Friday, September 30, 2016

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sherlock Holmes like you’ve never seen at Lakewood Playhouse

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 29, 2016

from left – Kayla Crawford as Dr. Watson, Gary Chambers as Sir Henry Baskerville, and Jacob Tice as Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Tim Johnson

The Hound of the Baskervilles at Lakewood Playhouse is not the spooky version of the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but a spoof on it by Stephen Canny and the British comedy troupe Peepleykus (pronounced people like us). It is a Monty Python-style skit expanded to about two-and-a-half hours with bits apparently inspired by the Reduced Shakespeare Company and perhaps the Marx Brothers and the old Carol Burnett TV show — not to mention The 39 Steps, which director John Munn also directed at Lakewood Playhouse.
Like The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), the actors even stop at one point and replay the whole thing in a super-fast speeded-up version. And they not only break the mythical fourth wall, they shatter it to smithereens, even to the point of introducing themselves to the audience as themselves rather than as the characters they play, and they criticize one another’s acting.
Yes, it is madcap, insane, and a daunting challenge to the director, actors and three-person backstage crew, all of whom together shall forever be known as the Magnificent Seven. The marvel is they almost pull it off. Almost. There are moments of comic genius and amazing acting, not to mention feats of backstage magic we can only surmise. But despite all this, I found myself at times wishing they would just get on with it and finish it up. Not all of it was as funny as hoped for. I noticed on the night I attended that the audience laughed, but not wildly, and sat stone-faced through long scenes.
Three actors each play one major character and many others. The press release said 50 different characters. I didn’t try to keep count. I just know that many of them were named Baskerville and were played by Gary Chambers; Sherlock Holmes and a lot of other men and women were played by Jacob Tice, and Dr. Watson was played by Kayla Crawford. Of the three actors, Crawford plays her part almost without comic exaggeration. Chambers is rubber-faced and crazily funny, and Tice is not only rubber-faced but also rubber-bodied, with movements that bring to mind Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.”
There’s a great segment in a steam room with Watson (remember, she’s a woman in this version) trying to maintain her dignity when the two men keep dropping their towels, and a funny dance scene with Tice as a woman dancing with Chambers, and hilarious bits with a stuffed doll sporting Chambers’ long pony tail (he’s supposedly a dead member of the Baskerville family), and a scene on a train where Tice plays a conductor with a voice like the monster in Young Frankenstein, and a great little scene with Chambers and Crawford playing patty cake/hand jive. If you like such Vaudeville-type silliness, you’ll love this Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 9, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $25, $22 military, $21 seniors and $19 students/educators, 253.588.0042,

14th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition at Tacoma Community College

Photo: “The Salon – Blue Boy,” painting by William Turner, courtesy Tacoma Community College

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 29, 2016
“The Salon – Blue Boy,” painting by William Turner, all photos courtesy Tacoma Community College

