Food & Culture

Seattle Fall Arts Preview: The Top Shows, Performances and Exhibits to Catch This Season

Get ready to pack your schedule

By Gwendolyn Elliott & Gavin Borchert September 4, 2019


This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the September 2019 issue as part of the Fall Arts PreviewClick here to subscribe.


Rossini’s 1817 opera is more or less the fairy tale you know, minus the fairy godmother and with the addition of both the prince’s valet and tutor to complicate the plot. Seattle Opera’s production pushes the timeline forward slightly to the Victorian era, for the sake of flouncier costumes and more ribald Dickensian comedy. Times and prices vary. McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St.; 206.389.7676;

Austen’s Pride is a creative, musical take on Pride and Prejudice


Austen’s Pride
Lindsay Warrne Baker and Amanda Jacobs drop Jane Austen into her own book to confront and reconsider her beloved characters in their musical reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. This work came up through the 5th Avenue Theatre’s New Musical Development Program to earn this premiere. Times and prices vary. 5th Avenue Theatre, downtown, 1308 Fifth Ave.; 206.625.1900

Playwright Steven Dietz, a Seattle favorite for 30 years (you may have seen his Becky’s New Car premiere at ACT in 2008), puts Bram Stoker’s heroine Mina Murray at the center of this reworking of his 1998 stage adaptation, giving the character a more active role in uncovering the mystery of this Transylvanian count. Times and prices vary. ACT ‒ A Contemporary Theatre, downtown, 700 Union St.; 206.292.7676

Shout Sister Shout!
Singer and electric guitarist Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973) was the prism through which gospel music was refracted into rhythm and blues, soul, rock—pretty much all the popular music of the past 70 years, in fact. Cheryl L. West’s play, based on Gayle F. Wald’s biography, tells the story of the woman who, Bonnie Raitt says, deserves “a place of honor in the field of music history.” Times and prices vary. Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center, 155 Mercer St.; 206.443.2222

Head Over Heels
There’s more you can do with pop songs onstage than simply cobble together a musical about a popster’s career, as playwright Jeff Whitty (Tony winner for his book for Avenue Q) realized. Instead, you can, for example, apply them to an Elizabethan adventure: Philip Sidney’s gender-bending romantic comedy about a mythical kingdom and a dire prophecy, told through the tunes of the 1980s all-female band, the Go-Gos. Times and prices vary. ArtsWest, West Seattle, 4711 California Ave. SW; 206.938.0963

Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s oil on canvas “Susanna and the Elders,” 1866, part of the Frye Art Museum’s exhibit, Unsettling Femininity. Courtesy of Spike Mafford/Frye Art Museum


Unsettling Femininity
The picture frame becomes a proscenium in the paintings of Unsettling Femininity, an exhibit gleaned from the Frye Art Museum’s permanent collection: 19th- and early-20th-century images of women that “highlight the performative nature of gender,” as the Frye puts it. In their portrayals of real and fictional women of all classes, from the kitschy to the photojournalistic, these artists have both established and toyed with our notions of the feminine ideal. Some of the women depicted frankly acknowledge the “male gaze”; some seem unaware of it (or pretend to be); some gaze right back, confrontationally. Times vary. Free. Frye Art Museum, First Hill, 704 Terry Ave.; 206.622.9250

Dress Codes: Ellen Lesperance and Diane Simpson
Playing off something as personal as clothing—especially women’s clothing—against abstract elements like grids, diagrams and blueprints, this joint exhibit of work by these two artists (from Portland and Chicago, respectively) bring together past and present, art and technology, body and symbol. Times vary. Free. Frye Art Museum, First Hill, 704 Terry Ave.; 206.622.9250

Maria Phillips repurposes misfit recyclables in Hidden in Plain Sight. Courtesy of Maria Phillips

Hidden in Plain Sight: Maria Phillips
What happens after your recyclables are picked up? Well, a lot of it is remade into something, but the rest goes to the landfill. Seattle artist Phillips rescued the rest (plastic and other packaging material, mostly) as material for her latest sculptural artworks, unveiled in this solo show. Times and prices vary. Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, 510 Bellevue Way NE; 425.519.0770

This daring four-night light festival returns for a second year to the Museum of History & Industry. Once again, teams of video artists from around the world will turn the museum’s facade into a grand canvas, projecting video spectacles onto it; this year’s theme, “Untethered,” promises artworks free from “a structure, a set of rules, a philosophy or belief.” See the video mapping performance (tickets required; several performances take place each evening), then stay to enjoy music and various art and light installations. Times vary. Free but advance tickets recommended. Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), South Lake Union, 860 Terry Ave. N;

Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum
Selections from the holdings of this Naples museum, representing that city’s great art heritage, will visit SAM for its major fall show. On view will be pieces by painters you probably know (Titian, Raphael) and ones you definitely should know, like the throbbingly dramatic works by pioneering artist Artemisia Gentileschi. Times and prices vary. Seattle Art Museum, downtown, 1300 First Ave.; 206.625.8900

Los Angeles artist Andrea Bowers’ photos depicting transgender activists of color will be part of In Plain Sight. Courtesy of Andrea Bowers

In Plain Sight

The ironic title refers to visual art and performances by an international array of artists that evoke experiences and communities (in many senses: racial, sexual, economic) normally obscured from the mainstream. Among the works are Los Angeles artist Andrea Bowers’ confrontational yet celebratory photos of transgender activists of color. Times and prices vary. Henry Art Gallery, University District, 4100 15th Ave. NE; 206.543.2280


Choreographer Kate Wallich and musician Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, combine their performative talents in The Sun Still Burns Here at The Moore Theatre. Photo by Agustin Hernandez

The Sun Still Burns Here
“I was drawn to how much Mike is of the body,” says acclaimed Seattle choreographer and Dance Church creator Kate Wallich of Mike Hadreas, codirector of their first collaborative project, The Sun Still Burns Here, which debuts this fall. Hadreas is better known for his tunes than his moves; he is an electronic-piano pop musician, previously based in Seattle and now living in L.A., who records as Perfume Genius. But songs such as “My Body” reveal what Hadreas describes as an “intense relationship” with his corporeal self. 

During the world premiere of this evening-length work, Hadreas will contribute both music and movement: in the form of a soundtrack he composed, which he’ll perform live with vocals, and as a dancer, one of six in the production. The others include Wallich; Hadreas’ partner, Alan Wyffels, who also plays in Perfume Genius; and four members of Wallich’s dance collective, The YC. 

Hadreas says the piece is about “the unknown, a lost feeling, confusion.” Wallich describes themes such as “emergence, transcendence.” Both agree that the project emerged from similar modes of working and creating. Says Wallich: “There’s a meeting point where Mike writes his music from where I create my dance….It’s like artistic manifestos colliding, a push and pull in a beautiful way.” 8 p.m. Prices vary. The Moore Theatre, downtown, 1932 Second Ave.; 206.682.1414;

 PNB presents Carmina Burana. Photo by Angela Sterling


Carmina Burana and Agon
Carl Orff’s greatest hit and Igor Stravinsky’s gnarliest dance score are linked by mysterious reminiscences of Renaissance music. They’ll emanate from the pit during Pacific Northwest Ballet’s double bill, with choreography by former PNB artistic director Kent Stowell and his mentor George Balanchine (respectively). Times and prices vary. McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St.; 206.441.2424;

Men in Dance
Since 1994, this has been the city’s premier showcase for dances in all styles, made for men who want to show they can do more than lift women. This year’s invited choreographers, who work in dance genres from ballet to modern, are Daniel Ojeda, Beth Terwilleger, Elise Meiners Schwicht, Nahshon Marden and Joel Hathaway. Themes include toxic masculinity and “finding the courage to ‘make a change’ in one’s life.” Times and prices vary. Velocity Dance Center, Capitol Hill, 1621 12th Ave.; 206.325.8773;

Bryce Dessner: Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)
Growing up in Cincinnati, the teenage Dessner had a front-row seat for the 1990 obscenity trial that followed the controversial exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs at the city’s Contemporary Arts Center. Now one of America’s busiest composers, Dessner’s music anchors this production, incorporating Mapplethorpe’s sexually provocative images, Patti Smith’s poetry, music by the vocal octet Roomful of Teeth and many other collaborators. 8 p.m. Prices TBA. The Moore Theatre, downtown, 1932 Second Ave.; 206.467.5510;

Savion Glover comes to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Photo by Lois Greenfield

Savion Glover

Both a pathbreaker and a keeper of the flame, Glover is considered by many to be simply the greatest tap dancer ever. Last here in December, he returns for a solo evening of hard-hitting, dazzlingly suave rhythm. 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. $50. Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, downtown, 2033 Sixth Ave.; 206.441.9729;

Trumpeter and comedian Ahamefule J. Oluo performs in Susan. Photo by Naomi Ishisaka

Ahamefule J. Oluo: Susan
One of on the boards’ artists-in-residence this season, the Seattle composer, trumpeter and standup performer plans to put all these skills to use in his new performance piece about his family history. Times and prices vary. On the Boards, Uptown, 100 W Roy St.; 206.217.9886

