Thursday, October 4, 2018

Juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College

The good, the bad, and the what-the-heck
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 4, 2018
"Reverie," painting by Alain Clerc, courtesy Tacoma Community College
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: juried exhibitions are always a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the what-the-heck. Given that, the annual juried exhibition at the gallery at Tacoma Community College weighs much more heavily toward the good, with a few pieces that could even be called great.
Among the more outstanding pieces is Irene Osborn’s ceramic sculpture “Refugee.” It is a small bust of a mother holding her child to her breast. The feelings it conveys are sadness and sweetness. It could almost be said to be maudlin, but it rises above that. And then, if you look at it from the back, there is a huge surprise. The figure is hollowed out and lumps of clay inside the scooped-out figure look like a cascading waterfall of boulders. It is startling, thought provoking and attention-grabbing.
“Refugee” ceramic sculpture by Irene Osborn, courtesy Tacoma Community College
Another piece that is attention-grabbing is Lois Beck’s monoprint “Intersection.” There are four small prints mounted within a horizontal frame. Each print is an almost solid dark brown with two jagged white lines like lightning strikes that run from edge to edge, intersecting at one point. It is a small but bold and simple print that is electric in its impact.
And yet another startling image is Mary Beth Haynes’s sculpture in painted waxed clay, “Manifesto.” It is a bust of a woman with arms lifted as if in celebration and mouth open in what looks like a defiant shout. Even though the sculpture is small, the figure appears monumental. She is a large, muscular woman. Her hands and the top of her head are left unfinished in jagged shards like a figure in the process of being chiseled out of a mountain. This is a powerful image that reminds me of the female figures seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes now on display at the Tacoma Armory.
Barbara Patterson has two paintings in the show that amazingly look much alike even though one of them is completely abstract and the other is clearly figurative. “The Dance of the Monks” depicts three dancing monks painted mostly in flat areas of blue with some orange, and the untitled abstract painting next to it is a grouping of squarish shapes in the same range of blues and oranges.
“Nude Window” by Paul Steucke is a large nude that reminds me very much of paintings by Robert Henri of the Ashcan School in its moody simplicity, but it is more contemporary in appearance because it is flatter.
There are two paintings by Alain Clerc that create large overall patterns with peek-a-boo figures that are mostly hidden within patterns of organic shapes. His “Reverie” is a landscape with two female nudes sprawled across hills. At first glance the figures are not noticeable but are just part of the landscape. And at the bottom there is a large running rabbit that’s remindful of the hare in Alice in Wonderland. His paintings are clever in concept and eye-catching due to the ways in which a variety of colors and shapes are unified into a single pattern.
Glen LaMar is represented with three abstract sculptures, two with soaring shapes and one like a heraldic shield, and all with rich, opalescent colors. His “Inner Beauty” was chosen for a juror’s choice award. Also chosen for a juror’s choice award was one of two paintings by Lynette Charters from her celebrated Missing Woman series, either of which could easily deserve the award.
Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Oct. 20, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Paradise Motel

Staged readings from the works of Sam Shepard
By Alec Clayton

Photo of Company, left to right: Jeff Salazar, Deya Ozburn, Jason Sharp, Meleesa Wyatt, Marilyn Bennett, Mark Peterson, and Peter Pendras, photo courtesy Marilyn Bennett

