Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Amy Shephard as Nell Gwynne and Kate Kraay as Aphra Behn

“Or,” by Liz Duffy Adams at Harlequin Productions is a Neo-Restoration comedy. Adams has been favorably compared to Tom Stoppard. 

Someone in the lobby at intermission described it as sex, drugs and rock and roll 1600s style — a not-so-accurate description of the play, but an excellent summary of its mood and tenor. 

If “Or,” is short on drugs and rock and roll, it certainly does not skimp on the sex, implied and talked about and simulated in its many varieties — but all fully clothed in elaborate 17th century costumes designed by Monique Anderson. Despite the emphasis on sex and a liberal use of the dreaded F-word, this is not an X rated type of play; although I suspect immature audiences might have a hard time appreciating or understanding it.

Kate Kraay as Aphra Behn and James Weidman as William Scott
Based on historical people and events, “Or,” is the story of Aphra Behn, spy, playwright, novelist and poet. She was a spy for King Charles II, with whom she may or may not have had an affair — much of her history is sketchy at best, and is rife with rumors. She served a stint in debtor’s prison. After getting out of prison she became a successful playwright and poet — the first woman in history to make her living as a playwright and an inspiration to Virginia Woolf among others. She was most likely bisexual and was accused of being a libertine, perhaps because her popular plays were libidinous.

All of these life events are depicted in the play. Plus there is a lot of intrigue and complex relationships between Aphra and her friends, lovers and patrons. 

With only three actors playing seven characters and with no set changes (unless you count an opening scene played out in front of the curtain), “Or,” which premiered in 2009, intelligently and delightfully captures the manners and mores of the Restoration period in Britain while remaining thoroughly contemporary. 

Kate Kraay plays Aphra. Kraay is a newcomer to the Harlequin stage. Now living in Seattle where she has performed in Theater Schmeater and the Seattle Repertory Theatre, she recently returned to the states from graduate studies in physical and experimental theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Tall and regal in appearance, she plays Aphra as a confident and strong woman with a wicked grin. When she speaks directly to the audience, as she does in the opening scene (set in prison), she conveys a sense of intimacy; in scenes with other characters she commands the space, almost everything else revolves around her.

Amy Shephard, who also recently returned from earning a Masters Degree in England — in her case from the University of Exeter — plays the multiple roles of the actress Nell Gwynne, a housekeeper named Maria, and Aphra’s jailor. She’s most outstanding as Nell, who was probably Aphra’s lover in real life and definitely so in “Or,” where she has sex with everyone she can get her hands on. Her sexual advances are replete with exaggerated physical moves and flirty big eyes.

James Weidman, another first-timer on the Harlequin stage who has worked numerous Seattle theaters, plays Charles II, William Scott, and Lady Davenant. He switches roles from king to spy to an eccentric and imperious old lady with ease, convincingly playing three very different characters with just a hint of camp when he appears in drag.

“Or,” has the flavor of a Shakespeare comedy minus the convoluted plotlines and crowded stage. Like the bard’s comedies, this one has hidden identities and cross dressing, and it is playfully risqué. The language is poetic. It slips in and out of rhyme, and manages to sound contemporary while reflecting the speech of 17th century London. There are fast costume changes and a lot of comical surprises. Whenever a character goes into a bedroom or a hallway or a closet, you never know who is going to appear next.

Linda Whitney’s set design is beautiful. The colors are lush with maroon-tinted wood on cabinets and doors, and plaster walls broken and worn to reveal writing on the wall underneath the plaster. The lighting by Amy Chisman is warm and inviting. Sound effects by Gina Salerno are amusing, particularly the squeaking opening and closing of the prison door.

WHEN: Thursdays through Saturdays, 8p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. through Feb. 16
WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia
TICKETS: prices vary, call for details
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151; http://www.harlequinproductions.org/
Jan 30 - Pay What You Can
Feb 1 - Ladies' Night Out
Feb 8 - Pride Night

Friday, January 25, 2013

Azul: Contemporary Interpretations In Primary Blue Mood"

"Blue Morocco" by William Quinn

"Hearts and Flowers" by Leonardo Lanzolla
Art with an international flavor at B2 Fine Art Gallery
The Weekly Volcano, January 24, 2013

I am honored to be in the "Azul" exhibition with five excellent artists at B2 Gallery. I will not write about my own paintings, but will comment on the other artists.

