Arts & Entertainment

The Naturalist

South Sound Arts - Thu, 06/23/2016 - 12:55pm

Exploring Abstract Landscapes at B2 Fine ArtPublished in the Weekly Volcano, June 23, 2016"Autumn landscape Golden Grove,” painting by Gerard Collins, all photos courtesy B2 Fine Art GalleryFor six years B2 Fine Art Gallery has offered Tacoma a smorgasbord of art from emerging locals to established international art stars. And now they offer up their final show before packing up and moving north to the Emerald City.The current show, slightly misnamed an “exploration of abstract landscapes,” features Olympia painters Jeffree Stewart and Becky Knold with some of their better works to date, along with sculptures by Alan Newberg and paintings by Gerard Collins and Nina Mikhailenko (I say “slightly misnamed” because some of the paintings are not abstract in the least). "Pond's Reflection" by Becky KnoldGallery owner Gary Boone says nobody captures the Northwest light the way Knold does. I would say nobody captures the blues of clear water the way she does in her paintings “Pond’s Depth” and “Pond’s Reflection,” especially the former. Known for minimalist abstracts with very few delineated forms on fields of layered color, Knold shows more variety in this show than I’ve seen in any of her previous shows. “Pond’s Depth” has marvelous areas of cool aqua blues and greens with yellow accents and some surprising areas of flat, dull blue in three corners. I like the unexpectedness of the dull blue corners and the way they highlight the subtle changes in the rest of the painting. There is more complexity in “Pond’s Reflection” than in her usual, and a nice faceted glass-like surface."Hidden Zone Lahare" by Jeffree StewartStewart’s paintings come as a surprise to me. Although they show some similarities to earlier works I have seen from him, they mostly represent new directions and are the best of his paintings I have seen to date. They are stylized and highly expressive landscapes painted with long strokes of intense color, often with swirling spirals and sweeps like those seen in Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night.” There are two paintings in beeswax and gouache that are intense and have an air of mystery to them. One of these pictures a silhouetted figure in a boat in the ocean in front of a rocky shore. There is a lot of white in this that sparkles like sunlight, but it is a cold, cold white light. Mikhailenko’s paintings are not abstract, but are traditional landscapes with softly blended paint application and a welcoming glow of muted color. The best of these is a painting of waterfalls that is like a blend of Monet and Whistler. Nicely done but derivative.Newberg’s sculptures are imposing works in wood that exploit the natural properties of the material to great effect. Two of them are freestanding sculptures that stand seven or eight feet tall and have a monumental feel to them. A third is much smaller but is equally monumental in concept if not in scale.Collins, whom I was told studied under the great Gerhard Richter, is showing a variety of paintings, most of which are abstract but clearly based on nature, and two of which are a Pollock-like overall pattern of black marks on white canvases. On the far back wall is a Collins painting of tangled limbs in a dense forest painted with overlapping staccato brushstrokes with a small band of sky showing across the top. In this sky are white clouds that look like areas where the canvas was left blank but which can be seen as painted upon a closer inspection. This painting brings to mind the latest works by Olympia painter Kathy Gore Fuss, but it has a rougher, rawer quality.Tacoma will miss B2. The Naturalist, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, till 9 p.m. Third Thursdays, through July 30, B2 Gallery, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, 253.238.5065.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Into the Woods at Dukesbay Theater

South Sound Arts - Thu, 06/23/2016 - 10:58am
 fractured fairytalePublished in the Weekly Volcano, June 23, 2016Clockwise: Arwen Dewey, Nick Clawson, Niclas Olson, Deanna Martinez and Tasha Smith. Photo courtesy New Muses Theatre Company.New Muses Theatre Company’s Into the Woodsat Dukesbay Theater is the third version of this popular Stephan Sondheim musical I have reviewed, and it is quite different in some important ways, primarily in that it is scaled down with a much smaller set in a smaller space with fewer actors, and those actors are physically much closer to the audience. I like the closeness and the scaled-down set with cheap but highly inventive props (a flock of origami birds dropped by a rope pulley operated by actors on stage in full view of the audience, a white chair on rollers as a cow, and a picture frame as a harp; I only wish the babies had been equally inventive objects instead of baby dolls).Sondheim and book writer James Lapine cobbled together a cast of well-known fairytale characters into a dark fantasy morality tale set to music. A malevolent witch (Brynne Geiszler) cast a spell on a baker (Nick Clawson) and his wife (Arwen Dewey) making them infertile. She tells them the only way they can break the spell is to go into the woods and get a milky white cow, a blood red cape, hair the color of corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. Finding these items is a snap, but to get them they have beg, buy or steal them from their owners, who are reluctant to give them up. The cow is the property of Jack from “Jack and the Beanstalk” (Niclas Olson). The blood red cape belongs to Little Red Riding Hood (Sammy Cattin); the hair the color of corn is Rapunzel’s (Jenna McRill); and the slipper as pure as gold is Cinderella’s (Tasha Smith).In a play filled with comical and dramatic clashes with temptation, the baker is too nice to swindle or steal these items, but his wife is much more willing to do whatever it takes to get what she needs so she can have a baby. She’s also easily tempted by the seductive prince (Derek Mesford) who is in love with Cinderella but doesn’t hesitate to two-time her (princes use their charms to seduce. That’s what they do). This prince has a brother (played by Olson ) who is in love with Rapunzel, and both princes are charming, sleazy, arrogant narcissists, as portrayed with great comic effect by Olson and Mesford, whose duet on the song “Agony” is the comic highlight of the show.The music throughout is wonderful. Highlights include the wolf’s flirtatious “Hello Little Girl” as sung by Mesford to Cattin, “A Very Nice Prince” as sung by Dewey and Smith, and Dewey’s “Moments in the Woods.” The choreographed movement of the entire cast popping in and out like so many Jack-in-the-Boxes ads a magical quality.Clawson, Cattin, Dewey and Chris Serface as the narrator and “Mysterious Man” turn in marvelous acting jobs. It is particularly nice to see Serface, Tacoma Little Theatre artistic director, back on stage.Olson, founder of New Muses, not only sings and acts wonderfully in multiple roles, but he is also does a great job of directing of this show, rising to the challenge of scaling down a big stage production to fit in a small house.The house, which seats only 40, was sold out opening night, so I highly suggest getting advance tickets.Into the Woods, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m., Sunday through July 3, $10-$15, Dukesbay Theater, Merlino Arts Center, 508 S. Sixth Ave., Tacoma.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

CC Dust “Never Going to Die”

