation of a possible evolutionary change to the tree.Another playful interpretation of evolutionary change can be seen in Ed Kroupa’s “Cactopl,” an octopus-like creature hiding in rocks on the floor made out of sculpted foam, toothpicks and glass. With its big, blue glass eyes and tentacles partially buried in the rocks, it seems to be stalking prey. “Breaking Through” mixed-media sculpture by Don High. Photos by Lisa KinoshitaDon High’s “Breaking Through” is a mixed-media sculptural tower of rocks with moss-covered tendrils sprouting fountain-like from the top. Like many of the sculptural pieces, it seems to be an organic part of the jungle of the conservatory.Had Kinoshita not been there to point it out to me, I would not have seen Brent Watanabe’s mixed-media installation “Deposit.” There is a small table covered with a red checkerboard cloth. That part was easy to see, and seemed out of place. But then Kinoshita told me to look under the table. There I saw a video of a funny and kind of sad puppy projected onto clear vinyl sheets.One of the most beautiful pieces in the show is Jennifer Robbins’ “Beioneural.” It is an organic sculpture of sticks, raindeer moss, succulents and LED lights. Sprouting from either end of a brilliant orange moss-covered stick with lights glowing from within are tree branches or bright red and purple. Verbal description does not do it justice. The beauty is breathtaking.Another of the most fascinating installations is Sean Alexander and Paul Cavanaugh’s “Ant Farm.” It is, in fact, just what the title claims, an ant farm with living ants, hanging in air within sheets of glass. Inside the glass are complementary blue and orange substances that look like a three-dimensional Mark Rothko painting. The blue material is a gel substance developed by NASA for sending ants into space, and it functions as food, water source, and habitat.There is so much more to see, and it is all intelligent, thought-provoking, often surprising, and quite lovely to look at. Evolution: Art, Science and Adaptation, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Third Thursday Art Walk, closing time is 7 p.m., $3 suggested donation, Seymour Botanical Conservatory, 316 G Street in Wright Park, Tacoma.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Support Your Local Bookwriter

South Sound Arts - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 10:28am

Last night I went to a book launch party for William Turbyfill’s Field of Turbyat B Sharp Coffee House in Tacoma. Graciously, Turbyfill honored friends and fellow writers Christian Carvajal, Jack Cameron and Melissa Thayer by inviting them to read from their own works, and then he read a few selections from his newly published book—his first, and hopefully the first of many. It was a wonderful event. It is good to see locals coming out to support local writers. There are many more outstanding local writers than I can begin to enumerate. Most of them are published by independent, small-budget publishers, or are self-published. There used to be a stigma to that, but not so much anymore. Despite not being well known beyond friends and relatives, many of these local, independently published authors are just as good as, and often better than, more famous authors whose books sell in the millions.The difference is Random House and HarperCollins and Simon&Schuster can spend huge fortunes on advertising and promotion; they can provide every bookstore in America with return-guaranteed books; they can send their authors on worldwide book tours. (I’m not about to spend a thousand dollars to fly across country for a book reading where I might sell half a dozen books.) Marketing is impossible beyond readings in local bookstores (and only independent bookstores like Kings Books and Orca will even put these books on their shelves) and at events such as Creative Colloquy. Steven King’s latest novel, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams has 767 customer reviews on Field of Turbyhas seven, which is phenomenal for an independently published book that’s been out such a short time. My latest book has four. The most I’ve ever gotten for any book so far has been 19.Like your local food co-op and neighborhood schools, local writers need your support. Please buy their books and read them. But don’t just read them. Post customer reviews on amazon and Goodreads, and recommend them on Facebook. These reviews help more than you can imagine, and they’re not hard to write. They don’t have to be polished or even skillfully written. Just write what you think, and be honest. If there are things about the book you don’t like, say it. If you just gush about how great it is, readers will sense you’re being dishonest; they might even suspect you were paid to write a glowing review (that does happen, and amazon watches for it and will refuse to publish reviews they suspect are dishonest). Here are some local authors in the Olympia-Tacoma area whose books I recommend, plus a couple from other parts of the country whose books are outstanding and who could use your support:William TurbyfillMelissa ThayerJack CameronNed HayesChristian CarvajalRicker WinsorS.R. Martin Jr.Jack ButlerLarry JohnsonJoshua SwainstonRuth TigerDianne Kozdrey Bunnell
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Ring of Fire at Centerstage