Paradise Motel is Toy Boat Theatre’s staged readings from Sam Shepard's plays, short stories, poems, essays, journals and interviews with actors Marilyn Bennett, Mark Peterson, Deya Ozburn, Jeff Salazar, Jason Sharp and Meleesa Wyatt. Longtime Northwest guitarist and recording artist, Peter Pendras will accompany the performance.
“In college I did an independent study course on Sam Shepard and discovered that his plays, like August Wilson’s, gave the world an honest glimpse into an American perspective of American Life,” Peterson said. He goes on to say That Bennett’s selections give audiences “a beautiful tribute to Sam Shepard's effect on her work and I think in the spirit of Mr. Shepard's storytelling.”
Shepard is an iconic American playwright and Oscar-nominated film actor who died July 27, 2017 of complications from ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease.
Born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1943 to an army officer, Shepard grew up on a ranch in California and went to college in Texas. He first came to national notice during the 1960s, winning three OBIE Awards for three short plays. His greatest theatrical accomplishment was his 1979 full-length play, Buried Child, about a dysfunctional family with a terrible years-old secret, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He also wrote screen plays, directed for stage and screen, and was nominated for an OSCAR for his role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.
Shepard's cannon of plays and writings offers a dark and gritty portrait of the American family. In plain, often profane language, his characters argue, abandon, return after years away, love hard and fight harder. Many of his works are funny, his characters given to high expectations and very low results.
I grew up on Shepard's writings, and wanted to offer some sort of homage to him and his incredible, unique writing, Bennett said. “I am six years younger than Sam Shepard, and became aware of his work during my college days in the UW School of Drama. While a graduate student in Seattle, I performed at a Capitol Hill theatre in Shepard's early one-act play, the Cajun thriller Back Bog Beast Bait with fellow Paradise Motel company member, Meleesa Wyatt. I played the Cajun conjurer, Gris Gris, miming recorded music on a fiddle as I roared around the stage spouting beast prophecy and harassing those who feared his coming. Needless to say, it was a blast and I was hooked.
“I began reading anything of Shepard's I could find, and some years later, at University of San Diego, I directed his darkly humorous family drama A Lie of the Mind. I continued to read his writings: plays, prose, poetry, reflections, musings. I was less enamored of his film work, but always found him a looker. Somehow, his unique way of writing about and describing a dusty, flat, itinerant and violent American West, and his long estrangement from his father, have always moved me. And I am struck by the vulnerability of his fear of flying. His openness about the progression of his ALS in Spy of the First Person is devastating.

The reading includes pieces from many of his non-theatre writings, including selections from Motel Chronicles and Cruising ParadiseHawk Moon, Two Prospectors, The One Inside, Rolling Thunder Log Book and his last work, Spy of the First Person. Play excerpts include Back Bog Beast Bait, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, A Lie of the Mind, Fool for Love, True West, and Sympatico.
"I'm a Shepard newbie,” said Ozburn. “Never having been particularly drawn to the genre in which he writes (that ‘dusty, flat, itinerant, violent American West,’ as Marilyn describes it). Working with Toy Boat and Marilyn always expands my horizons though, and I jumped at the change to have an excuse to dive in and explore the sampling of Shepard's works that she had curated into this performance reading. More than his plays, I'd say I've been drawn to his poetry, writings on art, and his last work, Spy of the First Person. I'm a big fan of his dry humor—at how un-precious he is about his ‘process’ as a writer and an actor; the ridiculous situations artists find themselves in to do what they do for an outcome at any cost. Countering that with Spy at the end of his life—absolutely open to the humility of losing with the fascination of character study equal to one of his plays. He leaves you in a place of very specified, detailed loss of things you take for granted. He leaves you with a sense of the importance of family, and what lives on after."
This reading contains adult themes and language; suitable for mature teens and adults. It is a minimally staged reading by six actors, underscored with American country-rock guitar by Peter Pendras. Plays about 80 minutes, followed by wine.
Paradise Motel 8 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13, King's Books. 218 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, WA, $5.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Newsies at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

