Thursday, March 23, 2017

Local Author Spotlight: Sam Snoek-Brown and Alec Clayton

This is what we’re going to might do

Sam is going to read something he has written, possibly from his novel, Hagridden and possibly from one of his chapbooks. I heard him read at Creative Colloquy and was impressed. I read Hagridden and one of his short stories and was even more impressed. That’s all I can say about Sam for now.
As for me, I’m going to do something different and read from my latest novel. Isn’t that what writers usually do, you might ask. Well yeah, but not me. I usually adapt a scene as if for the stage and get actors to read it. But this time I’m going to read from Tupelo myself, because Tupelo is my most autobiographical novel. It is the story of Kevin Lumpkin, the youngest by six minutes of a set of twins in Tupelo, Mississippi, told in the first person. From birth to about the age of twelve, Kevin is me. It is my story. But after that it is all a lie.

I plan on reading two scenes that take place during the transition period from autobiographical fiction to totally made up story, when the boys and girls in Tupelo are entering puberty and beginning to notice each other.

This book event takes place at the Lacey Library, 500 College St. SE, Lacey, WA, April 20, 5:30-7 p.m. I hope you can attend. We will have books to sign (and sell, of course), and there will be a question-and-answer period after the readings. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Susan Christian's Sticks - again

Once again Susan Christian is showing her painted stick constructions at her own gallery, Salon Refu. The paintings are assemblages of various kinds of sticks, mostly lathe, which she puts together in rectangular shapes and paints as if they were stretched canvases. 

Read my review on

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Syra Beth Puett, a life in theater


Syra Beth Puett, a life in theater
Syra Beth Puett’s
ONE WEEKEND ONLY – March 17th, 18th & 19th

L-R: Boolie (Robert Geller), Daisy (Syra Beth Puett) and Hoke (Malcolm J. West), photo by Jason Ganwich

The Lakewood Playhouse is proud to present the World Premier of Syra Beth Puett’s One Woman Show about her life both inside, and outside, of theatre – “MY HUSBAND LIKED BEVERLY BETTER.”  This Special Premier Presentation is also serving as a Fundraiser for Scholarships at our Lakewood Institute of Theatre.  Tickets for this Special Event, and Fundraiser, are Only $10.00 Each.

This beautiful story will be performed on Friday & Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm.  Performances will be March 17th through March 19th ONLY.   All Tickets are Only $10.00 Each.

Syra Beth Puett in The Lion in Winter, with Kat Christensen. Photo by Dean Lapin.

Syra Beth Puett in On Golden Pond with Clark Maffit. Photo by Dean Lapin.

Please Join Us for an evening, or an afternoon, for a special one woman show featuring stories and insights from Syra Beth Puett about her life both inside, and outside, of the theatre.

Although the show chronicles her experiences in Community Theater, it also reveals reasons she became involved in theater. She will introduce people and situations that informed the performer that she became.

Through these insights, you may just discover that she is not the actor, or person, that you thought she was.

This Special Presentation will also feature the return of Director Doug Kerr.  Mr. Kerr has an amazing history with theatre in the South Sound as a Educator, Managing Artistic Director, Mentor and Director for over forty years serving such organizations as Pierce College, Tacoma Actor’s Guild, Tacoma Little Theatre and the Lakewood Playhouse.

ABOUT OUR THEATRE: The Lakewood Playhouse was founded in 1938 and has established itself with theatre that is both intimate and epic.  The theatre is located within the Lakewood Towne Center, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, Washington 98499.  For further information about “Syra Beth Puett’s MY HUSBAND LIKE BEVERLY BETTER” please contact the Box Office at the Lakewood Playhouse (253) 588-0042 or make any e-mail queries to John Munn, Managing Artistic Director, at

