Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tacoma youth present "Little Women"

Read Michael Dresdners review of Little Women at Tacoma Youth Theatre.


TACOMA, WA – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced last week that Tacoma Art Museum is one of 886 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. A total of 30 NEA Art Works grants were awarded in Washington State, and only two of those in Tacoma (Tacoma Art Museum and Broadway Center for the Performing Arts). The $20,000 grant recommended for Tacoma Art Museum will support the exhibition of the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art, including public programming, symposia, and the collection publication.

Tacoma Art Museum announced the gift of the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art in July, 2012. The museum will receive 295 paintings and sculptures by masters such as Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, John Mix Stanley, and Georgia O’Keeffe, along with works by contemporary living artists such as John Nieto and Bill Schenck.

"The NEA is pleased to announce that Tacoma Art Museum is recommended for an NEA Art Works grant,” said NEA Acting Chairman Shigekawa. “These NEA-supported projects will not only have a positive impact on local economies, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our communities to become more vibrant, and support our nation's artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape."

The new Haub Family Galleries and first exhibition of the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art at Tacoma Art Museum will open to the public on Sunday, November 16, 2014.

“We are so pleased that our work with the Haub Family Collection has been recommended for this grant. We will invest the grant funds in creating new experiences around the art of the American West. We are grateful to the NEA for recognizing the level of excellence in Tacoma Art Museum’s programming and supporting us in offering more to the community,” says Laura Fry, Haub Curator of Western American Art.

Grants are awarded to projects that meet Art Works’ mission of supporting the creation of art that meets the highest standards, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancing the livability of communities through the arts. More than 1,500 eligible grant applications were received in the Art Works category. Among those, only 886 have been recommended for grants totaling $25.8 million.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, visit the NEA website at


HOURS – Wednesdays–Sundays 10 am–5 pm, Third Thursdays 10 am–8 pm
ADMISSION – Adult $10, Student/Military/Senior (65+) $8, Family $25 (2 adults and up to 4 children under 18). Children 5 and under free. Third Thursdays free from 5-8 pm. Members always free.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Odd Couple at Lakewood Playhouse


Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple is probably best known from the 1968 movie starring Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau and the 1970s TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. I mention this because of a conversation I had with the director, Steve Tarry, in the Lakewood Playhouse lobby opening night. He said that if you watch the old movie or TV series you would see that neither Oscar (played at Lakewood Playhouse by Christopher Cantrell) nor Felix (Jim Rogers) were very likeable. They were, in fact, quite irritating. But despite having all the same quirks and saying the same words, Felix and Oscar are both likeable in this version. It’s all in the way Cantrell and Rogers portray the characters.
In spite of their constant bickering, these two men care deeply for one another. That is clear through the show, and it is shown through tone of voice and gesture as Felix and Oscar scream invective at one another—a triumph of these actors’ ability to bring out the humanity in otherwise difficult characters.
To a lesser degree, the entire ensemble cast brings out the humanity in each of the supporting characters, each of whom is, on the surface, as neurotic and irritating as Felix and Oscar. Murray (Jed Slaughter) is a cop who is slow on the uptake but actual much more observant and intelligent than he seems. Speed (Gabriel McClelland) is a chain smoking, angry man who doesn’t put up with anything, except he’s really willing to forgive and forget. Vinnie (Martin Goldsmith) is a nervous wreck who obsessively brings up the same things over and over and over, and Roy (Joseph Grant) is also rather obsessive. He can’t stand smoke yet he is always seated next to chain-smoking Speed at their weekly poker games. The beauty of these characters is that each is a unique individual; they all clash with one another yet they all truly care for each other. And that comes across strong due to the ability of the actors.
The other two ensemble characters are as similar to each other as the men are different from each other. They are the Pigeon sisters, Cecily (Kadi Burt) and Gwendolyn (Palmer Scheutzow).  They are silly, constantly giggling women. I would say they are clich├ęd characters who could have been left out of the script or written with more depth of character but they provide one of the funniest scenes in the play.
Oscar is a slob who drinks excessively and lives in the most unkempt eight-room apartment in Manhattan. He’s been divorced for years. Felix’s wife, Frances, has just asked for a divorce and kicked him out. Despondent, Oscar takes him in as a roommate. Felix is a neat freak with a litany of irritating habits. Living together, they become the oddest of couples. Thus the title.
The set consists of a lot of furniture and a huge amount of props that are true to the time, 1965 and to the kinds of things Oscar would have in his apartment — record album covers from Sinatra and other pop favorites and sports magazines (Oscar is a sports writer).
Finally, I would like to add a nod to the director, stage manager Sarah Ross and company for the way they handle set changes. Set changes, especially for theaters that don’t have massive budgets, are often problematic. Stage hands often have to come out between scenes and move things, which is nearly always a distraction. What this cast and crew does, however, is so inventive that the stagehands were given a great ovation. I don’t think I can remember ever seeing that happen. In this play it happens twice, but the second time it happens so quickly that if you blink you might miss it. Obviously I’m not going to spoil the surprise.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through May 11
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood
TICKETS: $25.00, $22.00 military, $21.00 seniors and $19.00 students/educators
INFORMATION: 253-588-0042,