K Records - Wed, 06/22/2016 - 1:11pm
This is the new Washington State Ferry state of mind, infiltrating the underground sounds of America’s Youth. Get real with CC Dust on the Bremerton and Kingston ferries. From the CC Dust 12″ EP CC Dust [KLP263].   The CC Dust 12″ EP CC Dust [KLP263] is available now from the K Mail Order Dept. […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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South Sound Arts - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 11:56am
The Laramie Project at Tacoma Little Theatre A Benefit for Orlando Tacoma Little Theatre is producing a one-night-only reading of “The Laramie Project” on June 26 as a benefit for the survivors of the massacre in Orlando. Read the complete article on

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

A Betty Ragan Retrospective

South Sound Arts - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 4:16pm
“Between Michigan and State,” photo collage by Betty Sapp Ragan, courtesy Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation.Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 16, 2016
“Uptown Broadway Angel,” hand-colored photo collage by Betty Sapp Ragan, courtesy Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
Betty Sapp Ragan passed away a year ago. She was an excellent artist, and she left behind an impressive body of work, a lot of which is now being shown in an exhibition of photo collages and prints at the Mary Bozeman Gallery in the Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation.Curated by Patty McPhee, the show consists of some 32 works in the main auditorium and a few of her larger works in separate rooms. The art is arranged in generally chronological order beginning with a few prints and drawings from roughly 1985. Few of the works are dated, but McPhee says the bulk of them are from what Ragan called her “button down series,” works with feminist themes done in the 1990s. Two of the larger works are photo collages with intricate shading in colored pencils, and there are two of her latest works— paintings of landscapes with architectural structures. I reviewed an exhibition of this series in September of 2015, writing:  “Painted are the scenes where the buildings were, are, should be, or might have been located. The colors are bright and sunny with a predominance of blue. Everything is painted with precise detail but softly focused, like a cross between photo-realist paintings and pastel drawings. The buildings themselves are digital prints of architectural drawings, mostly black and white line drawings that are collaged into the paintings.”All of the smaller photo collages depict women’s dresses either on mannequins or hangers, positioned within architectural structures. The dresses stand in for the women who may have worn them. They are stiff and formal dresses from bygone eras. They tend to be far too large for the settings — windows or archways or pedestals on baroque buildings — as if the women are giants, and the button-down formality of the dresses combined with the positioning within the buildings creates a feeling of imprisonment; locked within their clothes and within what is expected of women. Further intensifying this feeling of imprisonment is the fact that the mannequins are always headless and armless.The earliest painting in this show is “In the Gazebo,” a photo collage of dresses inside a building: one giant dress inside an archway and a procession of smaller dresses marching forward. “Chambored Oval Window” is an outsized dress within an oval window. All that is visible is the midsection with six large buttons. Above the window is a sculpted face flanked by leaf designs that form arms for the woman made up of the sculpted face and the dress in the window as the body. It becomes almost surrealistic and ominous.Many of the other works, such as “Raitt Hall,” Cathedral Apartments in San Francisco,” and “Rialto Apartments” repeat this theme of an outsized bodice inside a window or other framing device. Semi-transparent blouses are also a repeated theme, as in “Between State and Michigan” with its transparent white blouse with polka dots that reverberate nicely with the intricate scrollwork framing the window.Ragan took all of the photos of dresses and of buildings, the bulk of which are in Chicago. She cut out the dresses and meticulously collaged them into the photos of buildings. It is almost impossible to tell they are actual collages and not digitally manipulated images. If you look very closely from just the right angle, you can sometimes see the edges of paper, which she colored to match the sections where they were pasted in.All of the art is for sale by silent auction and is priced ludicrously cheap, with bids starting as low as $10. All proceeds to go toward upgrading the lighting and hanging system for the gallery. McPhee said the low bid prices are based on the executor of Ragan’s estate’s desire that the works have homes.Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation, South 56th and L Street, Tacoma. Open most days but it is best to contact Patty McPhee at 206-919-4938 to make sure someone is there.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged)

South Sound Arts - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 4:11pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 16, 2016 from left: Rebecca Rogers, Vanessa Postil, and Lauren O’Neill. Photos courtesy Theater Artists Olympia.If you are easily offended by irreverent humor, steer clear of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) at the Midnight Sun. They don’t make them any more irreverent. Produced by Theater Artists Olympia and written by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor for The Reduced Shakespeare Company, the same folks who brought you The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), this Pythonesque retelling of the Bible follows the formula established by RSC’s evisceration of Shakespeare. They loosely reinterpret and retell the familiar (and not so familiar) stories of the Bible. There are groaner puns (the ax of the apostles), a skewering of The Almighty’s destructive vengeance and misogyny, Vaudeville-style jokes and song-and-dance routines, and a smattering of topical references mixed in with historical/Biblical tales (the apostles Paul and John, but not George and Ringo).This satire is directed by Mark Alford and stars Lauren O’Neill, Vanessa Postil, and Rebecca Rogers as themselves telling the tales of the Bible and acting out the parts of God, Jesus, Moses, Sampson, Joseph and Mary and the whole cast of characters from both the old and the new testaments. These are three of the funniest women in the South Sound. O’Neill, also known as Hattie Hotpants, emcee of Tush! Burlesque, and as Dr. Lauren (could that possible be a takeoff on Dr. Laura?), is a veteran of many plays with TAO. Postil performs with Lady Town Improv troupe and was a huge hit in TAO’s The Head That Wouldn’t Die. Rogers is a relative newcomer to South Sound stages, but comes to the area with more than 20 years’ experience performing and teaching improv all over the country and recently in Paris, France.Oddly enough, despite great actors throwing themselves with abandon into routines that are clever, biting, and ludicrous, I found myself not laughing out loud throughout much of this play. I enjoyed it, but not to the extent that I enjoyed more than one production of its predecessor, the Shakespeare treatment. Some of the jokes came across as juvenile, and much of the humor was of a type that I appreciate but don’t necessarily react to; and I don’t think that was what the writers or the director intended. There were some bits, on the other hand, that were funny enough to make tears of laughter roll down cheeks, a prime example being the audience-participation retelling of the story of Noah’s ark as a song, “Old MacNoah had an ark.” Brave audience members made weird animal noises onstage, and many were sprayed with water. You have now been warned.Some of the more clever bits included the mark of Cain (no spoiler here, you’ll have to see it for yourself) and a musical explanation of how to tell Elijah from Elisha or the Josephs from the old and new testaments.The costumes were purposefully bad, as were fake beards and big wigs, and the props were silly: a giant blow-up whale for Jonah and a tiny plastic ark that Rogers claimed she carved out of wood.No other South Sound theatrical group is as edgy, brave or outlandish as TAO, so it is fitting and not at all surprising that they’re the first to bring this satirical romp to Olympia. Lauren O'Neill
Rebecca Rogers
Vanessa Postil
The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged), Thursday, March 31 at 8 p.m. and Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. through June 26, pay what you can June 16, The Midnight Sun, 113 N. Columbia St. Tickets: $12-$15, Available at door night of show or online at

