Thursday, August 16, 2018

This Is Me, Debbi, David



A reading with local author Alec Clayton and actress Amanda Kemp.

Amanda Kemp
Amanda Kemp will join me for a reading of my latest novel, This Is Me, Debbi, David at Browsers Book Shop in Olympia, Washington Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. 

Most recently seen in Animal Fire Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale, Amanda is a new local actor. In addition to her second year with Animal Fire's Shakespeare in the Park, she's been working on such projects as voice-over and film work with ICF International, various film works with Malicious Wallydrags and playing Tracey Sprockett, the face of the Olympia Film Society. This will be her very first author reading, and she says she is thrilled to have been chosen (and I am thrilled she accepted my invitation).


This Is Me, Debbi, David is a story narrated by the two main characters, Debbi Mason and David Parker, told in alternating chapters by Debbi and David. Debbi (whose part will be read by Amanda) is a self-declared loudmouth, fun loving, rabble rousing, perverse woman. David (read by the author) says he has always been something of a nebbish little mama’s boy who never took a chance on anything in his entire life. When Debbi breaks up with David and runs off with a man she thinks can provide wealth and security, Debbi and David each embark on adventures that are, in turn, romantic, funny, enlightening and scary—adventures that take them from the French Quarter in New Orleans, to Dallas, and to New York City’s East Village. And into their own hearts.

What the reviewers have to say

“Because of the natural beauty of Alec Clayton’s prose, and the flow of the narrative, it is easy to miss the stunning craft this writer has mastered over nine fine books.” – Ricker Winsor, author of Thinking Out Loud and Tic Tok: Poems

“Clayton has mastered the task of getting inside his characters’ heads.” – Ned Hayes, author of The Eagle Tree.

"Alec Clayton at his best. He presents the reader with two lead protagonists, each with a compelling account of the year after their break-up. Major dramatic questions emerge early on: 1. how will the beautiful and exotic Debbi survive a violent situation and why can't she seem to escape her Texas entrapment; 2. will David be able to follow his bliss amid the bizarre, quirky, sometimes evil, sometimes lovable characters who give him a lift along his journey to New York; and 3. will Debbi and David ever meet up again? Try as you might to anticipate the answers, I predict you will be surprised. Truly a great read. Expertly crafted!" - Morrison Phelps, author of Bluebird Song.

Book discussion and signing to follow the reading. I hope to see you there.


Sunday, August 12, 2018


Architecture, memory and nature
Study of Site and Space at 950 Gallery
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 9, 2018
“The Catacombs,” construction by Rick Araluce, courtesy 950 Gallery
Study of Site and Space at 950 Gallery is the best theme show around. It is a group exhibition featuring 16 Northwest artists that, according to curator and show participant Allison Hyde, “seeks to address the innate human connection to site and space through 2D, 3D and mixed-media art (representing) varying perspectives on the relationship between architecture, memory, and the natural environment.”
Seldom in an exhibition of this type have I seen such variety of media and style with such originality and coherence to a theme, all with a perfect blend of conceptual and aesthetic concerns.
Much of the work has a foreboding and surrealistic feel. Such as in the little mixed-media houses by Rick Araluce that seem to invite the viewer into claustrophobic interior spaces from which they may never escape. His constructed houses are small, approximately one to two feet in height, width and depth. “The Catacombs” is a mausoleum-like black structure with a domed roof and interior rooms that are empty and mysterious. “The Death of Marat” commemorates the death of Jean Paul Marat, who was murdered in his bathtub, a scene famously depicted by the French neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. In Araluce’s version, the body is missing, and the house is empty except for the white tub with rust in the bottom like a pool of blood. It is a haunting image, but perhaps meaningless to those not familiar with Marat’s story or David’s painting. 
Similar little houses appear in the many works from Robert Hutchinson’s ‘Memory House” series, a three-year-long project in cast epoxy, wood, cast concrete and other materials. They are moody, strange and enigmatic. 
Christopher Paul Jordan’s “Twenty First” is the only purely abstract piece in the show and the only one with no comment on the theme — at least none I could see. It is also one of the most powerful pieces. It is a painting with spray paint on inch-thick insulation sheets. The spray paint melts into the insulation to create patterns in bright tones of red and orange on the flat blue surface. It is a marvel of surface texture and color with the impact of a fist. 
Jeremy Mangan is represented with two paintings: one a study for his Freighthouse Square Trestle mural, and the other a surrealistic view of a partially built house with an antique woodburning stove. The stove is ornate and can be seen to be in use even though the house is nothing but a framework with distant mountains and a full moon in a blue sky seen through the walls. Typical of Mangan, the painting is clear and bright with no hand of the artist in evidence. It is a pleasant, dreamy vision.
Courtney Kemp’s “Doubleblind” is delightful and unexpected in its lighthearted depiction of an interior underfoot and overhead. It is a sculpture created from ceiling fans stacked from the floor upward and covered in carpet scraps and poured white plaster. Words are insufficient to describe this delicious oddity. 
There are so many other outstanding artists in this show that I wish I could write a paragraph on each. Those not mentioned are: Mika Aono Boyd, Zachary Burns, Renee Couture, Laura Hughes, Robert Hutchison, Allison Hyde, Alexander Keyes, Lisa Kinoshita, Brandi Kruse, Sandee McGee, Nicole Pietrantoni and Jessica Spring. This is a show not to be missed.
Study of Site and Space, 1-5 p.m. Thursdays (until 9 p.m. Third Thursday), or by appointment, through Aug 16, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave. Suite 205, Tacoma, 253-627-2175, www.spaceworkstacoma.com/gallery.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Almost scammed

