Friday, April 20, 2018

Hart James’s Zen at Allsorts Gallery

by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 19, 2018

Dog Head Falls.  Dissolving Rock.  Vermont Studio Center,” oil and charcoal on canvas by Hart James, courtesy Allsorts Gallery
Hart James is fairly new to the Olympia art scene. I first saw her work in 2013, at which time she was showing a group of flowery collages that verged on surrealism. Soon after she began showing solid, heavy landscapes perhaps influenced by Cezanne.  landscapes that were solid and somewhat heavy looking in a Cezannesque manner. Tree trunks and limbs were painted as strong angular marks that broke the canvas into flat fields of color, and mountains were slabs of heavy paint.
Over the past year she has been posting pictures on Facebook that indicate her painting has taken giant leaps forward, especially since spending a winter studying at the Vermont Studio School. Now South Sound art lovers get to see some 20 of these new paintings at Allsorts Gallery in Olympia. And they are stunners — vibrant, energetic paintings of mountains, lakes and rivers in a thoroughly modernist manner verging on conventional 1950s Abstract Expressionism. 
James’s latest paintings are in oil and charcoal on canvas, some stretched but unframed and others not on stretchers but tacked directly to the wall. They are gutsy. She attacks the canvas with an odd combination of gusto and finesse. Many of the ones in the front room are referred to in titles written directly on the canvas as “Sketches,” and there is clearly a sketchy quality to them. The paint application is thick in areas with large swaths of paint slathered on, and thin as water in other areas with washes of color that soak into the canvas run in rivulets. This group of paintings are the strongest and liveliest in the show. The paintings on stretched canvas in the other room have a more painterly, less sketchy look. We see more rocks and sky, and clearly defined mountain ranges and trees. Her use of charcoal enlivens the surface with angular and jagged black lines that in many instances look like dry brush or oil stick drawing.
There is a triptych called “Makah Spirits” that harkens back to earlier work. In general, I have a personal objection to diptychs and triptychs because that they appear gimmicky. If the artist wants a 24-inch by 54-inch painting, why not paint it 24-by-54 instead of three 24-by-18 panels? All that does is break the painting into three sections, and the edges between the panels add nothing. In this painting, however, the lines created by the edges add a needed stabilizing element to a painting that without those lines might be too chaotic. 
It is impossible to pick a single favorite painting in this show, but if I were forced to I would choose “December Sketch, Doghead Falls, Vermont Studio Center.” I see it not as a painting but as a drawing in oil and charcoal. The directness and spontaneity of this one is wonderfully uplifting. It looks as if she jotted down the shape of a mountain and a flowing river coming down from it in a few quick strokes, capturing the essence of the scene in one swoop of frantic energy, as if years of hard work and study coalesced in a momentary burst. This painting was done only four months ago. If it and others in the series are indicative of where James is going, she has arrived. She is also currently showing paintings in the gallery at South Puget Sound Community College and at the Department of Ecology.
Allsorts is a pop-up gallery in a private home. Hours of operation are limited.

Zen by Hart James, 5-7 p.m. Fri.-Sat, and during Arts Walk and by appointment, through April 28, artist reception 4-7 p.m. April 22, All Sorts Gallery, 2306 Capitol Way S, Olympia,,  323-254-6220

Catch Me If You Can at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 19, 2018

