Friday, August 31, 2018

Olympia Family Theater’ Award of Excellence

For young audiences and anyone who has ever been a kid
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 30, 2018
from left: Jill Barnes, Samantha Chandler, Jen Ryle and WCPA Board Chair Alex Bunn, photo by Kathy Strauss Media
At the Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ third annual Center Stage Awards & Gala in July, 232 guests cheered as Olympia Family Theater was presented with an Award of Excellence for “achievement in the arts.” An Award of Excellence was also presented to James L. This for “commitment to the arts.”
"This was an extraordinary evening of generosity and love for the arts," said Washington Center Executive Director Jill Barnes.
Founded a dozen years ago by Samantha Chandler and current Artistic Director Jen Ryle, OFT has produced more than 50 theatrical shows for and by children and adults since their first show in October 2006, and the company continues to offer educational programs for youth from infancy through high school. OFT has also premiered locally written plays such as Cinder Edna, adapted by Ted Ryle; Fishnapped by Amy Fisher and Andrew Gordon with music and lyrics by Daven Tillinghast; and 3 Impossible Questions by Christian Carvajal.
At the awards ceremony, Ryle and Chandler told stories about OFT’s 12 years of theater. Ryle said, “OFT is helping raise a new generation that loves the performing arts by providing quality theatrical productions for young audiences and for anyone who has ever been a kid. It's wonderful to be recognized for something that is so close to my heart. I am truly living my dream, seeing Olympia Family Theater introduce new generations of kids to plays and musicals designed especially with them in mind. So many people have helped us to reach this point; amazing local actors, designers, technicians, musicians, writers, donors, and volunteers. We at OFT are all so proud and honored to be recognized by our friends at the Washington Center.  Some of our early years were spent at the Washington Center's Black Box so it felt a little like going home to be back for this amazing event.”
Barnes said, “For 12 years, Olympia Family Theater has put local performers to work and provided quality theatrical programming to even the youngest of theater patrons. The artists know that some audience members might be wiggly, giggly and rambunctiously responsive, and that is totally okay. They offer an up-close theater experience that is rare, opening the door for a lifetime of artistic appreciation. These are just a few of the reasons that Olympia Family Theater received the Achievement for the Arts Award.”
OFT's 2018-2019 season opens with an adaptation of the popular children's book, Corduroy. Other main stage shows to fill out the season will include Tiny Tim's Christmas, Flora & Ulysses, The Hundred Dresses, and Go, Dog, Go!
James L. This was co-founder of Opus Seventy-One, and through the Capital Area Association of the Performing Arts secured the initial funding for the building of the Washington Center. He produced and directed musicals at Abbey Theater, Olympia Little Theatre and Capital High School, and helped in the founding of Harlequin Productions.
Coyduroy, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 28 to Oct. 21, $20 adults, $16 military, $15 youth,, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia,, 360-570-1638.

Make/Do at History Museum

A history of creative reuse
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 30, 2018

“Ed Kienholz (Younger),” cardboard, glue, screws and pigment, by Scott Fife, photo by Mark Davison, courtesy the artist. 

Make/Do at the Washington State History Museum is an exhibition of fine and utilitarian art made with found and previously used items from the 1700s to contemporary works by local and regional artists including Marita Dingus, Pat Tassoni and Jean Mandeberg.
There are 180 items on display from children’s toys made from scrap material to insulated walls made from old magazine covers to crazy quilts and clothing to contemporary art that is, in the words of the museum, “upcycling, downcycling and recycling.”
 “Upcycling’s taken on new life in recent years with a renewed focus on reuse. However, there was once a time when upcycling wasn’t just a hobby, it was a way of life. The Historical Society’s collections are full of examples of creative ‘making do’—flour sack clothes, stacking toys made from tin cans, that sort of thing,” said lead curator Gwen Whiting.
The first room in the gallery is a timeline of making do with “upcycling” in the form of collage and drawings on cardboard by Tacoma’s R.R. Anderson of Tinkertopia, spread around the room like pages in a graphic novel. It is fascinating, and I do hope viewers will take time to read it all.

Tacoma art lovers are aware of the sculptural work of Scott Fife, creator of the “Big Dog” at Tacoma Art Museum. In this exhibition, he is represented by a sculpted head of the artist Ed Kienholz made of cardboard and screws and pigment. The cardboard is attached with glue and screws and painted a dull gray to emulate slabs of clay. In this rendition, Kienholz has an intense and mesmerizing look in his eyes.