I almost got scammed.

I got an email from someone whose name I will not use here (even though it’s probably not his real name). The email said:

Hello. My name is __________ from Jacksonvile, Florida. The images on your website are so fascinating and so vivacious, looking at each piece of work i can easily see that you added so much dedication in making each work come out to life, unfortunately i lost the website where i first saw your work but i was able to save your email address. I will like to purchase some of your work for my wife as a surprise gift for our 20th anniversary. Please kindly send pics and prices of some of your art which are ready for immediate sale within price range $500- $5,000, I could be flexible with price. I am writing you because i need your assistant to get back to your website so as to be able to retrieve the details of your work that interest me or send me images of some of your new works with price.
Best Regards,

"Little Joan With Mask"

Well of course I was flattered that somebody thought my paintings were “vivacious” and wanted to spend actual money on one of them. But there were red flags as well. I know people are constantly scamming people on the Internet, and since I never promote my website, mostly only friends and family members even know it exists—although there’s always the chance someone Googling certain key words might find it.

I thought he must think I’m some big-time artist since he said “I need your assistant to . . .” but then I figured he meant assistance. Nope, don’t have an assistant, unless I count my wife, but she’s much more than an assistant.

So I sent him the url to my website.

He wrote back:

Thanks for the message, I must tell you I intend to give my wife a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you'd like to know, I'm relocating to Ireland soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I'm trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise one. I am buying The Little Joan with Mask Oil stick and collage on fomecore 17.5"X9" art piece as a gift to her. Let me know the last firm price you are selling this to me, I think it's worth it anyway, so I'll be sending a check.

His sentence structure was like someone whose first language is not English, but I shouldn’t judge him based on that
.
I wrote him back telling him “Little Joan With Mask” is not for sale, and after a few more emails he decided on another painting, “Louisiana Nights.” I priced it at $2,000 including shipping. That’s twice what it was priced at in my last gallery exhibition.

Louisiana Nights

He wrote:

As regarding shipping, you don't have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise. as soon as you receive and cash the check, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up.

I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I'm an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won't be back for another couple of weeks. 
Regards,

PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) cell phone no. and contact address (preferably for FedEx not P.O box) where a check can be mailed to, so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you right away. 

I sent him my mailing address but nothing more and told him I would ship the painting after I received his check and after the check cleared the bank. My wife insisted on the after-the-check-cleared-the-bank part. She also did an online search for ways people scam artists with fake purchases, and one of the examples mirrored this situation almost exactly. I wrote him again saying I wanted $2,000 and no overage and I would ship the painting—no shipping agent involved—after the check cleared.

 He wrote back:

Hello Alec,
How are you doing today, My shipping agent is due in the U.S sometime this week. So i have contacted a client of mine to issue out a check which will include my shipping agent fees to you right away.

(kind of repeating himself here) He continued:

This is done to avoid delay or any inconvenience that may arise from his part and to allow check to clear before pick up. However, courtesy demand i must first appeal to your self interest and ask for your help in remitting the overage (after deducting your fee for the piece) to the shipping agent as soon as the check clears.

