Saturday, March 30, 2013

Double Shot Festival of Overnight Plays at Capital Playhouse

Tacoma Actors Invade Olympia to Share Spotlight for Overnight Play Fest

Capital Playhouse will host Olympia’s first Festival of Overnight Plays April 13 & 14. The “Double Shot” Festival will feature the work of 50 of South Puget Sound’s best actors, directors and playwrights in the form of seven ten-minute plays written and fully produced within 24 hours. What’s the secret to creating a full evening of work so quickly?

“Lots of Coffee,” says Tim Hoban, a veteran of several Double Shot Festivals produced in Tacoma. “It’s a lot of fun and some of the work is unbelievably good.”
Here’s how it works: seven playwrights are given the same writing prompt Friday evening. Their original scripts are written and delivered by 8 a.m. the next morning.

Directors and casts begin rehearsing immediately and the plays are memorized and fully produced by 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.  Seven new plays created in 24 hours.
Although the format is new to Olympia, it’s been popular for many years in Seattle, Bellingham and Tacoma. According to Olympia playwright Bryan Willis, “We’ve been schlepping up I-5 for years—we figured it was time to produce Double Shot in Olympia.”

The festival spotlights the acting and directing talents of such favorites as Brian Tyrrell, Elizabeth Lord, Russ & Kim Holm, Andy Gordon, Tim Hoban, Mark Peterson and Kathryn Dorgan. The evening will also feature a new theme-related song by Terry Shaw, a theme-related sketch by Tacoma’s fabulous Muh Grog Zoo Improv Ensemble and three theme-related poems.

Double Shot is co-sponsored by Capital Playhouse and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance and will be a fundraiser for both organizations. All actors, directors and writers will be volunteering their time and talent.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for one of these,” said Andy Gordon, who will be writing for Double Shot.  “It’s going to be great.”

What:  Double Shot Festival of Overnight Plays
Where:  Capital Playhouse 612 E 4th Ave, Olympia  WA  98501
When:  Sat April 13 @ 7:30 p.m. & Sunday April 14 @ 2 p.m.
Tickets:  $13 general seating. Call 360-943-2744 or visit
Sponsors:  Capital Playhouse, Northwest Playwrights Alliance

For more info:
Lauren O’Neill, Managing Director, Capital Playhouse 360-943-2744
Bryan Willis, playwright-in-residence, Northwest Playwrights Alliance,

Note: I did not write this. It is a press release from Capital Playhouse.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Up, Down, Left, Right

"Return to the Source" acrylic by Cable Griffith

"World Two Overview (Night)," acrylic by Cable Griffith

"Side Scroll World 2," digital prints by Cable Griffith

Cable Griffith and Michael Johnson shows at Kittredge Gallery
reviewed by Alec Clayton
The Weekly Volcano, March 28, 2013

The latest show at Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, has Seattle painter Cable Griffith’s video game-influenced paintings in the main gallery and an installation by sculptor and UPS art faculty member Michael Johnson in the back gallery.

Griffith’s paintings are abstract, stylized images based on imagery from early video games. Titled Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Start, the show references directions in maps, games, cities and the countryside with schematic renderings of colorful streets, rivers and buildings — Pop Art renderings of the pathways taken by players like the Mario Brothers and PacMan. They are inventive and fun to investigate. There is even a video game that can played by using projections onto paintings that can be remote controlled by viewers/players. This piece is a collaborative work with Brent Watanabe.

Griffith has noted: “Influenced by modernist painting and early video game imagery, my recent work explores the connections and potentials of both. … Notions of play, practice, improvisation, and exploration add an additional narrative to the relationship of symbols, actions, and reactions.”

“World Two Views (Night)” is a dark and moody landscape in tones of purple, green and blue with tree stumps, a winding highway, mountains, rivers and lakes all painted to look the way they may have been depicted in a video game circa 1985. It’s a night scene with the only point of light being a campfire, and it’s the only dark image in the show; everything else is light in tone.