The annual juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College is usually a sampling of much of the best art created by South Sound artists. There is always admirable art to be seen, and this year is no exception; there are works worthy of admiration by such artists as Lois Beck, Susan Christian, Andrea L. Erickson, Fumiko Kimura, Becky Knold, Mary McCann, C.J. Swanson, David Noah Giles and many more — 41 total.
On the downside there is far too much that is trite and predictable — sweet little statuettes, nice but uninspired landscapes and safe abstractions.
Lois Beck’s little monoprint “Voodoo.” comprises a pair of concentric circles in soft, sandpapery, dull pink on a dark reddish field intersected by linear black shapes. It is simple and direct, with a sophisticated play of contrasting shapes and marks. It reminds me a lot of a drawing by Robert Motherwell I once saw, but much softer and less gutsy than any Motherwell.
Susan Christian’s “House Boat” is an abstract painting on old sticks that have been glued together. It has the weathered look of an old fence or barn or, befitting the title, a houseboat that has been left out of the water for generations. The rugged texture and dull colors and one little red splotch dead-center make for an attractive configuration of shapes and colors. What more can you ask of a painting?
"Geo Communication," acrylic on canvas by CJ Swanson
Marquita L. Hunt is showing two landscapes in acrylic on canvas, one much better than the other. The best of these is the smaller one, a thin, vertical painting of trees and a field of grass with a mountain in the background. The larger one, with similar subject matter, is not as well unified. The trees and grasses separate in this one like puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit; whereas the smaller one, despite dividing the space into two clearly separate areas, holds together as a single image. I like her autumnal colors and Cezannesque choppy brushstrokes.
Mary McCann’s “Precambrian Collision” is a dramatic mountain scene with low clouds, intense color and an enjoyable variety of brushstrokes and scratches. I saw this one earlier this year in a show in Olympia. I loved it then and still do, but in this setting it loses some I the power I saw in the smaller show.
Had I been selecting show winners, I would have given the top awards to David W. Murdach and William Turner.
Murdock is represented by two sculptural pieces, one free-standing and one a wall-hanging piece. Both are — if I may coin a phrase — steampunk rococo. Not a style I usually go for, but these pieces are funny, inventive, outlandishly decorative, and beautifully crafted. “Scalia, the Broccoli Man” is a relief sculpture of a floral pattern hanging on the wall and surrounded by gilded columns and pipes, and there is a gavel and a little man who looks to be made out of broccoli, with cartoonish white hands. His “Wall Street” is a free-standing carousel with music box. Instead of horses, this carousel has clowns, a pig, a bear, a silver frog, and Merlin the mythical magician. It is even more elaborately decorative than “Scalia.” It’s like Jeff Koons meets Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Turner’s “The Salon – Blue Boy” also harkens back to rococo art, specifically Gains borough’s “Blue Boy” with a bit of Vermeer thrown in for good measure. But stylistically it is more like a Matisse interior scene, but grittier.

The Gallery at Tacoma Community College, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Oct. 28, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Wandering Mind

A visit to American Lake
My mind wanders across landscapes of memory, imagination and speculation. It happens most often when I’m driving and alone in the car, or when I’m taking a long, relaxing soak in a tub. At other times my mind stays relatively focused on the here and now. Well, sometimes.

This morning while driving to the VA hospital at American Lake for routine lab work I rehearsed in my mind what I am going to say at my book event at Orca Books in Olympia (Saturday, Oct. 15, 3-4 p.m.). I’ve decide that rather than reading complete scenes as I sometimes do — after all, isn’t that what authors do at readings? — or inviting actors to read scenes adapted as if for the stage, which I more commonly do, I will simply talk about my new novel, and perhaps read a few not complete scenes but sentences or paragraphs that illustrate what I have to say about the book.

So from 6:30 to 7 this morning while driving on I-5 in smoothly flowing traffic despite it being rush hour, I imagined myself standing in front of a small crowd in Orcas holding a copy of my book with the photo of twin boys on the cover and saying, “This is my book. I wrote it. It is the story of Kevin Lumpkin told in the first person from beyond the grave by Kevin, looking back over a long life at events in his youth in Tupelo, Mississippi.” Kevin remembers girls he had crushes on. He remembers football games and swimming in the local pool and in “Blue Hole” where the boys skinny dipped until the girls invaded, and Lake St. John in Louisiana near the birthplace of Jerry Lee Lewis. And he remembers the riots at the nearby University of Mississippi in Oxford when James Meredith became the first Black man to become a student at the previously segregated college.

My wandering mind settled down when I got to the hospital. Walking in, I suddenly realized that I couldn’t remember where the lab was, but then I remembered that I had to check in downstairs, and when I did, the man at the desk said, “Left off the elevator. Second floor.” Oh yes, I remembered.
In previous visits the waiting room at the lab had always been full, and there was a long wait. But I had never before been there that early in the morning. There was only one other patient, and I got in almost immediately.