I would have handled this much differently if I'd been at home but am a bit pressed for time as our anniversary is fast approaching and do not have access to a lot of cash over here to expedite this transaction...Kindly deduct any IRS tax incurred on the overage before giving the balance to the shipping agent. As i do not want you to involve any of your personal funds in this transaction, that is why all funds are made available to you. As an aside, they are not sending any bill or hold you responsible for the payment of my shipping contract with them.

I am really sorry for the mix up and will appreciate if you get back to me asap to know if i can entrust you with this transaction. I will be waiting to read from you soon. 

Best Regards,

So I repeated what I had said in my last email, and I never heard back from him.

The painting is still available if anyone wants to buy it. 

For artist friends who might be interested, here is the article we read: https://www.agora-gallery.com/advice/blog/2017/05/25/how-to-recognize-art-scam/


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Meet Chris Serface



Managing Artistic Director, Tacoma Little Theatre
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 2, 2018

South Sound theater lovers love Chris Serface, actor, director, and Managing Artistic Director at Tacoma Little Theatre. From Olympia but now living in Tacoma, Serface has been active in theater from childhood. During his educational and professional career, he has traveled throughout the West, working closely with many theaters as an actor, technician, director, musician, volunteer, or board member — sometimes all of them at the same time. 
“When I was eight years old I was in my first school play,” he recalls. “I have fond memories of it, Many Moons at Olympic View Elementary, and it was the gateway to my love of music and theatre. The two shows that really locked my love were Play On at Olympia Little Theatre 1989, and Carousel, Abbey Players 1989. 
Between the seventh and eighth grades, Serface took summer Shakespeare classes taught by Carole Charles, whom he credits as an early influence setting him on a path to a career in theater. She passed away in the 1990s. “She taught up until the very end,” Serface says. “She taught a love of theater and reading to all of her students. She would schedule times where we could go see shows at Olympia Little Theatre and the Abbey Players. Through her I became a patron of the arts.”
Serface studied acting at Capital High School in Olympia. Jeff Kingsbury, formerly of Capital Playhouse, was his high school drama coach — “(Kingsbury was) community theatre director, boss, friend, and molding figure in my life. I learned much about the discipline of theater and what it takes to get the job done from him.” 
At 17, he became the youngest board member of Capital Playhouse and helped that organization grow from a seasonal production schedule to year-round programming.
Serface’s first acting job after high school was in a summer stock company in Utah. He played Mike in Oklahoma. Following that he was Worker #2 in The Pajama Game and then Big Six in City of Angels.
After a spell working in retail management in Utah, Arizona, California and Washington, he returned to Olympia. And then he went to work for Tacoma Musical Playhouse, where he was Director of Education, where, as previously at Capital Playhouse, he developed a year-round curriculum.
Asked about favorite roles, he said The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of OZ, a role he played twice. “This is such a fun and rewarding role. Watching the young children in the audience light up when they see you recreating the story for them live, instead of watching a movie.”
He credits the role of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast at TMP as “one of the highlights of my acting career. Such an identifiable role, and I had such fun performing ‘Be Our Guest.’” (He returned to Beauty and the Beast this summer, this time as Lumiere’s sidekick, Cogsworth.)
Other favorite roles were Dave Bukatinsky in The Full Monty, which he says “really made me become comfortable with myself. I'm a bigger guy and being comfortable enough to get naked on stage took some courage and made me grow as a performer.” And then there was The Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooge, a part he has played four times.
His favorite directing gigs have been Second Samuel, a winning play at the American Association of Community Theaters festival. “This show touched my heart when I saw it. I knew I had to direct it and waited for the right time to add it to the TLT season. I was so fortunate to have a marvelous cast and am so proud of how far we went in the AACT festival cycle.”
Gypsy, is another favorite since an early age. And he says, “Anything I've ever directed for students. I will always be an educator. I believe it is important to pass on the knowledge that one has to help the arts stay alive in our youth. I still take on high school projects so I can build our future performers in our community.”
Upcoming projects he will direct are The Rocky Horror Show at Broadway Olympia and Mamma Mia at Auburn Community Players, Spanaway Lake High School and Wilson High School.
The Rocky Horror Show, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 7, Broadway Olympia at Capitol Theatre, 206 5th Ave SE, Olympia, https://www.broadwayolympia.com/.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Broadway Olympia Productions



A new theater comes to Olympia
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 26, 2018

Season introduction celebrations, from left: Lexi Barnett (holding child), Kyle Murphy, Matt Posner, photo by George Dougherty

A new theater company premieres its opening season the weekend of August 16 to 19 with the popular musical Legally Blonde, to be follow by other hit musicals: The Rocky Horror Show in October, The Wedding Singer in February, Young Frankenstein in March, and Cabaret in May. For the first season at least, they are sticking to musicals with broad public appeal, and each show will run one weekend only. But founder and managing director Kyle Murphy has indicated a willingness to tackle some less sure-fire properties in future seasons. “
We hope to partner and collaborate with as many local performing organizations as possible, not limited to musical theater,” he says.