South Sound Arts - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 4:33pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 4, 2016June Carter Cash (Cayman Ilika) and Johnny Cash (Jared Michael Brown) set the stage in Federal Way. Photo credit: Michelle Smith Lewis
Ring of Fireat Centerstage in Federal Way is wonderful entertainment, well worth the drive. Adapted from the Broadway Production by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Jason Edwards, it is a hybrid falling somewhere between a play and a musical revue. It tells the life story of Johnny Cash through his music. There is no dialogue, but there are a few necessary bits of narration addressed directly to the audience by Cash (Jared Michael Brown) and June Carter Cash (Cayman Ilika). Similarly, there are no traditional theatrical scenes, but there is choreographed movement arranged by director and choreographer Amy Johnson. And how wonderfully the choreography creates visions of train rides and working on the chain gang, of a youthful band auditioning before the great record producer Sam Phillips, and of the beginnings and ends of love.I was given a hint as to how this musical experience was going to differ from other theatrical productions when before curtain time I asked Centerstage Artistic Director Alan Bryce why none of the actors’ character names were listed in the program. In trying to explain, he kept saying, “You’ll see. It’s different.”The band from left Tom Stewart, Jack Dearth, Jared Michael Brown and Sean Tomerlin, Photo credit: Michelle Smith Lewis For starters, Brown not only plays Cash, he also plays other male characters, including Phillips; Ilika plays June Carter Cash and Cash’s first wife, Vivian Liberto. There’s also a four-piece band: drums (Zack Summers), electric and acoustic guitar (Sean Tomerlin), bass (Jack Dearth) and acoustic guitar (Tom Stewart) — most of whom also take on the role of Johnny Cash at times. As Bryce said, you’ll see. By-the-way, typical country and western bands back in the ’50s and early ’60s described such combos as drums, bass, lead guitar and rhythm guitar. Cash played rhythm guitar but was never known as a great musician but as a great singer-songwriter and stylist. Brown does not play guitar in this productions.Brown and Ilika are each members of Actors Equity. Ilika starred as Mary Poppins at Village Theatre and was a Gregory Award nominee, and she rocked the house at Centerstage as Patsy in Always Patsy Cline. Brown recently performed at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. They are both terrific singers and actors who pull the audience in, making even a fairly large house feel tiny and intimate. Brown made me feel like he was flirting with the audience, even improvising interaction with them on a couple of occasions when I was there for an opening weekend matinee. Neither tries to imitate Johnny or June, but interpret their songs in their own styles, and sing with power. Brown has a wider range to his voice than Cash but sounds a lot like him especially when he drops to a lower key.Some of the band members also take the lead on Johnny Cash songs. Stewart and Dearth are particularly outstanding on the songs they solo on. Ring of Fire is two hours of great Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash songs from standard country and gospel songs from their early years to such favorite hits as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk The Line,” and “A Boy Named Sue.”
Ring of Fire, 8 p.m. Thurs.- Sat., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun., through Feb/ 14., Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way, $30, Seniors (65+) and Military: $25; Youth (25 & Under): $10; VIP: $50, 253-661-1444, www.centerstagetheatre.comxt
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Surprising 3-D Show at B2

South Sound Arts - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 4:25pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 4, 2016“All Lines in the Water,” mixed media by Shannon Weber, courtesy B2 Fine Art GalleryWinter Pop-Up at B2 Fine Art Gallery is a surprisingly rich collection of sculpture, basketry and pottery by (mostly) artists who are new to the Tacoma art scene — the one exception being longtime local favorite Ric Hall, who is showing here totally new work never before seen and a radical departure from what we’re used to seeing from him. "Apple Pruning" by Ric Hall, courtesy B2 Gallery.More on Hall’s painted apple prunings and mixed-media sculptures by Shannon Weber later, but first an overview of the show. Featured artists are Hall, Weber, Mary Hosick, Sharon Feeney, Steve Sauer, and Patty McPhee. There are some nicely executed and rather traditional ceramic and sculptural work by Hosick, Feeney, and McPhee. I was especially impressed with Hosick’s ceramics and also liked McPhee’s sensual and minimalist wood carvings of abstract forms based on the female figure and Feeney’s asymmetrical, half-moon shaped “Budding.” Sauer’s massive ceramic fertility vessels are rough, gritty and powerful. While modernistic in style and form, they evoke ancient and primitive art that grabs at the gut and won’t let go.Hosick warrants a show all her own, and her work is relegated to a separate room in the gallery with a selection of 14 felted wool and silk and stoneware pots. The smaller pots with felted wool and silk patches adhered to the surface like organic accretions present wonderfully contrasting textures and glazes. Her pieces with sculpted tubes going through and out of ceramic forms are like Stone Age scientific instruments left on earth by an alien race. One piece that is different from all her others is “Flight Patterns,” a playful and decorative mixed-media sculpture with butterfly wings fluttering in front of a blue circle with another of her tubes piercing the whole. There is a shamanistic quality to her pottery.Now back to Hall and the other surprising find in this show: Weber. Their pieces in this show have a decidedly outsider appearance like the works of untrained, often insane and artistically obsessed artists, and yet they are clearly educated and well versed in art history, theory and practice.Hall is locally famous for cubist-surrealistic pastel paintings done in collaboration with his partner in crime, Ron Schmitt.  What he is showing here is a collection of about 15 painted prunings from an apple tree. In one cubbyhole section of the gallery 13 small pieces line the walls on shelves mounted about five feet off the floor. They are knotted, gnarled and sensual, and painted with bright colors with thick and often clotted paint that brings into view figures and faces suggested to the artist’s fertile imagination by the shapes of the limbs. Study them carefully and you’ll find an almost infinite number of surprises. In another nearby section of the gallery are a couple more of these, but they are larger and more expansive, with long limbs that reach as if soaring into space.Weber is showing a number of fantastic sculptures both free-standing and wall hanging created out of a mixture of unusual materials including sticks, bones, kelp and many other found materials. They are enigmatic and strangely beautiful, and evoke Northwest Native American art. There is one piece that is a large ball of impossibly bent and twisted sticks. I can’t imagine how she managed to weave them together in such a manner. Another, “3 Moons,” is a burnt piece of wood, smooth as polished rock, with a smaller and differently burned hunk of wood that looks like charcoal mounted on top. It is as rough as the other is smooth, and dead center on it are three little button-like moons stitched to the burnt wood with kelp and waxed Lenin thread. It is beautiful and yet ominous. Next to “3 Moons” is “All Lines in the Water,” a small canoe shape with five little woven baskets stuffed inside like men crammed into a too-small boat. It is made of kelp pieces, fish bones, reclaimed washers and other exotic materials.There is little time left to see this show. I strongly suggest you see it as soon as possible.Winter Pop-Up, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, till 9 p.m. through Feb. 13, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, 253.238.5065.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Five Reasons to Subscribe