There are some astonishing works to be seen, starting with the all-blue figurative sculpture by Francisco Salgado featured on the show poster. It's like a combination of Henry Moore and Rodin but made of unidentified mixed media, which looks to me like sticks and straw with plaster slathered with cobalt blue paint. It is a strikingly sensual piece that is sadly not well lighted. (I saw it at night; perhaps in daylight you can see it better.) Also by Salgado is a wonderfully mesmerizing little relief sculpture of a bird-like woman dancing and a pair of surrealistic sculpted feet that have morphed into sandals. These are placed on a sculpture stand in an alcove and on the wall behind it is a photograph in an all-blue tint of a woman wearing the sandal feet. The photo was taken by Salgado's wife, Kim Cambpell.

Salgado is Mexican, now living in Portland. It's an international cast of artists. Leonardo Lanzolla is Italian, now living in Seattle; Susana Rodriguez is from Chili; Judy Hintz Cox spent time in Ecuador with the Peace Corps and has shown her art in Peru and Brazil; and finally, William Quinn spent a large part of his life living and working in France.

Lanzolla's "Hearts and Flowers" is an exercise in contradiction, with sweet subject matter painted in a rough manner with impasto paint application that looks like it was troweled on. Red and orange hearts and flowers float in a field of blue, and along one edge is an architectural element that looks like clusters of hillside houses in Italy and partly like a section of a billboard that has been ripped away to reveal layer underneath. This is a very strong painting.

Most of Lanzolla's works in this show, covering a range of styles, are poetic and spiritual, with reminders of Chagall and Picasso. I asked him about the Picasso influence in one of his paintings and he denied it was derived from Picasso and explained the symbolism and meaning of every image on the canvas. Nevertheless, his argument did not convince me. Lanzolo also has a wonderful set of little clay paintings that look like scratchboard drawings with swirling and lyrical lines and a poetic interplay between line and color.

Speaking of line and color, Quinn's "Blue Morocco" is absolutely marvelous. I couldn't take my eyes off it. A camel and Arabian-style buildings in bright colors can be seen on a blue-black background with a delightful peek-a-boo effect of figure and ground. The colors are rich and glowing. Light on dark switches to dark on light. I wish I could own this painting. Quinn is also showing a set of works on paper, which are done in gouache with collage elements. They are abstract and well composed with an exciting variety of shape and mark-making within unifying shapes and color combinations. The best of these is a piece called "Advance Upward."

Cox's paintings are boldly minimalist with a few blue shapes and random-looking marks - some barely visible - on heavy white paint. Her compositions are radical and the balance between objects and open space is tenuous and off-putting in a good way, although a few of them have elements that seem contrived. These are not as good as paintings by Cox that I saw in a previous show at B2, but there is something exciting about these ragged-rugged paintings. Unfortunately the one that appeared to be a tribute to Rothko simply does not work.

Rodriguez's paintings left me wanting something more. They are moody and atmospheric landscapes that look unfinished. They are a lot like Monet and a lot like William Turner seascapes but duller and moodier than either and without their drama or luminosity.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Tacoma Poet Laureate Call for Women Poets