The woman who drew my blood was a middle aged Black woman with a broad smile. The doctors, nurses and administrators at the VA are always friendly and helpful. She told me she was from Atlanta, and I told her I was from Mississippi. She said her husband was from there, and we talked about the South while she drew three vials of blood.

After that I had to go pee in a cup and drop it back at the counter, and then I was done. Easy peasy. Back to the elevator. A tall, skinny man with a heavy gray mustache got in and said, “I think I’ve lost my mind. If you see it running around, grab it for me.”

I said all right, I would. I could relate. The elevator stopped at his floor and as he was getting off he said, “My appointment is not until next month.” I guess that was why he said he had lost his mind. I hope he hadn’t had a long drive to get there, and I wondered why, if his appointment is not until next month, he wasn’t leaving.

Walking back out to the parking lot I met an attractive Asian woman with deep dimples who flashed me a big smile and said, “Good morning” as she passed by. Following her lead, I said good morning to the next person who passed by, a man about my age with long hair wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap. He looked like David Crosby. He reached to shake my hand, called me “Bro,” and said, “I’m pissed. Look at that. They’re all employees,” pointing to a row of parked cars. “I’m going to take a picture and send it to Patty Murray.” I got his point. The first row of parking is reserved for employees. Patients, who are generally older and less easily able to walk the greater distance, have to park farther away from where they’re going.

I wonder if Patty Murray will respond to his letter if he actually writes it.

Back in the car heading back to Olympia, I thought about Marcel Duchamp. Thoughts of Duchamp led to remembering my graduate thesis, which led to thought about the use of the N word. And then I thought about how my mind tends to wander across landscapes of memory, imagination and speculation when I’m driving, and then I thought about how I’d like to write about some of these wandering thoughts and maybe post them on this blog — about how I might make it into a kind of semi-regular column.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Underpants at Tacoma Little Theatre

Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 23, 2016

Tacoma Little Theatre opens its 98th season with a frothy bit of silliness called “The Underpants” from the multi-talented Steve Martin, renowned comic, actor, writer and musician who wrote the brilliant Picasso at the Lapine Agile. It is hard to believe that Steve Martin wrote this one.

At best, it is good for a few laughs. There is some entertaining word play, it pokes fun at sexist attitudes that were prevalent when the play is set, in the first decade of the 20th century – attitudes that in some quarters still exist today. It is also mildly risqué and would have been even more so in 1910.

Louise (Cassie Jo Fastabend)  and Gertrude (Deya Ozburn). All photos courtesy Dennis K. Photography

Daya Ozburn and Jed Slaughter

Cassie Jo Fastabend and Daya Ozburn

Ben Stahl and Cassie Jo Fastabend

Resonating Objects

Margaret Noble’s sound art at South Puget Sound Community College

Originally published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 22 and posted online at

Students interacting with Margaret Noble's sound art installation “Material Shrine for a New Class,” photo courtesy South Puget Sound Community College
South Puget Sound Community College gallery director Nathan Barnes said noted that Margaret Noble’s exhibition, Resonating Objects, begs the question “what is art?”. Is it just painting and sculpture? What about sound, movement, light? What are the boundaries between visual art and the performing arts? There are no easy answers, but Noble’s exhibition certainly raises the questions. 

Read the complete review at:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What: The 10th Annual Lord Franzannian's Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show!

Lordy, lordy, it's another Lord Franzannian's Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show.

This is the 10th anniversary edition of this ever-popular show. Dance, music, comedy, storytelling, burlesque, puppets, sketch comedy, even feats of amazement!

This year the show will take place at Obsidian, a much larger space with a restaurant/café/coffee shop in the daylight hours, a full service bar serving beer and spirits at night, and a fully enclosed 80 seat black-box theater with an elevated stage located in the back.

