Thursday, August 25, 2016

Elise Richman’s Spectral

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 25, 2016
“Spectral,” mixed-media installation, photo courtesy Matter
Elise Richman’s unique installation, “Spectral,” may be difficult for many to grasp, but should be worth the effort to really look and contemplate deeply.
Call it a wall hanging, a painting or assemblage with plastics, this piece explores properties of light and color and was inspired, according to a statement from the gallery, by the phenomenon of shimmering color seen in a butterfly’s wing.
The term “spectral” means of or like a ghost, a phantom, incorporeal, insubstantial, otherworldly. A secondary definition is of or relating to a spectrum, which is what you get when sunlight passes through a prism to produce light of many colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Richman’s “Spectral,” is all of that, but not in a spectacular, light-show kind of way. There are color changes that some viewers may find hard to see, and there is a visual investigation of the nature of absence of color.
It can be seen as a single work of art with multiple parts or perhaps as two similar but contrasting works hung side-by-side. On the left are four flat panes of plastic in alternating colors: blue, yellow, blue, yellow. Dull colors, but with intensely colored edges. The blue edges are dark, and the yellow ones are like lemon-colored light. Matching in color are a group of rods that stand out from the wall above these sheets, and suspended from these rods are clear plastic sheets in the shape of tall, multi-faceted tents or umbrellas that are colorless but act as prisms. On the right, a similar arrangement consists of three tall, rectangular sheets of light blue plastic sheets with dark blue edges with more clear, tent-like prisms suspended in front of them.
The installation needs to be studied slowly and from many points of view. Don’t approach it expecting something like a kaleidoscope and you might enjoy the subtly shifting and shimmering colors.
Richman co-programs the Art+Sci Lecture Series at Tacoma Art Museum. She was a finalist for the 2015 Neddy Award, recipient of the 2014 Davis Teaching Award, and of the 2014 Foundation of Art Award from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.
Richman explains: “The interplay between material form, environmental conditions and visual perception inform ‘Spectral.’ Repetition and transformation infuse the process of creating ‘Spectral’s’ shimmering three-D forms from rectangular sheets of plastic. Multiple incised lines transform flat Dura Lar into dimensional angles.
“While these transparent forms have no inherent color they capture and are activated by light and color in the surrounding environment. Ever-shifting reflections express a state of constant interaction as in the shifting glow of a blue morpho’s delicate wing. Our own capacity for optical perception, as well as the interaction between matter and surrounding environments are integral to the manifestation of structural colors.”
Also showing with Richman are The Bold and the Black, abstract sumi ink paintings by Selinda Sheridan, and original ceramics by Melissa Balch.


Spectral by Elise Richman, noon to 6 p.m., by chance and by appointment through Oct. 1, Saturdays Thursday- Saturday and by appointment; for appointment call Lisa Kinoshita 253.961.5220, Matter, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.879.3701. mattertacoma.com

Six Characters in Search of an Author


Blurring the line between fiction and reality
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 25, 2016
Steve Gallion as the Father and Kathryn Grace Philbrook as the Director, photos courtesy New Muses Theatre

