Monday, November 28, 2022

Becky Knold’s exciting new paintings


Like a collection of elegant and mysterious religious icons dug up from a newly discovered ancient civilization, Becky Knold’s mixed-media scrolls on display in the lobby of the State Theatre during the run of Harlequin Productions' “A Christmas Carol” evoke the balance of light and dark, good and evil, with their contrasts and harmonies of non-traditional form and media. They are constructed/painted with tar and many other media on tarpaper — re-cycled posters and art papers, acrylic, oil, and spray paints, metallic pigments and powders, hand-painted papers for collage elements, wood laminate, used metal sanding discs, sandpaper, assorted found fabric, string, wire, and more. Each scroll has a glowing disc at the top with strips of painted and troweled layering of paint below. These paintings are the apotheosis and culmination (so far) of Knold’s art over the past few decades.

There will be an artist’s reception in the lobby Sunday, Dec. 11 from noon to 1 p.m. Learn more about Knold’s art here

From a written statement by Becky Knold:

 “Sometimes the discovery of a new material, or tool, or process can inspire new possibilities in one’s artwork. For me in this case, the catalyst was the discovery of tar as a painting medium, and tar paper as a surface to paint on. It was a couple of years ago that I became enamored with tar. Such a beautiful substance – thick, richly hued black and earth tones, shiny, gooey, with a semi-gloss finish that just feels good and honest. 

"Inspired by artists before me such as Anselm Kiefer, Guy Anderson, Morris Graves, and Theaster Gates, who have used it to great effect, I began experimenting. I found a tar-derived product called roof sealant used by roofers to protect against moisture. It can be thinly applied with a brush or thickly with a trowel. At the same time, I came across another product that was bound to change my work – a deliciously smooth and absorbent black paper, sold in big, wide rolls –“roofing felt.” a.k.a. tar paper. When unrolled, it drapes gracefully and can be hung on the wall as a scroll, frameless. Perfect for the large scale, experimental paintings I wanted to try.  . . .

“As for the motivation and theme of these new paintings, they are also consistent with some of my past work. The motivation came, in part, from an inescapable feeling of the increasing“darkness” of our times (which could be discussed at length). However, I need to add that this perceived condition has also served to reinforce and deepen my desire to focus on and create paintings that affirm the existence of “light” – an affirmation that will add to our sense of well-being and optimism. By overlaying a symbol of hope and beauty (the circle, in golden colors) on top of a starkly dark background, I want to show two sides of the same reality – the dark and the light, the ugly and the beautiful as they exist simultaneously, with the lightness symbolically transcending the darkness. I paint because I love the materials and processes of making art, but when these things can be married to the message – the dualities – inherent in our reality, well, I love it even more!”


With a few rare exceptions such as this review, I will not continue posting art and theater reviews on this blog. Going forward, my reviews will be posted only on OLY ARTS .

OLY ARTS offers Olympia’s best and virtually only coverage of the arts by a team of many of Olympia’s best professional arts writers who are themselves active performers, playwrights and visual artists. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022


Susan Christian’s Blue at LGM Studio

By Alec Clayton

Through popular use, the term abstract has come to mean what the term nonobjective once meant, that is paintings with no recognizable subject matter. Many of the paintings in Susan Christian’s exhibition “Blue” at LGM Studio are nonobjective, some are abstract, a couple are almost realistic; and all are lovely, deceptively simple, and exciting for viewers who take the effort to really look.

There are 24 to 25 paintings in the show, all but two are paintings on strips of lathe that are put together in rectangular shapes of various sizes. The two exceptions are a pair of older paintings on facing walls of water and sky in arresting shades of blue painted wet-on-wet with acrylic paint. There are drips and splatters and puddled paint — expressive and gestural, but not in the aggressive manner of abstract expressionism but rather soft, and contemplative and restful.

There is a feeling of aloneness and quiet strength in all of these paintings, a love of color and love of the water and sky surrounding her home on the bay. A favorite is a small painting called “Endlessness.” It is light blue-gray with in the center a rectangle of soft white that glows beckoningly like light from a window seen through dense fog. Above it is a tiny streak of red that is recognizable only up close as a broken strip of wood, and even more subtle above that a strip of green. Such subtle contrasts of color and texture in fields of solid color are a hallmark of all of these paintings.

There is a structurally strong painting called “Solidarity” that is a solid color, deep blue, in which the only contrasts are in the placement of the strips of lathe: 15 vertical strips above three sets of three strips that form a group of squares along the bottom.

