Friday, February 20, 2015

16. Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series: Sherman Alexie

Sixteen down. Thirty nine to go.

If you think you don't like poetry, try listening to Sherman Alexie for an hour. Alexie is our local Superman of verse. As funny as any stand-up comic, he leaps from hilarious comedy to biting commentary in a single line. His topics are as immediate as the Super Bowl and as simple as a visit to the local hardware store, but his poems pack the emotional power of a locomotive.

When I saw him, Alexie was appearing at Town Hall as part of Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series, where hopeful patrons had lined up in the rain for standby tickets at the sold-out performance. That's not unusual, by the way; SAL's Literary Arts Series, which presents some of the top writers of our time, was completely sold out last season.

Founded in 1987, SAL seeks to engage and inspire readers and writers. Their programs are numerous and popular, and they serve a wide audience. SAL also serves over 5,000 students through its Writers in the Schools program, which places local professional writers in public school classrooms. 

"SAL U" educational lectures feature faculty from the University of Washington "and beyond." (I assume the "and beyond" occasionally includes outstanding faculty from towns like Pullman.)

Authors and prominent thinkers discuss their latest work in the SAL Presents series, which also features "other exciting literary surprises." A fun surprise for me was to learn that SAL Presents is bringing the Moth Mainstage radio program to Benaroya Hall in June. The theme is "fish out of water". Our youngest daughter (the English Major) and I already have tickets. Check it out:

Don't ever miss a chance to hear Sherman Alexie. And be sure to bring along that spouse or friend who has no interest in poetry. He will convert them faster than a speeding bullet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

15. Seattle Shakespeare Company: Measure for Measure

Fifteen down. Forty to go.

Measure for Measure is a play about sex - at least that is what award-winning Director Desdemona Chiang tells us (in a bit more graphic terms) in the program notes for the Seattle Shakespeare Company production. Chiang's sure hand is evident throughout this work, which she describes as "Shakespeare's most urban and global play, in a multifaceted civic setting - streets and alleys, brothels, courthouses, prisons, shelters and churches - and in it we recognize our own cities and communities, imperfect as they are."

It is a good sign when you hike through a piercing cold Saturday afternoon rainstorm to find every seat taken and standby patrons in the lobby hoping for a seat. The word was clearly out about this show. After the 2014 season's success, however, it is also clear that the word is out in general about Seattle Shakespeare Company.

In addition to performances at The Center Theater and other Seattle venues, the company offers a wonderful variety of programs that bring classical theater to audiences across the state. They include free outdoor performances in parks throughout the Puget Sound region (known as the "Wooden O" series), regional tours, and programs for educators and students. Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet will be the touring productions for students across Washington this year. These 90-minute performances are fresh and accessible, with small casts playing multiple parts and classroom workshops that accompany the shows.

Tartuffe and Othello are the "indoor productions" scheduled for this spring. Don't wait to get your tickets!

Friday, February 6, 2015

14. Seattle Theater Group: The Moore Theater and Dame Edna's Glorious Goodbye

Fourteen down. Forty one to go. 

The beautiful Moore auditorium echoes with historic performances: Ethel
Barrymore, George M. Cohan, Anna Pavlova, Helen Keller, Najinski, the Marx
Brothers and Sarah Bernhardt, just to name a few.

Dame Edna was a lot of fun, but I was very distracted at the show thinking about my love for another Grande Dame, The Moore Theater, and my appreciation for Seattle Theater Group, the organization that keeps her alive and well and working 108 years after her grand opening.

In 1971 Seattle Opera produced
the first ever staged professional
production of the Who's Tommy at the
 Moore, with Bette Midler in the lead female
 roles. The theater was also the first home of the
 Seattle International Film Festival.

The City was very proud of the Moore when it opened in 1907.  "Henceforth Seattle is to be a metropolis in things theatrical, with a metropolitan theater and metropolitan attractions," said the local paper. Reading the Moore's history, I am struck by the succession of leaders, starting with James Moore himself, who developed the Moore and saved it from the wrecking ball over the past 100 years. STG has the stewardship role today, and takes it very seriously. In 2013 they did a facelift that included replacing all 1800 seats and installing a curtain system that can transform the theater into a 400 seat space appropriate for more intimate productions. Check out historylink's excellent essay on the history of the Moore.

Hair made quite an
impression on a kid
from Burien. Glad I saved
one of the posters we put up
all over town.
In addition to the Moore, STG keeps the historic Paramount and Neptune Theaters healthy and vibrant, presenting an average of 500 events a year in the three venues. Like many others, my affection for the Moore is personal. In the late 60's my parents fretted that the place would make me a hippie. You see, in high school I worked for Northwest Releasing, and had the chance to hang out at the first Seattle production of Hair at the Moore. Before that, as a grade school kid, I was in a locally produced musical there about Seattle's early history, Morning Glory Tree. My brother Scott (who is also graciously acting as editor for this blog) played the male lead and I was a kid named "Puget." In the show we all happily survived the Great Seattle Fire and sang a rousing finale about rebuilding from the ashes. Think "Climb Every Mountain."

Oh, and Dame Edna? She was a perfect example of the fun STG brings to town. Barry Humphries has enjoyed an incredible run with Edna since the mid-1950's when she first appeared as a Melbourne housewife. The audience took great delight as she skewered just about everyone, but particularly a small group in the front row who made the mistake of showing up late (for both the opening and after intermission!). All in all, a great evening of fun and special memories.

Thank you, Seattle Theater Group.

At the end of the show, Dame Edna invited the
audience to take pictures and "tweet away."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

13. The Wing Luke Museum: Imperial Textiles of the Young Family Collection

Thirteen down. Forty two to go. 

The museum's dragon reminded me of
 Bon Odori festival parades in Seattle as a child.
The dancing dragon was always a bit scary. 
After the opening reception for the Imperial Textiles exhibit at The Wing Luke Museum I found myself drawn into the museum's galleries. Before I knew it an hour had passed and they were ushering me out and literally closing the doors behind me. An hour wasn't long enough to take in this wonderful museum.

The Young family, who spoke at the reception, clearly have a deep emotional connection to these works, which were acquired by their parents, Colonel John and Mary Young. The exhibit's centuries-old Qing Dynasty robes are especially exquisite and utterly fascinating.

Founded in1967, The Wing Luke Museum presents dynamic exhibitions and programs featuring everything from stories of early Asian pioneers to works by outstanding Asian Pacific American artists. The museum is also a National Park Service Affiliate and the first Smithsonian affiliate in the Pacific Northwest.

The museum takes particular pride in its community-based programs, one of which is telling the story of Seattle's International-Chinatown neighborhood. Current programs include an excellent Bruce Lee exhibit, exploring how he became one of the most influential people of the 20th Century and how his local experiences shaped his life. The museum also offers several tours that sound like great fun, such as Bruce Lee's Chinatown; an International Dumpling Crawl to local restaurants; and the Official Tour of the Bestselling Novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. They all include museum admission and sound like wonderful weekend outings and great options for out-of-town guests. 

The Imperial Textiles exhibit received support from the
ArtsFund Foundation's Gwendolyn Plestcheeff Fund
 for the Decorative and Design Arts.