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Life is Complicated

South Sound Arts - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 3:43pm
Seated are Erin Quinn Valcho, Christopher Valcho, Sharry O'Hare, and David Cuffeld. Randall Graham and Jenni Flemming are standing. Photo by Steve Saxton.
Local playwright Kendra Malm brings her first play to the stage at Olympia Little Theatre, and it’s a hit. The play is Life is Complicated, a contemporary comic drama that delves unflinchingly into one of the more contentious social and political issues of the day.In program notes Malm says the script was inspired by thinking about the perfect part for herself. She said, “I got a book about playwriting to give me advice about getting it down on paper . . . and worked on it off and on for six years.”It’s the story of Chelsea Walsh (Jenni Fleming), a single professional woman in her forties. Egged on by her free-spirited best friend, Zoe (Erin Quinn Valcho), Chelsea starts a relationship with a younger man. And then Chelsea’s mother shows up and reveals something about Chelsea's past in front of Zoe that she would rather have kept hidden. This leads to a surprising confession that shocks her new boyfriend, fascinates her best friend, causes conflict in her family, and has Chelsea re-evaluating her life.I took this description from a press release, which made it clear that the playwright doesn’t want the “shocking revelation” to be given away. That means there is little else I can say about the story.Readings of plays can be anything from actors sitting around a table with scripts in hand to a fully staged reading with lights, set and costumes—scripts in hand being the only difference from a full production. That second option is what this production of Life is Complicated is. It is skillfully directed by Martin P. Larson and performed by a professional quality troupe including David Cuffeld as Jordan, the boyfriend; Randall Graham as Chelsea’s wisecracking little brother, Dave; Sharry O’Hare as Chelsea’s mother, Midge; Christopher Valcho as her father, Chuck; and Fleming and Erin Quinn Valcho as Chelsea and Zoe. The cast and crew had three weeks to prepare, and judging from the opening night performance, I suspect they could soon easily drop the scripts.Christopher Valcho, who plays the dad, is also credited with building the set, which is as lovely as any I’ve seen at OLT, thanks to a classy back wall and beautiful props (modernistic furniture with gorgeous coloring—subtle tones of gray with colorful accents softly lighted in tones of blue). No one is credited with costuming. I gather the actors chose their own, resulting in contemporary clothing that, in each instant, fits the character’s personality. Fleming plays Chelsea as a sophisticated and worldly woman who is nevertheless sensitive to others, can let her hair down when appropriate, and feel deeply. She plays the part with subtlety and strength. Erin Quinn Valcho and Graham are delightful as the playful Zoe and Dave. Cuffeld plays a likeable and also playful but sensitive Jordan. O’Hare as the spiteful mother makes you want to scratch her eyes out, and Christopher Valcho is a strong father figure. Excellent acting and directing all around.Malm’s script could use a few minor tweaks. I thought there could have been more foreshadowing to build up to the big reveal at the end of the first act, and the discussions in the second act became a bit too didactic in spots. But when criticizing the script, I have to keep this in mind: hit plays on Broadway are usually re-written many times after they are first performed on the road. A playwright needs to see her play performed by actors before finalizing it. This play has never before been performed. I would love to see it fully developed and produced again at OLT or some other theater. Life is Complicated is being performed this weekend only, tonight and Saturday at 7:55 p.m. and Sunday at 1:55 p.m. Tickets are $7 and are available online at, or at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr. SW, Suite 201. Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Avenue NE in Olympia, (360)786-9484,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Selector Dub Narcotic “Hotter than Hott”

K Records - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 2:57pm
“Hotter than Hott” is the first video from the Selector Dub Narcotic album This Party Is just Getting Started [KLP199] (produced by Smoke M2D6 at the Bass Mint and Dub Narcotic Studio). The video, shot in Downtown Olympia, Washington was directed by Red Williamson of Newspin Films.   The Selector Dub Narcotic album This Party […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Avenue Q Comes to Lakewood Playhouse

South Sound Arts - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 7:34am

Published in The News Tribune, June 10, 2016Ensemble cast of Avenue Q. “Avenue Q” is an edgy adult comedy billed by Lakewood Playhouse as “‘Sesame Street’ Grows Up And Moves to ‘South Park.’” Originally conceived as a television show, it is presented in the style of a children’s show with puppets and catchy songs, but unlike the former and more like the latter, the themes are definitely adult-only. So is much of the language. There is even a scene with simulated sex by puppets stage right while actors and other puppets stage left sing a loud and rousing "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want When You're Makin' Love." Other clever songs include: "It Sucks to Be Me," "If You Were Gay, " "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" and "The Internet is for Porn."KYLE SINCLAIR (Princeton) and DEREK HALL and KAYLA CRAWFORD as "Nicky" from the Lakewood Playhouse Production of "AVENUE Q"
Two of the main characters, who may or may not be gay, are roommates Rod (Kyle Sinclair) and Nicky (Derek Hall), who are unmistakable takeoffs on Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street.” Trekkie Monster (also Hall) whose voice is a whole lot like his namesake, Cookie Monster. The landlord of the apartment on Avenue Q is none other than former child star Gary Coleman (not a puppet but live actor Tony L. Williams,). And a very slutty Lucy (Taylor Davis) is a cross between Miss Piggy and Mae West.All puppets are operated on stage by actors in full view of the audience. Director Victoria Webb credits puppet master Lance Woolen with “making the puppets come to life.” I also credit the actors for disappearing into their puppets in the sense that they both act their parts and make the puppets act their parts. The combination of acting and puppeteering is amazing to watch.Some of the puppets take two actors to operate, and there appear to be some fast swapping of who is operating which puppets. For example, there was one point when actor Taylor Davis clearly exited the stage, and yet within seconds I saw her on stage operating a puppet that I believe Kayla Crawford had been operating moments before. I never saw the swap, and it happened so fast that now I’m not sure I saw what I thought I saw. There was a lot of that kind of thing going on so pay attention.Also acting (not with a puppet) is Conner Brown as Brian the building superintendent whose dream is to be a stand-up comic and JasminRae (((CQ))) Onggao Lazaroo (also no puppet) as Brian’s partner, Christmas Eve. Rounding out the cast are Kate Monster (Davis), Mrs. T. and Bad Idea Bear (Crawford), and Princeton (Sinclair). The story is that of young adults fresh out of college trying to find their way in the world while wrestling with issues of love, sex, finding their purpose in life, and how to make a living and pay the rent. The ensemble cast is made up of newcomers to Lakewood Playhouse, all of whom are either making their debut there or for whom this is their second show at the Playhouse, and they do an excellent job of both acting and puppeteering in roles that must be technically challenging. I can easily imagine how hilarious and how shocking “Avenue Q” must have been when it debuted on Broadway in 2004 (winner of the Tony Award “triple crown”: Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book). It must have been as astounding as “Hair” or “Saturday Night Live” when they first appeared. Not so shocking for today’s audiences, “Avenue Q” is still funny. The tunes are catchy, it is surprisingly sweet, and the social commentary is still relevant.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday,  2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m., through July 3WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., LakewoodTICKETS: $24-$29, pay-what-you-will actors’ benefit June 16INFORMATION: 253-588-0042,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