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Meaning of Wood at SPSCC

The Weekly Volcano, April 17, 2014

"Cedar Iv" painting by Kathy Gore Fuss

Mark Scherer’s “Back Saw”,” Broken Saw”, “Painted Saw”, and “Sharp Saw”
The Meaning of Wood at the gallery at South Puget Sound Community College is one of the best theme shows I have seen in a long time. This spacious gallery in the Kenneth J Minnaert Center features sculptures, paintings and drawings from many artists in a wide range of styles, all commenting on trees, wood products and the ecology of our forest lands, and nearly all of excellent artistic quality. The curators of this show chose wisely.

Well known Olympia artists in the show include Kathy Gore Fuss, Susan Aurand and Jeffree Stewart, plus there are many excellent artists from other areas, most of whom I am not familiar with but hope to see more of. There are many large and impressive works such as Seattle artist Julia Haack’s “Escher’s Rabbit,” brightly colored patterns on oddly shaped wooden panels. Haack’s flat but eccentrically shaped paintings remind me of early work by Frank Stella but her patterns are more decorative, and she uses old wood and matt paint that lend to her work the look of signs painted on the sides of barns and weathered by years of wind and rain. It’s great to see her work in this show.

Gore Fuss’s large painting of a tree seen from a close-up vantage point in a tangle of vines and leaves is a slice of Pacific Northwest forest personified with wonderfully expressive brushstrokes and impasto.

I was particularly impressed with Cheri Kopp’s “Forest of Yesterday,” a sculpture made up of five pyramids of stacked toilet paper tubes on corner pedestals, a paper clip attached to every tube with each set of tubes with its own color scheme — little specks of blue here and yellow there and so forth. Described verbally it may not sound so great, but to see it is a joy.

Karen Hackenberg’s “Deep Dish Ecology” is a circle like a surrealistic merry-go-round of match sticks with burnt tips and little cone-shaped evergreens made of match sticks with green tips and a pile of fallen trees in the middle made of more match sticks. Sadly, however, she slightly dilutes what would otherwise be a powerful image and a powerful message by adding a bunch of tiny toy people and equipment, making a great ecological statement cute.

Suzanne DeCuir’s “Skagit Boneyard” may be the best landscape painting in this show of many landscapes. It is a sparse bit of land with a winding river and scattered logs with thinly brushed-on oil paint applied with what looks like a dry brush and lots of bare canvas showing through.

Stephen Kafer’s “Horizontals 36, 37, 38” comprises three elegant stick-like sculptures that reach ceiling to floor and are simple, streamlined shapes with nuanced variations in textures and changes in shape with salvaged cedar, redwood and lacewood.

Cami Weingrod’s “Multigrain Sampler 1, 2, 3” comprises three stacked prints with what appears to be differently colored circles printed to show tree rings on squares and all three stacked so that the white of the paper between the shapes makes negative forms into positives. The patterning and color choices have a lot in common with Haack’s painting.

Also outstanding is Aurand’s “Home Fires” a house on fire constructed with cut and painted wood panels and other materials. Her soft blending of brilliantly fiery colors and both architectural and curvilinear forms is exciting.

This is a wonderful show well worth a trip to SPSCC from anywhere in the South Sound.

 [South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. and by appointment, through May 2, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia, 360.596.5527.]

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review “Orphan Train”

The News Tribune, April 11, 2014

Hailey Jeffers and Jason Haws in Orphan Train. Photo by David Nowitz and Jill Carter.
The Orphan Train comes rolling into the Washington Center for the Performing Arts with stories of heartbreak and joy in the form of a play by Aurand Harris presented by Olympia Family Theater and ably directed by Kathy Dorgan.

Between 1853 and 1929 approximately 250,000 orphaned children from the streets of New York City were loaded onto box cars and shipped to towns out west to be adopted by pioneers. Some found good homes and some were placed with families that just wanted free labor. Many siblings were separated never to find each other again. Their deeply affecting stories range from overwhelming joy to heartbreak, and everything in between. Harris’s play tells ten of these stories in vignettes with a combination of narration and performance by a cast of two dozen actors ranging in age from 7 to 65, many of whom have extensive stage experience and a few of whom have no acting experience but act like seasoned pros.

Mary (Emma Haws, a veteran at age 11) is adopted by the mean spirited Mrs. Herndon (Jennie Jenks) who arbitrarily changes her name to Rebecca and forces her to sleep overnight in a damp root cellar with rodents. It is a heartbreaking story acted with great passion by both Haws and Jenks, which ends with a joyful note as Mary is taken away from Mrs. Hendon and placed with a more caring family.