Newsboys shut down New York City with song and dance
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 27, 2018
The cast of Newsies, photo by Kat Dollarhide
Disney’s Newsies at Tacoma Musical Playhouse is a romping stomping look at the beginnings of the labor movement, based on the true story of an historic strike by newsboys that brought business to a standstill in New York in 1899. Newsies won Tony awards for Best Choreography (Christopher Gattelli) and Best Original Score (Alan Menken and Jack Feldman). Locally, choreographer Megan Hicks adapted the challenging dance numbers to fit on a smaller stage with 35-plus actors running, leaping, spinning and turning flips in a space where it would seem impossible to move without knocking fellow dancers flat on their backs — quite the choreographic feat, and they pulled it off.
Newsies is an exuberant, high-energy show with a huge cast but only a handful of lead characters, including the versatile and exciting Jake Atwood as Jack Kelly, leader of the striking news boys; Sam Bennett as his best friend Crutchie; Colin Briskey as Davey; 10-year-old Howy Howard as Les; Ashley Koon as the reporter Katherine, a not-so-surprising love interest; and Lakewood Playhouse Artistic Director John Munn as the autocratic Joseph Pulitzer. It’s a stellar cast.
In the past few years it has been my pleasure to review Atwood’s work in wide range of musicals from Footloose to Catch Me If You Can, to The Rocky Horror Show, and in each of these, different versions of his talent have been manifest. In theater circles there’s a phrase, “chewing the scenery,” that is usually a derogatory meaning to display excessive emotion. Atwood not only chews the scenery, he spits it out and makes the audience love it. He plays Jack as a wisecracking, streetwise tough guy with a sensitive core. He’s not only tough, he’s highly flawed and vulnerable.
Howard might be young, but he’s no novice to the stage. He was recently seen in Beauty and the Beast at TMP and has been in 14 of their youth camp shows. He holds his own and shines brightly among the adult actors.
Koon and Bennett each play their parts well and have voices that stand out. Bennett is particularly outstanding on the poignant “Letter from the Refuge” in the beginning of Act Two.
Munn is convincingly autocratic and powerful with terrific acting chops as Joseph Pulitzer the complex newspaper tycoon who championed labor until it came to his own paper.
Two giants of South Sound stagecraft, Blake York and Bruce Haasl, were responsible for the gorgeous set — a group of moveable industrial stairs and balconies with a backdrop that combined newspaper pages and graffiti, said backdrop beautifully lighted with changing colors by lighting designer Jacob Viramontes and lighting operator Demmarie McKay.
Few of the cast members are identified by name in the show, so I can’t credit all I would like to. I would like to point out Alex Domine as Race and Jessica Furnstahl, recently seen as Elle Woods in Broadway Olympia Productions’ Legally Blonde, for her energetic and expressive dancing.
Kudos to the whole cast and crew of Newsies. Special kudos for casting women as a good number of the news boys.

Newsies, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 7, Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $22-$31, 253.565.6867,

Friday, September 28, 2018

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Tacoma

A once in a lifetime opportunity
By Alec Clayton
installation view of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel at the Tacoma Armory, photo by Gabi Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 27, 2018
The Broadway Center presents Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Tacoma Armory. The late Renaissance master’s famous fresco on the Sistine ceiling and its accompanying “Last Judgement” painting on the back wall of the chapel have been photographically reproduced at the original size on special fabric that mimics the look and texture of the original frescos and can now be seen at Tacoma’s Armory.
The reproductions are mounted on large panels and suspended from the ceiling of the Armory. Nine of the panels, including the famous image of God touching the hand of Adam in the clouds, hang overhead on panels that are 18.8 x 15 feet. Ten 12.4 x 9-foot panels are hung on each side, and at the back are a group of panels, the largest of which is 12.4 by 19 feet. Like the original in Vatican City, the size and complexity are overwhelming. And there’s more. Hanging approximately 20 feet in front of the back wall is a somewhat smaller than original reproduction of Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement,” the powerful depiction of people being judged at the end of time and either sent up to heaven or cast down into hell.
The ceiling fresco tells the story of the creation of the heavens and earth; this is followed by the creation of Adam and Eve and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden; and finally, the story of Noah and the flood.
It took Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling painting, 1508 to 1512. “The Last Judgement” was not painted until 25 years later. Originally its nearly 300 figures were naked, but at some point the Vatican had clothing added. Over the years, the frescos faded and cracked, and between 1980 and 1994 they were restored (it took a team of restorers 10 years longer to restore it than it took the single artist to paint it). On the back of the “Last Judgement” in the Armory hangs a reproduction of the fresco as it looked before the restoration.
At the Tacoma Armory, viewers can see the paintings from up close, and there is signage explaining what each of the images are and giving insight into the history of the chapel and of the artist, including Michelangelo’s clashes with Pope Julius II.
The exhibition will be in Tacoma for only three weeks. Admission is limited to 1.5 hours with specified admission times: Sat.-Sun. noon–1:30 p.m., 1:45–3:15 p.m., 3:30–5 p.m., 5:15–6:45 p.m., 7–8:30 p.m., Wed.-Fri., 1–2:30 p.m., 2:45–4:15 p.m., 4:30-6 p.m., and 6–7:45 p.m.
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, through Oct. 14, $12-$24, admission is for 1.5 hours, Tacoma Armory, 1001 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma

Monday, September 24, 2018

by Alec Clayton

Syra Beth Puett as Eleanor the Queen in The Lion in Winter, photo by Dean Lapin
Tacoma Youth Theatre presents a special performance of My Husband Liked Beverly Better, the engaging one-woman show written and performed by Syra Beth Puett that premiered in 2017 at Lakewood Playhouse. In the performance, Puett sits in a comfortable chair and chats with the audience in a most personal and revealing manner about her life both inside, and outside the theater. This intimate show spans more than 50 years in Syra Beth's life on and off stage in opera and dramatic and musical stage performances.