New Gifts and Purchases at Tacoma Art Museum

South Sound Arts - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 7:25am

Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 9, 2016“A Canyon River with Pines and Figures (Yellowstone),” circa 1886. Oil on canvas, Grafton Tyler Brown, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum, museum purchase with funds from the Art Acquisition Fund and the Black Collective.As an art critic and lifelong student of art, I must confess that my education is sorely lacking in certain areas — 19thand 20th century Western art being a prime example. I don’t mean Western as opposed to Asian or Egyptian or African; I mean American cowboy art and grandiose landscapes depicting the majesty of the Western scene. This means that I don’t know Grafton Tyler Brown from Grandma Moses, but apparently he’s a big deal among aficionados of Western art, and Tacoma Art Museum has recently purchased a “significant, rare landscape painting” by Brown. It is a large (five-foot wide) landscape of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone titled “A Canyon River with Pines and Figures (Yellowstone),” painted in 1886 while living in Portland. It is now on display in TAM’s Liliane and Christian Haub Gallery.According to TAM, his works are highly sought by museums. They can be found in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Oakland Museum of California, and Tacoma’s own Washington State History Museum, which has a Brown painting of Mt. Tahoma, a.k.a., Rainier. The first retrospective exhibition of his work, Grafton Tyler Brown: Visualizing California and the Pacific Northwest, was presented by the California African American Museum, Los Angeles in 2003. It traveled to Baltimore, San Francisco, and the Washington State History Museum. Brown was the first African-American artist to paint landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and California. The scenes he paints are calm and reverential.“A Canyon River with Pines and Figures (Yellowstone),” pictures the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with pine forests in the foreground, rugged sunlit rock walls leading the eye into the distance, and the Yellowstone River winding through the canyon. “We are delighted to acquire Brown’s stunning landscape painting. This is our first significant purchase to complement the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art since the opening of the Haub Family Galleries in November, 2014. We are grateful for the community support that made it possible to acquire this exceptional museum-quality work,” said TAM Executive Director Stephanie Stebich. “This painting beautifully links TAM’s focus on the art of the Northwest with the art of the broader Western region. It helps us to tell a more complete story of Northwestern art and artists.” “Grafton Tyler Brown has long been on TAM’s curatorial wish list, but his works have been rather scarce on the market until recently,” said Margaret Bullock, curator of collections and special exhibitions. “This is a lucky confluence of both the chance to acquire an evocative major work by this artist and having the funds to make it possible.” The Tacoma Pierce County Black Collective and the museum’s Art Acquisition Fund supported the purchase.Brown’s painting is not the only new addition to the museum’s collection. Twenty additional gifts of Northwest art have also been added, including four mural studies by Kenneth Callahan; a pastel, charcoal and dry pigment work by Norman Lundin, professor emeritus at University of Washington; Robert Helms 1990 oil on panel “Bone Yard”; a selection of 13 works on paper including watercolors and prints by Alexander Phimister Proctor; and William Morris’s 1992 “Lace Urn,” a blown glass vessel in a metal stand. A selection of these works will be rotated into the exhibition What’s New at TAM? Recent Gifts to the Collection and will be on view through September 18.  
Tacoma Art Museum, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $12-$14, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Riding Ned Hayes’s Coattails to Fame and Fortune

South Sound Arts - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 9:32am

Yes, that’s right. Herewith I set off on my quest to ride Ned Hayes’s coattails to fame and fortune.
Ned Hayes is a writer in Olympia, Washington, where I also hang my hat. His latest novel, The Eagle Tree, is fast gaining international praise. Here’s this from a recent article in our hometown newspaper: “The book — Hayes’ first for a major publisher, Little A — will be officially released July 5, but the electronic version is already available on Amazon, where it was the top-selling young adult book in April and May, selling 75,000 copies.The book has been praised by author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie, autistic spokeswoman Temple Grandin and science journalist Steve Silberman, author of the New York Times bestselling book NeuroTribes, a history of autism and a look at what people who think differently have contributed to the world.”
Ned and I have become good friends over the past few years. He even included a character in The Eagle Tree named Alec Clayton. How cool is that! So I figure if he’s going to become a famous author, then I’m going to milk our friendship for all it’s worth, beginning with posting these reviews he wrote of the books of my “Freedom Trilogy”:
The Backside of Nowhere"Backside of Nowhere" is a fascinating book for Alec Clayton, that court jester and storyteller of the deep South, who now hails from my hometown of Olympia, Washington.

It is fascinating, because instead of sticking to the "straight" family dramas that fill many of his other books like Return to Freedom and Reunion at the Wetside, Clayton adds the perspective of David Lawrence, and erstwhile film star who is back in the bayou country for a season. His experience outside of Mississippi is a telling contrast, and also an aspirational world that many strive for there.

David's life and family history in the country is the backdrop for a story of family ties that strain to breaking, small town corruption, racial tensions that are (pretty overtly) expressed, and a variety of clever observations about the culture and families of the Mississippi bayou country. In the end, I felt like I'd spent a season myself in that humid territory.

The story itself reminds me of a classic "This American Life" episode, where another movie star -- a real one -- comes to a small town and interesting things happen. The small town where this actor went in real life is nowhere near as interesting as Clayton's imaginary one, but the stories seem complementary. Here's a link to the This American Life episode #173: Three Kinds of Deception.\
Return to Freedom"Return to Freedom" -- Clayton's new novel -- is a welcome return to the dramatic, stifling and at times destructive world of small town of Freedom, Mississippi first seen in his book "Backside of Nowhere."

Clayton adroitly portrays the inner thoughts of central characters Bitsey and Malcolm, and I especially liked his treatment of the poor yet wise middle-aged mother Bitsey. It's not easy for a male author to pull off a female character with this level of insight, and I credit Clayton's long marriage for giving him some of this insight.

The treatment of Malcolm is equally satisfying, although I found the way Justin (their son) dies to be less dramatic than it should have been: in fact, I almost missed the death, and had to go back to find it. In the end, this death reverberates in interesting ways through the novel, and only the initial moment threw me.