South Sound Arts - Thu, 02/04/2016 - 10:39am

If you read my reviews in The News Tribune or the Weekly Volcano, why should you subscribe to my blog? Aren’t they just the same reviews re-posted? Here are 5 reasons you might want to think about subscribing.
  1. I do re-post all my reviews from newspapers, but I also post reviews that are not published elsewhere.
  2. There are word limits to my reviews in print, so sometimes when I feel I need to say more than is allowed in my columns I will post expanded versions on my blog.
  3. I’m limited to one photograph in my print reviews but can post more on my blog.
  4. It rarely happens, but sometimes I can use language that’s not allowed in print.
  5. I also post personal musings, essays, and announcements for other arts events, including my own readings . . . if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Subscribing is easy. Just look at the column on the right.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Idiot Glee “Evergreen Psycho”

K Records - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 6:44pm
A video derived from the Idiot Glee album Idiot Glee (Hop Hop Records). Lexington, KY is where they’re from; blissful audio existence is where they’re at. Idiot Glee.  
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Praise and Criticism

South Sound Arts - Wed, 02/03/2016 - 12:51pm

Artists crave praise and dread criticism, and yet we keep putting it out there before the public, hoping for the former and fearing the latter. Tell me how great my painting, playing, acting is, but oh please don’t tell me I suck. Our egos are huge but delicate. Being an artist takes a lot of guts. 
As a critic I’ve come to be constantly aware of this. We critics have the power to make a performer feel like a king or a queen for a little while, but despite some popular notions we have very little ability to make or break an artist’s career. Among the many factors that can contribute to a successful or unsuccessful run, a good or bad review is probably the least important, but it can hugely impact an artists’ feelings. I first became an art critic some 30-something years ago because I loved visual art. I loved making art and talking about art. I had spent most of my life as a painter and a good number of years as a teacher, both in college and in public schools, so I thought I knew a thing or two about visual art. I wanted to be able to promote the good artists who showed their work in area galleries, and I—perhaps somewhat arrogantly—wanted to teach people how to judge art for themselves. I had heard people who probably should have taken an art appreciation course at some point in their lives praise art that was mediocre at best and pure crap at worse, and I thought maybe I could show them the error of their ways. I had seen great art by unknown artists, and I hoped to be able to get people to flock to their shows.I first became a theater critic because I needed the work and it fell into my lap. I knew very little about theater at the time, and was astounded that I was offered the job. Now, after more than 700 plays in the past 13 or so years (I can’t remember exactly when I started), I have begun to think I know a little bit about theater. My primary motive for writing reviews remains my love of the arts. Plus, I still need the job. But the more I do this job, the more I am aware of how my words of praise or criticism might affect the artists I write about. I love it when I can praise a show. I love it when people tell me they went to see an art exhibition or a play because of my review and that they loved it. I also feel a responsibility to let people know when I don’t think a play is worth the ticket price. Theater tickets can be pretty damn expensive. As for the actors, the painters, the writers, I am so happy to be able to praise them in print. If I feel I have to criticize them, I hope I can do it in the spirit of a teacher saying this is why this particular performance didn’t work, and this is how you might be able to make it better next time. And like the artists whose work I write about, I like to hear when I’m doing it right; and though I might cringe at the thought, I also want to hear when I do it wrong. So please feel free to comment on anything I post on this blog.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Melissa Balch Ceramics at M+M