A Southerner by birth, transformed to a Pacific Northwesterner, Syra Beth has performed in Germany, Poland, South Korea, and in six states, and began her Tacoma acting career in 1979. In more recent years, she has been seen as Eleanor the Queen inThe Lion in Winter at Lakewood Playhouse, as the loveable Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond at Tacoma Little Theatre and as Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy at Dukesbay Productions.

I was privileged to see her in My Husband Liked Beverly Better at Lakewood Playhouse and was totally captivated.

One performance only
Sunday, Oct. 14 2 p.m.
Tacoma Youth Theatre
924-B Broadway, Tacoma

Sunday, September 16, 2018

My Husband Liked Beverly Better

Sept. 19 - Sorry to report that this show has been cancelled. I've heard reports that is might be rescheduled at another venue. I'll re-post with updated info when I can.

by Alec Clayton

Syra Beth Puett as Eleanor the Queen in The Lion in Winter, photo by Dean Lapin
There will be a special performance of My Husband Liked Beverly Better, the engaging one-woman show written and performed by Syra Beth Puett that premiered in 2017 at Lakewood Playhouse. In the performance, Puett sits in a comfortable chair and chats with the audience in a most personal and revealing manner about her life both inside, and outside the theater. This intimate show spans more than 50 years in Syra Beth's life on and off stage in opera and dramatic and musical stage performances.

A Southerner by birth, transformed to a Pacific Northwesterner, Syra Beth has performed in Germany, Poland, South Korea, and in six states, and began her Tacoma acting career in 1979. In more recent years, she has been seen as Eleanor the Queen in The Lion in Winter at Lakewood Playhouse, as the loveable Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond at Tacoma Little Theatre and as Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy at Dukesbay Productions.

I was privileged to see her in My Husband Liked Beverly Better at Lakewood Playhouse and was totally captivated.

My Husband Liked Beverly Better
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2-3:30 p.m.
The Spire, 710 S Anderson St off 6th Avenue

Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: Brighton Beach Memoirs

by Alec Clayton  
Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 14, 2018
Pamela Roza as Kate (seated) and Brynne Garman as Blanche, photo courtesy Lakewood Playhouse
It is coincidental that Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” opened at Lakewood Playhouse two weeks after Simon’s death, which adds an extra touch of poignancy to this realistic comic-drama, the first in a trio of autobiographical plays by Simon.
Ably directed by John Olive, Lakewood Playhouse’s first artistic director, the striking thing about “Brighton Beach Memoirs” is how down-to-earth and believable it is. Yes, it is peppered with Simon’s celebrated wit, but much more than that, it is relatable to everyone.
Fifteen-year-old Eugene (Drew Bates), clearly a Simon avatar, already knows he’s going to be a writer when he grows up, but before he can become a writer he has to do two things: play for the New York Yankees and see a naked woman.
Every character in the play is complex and multi-layered, and they clearly love one another even as they struggle and bicker. The actors display a grasp of their characters as real people in family situations.
from left: Andrew Box Burden as Stanley and Drew Bates as Eugene, photo courtesy Lakewood Playhouse
The comic highlights are when Eugene asks big brother Stanley (Andrew Fox Burden) to explain all about puberty and what girls look like without their clothes – and what about that dream he had last night. And as funny as Eugene’s coming-of-age scenes are, the clash between sisters Blanche (Brynne Garman) and Kate (Pamela Roza) are equally intense. One of the most satisfying scenes in the play is when Kate finally allows herself to confront her sister with resentments stretching back to childhood. And we admire and empathize with the father, Jack (W. Scott Pinkston), as he tries his hardest to be the glue that holds this volatile family together despite his own problems.
It is a wonderful story masterfully performed, with the largest and most elaborate set ever erected at the 80-year-old Lakewood Playhouse (designed by Olive).
Bates is a student at Auburn Riverside High School. For such a young man, he plays his part with the confidence and ability of a seasoned actor – nuanced, intense and funny. Burden, whose only previous acting experience has been in high school plays, also performs like an experienced professional. He captures the look and the voice and the gestures of what audiences have come to expect of a young man from a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The three adults in the play, Garman, Roza and Pinkston, bring years of acting experience to the stage, and they handle their parts well. That leaves the other two younger actors, Kate-Lynn Siemers as Laurie and Andrea Gordon as Nora. Both of them capture the looks and movements of their characters, but each of them needs to project better. It was difficult to hear them on opening night.
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” at Lakewood Playhouse is a fitting tribute to the late Neil Simon. It is three-hours long, and the theater warns that the sexual discussions between the brothers might not be suitable for younger audience members.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 30
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood TICKETS: $20-$26
INFORMATION: (253) 588-0042, 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Olympia’s fall theater scene