Who would have thought of using police tape to fashion a dress? Contemporary artist Nancy Judd of Rycycled Runway’s “Caution Tape Dress” is made of caution tape recovered from the side of the road and sewn onto a vintage sundress. To be worn only by the daring.
“TrashWall,” made this year by students in the Washington State University School of Design and Construction, is a four-by-three-foot panel of alternating patterns that is not only attractive as art but is meant to be used as insulation. It is constructed with recycled magazine pages. This and two other wall panels from the same group are on display. They also made durable bricks out of recycled drywall waste, which can be seen in this show.
There is a delightful toy dog and an equally delightful toy robot made by Graham Schodda out of such materials as a vintage vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, ice cream scoops, jigsaw, baseball glove, toasters, and kitchen utensils. They’re fun to look at and probably should be viewed more as art than as toys.
There is a “basket” by Jan Hopkins made from dried orange peels, wood, paper and thread. The stitched-together swirl patterns look like leather or clay. I put the term “basket” in quotes because it looks more like a pot than a basket. But whatever it is, it’s very attractive.
There is a wondrous amount of fascinating history and art in this exhibition. A museum worker said the show is not getting as many visitors as they expected. I hope reading this will encourage more of you to see it.
Make/Do, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Third Thursday, through Dec. 6, free for members; $14 adults, $11 seniors, students, and active duty and retired military, $40 per family (up to 2 adults and up to 4 children under age 18), free for children under 5. Patrons with a Washington Quest card or with a Washington Foster Parent license (and ID), $1 per person or $2 per family, free Third Thursday, Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Women in Wood at American Art Company

Turned Wood and Hilga Winter’s paper sculpture
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 23, 2018
“Leaves,” sculpted paper by Helga Winter, courtesy American Art Company
Women in Wood continues through Sept. 15 at American Art Company, showcasing turned wood pieces by 13 women woodworkers from around the country, including Helga Winter, Betty Scarpino, Cindy Drozda, Dixie Biggs, Donna Zils Banfield and Barbara Dill. As a bonus, Winter is showing eight pieces from a new series she calls sculptural paintings. They are essentially paintings that stand two to three inches out from the wall made of book pages rolled into tubes and attached to a flat surface with the cut edges facing outward and from sheets of paper with at least one ragged edge that are stacked in an accordion arrangement. In many of her pieces the paper is colored in fire colors such as red, yellow and orange — even the blue and green tones, normally cool colors, are hot. In others, the paper is left its natural color to form patterns that call to mind parchment and tree bark.
The pieces in which the paper is not colored are more meaningful in that they reflect on the material from which the paper comes. For example, the large piece in the entrance called “The Secret Life of Trees” reminds us of the working of roots underground and the intertwining of limbs and leaves. The more colorful pieces are exciting, but I suspect over time the excitement might wear thin.
Unless you peer into what the artist calls their hidden stories. The paper is from books, and the words from the books are mostly out of sight and unreadable. “I have hidden the words and knowledge that nevertheless are still there,” Winter writes. “By turning books inside out, I want to turn my stories, my perceptions, inside out, recognize how they can diminish my life, and then create new and conscious stories that are close to the current truth.”  
The turned wood is all beautifully crafted. Scarpino might well be the star of the wood show. There are five pieces by her displayed in a group near the back of the gallery on black sculpture stands. Each of the pieces is small, and there is quite a variety of style among the five. “Be Seeded” is a sensual seedpod made of dark cherry wood. Lying in the pod are four round white balls or seeds. There is a nice contrast between dark and light, and rough and smooth forms that all fit together smoothly despite their contrasts.
Another piece in the group, which was created in collaboration with Biggs, is called “Egg and Crate.” Inside a tiny wood-slat box is a decorative egg resting on a bed of wood shavings. It is a fun little item that would make for a conversation starter on someone’s shelf at home.
Kristen Le Vier is showing a couple of turned-wood snakes. “Slither” is a painted snake, half green and half black, in European pear and acrylic paint. Her “Talisman for the Home” I see more as a humorous icon than a talisman. Made of maple, epoxy, clay and acrylic, it is a snake wrapped around a long-handled wooden spoon. Imagine seeing this on your kitchen counter.
Also of note are a couple of dark wood decorative platters: Merryl Saylan’s “Padauk Platter” and Sally Ault’s “Carved Platter.” Both are notable for their rich coloring and subtle patterns.
If you like fine craft work, I suggest you stop by American Art Company to take a look at these works.
Women in Wood, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Sept. 15, American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327,

Thursday, August 16, 2018

This Is Me, Debbi, David

A reading with local author Alec Clayton and actress Amanda Kemp.

