Monday, September 27, 2010

Lee + Me

Guess what, one week from this evening — aka October 4 — a singular sensation for you. Playwright Lee Blessing will be here in town, performing his one-man play Chesapeake himself.

Just in case you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Lee yet, he has written more than 30 plays, many of them radically different from one another in terms of style and content, including A Walk in the Woods, Cobb, Two Rooms and Eleemosynary. That’s Lee in the photo, on the left, along with partner Melanie Marnich (whose play Tallgrass Gothic you may remember from JAW a few years ago) and Jim Houghton, AD of Signature Theatre Company.

Lee’s in town kicking of Profile Theatre Project’s new season of all Lee, all the time, which starts previews this Wednesday with Great Falls. The Chesapeake presentation will happen on Reed’s campus, where Lee spent his undergrad years. The event’s a partnership between Reed, Profile and the Wordstock Festival, whose multifarious happenings will already be underway as of this Friday.

Now Chesapeake is not an autobiographical account; it takes serious acting chops to pull it off. So you can bet I’m taking advantage of this chance to hear the author read his own work. Full disclosure, though: I’m not just attending for a lark. I’m conducting the Q&A with Lee following his reading. Not to worry, I’ll be a softball prince and avoid questions such as: Is it weird to be married to someone as gorgeous as Melanie?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mystery author found

Remember I recently asked for help identifying the author of a poem I came across? Well, she’s turned up — in my own neighborhood, in fact. Whereas I had suspected the poem came from a grant proposal I had reviewed last year (whose author has no Internet presence and therefore could not be tracked down without bloodhounds), I was fortunate to have the poet herself recognize her work and contact me.

So. The poem I published here turns out to be an experiment penned by the redoubtable writer, editor and writing coach Suzanne LaGrande. But the piece was not created to express Suzanne qua Suzanne (as we used to say in grad school lit crit), but rather that of a young character in the novel she’s currently working on. Just FYI.

After having published Ms. LaGrande without attribution, I feel the least I can do is plug her upcoming writing critique group, which starts just two weeks from now. Check it out.

And how did I come across that mystery poem in the first place, you ax? I keep telling you, I am so in with the in crowd.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn on the astral plane

Top secret meeting last night in RACC’s conference room, where I was beguiled by the photography on exhibit there. David Emmite’s revisionist portraits of woodland creatures are wryly amusing -- the coyote, for example, baying at the night sky with the aid of a megaphone, or the raccoon on the prowl with the help of an ingeniously constructed nightlight.

The artist’s website is a funhouse of high-concept drolleries. One of my favorite is below. Warning: you can easily lose one or two evenings poring over the animations alone.

USS Concept from David Emmite on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to norbal.

Tonight TBA:10 comes to an end, and I get my life back. Sort of. Because now it's three weeks to Wordstock!

It's been an awesome Time-Based Art Festival, though, with many more palpable hits than misses, and I'm already looking forward to TBA:11. Meanwhile, here's a little something to send everybody off with a little primitive time-based art from le ancien regime.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

TBA10 comes to frothy climax

PICA’s internationally well-regarded Time-Based Art Festival comes to a crescendo this weekend, so even while the madness continues, I want to share what I’ve seen thus far. My posts about TBA:10 have all been posted on the Urban Honking site, so here for your convenience (I GIVE and I GIVE and…) are the links:

Rufus Wainwright and friends

The Wooster Group

Gare St. Lazare Players

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, by Mike Daisey

Most importantly, tonight is your last chance to see national treasure Nature Theater of Oklahoma performing its madcap recap of what people remember about Romeo and Juliet. And yes, you guessed it, the photo at right is from this performance. That should give you an idea.

Upcoming fast, at 2:30 TODAY, is an exploratory discourse/performance with Mike Daisey, who will talk about his mammoth new work in progress, All the Hours in the Day, which will ultimately be a 24-hour monologue. This scares me more for Mike himself than it does for his spectators. But we had coffee at the clean and well-lighted Public Domain on Wednesday, where I heard a lot about this new gesamtkunstwerk, which sounds awesome — literally.

Also, Emily Johnson’s The Thank-You Bar continues today and tomorrow and the buzz about it is deafening. Six more performances but only 40 are admitted to each showing, so plan ahead.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Yeah, it may be a semi-quiet here for awhile, while I'm vacationing over at PICA's 8th Time-Based Art Festival -- TBA:10, to cognoscenti like us.

I'm the Festival's blogging fool this year -- one of many, actually, part of a crack team, as it were, that includes Lisa Radon, Tim DuRoche, Emily Katz, Tall Matt Haynes, Julie Hammond and many more numinous beings. But all our posts appear at Urban Honking -- how convenient! But Blogorrhea's first-ever guest blogger is in store for next week, just to keep things prolix.

And just in case someone's already plastered over my first piece for TBA:10, you can read my response to Rufus Wainwright's kick-off event last night at the Schnitz, featuring Thomas Lauderdale, Storm Large and Janis Kelly, right here.

Other top picks for TBA:10: Gare St Lazare Players; The Wooster Group; Nature Theater of Oklahoma; Emily Johnson, if you can even still get a ticket; and Mike Daisey's new piece, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, opened last night and is already rumored to be the Festival's absolute must-see.

By the way, this photo is from a new Charles Atlas piece, “Institute for Turbulence Research (V2),” a 3-channel video installation, video mirror unit, transparent screen, & 6 minute loop. Which I also can't wait to see. FYI.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I could go on and on....