Shows will be performed in the historical Capitol Theater, where the company has added new lighting fixtures and taken steps to ensure the best possible audio.
Helping get the new company rolling is an all-star group of local theater professionals, including Lexi Barnett; Amy Shepherd; Bruce Haasl; Heidi Fredericks from Apple Tree Productions; and Chris Serface, artistic director of Tacoma Little Theatre.
“It took me four years to find a creative partner, Lexi, who shared my vision and had the experience to execute it,” Murphy says.
Barnett says she loves Murphy’s “intention to create opportunities for the Olympia community — and really that is our focus. We put out an all-call for anyone to submit resumes and letters of interest to direct, choreograph, music direct and design for our shows this season. We ended up really getting a mix of people who hail from Olympia and from other areas of the Pacific Northwest, which to me is also inspiring. I love the idea of the theater community in Washington getting to broaden their scope and work with people from many places.”
“I approached Bruce Haasl about designing and building sets before I ever spoke to a director. He was the first person I asked to work with me,” Murphy says. Haasl is known as the longtime designer for the old Capital Playhouse and has more recently designed sets for Harlequin and Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Amy Shepherd was the first local person to step up and offer to help and has continued to be one of our strongest connections to the existing theater community.” Shepherd is the group’s community outreach director and will choreograph Young Frankenstein. “It is one of my favorite musicals,” she says. “I'm really excited about Broadway Olympia, I think that the more theater Olympia has the better.”
Barnett says, “We have Chris Serface and Jimmy Shields returning to the area to direct shows for us. We also have some amazing Olympia natives on our team in people like Bruce Haasl, Mishka Navarre, and L.M. Attea. We saw the same thing with auditions for Legally Blonde. We got a lot of great Olympia talent coming out, and we got some actors who have come out from other towns as well. We had about 50 actors come out for auditions.
Murphy originally intended to launch with two small-cast shows, but he credit’s Barnett’s “experience, confidence and council” for the decision to launch with a full season.
Murphy says Legally Blonde, the season’s opening show, “has a much deeper message than appears on the surface.” It is the story of Elle Woods, a supposedly superficial blonde who becomes a law student at Harvard. Elle will be played by Jessica Furnstahl. Her arrogant and stuffy boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, will be played by James Padilla. Molly Quinn will be Elle’s friend, Paulette, a gutsy and streetwise hairdresser; her friend, Emmett Forrest will be played by Henry Talbot Dorset; and Professor Callahan will be played by Andrew Fry.
Legally Blonde, 8 p.m. Aug. 16-19 and 2 p.m. Aug. 18-19, Capitol Theatre, 206 East Fifth Ave., Olympia, $20, 253.961.4161 info@broadwayolympia.com  

Nicholas Nyland’s Reliquary at Feast Art Center


Photo: glazed ceramic sculpture by Nicholas Nyland, photo by Alec Clayton

A merging of painting and sculpture 
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 26, 2018

glazed ceramic sculpture by Nicholas Nyland, photo by Alec Clayton
Nicholas Nyland has been showing art around Tacoma for quite some time, and I thought I was familiar with his work, but the raw stoneware and terracotta earthenware in his show Reliquary at Feast Art Center offers some things I’ve not seen from him before. His explosions of primary colors and jagged, chunky forms are typical of Nyland, but I’ve never seen such forms and colors combined with clay that has not been glazed. Or, to be more accurate, clay that is glazed only in strategic areas.