South Sound Arts - Tue, 02/02/2016 - 8:01am

Installation shots from Melissa Balch show at M+M. Photos by Lisa Kinoshita
What I first saw when peeking at Melissa Balch’s ceramics through the windows at Moss and Mineral, a.k.a., M+M, was a clot of stacked white balls about the size of ping-pong balls — with nipples. I was immediately reminded of some of Louise Bourgeoise’s strange and sexy sculptures.Inside this unique arts and plant store Balch’s ceramic sculptures fill a large glass display case, a display table top, and one good-size section of wall. Balls, breasts, bladders and abstract, organic and otherwise anatomical forms abound. Many of her pieces are small — some the size of a tightly closed fist, and some even smaller. The Bourgeoise-like stack of nippled ping-pong balls stands about a foot high. On the table at the back are a couple of larger pieces, and on the back wall is an installation with a larger sculptural piece all in white with a proliferation of little white balls all around. The larger part is a bulb-like form sprouting a flower on top, with a tiny little ceramic woman in a bathing suit doing a jackknife dive from the open petals of the flower. I must confess that I am usually put off by abstract sculpture with a face or figure stuck on. It’s like the artist doesn’t trust the viewer to “get” the beauty of the smooth abstract shape (for some reason they’re nearly all smoothly polished organic shapes) and has to add something recognizable to cater to the public. This is not one of those. In this one, the Ester Williams type diver is a tongue-in-cheek bit of kitsch. I love the absurdity of itThere are other pieces with fun figures or parts of figures. There is one with an open form like a conch shell in brilliant pink tones and a white pod with two baby hands reaching out. There’s also a playful little creature with pointed ears and great big blue glass eyes. And there are two pieces that are patterned after Japanese shoes.Among the more abstract works are some that look like sea urchins and others covered with projections that look like barnacles. Two of the largest pieces are fountain shapes with vertical towers, rounded on top, that rise from circular bases. The towers are riddled with multiple holes and covered with more of the little white balls that proliferate throughout the show. If these works were indeed fountains, I would expect water to flow from the holes.This is a small show with many little pieces that hover between pure form and playful references to nature, many of them sexual in at least in implication. Sadly, M+M is open only on Saturday afternoons and by appointment. If you happen to be downtown in Tacoma, at least stop to look through the window, and if you can go by on a Saturday afternoon, please do. Shop owner Lisa Kinoshita will gladly open up for you if you’re interested in making a purchase.
Moss and Mineral, Saturday only, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment, through March, 16, 305 South 9th Ave., Tacoma, 253.96.5220,
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Ruby Fray “Reprise”

K Records - Mon, 02/01/2016 - 6:59pm
A fresh, colorful look at the Ruby Fray way of being. Emily Beanblossom and friends running wild.   “Reprise” appears on the Ruby Fray album Grackle [KLP251], available now from the K Mail Order Dept.  
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Second Samuel at Tacoma Little Theatre

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/29/2016 - 8:29am

 Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 28, 2016 Doc (Michael Dresdner) and B Flat (Aaron Mohs-Hale).  All photos courtesy Dennis K PhotographyTacoma Little Theatre’s production of Second Samuel is a little play that tackles big subjects in an inventive manner while maintaining its light-hearted feel. It is a stylistic marvel with two sets: the Bait and Brew Bar (stage left), advertising red eye, that’s booze, and red wigglers, that’s bait; and the Change Your Life Hair and Beauty Emporium (stage right). These settings are strictly segregated by sex, with the women in the salon and the men in the bar. The only person to be seen in both is B Flat (Aaron Mohs-Hale), who is both the narrator and a major character in the story. This dichotomy is carried over to the structure of the story, which separates Act 1 and Act 2 into stories that are different in mood, light comedy in the first act and heavy drama that still manages to keep just enough humor after the intermission. Credit playwright Pamela Parker and director Chris Serface for this magic act, brought about by having dialogue overlap and, in places, having characters speak in chorus with the narrator, all of which is augmented by lighting, also by Serface.
Ruby (Ellen Peters), Marcela (Neicie Packer), Omaha (Diana George), Jimmy Deeanne (Jill Heinecke)During the first act, I was afraid it was going to be just another farcical play making fun of uneducated Southerners. I had recently been subjected to one of those, and it was a horrible experience. But there was hope because Mohs-Hale’s narration and his depiction of the boy called B Flat was so natural, unassuming and sincere, and because the rest of the characters portrayed by an excellent ensemble cast seemed natural despite being quirky and verging on Southern stereotypes. They even got the accents right with no exaggeration.Second Samuel CastThroughout the first act it was a lighthearted play of hootenanny humor, until something totally unexpected happened, something I cannot divulge, something that completely changed the play from a frothy comedy to a serious look into the soul of a town.The second act takes an unflinching look into the ways in which residents of a small town overcome intolerance and rise above their stuck-in-the-mud ways. It is still humorous, but with sensitivity and intelligence never forecast by the first act. The story takes place in a small town in Georgia in the late 1940s, where everyone knows all about everyone else. Or they think they do. There is a definite Our Town feel. We expect the men in the bar and the women in the beauty parlor to go on lovingly fussing and fighting forever, but the death of Miss Gertrude changes all of that. Never seen on stage, Miss Gertrude is already dead when the play opens. She was one of the most beloved people in town, and her death takes the townspeople into unexpected territory.There is only one black character in the play, U.S. (Jimmy Shields), whom everyone likes. This at a time and place when virulent racism was rife. The only racist in town is Mr. Mozel (Tom Birkeland), a curmudgeonly old man who doesn’t like anyone. If we were expecting realism, this could have been a damaging blow to the play, but Mr. Mozel is not presented as a real person but rather as a symbol for all the small minded and racist people who would actually live in a town like Second Samuel.The owner of the Bait and Brew, Frisky (Kerry Bringman) is anything but frisky, except probably with his wife, Omaha Nebraska (Diana George). They love each other dearly, but he is embarrassed by any show of affection in front of the other men. Omaha and her siblings, by-the-way, are all named after cities.U.S. is possibly the smartest person in town. He and B Flat are the town’s peacemakers along with, to a lesser degree, Doc (Michael Dresdner), who tells the town busybodies to mind their own business. The most infuriating of these busybodies is Jimmy Deeanne (Jill Heinecke) the self-absorbed wife of the local Baptist preacher. Mansel (Bob Yount) is a good ol’ boy who drinks a lot and tells whoppers that nobody believes. He is married to Marcela (Neicie Packer), who tries her best, with minimal success, to make a good man out of him. Most of these characters are flawed but basically good. The cast is outstanding. I want to see more and more of Shields and Mohs-Hale. Heinecke beautifully portrays the woman you love to hate. Yount, Bringman and Dresdner are each so natural in their roles that if I didn’t know better I’d think they were playing themselves. I was intrigued by many of the character names, which enhance the quirky character of the town of Second Samuel, so named because the original town of Samuel was destroyed and rebuilt; which is what happens metaphorically to the townspeople after Miss Gertrude’s death.Second Samuel is an unpretentious play that tackles large themes and brings them down to manageable size. It takes place on a set (designed by Lex Gernon) that reflects the time and place, and the intimate feel of the very believable characters. It is a relatively short play that comes in at a little under two hours including intermission.