Clayton's treatment of Sonny Staples and Beulah Booker Taylor is a little less satisfying for me, especially since Beulah's orientation and her struggle with it is obvious to the reader far before Beulah herself owns up.

However, Clayton wraps up the complicated threads of the various stories with a sure hand. Clayton has mastered the task of getting inside his characters' heads: "Return to Freedom" could use a bit more plot momentum, and structural editing to hone the tale to a tighter storyline, but overall it is a very satisfying read.
Visual LibertiesA sweeping family drama and contemporary parable of art, love and meaning from America's own bard of the Gulf Coast, Alec Clayton.

Grounded in Clayton's familiar world of Freedom, Mississippi, Clayton's latest novel sparkles with finely observed insight, sharp wit and complicated relationships.

Clayton has a gift for writing funny scenes, interesting quirky characters and realistic dialogue. I enjoyed this book quite a bit.

Highly recommended!
Thanks, Ned. And dear readers: Do yourself a favor and dig into Ned Hayes’s three outstanding novels, The Eagle TreeSinful Folk, and Cour de-Alene Waters.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Life is Complicated

South Sound Arts - Fri, 06/03/2016 - 10:41am
Olympia Little Theatre presents a staged reading of Life is Complicated, a new play by local playwright Kendra Leeanne Malm.
“Chelsea Walsh is a single professional woman in her forties. Egged on by her free-spirited best friend, she starts a relationship with a much younger man who works down the hall from her. Then her mother shows up and reveals something about Chelsea's past that she would rather have kept hidden.  This revelation shocks her new boyfriend, fascinates her best friend, causes conflict in her family, and makes Chelsea re-evaluate her life so far.”
June 9-12, Thursday through Saturday at 7:55 p.m. and Sunday at 1:55 p.m. There will be a talkback with the playwright and cast after the Friday night performance on June 10.
Tickets are $7, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., Olympia, 360.786.9484, or online at Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia 
Note: Time permitting (considering it runs four days only), I will try to review it for this blog.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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South Sound Arts - Thu, 06/02/2016 - 3:55pm
The Wiz at Tacoma Musical PlayhousePublished in the Weekly Volcano, June 2, 2016
from left: Charles Simmons as Scarecrow, Jimmy Shields as Tinman, Alexandria Henderson as Dorothy, and Matt De La Cruz as Lion. Photo by Kat Dollarhide, courtesy Tacoma Musical PlayhouseThe Wiz hit Broadway like “Soul Train” on steroids in 1975, winning seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It was followed-up three years later by a popular film version starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. To ask any community theater to follow that is a tall order. Tacoma Musical Playhouse gives it a good try with an elaborate production that hits a few high notes but does not consistently reach the high-energy level the show demands.What does meet high marks is the work of the technical crew and designers: sets by Bruce Haasl, lighting by John Chenault, and a whole lot of fabulous costumes by Jocelyne Fowler — from costumed Munkins on rolling chairs hidden by flared skirts to the costumed ensemble as a field of poppies and the yellow brick road and green-clad citizens of the Emerald City. Having dancing actors as part of the set was ingenious. It originated with the Broadway show. Director Jon Douglas Rake said when he first saw the national tour he was fascinated by the Yellow Brick Road being played by dancers and the Tornado becoming a dance number as well.  TMP added crows to the Scarecrow number, which was not in the original show.The magnificent giant wizard-head puppet build by Haasl was wonderfully designed and effectively lit. Congrats all around to the tech crew.The Wiz was written for an African-American cast by William F. Brown (Book) and Charlie Smalls (music and lyrics). It is an urbanized retelling of Frank Baum’s classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. TMP’s cast is not wholly African-American but mostly people of color. It’s good to see such a racially diverse cast.The show gets off to a rather slow start and doesn’t pick up until the first time they do the oft-repeated theme song “Ease on Down the Road.” Dorothy (Alexandra Henderson) has a beautiful voice, but she doesn’t begin to show her range until this song, which rocks the house ― as it should.The true stars of the show are Charles Simmons as Scarecrow, Jimmy Shields as Tinman, Matt De La Cruz as Lion, and Jamelia Payne as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. Shields, who is also co-choreographer with Rake, is one of the best singers in the show and has a helluva repertoire of expressive dance moves. Simmons also shows off some mean moves, and Payne’s earth-shaking guttural and gospel-tinged singing on “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News” is one of the musical highlights of the show, along with Henderson’s final song, “Home,” nicely done as a front-of-the-curtain solo, a lovely change-of-pace ending for a show made up of large production numbers.One thing different that I have to point out is that a major character was played by an understudy the night I attended. Marion Read usually plays Aunt Em, but was unable to perform that night, and her part was played by Lanita Hudson, who did a great job of filling in. Hudson is in the ensemble and was also a standout performer in a number of other scenes.Despite overall excellent technical work, there were some uncomfortably long scene changes and, at one point, disturbing backstage noise during a scene change. Hopefully these problems will be worked out for future performances. Overall, it is an entertaining show.
The Wiz, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday,  2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday, , through Dec. 20, $22-$31, Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-565-6867,
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South Sound Arts - Thu, 06/02/2016 - 3:51pm