Maria (Maggie Neatherlin) cares for her infant sister from whom she had promised her dying mother they would never be separated, but she is unable to keep her promise when a mother (Edsonya Charles) who has lost a baby adopts the little sister but will not take her teenage sibling. Maria has to make the decision to let her baby sister go for her own good.

Frank (played with sassy bravado by Annabelle Sampson, a third grader at Hansen Elementary now in her fifth play with OFT) is the toughest kid on the train. He’s adopted by a couple who needs a tough boy to work on their hardscrabble farm. The only trouble is, Frank is really a girl pretending to be a boy to survive on the streets, and she is just as sweet as her male persona is tough. What happens when her adoptive parents find out is very touching, and Sampson’s ability to convincingly become such different characters is laudable.

Lucky (Nick Hayes) is another tough, streetwise kid, a knife-wielding pickpocket whose own instinct toward self-preservation turns out to be his worst failing. Nick has performed in “Oklahoma!” at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and is known locally for his performance as Tiny Tim at Capital Playhouse. His sister Kate, also a young veteran from the Capital Playhouse stage, plays Pegeen, a kind Irish lass. Actually the whole Hayes family including parents Jill and Ned Hayes are actors in this production.

These stories and others touch the audience’s hearts. The stories are all true, and they present a dramatic picture of a little-known part of American history. As presented they are realistic and never maudlin. All are played out in front of a backdrop consisting of two screens with outstanding line drawings, one of rolling hill and a train track with a small town in the distance and the other of a train station. Onto these screens are projected both still and moving vintage images with portraits of the actors in period costumes cleverly superimposed on these scenes.
The splendid scenes and projections are the work of Jill Carter. Costumes by Mishka Navarre contribute to the authenticity of the stories.

Among the more outstanding actors in this show are Jason Haws in a number of roles, including a drunk, a priest and a cowboy; and Keith Eisner as a farmer and an unnamed old man. Running a mere 65 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, “Orphan Train” is an excellent show. I would recommend that teachers encourage their students to see it. It would be great if they could bring entire classes and build class projects on a study of the true history of the trains.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m., through April 20, extra Saturday shows at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. April 19
WHERE: Olympia Family Theater at the Washington Center Stage II, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia,  
TICKETS: $10-$16,
INFORMATION: 360.753.8585

Friday, April 11, 2014

Look! See? at Museum of Glass

The Weekly Volcano, April 10, 2014

Installation shots of Look! See? - photos by Duncan Price
The exhibition at Museum of Glass by Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert is a colorful and interactive show of glass sculptures combined with about 50 large, refurbished neon letters that visitors can rearrange to their hearts’ content.

The show fills two of the larger galleries in the museum. It’s like an interactive children’s museum lifted from its site and set down the in the galleries. The day I was there, a large group of children of all age, plus a few adults, were moving the oversized letters around to write their names or make poems or other messages on the floors and the walls.

The letters are brightly colored and stand approximately three to four feet tall. They hang on straps from hooks on the wall or can stand up on the floor or can be worn draped on bodies like necklaces. I saw them being used in all of those ways simultaneously. There were a lot of kids in the gallery that day, and they were having a wonderful time of it.

The show is called Look! See? and there’s a reason for both the exclamation point and the question mark in the title — though I don’t need to spell it out, it should be self-evident when you visit the show.

“Abstract artworks are often considered less accessible than figurative or narrative work, but with Look! See? the artists create a hands-on opportunity to engage with conceptual ideas,” notes curator David Francis.

The conceptual ideas of which he speaks have to do with the relationships between poetry and visual art and between the work of art and the viewer, neither of which is complete without the other. My guess is that many of the visitors “get it” with consciously conceptualizing it.

In addition to the interactive letters, there are galleries filled with big, colorful balls and discs and cylinders, some of which are stacked in glass cases and some of which hang on the wall surrounded by blinking marquee-style lights. On one wall there groups of the letter O and circles, some surrounded by the flashing marquee lights. Is there a conceptual puzzle here having to do with the relationship between a circle, the letter O and the numeral zero?

One long wall is completely filled with big balls in bright primary colors, and there are cases filled with similar balls, all remindful of ball pits that kids play in.

One of my favorite pieces was one called “Signal” with balls and flashing lights and other sculptural forms and neon letters spelling out the word “Always” backwards, readable only in a mirror that is part of the piece. In other works here are standing, round-top cylinders with silly faces like colorful little robots.
This is a fun show but one that I think can be appreciated more as something for kids than as serious art to be contemplated by adults. If I had young children I would love to take them, but I would not be likely to go back to see it without kids in tow.

Through Jan. 18. 1801 Dock Street, Tacoma
Wednesday - Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 12pm - 5pm
(866) 468-7386