Friday, June 29, 2018

Lisistrata at New Muses

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 28, 2018
Cast of Lisistrata, Cassie Jo Fastabend as Lisistrata standing in center, courtesy New Muses Theatre

Well over 2,000 years ago the city of Athens, Greece was treated to a sexy and hilarious anti-war farce called Lisistrata by the writer Aristophanes. Now it is making its way to Tacoma’s Dukesbay Theater in an anonymous adaptation believed to have been by Oscar Wilde, directed by Niclas Olson and produced by New Muses Theatre.
Lisistrata — perhaps the first great feminist activist in history — rallies fellow Greek women to refuse sexual favors until their husbands end the Peloponnesian War. Aiding in her movement is the Spartan woman Lampito.
The title character will be played by Cassie Jo Fastabend, a veteran of many South Sound stages and a longtime teacher of youth arts. She has been seen in Macbeth and Lear at the Slate Theater in Seattle, Hamlet and A Streetcar Named Desire at University of Puget Sound, A Few Good Men, at Lakewood Playhouse.
Lampito is played by LaNita Walters, most recently seen in My Fair Lady at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Walters is a teaching artist for the Broadway Center and choreographer and director for various plays and children camps. She is also the choreographer for this play.
Amber Sayman (Ismenia) was most recently in Olympia Family Theatre’s Cinder Edna. Kaylie Hussey (Corinna) was in The Servant of Two Masters and Doctor Faustus at New Muses and Macbeth and The Great Gatsby at Tacoma Little Theatre. Mason Quinn (Magistrate) was most recently in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at Tacoma Little Theatre. Nathaniel Walker (Cinesias) was recently in The Pillowman at TLT.
“Two years ago I was considering Lysistrata as a fun comedy, but fast forward to now, it is an important social piece with immediate cultural relevance. It interests, and saddens me that a 6000-year-old play can still be relevant to our current political and social climate,” Olson says. “Especially now, with women's rights bursting to the forefront of the national consciousness via the Women's March and the #MeToo movement, seeing Lysistrata is to experience a story about a whole lot more than a sex strike. I'm especially fascinated with the journey the women of Greece take as they become leaders of their society through the course of the play. On a lighter note, the play is a whole lot of fun. We have everything including comic fight scenes, witty banter, and anatomically correct prop/costume pieces.The cast keeps coming up with new stuff every day, and it's been a real pleasure for me to see the script take on a life of its own through the actors.”
As a final note, Olson warns: “The play is definitely not family friendly. We are using the traditional phalluses, and the cast spends a good portion of the show in their underwear.
Lisistrata, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29-July 15, $10-$15, Dukesbay Theater, above the Grand Theater, 508 S. 6th Ave., Tacoma

Art popping up all over Olympia

By Alec Clayton

“Smoking in the Garden” painting by Marilyn Bedford, courtesy the artist

Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 28, 2018
Pop-up galleries are the latest thing all over the country. Pop-ups feature art exhibitions that are usually of short duration and often in non-commercial venues such as private homes or vacant storefronts. In Olympia, the premiere pop-up gallery is Allsorts in the home of artist Lynette Charters and actor John Serembe, which over the past few years has shown much of the best art to be seen in Olympia. Now another pop-up has appeared. Called Front Porch Pop Up Gallery and run by South Puget Sound art appreciation teacher Nicole Gugliotti, it opens June 29 with its first show, an exhibition of works on paper by Dory Nies.
Nies’s works on paper are inspired by cells, seeds, textiles, and technology and range from traditionally framed works to installation and sculptural paper works and objects. Seventy percent of any sales will go to RAICES, a human rights organization working to reunite immigrant families. The exhibition opening will be Friday, June 29. Food, wine and house brewed kombucha will be served. There will be music by Dan Meuse and Elliot Anderson.
Next up will be the 2018 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College. Many of the South Sound’s best and most well-known artists will be showing. Tacoma artist Lisa Kinoshita is showing a mixed-media and video installation called “Visitation” done in collaboration with John Carlton about Tacoma's true-life mascot, Jack the Tacoma Bear. Jack lived at the grand Tacoma Hotel during the 1890s and was known for slipping out of his pen and visiting a tavern where he would drink beer from a mug with his paws. He coexisted well with and was beloved by local Tacomans but startled a policeman in the financial district one day, and the policeman shot him. Kinoshita describes the video as “a montage of surreal images a bear might see as he leaves this world.”
Susan Aurand will show a series of paintings with related nature images stacked three-up and painted in her signature photo-realist style. Aurand’s paintings are meditative and marvelous to look at.
From her popular Missing Woman series, Lynette Charters will be showing “Three Races Muses” and Gauguin’s “Muse Holding a Fruit.” In this series, she comments on women’s roles in the history of art. (As artists, women have historically been overlooked, but are seen often as models, usually without any clothes). Charters “disappears” the women in her appropriations of famous paintings by leaving their silhouettes as unpainted shapes on the wood panels she paints on. She will also be doing a talk along with other artists during the reception on July 12 from 6-9 p.m.
Other well-respected regional artists to be included are Doyle Fanning, Mary McCaan, Jason Sobatka and Sharon Styer.
Paintings by Marilyn Bedford will be the next show at Allsorts. Bedford paints everyday objects such as swimming pools and pillows with broad, brushy strokes in acrylic on canvas. Many of the paintings veer toward the abstract to the point at which viewers might need the titles to hint at recognition of the subject matter. But in reality the subject matter of these atmospheric paintings is never the pillow or smoke in a garden, but is color, line and shape.

