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Archives: May 2013


Critic’s Picks: Kal Penn at Seattle Science Festival, outdoor-themed art at B2 Gallery, Assemblage Theater does “Bluebeard” and Australian glass at Museum of Glass

Actor Kal Penn, who'll narrate at the Seattle Science Festival opening next week. Photo courtesy SSF.
Actor Kal Penn, who’ll narrate at the Seattle Science Festival opening next week. Photo courtesy SSF.

Kal Penn narrates Philip Glass work for Seattle Science Festival

Actor Kal Penn (“Harold and Kumar”) joins the Seattle Science Festival’s opening night to narrate the West Coast premiere of “Icarus at the Edge of Time,” a science-inspired multimedia work with visuals by AI+AI and music by Philip Glass, played by the Garfield Symphony Orchestra under Marcus Tsutakawa. The festival continues through June 16 at the Seattle Center and other venues. 8 p.m. June 6. $60/$30. Paramount Theater, 911 Pine St., Seattle. 877-784-4849, seattlesciencefestival.org

“Catch and Release” at B2 Gallery

B2 Fine Arts Gallery offers the outdoor-themed exhibition “Catch and Release,” featuring the work of photographer, conservationist and fly fisherman Henry Haneda, as well as landscape photographer Jeff Mitchell and mosaic artist-cum-kayak instructor Joseph Kaftan. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday through June 15. Free. 711 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma. 253-238-5065, b2finearts.com

Assemblage Theater presents “Bluebeard”
Four women raised inside an abandoned church since infancy thanks to an apolcalyptic ice-age; a domineering matriarch in charge; a bizarre twisting of the usual rules of parenthood, gender and political order – that’s “Bluebeard,” a reworking of the original creepy fairy tale by British playwright Pericles Snowdon. See the West Coast premiere here in Tacoma thanks to Assemblage Theater. 8 p.m. May 31, June 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15; Pay-What-You-Can shows June 6 and 13. $14 adults/$7 students. Chapel at Urban Grace, 902 Market St., Tacoma. assemblagetheater.com, brownpapertickets.com

See Australian glass artist Mel George at Museum of Glass Read more »


Blue giants, green dragons, red-headed goddesses and white mattresses in Tacoma’s Woolworth Windows

Beth Johnson, "Green Dragon." Photo: Rosemary Ponnekanti
Beth Johnson, “Green Dragon.” Photo: Rosemary Ponnekanti

The latest edition of the Woolworth Windows art in downtown Tacoma is big – really big, with larger-than-life versions of everyday and mythical objects that fill the window space with color, form and vision to stop passers-by in their tracks.

Maybe the most surprising is Beth Johnson, up the theater end of the windows. A self-taught, self-described closet artist who’s obviously got a wealth of imagination, skill and love of fantasy (she gets summer jobs acting at the Renaissance Faire), Johnson has crafted three dragons out of cloth maché – whimsical, humorous and just a little scary. She combines realistic effects (wrinkled skin, reptilian scales, baleful eyes and fiery tongues) with original elements (corkscrew hair that ends in dagger-sharp teeth) and a fun sense of humor: The lizard-green dragon lazily carries a knight’s lance loaded with damsel-in-distress laundry (scarves, chiffon), while the little black guy with the scorpion tail examines a yellow-jacket he’s caught on his tongue with painful dismay. The red dragon, meanwhile, stares angrily out of a trophy mount – perfect lodge décor for your country knight.

One window further down Tacoma’s letterpress printmakers show off their supersize skills in the steamroller prints from this year’s Wayzgoose, a letterpress festival held annually at King’s Books. Read more »


Recital for rare pedal harpsichord at Christ Episcopal, Tacoma

Mark Brombaugh's pedal harpsichord. Photo courtesy Mark Brombaugh.
Mark Brombaugh’s pedal harpsichord. Photo courtesy Mark Brombaugh.

Harpsichord recitals are rare enough in Tacoma, but this Friday Mark Brombaugh offers early music enthusiasts an even rarer opportunity: a recital on a harpsichord with pedals. Playing music by Bach, Vivaldi, Couperin and Buxtehude in the resonant acoustics of Christ Episcopal, where he is the organist, Brombaugh will perform on a pedal harpsichord that he commissioned from Hill and Tyre of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The instrument actually consists of two large harpsichords played by one musician at the same time: a standard double-manual harpsichord at normal height played with the hands, and a second one underneath it at ground level connected to organ-style pedals and played with the feet like an organ.

Says Brombaugh: “While no examples of pedal harpsichords survive from the baroque era, it is believed that organists owned them for practice purposes, since churches were unheated and extra help was needed to work the organ bellows.”

Anyone who’s ever tried to play music in an unheated church in winter – as well as anyone who’s ever pumped bellows by hand for hours –will appreciate this. Read more »


Critic’s picks: Tacoma Jazz and Blues Fest, Salish Sea Early Music, “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding” at Rialto and “Flux” at 253Collective

CodyRentasBand2013Tacoma Jazz and Blues Fest

Three stages featuring bands like the Johnny Lewis Big Band, Roadside Attraction, Arthur Migliazz, and Rich Wetzel’s Higher Jazz Orchestra with Mike Vax make up the annual free Tacoma Jazz and Blues Festival this Saturday. 12:30-6 p.m. May 25 (8-11:30 p.m. at Stonegate). Free (or by donation). The Swiss, 1904 S. Jefferson Ave., Tacoma. The Harmon Brewery, 1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. Stonegate Pizza and Rum Bar, 5419 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma. tacomajazzandblues.org

Salish Sea Early Music  Festival does guitar and flute

Hear John Schneidermann on baroque guitar and Jeffrey Cohan on eight-keyed 1820 baroque flute playing duos by composer Mauro Guiliani. 7 p.m. May 30. $15-$20 donation/$5 university students/free for 18 and under. Trinity Lutheran Church, 12115 Park Ave. S., Tacoma. 253-537-0201, salishseafestival.org

“Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding” blurs theater, romance and dinner Read more »


Pastels at the American Art Company range from mediocre to breathtaking

Kari Tirrell, "Train Wreck." Photo courtesy American Art Co.
Kari Tirrell, “Train Wreck.” Photo courtesy American Art Co.