FBI agent Carl Hanratty, center, with the ensemble cast of “Catch Me If You Can,” photo by Kat Dollarhide
Catch Me If You Can at Tacoma Musical Playhouse is simply a lot of fun, from the opening song, “Live in Living Color” to wonderfully surprising twists at the end. Based on the film of the same title starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, this musical romp tells the tale of true-life con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. (Jake Atwood), who successfully conned people out of millions of dollars while getting away with pretending to be an airline pilot, a doctor and a prosecuting attorney, all before his 20th birthday.
Atwood, a Playhouse favorite from musicals such as Footloose and The Addams Family, plays Abagnale as a 1960s playboy in the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin mold. He is slick, smooth, expressive in his movement, and exudes an air of supreme confidence. Plus, he can sing and dance like nobody’s business.
Abagnale’s cons are so transparent (probably because they had to be simplified for the play) that it’s amazing anyone fell for them; yet in real life they did, over and over. And why did he do it? For fun, for riches, for women, and mostly to please his father, Frank Sr. (Jonathan Bill, also of Addams Family fame), who was himself a failed con man and a cad in an unhappy marriage to a woman he met in France while serving in the war. Early in the play, Frank Jr. catches his mother in an affair with his father’s best friend, and shortly after that his parents get divorced, and Frank Jr. runs away to begin his life of crime.
The play is kept simple and lighthearted throughout the first act with catchy show tunes like “The Pinstripes Are All They See,” a duet with Frank Jr. and Sr. in which the father explains to the son how women are attracted to a uniform; i.e., how appearances are all that matter. (The title comes from the ludicrous but funny notion that the Yankees are a winning team because of their pinstripe uniforms.)
Meanwhile, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (John Miller) is hot on Frank’s trail, pursuing him as obsessively as Javert after Valjean.
In the second act, the story and the characters become much deeper and more layered, beginning when father and son meet in a bar and air their differences, a scene with a great duet on the song, “Little Boy Be a Man.”
It’s tempting to say that Atwood carries the show on his shoulders with his great stage presence and exuberance, but that would be to ignore other outstanding performances by the likes of Miller as Hanratty, who is like a slightly less frenetic John Belushi on a mission from God. Claire Barton is down-to-earth and lovely as Frank’s fiancée, Brenda. Her solo ballad “Fly, Fly Away” is show-stopping and heartbreaking. Bill underplays the senior Abagnale with heart, and he sings with mellow resonance. He might be a terrible father and husband, but audiences can’t help but like him. Michele Greenwood Bettinger is terrifically funny as Brenda’s mother. Three other actors who stand out wonderfully in supporting roles are Josh Anderman, Nicholas Bray and Cameron Waters as the trio of Hanratty’s underling FBI agents. And I can’t overlook the marvelous chorus of leggy showgirls in costumes by Jocelyne Fowler. I wish I could name them all; they are that good.
The story is resolved with more than one surprise ending and none of the feel-good ballyhoo expected of a stage musical. It is a satisfactory and believable ending, as it should since it is a true story.
The set by Blake York is a stunning ‘60s modernist, art nouveau-inspired airport lounge in sparkling silver with purple and blue lighting by lighting master John Chenault.
Catch Me If You Can, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m., through April 29, Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $22-$31,

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Condo to Kill For

Tacoma Little Theatre and The Social Bar and Grill present the murder mystery dinner theater A Condo to Kill For at directed by Karen Christensen with local actors Stacie Hart, George McClure, Brynne Geiszler, Kerry Bringman, Laurice Roberts, and Jennifer Niehaus-Rivers.

Dinner includes: Appetizer, Salad, Main Entrée (Meat, Chicken, Vegetarian/Gluten Free) & Dessert.  Coffee, Tea, Water and Soda are included, and alcohol is available for purchase at the bar or from your server.

A Condo to Kill runs May 17-20.  Thursday-Saturday performances will begin at 7:30pm, and the Sunday performance will begin at 3:00pm.

The Social Bar and Grill, 1715 Dock Street, Tacoma, WA.  RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.
Tickets are $50.00 per person (includes dinner and show) and may be purchased online at, or by calling our Box Office at (253) 272-2281.  

Mighty Miniatures and Modern Jewels in Spring Popup at Minka

Tacoma artist and arts promoter Lisa Kinoshita just sent me this announcement. It's a one-day-only showing, so mark your calendar and plan to get to Minka.

It's true: the best (and most irresistibly peculiar) things come in small packages! Tacoma-based artist Devon Urquhart makes fabulous, miniature paintings and dioramas smaller than a slice of bread but action packed. Meet the artist at MINKA on April 28, 2-5:30, and enter her tiny universe of laid-back, beer drinking locusts, astronauts tethered to ovaries, and more! You might even go home with a ceramic Boob Cup...