Dory Nies, opening 6-9 p.m., June 29, Front Porch Pop Up Gallery, 1916 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
2018 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition July 9-Aug. 23. South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia,
Paintings by Marilyn Bedford July 13-14 and July 19-22 5-7 p.m., reception July 15 4-7 p.m., Allsorts Gallery 2306 Capital Way S., Olympia.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The West and other art at Minka

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 21, 2018

“Digital Mesh” print by Guy Hundere, courtesy Minka

I hardly know where to start. There is so much art crammed into this little space — basically three shows in one — that I need at least a thousand words to simply describe it, much less evaluate it. I shall do my best to consolidate it.
The West is a show of photography and artwork by S. Surface and Lisa Kinoshita offering a unique look at cowboy and cowgirl culture. It is two shows in one: The First Frontiers, rodeo photographs by Surface, and Kinoshita’s The Shape-Shifting West, conceptual documentary photography and mixed-media sculpture in the main gallery. The third show is Inflatable Mountain by Texas artist Guy Hundere in the downstairs shop. It is a mind-bending group of colorful abstract landscape prints that has traveled the country to land in Tacoma for an extended stay (indefinite, but (probably throughout the summer). The works are abstract with hints of astronomical photographs, densely congested with textural patterns. They demand close attention.
In the little upstairs gallery, Surface and Kinoshita bring a particular perspective to their views of the West. Both are Japanese-Americans born and raised in rural areas near Tacoma. Surface is a former bull rider.
Surface’s photographs are the most traditional work in the show. Most of the action shots of cowboys riding bulls are shot from odd angles and often in close-up. There’s one, for instance, of a cowboy being bucked off a bull, but the viewpoint is such that all we see is part of one pantleg and the underside of his boot as he is being thrown to the ground behind the bull. Others appear to have been shot from standing atop the pens just before the bulls and riders are let into the arena. 
There is also a group of three portraits of young women — glamour shots, it might seem, of pretty girls who follow the rodeo. But each is titled “After the Ride” followed by the name of a rodeo. Their legs are heavily bruised.
Kinoshita's metalsmithing and leatherwork, including a collaboration with prison inmates in Montana, highlight the material culture of the western frontier.
The most provocative piece might be the found-material sculpture of an American flag draped over an antique ironing board. Provocative because anything dealing with the flag these days tends to be a political hot potato. This flag is ancient, probably 48 stars but not countable due to the way it is folded. It is worn and dirty, the white parts turning brown. There is an old iron sitting on it, and it is burnt through in places. We may each interpret the meaning in our own way.
Another piece of hers is a beauty called “Grandfather.” It is an upright cabinet made of dark wood with a top section like a grandfather clock but missing the clock face. The middle section is offset as if swiveled outward, and there is a large piece of quartz on the base. It is quietly attractive. 
Also quite beautiful and stately is a horse bridle draped and wound over a wooden stand. This piece is sensuous in form and rich in color. It was created in collaboration with inmates at Montana State Prison.
The West, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday and by appointment, through June 30, Minka (formerly Moss + Mineral), 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.961.5220