Christopher Valcho as Mark Rothko and John Tuttle as Ken in Red at Olympia Little Theatre, photo by Jim Patrick.

From a loveable bear to a loveable transvestite
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 6, 2018
I know it’s the oldest cliché in the book, but Olympia’s fall theater scene has something for everyone, from mystery to comedy to children’s fare to musicals, and various mixtures of all that.
Harlequin Productions’ season runs later than other theaters, meaning as the fall season opens everywhere else, they are still running the last show in their 2018 season with a continuation of Ruthless, through Sept. 15, followed by Dry Powder Oct. 4-27, and finally the 2018-2019 season opens with Stardust Christmas Groove, the 24th installment in the Stardust series of Christmas musicals, Nov. 29.
Ruthless is a wonderful campy musical about a young girl who is willing to kill to be a star. A parody of such shows about show business as Gypsy, in this one it is the kid, not the stage mother, who is ruthless. But then everything changes and we discover people are not who they seem to be. Directed by Aaron Lamb and starring Charlotte Darling, Aubrey Thomas and Gregory Conn, Ruthless is the funniest musical you’re likely to see this year.
Olympia Family Theater starts their season with the delightful children’s show Corduroy. Follow the popular bear on his delightfully destructive chase through every section of the department store in search of his missing button. OFT says, “Will the night watchperson find him and return him to his shelf before he can find his important button? Will Lisa ever convince her mother to let her give the bear a home? This enduring story stirs up the stage with a bustling rumpus of action and a tender tale of true friendship.” Adapted for the Stage by Barry Kornhauser and directed by Jon Tallman, Corduroy opens Sept. 28.
From light hearted and silly to the most intense of dramas, we go to Red at Olympia Little Theatre. This two-man show is the story of the great Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko as he takes on the biggest challenge of his life, a group of large paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. In bad health and wracked with self-doubt, Rothko (Christopher Valcho) is locked in a battle over his artistic visions with his assistant, Ken (John Tuttle). Red is directed by Jim Patrick. It opens Sept. 20.
Following Red will be Clockwork, a wacky comedy musical directed by Robert McConkey, Oct. 26-Nov. 11.
Finally we come to the next offering from Olympia’s newest theater company, Broadway Olympia Productions: the one, the only, The Rocky Horror Show. Join innocent and naïve Brad and Janet as they stumble into the castle of Dr. Frank ’N’ Furter, an alien, transvestite scientist with a manic genius and insatiable libido. It’s an evening or horror, sci-fi and rock and roll.
Ruthless!, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 15, State Theater, 202 4th Ave. E., Olympia, $42 general. $38 senior/military, $25 student/youth, 360.786.0151,
Corduroy, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 28 to Oct. 21, with one Thursday show Oct. 4 at 7 p.m., $19 adults, $16, Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia,, 360.570.1638.
Red, 7:25 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20-30, $9-$15, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave NE, Olympia, 360.786.9484,
The Rocky Horror Show, 8 p.m., Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, 2 p.m. matinee and midnight show Nov. 3, $20, The Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave SE,

