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Datebook: Fall Arts Finds

A look at some of the upcoming season’s hottest works

By Rachel Gallaher September 15, 2023

Whim W’Him debuts several new works this fall.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

As the long, hot days of summer melt away into cooler temps and earlier evenings, Seattleites are about to make the seasonal shift toward indoor activities. While monthly art walks and occasional museum visits are popular year-round, for those in the know, back-to-school sales also signal the start of Fall Arts: the time of year when things ramp up for the city’s creative sector.

With our sun-kissed complexions and summer-streaked hair, we start to pour into theaters, galleries, and auditoriums for world-premiere plays, poetry readings, and exhibition openings — generous doses of art that set Seattle apart and cement its place high up on the global cultural scale. Here, we’ve rounded up our top picks for things to see, do, and read this fall. As a bonus, we’ve asked the creatives involved in each one to share what they are most looking forward to attending in the upcoming months. Think of it as your guide to some of the hottest shows and releases of the season.

Whim W’Him, Fall ’23

Every year, Seattle dance company Whim W’Him turns to its dancers and gives them the choice of whose work they want to perform. For this much-anticipated annual program, the company members (including two new dancers: Jacob Beasley and Kaylan Gardner) select three choreographers (all based in New York) from hundreds of applicants with whom to create pieces. This year’s picks are Hannah Garner, a director, choreographer, dancer, and founder of 2nd Best Dance Company; Dava Huesca, a performing artist, teacher, and choreographer; and Romanian-born Ana Maria Lucaciu, a freelance choreographer and performing artist based in New York City and Antwerp, Belgium.

“They’re innovative and emerging new voices,” says Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers. “This program is always invigorating because it showcases some of the freshest voices in choreography.” And while Wevers is tight-lipped about specifics, he has this to say about Garner’s piece: “It pushes the boundary of what contemporary dance is and can be, blurring the lines between concert dance and theater/performance art. It will challenge viewers to question what they are seeing and continues to challenge them with queries and thought-provoking situations.”

SEE IT: Fall ’23 runs Sept. 8–9 and 14–16 at Erickson Theatre

What Olivier Wevers wants to see this fall: “Honestly, I am excited about the opening of our Whim W’Him Contemporary Dance Center. We are planning a big two-day open house and creating educational programs for the community. We will offer full scholarships to every one of our programs to BIPOC and underserved communities. And it is finally time that this city gets a state-of-the-art professional studio equipped for professional dancers.”

Alyza DelPan-Monley for Velocity Dance Center,

That’s a HANDFUL!

From the pink satin slippers of ballet to the bare arches of contemporary performance, thoughts of dance often focus on feet. For Seattle-based dancer and choreographer Alyza DelPan-Monley, the art of dance goes deeper than that, and her work — which puts a premium on human connection and whimsy — explores the possibilities of shifting what we traditionally think of as “dance.” This October, DelPan-Monley will present a new piece, That’s a HANDFUL!, through Velocity Dance Center, shifting the focus from the feet to the hands, exploring everything from handshakes and pinky promises to palm reading and shadow puppets.

That’s a HANDFUL! reimagines traditional dance

Photo By Lo Othón, Illustration By Zaza

“I often dance through my hands, letting the hands experience tactile sensations that inform the movement and articulate meaning through the gesture,” DelPan-Monley says. “My hands feel like they are little creatures that tag along with me through my life, and I think that what we hold, what we touch, and how our hands mold to the shapes and demands of our lives can tell us an entire story.”

While DelPan-Monley will be the principal performer, they note that the piece “will be built in collaboration with many friends, artists, and community members.”

SEE IT: That’s a HANDFUL! runs Oct. 11-14 at 12th Avenue Arts

What Alyza DelPan Monley wants to see: “We just curated the artists for NextFest NW (at Velocity Dance Center), and I am very excited about the expression (of movement) and embodiment in this show. I’m also stoked to see how 12 Minutes Max at Base: Experimental Arts + Space has been thriving lately with artists experimenting and developing new work. And every month, I look forward to Tush! at Clock-Out Lounge.” 

The Liberators by E.J. Koh

Writer E.J. Koh will release her debut novel this November. According to Koh, the book, titled The Liberators and released through Tin House Books, “draws upon portraits and testimonies from guards and prisoners, perpetrators and liberators, spanning two continents and four generations of a Korean family whose lives are changed by their past decisions made in love and war.”

Known for her poetic language (she first rose to prominence with her 2017 book of poetry, A Lesser Love), Koh is a master at weaving stories together, drawing tales of history and contemporary experiences into conversation to help us better understand who we are as humans. “The Liberators has the work of my poetry at the center — its glacial and crackling movements — from one word or passage or chapter to the next,” Koh says. “And sentences that press into the tongue. The work was guided by a sense that what we commit to forgetting, we also commit to memory.”

GET IT: The Liberators will hit bookstore shelves on Nov. 7.

What E.J. Koh wants to see: “After completing The Liberators in the dark interior of my room, I’m looking forward to learning how to be human again — asking what it looks like for me these coming years. I’m excited to catch up on Shawn Wong’s UW Press book series for out-of-print Asian American classics, like No-No Boy by John Okada, Eat a Bowl of Tea by Louis Chu, and Dancer Dawkins and the California Kid by Willyce Kim. Shin Yu Pai, our (2023-2024) Seattle Civic Poet, has been curating, hosting, and writing for events, readings, and podcasts — and I’ve been following them all. Shawn Wong and Shin Yu Pai continue to inspire and change the landscape of American literature.”