Amanda Kemp
Amanda Kemp will join me for a reading of my latest novel, This Is Me, Debbi, David at Browsers Book Shop in Olympia, Washington Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. 

Most recently seen in Animal Fire Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale, Amanda is a new local actor. In addition to her second year with Animal Fire's Shakespeare in the Park, she's been working on such projects as voice-over and film work with ICF International, various film works with Malicious Wallydrags and playing Tracey Sprockett, the face of the Olympia Film Society. This will be her very first author reading, and she says she is thrilled to have been chosen (and I am thrilled she accepted my invitation).

This Is Me, Debbi, David is a story narrated by the two main characters, Debbi Mason and David Parker, told in alternating chapters by Debbi and David. Debbi (whose part will be read by Amanda) is a self-declared loudmouth, fun loving, rabble rousing, perverse woman. David (read by the author) says he has always been something of a nebbish little mama’s boy who never took a chance on anything in his entire life. When Debbi breaks up with David and runs off with a man she thinks can provide wealth and security, Debbi and David each embark on adventures that are, in turn, romantic, funny, enlightening and scary—adventures that take them from the French Quarter in New Orleans, to Dallas, and to New York City’s East Village. And into their own hearts.

What the reviewers have to say

“Because of the natural beauty of Alec Clayton’s prose, and the flow of the narrative, it is easy to miss the stunning craft this writer has mastered over nine fine books.” – Ricker Winsor, author of Thinking Out Loud and Tic Tok: Poems

“Clayton has mastered the task of getting inside his characters’ heads.” – Ned Hayes, author of The Eagle Tree.

"Alec Clayton at his best. He presents the reader with two lead protagonists, each with a compelling account of the year after their break-up. Major dramatic questions emerge early on: 1. how will the beautiful and exotic Debbi survive a violent situation and why can't she seem to escape her Texas entrapment; 2. will David be able to follow his bliss amid the bizarre, quirky, sometimes evil, sometimes lovable characters who give him a lift along his journey to New York; and 3. will Debbi and David ever meet up again? Try as you might to anticipate the answers, I predict you will be surprised. Truly a great read. Expertly crafted!" - Morrison Phelps, author of Bluebird Song.

Book discussion and signing to follow the reading. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Architecture, memory and nature
Study of Site and Space at 950 Gallery
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 9, 2018
“The Catacombs,” construction by Rick Araluce, courtesy 950 Gallery
Study of Site and Space at 950 Gallery is the best theme show around. It is a group exhibition featuring 16 Northwest artists that, according to curator and show participant Allison Hyde, “seeks to address the innate human connection to site and space through 2D, 3D and mixed-media art (representing) varying perspectives on the relationship between architecture, memory, and the natural environment.”
Seldom in an exhibition of this type have I seen such variety of media and style with such originality and coherence to a theme, all with a perfect blend of conceptual and aesthetic concerns.
Much of the work has a foreboding and surrealistic feel. Such as in the little mixed-media houses by Rick Araluce that seem to invite the viewer into claustrophobic interior spaces from which they may never escape. His constructed houses are small, approximately one to two feet in height, width and depth. “The Catacombs” is a mausoleum-like black structure with a domed roof and interior rooms that are empty and mysterious. “The Death of Marat” commemorates the death of Jean Paul Marat, who was murdered in his bathtub, a scene famously depicted by the French neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. In Araluce’s version, the body is missing, and the house is empty except for the white tub with rust in the bottom like a pool of blood. It is a haunting image, but perhaps meaningless to those not familiar with Marat’s story or David’s painting. 
Similar little houses appear in the many works from Robert Hutchinson’s ‘Memory House” series, a three-year-long project in cast epoxy, wood, cast concrete and other materials. They are moody, strange and enigmatic. 
Christopher Paul Jordan’s “Twenty First” is the only purely abstract piece in the show and the only one with no comment on the theme — at least none I could see. It is also one of the most powerful pieces. It is a painting with spray paint on inch-thick insulation sheets. The spray paint melts into the insulation to create patterns in bright tones of red and orange on the flat blue surface. It is a marvel of surface texture and color with the impact of a fist. 
Jeremy Mangan is represented with two paintings: one a study for his Freighthouse Square Trestle mural, and the other a surrealistic view of a partially built house with an antique woodburning stove. The stove is ornate and can be seen to be in use even though the house is nothing but a framework with distant mountains and a full moon in a blue sky seen through the walls. Typical of Mangan, the painting is clear and bright with no hand of the artist in evidence. It is a pleasant, dreamy vision.
Courtney Kemp’s “Doubleblind” is delightful and unexpected in its lighthearted depiction of an interior underfoot and overhead. It is a sculpture created from ceiling fans stacked from the floor upward and covered in carpet scraps and poured white plaster. Words are insufficient to describe this delicious oddity. 
There are so many other outstanding artists in this show that I wish I could write a paragraph on each. Those not mentioned are: Mika Aono Boyd, Zachary Burns, Renee Couture, Laura Hughes, Robert Hutchison, Allison Hyde, Alexander Keyes, Lisa Kinoshita, Brandi Kruse, Sandee McGee, Nicole Pietrantoni and Jessica Spring. This is a show not to be missed.
Study of Site and Space, 1-5 p.m. Thursdays (until 9 p.m. Third Thursday), or by appointment, through Aug 16, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave. Suite 205, Tacoma, 253-627-2175,