Predominant in the colors he uses are a soft baby blue combined with dark metallic grays and blues, delicate pink and lavender in at least one of the wall-hanging pieces, and in a few pieces a clash of every primary and secondary color on the color wheel. He contrasts these colors with the natural clay in exciting ways.
There are ceramic works best described as plates and relief paintings (descriptively, not literally) that hang on the wall, and there are freestanding ceramic sculptures displayed on tables, and paintings and drawings on paper and canvas. I think it would be accurate to describe the three-dimensional works as painterly sculpture or sculptural paintings.  Imagining Jasper Johns painting on ceramic sculptures by Peter Voulkos might give you a mental picture of these works.
The forms are rough, and the colors are bright and highly contrasting. Many of them have a look that I associate with Mexican art, primarily because of the colors and the exuberance, which is, of course, not typical of all Mexican art.
The art is abstract but inspired by the real world. You might not be able to identify what is depicted, but you might well sense the presence of architecture or playing cards or animals. The title of the show, Reliquary, also hints at what inspired many of the forms. There are solid looking containers that look like they are made to hold relics, and the decorative surfaces on some of the wall-hung pieces look like either symbols on shields or coat-of-arms.
In a written statement, Nyland explains, “I’m particularly interested in bringing antique motifs and elements of craft or applied art practices into a fine art context.”
One of my favorite pieces looks like a beast of burden, a burro perhaps, that is wrapped with golden looped chains upon which have been stuck pendants of many colors. The beast’s head is a color wheel. What I like about this is that it hints at representing something recognizable without giving away what it is — more importantly, perhaps, without the meaning of all the reliquary items being made clear. I get the feeling all the connected items have deeply held personal meanings, but an element of mystery remains. 
The drawings and paintings have much the same quality as the sculptural pieces. They look vaguely like interior scenes, but items in the scenes are not recognizable in every instance. There are a couple of large works on paper that have as central figures what looks like a drum sitting in front of a window or door. There is a distinctive Matisse-like quality to these, but they are sketchier and more loosely painted. But yes, they do look quickly thrown together, but in an expressive and exciting way.  
Feast has limited gallery hours, so I suggest planning your visit ahead of time, and by all means make it a priority to see this show.
Nicholas Nyland’s Reliquary, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and by appointment, through Aug. 12, Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma, www.feastarts.com 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Review: Beauty and the Beast at Tacoma Musical Playhouse


Published in The News Tribune, July 20, 2018
By Alec Clayton
Belle (Cherisse Martinelli) and the Beast (Brandon Hell), photo by Kat Dollarhide
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by and Tim Rice and Howard Ashman is now playing at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. It is a big production with an elaborate set and lighting, fabulous costumes and a 36-person cast, all of whom are on stage at once during some of the large production numbers such as the show stopping “Be Our Guest” with complex choreography by director and choreographer Jon Douglas Rake.
Set designer Judy Cullen returns with an amazing set featuring a delightful backdrop painting of a small French village and a stunningly beautiful castle replete with a broad staircase and rich blue and purple and gold colors enhanced by lighting director John Chenault’s shadowy effects.
The costumes by Jocelyne Fowler are wildly inventive, as they must be for humans turned into walking and talking clocks and candles and teapots. Belle’s dresses are luxurious and beautiful, especially a white gown that looks like a layered wedding cake.
Prince Adam (Brandon Hell) is turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress (Kathy Kluska). For years he has hidden his grotesqueness in his castle. His servants are turned into animated pieces of furniture and household items such as Cosworth the clock (Chris Serface), Lumiere the candle (Mauro Bozzo) and Mrs. Potts the teapot (Diane Bozzo). They know the spell can be broken, and everyone will become human again only if the beast can learn to love and be loved.
Meanwhile, back in the village, the beautiful Belle (Cherisse Martinelli) is being relentlessly courted – stalked and harassed by today’s standards – by an arrogant, self-centered hunter named Gaston (Jimmi Cook) who thinks he is God’s gift to women. Belle’s father, the eccentric inventor, Maurice (Joe Woodland) is captured and imprisoned in the beast’s castle. Belle goes to the castle in search of her father and offers to be the beast’s captive if he will let her father go, which he does. Instead of being put under lock and key as her father was, she is given a private room in the castle and asked to dine with the beast. She resists at first, but gradually she learns to see the humanity underneath the beast’s outer shell. What this leads to is, of course, what the audience knows will happen, and it is beautiful and magical and romantic despite being totally predictable.
Cook, who has the physique of a body builder, is perfectly cast as Gaston, who spends all his time with muscle poses when he is not pursuing Belle. Beyond looking the part so perfectly, he is a good actor and singer.
I like the choice of Martinelli for the part of Belle because she is befittingly beautiful, not in a trite fairy-princess sort of way, but with the beauty of a down-to-earth, sensible and intelligent young woman, which is precisely how Belle is written. She also has a strong voice.
Hell does a terrific job of acting, and he has a beautiful deep and mellow voice. My only complaint is he is not large enough and his costume is not ugly or frightening enough to be the beast as described (at one point, Maurice says he is eight feet tall). On the other hand, since it is a play that appeals to children, it is probably a good thing he isn’t more frightening.
Also deserving of special note are Bozzo as Mrs. Potts and Karen Early-Evans as Madame de la Grande Bouche, both of whom sing stupendously.
The only actor I found to be somewhat disappointing is Woodland as Belle’s father, who should be more animated. My only other complaint is I wish it could be about half an hour shorter. It did drag a bit in parts of the second act.
All-in-all, it is a wonderful fantasy romance beautifully staged.