Proceeds benefit working performers and BigShowCity, a non-profit Performing Arts Organization whose mission is: To help burgeoning artists realize their ambitions by providing financial and emotional support.

Special performance for an ALL AGES audience * on October 23 at 2 pm!
When: October 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23* 2016

Time:  8:00 PM

*Special Youth Audience Show October 23 at 2:00 PM

Ticket Price: $15-$25 Available at the Door or Online
(No one will be turned away at the door for lack of funds).

Appropriate for audiences over the age of 16. 

Special Youth Audience Show Ticket Price. *2PM Matinee on October 23rd: 15 years of age or under: $7.00. 

Tickets available at door night of show,
or to RESERVE A SEAT buy a ticket online at

Where: Obsidian 414 4th Ave E in downtown Olympia, WA. Across the street from the Artesian Well Park.

Changes coming starting today

Things have changed since I started this blog. I am now writing many more reviews of both visual and performance art, and they are showing up online and in more blogs and publications - meaning posting my reviews here is becoming almost superfluous/redundant.

So . . . beginning today, instead of re-posting reviews that have been published elsewhere, I am going to post a lead-in with a link to the original as I did with the review of Shaw Osha's show at Salon Refu, which was posted in Oly Arts online and re-posted here moments ago (see below).

Shaw Osha’s My love hath kissed in fixing at Salon Refu

Published in Oly Arts online.

Salon Refu owner Susan Christion posted this on Facebook: “I have an art gallery, Salon Refu. This evening we finished installing a quiet, enticing, initially mysterious show of works by Shaw Osha, my friend and an important artist. Sometimes I don't understand what Shaw is doing in her work as an artist. Right now I do understand it. It's beautiful, thoughtful, compelled by feeling. You should come in and see what happens inside of you.”
Shaw Osha is a painter and visual arts professor at The Evergreen State College known for her earlier figurative paintings in an abstract-expressionist style, works somewhat reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn’s early figurative works and more recently for conceptual work.  

The work she is currently showing at Salon Refu is a radical departure from earlier work. It is a group of collages with dried flowers and a theme of racial relations that is not at all made clear in the work itself, the only hint being one piece that has collaged onto it in words cut from a newspaper “who is white” and “who is black.”

Read the complete review here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Moby Dick

The Tale Retold by Assemblage Theatre
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 15, 2016

Dennis Rolly (left) as Captain Ahab and Mark Peterson as Starbuck, photo courtesy Assemblage Theatre
It is hard to imagine a more difficult play to produce on stage than Moby Dick. To my way of thinking it would have to be done either on a huge stage with a multi-million-dollar budget or in an intimate playhouse with nothing but a handful of props. The former would perforce be an extravaganza in which all of the insights of Melville’s story would be lost to special effects; the latter would be the sensible way to do it, but would have its own daunting challenges.
Director David Domkoski of Assemblage Theatre had the good sense to know that a small version would make more sense — besides which, he didn’t have the bucks or the space to do it up big —  which is why he produced it in the small black box at Tacoma Youth Theatre with only a scattering of chairs, ladders and buckets on stage to be used as settings ranging from a New Bedford tavern to a whaling ship.
He also did it without regard to gender, with Heather Christopher, Jillian Mae Lee and Kaylie Rainer playing men’s roles.
In an interesting twist such as I have never before seen, the play begins with a prelude in which the entire cast came out one-by-one and recited facts about sperm whales and about Melville’s writing of the classic novel, which sold no more than a few hundred copies in his lifetime.
The cast is superb. Casting Dennis Rolly as Captain Ahab was a stroke of genius. His intensity, his craggy appearance with balding hair long on back and an old Quaker-style beard, and the mad look in his eyes —this is how I shall forever picture Ahab.
Casting Christopher as the cannibal harpoonist Quequeg was another stroke of genius. Nobody could look less like the huge man with the tattooed face than this attractive woman, but with a top hat and strips of colorful ribbon in her hair (and without the tattoos) it is her big, hypnotic eyes and her strong acting that make her into this frightening yet lovable character.
Tim Hoban is outstanding as the narrator, Ishmael. He delivers his lines with restrained passion and makes of Ishmael a sympathetic character.
Other actors of note are Mark Peterson as Starbuck, Rainer as Elijah and Flask (although her lack of clear enunciation in spots made her hard to understand), and Chad Russell as Stubb and Captain Gardner; he was especially good as Gardner), and Tyler Dobies as an unnamed sailor and Captain Boomer.
Two things bothered me about this production, even though I feel that both were somewhat necessary. I felt that there was far too much narration and wished they had followed the adage “show don’t tell,” but in this case, without the narration it would have been nothing more than an action-adventure and much of Melville’s insight into the human psyche would have been lost.
Similary, I was bothered by the amount of bombast. It was loud and in places chaotic. There was some overacting. But that was the way it had to be. These were rough, loud and lusty men in situations where there would, of course, be a lot of shouting. But in a small, enclosed space the noise was almost painful. In the most chaotic scenes I could not hear what anyone was saying as they shouted over each other.
If your taste runs to intense drama, this is the play to see.
Moby Dick, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 24, Tacoma Youth Theater, 924 Broadway, Tacoma, tickets $10-$15, available at the door or Brown Paper Tickets @

