Friday, July 31, 2009

Hilarious, hard-core ‘Housewives’ rock Lakewood

Published in The News Tribune, July 31, 2009
Pictured: top, left to right, Sheri Tipton, Kathi Aleman (standing), Careese Robertson and Dana Clark
bottom: Careese Robertson as Jetta
Photos by Dean Lapin

“Angry Housewives” at Lakewood Playhouse is raucous, hilarious and filled with music that in most situations very few people over the age of 20 could stand. But in this case it is a satire of loud, irritating and offensive music, and the singers and actors in this show make it palatable.

With book by A.M. Collins and music and lyrics by Chad Henry, “Angry Housewives” premiered in Seattle in the early ’80s and became an instant cult hit. The setting is not explicitly stated, but there are hints that it may be in the Ballard section of Seattle based on Bev’s Scandinavian accent and Wendi’s job as a drawbridge operator.

Bev (Sheri Tipton) is a single mom, broke and struggling to support her rebellious teenage son, Tim (Aaron Berryhill). Her friend Carol (Kathi Aleman) is overweight and depressed following a recent divorce, and becoming fatter and more hopeless by the minute. Wendi (Dana Clark) is bored with her life but very much in love with her silly boyfriend, Wallace (Marcus Walker). The fourth friend, Jetta (Careese Robertson), is fed up with her controlling lawyer husband, Larry (Blake York), but doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it.

Their lives take on new meaning and excitement when Wendi suggests they form a punk rock band to win money to help Bev by entering a musical contest at Lewd Fingers, a local punk club run by a man of the same name (Bruce Story).

The satire seems as relevant today as it did in the ’80s, and the punk costumes and wigs (costume designer Karen Flory) are wonderfully absurd, even if the wigs worn by Lewd Fingers and Weasal (Steven McCarragher) are overboard. It’s a wonder Weasal can even walk with his huge rust- colored Afro.

The women play their roles with the kind of exaggerated acting associated with television skit comedy (from Carol Burnett to “Saturday Night Live”).

Robertson plays Jetta as a quiet and rather bland woman who is shocked when her friends start peppering their talk with obscenities, but when she finally lets loose on “Eat Your (expletive) Cornflakes,” she really goes all out – and again on the rocking finale. Her beautiful voice is touching on her solo and on the one very sad song in the play, “Not at Home.”

Tipton makes being pathetic funny, tiptoes a tight line between good and atrocious singing with a voice that goes from squeaky to operatic. I love the way she bursts into tears.

Clark’s strong suit is her spirited air-guitar playing and loud buzz voice effects – “Waa, waa waooo!” Her drumming is wonderfully absurd, not exactly on the beat but close enough.

Aleman has a rubber face, and her mooning over Lewd Fingers is precious. It was mostly her acting that made me think of a Burnett skit, especially her wide-eyed expressiveness and her big smile.

Berryhill maintains his exaggerated gnarly punk sneer throughout, and his singing and guitar playing are as bad as any amateur punkster at his worst. His music is intended to be funny, and it is, but it is hard to take. I saw a lot of the audience cringe when he played “Hell School” and later an unnamed song with the line “Stick a wiener in my eye.”

York as Larry is convincing as Jetta’s ridiculously uptight lawyer husband, and Story turns in an uneven but mostly enjoyable performance as Lewd Fingers.

Walker is terrific as Wendi’s fisherman boyfriend, Wallace. I practically fell out of my seat laughing during the first scene with the two of them – and wow, what a kiss he plants on Wendi. Another of the funniest scenes in the play comes when Wallace and Lewd Fingers reminisce about college days and go into an old fashioned vaudeville routine with the song “Betsey Moberly” about “the girl most likely to.”

There are warnings before the play about the use of adult language, but I’ve heard the same words used with much more frequency in other plays where no warning was given. If any warning was needed it should have been for the loud, screeching, off-key music. You just have to put up with a little of that for the comic effect. There’s a lot of really good music as well.

Note: This is the final weekend.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through August 2
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood
TICKETS: $24 general admission, $21 seniors and military, $18 youth under 25, $16 under 15
INFORMATION: 253-588-0042,

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Entrance Denied

The Art of the Chastity Belt

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 30, 2009
Pictured, "Chastity Helmet," a helmet to stifle dirty thoughts, by Chris Causey and Peeta Tinay.

If the title to the latest show at mineral doesn’t attract some attention, I don’t know what will. Not to mention the double whammy of pairing it with a related show next door at Gallery 301. The shows are "Entrance Denied: the Art of the Chastity Belt" at mineral and "The Seven Deadly Sins" at Gallery 301.

“In the modern imagination, the chastity belt was a mechanical device employed by knights to guarantee women's virtue while they were away on the battlefield, writes gallery owner Lisa Kinoshita, continuing to say, “the chastity belt probably never knew as widespread use as commonly imagined.”

Works in the show include "Playscale," five chastity belts designed for Barbie by Naomi Landig and Dorothy Cheng; Pathological Purity, a chain mail-inspired piece by Julia Lowther handmade from more than 2,400 sterling silver and niobium rings; and "The Guardian," an elegant take on bondage wear in forged copper and oiled leather by Lauren Osmolski; and a deck of playing cards advertising Las Vegas call girls with the cards altered by Marc Dombrosky; and in the "Sins" show watercolors by Nicholas Nyland that quote letters from South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford to his Argentinian mistress.

A written statement by Landig and Cheng explains of the Barbie piece: “We hope to question how the chastity belt and Barbie have been manipulated by various groups within society to represent sometimes very different ideas. Rather than seeking to use them as objects for feminist or antifeminist critique, however, we seek to explore how their respective fantasies become playfully illuminated, enhanced, and disjointed by their copresence (sic). Here, the chastity belt becomes merely another accessory of the prolifically adorned Barbie, highlighting the absurdity of a sexless but sexualized toy wearing a garment which was originally imagined to prevent the act of sex, but which now is sometimes used in contemporary practice to enhance the experience of it.”

Such ideas abound in this show. With a few exceptions, however, the ideas are more intriguing than the art is aesthetic. There are, for instance, four mannequin forms hanging on the walls, each wearing artist-made chastity belts by different artists. The belts are interesting and well-crafted body adornments, but the mannequins are just forms to display the objects on, not integral parts of the art. One other mannequin is more an integrated work of art. It’s a bright acid green sculptural form by Galen McCarty Turner with a coil of green neon and a bull’s head placed over the crotch. Bright green for “go,” but placed so as to halt entry and guarded by a big, bad bull.

