2010 Fall Arts Preview: See It/Do It

This year’s Fall Arts Preview doesn’t just tell you what to see, it also helps you channel your insp

By Brangien Davis December 16, 2010

If you’ve ever exited a gallery, theater or concert hall thinking, “Hey, I want to try that,” we have good news. This year’s Fall Arts Preview doesn’t just tell you what to see, it also helps you channel your inspiration into countless artful things you can do. The best art begets more art—so get out there and see some, then make some yourself.


See it: Rainn Wilson & Friends

You know him as Dwight Schrute, authoritarian assistant to the regional manager (and sci-fi fanatic) at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. in NBC’s hit series The Office. Here in Seattle we know him as a hometown favorite who will perform his brand of offbeat comedy in an exclusive show. There’s no telling which “friends” will be joining him, but we’re betting they’ll include a few of his beleaguered office mates. It’s the most fun you’ll have this side of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 10/23. 8 p.m. Prices vary. The Paramount Theatre, 1932 Second Ave.; 206.682.1414

Do it: So your friends say you’re funny. If you’re sure they mean funny-ha-ha, brave an open-mike night at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square (comedyunderground.com). Monday nights are all amateurs all the time. Who knows? You might have the chops to be the next assistant to the regional manager of your company.

See it: Jonathan Franzen
He nearly succeeded in reviving the 19th-century Flaubertian tradition with his 2001 National Book Award–winning novel The Corrections. Now Jonathan Franzen is back with Freedom, an epic contemporary take on the vagaries of middle age via the Berglund family, a recycling, organic-food-eating, bicycle-commuting image of modern suburban angst. Nobody does the unhinging of dreams from reality as well as Franzen. But his appearance at Seattle Arts & Lectures is one dream definitely worth making a reality. 9/14. 7:30 p.m. Prices vary. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.; 206.621.2230; lectures.org

Do it: If you would like the “freedom” to make your own Corrections, or any other masterpiece, start by taking a writing class at Richard Hugo House (hugohouse.org). In addition to the usual lineup of classes ranging from fiction to poetry to memoir, this fall it’s offering workshops by visiting authors Nancy Rawles, Jess Walter and Ed Skoog (10/16); and David Lasky, Lauren Weedman and Stacey Levine (11/20), as part of the Hugo Literary Series.

See it: Local Sightings Film Festival
Seattle’s indie movie house/film incubator is celebrating its 15th year this fall (visit the website for the full lineup of festivities), as well as the 13th occasion of the annual Local Sightings Film Festival. The festival is a film locavore’s feast, with documentary, narrative, animated and experimental features and shorts by homegrown talent. (Past years have included work by Lynn Shelton, Jennifer Maas and Sherman Alexie; this year’s lineup includes Drew Christie, our Spotlight Award winner profiled at left.) The weeklong event features historic Northwest films, panel discussions, juried awards and an opening-night throwdown that’ll make you think you’ve landed at Vanity Fair’s Oscars party. 10/1–10/7. Times and prices vary. Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave.; 206.829.7863; nwfilmforum.org

Do it: Find your filmic voice at The Film School (thefilmschool.com), where you can tap into Seattle’s booming indie film scene and learn the craft of storytelling through screenwriting and directing classes with professionals in the field, such as Stewart Stern, Tom Skerritt and Warren Etheredge.


See it:
No, the First Biennial Clay Throwdown doesn’t give you license to throw the clay (unless you are using a potter’s wheel). This show of the ceramic work of 34 of the Northwest’s finest art potters inaugurates the Bellevue Arts Museum’s new biennial juried art exhibition, which awards $5,000 cash prizes to two winners. Featured artists—including locals Yuki Nakamura, Tip Toland, Mike Simi, Patti Warashina and Ben Waterman—work with traditional pottery forms, as well as at the very edge of the medium. 8/28–1/16/2011. Times and prices vary. Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way NE; 425.519.0770; bellevuearts.org

DO it:
For more than four decades, Pottery Northwest (potterynorthwest.org) has been introducing Seattleites to the “wheel world.” The range of classes includes a 101 on the wheel, hand-built pottery methods and firing and glazing techniques. In addition, established local ceramic artists offer special workshops throughout the year so you can really, um, solidify your clay skills.