Designer Regina Chang sells her jewels from Hong Kong to Seattle to L.A., and on April 28, 2-5:30 she'll be at MINKA! Please join us and meet the artist - well-known for her juicy-colored natural stones set off with beautiful hammered metals! You know the drill - simple top, plain neckline to show off those amazing necklaces.

Also showing on 4/28: new prints by San Antonio artist, Guy Hundere, colorful abstracts based on algorithms that appear to mirror the natural world.

MINKA is located at 821 Pacific Ave. in Tacoma's Theater District. Hours: Friday 12-5, Saturday 11-5 and by appointment. STARTING IN MAY, we will also be open Thursdays 12-5. Phone: 253.961.5220. Also on April 28, meet Paula Shields, MINKA's new co-owner with Lisa Kinoshita. New art, furnishings and collectibles are arriving weekly! MINKA is Japanese for, "house of the people".

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pajama Game comes to Centerstage!

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 13, 2018
Reheasal photo, left to right: Sharon Armstrong, Timothy Duval, Caiti Burke, Sam Barker, Lia Lee, Rico Lastrapes, Ashley Roy, Colin Madison, Cassie Fastabend, and Tyler Dobies. Photo by Monique Preston.
The Pajama Game has a long and storied history, beginning with its beginning on Broadway in 1954 featuring the choreography of the great Bob Fosse, with Shirley McClain as an unnamed dancer, and through two Broadway revivals and a film. to America. The Pajama Game won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and the 2006 revival copped a grand total of nine Tony Awards. And now it is coming to Centerstage! In Federal Way.
With book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell and music and lyrics by Jerry Ross and Richard Adler, the musical is based on Bissell’s novel about workers at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory revolting against harsh conditions when they’re pushed to work faster and faster. They threaten to go on strike and ask for raises of seven-and-a-half cents an hour. Naturally, a love story is thrown into the mix when Sid, the factory superintendent, falls in love with Babe, head of the factory grievance committee, and Prez, the union leader and a married man, has the hots for Gladys, who is dating Vernon Hines, a factory worker who is wracked with jealousy. Sid is played by Eric Dobson; Babe by Taylor Davis, recent director of Return to the Forbidden Planet at Centerstage! Prez is played by Sam Barker, Gladys by Ashley Koon, and Vernon Hines by Colin Madison, Puget Sound area resident and Casting Director at StageRight Theatre in Seattle.
There are fireworks galore, all played out with music and dance with musical theater standards from the 1950s such as “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.”
“I am really excited by the fabulously diverse cast — some good age range, great racial diversity, and a strong talent pool,” says director Trista Duval. “We have some return actors from this season, but also a few new ones. One of my fave new ones is Gary Taylor, who did film and TV back when that was huge in Seattle. He was in “Northern Exposure” for a 10-or-12-episode arc, and in the film Homeward Bound, which was a formative childhood film for about half the cast, so everyone a bit lost it at that.”
Duval joined Centerstage as the artistic director this past summer after the retirement of Alan Bryce. She has several Centerstage! shows under her belt and says she is honored to be able to continue to build its legacy. She has performed up and down the East Coast, in Texas, and now in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she first began to grow her experience as an arts team builder and director. She is “married to a stellar guy and has two gorgeous boys who think they own this theatre.” Duval is familiar to South Sound audiences from her performance as the Good Fairy in the panto Little Red Riding Hood and as the Lady of the Lake in Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s Spamalot.
“I became ill shortly after marrying nine years ago and had to take nearly four years off from the theatre world, then complications with having my kids added another three. So during that time I taught voice and worked with a nonprofit developing their arts programs. Then I began taking directing jobs in the area. When I got back into acting, Centerstage! was my first stop,” Duval says. 
The large cast in The Pajama Game includes a group of high school interns from several Federal Way schools. Choreography is by Ashley Roy. Duval says Roy “will be heavily influenced by Fosse but will be bringing her own stuff.”  Music direction by John Lehrack, owner of Dorothy's Piano Bar in Seattle. And the design team, Duval says, “is a great group of awesomeness, which gives it a really fun colorful look and style.” 
Pajama Game, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, May 18 through June 3, plus 2 p.m. Saturday matinees beginning May 26, $12-$29, Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way, 253-565-6867,