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Almost scammed

I almost got scammed.

I got an email from someone whose name I will not use here (even though it’s probably not his real name). The email said:

Hello. My name is __________ from Jacksonvile, Florida. The images on your website are so fascinating and so vivacious, looking at each piece of work i can easily see that you added so much dedication in making each work come out to life, unfortunately i lost the website where i first saw your work but i was able to save your email address. I will like to purchase some of your work for my wife as a surprise gift for our 20th anniversary. Please kindly send pics and prices of some of your art which are ready for immediate sale within price range $500- $5,000, I could be flexible with price. I am writing you because i need your assistant to get back to your website so as to be able to retrieve the details of your work that interest me or send me images of some of your new works with price.
Best Regards,

"Little Joan With Mask"

Well of course I was flattered that somebody thought my paintings were “vivacious” and wanted to spend actual money on one of them. But there were red flags as well. I know people are constantly scamming people on the Internet, and since I never promote my website, mostly only friends and family members even know it exists—although there’s always the chance someone Googling certain key words might find it.

I thought he must think I’m some big-time artist since he said “I need your assistant to . . .” but then I figured he meant assistance. Nope, don’t have an assistant, unless I count my wife, but she’s much more than an assistant.

So I sent him the url to my website.

He wrote back:

Thanks for the message, I must tell you I intend to give my wife a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you'd like to know, I'm relocating to Ireland soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I'm trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise one. I am buying The Little Joan with Mask Oil stick and collage on fomecore 17.5"X9" art piece as a gift to her. Let me know the last firm price you are selling this to me, I think it's worth it anyway, so I'll be sending a check.

His sentence structure was like someone whose first language is not English, but I shouldn’t judge him based on that
I wrote him back telling him “Little Joan With Mask” is not for sale, and after a few more emails he decided on another painting, “Louisiana Nights.” I priced it at $2,000 including shipping. That’s twice what it was priced at in my last gallery exhibition.

Louisiana Nights

He wrote:

As regarding shipping, you don't have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise. as soon as you receive and cash the check, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up.

I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I'm an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won't be back for another couple of weeks. 

PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) cell phone no. and contact address (preferably for FedEx not P.O box) where a check can be mailed to, so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you right away. 

I sent him my mailing address but nothing more and told him I would ship the painting after I received his check and after the check cleared the bank. My wife insisted on the after-the-check-cleared-the-bank part. She also did an online search for ways people scam artists with fake purchases, and one of the examples mirrored this situation almost exactly. I wrote him again saying I wanted $2,000 and no overage and I would ship the painting—no shipping agent involved—after the check cleared.

 He wrote back:

Hello Alec,
How are you doing today, My shipping agent is due in the U.S sometime this week. So i have contacted a client of mine to issue out a check which will include my shipping agent fees to you right away.