See it:
If the economy ruined your plans for an arty exploration of France this fall, take heart. France (or some of its weightiest artwork, at least) is coming to a museum near you. The Musée National Picasso, housed in a 17th-century mansion in the Marais district of Paris, is getting a three-years-long facelift, which means that 150 of the master’s seminal works will be traveling for the first (and perhaps only) time. The museum is home to Picasso’s personal collection of his work; the SAM show includes masterpieces from every period of his prolific career. We might not always have Paris, but for a few months we’ll have some of its most sublime works of art. 10/8–1/17/2011. Times and prices vary. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave.; 206.654.3100; seattleartmuseum.org

Do it: Picasso’s career spanned eight decades, but even he had to start somewhere. You can start with painting (or drawing or sculpture) classes at Seattle’s Gage Academy (gageacademy.org), which offers students of all ages and skill levels classes in still life, landscape, portrait or abstract painting in a wide range of media, including oil, acrylic, egg tempera and gouache. Pablo sez: What are you waiting for? ¡Andale!

See it: 
Daniel Handler
Daniel Handler, the “afflicted author” who, as Lemony Snicket, wrote the smash mock-Gothic children’s book series A Series of Unfortunate Events, brings his trademark dark wit and humor to Seattle Arts & Lectures for your listening displeasure. In addition to children’s literature, Handler has written three adult novels (and is at work on a fourth), screenplays and journalism and has tickled the plastics as an accomplished accordion player both solo and with the band The Magnetic Fields. Rumor has it Handler rents a squeezebox in every city he tours, so keep your fingers crossed that he’ll keep up the tradition and entertain us with a few tunes. 11/9. 7:30 p.m. Prices vary. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.; 206.621.2230; lectures.org

Do it: Betcha didn’t know that since 1922 Seattle has been home to Petosa Accordions, the “Stradivarius of accordions.” In addition to making outstanding instruments, Petosa maintains a list of area instructors (petosa.com/links_info/instructors.shtml). Don’t let Daniel Handler grab all the glory at your next polka! A one and a two…

See it: Houses of Thee UnHoly

Seattle’s burlesque scene is so evolved we have subgenres of the art, such as boylesque (when graceful men teasingly take it off) and rocklesque (when dancers strip to the hard-edged songs of, say, Led Zeppelin). You’ll see examples of both in this fourth annual show, produced by local burlesque mastermind The Swedish Housewife and featuring Lily Verlaine, Miss Indigo Blue, Waxie Moon and other faves. We think Robert Plant would definitely approve. 9/23–9/25. Times and prices vary. The Triple Door, 216 Union St.; 206.838.4333; thetripledoor.net

Do it: Do you dare to bare? Learn how to tantalize at Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque (academyofburlesque.com), offering workshops in tassel twirling, burlesque makeup, walking in heels, and classes in bump and grind and other time-tested techniques.

See it:
For 30 years, Pat Graney’s groundbreaking modern dance pieces have helped put the Seattle dance scene on the map. Now, On the Boards reprises three of the choreographer’s most significant works, reconstructed and condensed into one outstanding performance. “Faith” (1991), “Sleep” (1995) and “Tattoo” (2001) explore cultural views of women and issues in women’s lives, drawing on images of women in art history and film, the exploration of rituals such as marriage and childbirth, as well as the idea of “female genetic memory.” To enter Graney’s world is to enter a dreamscape where memory and ideas collide. Includes music by local composer star Amy Denio. 10/21–10/24. 7:30 p.m. On the Boards, 100 W Roy St.; 206.217.9888; ontheboards.org. If you’re seeking an even longer view of the art form, try Martha Graham Dance Company: Sketches from Chronicle. American choreographer Martha Graham is one of the most influential forces in modern dance—ever. Though she died in 1991, her legacy lives on through her New York–based company, which introduces new audiences to (and reminds the old ones of) her still relevant vision. The company hasn’t been through Seattle since 2002, so leap at this chance to experience anew the definition of iconography. 11/4–11/6. 8 p.m. Prices vary. Meany Hall, University of Washington; 206.543.4880; uwworldseries.org

Do it:
Make a personal connection with Pat Graney by taking a dance class with one of her current or former dancers. KT Niehoff, Kara O’Toole, Ellie Sandstrom and Amy O’Neal, among others, all teach at Capitol Hill’s Velocity Dance Center (velocitydancecenter.org), which offers classes from break dancing to ballet—plus modern dance Ms. Graham herself would applaud.