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Katlyn Hubner’s #SEXUNTOLD

Disturbing and provocative art at 950 Gallery
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 12, 2018
 “Faith” painting by Katlyn Hubner, courtesy 950 Gallery
It was just this past December that I reviewed Katlyn Hubner’s paintings at Feast Art Center. In that review I made the audacious statement, “. . . might be the best figure paintings I have ever seen outside a major museum.” And now she’s showing in Tacoma again, this time at 950 Gallery, which used to be called Spaceworks Gallery. Her latest outing is called #SEXUNTOLD (hashtag and call-caps part of the title). It is an investigation into how men view sex interpreted from a woman’s point of view. It is definitely an adult-only art exhibition, with male and female nudity and depictions of sexual situations. This show is provocative and might be disturbing to some viewers — not because of the sexual content (it is not in any way pornographic), but because the images are harsh and uncompromising.
Hubner blends distortion and abstraction with realism. She puts her models in uncomfortable poses and views them from strange points of view, and paints extreme closeups and pictures of bodies at harsh angles. You might say they are all teeth and elbows, sweat and strain. The colors are electric, with deep blues and greens, fiery reds, purples, sickly skin tones, soft and delicate modeling adjacent to or blending into the kind of heavy bushstrokes associated with Abstract Expressionism.
The only painter I can think of who has ever done anything similar is Francis Bacon. That might give readers an inkling of what they’re in for. This show is not for the squeamish.
And it’s not just painting. Hubner interviewed men, asking questions about sexism, and their responses are presented as written text and film projection including film of one man reciting poems he wrote in answer to Hubner’s questions.
Among the more haunting images is “Trouble Shooting,” a closeup of a hand gripping a neck and “Self 101” a seated naked woman with splashes and drips of paint obscuring her face, breast and pubic area as a violet kind of censorship.
One of the most disturbing (and most Baconesque) is “Faith,” an extreme closeup of a screaming face with a monstrous open mouth, the head covered in clear plastic painted with expressionistic slashes of white paint.
There are also two unfinished paintings that demonstrate the artist’s method of working. In these, the background appears almost finished but the figure includes blue-green outlines of areas that will be light and shadow.
Hubner works from photographs she takes herself from models of her choosing. There are six such photographs in the show, all with the same range of electric colors we see in the paintings.
Between the paintings, the texts, the films and photos, there is a lot to see. I find the written work and the filmed responses to her questions mildly interesting. I find the paintings mesmerizing and marvelous.
#SEXUNTOLD, 1-5 p.m. Thursdays, 1-9 p.m. Third Thursday, and by appointment, through April 19, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave. (Entrance on 11th St.),

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Review: Peter and the Starcatcher

by Alec Clayton  
Published in The News Tribune, April 6, 2018

(L to R)  KYLE SINCLAIR (Black Stache), CHAP WOLFF (Smee) and the Ensemble Cast from the Lakewood Playhouse Production of "PETER & THE STARCATCHER" - photo by Tim Johnson

The Ensemble Cast of the Lakewood Playhouse Production of "PETER & THE STARCATCHER" - photo by Tim Johnson