11th Annual Student Art Exhibition at SPSCCPublished in the Weekly Volcano, June 2, 2016 “When the Oceans Used to Sing” mixed media by Tanner Jenkins, courtesy South Puget Sound Community Collge.I almost missed seeing the 11thAnnual Student Art Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College. It has only another week to run. If I were cynical enough, and I admit that I often am, I could say, “What’s the big deal? It’s only a student show.” There’s some truth in that, too. It is not museum-quality art, but there is art in this show that is definitely worth seeing. It’s good to see student work because student art provides a good barometer to what young people are thinking, and therefore what kinds of art you might expect to see in galleries in the next few years. Or, perhaps it just shows the influences of popular culture and of certain highly influential professors. Joe Batt, for instance. Batt teaches ceramics at SPSCC. His work is quirky, humorous, provocative, and wonderfully inventive, and I see a lot of Batt influence in the many ceramic pieces that are in this show. They’re on sculpture stands throughout the gallery, mostly small ceramic sculptures of comical-looking animals and human-animal hybrid creatures. For example, a pair of deliciously inventive ceramic creatures by Rider Drutz. One is a creature that looks a little bit like a water buffalo with a head that is a bleached white skull with big horns. It is riding — like a bucking bronco — a creature that looks like a hybrid alligator-turtle. Next to this is another ceramic creature by the same artist that looks like a headless woman on her back with an infant in her arms. Her head seems to have melded into an old rotting log. Stylistically these pieces are put together with rough little slabs of clay that remind me a lot of some of Willem de Kooning’s sculpture. If these pieces could be done large, they would be powerful.There is also a project that some 28 ceramics students worked on together called “Woodard Bay Bat Commute Installation.” Some 3,000 bats of many different species roost together at an old railway trestle at Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area. The students made ceramic sculptures of many of the bats, and they are displayed on a stand in a corner and up the wall and across the length of the longest wall in the gallery, both on the wall and hanging from the ceiling. It is quite impressive — not so much in the individual pieces, which are naturalistic but not particularly outstanding, but in the cumulative effect of the whole swarm rhythmically flying across the gallery.Another inventive ceramic piece that I particularly enjoyed was Sarah Farley’s “Summertime Shoe,” a blue ceramic sneaker that becomes a tiny doll house with a window and little pieces of doll furniture inside. This one is joyful. Not at all joyful is Suzanne Petrie’s “Woman’s Wall,” a tiny wall of white clay bricks that appears to have been bombed, and lying on the ground behind the wall is a woman in a fetal position who appears to be dead (and who also happens to have a head like a lizard). It is a deathly scene of desolation.There are not many paintings in the show. One of my favorites is “Chiclets in Hand” by Emily Bullock. This one depicts a hand extended palm-out and holding a handful of multi-colored Chiclets. It is impressive for its heavily applied impasto paint and its glowing colors.Also very interesting are two pieces by Tanner Jenkins (“When the Ocean Used to Sing”) and Minji Jang (“The Pumpkin Carriage”). I thought they were by the same person because of their similarities. Each is made of digital images cut into strips and woven together — something I’ve seen whole classes do as a class project, which I imagine is what was going on with these. The precision and intricacy of geometric patterns combined with more lyrical organic shapes in beautifully subtle color combinations make these works stand out.Tanner Jenkins’ “When the Ocean Used to Singwas chosen for the Gallery Committee’s Award, and Marsha Pluff’s “Canoe Journey” was selected by student representatives from the Diversity and Equity Center Student Peers Award.South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. through June 10, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia, 360.596.5527.]

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

NW Art Now at Tacoma Art Museum

South Sound Arts - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 8:39am

Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 27, 2016NW Art Now at Tacoma Art Museum is a big, colorful, and cutting-edge“Orca Pod,” oil on canvas, by Karen Hackenberg, courtesy of the artistexhibition of new and recent works by 24 regional artists. Included are 47 works in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, craft-based work, as well as conceptual, performance, installation, and digital projects. One of the more cutting-edge and/or conceptual aspects to the show is that a number of pieces are displayed outside the galleries, some in places where you might not even see them unless you diligently search them out. For instance, Dylan Neuwirth’s “Just Be Your Selfie,” a neon installation that hung over Pioneer Square in Seattle, now hangs high over the entrance canopy at TAM; and Lou Watson’s “Section of the I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano” is an audio and visual projection of a musical score based on the frequency and colors of cars passing by as filmed from the museum, displayed on the wall where visitors enter from the garage.  Much of the show deals with issues of identity, social justice and the environment, and there are hard-hitting feminist and racial statements and works that explore media or combinations of media in innovative ways. The conceptual pieces are exactly what the name “conceptual” implies: art that may be more interesting to think about than to look at. And there are works that meld concept with image in beautiful and thought-provoking ways. Among these are two video projections by C. Davida Ingram, Seattle performance artist and winner of the 2014 Stranger Genius Award. Projected in alternating sequences are “The Deeps: Go Away from My Window” and “Procession” (a video installation with drone footage of four black women in hooded white gowns at the historical King Street station in Seattle). These, especially “Procession,” are among the more haunting videos I have ever seen."M is for Mak'Lak, W is for White" authentic NDN design, oil on linen by Ka'ila Faqrrell-Smith, courtesy of the artist.Ka’ ila Farrell-Smith has paintings in the show that combine Native American traditions with abstract-expressionist paint application. In a statement on her website at, she writes, “I search for my visual language: violent, beautiful, and complicated marks that express my contemporary Indigenous identity.” Hard-edge precision,layering, scratching and splattering are interwoven in shallow spatial movement in her paintings “M is for Mak’Lak, W is for White” and “Noo’a Eqksil’ini.”  Juventino Aranda’s three paintings in oil stick on wool mimic patterns of woven Native American blankets with floating bars of color reminiscent of Mark Rothko, which are homages to and, at the same time, lampoons of each. The texture and edge quality of the oil stick on wool is stunningly beautiful. There is an impressive number of Tacoma artists in the show including Oliver Doriss, Christopher Paul Jordan, Jeremy Mangan, Asia Tail, Jamie Marie Waelchli, and John Sutton of SuttonBeresCuller, who was born in Tacoma and today lives in Seattle. Doriss’s “Alpine Panel Study #1” is cast glass with silver botanical inclusions, a unique and richly textured forest in glass in the shape of Mt. Rainer. Mangan is represented with two hyper-realistic oil paintings of scenes that do not and probably never could exist in nature. “Even on the Most Still Days” depicts clever smoke writing over water, and “Pacific Northwest Desert Island” pictures a floating island with tall trees, a little lean-to and a campfire. The jewel-like painting of reflections in rippling water is stunningly beautiful.I could go on and on describing the rich variety of art in this show. TAM has done many juried shows of Northwest art. Perhaps my memory of previous shows is not to be trusted, but I’m pretty sure this is the best one yet.
NW Art Now, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Sept. 4, closed Memorial Day, $12-$14, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