Friday, August 31, 2018

Olympia Family Theater’ Award of Excellence

For young audiences and anyone who has ever been a kid
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 30, 2018
from left: Jill Barnes, Samantha Chandler, Jen Ryle and WCPA Board Chair Alex Bunn, photo by Kathy Strauss Media
At the Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ third annual Center Stage Awards & Gala in July, 232 guests cheered as Olympia Family Theater was presented with an Award of Excellence for “achievement in the arts.” An Award of Excellence was also presented to James L. This for “commitment to the arts.”
"This was an extraordinary evening of generosity and love for the arts," said Washington Center Executive Director Jill Barnes.
Founded a dozen years ago by Samantha Chandler and current Artistic Director Jen Ryle, OFT has produced more than 50 theatrical shows for and by children and adults since their first show in October 2006, and the company continues to offer educational programs for youth from infancy through high school. OFT has also premiered locally written plays such as Cinder Edna, adapted by Ted Ryle; Fishnapped by Amy Fisher and Andrew Gordon with music and lyrics by Daven Tillinghast; and 3 Impossible Questions by Christian Carvajal.
At the awards ceremony, Ryle and Chandler told stories about OFT’s 12 years of theater. Ryle said, “OFT is helping raise a new generation that loves the performing arts by providing quality theatrical productions for young audiences and for anyone who has ever been a kid. It's wonderful to be recognized for something that is so close to my heart. I am truly living my dream, seeing Olympia Family Theater introduce new generations of kids to plays and musicals designed especially with them in mind. So many people have helped us to reach this point; amazing local actors, designers, technicians, musicians, writers, donors, and volunteers. We at OFT are all so proud and honored to be recognized by our friends at the Washington Center.  Some of our early years were spent at the Washington Center's Black Box so it felt a little like going home to be back for this amazing event.”
Barnes said, “For 12 years, Olympia Family Theater has put local performers to work and provided quality theatrical programming to even the youngest of theater patrons. The artists know that some audience members might be wiggly, giggly and rambunctiously responsive, and that is totally okay. They offer an up-close theater experience that is rare, opening the door for a lifetime of artistic appreciation. These are just a few of the reasons that Olympia Family Theater received the Achievement for the Arts Award.”
OFT's 2018-2019 season opens with an adaptation of the popular children's book, Corduroy. Other main stage shows to fill out the season will include Tiny Tim's Christmas, Flora & Ulysses, The Hundred Dresses, and Go, Dog, Go!
James L. This was co-founder of Opus Seventy-One, and through the Capital Area Association of the Performing Arts secured the initial funding for the building of the Washington Center. He produced and directed musicals at Abbey Theater, Olympia Little Theatre and Capital High School, and helped in the founding of Harlequin Productions.
Coyduroy, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 28 to Oct. 21, $20 adults, $16 military, $15 youth,, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia,, 360-570-1638.

Make/Do at History Museum

A history of creative reuse
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 30, 2018

“Ed Kienholz (Younger),” cardboard, glue, screws and pigment, by Scott Fife, photo by Mark Davison, courtesy the artist. 

Make/Do at the Washington State History Museum is an exhibition of fine and utilitarian art made with found and previously used items from the 1700s to contemporary works by local and regional artists including Marita Dingus, Pat Tassoni and Jean Mandeberg.
There are 180 items on display from children’s toys made from scrap material to insulated walls made from old magazine covers to crazy quilts and clothing to contemporary art that is, in the words of the museum, “upcycling, downcycling and recycling.”
 “Upcycling’s taken on new life in recent years with a renewed focus on reuse. However, there was once a time when upcycling wasn’t just a hobby, it was a way of life. The Historical Society’s collections are full of examples of creative ‘making do’—flour sack clothes, stacking toys made from tin cans, that sort of thing,” said lead curator Gwen Whiting.
The first room in the gallery is a timeline of making do with “upcycling” in the form of collage and drawings on cardboard by Tacoma’s R.R. Anderson of Tinkertopia, spread around the room like pages in a graphic novel. It is fascinating, and I do hope viewers will take time to read it all.

Tacoma art lovers are aware of the sculptural work of Scott Fife, creator of the “Big Dog” at Tacoma Art Museum. In this exhibition, he is represented by a sculpted head of the artist Ed Kienholz made of cardboard and screws and pigment. The cardboard is attached with glue and screws and painted a dull gray to emulate slabs of clay. In this rendition, Kienholz has an intense and mesmerizing look in his eyes.