Lakewood Playhouse’s South Sound premiere of “Peter and the Starcatcher” is two-and-a-half hours of buffoonery with moments of tenderness that will remind you of every comedy bit you’ve ever seen, from Willie Wonka to Monty Python and Carol Burnett, to “The Rocky Horror Show” and “Pirates of Penzance” – the latter because there are pirates galore in the show, and because of director John Munn’s unique stylings recently seen in Lakewood Playhouse’s production of “Penzance.” This one is not a musical, but there is a lot of singing in it and, if not dancing, at least a lot of choreographed movement, particularly a lot of hilarious overly histrionic posing in freeze-frame.
The one drawback to this ambitious undertaking is the story itself. It is the story of Peter Pan before he became Peter Pan and Captain Hook before he lost his hand. Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson and adapted for the stage by Rick Elice, the story is a hodgepodge of loosely connected skits with no dramatic arc until the bare outline of a story appears in the second act. It starts out fall-on-the-floor funny but begins to drag in the second act. Some cuts would have helped, but copyright laws prevent that.
What the story lacks in cohesion is compensated for by outstanding acting on the part of the 13-member ensemble cast. It is a true ensemble, not a few leads backed up by an ensemble. Nevertheless, there are actors who stand out, such as Kyle Sinclair as the sinister Black Stache. Theatergoers will remember Sinclair for his standout role in “Avenue Q.” Sinclair plays this epitome of all b-movie bad guys with grand gestures and comic timing worthy of the greatest of the old silent-movie stars. Emily Cohen who plays the unnamed Boy (cq) who eventually becomes Peter Pan as a sweet, unaffected, and brave young man. Cohen is also the show’s fight choreographer. Kudos also to W. Scott Pinkston, who is over-the-top silly as the lovesick Alf, in love with the delightful Martin Larson, in drag throughout as Mrs. Bumbrake. And to Tony L. Williams (also an “Avenue Q” alum) as the gruff and growly pirate Bill Slank and later as the dumber than dumb Hawking Clam.
Scenic designer Blake York does his usual primo job of designing a kind of rundown waterfront scene that looks deceptively tacked together with scrap lumber but is strong and serviceable. Lighting by Jacob Viramontes and Joy Ghigleri brilliantly enhance the fast-moving action.
Munn and his crew deserve maximum credit for pulling this mish-mosh together and somehow making it work.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through April 22
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood TICKETS: $20-$26
INFORMATION: (253) 588-0042, 

Priscilla Dobler’s ‘La Sala’ at Feast Art Center

by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 5, 2018

 installation shot of Priscilla Dobler’s La Sala, photo by Gabi Clayton

La Sala is Spanish for “living room,” and Priscilla Dobler’s installation by that name at Feast Art Center is a conceptual environment that questions how a person’s living room affects their life — turning on its head the concept that we affect the spaces in which we live. After all, we choose the furnishings, the colors, and what goes on the walls of our living rooms. But we live in those rooms day in and day out, so our living rooms affect us as well as we affect them. To some people this might be nothing more than a mind game, but in the hands of an artist it can be intellectually stimulating and beautiful.
This installation investigates how architectural spaces represent gender roles and cultural structures. In it, Dobler has constructed a room with a couch, a chair, tables, and artwork hanging on the walls, all built with wood frames upon which she weaves layers of colorful thread. The furniture is a boxy kind of reductive sculpture. The “paintings” on the wall are simple scrims of overlapping lines of thread that hang a foot or two from the walls. Three of them are traditional rectangular frames, and two are oddly shaped.
The most interesting thing about the paintings and the furniture is that the colors change depending on your point of view, and changes of position can create an effect similar to moiré patterns as you move about the space. For example, one piece of furniture has a web of blue threads with a few inches beneath it a web of red threads. Depending on the viewer’s position in the room, it looks blue, or it might look red, or the red and blue threads might blend together to make purple. Furthermore, since everything is see-through, viewers can see patterns upon patterns upon patterns as they move about.
Added to all this, there is a video projection through one of the “paintings” onto the back wall, with local people sitting in their own living rooms and talking about their perceptions of their environment. Over the past few months, Dobler has been interviewing individuals in Tacoma about their perceptions of how their identity has been shaped based on the political and social structure of identity in society and in private/public spaces. Apparently the film is an ongoing project, because there is an announcement on the gallery wall asking for volunteers to be filmed. Similar versions of the installation have been presented in galleries in Seattle, and others are planned for the near future.
Dobler’s La Sala is a quiet and unobtrusive installation that demands attention and thought. If you enter the gallery expecting to be delighted or entertained, you might be disappointed. But if you go in willing to look and listen with an open mind, your mind just might be expanded.
La Sala, installation by Priscilla Dobler, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and by appointment, through April 14, Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma, 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Screaming Butterflies Productions presents Shakespeare’s Richard II

Screaming Butterflies Productions presents Shakespeare’s Richard II

Nastassia Reynolds as Henry Bolingbroke and Brittany Henderson as  Richard II. Photo by Kathryn Philbrook 

Note: This is an unedited press release.