One of the most aesthetically pleasing pieces is hanging milestone, metal and steel sculpture by Carla Grahn with floral and sunburst shapes in various shades of dusty pink and beige. It takes a stretch of the imagination to see how this represents a chastity belt, which I chalk up as a positive because most of the art in this show is too literal.

Another piece that’s not so literal and one of the most interesting in the show is Lynn De Nino’s "Natural Selection Protection (She Hears Him Coming, She RUNS." As usual, De Nino combines bizarre humor and invention. This piece made out of knitted wire, steel, leather, moss, patchouli oil (in a vial), crackers and found materials including bells to, I guess, let “her” know when “he’s” coming (double entendre intentional?). The wire is shaped like a giant phallus. It looks rough and dirty and ancient.

"The Seven Deadly Sins" next door is more visually oriented and less literal. Among the better works in this show are "Plagued with Pride," acrylic ink and pencil on paper by Cathy Sarkowsky, featuring a line drawing of an evil, or prideful, clown over bands of sweet, water pastel colors and "Avarice," a three-part mixed-media assemblage by Becky Frehse. This show has a shorter run, ending
Aug. 18.

[mineral, Entrance Denied, noon-5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through Sept. 5, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.250.7745,]
[Gallery 301, by appointment only through Aug. 18, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.250.7745]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Latest reviews

The latest reviews of The Backside of Nowhere are starting to show up on and so far they are FAB-U-LUS! Three customer reviews have been posted so far, and all three are five-star reviews. Two are by friends, and one is by one of amazon's top 500 reviewers, whom I do not know.

Amos Lassen

Lots of fun

I just finished reading Alec Clayton's "The Backside of Nowhere" and I am still chuckling. It is one of those books that keeps you laughing to yourself. Set near my home town of New Orleans on the Gulf Coast, I found so much that I identified with. We all know about the catastrophes of the area--the hurricanes and storms--which are caused by nature, but in this book we have other kinds of floods and hurricanes which are not the result of nature. We are all aware that truth is many times stranger than fiction. Clayton shows us that truth is often funnier if not as funny as fiction. People of that area of America are unique--in fact, they are strange. This is a look at a South you have never seen before and it is as full of gossip as it is funny. Clayton gives us wonderful characters and he weaves social issues into the plot. Stay tuned as I am working on a lengthier review which will be coming soon.

Jack Butler

Think Carl Hiaasen crossed with, oh Walker Percy. This novel is funny, acutely observed, full of larger-than-life characters (if you're from the South, you'll probably think you know some of them), and alive with rollicking action. Take a lively bunch of ne'er-do-wells (but don't call them that to their faces), plus a few do-wells, including the local boy who's made it big and mocks his roots, stir in casual racism, wild misunderstanding, floods, storms, and other disasters human and natural, and this pocket of sea-coast Mississippi explodes into hilarious and vivid life.

Linda Delayen

Highly recommended read!

Alec Clayton seems to have hit his stride in his most recent novel, "The Backside of Nowhere." The book begins to unfold slowly, mirroring the damp, moss-dripping setting of Freedom, Mississippi. Through flashbacks, we come to know these well-fleshed-out characters and their relationships to one another. The tempo begins to speed up as the story unfolds and brings us, at last, to a stunningly written climax that makes you feel as though you are seeing the action on a big screen and not just reading about it. From movie stars to the Ku Klux Klan and from lovers to haters, Clayton's characters leave quite an impression.

The book is now available at Orca Books, Olympia, WA, Square Books, Oxford, MS, and

Friday, July 24, 2009


ASTRA presents "Oliver!" in dinner theater

Published in The News Tribune, July 24, 2009
Pictured, top from left: Emily Randolph as The Artful Dodger, Don Lotz as Fagin, Tiffany Stephens as Nancy, Mike LeMaster as Bill Sykes.
Bottom, Don Lotz as Fagin in foreground with the kids ensemble.
photos by Bob Baltzell

All Saints Theatrical Repertoire Association’s dinner theater performance of “Oliver!” is a gargantuan production with a cast of 35, a crew of 200 volunteer carpenters, painters, sound and light technicians, costumers and other crew members; a huge set, elaborate costumes, a full orchestra, a delicious catered dinner, outstanding choreography, all pulled together by co-directors Mario Penalver and Jake Veitenheimer.

The show is truly amazing, but opening night there were too many technical problems to ignore. There were sound problems (feedback and microphones cutting out), long and noisy scene changes, and a spotlight that had difficulty following actors. Such problems would be unforgivable in a large professional theater, but in an amateur production the overall spectacle is so awe inspiring that such glitches become insignificant.

“Oliver!” presents particular problems because it presents dark and tragic situations in a format that is usually lighthearted and joyful. As Penalver and Veitenheimer point out in program notes, other musicals have successfully overcome such problems, pointing out “Les Misérables” as a prime example. And, intentionally or not, there were many reflections of “Les Misérables” in this show, as well as stylistic borrowings from “Sweeny Todd” and “Fiddler on the Roof” and “My Fair Lady.”

This “monstrous” play, they wrote, “delivers a twisted struggle between good and evil that is not easily presentable.” As a guide to how to present such a struggle they turned to film director Tim Burton for inspiration, and people who have seen Burton’s work will quickly recognize a similar dark comic style.

The set by Nancy Morris features a London street center stage with an amazingly atmospheric painted backdrop that reminded me of El Greco’s “View of Toledo” with a tavern and dirty digs of Fagin and the orphan thieves to the left, and the swank home of the Brownlows to the right, topped by London Bridge 18 feet overhead.

From the youths in the chorus to the major characters, the actors are generally outstanding. Even insignificant little gestures by kids lost in the chorus are done with style and expression. Most outstanding among the lead actors are Maggie Barry as Oliver, Don Lotz as Fagin, Tiffany Stephens as Nancy and Emily Randolph as The Artful Dodger. Two of these are young girls playing boy parts.

Barry is eight years old and she acts with body control of an older actor and sings beautifully with a voice that is clear as a bell. Early on when Oliver beats up the much larger Noah (Henry LeMaster), it looks like he’s really hurting him. Her part in the song “Who Will Buy?” is breathtaking – actually the cast and ensemble’s performance of that song is.

Randolph, 11, looks older and is easily believable as a rough young man.
Stephens owns the stage when she performs “It’s a Fine Life” and “As Long As He Needs Me.” She has a powerful voice and a commanding swagger.

Speaking of owning the stage, whenever Fagin takes center stage the theater lights up with electricity. More than anyone else on stage he epitomizes the Tim Burton style. He is deliciously evil, and his performance of “Reviewing the Situation” is one of many musical highlights in this play.