Woolworth Windows fall 2016

The latest installations by Spaceworks Tacoma
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 15, 2016
painting by Lauren Boilini, courtesy Spaceworks Tacoma
Spaceworks Tacoma’s latest installations in the Woolworth windows are big, bold and impressive.
In the northernmost windows on Broadway are wire animal sculptures by Eva Funderburgh, who says she uses her “simple, emotive animal forms to examine human motives and emotions.” Her animals are hybrid forms, somewhere between realistic and ritualistic, see-through skeletal like tumbleweed or tangles of wire turned into animal forms, in this case a deer-like creature and something between a howling dog and a hyena. They bring to mind sculptures by Deborah Butterfield, but with more expressive movement and less of an attempt to be naturalistic.
The next window down is filled with bold prints by various artists or groups of artists created during the 2016 Tacoma Wayzgoose Festival where artists make prints using a steamroller press on huge sheets of paper. The images are strong and often confrontational, some looking like scratchboard and woodblock prints, and many like revolutionary posters from the 1930s.
Lauren Boilini’s wall-size painting executed directly on the wall in the corner space at 11th & Broadway is an open, brushy and drippy abstract-expressionist work. Since the painting rounds the corner, it cannot be taken in all in a single glance. On the wall are abstract shapes in blue on a white wall barely recognizable as a street scene with flying giant birds. The paint drips onto the floor to form islands and puddles of green and red. The artist says, “Recently I have been drawn to images of battles and duels, where opposing forces fight for the same space. I am interested in what drives us to violence and destruction of life.”
The most awesome (in the sense of fearful) installation is Nola Avienne’s “Ashflow” in the Commerce Street window. It depicts a pyroclastic eruption made of rocks, iron filings, wool, spray foam, fabric and sand. It depicts a still moment with lava flow and ash as in a stop-motion photograph. It is dark, gritty, heart-stopping. And beyond my descriptive abilities. You must see it for yourself. Take your time, let it sink in. And perhaps keep in mind that within sight of where you are standing is an active volcano.
Woolworth Windows, 11th and Broadway and 11th and Commerce, seven days, 24 hours, through November 17.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TLT's Off the Shelf


Tacoma, WA- Tacoma Little Theatre presents an evening of one acts for the first OFF THE SHELF of their 98th Season, on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 7:30pm.  The production will be directed by Chris Serface.

Lemonade introduces us to a pair of Peoria matrons who seek respite from the doldrums of middle age by selling spiked lemonade to highway travelers and trading tales; Second Chance tells the story of a widow who has decided to begin a new life in the theatre and her married neighbor who tries to put a damper on her aspirations; and The Cat Connection which takes us to a park, where two older women have little in common—except they feed the same cat.