New Muses Theatre Company is among a handful of lesser-known companies that produces excellent theater for mostly sparse audiences. By my count, here were only 10 people in the audience opening night of Luigi Pirandello’s absurdist play Six Characters in Search of an Audience. The actors outnumbered the audience by one.
That small audience witnessed an intelligent, challenging, well-written and well-acted play.
It is a play that calls into question the relationships between fiction and reality, between actors and the characters they play, and between characters and the author. In New Muses’ interpretation, it starts before it starts with a bit of pre-curtain play between two actors (Vivian Bettoni and Eric Cuestas-Thompson) playing a couple of unnamed actors running lines before rehearsal. They stand off to the side and speak softly as the audience enters. Most of the audience can’t hear them and perceptibly pay no attention. It is almost as if the audience is an unwilling part of the play. I was sitting close to the two actors and could hear that their dialogue was about the age-old question of the chicken and the egg. The play they are preparing to rehearse is Mixing It Up, also by Pirandello. I thought this pre-play bit was inventive but slightly confusing, and that it was too long. But it segued nicely into the actual play, which starts out even more confusing but soon begins to make sense. And it did make me wonder if others who seemed to be entering as audience members might also be actors.
Amina Ali and Steve Gallion
Just as the director (Kathryn Grace Philbrook) gets ready to start the rehearsal, a strange family invades the theater. The director tells them it’s a closed rehearsal and they have to leave, but they refuse. The father (Steve Gallion) says they are looking for an author. They are unfinished characters in an unfinished play, and they have to find the author in order to complete themselves. At first, the director is outraged, but as the father and his stepdaughter (Amina Ali) began to tell their story, the director becomes intrigued and decides to produce their story as a play with the highly skeptical actors playing the parts of these real characters. So the director and the family argue over their story and how to present it, and the family — most adamantly father and the stepdaughter, who laughs outrageously in the actors’ faces, —thinking the actors are doing a terrible job of portraying them.
The family’s story is that the father had sent his wife (Becky Cain-Kellogg) and their son (Karter Duff) away, and she later had three more children by another man: two younger children (11-year-old Corey Cross and 7-year-old Keiralee Monta), and the now grown stepdaughter, whom the father tried to seduce, ostensibly not knowing who she was.
It is a wild and imaginative play filled with absurdist arguments about what is real and what is play acting and about the relationships between actors, the characters they play, and authors, without whom the characters cannot exist. It is presented in the round with no set decoration and no set pieces other than a table and a few chairs.
Niclas Olson, founder and managing artistic director of New Muses, adapted Pirandello’s play and does a fine job of directing it. The three lead characters, Gallion, Philbrook and Ali, are outstanding, making unbelievable characters totally believable. Ali is brash and seductive, and has a marvelous laugh. Philbrook plays the director as a most complex character, arrogant and sure of herself, which turns out to be a cover-up for self-doubt. She beautifully and convincingly portrays the director’s astonishment at the audacity to these interlopers at her rehearsal. And by-the-way, the director was a man in the original. Gallion plays the father as a kind of bumbling but sincere man who lurches around the stage in a manner that brings to mind Peter Falk as Columbo. I’ve seen Gallion in only one other play, New Muses’ Romeo and Juliet; I hope to see much more of him.
Six Characters in Search of an Author is presented in one act and runs approximately 90 minutes.
Six Characters in Search of an Author, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m., Sunday through Aug. 28, $10, Dukesbay Theater, Merlino Arts Center, 508 S. Sixth Ave., Tacoma.www.NewMuses.com. 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Urban Sketchers at Handforth Gallery


Candid shots of T-town in pen, ink and watercolor
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Autg. 11, 2016
“Theater District Downtown Tacoma,” masthead sketch for Urban Sketchers Tacoma website by Mark Ryan
The Urban Sketchers exhibition at Handforth Gallery in the downtown Tacoma Public Library is delightfully lightweight.The walls are filled with quick sketches in pencil, pen and ink, watercolor and other media of mostly local scenes familiar to many Tacomans—some by well-known local artists and some by artists known only to friends and family.
Urban Sketchers is a nationwide movement for artists who love to draw the area where they live, work, or visit. Their works are executed while looking out a window at home, from a cafe, standing by a street-corner, or other convenient location.
The local group, Tacoma Urban Sketchers, typically meets at a designated spot in the morning and then disperses to sketch until noon. During the summer, there is an afternoon sketching session. There are sketch outings on the first Saturday of each month and on the third Wednesday year around. 
Works from this group currently on display in the library are like candid photos of local people and places, only they’re not photos; they are artworks typically done in a loose, free and quick manner. 
“Neck Brace Guy,” a pencil sketch by Helen Phillips  pictures a man wearing a neck brace seated in an airplane as seen from the side and back. I can imagine he never suspected he was being drawn. The style looks a lot like a lithograph, which is interesting because it lends to the picture a gritty texture not usually seen in pencil drawings.
“The Breakfast Club,” pen and wash by R.J. Lane, is one of the few pieces in the show not of a Tacoma-area scene. It is a sketch of patrons in Carla’s Country Kitchen in Morro Bay, Calif. The great casually rendered expressions on their faces are fun to contemplate.
A watercolor called “Blanket Stories” by Kate Buike pictures the great sculpture by the same name that is on permanent display against the front wall of the Tacoma Art Museum. It is cropped and pictured from an intriguing angle with the dome of Union Station seen in the background.
“Fort Nisqually Southwest Corner” by Ken Fulton is one of a few almost pure line drawings in the show, with strong dark and light contrasts in the rare shaded areas.
A similar drawing, but less sketchy and more nicely controlled is Frances Buckmaster’s ink drawing “Breakwater Marina, Point Defiant.”
There are three excellent line drawings by Paul Morris: “Union Station,” “Thea Foss Waterway” and “Downtown Library Alley View.”
A couple of other works of note are K.D. Keckler’s “Swiss House Gathering,” another scene of diners, and Roy Steiner’s “Abandoned Van Lierop Farm,” depicting an abandoned barn painted blue with tall grasses and a leafless tree in front of it. This is the only picture in the show that has no line-drawing element. The media was not listing on the wall label, but it looks like gouache.