Two pieces titled “Side Scroll World” numbers one and two, comprise square and rectangular panels painted with oil and connected tiles put together in irregular patterns. Griffith calls the panels elements. Number one has 25 elements, and number two has 10. The painting on the elements pictures schematic renderings of factories or industrial villages with ladders and pipes, various machines and smoke stacks. The larger piece, number one, has elements on either side of a large central shape that break away as if the whole is orbiting in space and parts have floated off.

“Return to the Source” and “The Navigator” are the paintings most closely conforming to painting tradition; i.e., flat shapes arranged on a flat surface (“Two World Views” also fits this category). “Return to the Source” may be my favorite piece in the show. It depicts a kind of Incan-village factory built into a mountainside made of stacked boxes all connected with canals running among them, each waterway ending in a round pool or waterway roundabout and none getting anywhere.

“The Navigator” is another fantasy town with trees and waterways and something that looks like giant pink mushrooms. Let your imagination run wild. These are fun, fun paintings.

Other works include a piece called “Here, Near, and Far (First Person Traveler),” nine paintings in a row that look somewhat like simplistic trees and zig-zag patterns that might be seen on Indian blankets. This is the least interesting work in Griffith’s show. And a group of four small paintings in acrylic on paper that look like watercolor — similar to the images on “Here, Near, and Far” but nicer because of the loose handling.

Michael Johnson’s installation in the back gallery is called You Are Here. It is made of a series of six sculptural drawings, titled “A Systematic Account of Random Movements” based on “the collection and processing of random GPS data within a predetermined controlled construct.” I will explain more of that when I review it in this column for the April 4 edition.

[Kittredge Gallery,  Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Start,  by Cabel Griffith, through April 13, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701]

The Second Likely Only Annual Sami Awards

US Presents is pleased to announce “The Second Likely Only Annual Sami Awards: a ‘glow-tape studded’ benefit for Lakewood Playhouse” at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 29, 2013

The Second Likely Only Annual Sami Awards: This time we mean it

On March 29, 2013, Lakewood Playhouse will convert to a “good, old-fashioned” awards show arena – complete with paparazzi, screaming fans, food and drink and, of course, some of the South Sounds greatest performers. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for plenty of mingling time before the “awards” show begins at 8:00. Tickets are only $20 (although greater donations are gladly accepted).

A few years ago, local actress Samantha Camp decided to turn her 40th Birthday into a fundraising extravaganza. After much arm-twisting she finally conceded to do it again for no good reason.  Come join us for an EPIC evening of food, paparazzi, fabulous performances and a good not-so-old-fashioned Awards Show.
Some of the performers scheduled to appear (at press time) include Erik Hill, Jed Slaughter, Kody Bringman, Terri Fisher, Jenifer Rifenbery, Ryan Higgins, Gracie Reed, Katelyn Hoffman, Courtney Turnley, Gabrielle McClelland, Gloria Moore, Becca Mitchell, Jaron Boggs,  Bruce Story, Samantha Camp and MORE.
Awards given will include: Didn't Know You Could Do That, Best Off Stage Kiss, Best Tantrum - onstage or off, Best Wearing of a Costume, Best Paraphraser. Lucky Duck, Best Normal Scene with Unnecessary Sexual Overtones, Oh, were you in that show?, Best Ignoring of Direction, Best Grace Under Pressure, Best Acting Injury, Most Smooched, Best Range and Best "Silent" Performance (with no spoken lines)
Tickets $20 (although extra donations to the theatre are gleefully accepted) Cash and Check only - sold at the door. If you need to pay with a credit card, tickets can be purchased ahead of time at Food and Iced Tea provided with ticket price. Dress in your Oscar finest. Every attendee will get a jpeg of their "red carpet" photo - included in the price of admission.
For more information call 253-254-6755.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I’m Every Woman

A celebration of women at B2 Gallery

The Weekly Volcano, March 21, 2013
"Caffeine Queen" by Jill Neal
It’s hard to seriously consider Jill Neal’s pictures art. As printed images on coffee cups and greeting cards and wine labels and tote bags they are witty, joyful, delightful, inventive and just a heck of a lot of fun. But serious art they’re not. 