Screaming Butterflies, a new theater compny in Tacoma, is producing Shakespeare's Richard II to be performed in the Dukesbay Theater space April 13-29. One of the more rarely produced plays in Shakespeare’s canon, Richard II is about a power struggle between two factions fighting to keep or win the crown of England.  Historically, it marks the beginning of the War of the Roses in England, over a century of civil war during the Middle Ages.  In this production, director Kathryn Philbrook explores the nature of power, how it changes people, how they relate to it, and what happens when they lose it. 

“It feels very timely,” says Philbrook, “We have two potential leaders, neither of whom is really a very good king, and we see what they are willing to do and give up to stay in power.”   

Careful not to try to make this an allegory or one to one comparison to any specific current event, this Screaming Butterflies production is not setting the play in an identifiable time or place, but is style-influenced by 1920s Art Deco and Mad Men era lines.   Set Design is by architect S. Matthew Philbrook, and Costume Design by theater veteran Naarah McDonald.  Original music is being composed by Mateo Herrera, bringing an accessible modernity and a fresh contemporary vibe.  Rounding out the Production Team includes Fight Choreography by Jen Tidwell, and Lighting Design by Leo Foster.

Co-Producers Philbrook and Jeanette Sanchez-Izenman are excited about this maiden voyage for Screaming Butterflies.  They began planning to collaborate over a year ago, and surprised each other with how closely their artistic values aligned. 

“Theatre affords us a space to confront threats to our being as women in a #metoo era and make them safe. Screaming Butterflies is committed to a feminist approach for creating performance with a keen eye on body positivity and a commitment to multicultural artistic collaboration,” says Sanchez-Izenman. 

In this light, the cast features several women in strong and leading roles: Brittany Henderson plays Richard II, Nastassia Reynolds is Henry Bolingbroke.  The rest of the cast play multiple ensemble roles, and include LaNita Walters, Steve Gallion, Cat Waltzer, Ben Stahl, Jackie-Lyn Villava-Cua, Jazmine Herrington, Travis Martinez, Ed Medina, and Tony Hicks. 

Richard II will be performed at Dukesbay Theater in the Merlino Art Center located at 508 6th Ave Ste 10, Tacoma, WA 98402.  For more information about this production, contact Kathryn Philbrook at 253-691-9615 or  Screaming Butterflies website is; and tickets are available for purchase through Brown Paper Tickets at