See it: Panoptos

The Henry Art Gallery has been taking a new approach to its permanent collection since last October—raiding the stockroom and rearranging the inventory in inventive ways. Vortexhibition Polyphonica culminates this fall when SuttonBeresCuller (John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zack Culler) takes the wheel with an “intervention” called Panoptos. The trio is hanging a selection of the gallery’s art floor to ceiling, and constructing a custom-made apparatus that holds a high-def camera and moves on an X/Y axis. The camera is controlled both in the gallery and online by viewers, who can zoom in on whichever artwork they choose. SuttonBeresCuller always strives to change people’s perspectives on art; with Panoptos the group is taking it to the max. 10/2–2/13/2011. Prices vary. Henry Art Gallery, 15th Avenue NE & 41st Street; 206.543.2280; henryart.org

Do it: We couldn’t find any local classes in making a custom-built apparatus for arts viewing (weird!), so instead we’ll just strongly encourage you to serve as your own custom-built apparatus and zoom in on as much art as possible this fall.

See it:
Freshman playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda hit the hip-hop jackpot with In the Heights, the award-winning story influenced by his Lotto-playing abuela in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan. The Dominican-American neighborhood is thick with tradition, but the winds of change are unmistakable, carrying salsa, meringue and soul rhythms to three generations of the Usnavi family, owners of a local bodega. Winner of 2008 Tony Awards for best musical, best score, best choreography and best orchestration. 9/28–10/17. Times and prices vary. 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave.; 206.625.1900; 5thavenue.org

Do it:
Arriba! It’s time to loosen up those hips and hit the Century Ballroom (centuryballroom.com) for a salsa class. Situated in Capitol Hill’s Oddfellows Hall, the Ballroom offers both short intro lessons immediately prior to salsa dance nights and five-week long series classes. With live music and plenty of fellow newbies to make you feel less left-footed, it’s the perfect way to work off all those piraguas you ate at the bodega.

See it: The Scarlet Letter
America’s favorite underachiever Nathaniel Hawthorne managed to write a classic whose central image—Hester Prynne’s scarlet “A”—has been seared into our consciousness for more than 150 years. Even if you know where you stand on issues of morality, Puritanism, sin and guilt, you’ll want to check out this new production (adapted by Naomi Iizuka; directed by Lear deBessonet), which modernizes the timeless idea that both society and individuals pay for the loss of a woman’s free will. 10/22–12/5. Times and prices vary. Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St.; 206.269.1900; intiman.org

Do it: Whether you’ve been itching to incorporate a red symbol of sin in your clothing or just hoping to amp up your knitting, sewing, embroidering and quilting skills, Assemble Gallery & Studio (assembleshop.com) is your ticket to salvation. This hip shop/gallery/studio in Phinney Ridge offers relaxed workshops in a slew of skills with masters of the indie crafts.

See it: Award-winning playwright Edward Albee has been wowing audiences for more than a half-century with his insightful takes on unconventional relationships (including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?). In Three Tall Women, his brilliant 1994 Pulitzer-winning fictionalized autobiography, three women explore the aging process at three distinct periods of life as the eldest holds forth on life’s disappointments and triumphs, including her troubled relationship with her son. Albee called this play “a kind of exorcism.” 10/22–11/28. Times and prices vary. The Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St.; 206.443.2222; seattlerep.org

Do it: Freehold Theatre in Belltown offers a kind of one-stop shopping for the aspiring actor or playwright. Choose from workshops and classes in everything from intro to acting to crafting plays to performing and presentation to clowning (freeholdtheatre.org).

See it: SoDo resident and UW grad Chris Engman is obsessed with the dry, dusty moonscapes of eastern Washington—and that’s a good thing, since it has resulted in truly stunning photographs for the rest of us to enjoy (without having to make the drive). Engman often enhances the natural scenery by importing objects into the frame—a jumble of concrete blocks, a rickety structure made of lumber and construction fencing, a plastic tarp—in such an artful way it seems as if they’ve been there all along. 11/18–12/31. Times vary. Free. Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S; 206.624.0770; gregkucera.com

Do it:
Evolve from shutterbug to fine art photographer via instruction at the Photographic Center NW (pcnw.org), which offers both one-off workshops and classes in series, as well as a nationally accredited certificate in fine art photography. Gives a whole new meaning to point and click.