Other performances that deserve special note are those of Woody McCallister as Mr. Bumble and Amy Ledvina as Widow Corney. I don’t know if the homage was intentional or not, but I could not help but think of them as the Thénardiers in “Les Misérables.”

Be prepared for a full night, right at four hours counting the dinner.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, dinner at 6 p.m., show at 7:15 p.m., evening shows without dinner but with pie and coffee July 23, 30, 31
WHERE: The All Saints Parish Center Stage, 506 3rd. St. S.W., Puyallup
TICKETS: $20-$50 dinner and theater, $10-$40 matinee
INFORMATION: 253.579.6192,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Second Childhood

The works of Betty Jo Fitzgerald are on display at Childhood's End Gallery in Olympia.

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 23, 2009

Betty Jo Fitzgerald has been making art a long time. I’ve been familiar with her work since about 1990, but there’s something quite different about her latest work at the appropriately named Childhood’s End Gallery in Olympia. It looks like she’s entered her second childhood.

This art is playful, joyful and decidedly childlike. There are six acrylic paintings that are each about two and one-half by three feet in size and a group of eight smaller acrylic and collage paintings. The images are primarily of animals — pigs and rubber duckies abound — in fanciful settings. The colors are bright and hot almost to the point of clashing, but tempered with the cool blues of water and sky.

The drawing style in simple and almost clumsily childlike, but obviously intentionally so. There is nothing profound or more than mildly original and inventive about these works. They do not aspire to being great art, but they do aspire to creating a sense of joy and a kind of magic. In this respect they have a lot in common with the Alice in Wonderland illustrations by Ron Hinson that were recently shown in this gallery, but Hinson’s illustrations were much more carefully thought out, with every image having meaning and reference beyond itself; whereas I get the feeling Fitzgerald’s paintings are more spontaneous. She seems to toss in whatever comes to mind.

These are fun pictures to look at. The larger paintings have a flat and slightly dull surface despite some of the bright colors and more purposeful patterns. The collages have more variety in texture and imagery and have shiny surfaces. It’s hard to tell which I like best, but I tend toward favoring the collages.

I visited the gallery early on the day the show opened, and none of the works had title labels.

Typical of the collages and one of my favorites is a picture of a pink pig on the beach. He has a round body and long legs that look more like cow legs than pig legs. The sky is a bright acid orange and there are beach chairs, umbrellas and a row of palm trees. There seems to be little order to the placement of these objects.

One of the better paintings is one with a rubber ducky sitting on the lip of a big bird bath with a child’s inner tube around his waist. The bird bath is gray and heavily textured to look like stone, and everything else is rather flat. Water drips into the bath from a cane spigot.

To reiterate, this is not great art, but it is joyful.

Also showing are landscapes and seascapes on silk by Steven D. Scheibe. These are far too pretty and conventional and bland for my taste, and over priced to boot.

[Childhood’s End Gallery, though Aug. 15, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia, 360.943.3724]

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventures at St. Pete's

Adventures at St. Pete’s
The latest

When you have heart disease and your chest hurts, it’s hard to tell when to panic. There are so many things that can replicate heart pain. Acid reflux, stress, muscle strain or soreness. They say never take a chance; if you have chest pain, get to the ER. But my god, if I did that I’d be in the ER three days a week or more.

My latest scare came this past Thursday. I woke up with a tight chest. No more than I have a little bit of almost every day. But it usually goes away after a few minutes. This time it didn’t. And then I started having sharp pains in my chest, a kind of pulsating pain that would be barely noticeable and then build up a bit and then slack off; and then build up again. It would last just a few seconds, and it was happening almost every minute or two. I put up with it for a couple of hours, and then told Gabi and our friend Sandy, who was visiting, that I thought I needed to go to the emergency room.

I take a time-release nitroglycerin pill every morning and pop another nitro pill under my tongue whenever I have chest pain that is more than just a little bothersome. I had already taken one. In the ER they gave me more. They gave me enough nitro to blow up a hotel.

Dropped one in my mouth, and 15 minutes later another, and then put a nitro paste on my chest, and later a nitro drip intravenously. The pain never subsided.
After about an hour they decided to admit me to the cardiac ward.

Ever been transported on one of those rolling hospital beds? They go about a million miles per hour. I mentioned to the technician, a really nice guy named Aaron, that I’d noticed they always go fast. He said if they don’t go really fast the ride gets awfully bumpy and can buck the patients off. He said there were beds lined up in the hall waiting for repair that were broken or loose and wobbled like grocery shopping carts.

On the 11th floor, I got a room with a view, plus a really cute nurse who kept calling me “darling” and “honey.” Hey, I’ll take any fringe benefit I can get.
It was a bright, sunny day with temps in the 80s, but the AC in my room was set on freeze. I asked the cute nurse for extra cover, and she accommodated with a heated sheet. Ahhh, warm and toasty.

She also noticed the scar on my chest from my bypass surgery and called it a cabbage. I’d never before heard it called that.

The view out my window was amazing. Eleven stories up looking down on a parking lot with parking areas separated by large landscaped ground with rock fountains and bushes and walking paths and huge evergreens. I’m talking spruce and firs that rise 150-200-250 feet in the air, layer after layer of trees receding to the horizon where the gray shape of the Cascade Mountain range looked like cut-out cardboard pasted against the sky, and smack dab in the center of my view, framed by clouds and trees, rose the poorly named Mt. Rainier, the tallest and most heavily glaciated mountain peak in the lower 48. I say poorly named because Admiral Peter Rainier never even set foot in the U.S. and was actually an enemy combatant (to use a more contemporary term) in the Revolutionary War. I much prefer the Indian name, Tahoma or Tacoma.

I reached for my cell phone to take a photo, but in the picture the mountain is barely visible. The photo fails to do justice to the scene.

They drew blood to repeat the tests they’d just done in the ER, and gave me more nitro and a painful shot in the belly that left an ugly purple bruise surrounded by a kind of sickly greenish-gray halo about the size of a silver dollar.

They never could find anything wrong with me, but around dinner time the frequency, if not the severity, of the pain started to gradually subside, and by the next day it was almost completely gone. They served me a delicious dinner. The old cliché of bland hospital food no longer holds. At least not in this hospital.

Gabi and Catherine came out to visit with me, and Catherine brought me two books to read, Jim Lynch’s Border Songs and On the Move, a memoir by S.R. Martin, known as Rudy, a founding faculty member at The Evergreen State College and one of our oldest friends. (When we moved to Olympia, the first friends we met were a group of writers who were in Rudy’s writing workshop at Evergreen.)

They kept me overnight. I started in on Rudy’s book and got halfway through it before going to sleep.