All three stories bring together the theatrical powerhouse of Sharry O’Hare and Carol Richmond, reuniting on the TLT stage for the first time since they were in Auntie Mame.

Tickets for the September 22, 2016 performance at 7:30pm are $10.00 for non TLT Members, and FREE for those who are members. Tickets may be purchased online at, or by calling our Box Office at (253) 272-2281.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Retro Colby

 A Bill Colby retrospective at UPS
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 8, 2016

“Blue Stairway,” watercolor by Bill Colby, courtesy Kittredge Gallery
Kittredge Gallery at the University of Puget Sound kicked off the building’s 75th anniversary year with a retrospective of works by printmaker and longtime UPS art professor Bill Colby, who taught there from 1956 to1989.
On display are 26 works, mostly prints and a few watercolors. The works chosen for this exhibition display a wide range of Colby’s subject matter and style, including works from the 1950s right up to this year.
“Sun at Short Sands” woodcut 1956, by Bill Colby, courtesy Kittredge Gallery

Much of his early work puts me in mind of the early Northwest School painters from the 1930s and ’40s (Mark Toby, Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves). These painters were also called mystics, and there is much of the mystic in Colby’s prints, to be seen in his simplification of form and in color schemes based on the dull light of the Northwest as seen in mountains, clouds and water. Among his earlier prints are scenes with people in interior settings, which hint at narrative without explicitly telling stories. In later works he depicts landscape in various degrees of abstraction, from simply stylized to almost purely symbolic or emblematic shapes.
“East Door” is the largest piece in the show at approximately seven feet tall. It is a simple abstraction with both Native American and Asian influences. Near the top a stylized wreath of leaves that encircles a cold moon. Below that is a mountain range simplified to little more than a line of triangles, and below that larger and similarly abstracted mountains and trees. This piece is on loan from Roger and Andrea Smith. It is restful, contemplative.
“Ravine,” a large woodcut, is one of the strongest images in the show. It is a highly expressive landscape with broad and energetic marks that appear to have
been gouged out with wide swipes of some kind of trowel. Next to it is a watercolor study for the same piece that is even more expressive, with loose and energetic brushstrokes. It’s one of my favorites, and it exemplifies something I’ve often observed; and that is that studies for larger works of art are often more compelling than the more “finished” pieces due to their sheer exuberance and spontaneity. 
“Quiet Time,” a black and white etching from 1965, pictures a group of women seated in what appears to be a bar. The interior scene is done with squiggly lines and organic shapes that are close to pure abstraction, and the women’s figures are hidden among these shapes. It’s like a Tobey painting with peek-a-boo figures.
“Downtown Swing,” a woodcut from the same year, depicts a scene very much like that in “Quiet Time,” but the figures are less abstract, and the scene is anything but quiet. It is a rambunctious, rhythmical scene of figures drinking, dancing and arguing with jazz-age exuberance. 
“Blue Stairway,” a watercolor from 1965, is a mystical and lyrical painting that I see as Colby’s take on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (obviously not intended as such since it was painted before the Zeppelin song was published). It is lovely, delicate, atmospheric, and otherworldly.
The most recent picture is “Crow Watch,” a mixed watercolor and woodcut from this year depicting a large black crow in flight with a much smaller murder of crows on what appears to be a power line.
Bill Colby, Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through Sept. 24, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride

Photo: cover of Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride, courtesy Mud Flat Press

Christian Carvajal writes about a theme park for swingers
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 1, 2016