Find out more about the local Urban Sketchers at http://urbansketcherstacoma.blogspot.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/UrbanSketchersTacoma/
Handforth Gallery at Tacoma Public Library, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays-Saturday, through Sept. 6, 1102 Tacoma Ave. S, Tacoma

StoryOly final slam and Grand Slam


Published in the Weekly Volcano Aug. 11, 2016
On the 16th of August, South Sound storytellers will entertain a sure-to-be packed house at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia for the last of this year’s StoryOly story slams before the 12 top storytellers of the year meet in the Grand Slam on Sept. 17.
Every month on the third Tuesday approximately 10 storytellers show off their skills and vie for first place in the raucous storytelling event. I’ve attended all but a few of the events this year and can attest that they truly are raucous, and the crowd responses are fabulous. The majority of the stories are funny; many are risqué; a few are sad, scary or touching — such as the wonderfully sweet story Keith Eisner told in July about the birth of his now 40-year-old son. Eisner is a professional writer, actor and director. Many of the storytellers are professional writers or entertainers, as are co-founders Elizabeth Lord and Amy Shephard, but even more are amateurs who mount the stage and tell their personal stories for the first time, usually in the face of great fear. And they are usually great.
Elizabeth Lord. Photos courtesy Story Oly
Community members come together every month to share, compete and tell true stories based on a monthly theme. Past themes have included “I Got What I Deserved,” “Family,” and “Revenge.” People who want to tell a story put their names in a hat, and 10 names are drawn at random. Each storyteller is allowed eight minutes. The stories must be true and personal, no rants, speeches or religious testimony, and no reading from notes or scripts. After each story volunteer judges from the audience hold up cards with scores from one to 10. The judges tend to be kind; I’ve never seen a score lower than five.
The winner from each month gets to compete in the Grand Slam in September. Winners are: Devin Felix (Nov.), Jim Foley (Dec.), Sam Miller (Jan.), a three-way tie between Billie Mazzei, Maggie Lott and Christian Carvajal, (Feb.), Lori Nesmith (March), Rey White (April), Matthew Trenda (May), Anders Hornblat (June), Eisner in July, and a final winner to be determined this month. Eisner will be out of town the weekend of the Grand Slam and unable to participate.
Shepard is an actor and choreographer well known for her work at Harlequin Productions, most recently in Little Shop of Horrors as both choreographer and one of the singing and dancing Doo-Wops. “It's been incredible to see how StoryOly events have blossomed since we started last November,” Shephard says. “Elizabeth and I are so grateful for the attendance and participation of our community. With each show we get to hear stories from many different voices, perspectives and backgrounds. If that weren't wonderful enough, there is the fact that when a patron buys a ticket, they know that not only will they see an amazing show but that half of their ticket price is going directly to Olympia SafePlace. So when you come to a story slam you not only support us, you support victims of sexual and domestic violence through wonderful organizations like SafePlace.”
Lord, a professional storyteller and member of the Heartsparkle Players, is also founder and host of Lord Franzannian's Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show. Lord says, “I love StoryOly. I especially love how successful it's been. Full houses most nights. Its success is a confirmation of something I've always known to be true: live, oral storytelling is a powerful medium. Nothing replaces a human telling you a story, right there in front of you. Plus, with StoryOly (Like the Moth Storytelling events) the audience hears true personal stories that resonate with the universal human experience. Oral Storytelling makes the world smaller, more understandable, and of course entertaining.”
Story Oly, every third Tuesday, 5:30-8 p.m., Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way,

Olympia, 360.705.-0760. Grand Slam Sept. 17.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Night on Broadway at Olympia Little Theatre

Olympia Little Theatre presents A Night on Broadway an evening of song and dance with Harry O'Hare and Micheal O'Hara in a special benefit performance for the theater, two performances only, Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. and a Sunday matinee Aug. 28 at 2 p.m.