In celebration of International Women’s Month B2 Gallery is hosting a show of Neal’s women. They have the mugs and the cards and tote bags, and even Neal’s own wine labels. Plus a lot of her original artwork, mostly watercolors.

Neal celebrates women in all their exuberant glory, and she paints them in every conceivable place and situation — always the same woman, whether it’s a single figure or a dozen of her. She’s big and boisterous. You can almost hear her shouting for joy from within the silent confines of a watercolor painting. She has big red lips and a mouth full of blindingly white teeth. She has a Gaston LaChaise figure (if you do not get the reference Google LaChaise; you owe I to yourself). Her breasts are big; her hips and buttocks are gigantic, her arms and legs taper to elegant points; and often as not she is pictured either in fun costumes or naked as the day she was born—totally flaunting her voluptuous femininity, unabashedly naked but not salacious.
Of course LaChaise’s women are monumental and rendered in marble and bronze and Neil’s are small and rendered in watercolor, so they don’t carry quite the impact. Rather, they carry the impact of, say, a Gary Larson cartoon.

Here are descriptions of some of my favorite among her paintings:

“Opening Night” – a scene in an art gallery with a dozen women wearing elegant cocktail gowns and sipping wine. They mingle and view a mural-size painting of a woman who looks a lot like a cartoon version of one of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portraits.

“Boot Camp” – four women wearing cowboy boots decorated with tooled leather stars and stripes and landscapes. All are seen from a worm’s eye view looking up at them in such a way that their boots look gigantic and their bodies taper off to tiny heads.

“Premium Vintage” – a party girl in a black and white polkadot dress pops out of a wine bottle. This one is another homage to Marilyn, intentional or not. Her dress is blowing up and she’s holding it down in a pose identical to Marilyn’s in that famous scene from “The Seven Year Itch,” the one that inspired the monumental statue.

“Cave Woman” – a herd of naked women running in chase of a herd of horses. The horse’s rumps and the women’s rumps are almost identical in size and shape, and the horse’s legs taper to little hoofs like the women’s delicate little feet. (In a similar piece called “Chasing the Blues” a single woman runs after a herd of blue horses.)

“Uncorked” – an explosion of bubbly wine, cork and woman as all are forcefully ejected from a champagne bottle. This is one of the more delightful and happy images in a show full of joyful images.

Jill Neal’s watercolors do not measure up as fine art to the many outstanding works B2 has shown in the past, but I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it. 

[B2 Fine Art Gallery, I’m Every Woman: Jill Neal, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, till 8 p.m. Third Thursdays, through April 27, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, 253.238.5065]

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Joy Luck Club at Tacoma Little Theatre

Left to right, bottom row: Susan Mayeno, Aya Hashiguchi Clark, top row: Joy
St. Germain, Narea Kang, Ruth Yeo, Leilani Berinobis. Photo by Jason Ganwich
From left: Narea Kang, Leilani Berinobis, Susan Mayeno, Aya Hashiguchi Clark. Photo by Jason Ganwich
reviewed by Alec Clayton
The News Tribune, March 21, 2013

“Beautifully acted. An exquisite production. So grateful we had the experience of being in the audience." That was one of many tweets and Facebook posts to appear on the morning after the opening of “The Joy Luck Club” at Tacoma Little Theatre.

This production is more than just a play; it is an historic event for Tacoma. It was adapted from the Amy Tan book by David Hsieh, founding Artistic Director for ReAct Theatre in Seattle, where it was first performed. This production, like the original, is directed by Hsieh and features at least two or the original actors, and it is only the second time it has been performed anywhere.

It is a beautiful production of a complex and fascinating story. But audiences should be aware that it is not an easy play to watch. It is long (I clocked it at two hours and 40 minutes including a 15-minute intermission) and with the Chinese accents, unfamiliar names, large cast and multiple layered story lines it takes a lot of concentration to keep up. It is an exhausting play both emotionally and intellectually, but well worth the effort it takes to follow the many stories and keep up with the tangled relationships.