Note: It was called to my attention that I erroneously said B Flat was the only man to venture into the hair salon. I had forgotten that Doc also ventured into the salon where he showed Jimmy Deeanne and others the error of their ways.
Second Samuel, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 7, $20-$24, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma, 253.272.2281,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/29/2016 - 8:18am

Prison ObscuraDocumenting life in prison at The Evergreen State College Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 28, 2016installation shot, courtesy The Evergreen State College Like images captured with a pinhole camera, also known as a camera obscura, the exhibition Prison Obscura at The Evergreen State College “considers this fundamental distortion that characterizes vision and viewing, how we see and don’t see the people we incarcerate, the people we put in boxes. Guiding the viewer through the visual culture of America’s prisons, the exhibit traces the contours of that box, to attempt to make sense of the dominant narratives and stereotypes that somehow justify a U.S. system now locking up people at an unprecedented rate,” as stated in a press release for the show.Prison Obscura is the major offering among four related shows in Evergreen’s library building, each taking a look at our prisons through the lenses of cameras — in some cases actual pinhole cameras.The first thing to meet the eye when entering the gallery is a video projection called “Proliferation” by Paul Rucker. Depending on what part of the looping video is showing, you see a single green light on a large screen, and then another and another, and then lights of other colors; the lights flash on faster and faster and begin to create a shape as they proliferate. It is a map of the United States, and what it is showing is the proliferation of prisons in our country over a 250-year history. As should be expected, it starts on the East Coast and marches westward, and the density matches the population density of the country. It is mesmerizing and frightening.In some prisons large, fanciful landscapes printed on vinyl cover parts of the walls in visitor areas, the only areas where photographs are allowed. These idyllic landscapes hide doors and bars and locks, so when visitors take portraits of their incarcerated loved ones, the only background images to leave the prison are these landscapes. Artist Alyse Emdur has documented these. These landscapes are hung on the gallery walls, and on a table top resting on two sawhorses are collections of portraits of prisoners taken in front of these backdrops. It is so sweet and so false. On one wall of the gallery is an array of harshly lighted, black-and-white photographs of prisoners as part of a nine-year project by Robert Gumpert in which he photographed prisoners and asked them to tell a story, which he recorded. The audio recordings, unedited and uncensored, accompany the images.One of the more striking displays is a set of six pinhole photos taken by girls at Remann Hall Detention Center in Tacoma, a project coordinated by TESC faculty member Steve Davis. The images are fuzzy, soft focus, slightly distorted, and exceedingly sad. Facing this is a wall of portraits of kids in Maple Lane and Remann.In a separate but related show downstairs in the Photoland Gallery are more photos by Davis. A large-scale photograph at the entry to the gallery area pictures a wall of heavy, locked cell doors numbered 10 through 14, each with a small window. A face looks out from behind all but one of the windows. This image made me shiver. On the back side of this panel is a life-size black-and-white photo of two teenage boys in chains and locks. They are like men in chain gangs 50 years ago, except they are contemporary and they are kids. One of the more striking images in this set of photos is of a girl from Remann Hall holding a plaster-cast mask in front of her face. There is no wall label to explain. Is it a cast of her face? Is she holding it up to hide or to show off her work? This was the last picture I saw before leaving the gallery, and I left wondering about this young girl. What had she done to get herself locked up and what is going to happen to her? What about all the others? How many of them have been wrongly incarcerated, and what is going to become of them?These are not feel-good art exhibitions. They are shows that should be seen.Prison Obscura, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tue.,Thurs., Fri.; 1:30-5 p.m. Wed., through March 2, The Evergreen State College Gallery, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Library 1st floor, Olympia, 360.867.5125