Beauty and the Beast
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 29
WHERE: Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
TICKETS: $22-$31
INFORMATION: (253) 565-6867, http://www.tmp.org



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Reading Pete Dexter



By Alec Clayton

When reviewing/commenting on the first draft of my novel Tupelo, Ned Hayes made reference to Paris Trout by Pete Dexter. I had read it years before, and I remembered I had been greatly impressed with it at the time, but I couldn’t remember much about the actual story or Dexter’s writing style. (One of the great things about getting older is you can re-read stuff and it’s like you never read it.) So I read Paris Trout again and was astounded at how good it was. It’s a book that turns Southern Gothic inside out and creates a whole new genre unlike anything else ever written. The title character is the strangest and most horrific character I have ever come across in literature. It’s a cliché to say “I couldn’t put it down.” But if it were not for having to eat and sleep, I would not have been able to. Paris Trout is horrifying, hilarious, and compelling.
I mentioned it on Facebook, and my friend Ned (a great writer in his own right and the person responsible for me reading it) commented that Dexter is a writer’s writer. Damn right he is.
I loved Paris Trout so much that as soon as I finished reading it I picked up another Pete Dexter novel, Deadwood. For the first third or so of Deadwood, I was slightly disappointed, partly because I could not sense much of a story arc, and partly because a major character and an American legend, Wild Bill Hickock, didn’t do much of anything except get drunk, play poker (usually losing) and shoot things off the head of a doga circus-type performance played out in a bar with an accommodating and trusting dog. But then, starting with a chapter called China Doll (a Chinese prostitute) it started getting increasingly more compelling. It’s a true story, and I’ve been told it was meticulously researched and accurate. The town of Deadwood is beautifully depicted as what must have been one of the rawest and wildest towns in American history, and some of the characters such as Calamity Jane and an unnamed “soft brain bottle fiend” should stick in my mind for as long as I livein direct contradiction to my earlier statements about not remembering well.
And again, as soon as I finished that one, I started another Dexter novel, Spooner. I’ve barely started it, but already I am floored with Dexter’s writing, the uniqueness of his characters and how skillfully he weaves together the elements of a story. If I were a writing teacher, I would use Dexter as an object lesson in the art of writing. I would talk about how well he uses similes that are creative and the result of careful observation and memory. For example, in Spooner he describes a profound and sudden silence as being like when you dive into water and the moment you go under all sound ceases. When I read that I immediately recalled when I was a teenager diving off the high board at the swimming pool in Tupelo, the sounds of all the kids shouting and splashing and laughing melded together as a kind of symphony as I descended toward the water and became utter silence once my ears were under water. I had not thought of that in half a century, but Dexter brought it back to me in such a way that I didn’t just understand the silence his character experienced, I heard it.
If I were teaching Dexter, I would talk about the opening paragraph of Spooner. It is two sentences long; the first sentence is convoluted and poetic and packed with information. It is followed by a short, bare-boned sentence that hits with the force of an ax chopping wood. The next paragraph follows the same kind of pattern, so by the time you have read these first two paragraphs you are hooked, and you are dying to know about the boy named Spooner who has just been born. That’s good writing. If you’re looking for books to sink your teeth into this summer, give Dexter a try.