The couple with the sound-alike last names have been married for a long, long, long time and have been a staple on the Tacoma theater scene for almost that long. I cannot count the times I have had the pleasure of reviewing plays they’ve been in — mostly musicals, but sometimes dramatic plays as well. Sharry was most recently seen at OLT as the mother in Life is Complicated, a dramatic role in which she played the heavy. Other memorable roles have included that of Patsy Cline’s friend, Louise Seger in Always . . . Patsy Cline at Tacoma Little Theatre and as Lily in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks with her husband, Micheal, also at TLT. Micheal has also performed in countless musicals around the South Sound and has also directed many. When performing together there is undeniable chemistry between the O’Hare-O’Haras.

But I will let Sharry tell about themselves:

We have been singing together for 25 years, totally separate from the theatre roles we perform.  When we first married in 1990, we loved the idea about the similar names and how we could capitalize on using them for a show:  SHARRY O'HARE . . .MICHEAL O'HARA.  But we had such totally different styles, Micheal a trained singer who read music and I was post-vaudeville. There was a gig I was supposed to sing at shortly after we married with my then singing partner, Frank Kohel, and something happened that he couldn't make it, so Micheal stepped in and we discovered with him being a tenor and me an alto that made for an interesting combination.

Throughout the years we have performed at a variety of venues, many worthy of story telling.  We rarely turned down an opportunity to perform as we really enjoyed the audience connection on a more personal level.  For the past 5 years or so, we have "donated" ourselves for fund raising auctions at theatres, retirement homes and some private organizations.  Those are great fun because you never know who is going to bid or where you are going to end up performing.

Here is a sampling of some of our "stages" we've done our variety show on:  street fairs, fitness centers, a tugboat holiday party, paper doll conventions, mental facilities, business openings, baptisms and funerals, apple squeezes and ice cream socials, garden soirees, retirement homes, banquets, and in the homes of people who are having a special event. And my all-time favorites, the ubiquitous fraternal clubs to include the Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, Oddfellows, Elks, Eagles, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus and my personal favorite, the Moose Lodges.

For OLT, we are doing our standard 11 songs, and we are adding 6 more new pieces that we are feverishly learning right now. Our accompanist is Debra Leach, who has played for us the past 20 years.  We try to find a nice balance of older standards that everyone knows and then throw in some newer songs from Broadway shows that they might not have heard.  We chat throughout, just like we are in their living rooms and the audience is always a part of our act.  That is the connection I was talking about.  Unlike a character you play, we are in full view of everyone and we can see them and their reactions.  We don't bring people up on stage, but we may include them in general statements or ask if they know what show a song comes from.  The program will probably be an hour and we will bring out our glitzy duds.

For almost every show like this that we have done, we have always been invited to stay after, commune with the folks and that has been what I love--getting to know the people around you and finding new friends.


A Night on Broadway at Olympia Little Theatre 
Saturday, Aug. 27, 7 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m.
1925 Miller Ae., NE, Olympia
(360) 786-9484
Tickets available at http://olympialittletheater.org/ 
$20 for a single ticket / $30 for two!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Preview: 2016-2017 Theatrical Season