A Year with Frog and Toad

South Sound Arts - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 2:49pm
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 19, 2016Kate Ayers as Toad, Harrison Fry as Frog. Photo by David NowitzOlympia Family Theater’s A Year with Frog and Toad is so joyous that watching it should banish all thoughts of election season politicking. For more than an hour all worries about war and poverty and climate change should go away.It is the show Olympia Family Theater opened its first season with, and has become the company’s every-five-year anniversary show. This year marks the 10thseason for this most enjoyable children’s theater.Based on the books by Arnold Lobel and directed by Jen Ryle, Frog and Toadis a celebration of friendship, following a year in the life of these best of friends. Kate Ayers is Toad. Toad is neurotic, often fearful and excitable. Harrison Fry is Frog. Frog is as different from Toad as different can be. He is calm and caring, a voice of reason, and he will do anything for his friend Toad.Ayers and Fry are wonderfully matched. As Ayers has proven in so many performances — Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Lyle the Crocodile; Busytown; The Monster Under the Bed; and more — she is among the most expressive of actors on South Sound stages, with broad facial expressions and wonderfully exaggerated physical moves. Plus she sings with a clear and lovely voice. Fry, who has been outstanding in everything from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to Prince Rupert in Cinder Edna, is thoroughly loveable as Frog. He is the sweet calm in the storm.Also a pure delight is Ted Ryle as Snail with the mail. Every time he walks across the stage the kids in the audience go wild. So do a lot of the adults. Who remembers Arte Johnson as the dirty old man on “Laugh In”? Every time Ryle carries the mail with his hurried-slow shuffle it is like Arte Johnson when Ruth Buzzi hits him on the head with her purse. It’s hilarious.The set, props, and special effects are preciously cheesy-cheap. Admittedly “cheesy” and “cheap” are not usually complimentary terms, but in this show they apply purposefully and perfectly. Everyone knows the seeds in the box are going to sprout into flowers, and kids in the audience stand up and crane their necks in anticipation of seeing it. The snowy slope Frog and Toad sled down is nothing up a white sheet draped over some makeshift construction, but what they do with it is magical and ridiculously funny. And then there’s the puppet Large and Terrible Frog, and Toad’s puppet legs — you have to see it to believe it (credit scenic designer Steve Bylsma, scenic engineer David Nowitz, prop artist Rachel Ikehara-Martin, and puppet artist Sarah Lykins).Also playing a huge role in the success of this play is the band: keyboardists Stephanie Claire and David Lane, bassist Matt Fearon, and drummer Theresa McKenzieSullivan.The choreography by Amy Shephard is lot of fun and the costumes by Mishka Navarre are delightful, especially the colorful birds’ dresses, which make the quartet of singing birds look like a psychedelic girl group from 1962. A Year with Frog and Toad is a show for children of all ages; i.e., parents will love it as well. A Year with Frog and Toad,  Fri., 7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m.  through June 5, pay what you can June 20, $13-$19,, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, 360-570-1638

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Bill Colby: The Sixties

South Sound Arts - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 2:43pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 19, 2016 “Tideflats East,” watercolor by Bill Colby, courtesy Matter.Art entrepreneur Lisa Kinoshita, along with birdloft furniture (Jeff Libby and Adrienne Wicks) and rePly Furniture (Steve Lawler), have opened an exciting new shop on Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma. Called Matter: Tacoma made modern, the new shop is a showcase for furniture, woodworking and visual arts. For its inaugural visual arts show, Matter is displaying prints and watercolors by Bill Colby.At 89 years old and an innovative artist who taught printmaking at University of Puget Sound, Colby is a revered elder statesman of the Tacoma art community, whose works are in the permanent collections of major museums.The pieces selected for this exhibition are from the 1960s, shortly after he first came to Tacoma. The work on display, however, is not like the psychedelia and pop art of that decade, but is more like the more sedate work of the Northwest mystics: Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson. There is a quiet, spiritual quality to it, and a sureness and economy of style, plus the muted colors reflect the colors not only of the Northwest mystics, but of the air we breathe. Some of his prints display a bit of what I take to be influences from Coastal Indian art, not in subject matter but in style. This is evident in a piece called “Spring,” a woodcut that has a feel for landscape but is abstracted to the extent that I can’t recognize any intended subject matter. Native American influences can also be seen in “Ceramic Bird,” an artist’s proof drypoint etching of a bird in flight. The bird is more iconic and symbolic than naturalistic, with heavy dark-and-light contrasts and a strong feeling for sweeping movement.  There are two lovely watercolors of Tacoma’s tide flats. “Tacoma Tideflats 1962” is the most naturalistic picture in the exhibition. There is marvelously rich blue water with dark, yellowish hills on the horizon and a gray sky that feels stormy and ominous without overly obvious storm clouds — Colby underplays dramatic effects. This painting looks more like a gouache than a watercolordue to its detail and opaqueness.  By way of contrast, the other tide-flats painting, “Tideflats East,” is light and sketchy, a landscape with water, logs and posts in water in the foreground, and houses on the farther shore. It is done with a delightful economy of brushstrokes and appears spontaneous, as if dashed off in a matter of minutes.  One of the more intriguing pieces is a silkscreen print called “Television Trance.” Done in broad dots and strokes of dull brown and ochre, it is an almost Pollock-like overall composition of quick marks that barely meld together into an interior scene with three figures watching television, apparently mesmerized by the screen.This is a small show. The paintings and prints are neither large nor showy, but they are masterfully done. The furniture and woodworking by birdloft furniture and Steve Lawler are also nice to look at. Much of it would make a fine addition to any home.

Bill Colby: The Sixties, Matter, Monday-Friday 11:30-5:30, Thursday- Saturday and by appointment, through June 11, for appointment call Lisa Kinoshita 253.961.5220, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.879.3701.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Review: “The Language Archive”

South Sound Arts - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 10:06am

Published in The News Tribune, May 13, 2016
from left: Pat Sibley as Alta, Aaron Lamb as George, and Russ Holm as Resten
Alyssa Ky as Emma and Aaron Lamb as George
Russ Holm as Resten and Pat Sibley as Altaall photos courtesy Harlequin Productions
“The Language Archive.” It’s a title that conjures up dusty old libraries and esoteric and pedantic discussions between intellectuals. It is also a little-known but wonderfully quirky play now running at Harlequin Productions in Olympia. Be it ever so odd and intelligent, it is not just a play for intellectuals. It is a play that is easily understood and that can touch the hearts of all. It begins as a comedy that – especially when Russ Holm as Resten and Pat Sibley as Alta first appear – is insanely funny. But it does not remain solely comedic. It becomes a sweet and touching love story that looks at all sides of love and language and the barriers that prevent human beings from speaking from their hearts.George (Aaron Lamb) is a linguist who knows many languages but has no words to speak to his wife, Mary (Caitlin McCown) when she says she is leaving him. The implication from Mary is that he has never been good at speaking to her. She’s not very good at communicating with him either. The best she can do is to leave strange notes to him in strange places. He calls her notes bad poetry.George can say “I love you” in Esperanto, but he doesn’t know how to say it in English, at least not to anyone he actually cares about. Mary does not know how to speak from her heart either, nor does George’s assistant, Emma (Alyssa Kay). As it turns out, the only people who are able to communicate are Resten and Alta, the last two people in the world who can speak a dying (fictional) language. They can also speak in English, but only in anger, as they do in a great absurdist comical scene, because to them English is the language of anger.Balancing somewhere between lyrical romance, fantasy and farce, “The Language Archive” does not attempt to portray reality. Actors step out of scenes to speak directly to the audience (the first time George does this, Mary says, “You know I can hear you, don’t you?”) and characters and scenes roll in on a revolving stage in a way that lends to the entire production the feel of a silent movie. Except, of course, it’s not silent; it is filled with words.The five-person cast is splendid. Lamb plays George as a bumbling man with many uncomfortable tics who can wax eloquently when speaking of his love of languages but who is tongue-tied when trying to speak to Mary and Emma. A veteran of many challenging roles at Harlequin and elsewhere, including leading roles in To Kill a Mockinbird, Jekyll and Hyde and The Mating Dance of the Werewolf, Lamb displays skill at bringing a wide range of characters to life, as he skillfully does once again in this production.Holm and Sibley play outsized characters with comical voices and gestures worthy of a Marx Brother or a member of Monty Python, not just as the very loveable Resten and Alta, but also as a baker and Zamenhof, a famous linguist who is actually dead (both played by Holm) and as a language instructor and a train conductor (Sibley). The set by Jeannie Beirne is ingenious. The stage is absolutely bare except for a screen at the back wall. Furniture, appliances, and other set pieces come in and out on a revolving stage and lovely little watercolors of libraries, kitchens, train stations and other settings are projected against the back wall to simulate various settings. Looking something like New Yorker illustrations, these distinctive scenes were painted by Beirne.There are also unlisted stagehands and probably dressers who are not listed in the program but who do a monumentally heroic job backstage swapping out large set pieces and helping bring about quick costume changes, and doing it all in utter silence. These are the people who are seldom acknowledged but who are responsible for the magic and wonder of live theater. In this show they work with stage manager Michelle Himlie and assistant stage manager Laurie Hubbs. WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday,  2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m., through May 28WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia TICKETS: $20-$34 INFORMATION: 360-786-0151;