Friday, July 6, 2018

Puget Sound Book Artists Eighth Annual Members’ Exhibition



By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 5, 2018
"A Work in Progress" by Mary Preston, courtesy University of Puget Sound
Book artists, meaning artists who create books conceived as works of art, combine many of the most fascinating elements of books — stories told with words and sometimes illustrated with pictures — and elements of visual arts such as drawn, painted and sculpted images. When these elements are skillfully woven together, the results can the magical.
The Puget Sound Book Artists Eighth Annual Members’ Exhibition at Collins Library, University of Puget Sound offers 57 unique and original books by 36 different artists displayed in a dozen glass cases in the library. There are folding books, books in boxes, books that are stand-alone sculptures, accordion sheets of paper and cloth and other materials with drawn, painted, sewn and sculpted images and decorations, and elaborate pop-up books. Many of the books look as if the pages are meant to be opened, and I wish they could be opened to see what, if anything, is on the hidden pages; but they can’t be touched.
Some of the books tell stories with words and images, whether fiction or non-fiction. Some only hint at stories and thereby stir the viewer’s imagination, and some are purely decorative or abstract with no attempt at storytelling.
The complexity of these works of art and the patience, skill and inventiveness of the artists who create them are truly impressive.
“The Puget Sound Book Artists have a following and now an excellent reputation in the South Sound and beyond,” said Jane Carlin, director of Collins Memorial Library and vice president of the organization. “It is truly an honor to host this exhibit and each year. I am astonished at the creative and inspiring art on display.”
Jan Dove’s “The Horseman” captured the Curator’s Choice award. It is an accordion-fold book with illustrations of horses and people in sensitive line drawings over fields of color. There are a few lines of poetry that talk about hearing approaching hoofbeats and the line “Let’s hope it’s not those four horsemen,” indicating, as I interpret it, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Stylistically, the drawings harken back to Roman art.
A work that is similar in that it features staccato line drawings over other images is Bonnie Halfpenny’s “With a Compass, Without a Map.” It is also an accordion-fold book. The first page features written text that briefly tells the stories of four accomplished women in the post-Civil War era. Drawings of each of the women are created in black thread over collaged images. The materials are tule, paints, thread and more. The craftsmanship is admirable, as are the women whose stories are depicted. I would like to find out more about them.
One of my favorite books is Sandy Tilcock’s “Opening the Mouths of the Dead,” a two-sided accordion in a clamshell box with images in intaglio, letterpress and hand painting. It illustrates the story of a third-grade girl in North Carolina in the 1960s who used the Egyptian Book of the Dead to “navigate her complicated relationship with her father.” This one is a clear example of what I was thinking of when I said book art combines elements of books and art. There is history, drama and beauty galore in this show.
There will be a panel Discussion Thursday, July 12, from 5:30- 7:30 p.m. in the Archives Seminar Room, second floor.
Puget Sound Book Artists Eighth Annual Members’ Exhibition, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday and Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, through July 27, Collins Library University of Puget Sound, 1500 N Warner St, Tacoma

Marilyn Frasca exhibit 


Friday, June 29, 2018

Lisistrata at New Muses



By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 28, 2018
Cast of Lisistrata, Cassie Jo Fastabend as Lisistrata standing in center, courtesy New Muses Theatre

Well over 2,000 years ago the city of Athens, Greece was treated to a sexy and hilarious anti-war farce called Lisistrata by the writer Aristophanes. Now it is making its way to Tacoma’s Dukesbay Theater in an anonymous adaptation believed to have been by Oscar Wilde, directed by Niclas Olson and produced by New Muses Theatre.
Lisistrata — perhaps the first great feminist activist in history — rallies fellow Greek women to refuse sexual favors until their husbands end the Peloponnesian War. Aiding in her movement is the Spartan woman Lampito.
The title character will be played by Cassie Jo Fastabend, a veteran of many South Sound stages and a longtime teacher of youth arts. She has been seen in Macbeth and Lear at the Slate Theater in Seattle, Hamlet and A Streetcar Named Desire at University of Puget Sound, A Few Good Men, at Lakewood Playhouse.
Lampito is played by LaNita Walters, most recently seen in My Fair Lady at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Walters is a teaching artist for the Broadway Center and choreographer and director for various plays and children camps. She is also the choreographer for this play.
Amber Sayman (Ismenia) was most recently in Olympia Family Theatre’s Cinder Edna. Kaylie Hussey (Corinna) was in The Servant of Two Masters and Doctor Faustus at New Muses and Macbeth and The Great Gatsby at Tacoma Little Theatre. Mason Quinn (Magistrate) was most recently in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at Tacoma Little Theatre. Nathaniel Walker (Cinesias) was recently in The Pillowman at TLT.
“Two years ago I was considering Lysistrata as a fun comedy, but fast forward to now, it is an important social piece with immediate cultural relevance. It interests, and saddens me that a 6000-year-old play can still be relevant to our current political and social climate,” Olson says. “Especially now, with women's rights bursting to the forefront of the national consciousness via the Women's March and the #MeToo movement, seeing Lysistrata is to experience a story about a whole lot more than a sex strike. I'm especially fascinated with the journey the women of Greece take as they become leaders of their society through the course of the play. On a lighter note, the play is a whole lot of fun. We have everything including comic fight scenes, witty banter, and anatomically correct prop/costume pieces.The cast keeps coming up with new stuff every day, and it's been a real pleasure for me to see the script take on a life of its own through the actors.”
As a final note, Olson warns: “The play is definitely not family friendly. We are using the traditional phalluses, and the cast spends a good portion of the show in their underwear.
Lisistrata, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29-July 15, $10-$15, Dukesbay Theater, above the Grand Theater, 508 S. 6th Ave., Tacoma https://www.newmuses.com/