Published in The News Tribune
Debbie Sampson and Ryan Holmberg in “Guido in Therapy” from an earlier edition of Improbable Peck of Plays. Photo courtesy Theater Artists Olympia
The theater season is a lot like a wedding: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
To look at what’s in store for South Sound audiences, let’s start with Tacoma Little Theater. TLT’s season includes Steve Martin’s comedy “The Underpants,” a delightfully twisted comedy about a German woman who loses her bloomers during a parade in 1910. For something old that never dies, TLT is doing “Dracula,” adapted by Steven Dietz and directed by pug Bujeaud. Also scheduled is “Exit Laughing,” a Southern Gothic farce about a night of bridge with three women and the ashes of the fourth, the last of whom recently passed away.
Lakewood Playhouse opens with “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penance.” In between these in a season of great diversity will be the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play, “Doubt,” a drama about a priest accused of sexual misconduct by a nun. It was also an Academy Award-winning film with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s 2016-2017 season opens with the wonderfully creepy, and kooky musical “The Addams Family,” based, of course, on the popular television series. In this grown-up and updated version of the wacky show about a family of monsters, daughter Wednesday is now grown up and – heaven forbid – in love with a normal boy. For something old there’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” a holiday musical about the 1904 World’s Fair, and for something blue it’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”
In what is becoming South Sound’s favorite holiday tradition, Centerstage in Federal Way will produce another Panto — this one a twisted retelling of the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Be prepared for cross dressing villains, outrageous audience participation, and jokes that tickle kids on one level and delight adults on quite a different level. http://www.centerstagetheatre.com/
Olympia’s Harlequin Productions will do Tracy Letts’ 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner “August: Osage County.” Sometimes called a black comedy, it is arguably more drama than comedy. Set in a farm house in Oklahoma, it gets into the heart of a family wracked by alcoholism, drug addiction and a myriad other dysfunctions.
Olympia’s popular children’s theater, Olympia Family Theater, will produce an original musical whodunit called “Fishnapped! this season, written by local actors turned playwright Amy Shepard, Andrew Gordon and Daven Tillinghast. This world premiere musical is recommended for all ages and is scheduled for a spring premiere.
Pug Bujeaud from Theater Artists Olympia says the theme of their upcoming season will be “sexy and sensual.” TAO’s season opens in October with their annual “An Improbable Peck of Plays,” a showcase of one-act plays by local playwrights. In December Bujeaud will direct what she calls a “sexy” version of Moliere’s “A Physician in Spite of Himself.” TAO is the South Sound’s riskiest fringe theater. Their productionsare almost always outstanding.
Something borrowed is Olympia Little Theatre’s “Or,” which played not too long ago at Seattle Repertory Theatre and at Olympia’s Harlequin Productions. It is a strange, beautiful, madcap, gender-bending farce based on the life of Aphra Behn, England's first female professional playwright, who also happened to be a spy. For something new (about something old) at OLT, it’s A Lollard in the Wind” by local playwright and actor John Pratt, an original play about Geoffrey Chaucer and his writing of The Canterbury Tales.
Check Alec’s blog at alecclayton.blogspot.com for reviews of other area theatrical productions.
SIDEBAR: Season preview
INFORMATION:
Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St., Tacoma, 253-272-2281,  http://www.tacomalittletheatre.com/
Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, 253-588-0042, www.lakewoodplayhouse.org
Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Avenue Tacoma, 253-565-6867, http://www.tmp.org
Centerstage, 3200 SW Dash Point Rd., Federal Way, 253-661-1444, http://www.centerstagetheatre.com/
Harlequin Productions, 202 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360-706-0151, http://harlequinproductions.org/
Olympia Family Theatre, 612 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360-570-1638, http://olyft.org/
Theater Artists Olympia, Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, 360-292-5179, https://olytheater.com
Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia, 360-786-9484,
http://olympialittletheater.org




FOUND SPACE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS STOP KISS


Tacoma Little Theatre is pleased to welcome Found Space Productions, and their production of STOP KISS, by Diana Son.

A poignant and funny play about the ways, both sudden and slow, that lives can change irrevocably.  After Callie and Sara meet, their fast friendship leads to an unexpected attraction.  Their first kiss provokes a violent attack that transforms their lives.

STOP KISS is directed by Suzy Willhoft after a successful reading at UPS.  It will feature the talents of Emily Cohen, Chevi Chung, Cassie Jo Fastabend, and Nick Spencer.

STOP KISS will run Friday, August 18, 2016 and Saturday, August 19, 2016.  All showing are at 7:30pm.  This show is recommended for ages 13 and older,

Tickets are $10.00 for all seats and may be purchased online at www.tacomalittletheatre.com, or by calling our Box Office at (253) 272-2281.  Group rates are available for 10 or more.