Jing-mei (Narea Kang) goes by the Americanized name June. Like the other women of her generation – Waverly (Ruth Yeo), Rose (Amanda Oliva) and Lena (Grace Xie) – Jing-mei disdains her Chinese heritage and wants to be fully American. When her mother dies she is invited to take her place in the weekly Mahjong game that has become an almost sacred tradition with the mothers. The Mahjong players and their daughters tell tales about their lives. At first the stories they tell seem isolated and random, but as the play progresses they begin to coalesce into a single thread. Most of the stories are narrated in the first person by characters speaking directly to the audience while other actors playing them (often at different ages) act out the stories, sometimes in mime and sometimes in beautifully stylized silhouette behind a scrim.

The stories they tell center on family dynamics, most particularly the complex love-hate relationships between these mothers and daughters; of cultural clashes; of love, loss and death; of murder and suicide. And with all of this it is filled with laugh-out-loud humor.

As the many story threads began to come together the daughters who have been shamed by their mother’s old fashioned ways began to respect and love them in ways they never would have expected.

The set by Burton K. Yuen consists of a bunch of eight-foot tall Mahjong tiles, three risers and a table and chairs. It is elegant and, fortunately, requires no changes other than small props. The beauty of this set is dramatically augmented by Niclas R. Olson’s exquisite lighting.

There are 16 cast members, and each one plays multiple roles. The acting is excellent, with far too many actors to talk about them all. I will, however, point out a few. Leilani Berinobis as Lindo, Waverly’s mother, is fabulous. She has many of the funniest lines in the show and delivers them with impeccable timing and attitude. Yeo’s Waverly is a wonderfully admirable and engaging character convincingly portrayed. Dan Theyer as Harold, Rich, Ted and others – all of the Asian women’s Western boyfriends and spouses – is fun to watch. He’s especially entertaining as Rich, Waverly’s fiancĂ©, who blissfully does everything wrong just when she needs him to make a good impression on her family. Aya Hashiguchi is outstanding as Ying Ying and others she portrays. She performs one gut-wrenching scene that I won’t give away and has some great subtle, tell-all gestures.

“The Joy Luck Club” is presented as poetry in motion. It is intelligent and heartfelt.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday through
WHERE: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma
TICKETS: $14.50 - $24.50
INFORMATION: 253-272-2281,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oliver at Capital Playhouse