Along one wall is a group of five paintings with stronger contrasts of color and texture than the rest, and less abstract than the rest are a painting of a lonesome country road and two paintings of boats. One titled “La Mystere” is an empty boat floating on the bay and casting a dark blue shadow down deep, deep, deep into the water. This one is a powerful image due to its simplicity and strong contrasts. In the other boat picture, the empty boat rests on land and is delineated by lines of dots.

Susan Christian’s longtime friend and neighbor Llyn de Danaan recognized that the way Susan lives in an old oyster factory that juts out over the water on Oyster Bay affects her vision of the world and her art. In a review posted on Facebook, de Danaan wrote:


“There is blue. There is white. There is a seeming portal…a “Lonesome Road,” with bits of green, a yellow with blood or flame called ‘Annunciation,’ a couple of phantom boats. ‘House Plan’ has a lot of red. And the mountain, there across what might be the bay, at sunset. I love her depiction of our mountain, the mountain of our lives seen from the west side of Oyster Bay.”


“What is important here is color, big swathes of it. Like color field painting, we are invited to simply engage with color and the marks made with it and on it. And to celebrate the way Susan sees the world.”


A number of her paintings were sold at Arts Walk. Whether you are thinking of buying or just want to look, there are limited opportunities to see these fine paintings.


Blue: new paintings by Susan Christian

Noon to 5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through Oct. 30

Artist talk 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

LGM Studio, 114 Capitol Way N, Olympia

Saturday, August 13, 2022

‘The (one act) Play That Goes Wrong’ at BOP


If you’ve read OLY ARTS, you know that BOP and TAO have merged to bring Olympia top notch stage musicals, comedies and drama. You probably already know that BOP is Broadway Olympia Productions now located in Olympia’s Capital Mall and TAO is Theater Artists Olympia. If their first joint production, The (one act) Play That Goes Wrong is any indication, the merger of these two companies is going to be a roaring success.

Comedies about inept theater companies producing disastrous plays has become so ubiquitous that they deserve to be in a genre all their own. There are musicals, dramas, comedies, romantic musical-comedy-dramas; and now plays about plays (usually farces) that go wrong—with actors who forget their lines, run into props, walls and into other actors; and props that fall apart, doors and windows that won’t open or close, and things that fall off walls.

The (one act) Play That Goes Wrong, directed by Pug Bujeaud, has all of this and more, and, despite the genre, it is all unexpected. And the acting is great.

Unlike other plays about plays, this one has no backstage scenes; there are no love affairs between the actors, no backstory. There is nothing but the play within the play. Or to put it more succinctly, there is nothing but the play. The “director” (Xander Layden) walks onto the stage and welcomes the audience with a short curtain speech, and the play, a 1920s murder mystery called The Murder at Haversham Manor, begins. Almost immediately, Charles Haversham (Josh Palmer) is murdered on the day before his wedding to Florence Colleymore (Heather Christopher), who is having an affair with Charles’s brother Cecil (Sebastian Cintron). As in most good murder mysteries, a police inspector is called in and everybody is locked in the house, and they all know that someone in the house is the murderer.

Beyond this setup, there is nothing I can reveal about the story that won’t ruin some delicious surprises.

Also starring George Blanchard as the butler, Marko Bujeaud as the lighting and sound guy who is missing his Duran Duran CD, Robert McConkey as Florence’s brother, and Andrea Weston-Smart as Annie, the stage manager.

Michael Christopher and Marko Bujeaud did a marvelous job designing a beautiful set that does things inanimate objects shouldn’t do.


This might be the funniest play you’ll see all year.


Masks are required at all shows.

Aug. 18-20 at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 21-28 at 2 p.m.

BOP Studio in Capital Mall



Saturday, May 28, 2022

Cry It Out


A Tacoma Little Theatre’s ‘Off The Shelf’ Production


Tacoma Little Theatre's Off the Shelf program presents Molly Smith Metzler’s exploration of motherhood, Cry It Out, directed by Suzy Willhoft with a four-actor cast featuring Claire Garcia, Ashley Evergreen, Erin Hess, and Jason Kosenski. Coming June 9.

Cry It Out is a biting comedy about the challenges of new parenthood, the hard realities of socioeconomic class and the importance of friendship. This funny and moving play takes three new mothers and one new father and shares their struggle with staying home (or not) with baby.  Their changing choices are complicated, emotional, and deeply personal as we all explore “the other side of everything.”