Rafael Soldi: Soft Boy

In his first solo museum exhibition on the West Coast, Peruvian-born, Seattle-based photographer Rafael Soldi presents Soft Boy, an immersive art experience comprising video, photographic, and text-based work. “The exhibition features three projects that explore how gender expectations are encoded — and can be subverted — within language and childhood games,” Soldi says. The central work, a three-channel video installation titled Soft Boy, follows a group of uniformed, school-age adolescents as they perform a series of rituals — marching in military-style parades, arm wrestling, performative athleticism — drawn from Soldi’s memories of his days at an all-boys Catholic school. “This work wrestles with my experience growing up queer in Latin America,” he muses, “unmasking the performative nature of masculine identity and the role of violence as a conduit for intimacy and touch between young men.” In addition to the anchor work, there will be a suite of photogravure prints, CARGAMONTÓN, and mouth to mouth, an 83-panel text piece that Soldi notes “features word pairings and groupings that lean into the playfulness of language as a vehicle to understand and explore the role of bilingualism in the queer and immigrant experience.”

Soft Boy draws from artist Rafael Soldi’s school days

Photography by Rafael Sodi


SEE IT: Rafael Soldi: Soft Boy runs Oct. 7-Jan. 7 at the Frye Art Museum

What Soldi wants to see: “Seattle Arts & Lectures has two upcoming lectures I’m excited about: one with author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers and one with author Viet Thanh Nguyen. Last but not least, my favorite event of the year: Wa Na Wari’s ‘Walk the Block’ — blocks and blocks of the Central District activated by Black artists, musicians, performers, authors, chefs, and community members celebrating Black excellence and creativity while raising funds for Wa Na Wari.”

Kim Van Someren and Kelda Martensen

“I have always been interested in artwork that is process-oriented, and maybe not always as straightforward in how it is created,” says Judith Rinehart, the owner and director of Pioneer Square’s J. Rinehart Gallery. “I want to visually pick apart a piece of art and wrap my mind around how something was created.” With that in mind, it’s easy to see why Rinehart chose two Northwest printmakers, Kim Van Someren and Kelda Martensen, as the focus of the gallery’s upcoming show.

“Printmakers tend to be incredibly technical, precise, and proficient in their mark-making,” she notes, “so I am drawn to the craft of it through that process. Both Kim and Kelda work in printmaking and collage and are masters of their craft.”

Martensen’s work draws from many techniques — woodblock prints, solvent transfers, polyester plate lithography — and features imagery from the natural world, while Van Someren focuses on the man-made, using negative space to define structures both architectural and mechanical.


Kim Van Someren works in her Seattle studio in preparation for her upcoming show

Ryan Warner Photography

SEE IT: Kim Van Someren and Kelda Martensen at J. Rinehart Gallery runs Sept. 2-Oct. 7

What Judith Rinehart wants to see: “I am really looking forward to seeing Sarah Norsworthy at studio e in September. She is an incredible painter. Also, the 2023/2024 Season at ACT Theatre — they always have such amazing productions, and I am just thrilled that they have a full season again.”

Dream Hou$e

Making her directorial debut at Washington Ensemble Theatre, multi-hyphenate artist Suz Pontillo brings the darkly humorous Dream Hou$e to the stage. With a cast of local artists, Dream Hou$e tells the story of two sisters in a rapidly changing neighborhood who sign up for a reality TV show to sell their childhood home after the passing of the family matriarch.

As the sisters perform for the camera, they are forced to confront their desires — and what they must do to attain them. “As a first-generation Chilean American from Miami, I was initially drawn to Dream Hou$e due to the complex relationship between the sisters and the different ways they have assimilated to achieve the ‘American Dream,’” Pontillo says. “Through the lens of a reality TV show and with hints of magical realism, the play examines the definition of ‘home’ and the ways we carry our culture and honor our ancestors.”

SEE IT: Dream Hou$e runs Sept. 8–25 at 12th Avenue Arts

What Pontillo wants to see: “I am so excited for Seattle Rep’s production of Little Women, as that is a story that is near and dear to my heart. Additionally, I am looking forward to seeing what Dacha Theatre is doing for their upcoming season because they’re always creating something unique.”

Seattle Rep, Little Women

Are you a Jo or an Amy? Perhaps a Beth? Everyone has an opinion on which of the March sisters is the best (and most relatable). Relive the drama and adventure of the March sisters with the theatrical presentation of Louisa May Alcott’s infamous Little Women, running this fall at Seattle Rep. A co-production with Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the play will feature a cast of Seattle and Wisconsin-based talent (with some Seattle Rep debuts). “Little Women has everything,” says Seattle Rep’s artistic producer Kaytlin McIntyre. “It’s a wartime parable, a family drama, a love story, and (depending on who you ask) a proto-feminist guidebook on non-traditional womanhood. But it has endured the test of time because, at its heart, Little Women is a coming-of-age story about navigating love, loss, ambition, and sacrifice in a world full of inequity and division. The fierce love and big dreams of the March sisters are evergreen.”

SEE IT: Little Women runs Nov. 10-Dec. 17 at Seattle Rep’s Bagley Wright Theater

What Kaytlin McIntyre wants to see: “I’m excited for some of my favorite new plays to come to Seattle, including English by Sanaz Toossi at Arts West, Stew by Zora Howard at ACT, and Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee, which is a co-production between ACT and the 5th Avenue Theatre. All written by women of color, these shows are funny, intelligent, and absorbing stories that take us across the globe and back. As for my angsty inner teen, she is most excited to see Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service at Climate Pledge Arena for my birthday.”

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