Friday, January 23, 2015

12. On the Boards: The Holler Sessions

Twelve down. Forty three to go.

Frank Boyd is someone to watch. After seeing The Holler Sessions, his one-man show at On the Boards, I will certainly be watching his career and looking for another opportunity to see him perform. The show, written by Boyd, is funny, creative, and thought-provoking, depicting a DJ in a dingy Kansas City studio grappling with jazz as an American art form (and reflecting Boyd's own experience as a recent jazz convert.) Boyd himself is an intense, at times explosive, actor who moves well on stage and has no trouble holding the audience. (To learn more about The Holler Sessions and Frank Boyd, read Brendan Kiley's excellent review in The Stranger.

Friends tell me that a single visit just isn't enough to understand and appreciate On the Boards. I suppose the same could be said of most organizations ArtsFund supports, but perhaps it applies doubly here given the diversity of OTB's cutting-edge contemporary performances. Founded by artists in 1978, On the Boards presents innovative contemporary dance, theater and music in its two theaters at the Behnke Center for Contemporary Performance in Seattle's lower Queen Anne neighborhood. On the Boards presents more than 40 shows each year by innovative performance artists from this region and around the world. The organization also focuses on developing Northwest artists and showcasing their work.

My friends are correct: On the Boards needs a second visit at the very least. I am planning to return for one of their "Studio Suppers"at a dance performance later this year, events that feature a pre-show communal dinner at the theater prepared by a local chef. What an innovative idea, like everything else at On the Boards!

At The Holler Sessions the audience was treated to a live jazz
 performance on the set following the show.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

11: Seattle Opera: Tosca

Eleven down. Forty-four to go. 

My opera knowledge is very limited, so on Saturday evening I was fortunate to attend Tosca with our son-in-law Andy and his good friend Stephen. Andy appeared in Seattle Opera's 1993 Tosca production (as an eighth grader) and in 1998 was the Opera's "volunteer of the year" for his work as a score reader, all before he went off to music conservatory in Boston and became good friends with his vocal-music-major classmate Stephen.

Friends who hold season tickets often tell me "opera is everything." Opera is wonderful music, theater, history, comedy, tragedy; magnificent sets, costumes and lighting, even dance. Everything.

Tosca certainly had everything Saturday evening. A beautiful girl, a lecherous villain, murder, treachery, and a famous leap from the parapet. My favorites were Tosca's lovely aria at the end of Act 2, and Greer Grimsley as Scarpia. (The Opera has announced that he will return in The Flying Dutchman next season.)

My companions took my opera education seriously, making sure I understood how lucky we are to have opera of this caliber; how it attracts top talent; why the orchestra is so excellent; and how interesting it will be to see new General Director Aidan Lang's influence in the coming years. They helped me understand the performance from the artist's perspective, pointing out the opening night nerves that could be seen to diminish as the artists began to sing, and the challenge of waiting offstage then entering to immediately sing a difficult passage.

Seattle Opera sends helpful emails to ticket holders before the show, answering questions and explaining opera traditions and etiquette. A good idea, but I worry that it may contribute to the notion that you need some special expertise to enjoy opera. Actually, it is as simple as going to a movie. No tie required. Get a ticket, find your seat, turn off your phone, sit back and enjoy. Opera is everything.   

So what became of my two music conservatory graduates? Andy applied his artistic ability and musical discipline toward a graduate degree in architecture. He is extraordinarily busy with his Ballard-based interior architecture practice Stephen is the executive director of PHAME, a very innovative Portland non-profit that has soared under his leadership. PHAME serves visual and performance artists with developmental disabilities

The searchlights blazed at McCaw Hall Saturday night
for the Tosca Grand Opening

10: Frye Art Museum: Jessika Kenney: Anchor Zero

Ten down. Forty five to go. 

I first saw Jessika Kenney's exhibit Anchor Zero at its opening reception. Less than 24 hours later I was back for a second look. Truth is, I didn't feel I had done it justice the first time, for two reasons: During my initial visit the lively atmosphere of the reception created a bit of  background noise, and this is a participatory work designed to envelope one in sound and silence. The second reason was that, at the reception, I got to hear the artist's delightful welcome explaining her intentions and offering suggestions on how to experience this interactive exhibit. I wanted the opportunity to spend more quiet time at Anchor Zero with the benefit of Jessika's introduction. It was definitely worth a second trip. 

Free to the public, the Frye Art Museum has been open at its home on First Hill since 1952. The museum was established by Charles and Emma Frye; their private collection of art works became the museum's Founding Collection. 

The Frye hosts many exhibits (check out upcoming offerings at and in addition to Anchor Zero is currently presenting the first museum exhibition in the United States of Chinese artist Pan Gongkai. Both of the current exhibits are wonderfully large-scale, with the Gongkai exhibit featuring a site-specific ink painting which extends the entire length of the museum's largest gallery. 

The Frye has collaborative programs with an impressively long list of organizations. The Anchor Zero exhibit is included in the museum's Creative Aging Program. There will be a creative and relaxing afternoon at the exhibit for individuals living with dementia and their care partners as part of the Frye's Arts Engagement for Individuals Living with Dementia.

Two organizations supported by ArtsFund - Artist Trust and the Frye Art Museum - are involved in Anchor Zero, but I am told there are no two-for-one deals to win the bet, so am electing to count this as the Frye visit and attend one of the Artists Trust programs later this year.

ArtsFund: Associates - A Night At the Museum

Associates tour the current Nordic
Heritage Museum exhibit, Imaging the Arctic.
Every year over 100 ArtsFund Associates immerse themselves in behind-the-scenes arts events, hone leadership and fundraising skills, and build long-lasting friendships. Last Thursday evening I had a fun opportunity to make new friends at an Associates team meeting at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard.

 Led by Allison Kramer and Blanche Maxwell, the first order of business was to announce the winning team name: "The Art of Raising in the Rain." The Art is one of ten Associate teams, young professionals who learn about and advocate for local arts groups while raising over $450,000 a year. 

It is early in the current ArtsFund campaign and this was an initial meeting.  Each person talked about their personal connection to the arts that motivates them to volunteer for ArtsFund. They worked on fundraising skills and discussed their goals for the campaign, which of course include raising quite a bit more than the other nine teams!

The team also took a special "after-hours" tour of the Nordic Heritage Museum led by CEO Eric Nelson. The tour featured Imaging the Arctic, an interdisciplinary exhibit that explores the impact of climate change on West Greenland's ecology and culture.

The Art of Raising in the Rain hard at work.
The meeting did include wine,
cheese and the opportunity to sample a little Aquavit.
Imaging the Arctic features the work of three women: marine
mammal biologist Dr. Kristin Laidre, Finnish
photographer Tiina Itkonen, and expeditionary
 artist Maria Coryell-Martin. The photo is the cover of a gorgeous book
 about the exhibit which can be purchased at the museum.