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lacey Reuter’s “Harlem Renaissance” paintings
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 23, 2017
Harlem Renaissance,” oil on canvas by Lacey Reuter, courtesy American Art Company
Tacoma artist Lacey Reuter was only 17 years old when she created the “Harlem Renaissance” paintings now on display at American Art Company, says gallery director Tammy Radford. It’s an impressive body of work for anybody, especially a 17-year-old. There are five large paintings, each measuring 5-foot, 5-inches by 5-foot, and one mural-size painting at 6-by-11 feet that dominates one wall of the gallery.
On the downside, as representative of the Harlem Renaissance, a major force in America’s cultural history, they are little more than a kind of scrapbook with pictures of a lot of the famous artists and writers and musicians who lived and worked in Harlem at the time, and the faces are not even recognizable but are identified by name, which seems childish to this reviewer.
On the upside, these are vibrant, energetic and engaging paintings. Reuter’s drawing style is unhesitating. She combines flat areas and modeled areas and line in ways that provide an intriguing balance of variety and unity. They are colorful and exciting, a visual representation of the jazz music that was the music of the time and place — much like what Mondrian did in a more subdued and abstract manner with his “Broadway Boogie Woogie.”
Compositionally they dance right up to the edge of chaos. Faces and objects easily get lost in the clutter. The only unifying elements are the color schemes (a predominance of blues in the smaller works and of tan in the large painting), meandering lines that move throughout in most of the paintings, and in the smaller works a circular arrangement of faces and other images.
The Harlem Renaissance was an explosion of music, literature and visual art centered in Harlem, New York City, in the years between the world wars. Each of Reuter’s paintings celebrates one aspect of the Renaissance: art, music, writing, and theater; and the large, mural-sized painting combines them all.
The “Harlem Art” depicts artists Sargent Johnson, Palmer Hayden, William H. Johnson and others with their names handwritten by their pictures and quotes from some of them such as from Hayden: “I decided to paint to support my love of art rather than have my art support me.”
“Harlem Music” celebrates Fletcher Henderson, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and others; “Harlem Theater” pictures Ethel Waters, Bojangles Robinson and Eubie Blake; “Harlem Writers” memorializes Booker T. Washington, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston. It also pictures book spines with titles and quotes from works by some of the writers.
The largest painting and by far the most impressive combines all the elements of the others. Dark brown and black figures flow across the bottom half of the canvas in a circular swoop while lighter, multi-colored concentric circles in the background solidify what would otherwise be chaos. The thin paint application and many transparencies are enjoyable to contemplate because of their subtlety and complexity, as are a series of almost invisible light tan faces that meld into the background. This is a sophisticated painting.
Finding all the figures and words can be entertaining, but it is the exuberance of these paintings that make them worth seeing.
Harlem Renaissance, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Feb. 28, American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327,

Friday, February 24, 2017

Doubt at Lakewood Playhouse

Kait Mahoney as Sister James and Blake R. York as Father Flynn, photo by Tim Johnson.
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 23, 2017
John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, A Parable has earned the rare honor of taking home the trifecta of awards: the Tony, the Academy Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Chances are you’ve seen the film starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, but if you have not seen it live on stage — or even if you have — you should see Lakewood Playhouse’s stirring production.
For starters, Shanley’s script is as tightly written and as full of intelligent insights and surprises as anything you’re likely to see on stage, and Erin Manza Chanfrau’s set design is outstanding. It is comfortable and attractive with three scenes set at an angle to make for easy viewing from any seat in the house, where there is seating on three sides. No set changes are required, so there is no distraction and no waiting between scenes. There is the high alter in a Catholic church, the principal’s office in the school next door to the church, and the garden bench between the two. On the back wall are painted stained glass windows. The height of the altar lends majesty when Father Brendan Flynn (Blake R. York) ascends it to preach, which is how the play opens.
With quiet dignity, the priest ascends the altar and preaches a homily about doubt, saying it is all right to not know, that everyone must wrestle with doubt. Thus, he announces the theme that asserts itself throughout the play.
The school principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Connie Murray), suspects Father Flynn of inappropriate behavior with a student who is talked about but who never appears in the play. He is the first and only black student in the newly integrated school. She questions Sister James (Kait Mahoney), a young and innocent teacher, about the relationship between the priest and the boy. Sister James believes in Father Flynn. The boy’s mother (Diane Johnson in a single but powerful and surprising scene) comes to school at the invitation of Sister Aloysius, who is now more convinced than ever that Father Flynn is carrying on relations with the boy. Anything more said about the confrontation between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Muller would be a spoiler.
Finally, Sister Aloysius confronts Father Flynn, which he, of course, denies.
York underplays the role of Father Flynn. He portrays him in a manner that invites the audience to like and trust him — as gentle, kind and self-assured, but with a tightly controlled underlying tension. From the beginning one wants to believe in him.
Murray plays Sister Aloysius as cold and calculating, and so convinced she is right about her suspicions that it makes the audience suspect she is out to get Father Flynn, regardless of where or not he is guilty.
The doubt stated in the title and in the priest’s opening sermon turns out to be about the moral character of each of the people in the story. Is there is a power struggle going on between the priest and the principal? Is his loving demeanor a mask?  No clear answers are given; the audience is left to puzzle it out for themselves, as the central mystery is not only Father Flynn’s guilt or innocence, but the motives and morality of each character in the play, not just Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius, but to a lesser degree Sister James and Mrs. Muller.
Each of the four actors does an outstanding job of realistically portraying the unique personalities of these four divergent characters.
Doubt was originally written to be performed not as a one-act but as a full-length play. It is my understanding that it is often broken into two acts, but Lakewood Playhouse’s managing artistic director John Munn said he and director Victoria Webb decided to run it as originally written, for which I applaud them. Breaking up the action for an intermission would have been damaging to the dramatic thrust. I was thoroughly engaged from the moment York walked on stage and ascended the alter, and I think an intermission would have taken the audience out of the action and lessened the dramatic impact.
The play runs about an hour and a half. It is intense, emotionally demanding, and intellectually challenging. There is nothing light and playful about Doubt. It is heavy drama of the most intense sort, and beautifully produced.
Doubt, 8 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 12, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $15, 253.588.0042,

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Me and Pat Conroy

I never read anything by Pat Conroy until a reviewer compared one of my books to his. Linda Linguvic, an reviewer from New York City wrote in her review of The Backside of Nowhere:  Frankly, I loved this book and actually found it better than Pat Conroy's latest, South of Broad because the characters seemed more real and not just stereotypes. Alec Clayton hit the mark perfectly, held my interest throughout and even surprised me at the end. Bravo!”