See it: The plot synopsis of Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti’s 1835 masterpiece, reads like the script for a contemporary soap opera, set to music. Complete with secret rendezvous, intruders, mistaken identity, back-stabbing siblings, illicit pairings, family feuds and ghosts, it’s the coloratura version of All My Children as interpreted by the Seattle Opera. That said, Lucia’s world-renowned mad scene—not to mention the lush costuming and beautiful score—beats another “miraculous recovery from a coma” scene, hands down. 10/16–10/30. Times and prices vary. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St.; 206.389.7676; seattleopera.org

Do it:
Take control of your breath and learn how to sing correctly via singing lessons from local songstress Carla Hilderbrand (carlahilderbrand.com). In addition to teaching, Hilderbrand appears regularly in opera, operetta and symphony productions throughout the Northwest. A warning: She has played the part of the witch in Hansel and Gretel, so it’s best to do as she says.

See it: It’s a long way from busking and playing gigs at the Tractor Tavern and the Crocodile Café for homegrown country-pop icon Brandi Carlile, who returns to Seattle as frontwoman for the Seattle Symphony. Carlile’s latest album, Give Up the Ghost, reveals the singer at her rawest and most honest. Come and see if the symphony is any match for her big voice. (Note: Carlile sold out Benaroya in 2008, so get your tickets to this one before they give up the ghost.) 11/19. 8 p.m. Prices vary. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747; seattlesymphony.org

Do it: Be your own frontwoman (or man) at Seattle’s newest karaoke bar, Rock Box (at press time, slated to open mid-October) on Capitol Hill, across the street from Molly Moon’s. Rock Box is being made in the image of a traditional Japanese karaoke bar—meaning the emphasis is on the karaoke, rather than the bar. It will house 12 private boxes (rooms) that can accommodate from four to 14 guests, in addition to a larger party room for as many as 40 crooners. Keep an eye on the Rock Box Facebook page for opening details.

See it: Implied Violence: Yes and more and yes and yes and why
Is Implied Violence a brilliant and edgy group of Seattle-based young performance artists? YES. What do audiences (both here, in New York and in Europe) want from them? MORE. Do these performers break down the boundaries between theater, performance, athletics, psychotherapy and improv? YES. Do they draw inspiration from contemporary politics, art history, literature, religion and philosophy in their mind-bending shows? YES. After you see them, what’s the only question you won’t ask yourself about the reason the Frye gallery is showcasing props, costumes, masks, and video and photo documentation of past performances: WHY. 10/9–1/2/2011. Free. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave.; 206.622.9250; fryemuseum.org

Do it: Or, rather, don’t do it. You couldn’t possibly, and you might end up hurting yourself.

See it:
Director’s Choice
If you can get to only one Pacific Northwest Ballet show per season, your best bet is the Director’s Choice. That way you’re always sure to see both the talent of the PNB dancers and the genius of artistic director Peter Boal’s programming choices. This year the season opener features the PNB premiere of two notable works—choreographer Jiri Kylian’s “Six Dances” (with music by Mozart) and Jerome Robbins’ peerless 1983 masterpiece, “Glass Pieces,” set to music by experimental composer Philip Glass. The 42 dancers in “Glass Pieces” constitute a human traffic jam as they use Robbins’ minimalist vocabulary to reflect the temper of urban America. Rounding out the mixed bill is a return of Kylian’s smash hit “Petite Mort” and Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato’s “Jardí Tancat,” danced to the rhythm of traditional Catalonian songs. 9/24–10/3. Times and prices vary. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St.; 206.441.2424; pnb.org

DO it:
How do you think those dancers do it, sculpting those long, lean muscles and six-pack abs? They do it just like you will: by dropping in at the PNB Pilates classes (pnb.org/pnbschool/PNBConditioning). The exercise classes are open to the public—but no matter how inspirational you find them, we suggest you leave your tutus and toe shoes at home.

See it:  With his first two collections of personal essays, Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable, David Rakoff proved himself one of the funniest memoirists alive. We have all confidence that his third book, Half-Empty (due out this month), which advocates a pessimistic point of view, will cement this title. Skewering both himself and pop culture—without ever stooping to meanness—Rakoff is simultaneously hilarious, astute and genuine. 10/7. 7:30 p.m. $5. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.; 206.652.4255; townhallseattle.org
Do it: If you have a head full of your own funny-but-true stories to tell, look into a guide to visitors (agtv.org), the local live storytelling show that invites participants to bring their best real-life tales to the stage—and tell them without notes—during fantastically fun themed evenings.