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Thee XNTRX “Pizza Chef”

K Records - Fri, 01/29/2016 - 12:59am
Thee XNTRX is the loosely knit group of NW MCs, DJs and producers who came together to create the epic compilation All Your Friend’s Friends [KLP255], released a year back on K. “Pizza Chef” features the Olympia/Seattle MC Nicatine (of Free Whiskey) backed by beats from Smoke M2D6. K Song of the Day: “Pizza Chef” […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Silas Blak “Diamonds on Mic Stands”

K Records - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 1:42pm
 Silas Blak presents “Diamonds On Mic Stands” produced and mixed by Kjell Nelson from the album Editorials: (Wartunes) [KLP261].   The Silas Blak album Editorials: (Wartunes) [KLP261] is available now from the K Mail Order Dept.    
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Honoring Evergreen’s Steve Davis: Wednesday, February 10th, 11:30-1:00 pm in the 2nd floor Recital Hall in the COM Building

Evergreen Artists Lecture Series - Wed, 01/27/2016 - 1:23pm

Steve DavisSteve Davis is a documentary portrait and landscape photographer based in the Pacific Northwest.  His work has appeared in American PhotoHarper’s, the New York Times Magazine, Russian Esquire, and is in many collections, including the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Seattle Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the George Eastman House. He is a former 1st place recipient of the Santa Fe CENTER Project Competition, and two time winner of Washington Arts Commission/Artist Trust Fellowships.  Davis is the Coordinator of Photography, media curator and adjunct faculty member of The Evergreen State College. He is represented by the James Harris Gallery, Seattle.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Junie B. Jones at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/22/2016 - 4:05pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 22, 2016The cast of Junie B. Jones with Junie (Sammy Cattin) in the center with blue skirt. Photo credit: Dennis Kurtz
The cast of Junie B. Jones with teacher Mr. Scary (Blake York). Photo credit: Dennis KurtzWatching TMP Family Theater’s Junie B. Jones was a joyful experience. This upbeat musical is based on the popular children's book series by Barbara Park. And it’s not just for children. My wife and I don’t have any young children, and we enjoyed it as much as many musical comedies for grownups. It’s upbeat and hilarious, and the music really rocks.Sammy Cattin in the lead role is marvelous. A dynamo of energy at four-feet-ten, Cattin bursts on stage like a rocket. She has athletic moves and an expressive face that vacillates instantly from expressing outrageous optimism to crushing defeat, from childish petulance back to delight. And she sings wonderfully. Her previous stage experience includes playing Liesl Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and Ado Annie in Oklahoma. According to the program, she is currently applying to Cornish College of the Arts “to continue her pursuit in theater.” I suspect she will soon be wowing them as she did us.The rest of the cast is praiseworthy as well. Francesca Guecia as Junie’s sometimes nemesis, Lucille is captivating to watch. Sam Tebb as Junie’s new best friend – too young, to be a boyfriend but her boy friend nevertheless – is highly likeable and sings nicely. Isaiah Parker in the double roles of Sheldon and Chenille has some of the best comedic expressions you’re likely to see on stage anytime soon. The second scene in which Parker and Stephen Nishida in the double roles of José and Camille come out dressed as girls is comic gold. Their expressions are precious. Blake York does a yeoman’s duty in the many roles of Junie’s father; her teacher, Mr. Scary; the no-nonsense bus driver; and the hilarious cafeteria lady Gladys Gutzman. (It would have been logical for Tasha Smith, playing the only other adult female characters, to play the part of Gladys Gutzman, but casting York was a brilliant move, which I assume can be credited to director and choreographer Lexi Barnett. Also worth of praise are Rae Trotter as Tattletale May and Paddington Barnett as Tickle.The story begins with Junie, who insists of using the middle initial “B” when saying her name, getting ready for the first day of first grade. She can barely contain her excitement because she is going to get to spend a whole school year sitting next to her best friend from kindergarten, Lucille. But she is crushed when Lucille announces that she has dropped her in favor of her new best friends Chenille and Camille  ̶  twins whom she apparently loves because their names rhyme, which spurs a great be-bop song by Lucille, Chenille and Camille, much to Junie’s dejection.Following are a series of high hopes and crushing defeats for Junie, who gets sad but never gives up and never loses hope.I love the simple set by Bruce Haasl, consisting primarily of Junie B’s giant “Top-Secret Personal Beeswax Journal” with pages that open to create various background scenes, wonderfully painted in a childlike style by Haasl. Beyond the big journal there are no set pieces or props except for chairs and desks the actors move about to create seats on the bus and at school.It is a short, laugh-filled play, approximately an hour and 15 minutes including an intermission. Junie B. Jones purple glasses are on sale in the lobby for $5.Go see it as soon as you can, no matter your age and no matter if you have children or not. I promise you, you’ll be glad you did.TMP Family Theater at Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Jan. 23 and 2 p.m., Jan. 24, 7116 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406, 253.565.6867.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Scott Young at Stable Studios