Please sir, more. Skyler Zimmerman, Robert Corl, Sara Flotree Beekman
Here’s a bit of irony: the cover of the program for The Musical Oliver at Capital Playhouse carries the legend, “The show that will leave you wanting more!” And it did. The ending left me wanting more, meaning it was not satisfying. Perhaps I should have expected it because I have seen the show before, but it just seems to peter out. The big revelation about Oliver is glossed over and then Fagin comes out and sings a short reprise of “Reviewing the Situation,” and that’s it.
On the night I saw it the audience sat for a moment as if not sure it was over, and then gave the cast the requisite standing ovation.
My reaction to the end is like my reaction to the whole play. It’s a good story nicely produced with good music and good acting, but it left me slightly dissatisfied.
Directed by Colleen Powers and musically directed by Claudia Simpson-Jones, Oliver stars sixth grader Skyler Wyatt Zimmerman in the title role, seventh grader Kate Hayes as The Artful Dodger, Patrick Wigren as Fagin, Kristin Burch as Nancy, and Jason Pead as Bill Sykes; also featuring Robert Corl as Mr. Bumble-The Beadle, Sara Flotree Beekman as The Widow Corney, and Carolyn Willems Van Dijk as Mrs. Sowerberry and Mrs. Bedwin. You gotta love Charles Dickens’ character names.
Patrick Wigren, Skyler Zimmerman
It is a big and boisterous musical with many elaborate song and dance numbers bringing pretty much the whole 26-person cast on stage. It’s touching and humorous, violent at times, and the costumes by Kellen Dixie Krieg are a joy to behold. Mr. Bumble’s giant hat is hilarious, as is the hoop skirt worn by The Widow Corney, which looks big enough that half the boys in the workhouse could hide under it. Nancy’s low-cut, grease-smeared, flared-skirt dress highlights her beauty while being true to her lower class status. The costumes for both Fagin and Dodger are also outstanding. The makeup, however, is overdone on some of the characters. Yes, there are dirty street urchins and lowlife characters, but having pretty much the same smears on their cheeks day after day is unrealistic and distracting.
The first really great musical number is Bumble and Corney’s silly flirtation scene to the tune “I Shall Scream” with Flotree-Beekman and Corl putting their operatic voices to good use while Bumble bumbles an attempt at seduction.
In many productions of Oliver, Fagin provides the biggest comic highlights and Wigren, one of the best comic actors to regularly grace South Sound musical stages, does a good job. But he is not quite up to his usual almost-genius level of comedic acting. Even the best are not always at their best in every role.
Zimmerman is an excellent Oliver. He conveys the perfect wide-eyed innocence, and he sings nicely. Van Dijk is beautifully and comically expressive and sings well.
But the actors who truly shine in every scene they are in are Hayes, Burch and Pead. If you didn’t know you’d probably never suspect that Hayes is a girl playing the part of a boy. Her energy and her facial expressions are delightful. Burch is simply amazing. I could not take my eyes off her — not just because of her physical beauty but because of her saucy, proud bearing, her wide range of expressions, and her incredible voice. Pead simply possesses stage. When he first appears as Bill Sykes and sings the song “My Name,” Pead frightens the life out of everyone on the set. His expressions and mannerisms are intimidating and powerful, as they should be for this character. Pead and Powers could have shied away from making him so threatening. I’m glad they didn’t.
The cast does a fine job of singing and acting, and the band is wonderful.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through March 31
Where: Capital Playhouse: 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
Tickets: $28-39
More information: 360-943-2744,

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Philadelphia Story at Harlequin

From left: Jason Haws, Helen Harvester, Elix Hill and Russ Holm. Photo by Scot Whitney
Harlequin’s “The Philadelphia Story” is big in many ways — big cast, big set, ambitious production. It’s a timeless tale performed by a large and excellent cast in wonderful period costumes on a revolving stage that alternates between the parlor and the patio of the elegant home of an aristocratic Philadelphia family in the 1930s. The finely detailed set, which rivals those at larger theaters such at the 5th Ave and Seattle Rep, was designed by Linda Whitney, who is also directing this play.

In addition to designing and directing — and I know I’ve said this before — Whitney also writes the best directors notes to be found in theatrical programs in the South Sound, as with the set, equaling or bettering those from much larger theaters. Her notes, usually called “Annotation,” paint nicely worded and thoroughly researched history and background notes. In the case of “The Philadelphia Story” the Lord family is based on an actual high-society Philadelphia family and the main character, Tracy Lord, is based on the well-known society belle Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, a colorful character indeed. 

I’m not so sure it was a good thing, however, that in writing about the film version starring Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn, Whitney gave away what would have otherwise been a delightful surprise ending.

I suggest not reading her annotation until after seeing the play.

Aaron Lamb, Helen Harvester and Jason Haws. Photo by Scot Whitney
I am not generally a fan of period pieces nor plays or movies about the upper crust, but some, such as “The Importance of Being Ernest” are good enough to overcome my aversion to snobbery. This play is another prime example. In fact, it intelligently and humorously pokes fun at the aristocrats, their celebrity and their morality. It is an intelligently written play. 

Tracy (played with great style by Helen Harvester) is going to marry fellow snob George Kittredge (Jaryl Draper) the next day. During the day and night prior to the wedding family and friends, including Tracy’s ex-husband, along with a previously unknown reporter and photographer, descend on the Lord’s estate, and the wild happenings of the evening before the wedding turn Tracy into a much more human and down-to-earth woman. 

The reporter is played by Aaron Lamb and the photographer by Maggie Lofquist. The ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven, is played by veteran Harlequin actor Jason Haws. Haws, as always, is a joy to watch in action, and Harvester is amazing as Tracy. Thin and long-limbed, she seems at times to have arms and legs made of rubber. Her physical flopping about plays especially well when she plops provocatively and stretches cat-like, and especially when she is carried o bed in a loose-limbed drunken faint after a midnight skinny-dip.