See it: Part of Town Hall’s popular world music series, Global Rhythms: Drumming—an inaugural “palooza of percussion”— features performers Kaoru Watanabe and Kenny Endo (known for stellar Japanese taiko drumming), Samir Chatterjee on the Indian tabla and other superstars of syncopation. Hint: If you prefer your entertainment on the sit-still-and-be-quiet side, you might want to skip this one. 10/8. 8 p.m. Prices vary. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.; 206.652.4255; townhallseattle.org

Do it:
Get it on, bang a gong at the seattle drum school in Georgetown and North Seattle (seattledrumschool.com), where you can release both your stress and your inner Ringo with private percussion lessons and classes in rock, Latin, jazz, Afro-Cuban, Middle Eastern and more types of drumming.

See it: One in the colony of galleries housed in Pioneer Square’s Toshiro Kaplan Building, G. Gibson is a reliable go-to source for cutting-edge Northwest contemporary visual art. Take, for example, the fall show featuring Maija Fiebig & Saya Moriyasu, two young artists from Seattle. Fiebig uses textiles as inspiration for the otherworldly landscapes she paints in acrylic, oil and watercolor. Moriyasu augments clay with all manner of everyday objects to create oddly beautiful work reflecting chinoiserie and Americana. Both will give your imagination a workout. 9/2–10/9. Times vary.Free. G. Gibson Gallery, 300 S Washington St.; 206.587.4033; ggibsongallery.com

Do it:
pratt fine arts center (pratt.org) should just go ahead and legally change its middle name to “multimedia.” This creative learning institute offers classes in printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture (in wood, bronze, steel, stone), jewelry making, enamels, glassblowing—and collage using all of the above. It’s a wonderful place to mix it up.

See it: Sometime music columnist and all-time awesome lyricist John Roderick is known as the frontman of Seattle indie darlings The Long Winters, but his solo shows—such as this performance in the Triple Door’s intimate space—are things of beauty. When Roderick plays acoustic guitar and strips his songs down to their essence, he renders them even more lovely and powerful. 9/30. 8 p.m. $20. The Triple Door, 216 Union St.; 206.838.4333; thetripledoor.net

Do it: So you wanna be a rock ’n’ roll star? The first step is learning how to play more than “Louie, Louie.” Improve your skills with Seattle-based guitar teacher Andrew Boscardin (boscology.com). The composer/conductor of nouveau jazz orchestra Zubatto Syndicate, Boscardin gives private lessons in all genres to newbies and experienced rockers.

See it: Poetry, said Mark Twain, “lays bare the whole landscape with a single splendid flash.” Former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins is a master of rendering the simple image in a single splendid flash of incandescent language, with the bonus that he’s as amusing as the great Samuel Clemens himself. Collins, the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, explores love, aging and mortality in verse that is as funny as it is heartbreaking. 11/22. 7:30 p.m. Prices vary. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.; 206.652.4255; townhallseattle.org

Do it: Aspiring poets (funny and heartbreaking both) can participate in the open-mike portion of the next edition of Cheap Wine and Poetry (11/4. 7 p.m.; cheapwineandpoetry.com), held at Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill. It’s no-holds-barred and all-souls-bared in this notoriously raucous approach to poetry.

See it: Edwidge Danticat
Haitian American writer Edwidge Danticat has won numerous awards for her work—including a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant in 2009. Her short stories and novels paint a vivid picture of Haiti and the Haitian community in the U.S., and she has written movingly about her family’s losses during the Haiti earthquake. Her newest work, Create Dangerously (due out this month), is a nonfiction examination of what it means to be an immigrant artist from a torn homeland—and the responsibilities therein. 10/15. 7:30 p.m. $5. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.; 206.652.4255; townhallseattle.org

Do it: “Create dangerously” is an awesome call to arms, and one you can take up at the seattle center for book arts (seattlebookarts.org). Workshops here exalt thinking outside the traditional book box, offering lessons in how to make books out of felt, vellum and found objects, as well as classes in letterpress and crafting “altered books” out of existing texts. Such a dangerous approach to art is exactly what we’ve come to expect—and love—in this city of artistic innovators. 


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