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/22/2016 - 8:53am

Photo: “Waking Free,’ watercolor and gouache by Scott Young, courtesy Stable Studios
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 21, 2016“Celestial Dance,’ watercolor and gouache by Scott Young, courtesy Stable StudiosIs it kosher for an art critic to say he doesn’t know what he thinks about an exhibition he’s reviewing? Somehow it doesn’t seem right, and yet we’re human. Sometimes it takes us more time than we have to study an artist’s work and mull it over before coming to a definitive conclusion. I’ve never before seen Scott Young’s paintings. He is perhaps best known as a musician, playing in the bands GAG and Trans FX. His show This Celestial Gate at Olympia’s newest gallery, Stable Studios, consists of 23 small-to-medium-size paintings in watercolor and gouache on paper, mostly framed but with a group of six unframed pages from his sketchbook in the back of the gallery.“Waking Free,’ watercolor and gouache by Scott Young, courtesy Stable StudiosThe paintings are technically well done with figures, faces, and geometric patterns painted in unmodulated primary colors — red, yellow, blue with black and white. Black backgrounds in many of the paintings are sparkled with white dots that create the feel of a star-filled night. Young’s paintings appear to be heavily influenced by the art of India and also by Keith Haring, who is quoted on the margins of one of the paintings. To me they are more like book illustrations than paintings that stand alone. They are somewhat predictable, but with inventive passages.Among the more inventive pieces are “Celestial Dance” and “Waking Free.” Each features a couple of yellow dancing women whose figures come together to create faces out of the background (with the addition of eyes and mouths). These paintings are fun to look at. I like the way the arms interlock to form eye shapes. I also like the addition of smaller faces and a couple of snakes in “Waking Free” and the piano keyboard teeth in “Celestial Dance.”Probably the most inventive surprise to be found in any of them is the woman on a yellow bed in “Sutra”: an abstracted interior with eyes in the center and in the lower section a boxy yellow bed. A white female figure appears to go into the bed in places, hiding parts of her body. All we see is the part of her body from her hips to her feet and two hands that seemingly reach out from within the bed.All but one of the unframed paintings in the group at the back include hand-written notes along the margins. On one is the quote from Haring: “Unity in the face of whatever kind of struggle or oppression is existing in the world, there has to be power to the people.”I like the vibrancy of the colors and the contrasts between architectural structures and  sensual organic shapes, and the little surprises that pop up in many of the paintings are fun to discover. A lot of imagery seems to be highly personal and psychological with meanings only the artist knows. Young’s work is obviously popular, as evidenced by the proliferation of red dots on the gallery walls. On the day I visited, 11 of the 23 paintings were marked as sold. They are reasonably priced, ranging from $200 to $500 with the majority in the $300-$350 range.This Celestial Gate,Stable Studios, 607 5th Ave. SE, Olympia, open Fridays 1-8 p.m. and by appointment, 360.951.7902,
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Prison Library/Prison Art Panel featuring Laura Sherbo, Neal Vandervoorn, Pat Graney, and Sebastian Raine: Wednesday, January 27th, 11:30-1:00 pm in the 2nd floor Recital Hall of the COM Building

Evergreen Artists Lecture Series - Thu, 01/21/2016 - 5:20pm












Seattle-based choreographer Pat Graney‘s interest in working with incarcerated women began in 1992 after a conversation with Rebecca Terrell, then head of Florida Dance Festival. This conversation later morphed into what has become Keeping the Faith/The Prison Project. KTF is an arts-based residency program that features dance, expository writing and visual arts, and culminates in performances. This project has been conducted at FCI Lowell & FCI Broward in Florida, MCI Framingham in Massachusetts, Excelsior Girls School in Denver, Houston City Jail, Echo Glen Children’s Center & King County Juvenile Detention in Washington, Red Rock Juvenile Center in Maricopa County, AZ, Shakopee Women’s Prison in Minnesota, Estrella Jail in Phoenix, AZ, River City Correctional Center in Cincinnati, OH, Tokyo Girls Detention in Japan, Bahia Women’s Prison in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, Munich City Jail in Munich, Germany, the Dochas Centre/MountJoy Prison in Dublin, Ireland and Washington State Corrections Center for Women and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Washington State.

Keeping the Faith/The Prison Project is one of the longest-running prison arts programs in the US.

Ms. Graney’s latest work, a peformance/installation project called girl gods, will premiere at On the Boards in Seattle in 2015. With National Dance Project Production and Touring support, the work will tour nationally and internationally through 2016.


Laura Sherbo received her MLS from Western Michigan University in 1978 and has dedicated her career to providing library services to the incarcerated by working with inmates and prison administrators to uphold the Library Bill of Rights.  She is currently the Branch Library Services Manager for the Washington State Library, overseeing nine (minimum and maximum security) prison library branches and two mental state hospital branches throughout the state.  Laura headed the McNeil Island Corrections Center library for 20 years, 13 of which she spent living on the island.  In 2012, she was awarded the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) Leadership and Professional Achievement Award from the American Library Association.