            Tacoma Poet Laureate Josie Emmons Turner invites South Sound Region women poets to join her in celebration of The Gallery at Tacoma Community College’s exhibit Greek and Roman Mythology.  Up to 20 poets will be selected to read on the theme of Gods, Goddesses, and Myths April 19 at 7:00 in the Gallery.
            Poems may be published in a chapbook, funding pending.
            Josie Emmons Turner was appointed Tacoma Poet Laureate 2011-2013 by the Tacoma Arts Commission.  Her work has been published in regional and national journals and during her tenure she has held numerous workshops and events in Tacoma.  In addition, she teaches English at Clover Park High School.
            The Gallery’s Exhibit was curated by gallery director Dr. Jennifer Olson-Rudenko and features the work of numerous artists including Darcy Cline, Bill Colby, Melinda Liebers Cox, Margaret Doty, Marsha Glazière, Ron Hall, David Roholt, Ron Schmidt, Jeffery Stewart, Sharon Styer, William turner, and Greg Yukert. See my review in the Weekly Volcano.
            To submit, send up to three previously unpublished poems on the theme.  The poems should be ones which you would intend to read.  Turner will select the poems and which ones the poet will be reading. 
          Format:  Poems should be no longer than 2 pages.  All poems should be submitted in one MS Word document as an attachment.  Each poem needs to be clearly labeled with the poet’s name, address, email address, and phone number in the upper left-hand corner.  Poem title is to be centered.  Use 12pt. Times New Roman or Georgia fonts ONLY.  Poems not correctly formatted will not be read.
Deadlines:  February 28.  Poets will be notified by March 20 via email.
Send submissions to:  www.facebook.com/josieemmonsturner

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another postcard show

The Weekly Volcano, Jan. 17, 2013

"My Kind of Place. A MouseHole" by Susan Emley
Last year’s postcard show at South Puget Sound Community College was a huge success so they’re doing it again. This one does not seem quite as good, but maybe it’s just that the novelty has worn off.

Last year’s theme was “Wish you were here,” and there were a lot of clever and funny takeoffs on that well-worn sentiment. This year the theme is “My kind of place.” The crop of postcard-size art this year doesn’t play on the theme so much. Rather, it is a somewhat random collection of 239 paintings, drawings, collages, and even some three-dimensional work. Most of them don’t even pretend to be postcards but are simply artworks of a particular size. (Before going any further I need to explain that none of them are identified by media, so when I mention media I’m describing what they appear to be.) 

One fun piece that does comment on the theme is by Gina Thompson. It features two circles that, in context, appear to be big, round cartoonish breasts. Plastered across them is the word “Censored,” and at the top are the words “Not my kind of place. Extending the big-boobs theme, Thompson has another one that has very large boobs with burlesque pasties extending three-dimensionally out from the card — the boobs, not just the pasties.

There are some excellent works of art and some very amateurish ones. I get the feeling that whoever chose the pieces picked everything that was submitted. Roxanne Rants and Patrick Cavendish, as typical examples, are showing drawings and watercolors of scenes that look like they were done by a 8-year-old kid. For all I know, Rants and Cavendish may be children. There are far too many such weak and uninspiring works.

On the other hand, there are some excellent works. 

Becky Knold, whose work stood out in the recent Drawn to Abstraction show at SPSCC, has three small abstract paintings that are dark and moody with a richness of texture and color beyond what is normally expected of such work. Barbara Young is also showing dark and richly textured pieces that are a joy to look at. Her works are all relief sculpture in wood and metal. I’d love to see these blown up to massive proportions.

Charlie Keck’s five entries are slick and beautiful photographs of a type you might expect to see in a glossy magazine. Also showing photographs is Joe Batt, whose manipulated photos or photo-collages sport brilliant colors with energetic marks drawn into the photos. 

Jeanne Hamilton’s collage and watercolors display odd cropping and unusual points of view. All but the cat drawing, which is like about a million other cat pictures.

Barlow Palminteri is showing a suite of studio scenes that are like his large and well-known acrylic paintings, but the painting is looser with fewer details, and apparently not just because of the size, because I saw a recent painting of his in a show at Tacoma Community College that was also done in this looser style. If this is a new direction in his painting he needs to develop it further or go back to his earlier style.

The big surprise in this show for me was how much I liked Susan Emley’s three silly cat and dog paintings. The gallery invites people to vote for their favorites, and I voted for one of hers.
Postcards will be sold in a month-long silent auction. Bidding through 7 p.m. during the closing reception on Friday, Feb. 15. 

[South Puget Sound Community College, My Kind of Place…a Fine Art Postcard, through Feb. 15, Monday-Thursday, noon-4 p.m., and by appointment, closed Jan. 21, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia, 360.596.5527.]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: The Lena Horne Songbook

Local songbirds Stacie Calkins, Laurie Clothier and LaVon Hardison will salute the great Lena Horne in a one-night-only performance at Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way on Saturday, Feb. 16. It’s a world premiere and -- like I said -- one night only, so mark your calendars and be there.