(kind of repeating himself here) He continued:

This is done to avoid delay or any inconvenience that may arise from his part and to allow check to clear before pick up. However, courtesy demand i must first appeal to your self interest and ask for your help in remitting the overage (after deducting your fee for the piece) to the shipping agent as soon as the check clears.

I would have handled this much differently if I'd been at home but am a bit pressed for time as our anniversary is fast approaching and do not have access to a lot of cash over here to expedite this transaction...Kindly deduct any IRS tax incurred on the overage before giving the balance to the shipping agent. As i do not want you to involve any of your personal funds in this transaction, that is why all funds are made available to you. As an aside, they are not sending any bill or hold you responsible for the payment of my shipping contract with them.

I am really sorry for the mix up and will appreciate if you get back to me asap to know if i can entrust you with this transaction. I will be waiting to read from you soon. 

Best Regards,

So I repeated what I had said in my last email, and I never heard back from him.

The painting is still available if anyone wants to buy it. 

For artist friends who might be interested, here is the article we read:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Meet Chris Serface

Managing Artistic Director, Tacoma Little Theatre
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 2, 2018

South Sound theater lovers love Chris Serface, actor, director, and Managing Artistic Director at Tacoma Little Theatre. From Olympia but now living in Tacoma, Serface has been active in theater from childhood. During his educational and professional career, he has traveled throughout the West, working closely with many theaters as an actor, technician, director, musician, volunteer, or board member — sometimes all of them at the same time. 
“When I was eight years old I was in my first school play,” he recalls. “I have fond memories of it, Many Moons at Olympic View Elementary, and it was the gateway to my love of music and theatre. The two shows that really locked my love were Play On at Olympia Little Theatre 1989, and Carousel, Abbey Players 1989. 
Between the seventh and eighth grades, Serface took summer Shakespeare classes taught by Carole Charles, whom he credits as an early influence setting him on a path to a career in theater. She passed away in the 1990s. “She taught up until the very end,” Serface says. “She taught a love of theater and reading to all of her students. She would schedule times where we could go see shows at Olympia Little Theatre and the Abbey Players. Through her I became a patron of the arts.”
Serface studied acting at Capital High School in Olympia. Jeff Kingsbury, formerly of Capital Playhouse, was his high school drama coach — “(Kingsbury was) community theatre director, boss, friend, and molding figure in my life. I learned much about the discipline of theater and what it takes to get the job done from him.” 
At 17, he became the youngest board member of Capital Playhouse and helped that organization grow from a seasonal production schedule to year-round programming.
Serface’s first acting job after high school was in a summer stock company in Utah. He played Mike in Oklahoma. Following that he was Worker #2 in The Pajama Game and then Big Six in City of Angels.
After a spell working in retail management in Utah, Arizona, California and Washington, he returned to Olympia. And then he went to work for Tacoma Musical Playhouse, where he was Director of Education, where, as previously at Capital Playhouse, he developed a year-round curriculum.
Asked about favorite roles, he said The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of OZ, a role he played twice. “This is such a fun and rewarding role. Watching the young children in the audience light up when they see you recreating the story for them live, instead of watching a movie.”
He credits the role of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast at TMP as “one of the highlights of my acting career. Such an identifiable role, and I had such fun performing ‘Be Our Guest.’” (He returned to Beauty and the Beast this summer, this time as Lumiere’s sidekick, Cogsworth.)
Other favorite roles were Dave Bukatinsky in The Full Monty, which he says “really made me become comfortable with myself. I'm a bigger guy and being comfortable enough to get naked on stage took some courage and made me grow as a performer.” And then there was The Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooge, a part he has played four times.
His favorite directing gigs have been Second Samuel, a winning play at the American Association of Community Theaters festival. “This show touched my heart when I saw it. I knew I had to direct it and waited for the right time to add it to the TLT season. I was so fortunate to have a marvelous cast and am so proud of how far we went in the AACT festival cycle.”
Gypsy, is another favorite since an early age. And he says, “Anything I've ever directed for students. I will always be an educator. I believe it is important to pass on the knowledge that one has to help the arts stay alive in our youth. I still take on high school projects so I can build our future performers in our community.”
Upcoming projects he will direct are The Rocky Horror Show at Broadway Olympia and Mamma Mia at Auburn Community Players, Spanaway Lake High School and Wilson High School.
The Rocky Horror Show, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 7, Broadway Olympia at Capitol Theatre, 206 5th Ave SE, Olympia,