Neal Vandervoorn taught high school for twelve years before he switched course to pursue librarianship.  He received an MLS from Emporia State University in Kansas and was employed with the Washington State Library as Branch Manager/Senior Librarian at Eastern State Hospital, Lakeland Village in Medical Lake and Western State Hospital for a combined twenty-two years. He provided library services to the mentally ill, the developmentally delayed, hospital staff and extensive outreach services to locked wards at Western State Hospital.  He retired as a medical librarian from MultiCare Health System in Tacoma in 2009.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Ruby Fray “Photograph”

K Records - Wed, 01/20/2016 - 12:28pm
Filmed in Iceland on their 2015 tour, the new Ruby Fray video “Photograph” is everything you want from Ms. Emily Beanblossom and Co., stylish, austere and delightful. “Photograph” appears on the Ruby Fray album Grackle [KLP251], available now from the K Mail Order Dept.  
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Disgraced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre

South Sound Arts - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 10:49am

 Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory) and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Disgraced. Photo courtesy Seattle Repertory TheatreDisgraced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, written by Ayad Akhtar and directed by Kimberly Senior, is one of the more difficult plays I’ve watched in a long time. I say ONE OF because Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, which I recently reviewed for The News Tribune, is just as difficult if not more so. But Arcadia does not elicit the kinds of impassioned reactions Disgraceddoes. As a case in point, during a particularly violent confrontation in the play a man in the audience jumped to his feet, shouted “Stop that!” (and something else I could not hear), and stormed out of the theater. I’ve seen people walk out on plays before, but quietly, usually during intermission, I’ve never seen anyone storm out with such vehemence.As another case in point, the producers know this play is controversial, and they therefore have a discussion with the audience at the end of every performance. They call it the second act to a one-act play. The discussion during the second act on opening night was heated. The majority of comments I heard were highly critical of the play, saying it was cliché-ridden, that it was a disgrace to the Seattle Rep, and that it painted Muslims in an unfair and dangerous manner. One commentator dismissed it as a half-baked version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with a bunch of sophisticates ripping each other to shreds. (The similarities to Virginia Woolf were obvious, but I think that commentator missed the point, and I think it was a much better play than he thought it was.) Another man in the audience, who identified himself as a scientist, criticized it based on a 9/11 conspiracy theory. Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily) and Behzad Dabu (Abe) in Disgraced.
Photo courtesy Seattle Repertory TheatreOne of the actors, Behzad Dabu, said the clichés were intentional and were used to expose the fallacies of the clichés. And finally, the man who had walked out so dramatically came back for the talk-back and attempted to explain himself and, in the process, got so mad that he threw the wireless microphone to the floor and stormed out again.That’s how incendiary this play is.Emily (Nisi Sturgis) is an artist. She usually paints geometric abstractions with intricate patterns based on Islamic art. However, as the play opens she is painting a portrait of her Muslim husband, Amir (Bernard White), a successful lawyer who has renounced his religion, calls himself an apostate, has changed his name and claims Indian heritage when in fact his heritage is Pakistani. They are having guests over for dinner. Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) is a Jew and an art dealer who has arranged to give Emily her first one-person show. He is married to Jory (Zakiya Young), a black attorney who works in the law office with Amir. When these four characters come together in Amir and Nisi’s apartment, the fireworks explode. At first their sniping and sarcasm is sophisticated, intelligent, and funny, bordering on glib; but when the topic of 9/11 and Islamic terrorists comes up, the thoughtful repartee turns to emotional attacks. I will not give away any more of the plot.A fifth character is Amir’s nephew Abe (Behzad Dabu), who is intent on protesting the arrest of his Imam, whom he believes was arrested on trumped up charges. Emily has asked Amir to help defend the Imam. The ensemble cast is excellent. White stands out as a conflicted character who is the most complex and in some ways the most despicable of the lot. None of the other characters, with the exception of Abe, are likeable. None of them are one-dimensional either—a tribute to Akhtar’s skill as a writer, as well as to the actors and the director, Kimberly Senior. These characters offer tremendous challenges to actors, and this ensemble cast handles them well. As indicated, Abe may well be the most sincere and the most likeable character in the play, and Dabu, the only actor who was in the original Chicago cast in 2012, is excellent. The set by John Lee Beatty is outstanding, and the use of revolves in the only set change is mind-boggling and seemingly magical. The lighting by Christine A. Binder is also outstanding, especially in the lovely way lighting changes lull the audience through scene changes.Disgraced won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for Best Play. It received mostly rave reviews. When Googling it I found only one negative review. Chicago Sun-Times critic Hedy Weiss called the play a "minefield... that feels all too deliberately booby-trapped by the playwright." That sentiment seemed to me to be the majority opinion of the people who spoke up during the after-play discussion. In part, I understand, but with the exception of one dark twist at the end, which was disturbing to me, I tend to agree more with the critics who praised it.Disgraced runs about 85 minutes with no intermission. The post-play discussion adds less than a half hour.
7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., through Jan. 31Seattle Repertory TheatreSeattle Center, 155 Mercer St.206-443-2222
Categories: Arts & Entertainment
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