Why do Portlandians refer to Portland as Portlandia? Damned if I know, but I’ve always loved it that our sardonic affection for the soggy city has come up with this moniker — comparable, perhaps, to San Franciscans invariably referring to their home as The City, or even the more ubiquitous SoCal sobriquet of Ellay.

And now you know there’s this new TV series about to air, Portlandia, which may do for Stumptown what The Drew Carey Show did for Cleveland. Whatever that was. Or was it Cincinnati?

That’s another post. I’m just showing up now to note that there’s been an awesome amount of boundary-busting theatrical activity here lately, and there’s about to be a lot more. I hope you caught Chris Harder’s superb solo piece Fishing for My Father recently, where Chris portrayed a kind of po-mo scary clown (of the machismo sort, not the Krusty variety) and turned it into a meditation on what it means to be male and, ultimately, human.

Just as palpably and inexplicably touching is the current production of Will Eno’s Oh, the Humanity, which has one more weekend over at The Church. As deftly navigated by Our Shoes Are Red/The Performance Lab, this is a sweetly tart collection of short Eno pieces that proves what we already knew: he’s the bastard love child of Samuel Beckett and Jon Stewart. Definitely catch this show.

Actually, autumn’s shaping up pretty fabulously. Theatre Vertigo graces us with Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone starting October 15, plus Third Rail opens soon (well, October 8) with Chris Chibnall’s Kiss Me Like You Mean It.

And ever since I found out Portland Playhouse was going to produce Kirsten Newbom’s astonishing play Telethon -- directed by Rose Riordan, no less -- I’ve been itching for it to get here, but we have to wait till October 7 for that hilarious and disturbing sucker punch. But hey, Hand2Mouth’s Uncanny Valley is about to open at Reed, and is likely to be one of the fall’s most exuberant offerings.

That’s saying something, considering that PICA’s internationally lauded festival TBA:10 opens this Thursday. As always, it opens with a bang; Rufus Wainwright headlines an evening of crooning at the Shnitz that is rumored to includes pieces from his opera, Prima Donna. And which will feature some beloved local figures, including Carlos Kalamar, Thomas Lauderdale and Storm Large.

EFF why eye, I’m one of TBA’s blogging fools this year, so visit Urban Honking daily to see how the opening went, as well as all what’s funny, scary and other provocative for those 10 crazy days and nights.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Poem for a perfect autumn day

For make no mistake about it, it is indeed autumn here in the somnolent Pacific Northwest. And in accordance with the usual signs -- the softer slant of light, the scents of the earth cooling down, the return of morning mists -- I came across this poem in a notebook. It has no attribution and I cannot find its author via Web dowsing or through any other source. If you recognize the writer's work, will you please let me know?

I post this in particular for the participants of last spring's Delve course on August Wilson, for whom this poem will remind them of Joe Turner's Come and Gone and especially of Gem of the Ocean.


Some persons are possessed
With the power to tell
Perfect strangers
what is most evident in the air
They pull the past
like rays of light
Into the present

There are people who see the hidden things
Below the earth's surface:
Veins of metals
bones of the dead
subterranean waters
rise up to
greet their feet
their hands vibrate
in the pulsing shapes
of the earth's underground arteries

Light impressed upon an object
Retains its influence for centuries
Radiant forces proceeding from the dark
Form pictures

Why not waves of sound?
In perpetual existence
a panorama
Passing into unending symphony?

The great picture gallery of eternity
Mountains elevated, degraded lakes formed, drained, life
flourishes Passes away
New constellations reveal secrets
We have never been able to discover

Why not read the history of the planets
In the heavenly bodies beneath our feet?

The faintest whisper
Of every generation carried
In unyielding

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guilty pleasures and other recent manias

Sorry there hasn't been time for coffee lately. Or blogging or generally gadding about. I've been ... reading. Yes, that's right. One of my favorite things about working with Wordstock -- the literary and book fest that starts in just 36 days -- is that I get to indulge my mania for reading to the max and still feel like I’m working. Here are just a very few of the books I’ve recently read as “research” for October, when I meet their authors in person.

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost, by Lan Samantha Chang. This somber, affecting novel by the director of the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop starts like it’s going to be a scathing satire of grad school writing programs, and then goes on to span decades in the lives of several poets to show what they sacrifice and what they gain back from their lives as scribblers. Wonderful.

The Big Burn, by Timothy Egan. Ordinarily I’m not a big nonfiction guy, but this book -- about the nation's largest forest fire, which burned more than three million acres in 1910 and has affected conservation policy to this day -- had me spellbound in the introduction, well before it gets to its actual subject. Suffice it to say that Mr. Egan can write.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender. Don’t be put off by the title. This book’s intriguing premise -- about a girl who discovers she can taste the feelings cooked into food by their emotive preparers -- beguiles you with humor and then takes you to disturbing places.

Chronic City, by Jonathan Lethem. This is my first foray into the notoriously genre-busting work of Mr. Lethem, and let me tell you, it’s heady stuff. Clearly the heir apparent to territories blazed by Thomas Pynchon, this novel envisions a dystopian Manhattan so deliriously colorful that I want to move there this minute.

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, by Maile Meloy. Awesome. Majestic. The sheer austerity of this writer’s prose provides a series of canvases you get to project yourself into. Many of these stories are haunting in their spare portraits of people on the horns or moral dilemmas. You want to judge them, then realize that would be an act of self-criticism. I now want to read every word this writer’s ever written. Oh, and Portland connection: how endearing is it that she’s Colin’s big sister?

More to come. Moremoremore.