The Hard Nut
Dancer and choreographer Mark Morris drew on the darkly campy vision of graphic novelist Charles Burns and added a bit of backstory to the traditional Nutcracker tale (how did the Nutcracker transform from boy to kitchen tool?)—while remaining fervently faithful to Tchaikovsky’s score—in his popular 1991 adaptation of the holiday classic. Times and prices vary. Paramount Theatre, downtown 911 Pine St.; 206.682.1414;

Cuban bandleader Chucho Valdés plays the Earshot Jazz Festival. Photo by Carol Friedman


Earshot Jazz Festival
The highlight of our jazz calendar since 1986, Earshot returns to showcase solo musicians and ensembles, from nationally acclaimed high school bands to free improvisers. Performances in venues all over Seattle and from Bremerton to Kirkland will explore practically every jazz subgenre imaginable. Times, prices and venues vary;

Tuareg desert blues band Tinariwen will perform at Benaroya Hall. Photo by Marie Planeille

Indigenous North African music blends with rock and blues in the music of this world-touring Tuareg band, for decades at the forefront of political protest against oppressive regimes in Libya and Algeria. 7:30 p.m. Prices vary. Benaroya Hall, downtown, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747;

Seattle Symphony
10/10, 10/12
Yes, there is a greatest symphony ever, and it’s Mozart’s final one, known as No. 41, with its exhilarating finale. New SSO music director Thomas Dausgaard combines it with music by Olga Neuwirth and Bach. Times and prices vary. Benaroya Hall, downtown, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747;

Pacific MusicWorks: Eternal Beloved
Although most of Isabella Leonarda’s (1620–1804) music is religious—she was a nun—it was also influenced by the power and expressivity of opera, which at the time was a new, even avant-garde, genre. Pacific MusicWorks, devoted to performing ancient vocal music in fresh and engaging ways, is presenting Leonarda’s unfairly neglected works as a drama, an allegorical tale of the love between the Soul and Jesus. Times, prices and venues vary.

Seattle Symphony
Historically, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra has done pretty well by new music—unless it was written here in Seattle. But local composer and clarinetist Angelique Poteat is a talent that can’t be ignored. At 33, Poteat already has seen her music performed by a dozen area ensembles and taken to New York City by the SSO, so SSO first-chair cellist Efe Baltacigil will premier Poteat’s cello concerto. Times and prices vary. Benaroya Hall, downtown, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747;

Riot Grrl icons Sleater-Kinney come to the Paramount. Courtesy of STG


This kick-ass progressive-leaning rock band, born in Olympia in 1994, is touring with a new drummer after founding member Janet Weiss announced her departure in July—just before the trio’s latest album, The Center Won’t Hold, came out in August. 8 p.m. Prices vary. Paramount Theatre, downtown, 911 Pine St.; 206.682.1414;

Rock goddess Patti Smith comes to Benaroya Hall with her third memoir,
Year of the Monkey. Photo by Steven Sebring

Follow Us

Festive Seattle

Festive Seattle

Enjoy a sense of wonder and discovery this holiday season

For many arts organizations, holiday shows represent more than half of ticket sales for the entire season. And, as arts audiences come and go, so can the surrounding economy. Studies show that every dollar spent by patrons in the arts creates $3 of economic impact. The arts and entertainment options in and around Seattle are

The Sound of Giving

The Sound of Giving

Three nonprofit music organizations worthy of support

In the March/April issue of this magazine, I wrote an article about the problems with Seattle’s music scene and how we can fix them. There’s a lot to be desired in Seattle’s music scene — like more regular, paying gigs for musicians at local establishments and a more reasonable volume level at venues across the…

A Taste of Europe Comes to Seattle for Christmas

A Taste of Europe Comes to Seattle for Christmas

Monthlong celebration begins the day after Thanksgiving

A scene reminiscent of old Europe will be on full display at Seattle Center this holiday season when the city’s first-ever Seattle Christmas Market opens for a monthlong celebration. Inspired by historic German Christmas markets, the Seattle Christmas Market opened Nov. 24 and runs through Christmas Eve at Fisher Pavilion and South Fountain lawn at…

Editor's Note: An Experience That Lives  Forever

Editor’s Note: An Experience That Lives Forever

The world isn't always as it seems

It was Friday night after a long week. I had just arrived home. The red light was flashing on my answering machine (remember those?). I was ready for the weekend. The call crushed me. My first love, my high school sweetheart, my partner in mischief, had passed away due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis. Gwen…