Tickets for the June 9 performance at 7:30pm are $10.00 for non-TLT Members, and FREE for members. Tickets may be purchased online at, or by calling the Box Office at (253) 272-2281. 


“We know that there is a tremendous amount of wonderful theatre that deserves to be heard but sometimes just doesn’t get an opportunity. With ‘Off the Shelf’ local directors and actors will be bringing scripts to life that we hope you will find entertaining, challenging and educational to our stage. We hope that you’ll sit back and enjoy an evening of theatre. You never know, you might see one of these shows on our mainstage in the future.”

Saturday, May 21, 2022

[title of show] at SPSCC


from left: Charlie Kuvangasan and Chris Bolduc, photo by Sara Gettys

from left: CGiselle Jensen and Jesse Morrow, photo by Sara Gettys

Reviewed by Alec Clayton

[title of show]— yes, that’s the title of the show, brackets, lower case type and all. It’s a musical about how a musical became an Internet sensation and ultimately . . . careful here, I’m giving away too much . . . suffice it to say it is a show about the writing and production of itself. This show has won an Obie Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

Two young unknown writers, Jeff Bowen (Chris Bolduc) and Hunter Bell (Charlie Kuvangasan) challenge themselves to write a play and enter it into New York’s Musical Theatre Festival. The submission deadline is a mere three weeks away. It is clearly an impossible challenge for a pair of unknown and fairly inexperienced writers, which they express along with their hopes and dreams in the song "Two Nobodies In New York."

With the help of two actress friends, Heidi (Jesse Morrow) and Susan (Giselle Jensen) they write the story and songs, singing and dancing and dealing with their personal joys and fears along the way. When they feel down, unworthy and defeated, Susan encourages them to keep going and “kill their vampires,” an uplifting song that is worthy of a big Broadway production number thanks to video projections and great dance moves.

The story arc is typical of shows about the entertainment industry: a rise from nowhere, personal conflicts and doubts, and ultimate joy. There are hints at romance and same-sex attractions, but these are kept at a minimum. Ultimately, [title of show] is a feel-good show filled with music, physical comedy that verges on slapstick, and clever lines delivered with pizazz by the young cast. It’s like a lightweight “A Chorus Line” or “Tik, Tik, Boom.”

Half the cast, Bolduc and Morrow, are experienced community theater actors, and half are SPSCC students who each also have experience, and it shows. They, each and every one, dive into this performance with enthusiasm, great moves and excellent singing.

The direction by Lauren Love is outstanding, and choreographer Nicholas Main deserves kudos aplenty. The keyboard accompaniment was played with style by Kyndal Meister; and a fifth character, Dr. John Guarente as Larry, was in a small supporting role which worked well with the others in the cast.

Love wrote in a program note: “It sings to the ‘showmo’ in all of us; it venerates our nerdiest fantasies; it celebrates our adoration of this glitzy, gritty, glamorous North American form of theatre through the rose colored and sometimes lovingly critical glasses of the queer community. It inspires us to dream of a life where what we know, what we love, and who we love are valued.”

Her statement sums it up beautifully, although it implies a much greater emphasis on queerness than is in the show.



[title of show]


7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through May 29


Kenneth J. Minnaert Center Black Box, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW., Olympia






Suggested $15 donation


Friday, May 13, 2022

Yellow Fever at Centerstage


Centerstage opens the noir detective thriller Yellow Fever by Rick Shiomi Friday, May 20. This one is set right here in our beloved Pacific Northwest, and told through the lens of the Japanese and Chinese immigrant communities in the 1970s. From the press release: “The shadows of the internment camps linger over a vibrant community as it fights to establish itself just a few decades after losing so much. In the midst of it all is detective Sam Shikaze, a nisei private eye...and he’s got a story to tell.