Volcano scribe Christian Carvajal —voted Best Writer in the Weekly Volcano’s Best of Olympia — has published a new novel under the pseudonym Lynn Savage. It is called Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride (Mud Flat Press, 2016), and it is the story of the building and cataclysmic opening of a theme park for swingers on an island near Los Angeles.
Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride is the tale of Gary Klein, a marketing guru who accepts the job of brand manager for a sexy new theme park . . . at which point his life and his marriage spin into chaos. His tragicomic downfall culminates at Bliss Panerotic, a paradise for lovers and a feast for the senses. Carvajal says, “It's an island playground for couples whose lust for adventure knows no bounds. Mr. Klein's Wild Ride is a satire that calls to mind Jurassic Park and Exit to Eden, yet merges its own cutting-edge technology with polyamorous sexuality.”
This is Carvajal’s second novel. The first, not written under a pseudonym, was a story of the apocalypse set in Oklahoma.
Carvajal grew up in Los Angeles, Northern California and small-town Oklahoma. “We were a family of Jehovah's Witnesses back then. I'm not in that faith anymore, but it inspired my continuing fascination with subcultures. I promised myself I'd write three novels: one about religion, one about sex and the other about politics. I think those are the biggest taboos in American conversation, hence the subjects we want to talk about the most. Lightfall (Campanile Books, 2009) was my religion story. Mr. Klein's Wild Ride is my novel about 21st-century sexuality. I have the setup and characters for the third book on paper, but I keep getting distracted by pressing obligations. I can tell you it'll be what science-fiction fans call a ‘first contact novel.’ In many ways, I've been planning it since I was a teenager. Now I just have to find the time and head space to encourage its birth.”
Those “pressing obligations” that keep distracting him include directing and acting in numerous plays, including the recent Credeaux Canvas, which he directed for Theater Artists Olympia, storytelling at Story Oly, editing Oly Arts, and both hosting and reading at several Creative Colloquy events.
Carvajal will do a reading at Creative Colloquy Olympia Sept. 5. In October, Mr. Klein will be part of the Creative Colloquy Crawl in Tacoma and will be in an Off the Shelf reading and discussion at Tacoma Little Theatre (full disclosure: I will also be a part of that event, along with Tacoma writer Melissa Thayer). Watch for details. “I’ll sign copies at every event, and some will get downright steamy,” he says.
Creative Colloquy Olympia, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 5, Forrey's Forza in,130 Marvin rd. SE #130, Lacey.
Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride Book Launch Party, 7- 8:30 p.m., Sept. 6, Browsers Bookshop, 107 Capitol Way N, Olympia.

The Last Five Years at Harlequin

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 1, 2016
Aaron Lamb and Katherine Strohmaier, photo courtesy Harlequin Productions

The Last Five Years is a little musical with a big heart, and actors Aaron Lamb and Katherine Strohmaier, directed by Linda Whitney, make of it a mesmerizing evening’s entertainment.
Composer, lyricist and playwright Jason Robert Brown has created a story told in song that is heart-wrenching and real — no fairy tale romance this, but rather a look at five years in the life of a couple who meet, fall in love, and live through the tears and laughter of reality; with humor, with sadness, with conflict.
The truly clever thing about Brown’s story, which could come across as contrived and corny in the hands of a lesser playwright, is that the story is told both forward and backward. Catherine Hiatt (Strohmaier) begins the telling of their story from the present moment and works her way backwards to when she first met Jamie, who tells his version of their story from the beginning. It’s two stories of the same five years told from two points of view and told entirely through song. There is a single piano set on a revolve in the center of the stage, and the two performers take turns on it accompanying each other as they each sing solos. There are two songs sung as duets, one when their stories (told from beginning to end and end to beginning) inevitably intersect, and that moment of intersection is one of the most beautiful moments in the play — and one other duet at the end.
Katherine Strohmaier
Without Strohmaier and Lamb, The Last Five Years could not have been produced, because finding a triple-threat duo, a man and a woman who can each sing, play piano and act, is next to impossible.
Harlequin audiences know Lamb from his performances as Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and many other non-musical shows, but we never before knew he could sing and play the piano — but oh can he ever belt out a song with beautiful pitch, range and seething emotion!
Strohmaier is new to the Harlequin stage, but she comes with an impressive resume, having performed in Guys and Dolls at the 5th Avenue Theatre, in The Gypsy King at Village Theatre, and having performed as a vocalist with the Seattle Symphony Pops concerts. She is an instructor and music director at Cornish College of the Arts. Strohmaier has a clear and strong voice. She and Lamb both inhabit their characters in such a way that their songs are not just songs; through expression and movement the audience sees the characters they portray as real people who wear their emotions like battle scars.
Linda Whitney’s set design is simple yet stunning. There is nothing on the stage except for the single piano and two benches. Behind the piano are three projection screens upon which are still and moving images that correspond with the stories being told through song. Other than the changing projections, the only set change is lighting on the back wall (lighting design by Mark Thomason).
For two actors to command a stage for 80 minutes without an intermission, is quite a stunning feat. Strohmaier and Lamb do it with style and seeming ease as they become Jamie and Katherine, a successful writer and actress navigating careers and marriage in New York City.