The next morning they wheeled me downstairs to take a stress test. They had me walking on the treadmill as fast as I could go for as long as I could take it, and when they finally stopped it I almost passed out. I got weak, trembly, light headed. The nurse and doctor had to help me off the treadmill and lay me down on a gurney. The nurse said my face turned pasty white. My blood pressure had bottomed out, mostly because of all the nitro and other heart medicines, which lower blood pressure. They gave me intravenous fluids to bring it back up, which took only a minute or two. When I first got to see the numbers it was 80 over 53. That was after they had brought it back up. I don’t know how low it got.

But then I was fine. They brought me back to my room and I ordered breakfast, an omelet, and two hours later they dismissed me. That night I went to a play in Puyallup. I feel perfectly fine now except for the bruises and tape residue from all the leads they stuck to my body and all the places they poked me with needles. I still don’t know what caused the pain, but it’s gone. I have a new prescription to treat acid reflux, as that’s the most likely cause of non-cardio chest pain.

I probably owe all of the crap to a lifetime of eating Southern fried chicken and smoking a pack of Pall Malls a day. I don’t miss the cigarettes, but I sure miss that chicken.

The photos above were taken on my cell phone looking out the window in my hospital room, one at sunset and the other at sunrise the next morning.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Last Magician

Published in The News Tribune, July 17,2009
Pictured: Allendra (Kelly Johnson) and Lord Sleath (Eric Hartley)

Local playwright T.M. Sell has once again penned an entertaining show for Breeders Theater in Burien. “The Last Magician” is the third of Sell’s plays I’ve seen. Each has been different – “Crazy Naked” a political farce, “Prairie Heart” a pioneer love story, and now this one a comedy about magicians, witches and demons – and yet subsumed in each has been a morality tale with topical humor and pop culture references.

In “The Last Magician” a demon (Nathan Hicks) kidnaps a beautiful young princess (Adrienne Grieco) – or, more accurately, kidnaps her soul and holds it ransom until the king agrees to send the magician Sylvanus, aka “Silly” (J Howard Boyd) to negotiate with the demons. And why Sylvanus, the most incompetent magician in the whole kingdom? Because he is the only person in the world who can empathize with the demons. What Sylvanus understands about the demons that no one else does is that they only look evil and frightening to “real people” and that, in fact, “real people” look evil and frightening to them.

Boyd plays Sylvanus as a loveable doofus who is very sweet and sincere.

Hicks is wonderful as the lead demon. Much taller than anyone else in the cast and wearing ripped punk clothing, long black hair in Rastafarian braids, with black lips and green teeth and tongue, his stage presence is imposing. He wears a little creature on his shoulder that he talks to – changing his voice to speak as the creature and speaking with weird, jerky pauses. And he has a terrific demonic laugh.

The lesser demons, played by Brenan Grant and Laura Smith, are also fun to watch as they prance about in punk clothes and spiked hair, cackling and shouting and going through all kinds of outlandish physical gyrations. Both Grant and Smith play multiple roles, but it is as the demons that they stand out.

Also outstanding are Kelly Johnson as Allendra the feminist witch, and Eric Hartley as Sleath, another magician who is arrogant, powerful, selfish and wealthy.

Grieco is marvelous as the willful little princess. Her range of facial expressions from anger to pouting to flirtatious is captivating. Grieco acts with her whole body. When the demon steals her soul, she goes limp so completely that it’s as if she’s not there; she’s left her body behind like a discarded rag doll.

On the downside, Michael Brunk brings nothing of note to the role of the king. There’s so little expression on his part that it seemed on opening night as if he were just not feeling very well. And Doug Knoop, a fine actor, had very little chance to shine as Crowley, another magician who was not fleshed out enough.

Interspersed throughout are songs with music by Nancy Warren, lyrics by Sell and choreography by Teresa Widner, who also directed. The songs and lyrics are clever, but with the exception of one rousing number by the demon chorus, the cast seemed to be listlessly going through the motions, and Widner’s choreography didn’t match the excellence of her directing.

Finally, there was an unnamed stagehand dressed as a court jester who was absolutely charming. She brought a magical touch to moving a stool.

Overall it’s a very entertaining show, plus wine samples are included in the cost of your ticket because the venue is inside the E.B. Foote Winery down under a strip mall in Burien.

Breeders Theater does not accept credit cards. You can reserve tickets with a credit card, but you will need to pay by cash or check at the door.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through July 26.
WHERE: E.B. Foote Winery, 127-B S.W. 153rd Street, Burien
TICKETS: $20 available at the winery and at Corky Cellars, 22511 Marine View Drive, Des Moines 206-824-9462.
INFORMATION: 206-242-3852

Note: Price reductions
Since this review went to press Breeders Theater has announced the following price reductions:

Tickets are $15! for the following performances:

WEDNESDAY, JULY 22nd “Recession Wednesday”

THURSDAY, July 23rd "Thrifty Thursday "
If you have already purchased tickets at the original $20 price, please see Nancy at the box office when you come to the show. We are happy to refund to balance.

All other shows remain $20 and tickets are available for all remaining performances.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CJ Swanson

Ribbons of color at Pierce College

The Weekly Volcano, July 16, 2009
Pictured: "Unwound," acrylic and collage by CJ Swanson

The gallery at Pierce College in Steilacoom is nothing more than a wide place in the hall. But that wide space is filled with a dozen or so very nice paintings by CJ Swanson.

Swanson’s abstract paintings are swirls and ribbons of colorful shapes that meander through shallow spaces on the surface of her canvases. Space is an important consideration in her paintings. Perspective or illusionist space is almost nonexistent, but when it is employed it is used intentionally and effectively. She uses all-over compositions, meaning the forms are evenly distributed across the surface with no central focal point. In some of the paintings this translates as a single shape in the center that fills most of the canvas with a relatively even amount of space all around, such as in a group of three very small paintings called "Red Outline," "Yellow Outline" and "Turquoise Outline." These are emblematic shapes painted in flat colors with no variations in modeling, blending, etc., and no overlapping of forms. In others, ribbons and circles and lozenge shapes wind in and out passing over one another in some places and under in others. Still others have flat shapes floating over more atmospheric backgrounds.

Her best paintings are the ones that are kept fairly simple, such as the three little ones mentioned above and "Unwound," which has circular forms floating over large areas of black, white and green. The white areas in "Unwound" are particularly interesting because they are slightly transparent and have a wet look. Like many of her paintings, this one is heavily textured to look like it has been painted over crinkled paper — a very nice effect. (Note: The photograph of this painting I was sent identified it as acrylic and collage, which I could not tell from looking at the painting, so perhaps it is literally painted over crinkled paper.)Finally, I really like the subtle color modulations on the gray and pink circles to the right in the white field. On the other hand, the heavily stacked oval shapes on the top left are too heavy and busy looking.