After reading that, I naturally I had to see what Conroy was all about. I’ve since read Prince of Tides, Beach Music and South of Broad, and I see the similarities. Same kind of quirky humor, same love-hate of the South. And we both go into detail about the family histories of our characters. Now I fear readers will think I’m copying him.

Ned Hayes, author of the best-selling The Eagle Tree, wrote in his review of my latest: “Tupelo is a haunting and personal tale, reminiscent of the best of Pat Conroy.”

I hesitate to say anymore because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but as a self-published author with no money for promotion, I have to brag when I can. Here’s the thing I am exceedingly proud of: I think my “Freedom Trilogy” and Tupelo are in many ways better than anything Conroy has written, mainly because he over writes, and because his narrators are always too easily identifiable as Conroy himself and he/his narrators come across as both prideful and humble, but the pride is overarching and off-putting.

I hope you will read his books and mine and compare them for yourself. You might think I’m right, but maybe not.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Contemporary portraits from the Smithsonian


The Outwin 2016 American Portrait competition winners
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 9, 2017
“Alison Bechdel,” charcoal, mixed media and 3-D collage on paper, by Riva Lehrer, collection of the Sandy Hindin Stone, © Riva Hehrer, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum
“Alison Bechdel,” charcoal, mixed media and 3-D collage on paper, by Riva Lehrer, collection of the Sandy Hindin Stone, © Riva Hehrer, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum
The development of photography in the early 19th century almost killed portrait painting as a fine art and forced artists to find new ways of making art. Prior to the advent of photography, the purpose of portraiture was to memorialize or honor the subject of the portrait. The subject (the person pictured) was more important that the object (the painting — composition, color, technique, elicited emotional response and so forth). To my way of thinking, that change made artists become better artists, and it made traditional portrait painting become an almost obsolete art form.
The 43 portraits in the traveling exhibition, The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery offer answers to the question of how portraiture can still be a significant contemporary art form. For starters, the exhibition includes photographs as well as paintings, sculpture and video. Curator Dorothy Moss said modern iterations of this competitive portrait exhibition have often included abstract and conceptual art, but this year’s show is much more traditional.
At first glance, my impression was that the show was dominated by portraits from the tradition that began with Manet and went through Pop Art and photo-realist portraiture as exemplified by works by Chuck Close, Alex Katz and Andy Warhol — isolated figures facing forward with flat backgrounds, no context. One of the two galleries given over to the show is almost exclusively this type of portraiture, including the first, second and third place winners (in order: Amy Sherald’s acrylic painting “Miss Everything (unsuppressed Deliverance)”, Cynthia Henebry’s digital photograph “Mavis in the Back Seat)” and Joel Daniel Phillips’ charcoal and graphite drawing “Eugene #4).”
"Miss Everything,(Unsuppressed Deliverance)" oil on canvas by Any Sherald, collection of Frances and Buton Reifler © Amy Sherald, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum
Works in the second gallery somewhat belied that impression because that gallery contains more variety in style and media and more works depicting subjects in environments, including the People’s Choice winner, Adrian “Viajero” Roman’s charcoal-on-wood portrait of Constancia Col√≥nde Clemente. This may be the only time I have ever agreed with a people’s choice selection. This portrait is of an elderly Cuban woman. It is drawn on a box measuring 48-by-48-by 49 inches and hung high from the ceiling, drawn on all four sides with no bottom. Viewers can walk under it, look up, and see mementoes from the woman’s life attached to the inside of the box. It is skillfully executed and may be the most inventive and honest portrait in the show.
Also outstanding is Sherald’s first-place winner. It is a portrait of a young Black woman wearing a black and white dress, solid black on one side with white piping and white polka dots on the other side. She daintily holds an oversized coffee cup and wears a jaunty red hat. Her face and arms are painted with smooth shading, while her dress and the coffee cup are flat in a style reminiscent of Alec Katz portraits. I also see reminders or influences from Kehinde Wiley and Roy Litchenstein. The composition is subtle and exquisite.
Another portrait that absolutely blew me away is Riva Lehrer’s portrait of the cartoonist Alison Bechdel (famous for the comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” and one of the few portraits of famous people in the show, another being Brenda Ziamany’s portrait of David Hockney). Lehrer’s portrait in charcoal, mixed-media and collage creates an alluring sense of mystery due to strong light and dark contrast, a cast shadow and blue lines that play in a provocative way with illusory space.
Most the portraits in this show are skillfully done and realistic in a modernist tradition. There is a lot of identity art with depictions of the poor and marginalized, ethnic and racial minorities, a gay couple and a transgender teenage girl wearing a dress for the very first time.

Tacoma Art Museum, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through May 14, $15, third Thursday free 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,