The Last Five Years, Thursday through Saturday, 8p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. through Sept. 10, Harlequin Productions’ State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, ticket prices vary, call for details, 360-786-0151;

The Bold and the Black

“After the Storm,” Sumi painting by Selinda Sheridan, photo courtesy Matter.
 Sumi paintings by Selinda Sheridan at Matter
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 1, 2016
“After the Storm,” Sumi painting by Selinda Sheridan, photo courtesy Matter
Viewing Selinda Sheridan’s show at Matter is like walking into a group exhibition of Sumi painters. There are only six paintings in the show, and each of them is so different from all the others that they could easily be mistaken for the work of six different artists. And yet there are similarities that cannot be denied. There is an old truism that in great art there is always complexity within simplicity or variety within unity. Complexity within simplicity is the hallmark of Sheridan’s show, The Bold and the Black. These six paintings are as alike as they are different, and the title of the show underscores what they most have in common. They are bold, and they are black (and white and gray, but mostly black shapes and marks on a white surface). Most of them present a single image in bold strokes of the brush, but within these simple images are a variety of shapes and marks; and many of them refer to or resonate with forms seen in nature.
“After the Storm” pictures a line of five black balls in the deepest, darkest solid black. They are side-by-side with the most delicate of asymmetrical balance: three in a line, a slight space, and then a fourth, with a fifth on top balanced between numbers two and three, and in the space an outline drawing of an apple. This is a Zen-like painting. It is so calming I want to meditate while sitting in front of it.
“Dream Field with Blue” is a dense field of heavy, scratchy crisscrossed lines like barbed wire and sticks all in a tangle that form a square.  Within the square created by this jumble of marks are almost-invisible blue lines. The image is mostly flat but with layered levels that create an illusion of shallow space. There is a feeling of threat to this one.
“Before and After” pictures a single, curved, horizontal shape that makes me think of a boat, perhaps a Native American canoe. It is solid black with a thin white line that could be a seam in the boat’s hull. Sticking out on top of it like a series of broom straws are strokes of a different sort. The whole thing appears to have been painted with no more than seven or eight broad strokes of a wide brush.
Like all the others, “Another Side of Darkness” is an abstract painting that calls to mind things seen in nature, in this case a night sky or an explosion of galaxies. This astral field is painted on a white background with tiny gold flecks.
These are four of the six paintings in the show. I will leave the other two to the reader’s imagination and hope you will go see them for yourself.
Also showing with Sheridan is “Spectral,” a mixed-media installation by Elise Richman (reviewed in this column last week), and original ceramics by Melissa Balch.
The Bold and the Black by Selinda Sheridan, noon to 6 p.m., by chance and by appointment through Oct. 1, Saturdays and by appointment; for appointment call Lisa Kinoshita 253.961.5220, Matter, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.879.3701.