Art popping up all over Olympia




By Alec Clayton

“Smoking in the Garden” painting by Marilyn Bedford, courtesy the artist


Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 28, 2018
Pop-up galleries are the latest thing all over the country. Pop-ups feature art exhibitions that are usually of short duration and often in non-commercial venues such as private homes or vacant storefronts. In Olympia, the premiere pop-up gallery is Allsorts in the home of artist Lynette Charters and actor John Serembe, which over the past few years has shown much of the best art to be seen in Olympia. Now another pop-up has appeared. Called Front Porch Pop Up Gallery and run by South Puget Sound art appreciation teacher Nicole Gugliotti, it opens June 29 with its first show, an exhibition of works on paper by Dory Nies.
Nies’s works on paper are inspired by cells, seeds, textiles, and technology and range from traditionally framed works to installation and sculptural paper works and objects. Seventy percent of any sales will go to RAICES, a human rights organization working to reunite immigrant families. The exhibition opening will be Friday, June 29. Food, wine and house brewed kombucha will be served. There will be music by Dan Meuse and Elliot Anderson.
Next up will be the 2018 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College. Many of the South Sound’s best and most well-known artists will be showing. Tacoma artist Lisa Kinoshita is showing a mixed-media and video installation called “Visitation” done in collaboration with John Carlton about Tacoma's true-life mascot, Jack the Tacoma Bear. Jack lived at the grand Tacoma Hotel during the 1890s and was known for slipping out of his pen and visiting a tavern where he would drink beer from a mug with his paws. He coexisted well with and was beloved by local Tacomans but startled a policeman in the financial district one day, and the policeman shot him. Kinoshita describes the video as “a montage of surreal images a bear might see as he leaves this world.”
Susan Aurand will show a series of paintings with related nature images stacked three-up and painted in her signature photo-realist style. Aurand’s paintings are meditative and marvelous to look at.
From her popular Missing Woman series, Lynette Charters will be showing “Three Races Muses” and Gauguin’s “Muse Holding a Fruit.” In this series, she comments on women’s roles in the history of art. (As artists, women have historically been overlooked, but are seen often as models, usually without any clothes). Charters “disappears” the women in her appropriations of famous paintings by leaving their silhouettes as unpainted shapes on the wood panels she paints on. She will also be doing a talk along with other artists during the reception on July 12 from 6-9 p.m.
Other well-respected regional artists to be included are Doyle Fanning, Mary McCaan, Jason Sobatka and Sharon Styer.
Paintings by Marilyn Bedford will be the next show at Allsorts. Bedford paints everyday objects such as swimming pools and pillows with broad, brushy strokes in acrylic on canvas. Many of the paintings veer toward the abstract to the point at which viewers might need the titles to hint at recognition of the subject matter. But in reality the subject matter of these atmospheric paintings is never the pillow or smoke in a garden, but is color, line and shape.

Dory Nies, opening 6-9 p.m., June 29, Front Porch Pop Up Gallery, 1916 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
2018 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition July 9-Aug. 23. South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia, https://spscc.edu/gallery.
Paintings by Marilyn Bedford July 13-14 and July 19-22 5-7 p.m., reception July 15 4-7 p.m., Allsorts Gallery 2306 Capital Way S., Olympia.