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Captive Light

The Photography of Ella E. McBride at Tacoma Art Museum
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano
untitled gelatin silver print by Ella McBride, private collection, photo by Lou Cuevas, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum
For a short period of time during her long life, Seattle photographer Ella E. McBride was revered internationally, but after her death in 1965, at the age of 102, much of her work was lost, and today she is little known. Perhaps this exhibition will help restore her rightful stature in the art world. A late bloomer, she did not start taking photographs until she was 58 years old and actively worked as a photographer for only about 10 years. Only about 150 or her photographs survive; 57 of them are included in this exhibition, all done between 1921 and 1927.
McBride was associated with the pictorialist movement of photographers, who in many ways emulated the art of painting. Her specialty was flowers, but she also did figure studies, portraits, and both urban and nature scenes. No matter what she pointed her camera at, she was aware of light, composition and narrative potential. She did extreme closeups, which were just beginning to become common. She used selective focus and much soft focus, and dramatic lighting. Much of her soft-focus photography brings to mind atmospheric paintings such as James McNeil Whistler’s “Nocturne: The Thames at Battersea.” Her use of dark and light make many of her portraits and figurative works look like Rembrandts.
“In the Spring” from 1922 pictures a bearded old man contemplating a vase of flowers. It calls to mind Rembrandt’s “Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer.” You can almost see the brushstrokes, which are literally not there. An untitled photo from the same year pictures the same man contemplating a globe. Variations on a theme of this nature is a painting tradition, not a photographic tradition —evidence of how McBride worked like a painter.
Another fine example of her love for painting can be seen in her untitled photograph of an artist painting a large picture. The artist is seen mostly from the side and back. He sits in shadow. The only light on him is a sharp highlight in his dark hair and bright light on the arm and hand with which he paints his picture — making the act of painting the central focus of the picture. The light on his arm looks like heavy impasto laid on with a brush. The painting itself takes up most of the picture and is so dark that the man and woman in the painting can barely be seen.
“Leaving the Temple” depicts a vase, a statue and part of a hanging plant, all of which become secondary to the shadow cast by the vase, reversing the customarily relative importance of objects in such a still life arrangement and doing a switcheroo on light and dark by “highlighting” the statue with shadow. This is artistic sensitivity of the highest order.
McBride’s flower pictures are mostly shot in soft focus, emphasizing the delicacy of the flowers, or they are closeup images that take on a sculptural feel. Her outdoor scenes are atmospheric, misty and mysterious. I found myself wishing I could sit down, hold the pictures in my hand and meditate on them. And guess what. I can. Because I took home the book Captive Light: The Life and Photography of Ella E. McBride, a beautiful book available in the museum gift shop.
McBride was left out of the history books that I and most art majors studied. I’m so thankful for curators Margaret Bullock and David Martin for bringing her works to Tacoma Art Museum.
The photographs of Ella E. McBride, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through July 8, $13-$15, third Thursday free 5-8 p.m., Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Return to the Forbidden Planet at Centerstage

By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, March 21, 2018
Captain Tempest (Jimmi Cook) and Miranda (Helen Roundhill) , photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis
The Forbidden Planet meets Shakespeare meets Rocky Horror on stage at Centerstage in Federal Way, so be ready to rock and roll with the bard.
Return to the Forbidden Planet by Bob Carlton is a campy musical spoof on space exploration shows based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with rock and roll music from, mostly, the 1950s and ’60s.
On a set patterned after the bridge of “Star Trek’s” Enterprise, Captain Tempest (Jimmi Cook) and his science officer, Gloria (Olivia Lee), argue about the importance of men and women on earth to the tune of the James Brown hit “It’s a Man’s World.” When the ship gets hit with a meteor shower, the science officer escapes and the space ship is drawn to the planet D'Illyria, where they meet the mad scientist Dr. Prospero (Mark Waldstein) who comes onboard with his daughter, Miranda (Helen Roundhill) and his robot Ariel (Fune Tautala).
Madness ensues. The ship’s cook, Cookie (Nick Hyett-Schnell) falls madly in love with Miranda, and Miranda falls just as madly in love with Captain Tempest. This love triangle is hilariously played out to rock and roll with Miranda pining away to “Teenager in Love” while the Captain tries not so successfully to hold her at arm’s length with “Young Girl (get out of my mind)” and Cookie tops it off with a marvelous rendition of “She’s Not There,” on which he plays a knockout guitar solo.
The science officer returns followed by a giant green monster that looks like a mushroom jellyfish octopus bug, and Dr. Prospero takes the experimental drug he’s invented called Formula X, which is supposed to enhance brain power, and Cookie steals Formula X, but Ariel steals it from him — and in true Shakespearean fashion, all’s well that ends well, which is more fun than other Shakespearean endings in which everybody dies.
The show is cram-packed with quotes not only from The Tempest but from Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays, plus jokes on popular space movies, much of which are so ridiculous they’re funny, such as when the entire crew flashes the Vulcan hand sign and says, “Love well and Prosper-O,” and when Star Trek’s tribbles make brief appearances.
Captain Tempest is a cross between Captain Kirk from the original “Star Trek” and Fabio. He’s a muscular hunk who keeps preening and posing and tossing his long hair. The science officer is a tall and statuesque woman with pointy Vulcan ears, and Prospero’s hair and glasses make him look like a cross between Groucho Marx and Einstein. The singing and acting from all is superb.
As if all this madness were not enough, the theater gives out audience-participation bags and encourages the audience to join in the fun by following cues on the shipboard computer. Also on the computer screen is narration by a surprise celebrity whose identity I won’t divulge but who avid South Sound theatergoers will recognize.
Finally, I must mention a handful of the other great songs in the show, including “Shake Rattle and Roll,” “Only the Lonely,” “Born to be Wild,” and “Great Balls of Fire.”
Director Taylor Davis and her cast do a great job of bringing outrageous music and fun to Centerstage. Even people who do not normally like camp will be swept up by this one.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through March 31
WHERE: Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way
TICKETS: $29 adults, $25, Seniors (65+) and Military: $15; Youth (18-25): $12 17 and younger
INFORMATION: (253) 661-1444,