The least effective are the more complicated compositions that are densely packed with way too much stuff going on, such as "Non-Sequitor," which has a profusion of bottle-shaped forms underneath a web of linear forms. These shapes fight rather than complement each other.

Overall this is an excellent little show.

[Pierce College, Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-noon, through Aug. 28, 9401 Farwest Drive SW, Lakewood]

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Entrance Denied: the Art of the Chastity Belt

This looks like a really interesting show. Lisa Kinoshita invited me to make something for the show and/or write something on one of the seven deadly sins. Since I don't do three-dimensional art and don't work in metal -- this is, after all, part of Metal Urge -- I opted to take part only in the writing part of the show. My part is tiny and insignificant, but there are some really interesting artists involved. The show opens next week, and I look forward to seeing it. Here is the invitation I received:

Entrance Denied: the Art of the Chastity Belt

Please join us for the opening of this show of contemporary chastity belts at Mineral, on Saturday, July 18, 4-8p.m. This show is a part of Metal-Urge, the Tacoma Arts Commission's summer-long showcase of the metal arts. Artists give new meaning to the words “high security” with designs that range in type from spider-web delicacy to the elegantly austere. Chris Causey, Peeta Tinay, Dorothy Cheng, Susan Connole, Bill Dawson, Lynn DiNino, Shannon Eakins, John Fisher, Carla Grahn, Lisa Kinoshita, Naomi Landig, Julia Lowther, Amy McBride, Malcolm McLaren, Mark Monson, Lauren Osmolski, Fred Park, Jennevieve Schlemmer, and Galen McCarty Turner.

Opening in tandem with Entrance Denied is The Seven Deadly Sins, a group show at Gallery 301, next door to Mineral. This show explores the age-old vices that have vexed mankind, recast in a modern light. In addition to mixed-media art, The Seven Deadly Sins has enjoined people from different walks of life to write about sin from the perspective of their profession. In this sense, it is a community project with intriguing implications. Please join us for the opening from 4-8p.m. Featured artists and writers include: Mindy Barker, Beautiful Angle, Joe Black, Daniel Blue, Brett Carlson, John Carlton, Chris Causey, Alec Clayton, Bill Dawson, Kyle Dillehay, Lynn DiNino, Marc Dombrosky, Bagger 288, Erica Fickeisen, Kyle Franklin, Becky Frehse, Walter Gaya, Debra Hannula, Robert Jacklin, Rick Jones, Charles Krafft, Denise Ladenburg, Malcolm McLaren, Linda Nyland, Claudia Riedener, Cathy Sarkowsky, Kathy Schultz, Chris Sharp, Seong Shin, and Niki Sullivan.

Entrance Denied runs from July 18-Sept. 5 (hours: Tues., Thurs. & Sat., 12-5); The Seven Deadly Sins from July 18-Aug. 18 (open by appointment). Address and phone for both: 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma 98421; 253.250.7745. Directions at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sixties Chicks

The Olympian / The News Tribune Pictured: LaVon Hardison, photo by Tor Clausen

Once again Harlequin Productions offers South Sound music lovers a rollicking rock and roll extravaganza. This one is a little different than their earlier rock shows in that it’s an all-girl show celebrating the girl singers of the 1960s.

There’s no story, although there is a chronological presentation of songs of the era with film projections of historical events. There’s nothing on stage but the four women in front of a band with dramatic lighting and the afore-mentioned projections. But that’s plenty enough because the songs are favorites of many generations and the four women -- Elise Campello, Melissa Fleming, LaVon Hardison and Jenny Shotwell -- have potent voices and huge stage presence.

The show starts off slowly with Hardison standing alone under a red spotlight in a red mini dress of the type that was popular in 1962, with big red -- of course -- disc earrings singing “Feelin’ Good.” The three other women come out in variations of the same dress, each with a different color mod-mini -- purple, green and blue -- and sing do-wop backup to kick off this musical romp.

They take turns singing such early sixties hits as “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “It’s My Party” and “Leader of the Pack.” A projection of statistics on teenage pregnancy precedes a comic version of “Chapel of Love” with choreography and facial expressions putting a spin on the lyrics that’s quite different than the original intent.

Shotwell bursts free of the doo-wop style with a moving “At Last,” and Hardison introduces the early days of women’s liberation with the saucy “Gimme Some.”

Then there is a sudden change of pace with a hauntingly beautiful interlude as Shotwell sings the Joni Mitchell hit “A Case of You” with acoustic guitar and clarinet backup from (Brad Schrandt, soprano saxophone, and Ron Rosenbloom and Bruce Whitney, guitars). This song is not really a ’60s song. It first came out in the early ’70s and was later popularized for a new generation by k.d. lang.

And act one ends with the ensemble singing Nancy Sinatra’s one and only hit, “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.”

Like the decade it celebrates, the first half of the show is filled with soft, pop songs and doo-wop backup; and the second half comes on stronger with psychedelic and activist music. The second half is much stronger. Hardison is shocking with her growling voice on “Come Together,” accented by great drumming by Keith Anderson.

Shotwell is truly mesmerizing when she sings the anthem of the decade, “Woodstock,” and Grace Slick’s psychedelic “White Rabbit.”

Campello touches tender nerves with the Janis Ian hit “Society’s Child” and Fleming sings a beautiful rendition of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

The costumes in the second act were disappointing. Everyone changed into yet another version of the mod dresses from the early ’60s when to fit with the time frame they should have worn bell bottoms and knit vests or peasant style dresses or something more in keeping with the kind of clothes worn by Janis Joplin and Grace Slick or the cast of “Hair.”

I was astounded by much of the music in act two while I was listening to it, but as I thought about it later I realized it lacked some of the grittiness associated with LSD and revolution. Some of the numbers were too perfectly arranged and choreographed. Still I loved it, and I’m sure most people who see it will, whether they lived through the sixties or just heard about it from their parents or grandparents.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays through July 19
WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia
TICKETS: $24-$33, rush tickets $12-$15 ½ hour before curtain
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151;

Foundation Art Award

Jeremy Mangan is the winner

The Weekly Volcano, July 9, 2009 Pictured: "House on Stilts" by Jeremy Mangan

Nominees and winner of the 2nd Annual Foundation of Art Award from The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation were announced in June. This annual program was established to honor professional artists living and working in Pierce County. This year’s winner, Jeremy Mangan, was chosen by a panel including: Rock Hushka, director of curatorial administration at the Tacoma Art Museum; Amy McBride, arts administrator, City of Tacoma; Jp Avila, co-chair of the Department of Art, Pacific Lutheran University; Rose Lincoln Hamilton, president and CEO, The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation; Kit Granum, Community Foundation board member, and Jim McDonald, local independent curator.