Who would have thought of using police tape to fashion a dress? Contemporary artist Nancy Judd of Rycycled Runway’s “Caution Tape Dress” is made of caution tape recovered from the side of the road and sewn onto a vintage sundress. To be worn only by the daring.
“TrashWall,” made this year by students in the Washington State University School of Design and Construction, is a four-by-three-foot panel of alternating patterns that is not only attractive as art but is meant to be used as insulation. It is constructed with recycled magazine pages. This and two other wall panels from the same group are on display. They also made durable bricks out of recycled drywall waste, which can be seen in this show.
There is a delightful toy dog and an equally delightful toy robot made by Graham Schodda out of such materials as a vintage vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, ice cream scoops, jigsaw, baseball glove, toasters, and kitchen utensils. They’re fun to look at and probably should be viewed more as art than as toys.
There is a “basket” by Jan Hopkins made from dried orange peels, wood, paper and thread. The stitched-together swirl patterns look like leather or clay. I put the term “basket” in quotes because it looks more like a pot than a basket. But whatever it is, it’s very attractive.
There is a wondrous amount of fascinating history and art in this exhibition. A museum worker said the show is not getting as many visitors as they expected. I hope reading this will encourage more of you to see it.
Make/Do, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Third Thursday, through Dec. 6, free for members; $14 adults, $11 seniors, students, and active duty and retired military, $40 per family (up to 2 adults and up to 4 children under age 18), free for children under 5. Patrons with a Washington Quest card or with a Washington Foster Parent license (and ID), $1 per person or $2 per family, free Third Thursday, Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Women in Wood at American Art Company

Turned Wood and Hilga Winter’s paper sculpture
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 23, 2018
“Leaves,” sculpted paper by Helga Winter, courtesy American Art Company
Women in Wood continues through Sept. 15 at American Art Company, showcasing turned wood pieces by 13 women woodworkers from around the country, including Helga Winter, Betty Scarpino, Cindy Drozda, Dixie Biggs, Donna Zils Banfield and Barbara Dill. As a bonus, Winter is showing eight pieces from a new series she calls sculptural paintings. They are essentially paintings that stand two to three inches out from the wall made of book pages rolled into tubes and attached to a flat surface with the cut edges facing outward and from sheets of paper with at least one ragged edge that are stacked in an accordion arrangement. In many of her pieces the paper is colored in fire colors such as red, yellow and orange — even the blue and green tones, normally cool colors, are hot. In others, the paper is left its natural color to form patterns that call to mind parchment and tree bark.
The pieces in which the paper is not colored are more meaningful in that they reflect on the material from which the paper comes. For example, the large piece in the entrance called “The Secret Life of Trees” reminds us of the working of roots underground and the intertwining of limbs and leaves. The more colorful pieces are exciting, but I suspect over time the excitement might wear thin.
Unless you peer into what the artist calls their hidden stories. The paper is from books, and the words from the books are mostly out of sight and unreadable. “I have hidden the words and knowledge that nevertheless are still there,” Winter writes. “By turning books inside out, I want to turn my stories, my perceptions, inside out, recognize how they can diminish my life, and then create new and conscious stories that are close to the current truth.”  
The turned wood is all beautifully crafted. Scarpino might well be the star of the wood show. There are five pieces by her displayed in a group near the back of the gallery on black sculpture stands. Each of the pieces is small, and there is quite a variety of style among the five. “Be Seeded” is a sensual seedpod made of dark cherry wood. Lying in the pod are four round white balls or seeds. There is a nice contrast between dark and light, and rough and smooth forms that all fit together smoothly despite their contrasts.
Another piece in the group, which was created in collaboration with Biggs, is called “Egg and Crate.” Inside a tiny wood-slat box is a decorative egg resting on a bed of wood shavings. It is a fun little item that would make for a conversation starter on someone’s shelf at home.
Kristen Le Vier is showing a couple of turned-wood snakes. “Slither” is a painted snake, half green and half black, in European pear and acrylic paint. Her “Talisman for the Home” I see more as a humorous icon than a talisman. Made of maple, epoxy, clay and acrylic, it is a snake wrapped around a long-handled wooden spoon. Imagine seeing this on your kitchen counter.
Also of note are a couple of dark wood decorative platters: Merryl Saylan’s “Padauk Platter” and Sally Ault’s “Carved Platter.” Both are notable for their rich coloring and subtle patterns.
If you like fine craft work, I suggest you stop by American Art Company to take a look at these works.
Women in Wood, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Sept. 15, American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327,

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.