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Michael Johnson sculpture and modern Chinese art at University of Puget Sound

by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 15, 2018
 “untitled (Blue)” by Michael Johnson, courtesy University of Puget Sound
A line is defined as the path of a moving point. If the point is three dimensional and a foot or two in size in every direction, and if it doubles back on itself and crosses its own path like an Escher drawing or like a meandering line drawn without lifting the pen from the paper —and if it does all that while remaining a single cohesive form, what you have is a sculpture by Michael Johnson.
Michael Johnson: Sculpture in the front room and Rewriting Tradition: Modern Chinese Landscape and Calligraphy in the back room are the two shows now occupying Kittredge Gallery at University of Puget Sound. The obvious first-glance observation might be that no two shows could contrast so thoroughly. But after studying both shows, an interesting thought struck me, and it is this: if you isolate a letter or a word from the Chinese calligraphy and enlarge it into a large, three-dimensional form, the result would be the same thing as the meandering line mentioned above, a Michael Johnson sculpture.
Johnson’s sculptures are large and bold in the tradition of such artists as David Smith and Noguchi. They are painted in flat colors and are made from plywood sheets that are pieced together in such a way that most of them appear solid, with no joints, the only exception being one called “Confluence,” which is unpainted, and all the glued-together joints stand out like a sore thumb. I would love to ask the artist what his intention was with this one. Was it left this way as an example of his method? He does teach sculpture at UPS, after all. So maybe he included it as a lesson and will sand and paint it later.
One of the most intriguing is “untitled (blue),” which looks like a giant tuning fork. It rests at an angle on the curved fan-shaped part and looks as if it would teeter non-stop if touched. (I was so tempted to give it a little shove.) 
The sides double back upon themselves like pathways in an architectural maze. This is the one that made me think of Escher drawings.
It is fascinating to walk around Johnson’s sculptures to see how they look from different angles —surprises from every point of view.
There are five sculptures in the show, which is the perfect amount given the size of the works and the gallery. 
The other show features a variety of landscape paintings and calligraphy by modern Chinese artists. Local art lovers who are familiar with Japanese Sumi art, will recognize the style. These Chinese drawings and paintings are similar to the Sumi we’re used to, but there are subtle differences. Overall, the paintings have a softer look, and even though they are modern works —many from the 1950s to 1990s, but one from 1899, they look old.
Among my favorite pieces are “Picture of Blue Mountain” by Zhuo Hejun and a group of landscape paintings on rocks by Cynthia Wu. The blue of the mountain is subtle and seems to soak into the paper, and the composition enhances the height of the tall scroll, giving the viewer the feeling of looking up at a formidable mountain.
The works in this show are accompanied by wall texts with extensive information.

Michael Johnson sculpture and modern Chinese art, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through April 14, Kittredge Gallery, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Art of Racing in the Rain reviewed for OLY ARTS

Harlequin Productions’ The Art of Racing in the Rain is a triumph of humor and humanity, guaranteed to make you laugh and maybe even cry. Adapted for the stage by Myra Platt from the bestselling novel by Garth Stein and directed by Linda Whitney, Racing is laugh-out-loud funny throughout most of the performance, but with moments of tragedy and grief and a disturbing personal event which I shall not divulge in this review.

Read the complete review on OLY ARTS.