It’s not quite business as usual at the Northwest Pastel Society’s 27th annual International Open Exhibition, on this month and next at American Art Company in downtown Tacoma. Yes, around half of the show is misty, romantic landscapes, all well executed but looking just like pastels pretending to be oil paints and eschewing any originality of vision.

But a handful of the works – mostly those awarded juried prizes – both capture the unique texture and feel of the medium and say something unusual to boot. In the front portrait gallery, many of the works sport light-burnished, angelic subjects gilded with New Age-y palettes of neon pink and yellow. There’s some gratuitously in-your-face flesh from Paul Barton’s nude, and the usual number of feel-good beachside moments. But  Roberta Combs combines the smooth surface and intense tonal clarity of a Renaissance oil with the social commentary of a Diane Arbus photograph in “Harlem Heat.” Z. Feng uses a fascinating charcoal-sketch feel in “Mr. White,” with hair and beard strokes fierce and direct.

Over in the animal section, which includes Van Gogh-inspired zebras and a Harry Potter-esque owl (coincidentally by artist Laurie Potter), there’s one of the show’s most stunning examples of color blending: Joe Mackechnie’s opaque salmon, swimming through a Technicolor stream of teal, magenta and gold. Read more »


Blues/tango singer María Volonté returns to Madera Furniture Company in Tacoma next Thursday

Back by popular demand to Madera Furniture Company is Argentine singer and guitarist María Volonté, who’ll bring her unique fusion of blues and tango next Thursday night along with Californian harmonica player Kevin Carrel Footer.

“Everyone was blown away by Maria’s performance last year,” said Madera owner Carlos Taylor-Swanson in a press release. “She has such grace and charm as a performer and her music is simply delicious.”

Volonté’s tango work has won her the prestigious Gardel Prize, a Latin Grammy nomination and entry into the Tango Hall of Fame. Now, on the Blue Tango Tour, she and Footer

Read more »


Sharing tunes: See world cultures and local performers at this year’s Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle this weekend

Olympia Celtic band Loch Dhu, playing at Folklife this weekend. Photo courtesy Julie Bennett.
Olympia Celtic band Loch Dhu, playing at Folklife this weekend. Photo courtesy Julie Bennett.

For many folk around Puget Sound (and further afield), Memorial Weekend means one thing: the Northwest Folklife Festival. The free festival, now in its 42nd year, celebrates all things folk: music, dancing, poetry and art from as many cultures as you can think of. But it’s not just a draw for the crowds who come to listen and watch – it attracts plenty of local performers who want to be part of one of the biggest folk festivals in the country. Among them are Olympia bands Sunshine and Irony, The Shivas, Grizzle Grazzle, plus a couple of Oly fisherman poets and more – and what they like best about Folklife is the chance to meet and share with other performers.

“It’s exciting, it’s fun,” explains Julie Bennett, a percussionist with no less than four Oly-based bands playing this year’s Folklife: Celtic band Loch Dhu, the Contra Quartet and Olympia Volunteer String Band (both contradance bands) and a pick-up brass marching band. “It’s an opportunity to meet other musicians and share music we know, whether it’s common tunes or new ones.”

And the way that happens is behind the scenes at jam sessions. Before, after and between the many, many scheduled stage performances at Folklife are the jam sessions, where musicians – who all volunteer their time to perform – just play together and have fun. Read more »


Seattle International Film Festival features two films with Tacoma and Gig Harbor connections

A scene from "The Geography Club" movie, screening this week at SIFF. Photo courtesy SIFF.
A scene from “The Geography Club” movie, screening this week at SIFF. Photo courtesy SIFF.

We’re used to the Tacoma Film Festival featuring plenty of local content, but this week the 39th Seattle International Film Festival chips in, with “Geography Club,” a Gary Entin film adapted from the 2003 novel of former Tacoman Brent Hartinger, and “Her Aim is True,” a documentary by British filmmaker Karen Whitehead on photographer Jini Dellacio, who shot albums and concert images of Tacoma’s most famous garage rock bands The Sonics, The Wailers and Girl Trouble.

“Geography Club” won Brent Hartinger a handful of awards, got him on some Banned Books lists and secured his place as a writer of young adult fiction. Hartinger was living in Tacoma at the time, and based a lot of the scenarios of the gay teen coming-of-age story on T-town. Entin filmed the screen adaptation last summer in Los Angeles, starring Cameron Deane Stewart as the protagonist Russel Middlebrook, and Justin Deely (“90210”), Nikki Blonsky (“Hairspray”) and Ally Maki (“Ten Things I Hate About You”) alongside. When I blogged about the filming back in January Hartinger was murmuring about a Tacoma Film Festival premiere, but instead it’s screening at SIFF this week, with Entin (and presumably Hartinger) attending.

7 p.m. May 22. $12/$11. Egyptian Theater, 805 E. Pine St., Seattle.

11 a.m. May 25. $7. Harvard Exit Theater, 807 E. Roy St., Seattle. siff.net Read more »