Mangan was awarded $7,500 in recognition of his “talent and his commitment to the creative community of Pierce County.”

Congratulations to Jeremy Mangan and to all of the nominees: Sean Alexander, Marc Dombrosky, Spencer Ebbinga, Jeremy Gregory, Ellen Ito, Janet Marcavage, Joe Miller, Yuki Nakamura, Chandler O'Leary, James Porter and Holly A. Senn. Most of these are artists I have reviewed in this column. They represent the elite among Tacoma artists. Kudos to all.

Mangan’s award was based a series of surrealistic paintings of barn-like buildings that are stacked in strange ways such as attached to long poles that stretch high in the air or stacked together to form the image of a tree. I’ve seen very little of his work but have liked what I’ve seen and hope to see more.

Holly Senn is an installation artist who works primarily with old books scavenged from libraries. Her installations intelligently and creatively meld content and form. On the road to wider fame, Senn was recently invited to do an installation in Brooklyn, NY.

Most Tacoma gallery goers know Sean Alexander as the co-founder of The Helm. His works pictured on the Foundation Web site are strange and delightful line drawings that look like illustrations for cutting edge graphic novels. His line work and sensitivity to the use of open space are both excellent.

Speaking of The Helm, you may recognize Ellen Ito’s work on the Foundation Web site as "Time Machine," the large work she did in collaboration with Nicholas Nyland that was installed in The Helm.

Janet Marcavage’s intaglio lithographs have a sensitivity to open space and minimalist form similar to that of Alexander, but her images are more classical and sparsely detailed. These are beautiful little prints.

Marc Dombrosky’s found art and word art focuses attention on social issues that should not be ignored.

Joe Miller’s sculpture ranges from classically minimalist to pop, with reflections of Donald Judd and Jeff Koons.

Spencer Ebbinga’s ceramic sculptures of turtles and cathedrals are comical, satirical and strangely heavy looking.

I have seen only one of Yuki Nakamura’s works, which I can’t remember clearly, and have only the images on the Foundation Web site to base comments on. Her installations in reproduction look cold and foreboding. I look forward to an opportunity to see more.

Jeremy Gregory is an illustrator whose dark surrealistic style I do not particularly like, but I do like his use of color. See for yourself and see what you think.

I have recently reviewed Chandler O'Leary’s typography and Victorian-Art Nouveau illustrations in this column. They are very decorative and well designed.

Finally, James Porter. As with Nakamura, I haven’t seen enough of this artist’s work to make an informed judgment. His work is illustrational, which is one of the downsides to selections of this year’s nominees — the selections weigh too heavily on illustration and in particular illustrations that are influenced by Surrealism and the art of graphic novels.

See this year’s Foundation of Art Award nominees online and watch for them at area galleries and museums.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Northwest Playwrights Alliance Heats Up Revitalized Tacoma Little Theatre With Festival Northwest

Celebrating Northwest writers

I can't cover everything I'd like to in area theaters, but I can pass along press releases. Here's one on upcoming events worth attending.

(Tacoma, WA) - Northwest Playwrights Alliance, under the leadership of Artistic Director Brian Tyrrell and Playwright-In-Residence Bryan Willis, announces Festival Northwest, a part of the 2009 Northwest Playwrights Month this August. The festival is a coproduction with Tacoma Little Theatre and New Artistic Director Scott Campbell. Three full length commissioned plays will be staged at Tacoma Little Theatre, along with two nights of short works. Please see the Fact Sheet at the end of this release for a full schedule of events.

Festival Northwest is the next step in the development of The Festival of Northwest Plays, hosted by Broadway Center for the Performing Arts in Tacoma in 2008. It is an opportunity for writers, actors, and theatre professionals from around the region to gather and produce some of the best recent work created by Northwest playwrights.

The festival includes both established and emerging writers with strong ties to the Northwest. At Tacoma Little Theatre, two of the commissioned full-length productions are plays most recently produced by the Working Theatre Collective, a new company based out of Portland, Oregon. The third, Convention, by recent Western Washington University graduate Dan Erickson, was recognized by The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The fourth production during Festival Northwest will be a night of short works written by six separate playwrights. Audiences at TLT will have the option of purchasing either single tickets or one Festival Pass, allowing them to see all four productions at a discounted price.

Beyond Festival Northwest at Tacoma Little Theatre, the 2009 Northwest Playwrights Month includes events all around the Puget Sound area. The strong connection between NPA and Seattle Repertory Theatre has given rise to three events: a reading of Y York’s new play Framed, a writing workshop with playwright Lee Blessing, and a reading of Blessing’s new play Chesapeake. All three events will be held in SRT’s PONCHO Forum. Y York’s Getting Near to Baby, an adaptation of the novel by Audrey Couloumbis, is part of Seattle Children’s Theatre’s 2009-2010 Season. Lee Blessing is a Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright, best known for his plays A Walk in the Woods (1988), and Eleemosynary (1985).

The celebration in August will also include numerous staged readings, musical performances, and poetry evenings in unconventional locations around the area. Plays confirmed to date include works by Nick Stokes and Jake Sherman. The annual Academy of International Education: New Play Buffet, held this year in Port Gamble, Washington, is also included in the month-long event.

Festival Northwest is made possible by generous support from The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and Tacoma Arts Commission.

About Northwest Playwrights Alliance

The Northwest Playwrights Alliance is a non-profit organization established in 2004 to serve the needs of Northwest playwrights. Their mission is to provide opportunities to participate in readings, workshops, contests for emerging and established playwrights, festivals, play anthologies, and national tours.

Event: Framed by Y York (Staged Reading)
Date: Tuesday, August 4, 7:00 pm
Location: Seattle Repertory Theatre’s PONCHO Forum, 155 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA
Cost: Free.

Event: A Story That Begins and Ends With A Dream by Nate Harpel*
Date: Thursday, August 6, 7:30 pm
Friday, August 7, 8:00 pm
Location: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N I St, Tacoma, WA
Cost: $14 general/$10 student/senior/military; a Festival Pass can be purchased for all four shows at a discounted price of $32. Tickets for Festival Northwest can be purchased by calling 253-272-2281, or online at

Event: John Lennon’s Gargoyle by Bryan Willis*
Date: Saturday, August 8, 8:00 pm
Sunday, August 9, 2:00 pm
Location: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N I St, Tacoma, WA
Cost: $14 general/$10 student/senior/military; a Festival Pass can be purchased for all four shows at a discounted price of $32. Tickets for Festival Northwest can be purchased by calling 253-272-2281, or online at

Event: Playwriting Workshop with Lee Blessing
Date: Sunday, August 9, 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Location: Seattle Repertory Theatre’s PONCHO Forum, 155 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA
Cost: $75. Contact Bryan Willis at for more information.