Friday, June 1, 2018

Building the Wall one night only at Tacoma Little Theatre

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 31, 2018
Scott C. Brown and Iesha McIntyre, photo by Randy Clark
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan’s timely political thriller Building the Wall comes to Tacoma Little Theatre for a one-night-only staged reading directed by Randy Clark, founder of Dukesbay Theatre, and starring Scott C. Brown and Iesha McIntyre.
Called a “must see show” by The New York Times and “a mesmerizing and shocking new play that simmers with of-the-moment urgency." By The Hollywood Reporter, Building the Wall is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller set in a not-too-distant dystopian future. President Trump has been impeached after declaring marshal law following a terrorist attack on Times Square. Millions of undocumented immigrants have been detained in overflowing private prisons. Rick (Brown) is in prison awaiting what may be a death sentence and is being interviewed by Gloria (McIntyre) a history professor. 
“Rick is just an ordinary man put in an extraordinary situation,” Brown says. “He is a victim of circumstances outside his control, trying to make the best of the situation he finds himself in. Or is he? That is the elegance of this play: It doesn't expressly lead viewers down a path, but rather starts to unravel facts, and slowly lets the audience make its own decisions. It is hauntingly powerful, provocative, and I hope it will be discussed by those who see this production.”
Clark says, “I found this script last September down in Ashland, Ore. at the Shakespeare Festival's book store and immediately knew I had to produce it. I believe our country is in crisis and this is a well-written play about how far our fear might drive us. There are many ways that we can respond as citizens, and our way is to respond through the arts. The play is an important statement about how quickly our current policies about immigration can get out of hand and become truly criminal. Our country is in crisis at the moment and this play shows where it could head if the right circumstances came along and we gave into the burgeoning atmosphere of fear.” 
McIntyre and Brown worked together a few years back in a production of Doubt for Gold From Straw Theatre. She worked with Clark on Dukesbay's presentation of Never Again, about the Japanese-American incarceration during World War II.
I picked Brown as Best Actor three times for my “Critics Choice” in The News Tribune, as Salieri in Amadeus,  as Randle McMurthy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, both at Lakewood Playhouse, and as Bobby in Sins of the Mother at Harlequin Productions. He’s also been in more than a dozen Feature length films, and a number of TV/New Media series and in well over 30 local plays. 
This staged reading is free to TLT members and pay-what-you-can to all others.
Building the Wall, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 7, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St. Tacoma, 253.272.2281,

Tacoma Ocean Fest

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 31, 2018
"Kelp Forest" reclaimed plastic by Barbara De Pirro, photo courtesy the artist
Former Tacoma News Tribune art writer Rosemary Ponnekanti with the help of curator Lisa Kinoshita has pulled together an amazing arts festival to take Place June 10 at the Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma. The event called Tacoma Ocean Fest will feature photography, eco-sculpture, film, dance, music, an aerial circus, painting, poetry, hands-on marine science for all ages, paddleboarding and kayaking and more.
“I got the idea (and the first grant) when The News Tribune cut my job last year, and since then I've been working to bring together some pretty cool ocean-related art,” Ponnekanti says. “Come celebrate World Ocean Day weekend with me and help protect our ocean. It's going to be an amazing festival and I'm working so hard for it, along with a bunch of talented, generous people. 
“As humans, we need to collectively step up to protect our ocean from plastics, chemicals, sound pollution, warming and the rest. I really believe that together we can do it. That's what Ocean Fest is all about.”
A major visual art component is Barbara De Pirro’s suspended sculpture “Kelp Forest.” She used hundreds of reclaimed plastics to create this environmental installation. She collected, washed, cut and reassembled more than 300 plastic bottles to be suspended as a mass of kelp forest high within Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, enabling visitors to walk underneath it's ghostly form, which Ponnekanti describes as swaying gently above our heads. De Pirro "makes ethereal beauty out of trash,” Ponnekanti says.
I first discovered De Pirro’s work when she did a Spaceworks installation called “Vortex Plastica” in 2010. In the eight years since then I have reviewed her art many times, and I never ceased being overwhelmed with the otherworldly beauty of it.
Annie Crawly is an underwater photographer and filmmaker. She will be showing works called “Our Ocean and You” including photos of whales, sea lions and octopi, as well as photos of the devastation of plastic trash strewn on beaches. Crawly will be the keynote speaker at the festival.
Mike Coots is a Hawaiian photographer and shark advocate who lost a leg to a tiger shark 20 years ago. He will be showing shark photographs. He has appeared on “National Geographic,” the “Travel Channel” and is an Instagram sensation.
Ponnekanti says, “The reason I chose these three artists — other than the clear ocean theme in their work — was how their work encompasses pure art, journalism and sport. I have been a fan of Barbara's semi-abstract eco-sculptures for a while. They take materials usually considered debris and remake them into something imaginative and otherworldly, a reminder that beauty can come out of anywhere, but also a reminder that as humans we make a lot of trash and we need to deal with it.”
Other events and performances at Ocean Fest include performances by cellist Gretchen Yanover, aerilist performances by Deanna Riley, flamenco dance by Mrisela Fleites, songs by Kim Archer, Tacoma City Ballet's "Whale Song," and West African dance by Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center. And all of that is just a fraction of the art and entertainment to be enjoyed.
Tacoma Ocean Fest, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 10, Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma, free.