“The show brings exciting new talent to Centerstage, along with a few familiar faces. Tim Takechi, last seen in our livestreamed 2020 venture Theatre Magic, portrays our iconic private eye, Sam Shikaze, who’s every bit as hardboiled and cynical as a good noir detective should be. Takechi has been recognized for his work all around the Puget Sound area, and was recently seen in Lakewood Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol …. His easy style and comedic timing are an ideal match for our hero. Portraying Rosie, a café owner and mother-like figure to Sam, is Aya Hashiguchi, well known in the South Sound as one of the co-founders and owners of Dukesbay Productions, which provides a space for small theatres to produce their shows. Dukesbay also mounts their own shows throughout the year, including their recent God Said This, which also featured the multitalented Hashiguchi onstage. She is also an active member of the Centerstage Advisory Board. Annamaria Guerzon, last seen as both an actor and playwright in Centerstage’s afternoons of New Works, First Impressions, appears as the determined young reporter Nancy Wing. Guerzon is a bright young talent at the very start of her career, and she is one to watch. Van Lang Pham plays Chuck Chan, a lawyer and friend of Sam. His resume includes the critically acclaimed Washer/Dryer at SIS Productions and Pratidhwani in 2019. Minki Bai portrays Captain Kadota, a member of the police force torn between his loyalties to his community and his brothers on the force. Bai has appeared with Jet City Improv productions in Seattle, as well as other local theatres. Graham Arthur Blair is Sargent MacKenzie, a member of the local police who has it in for Sam and doesn’t make a secret of it. Kadota’s supervisor, Superintendent Jameson, is played by Danny Lacker, a local performer who has performed with multiple Puget Sound Theatres, (and made it to Hollywood on American Idol when he was in High School!). Travis Martinez plays the mysterious Goldberg, a man deeply interested in Japanese culture, who seeks to ingratiate himself with the locals in the International District. Finally, Keith Ordonez, recently of First Impressions, is our swing for the show.


Yellow Fever is directed by Mimi Katano. Katano is the Executive Artistic Director of Youth Theatre Northwest, with a long list of directing credits to her name and many theatre professionals who consider her their primary mentor.


During the many years I was The News Tribune and Weekly Volcano theater critic I often reviewed shows at Centerstage. Their shows were always excellent. For people in Olympia and Tacoma it might be a little off the beaten path, but it is well worth the drive.


RUN DATES: May 20th through June 12th 

TIMES: Fridays – 7:30 pm;

Saturdays –7:30 pm;

Sundays – 2:00 pm




$32 for adults; $28 for seniors/military; $15 for ages 18 – 23;

$12 ages 17 & under. Per ticket Facility Use Fees apply.

Tickets available online at

or by phone: (253) 661-1444

LOCATION:  Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Rd, Federal Way, WA



Monday, May 9, 2022

Harlequin Productions' Sovereignty

by Alec Clayton

From my Oly Arts article on Harlequin Production’s Sovereignty
Sovereignty is a historical drama about Native Americans written and directed by Native Americans and performed by an ensemble of Native and non-Native regional and local actors with direction, set, costume and lighting design by Native artists who have been brought to Olympia from cities all over the United States. 

On returning to her homeland, a young Cherokee lawyer, Sara Ridge Polson (Josephine Keefe), balances personal life at work and with her family and friends with the strain of arguing before the United States Supreme Court the repeal of a long-standing law that makes it illegal for law enforcement by the Cherokee Nation when a non-native comes onto Cherokee land and commits a crime—specifically and most egregiously rape of a Cherokee woman. If she wins her case, it will confirm the Nation as a sovereign nation. And if she loses, she will lose the rights her family worked and died for.

Brilliantly, playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and director Esther Almazán (Yaqui/Yoeme) alternate scenes during the presidency of Andrew Jackson (Avery Clark in a dual role also as the white man who becomes Sara’s fiancé). There are interesting parallels between scenes from different centuries in which, in many ways, nothing has changed. There are lessons to be learned here. 

Harlequin has recruited professional actors from all over the country, and every Native American character is played by a Native, while white characters such as Andrew Jackson and Sara’s fiancé are played by white actors. Six of the nine cast members play two or more parts. Keefe is outstanding in the role of Sara Ridge Polson. Kenneth Ruthardt (Mescalaro Apache) is mesmerizing as the Cherokee elder dubbed “Major Ridge” by President Jackson. Nathan Rice, billed as “white chorus man,” who plays a contemporary barkeep and a vicious 19th century cop, two very different characters played convincingly. 

The set by Tommer Peterson and lighting by Olivia Burlingame are outstanding. Sovereignty runs approximately two-and-one-half hours including a 20-minute intermission. 

In the lobby is a show of artifacts lent and curated by the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum. 

Harlequin no longer requires proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter the State Theater, but all patrons are still required to remain masked while in the theater space. 

For more background information read the Oly Arts article: 
Celebrating Sovereignty at Harlequin Productions | May 3, 2022 | by Alec Clayton

Harlequin Productions at State Theatre, 202 4th Ave. East, Olympia 
7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday,2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday May 5-28
Thursday, May 19 7:30 PM - Pay What You Choose
$35, Senior/Military $32, Student/Youth $20