Event: Chesapeake by Lee Blessing (Staged Reading)
Date: Tuesday, August 11, 7:00 pm
Location: Seattle Repertory Theatre’s PONCHO Forum, 155 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA
Cost: Free.

Event: The Short List: The Best Short Plays of the Past Year

written by Nick Stokes, Lia Romero, LaChris Jordan, Robert Caisley, Sean Walbeck.

Also written and directed by the 253 Collaborative (253 Collaborative -Thursday only)

Date: Thursday, August 13, 7:30 pm

Friday, August 14, 8:00
Location: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N I St, Tacoma, WA
Cost: $14 general/$10 student/senior/military; a Festival Pass can be purchased for all four shows at a discounted price of $32. Tickets for Festival Northwest can be purchased by calling 253-272-2281, or online at

Event: Convention by Dan Erickson*
Date: Saturday, August 15, 8:00 pm
Sunday, August 16, 2:00 pm
Location: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N I St, Tacoma, WA
Cost: $14 general/$10 student/senior/military; a Festival Pass can be purchased for all four shows at a discounted price of $32. Tickets for Festival Northwest can be purchased online at

Event: Academy of International Education: New Play Buffet
Date: Saturday, August 22
Location: Port Gamble, Washington
Cost: Contact Bryan Willis for more information at

Other Events
The 2009 Northwest Playwrights Month will include other staged readings, musical performances, and poetry events. Please check our Facebook page or for an up-to-date schedule.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Under water

Here's a bit of a teaser, a little scene from The Backside of Nowhere. It takes place near the end of the book. A hurricane has hit the coast. The Lawrence house has been swept off its foundation and washed down the bayou with everybody inside. David and Randy dove underwater in search of Pop and Melissa ...

Once he’s halfway up the stairs and able to stick his head out of water. David says, “Take her from here.” He’s gulping air so desperately he can barely speak, but Randy gets the message. He drags Melissa upstairs and lays her out on the floor and begins blowing in her mouth and pushing on her chest. David gulps as much air as he can and dives underwater again.

In the upstairs hallway water gushes out of Melissa’s mouth and she coughs violently and vomits up bits of egg and sausage. Randy smells the whiskey she drank. He wipes her mouth with the wet tail of his shirt.

In the murk below, David swims froglike through the house. Not only can he barely see, not only does nothing look familiar, but he feels disoriented to the point that he’s not sure which direction is which. He tries to visualize: come downstairs, turn left through the archway into the kitchen or to the right into the living room area. If the house is turned around, he wonders, would that mean left is right and right is left? No, of course not, he decides. But what difference would it make anyway? Pop was in the living room when the surge hit, but he could have been washed into any other room or even out of the house. He could be halfway down to Bilbo Bayou. Or would it be up to Bilbo Bayou now? Again irrelevant, he tells himself, his stupid mind going bonkers, maybe from lack of oxygen. If David could see outside and if there were anything familiar out there with which to orient himself, which there may or may not be following a hurricane, he would know that the house was tipped partially to one side and is jammed with its south wall against the shore of Walker Cove half a mile south of where it stood before the storm hit. If he could somehow get out on the roof or onto the deck, he could jump to the ground. But no he couldn’t. Because the ground would be ten feet underwater, just as the first floor of the house is. But if he could, what would he do then? Go for help? Where? The rest of Freedom is surely long since evacuated, so where would he look for help? It drives him crazy that he can’t think clearly. He begins to panic. The simplest thought processes seem impossible. Nothing makes sense. He tells himself to calm down. Think. All of this time while he is trying to sort out his thoughts he is underwater, moving aimlessly, not so much swimming as propelling himself by pushing and pulling in and around chairs and tables and careening off walls. Boiled shrimp and hamburger patties swim with the fishes. He surfaces as best he can, gasping air in the few inches by the ceiling, and then dives again. He sees something huge and black in the muddy water. It’s his mother’s grand piano. It’s turned sideways against a wall. The top of the piano has broken loose and is floating against the ceiling, but the mass of it is jammed underwater. He sees Pop’s leg protruding from beneath the piano. He knows he can’t lift it. Even if he were on dry land he couldn’t get a firm footing to lift it. But if he could just break it loose from whatever was jamming it, wouldn’t it simply float up? Does he have the strength to work it loose? Everyone knows that people are capable of inhuman feats of strength at such times. Who knows? Why not at least try? He grabs an edge of the piano and lifts, but of course it does not budge. Then he sees another body coming toward him. It’s Randy. He’s already helped save Melissa, and now he’s diving in to help save Pop. He swims up alongside David and they nod heads in recognition that together they can do it. Friends or enemies, they nevertheless spent their youth together in these waters swimming long distances, holding their breath ungodly lengths of time and building the kind of strength and determination that just might help them conquer this challenge. Never mind that Randy has put on thirty pounds of pure fat and his once powerful muscles have gone to flab. They push together but they cannot move the piano. And then they see something that scares them both half to death. A giant fish has somehow gotten into the house, probably swimming right through the broken back door. It looks like a small whale or a dolphin. Oh God! Could it be a shark? It’s coming right at them ...

More info on The Backside of Nowhere here.

Available on or at Orca Books in Olympia

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gender roles out the window in this Romeo and Juliet interpretation

Published in The Olympian, July 2, 2009
The News Tribune, July 3, 2009

Pictured, top, left to right: Robert McConkey as Benvolio, Thomas Neely as Romeo. Malcolm Sturdevent as Balthazar and Erin Maggie Stroyan as Mercutio.
Pictured, bottom, left to right: Thomas Neely as Romeo and James Holmes-Pohle as Juliet. Photos by Michael Christopher

Over the years theaters have tried many twists on the staging and interpretation of Shakespeare in order to keep the bard’s work fresh. Theater Artists Olympia, a local company that searches for new ways to challenge audiences, is doing “Romeo and Juliet” with contemporary settings and costumes (nothing new there) plus significant changes in gender roles. Romeo and Juliet are both men. Mercutio and Tybalt are women. Paris, in this version, is Lady Paris. And one actress, Katy Shockman, plays a variety of men’s roles.

Despite the gender switches and the obvious fact of the star-crossed lovers being two men who refer to one another as husband, it is not really a gay play. Rather, gender becomes irrelevant. People love and hate other people in this play regardless of their gender.