Stacie Calkins
Laurie Clothier

LaVon Hardison
The singers will be backed by David Duvall’s eight piece orchestra, and the show will be staged in the style of the 1960s Las Vegas and Atlantic City showrooms in their heyday.

Lena Horne was a ground-breaking performer; the first African-American pin-up girl (during WWII) who defied stereotypes during her early career in Hollywood and who became a key public figure in the entertainment world during the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Rights Movement. Among the popular songs recorded and performed by Horne included in this concert are: “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Once In A Lifetime,” “Love Me Or Leave M,” "Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man”  and her signature song, “Stormy Weather.”

Horne’s career began in the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, where she worked as a dancer. This led to touring as the vocalists with the Charlie Barnet & Noble Sissle orchestras, which ultimately brought her to Hollywood where she achieved success portraying herself as a nightclub singer in many MGM musicals. When she refused to adhere to the strict career guidelines of the studio, she was put on “restriction” and not allowed to play the role of Julie in the 1951 re-make of the musical Show Boat and ultimately the end of her film career for many years. Lena moved into working almost exclusively in concert halls and nightclubs, becoming a favorite entertainer in  New York & Europe.

During the Civil Rights years she added  her voice and presence to the movement, doing everything from being present at the March on Washington to singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” with Kermit the Frog on "Sesame Street."

STACIE CALKINS is known for outstanding musical performances on South Sound stages. She was my pick for best actor in a musical for her performance as Effie in Dreamgirls, and again for her role as Celie in The Color Purple. She has performed in Ragtime and was the Acid Queen in Centerstage’s production of Tommy, and she rocked the house in I’m Into Something Good, also at Centerstage. 

LAURIE CLOTHIER is an established nightclub, concert and musical theater performer whose career spans more than 30 years performing numerous one-woman shows at the celebrated Cabaret de Paris in Seattle. Among her theatrical credits are Cassie in A Chorus Line, Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, Sandy in Grease and as herself in My Way and Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Songbook

LaVON HARDISON's theatrical credits range from playing the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard II (re-named Regina II) to leading roles in Ain't Misbehavin', Intimate Apparel, The Full Monty and Jesus Christ Superstar. She has recorded three CDs, performing both originals and standards -- including her album of inspirational music called "Everyday Gifts." Olympia fans also know her has half of the singing duo Red and Ruby (she's Ruby and Vince Brown is Red).

The all-new arrangements and orchestrations for Believe in Yourself are created by long-time Seattle-based musical director/arranger David Duvall, who is also the Artistic Director for Purple Phoenix Productions, which has previously produced tributes to Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin, Nat “King” Cole, Bobby Darin and Rosemary Clooney.

Tickets are $19.50. They are available at www.CenterstageTheatre.com or by phone at (253) 661-1444. Centerstage Theatre is located at 3200 Dash Point Road, in Federal Way.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The 4th comes to Puyallup

A new theater is opening in Puyallup. It's called the 4th Wall Players, a.k.a., the 4th. They are interested in producing works by Pacific Northwest playwrights.
The theater is located at 152nd and Meridian on Puyallup’s South Hill.  In addition to theatrical productions, they offer venue rentals for rehearsals, dance or yoga classes, or possibly music and vocal lessons. Actually, they’re open to renting it for almost any purpose, including weddings and, I would assume, meetings and private parties.  The space is heated and air conditioned with professional stage lighting and sound. 
The first show planned for the 4th is Zach Hoffman’s one-man show “Tuxedo Man” opening on March 15 and 16.  On March 22 the improv actors from “Events on the Edge” will begin their interactive monthly murder mystery shows.  

Also planned are weekly acoustic musical performances sponsored by Guitar Center featuring artists from around the Pacific Northwest.

An outdoor season will begin in August with Shakespeare in the Park .
There will also be new play reading nights where playwrights and actors will get together and workshop new projects.