The first act develops slowly and due to some high society Philadelphia accents many of the words are hard to hear, but you grow accustomed to the speech patterns and by the second act, when the action becomes more intense and more enjoyable, it is easier to hear what they’re saying.

A few actors in supporting roles deserve attention, most notably Russ Holm as William Tracy. Holm is always great as over-the-top boisterous eccentrics, and his portrayal as Uncle Willie is a joy to behold. John Munn is totally believable as Tracy’s somewhat stuffy and self-centered, but ultimately loving father. Also very enjoyable as the epitome of butlerhood is James Bass as Thomas. He doesn’t have much to say, but he doesn’t have to say anything.

And then there’s Max the night watchman who has no purpose in the play other than to allow for a cameo for local celebrity Joe Hyer. This is Hyer’s first performance at Harlequin. He also makes a brief appearance as the priest, Dr. Parsons.

Special kudos are due to costume designer Darren Mills.

WHEN: Thursdays through Saturdays, 8p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. through April 6
WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia
TICKETS: prices vary, call for details
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151;

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Clayton on Art: South Sound Artists vs. International Artists

Published in the Weekly Volcano blogSpew
March 12, 2013

"Puppet Love" assemblage by Lynn Di Nino
For reasons I can probably never explain both Al Taylor’s untitled acrylic painting and Joel Shapiro’s untitled charcoal drawing in the BNY Mellon collection show at Tacoma Art Museum remind me of paintings by Jeremy Mangan. Taylor’s little painting on newsprint and Shapiro’s charcoal drawing are both abstract. Shapiro’s is a big letter V in two tones of black/gray on a light gray background that looks like worn and scarred concrete. Taylor’s painting is of four adjacent and oddly balanced angular lines in red, blue and black like some kind of angular construction made of rebar or two-by-fours, painted and left out to weather. Both are abstract. Mangan’s paintings are not abstract. They are of buildings, houses and landscapes. 

Furthermore, they are very bright and colorful whereas Taylor and Shapiro’s pieces in the TAM show have little or no color. Yet I immediately thought of Mangan when I saw them. It’s the surface quality, the laboriously worked surface like paintings on the sides of barns or on wood that has been left out in the rain and wind and sun for decades. And it is the precarious balance of their forms and their use of space — not illusory or atmospheric space but the distribution and placement of forms on a flat surface.

The similarities are most evident in works from 2008 and 2009 seen on Mangan’s website — not so much so in his later paintings. What differentiates Mangan’s paintings (and this has nothing to do with what is good or bad, just different) is that they depict unique scenes that viewers can relate to and which, in some instances, verge on Surrealism.

I’ve noticed similarities between the works of other local artists and that of more well-known national or international art figures. Olympia artist Becky Knold, for instance, makes paintings that look a lot like works by Robert Motherwell. Christopher Mathie, who often shows at Childhood’s End in Olympia, looks like the love child of Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, both of whom he credits with being strong influences. And Judy Hintz Cox had a painting in the recent “Azul” show at B2 Gallery that was an obvious takeoff on a Mark Rothko, plus her other works in that show looked like that same Al Taylor painting from the Mellon collection.

One more: Lynn Di Nino is Tacoma’s answer to Jeff Koons. Many of her sculptures have the same quirkiness and audacity as some of Koons’ pieces, although Koons — with gobs of money and a whole factory full of assistants at his disposal — can do work on a gigantic scale and Di Nino can’t. One of her more recent projects featured in the Foundation of Art Awards show at B2 Gallery was a series of assemblages made from Hostess products and packaging. I can envision Koons doing the same thing only in his case each object would be enshrined in its own Plexiglas box.

Of course all artists pick up influences from many different sources and many create works that coincidentally look like works by other artists where there is no intentional influence, and trying to find such similarities and influences can be a meaningless intellectual game. But it can be a lot of fun.