It takes a little getting use to. In the early scenes I kept listening for pronouns in an attempt to figure out whether James Holmes-Pohle was a man playing a woman’s part (traditional in Shakespeare’s time) or a man named Juliet who was, nevertheless, still a man – and whether Erin Maggie Stroyan, a woman, was playing Mercutio as a man or a woman.

Trying to sort out genders was distracting through much of the first act, but after that it became a non-issue.

Director Chris Cantrell said: “By changing gender roles, my hope has been to change context to examine the characters and relationships in a new way. A balcony scene between two fawning young people is stereotyped because of the traditional presentation of this show. When the two young people are men, the intensity is renewed. You are given the opportunity to question and examine the motivations you may have originally taken for granted.”

These contemporary Montagues and Capulets fight with guns instead of knives and swords, which works well in the contemporary setting until the final scene, where I missed Juliet’s famous line, “O happy dagger, This is thy sheath.”

Holmes-Pohle is wonderfully expressive as Juliet. Unfortunately, he does not enunciate as well as I would like. In many parts of the play it is hard to hear what he is saying, but his body language speaks loud and clear.

Thomas Neely plays Romeo as an intense young man whose mercurial passions are more believable than what we are used to seeing in this role. Neely is small and wiry, much smaller than Juliet, which lends a touch of realism that is often missing in this highly romantic tragedy. Their passionate love is truly believable.

The juiciest role in this play – the role many actors may prefer to the leading roles – is that of Mercutio. Stroyan plays Mercutio with style, energy and saucy sexuality. Her costume is wonderful: tight green jeans and an ever-present walking stick, which she uses as a weapon and a comedic phallic symbol, much the way Malcolm McDowell used his cane in “A Clockwork Orange.”

Also outstanding are Lauren O’Neill as Nurse Angelica and Tim Samland who plays Lord Capulet as a cigar-smoking, gun-toting mafia boss. With his slicked-back hair and trim beard and the huge pistol in his shoulder holster, his physical presence on stage demands attention.

The play is presented in the round with a minimalist set. The gunshots were shocking even after being warned because they were quite loud. The fight scenes are stylized rather than realistic and are carefully choreographed and almost frightening due to the closeness of the audience. This is a very physical play, and the women fight with athleticism matching that of the men, further challenging the audience’s possible gender assumptions.

It is a long play at three hours, with a short intermission at the two-hour mark.

Rock Paper Scissors

LeeAnn Seaburg Peery and others at Grand Impromptu

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 2, 2009
Pictured: necklace by Micki Lippe and "Nightengale," sculpture by LeeAnn Seaburg Peery. Photos courtesy Grand Impromptu Gallery

LeeAnn Seaburg Peery is a sculptor whose work harkens back to Michelangelo’s slave sculptures — highly polished figures emerging from rough marble — and similar figures by Rodin. She carves abstracted human bodies in marble, alabaster, soapstone and limestone, which she personally chooses from a quarry in Vermont. At their best her sculptures are elegant and sensual; at their worst they are clichéd figures that appeal to sentimentality more than sensuality — like Boucher’s "Marie Louise O’Murphy" compared to Rembrandt’s "Bathsheba at Her Toilet."

Peery is showing a group of white marble sculptures and a couple of soapstone sculptures in the show Rock Paper Scissors at Grand Impromptu Gallery. The white marble pieces make excellent use of contrasts between smooth and highly polished surfaces and roughly textured and rock-like surfaces, between jutting angles and fluid curves. One called Sensual Woman is the best piece in the show because it is the simplest in form and the most abstract. The more she departs from the illusionist while still maintaining the basic feel for the figure, the better her works are; and the more noticeably they refer directly to the figure, the more clichéd.

Also showing as part of Metal Urge are jewelry pieces by Joni Joachims and Micki Lippe. Lippe’s necklaces are rough looking but delicate metal works with beads and feathers and sticks and other objects derived from walks in the woods (metal, not real sticks and feathers). Joachims makes heavy ornate rings and pendants out of silver with semi-precious stones. If I were a person who wore jewelry, I think I’d like to have some of hers.

As usual, a large selection of works from members of the Grand Impromptu co-op are also included in this show. Among the best of these are paintings and constructions by Becky Frehse and digital photographs by Bea Geller.

"In Gathering" by Frehse is a semi-abstract painting in oil and mixed media of a river with rocks below and sky above. Words and parts of words in raised letters float in the sky and seemed to be embedded into the rough surface as if they are carved letters pushing out of mud. Slung across parts of the canvas is a fisherman’s net tossed over water. I particularly like that this collage element stands out without being obtrusive or having a tacked-on look.

The best of Geller’s photographs are "The Shroud" and "Factory Pine." "The Shroud" is a post-apocalyptic vision of a city with a dense growth of trees, brush and moss taking over buildings. Everything is a dull gray with subtle hints of color.

"Factory Pine," another post-apocalyptic vision, pictures the crumbling ruins of a row of factory buildings on a river bank. Large graffiti tagging in bright colors fill the walls of the buildings. Everything except the writing is colorless. In the foreground, river water washing onto shore has the slick look of highly polished metal or rock.

Sculpture Naming Contest Winner Announced

I received the following announcement after this article went to press.

LeeAnn Seaburg Perry’s grand dame marble sculpture that greets you as you enter the Grand Impromptu Gallery for the exhibit Rock Paper Scissors, now has an identity. Perry selected the name “Nightingale” from a story written about the sculpture by Tacoma poet Jean Musser. Musser received naming honors and was awarded a thumb size Perry sculpture as a prize. Here is the sculpture’s story as told by Jean Musser:

“Her name is Catherine and she stands on noble ground, fathered as she was by Lorenzo de’ Medici, patron of the arts whose tomb was designed my Michelangelo. Sixteenth century Florence was the cup that held her in her early years. She felt the soft winds from the Arno and listened for the nightingale. She grew strong and adventurous, stately and proud. When the King of France first saw her, he threw roses at her feet. Later he made her his queen. She wore a ruff and crown. Yet sometimes she longed for the sounds and beauty of Florence and the sight of the white marble mines high on the hills like the first snow of winter.”

Second Place winner was poet Michael Magee for his poem called “Venus Disarmed” and third Place winner was writer Carol Martin-Oki for her poem called “Impatient Patience”.

During the first two weeks of the exhibit, gallery goers were invited to submit a name for the piece and write a story or poem about it. Entries were reviewed and the winning title selected by Perry and artist Deborah Greenwood.
[Grand Impromptu Gallery, Thursday 4-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon to 8 p.m., Sunday, 2-6 p.m., through July 11, 608 South Fawcett, Tacoma, 253.572.9232,]