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Seven Was to Get There

South Sound Arts - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 4:42pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 12, 2016Clockwise from left: Robert McConckey, Brian Jansen, Gabriel McClelland, Scott Douglas, Brian Hatcher and Heather Christopher. 
Playwright Bryan Willis’s riveting play Seven Ways to Get There premiered a year ago this month at ACT Theatre in Seattle and is now being performed by Theater Artists Olympia. It was good in Seattle, and it’s even better, perhaps — more intense and more engaging in the intimate performance space at the Midnight Sun. Co-written by Dwayne J. Clark, the play is based on Clark’s experience some 17 years earlier when he took part in men’s therapy group. Michelle, played by Heather R. Christopher, is a therapist facilitating, for the first time in her career, an all-male group therapy session. Not surprisingly, some of the men question her ability to run an all-male group and complain that they can’t open up with a woman present. The men are a mass of neuroses. Throughout the play the group teeters on the edge of total chaos.Anthony (Christian Carvajal) has severe anger issues. He attends the sessions under court order and constantly lashes out at and belittles the other men in the group, especially Richard (Robert McConkey, who is addicted to pornography and has urinary issues and is an infuriating sticker for following the rules most of the others ignore. Mel (Brian Hatcher) can never make up his mind about anything. His “decider is broken.” Seated next to Mel in most sessions, Peter (Scott Douglas) is severely shut down, but when he finally does speak it is a flood of self-loathing.Mark (Gabriel McClelland) is an artist who is just beginning to gain success. His self-esteem is in the toilet thanks to a wife who scorns him and whom he is suspects is having an affair with her “ugly” rock-climbing instructor.Vince (Brian Wayne Jansen) is a likeable enough fellow who claims to have had sex with more than 2,000 women but never really cares about any of them, usually feels empty after sex and can’t even remember the women’s names.And finally, a late-comer to the group, Nick (Michael Christopher) is rich, arrogant, and believes he can buy off anyone, but underneath all his bluster is fear.The writing is superb, probably Willis’s best play yet, and pacing, blocking and interaction of the seven men and one woman is like the smooth running of a complex machine — thanks in large part to excellent direction by Pug Bujeaud.This play is a showcase of ensemble acting at its best. No one actor stands out, and each is in top form. Beginning actors would do well to watch this play multiple times and observe how intensely each and every actor stays in character and totally engaged even when the others are speaking, their personal and often highly personal reactions when other actors are “on camera,” be it hiding within themselves, slouching is disdainful inattention, or listening with hyper attention (and often reacting violently).There is violence, a gunshot, a lot of foul language, and a surprising amount of outlandish humor.
Seven Was to Get There, Thursday-Sunday at 8 p.m., through May 21, The Midnight Sun, 113 N. Columbia St. Tickets: $12-$15, Available at door night of show or online at
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Hatch: Poems/Installation by Jenny Montgomery

South Sound Arts - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 4:26pm

Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 12, 2016Carriage with rocks and rope
Coat with strange medal and medical reports printed on strips of paper.

Salon Refu owner Susan Christian describes the gallery’s current show, Hatch, as an experiment in literary installation. “It began as a chapbook of poems exploring a devastating birth experience and the eventual joys of parenting an uncommonly determined (and exceptionally funny) child. Images from the poems are ‘built out’ into the gallery space, made from materials which  reach back to touch prehistoric ritual traditions surrounding death and the afterlife, as well as incorporating toys from our own culture.”The artist’s seven-year-old son, Heath, was born with severe cerebral palsy. Words from Montgomery’s poems about her son are mixed with words out of Heath’s mouth and things others have said about and to him, along with many artifacts from and about his young life. In some cases the words make up titles for the artifacts presented as sculptures and wall reliefs. The pieces are not put together in a coherent or easily understood manner, but rather in a kind of hodge-podge that forces the viewer to puzzle out the meanings.  It is not an easy installation to suss out, but it is an installation that can be emotionally moving and intellectually stimulating.Symbols of birth and death abound, often in the form of eggs or of swaddling or bandaging. There is a giant inflatable egg swaddled in gauze, and there is a little toy horse and rider bandaged head-to-toe like a mummy, with medical reports typed out in tiny letters and adhered to the bandages.Examples of random words and items:●     The child's grandfather's childhood coat combined with shredded lab reports and "a strange medal.”●     Printed large on the wall: "Hug Goofy," "Know your carnivores," and "Is that the wrong word?"  .  ●     A small bunny doll sits in a bed of pills in a Tibetan singing bowl. A label explains that the pills are anti-cholinergic medicines.  The title card includes a   warning (in all-caps): “For God's sake do not eat, very dangerous and has no enjoyable side effects."●     A baby carriage filled with large stones and a rope extending to and visually through the ceiling represents life, death, and the umbilical cord.  ●     Another label explains that viewers are invited to play with an installation of toys and medical supplies titled "What is so atrocious it gives rise to laughter?"
Montgomery is a poet and a mother, not a visual artist, but this installation displays outstanding aesthetic sensibilities.

Salon Refu, Thursday-Sunday 2-6 p.m., and by appointment. Through May 29, 114 N. Capitol Way, Olympia,
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