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Art and theater reviews covering Seattle to Olympia, Washington, with other art, literature and personal commentary. If you want to ask a question about any of the shows reviewed here please email the producing venue (theater or gallery) or email me at If you post questions in the comment section the answer might get lost.
Updated: 45 weeks 2 days ago

The Waltz of the Toreadors at Dukesbay Theater

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 10:55am

Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 6, 2017Aya Hashiguchi as Madame Pé and Eric Ray Anderson as General Léon Saint-Pé, photo by Jason Ganwich of Ganwich MediaRandy Clark, co-founder of Dukesbay Theater and director of the French farce The Waltz of the Toreadors, said he saw this play years ago at The Seattle Repertory Theatre and loved it, and that he has never seen it performed anywhere since. He said he does not understand why it is not being produced by other companies.I agree. It is side-splittingly funny, and it is intelligent and well written. The show is set in 1910 somewhere in France. Retired General Léon Saint-Pé (Eric Ray Anderson) no longer loves his invalid wife (Aya Hashiguchi), whom he suspects of being a hypochondriac. In fact, he seethes with hatred of her. For 17 years, he has been madly in love with another woman, Ghislaine (Kathryn Grace Philbrook), with whom he danced only once. She is equally in love with him. Over those many years, Léon remained true to his wife (except for some moments he managed to spend off in his garden with the household help, perhaps). Ghislaine has remained a virgin. When Ghislaine unexpectedly shows up at Léon’s home, pandemonium ensues. And she joyfully loses her virginity ― to say how and with whom would be a spoiler of the worst kind. Other scenes that would constitute spoilers, were I to tell about them, include many hilariously inept attempts at suicide by multiple characters.The Waltz of the Toreadors is a turn-of-the (last)-century sex farce that is as funny today as it was when it was first performed 66 years ago. Although a contemporary version could benefit from a little trimming. The set designed by Blake York with scenic painting by Jennifer York is gorgeous. I love the almost exclusively black and white furnishings and backdrops and white fleur-de-lis pattern on the black floor.Beyond the terrific script, what makes this comedy shine is the acting of the two major characters, Anderson and Philbrook. Anderson portrays the general as so overly excitable that I feared he would have a stroke, and Philbrook is appropriately ditsy and absurd, not to mention libidinous underneath an oh-so-proper facade.Anderson is the only equity actor in the play, and his resume is golden. He has appeared in such popular television shows as “Northern Exposure,” “Grimm” and “Twin Peaks,” and on stages throughout Western Washington — including (I’m quoting from his program bio) every stage in Seattle. This vast experience is clear in his depiction of General Léon Saint-Pé.With subtlety and grace, Joseph Grant creates in Dr. Bonfant a character who is wise and witty, and who secretly thinks everyone else is an idiot. Hashiguchi, co-founder of Dukesbay, spends most of the play either in bed or shouting at her husband from off-stage. She plays Madame Saint-Pé as nasty and manipulative (no wonder her husband wants to kill her).The physical affectations of the secretary, Gaston (Tim Takechi), seemed in the early scenes to be a bit wooden, but as the play moved through time his demeanor made more sense and Takechi’s character became more vibrant. Other actors in the show are Jeffery Weaver as Father Ambrose, Maria Valenzuela as Madame Dupont-Fredaine, and Jackie Villava-Cua and Audrey Montague as a pair of sisters who are models of shy decorum until they become screeching shrews. There is reality and even sadness beneath the hilarity of this French farce which, as Clark said, should be produced much more often. I am glad Dukesbay Theater is doing it.
The Waltz of the Toreadors, 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, through April 9, $10-$15, Dukesbay Theater in the Merlino Arts Center, 508 S. Sixth Ave. #10, Tacoma, WA 98402,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Behind the Pines

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 10:49am
Photo: Video still and drawing in ink on newsprint by Isabelle Gresser, courtesy Kittredge Gallery

Isabelle Gresser installations, drawings and videos at UPSPublished in the Weekly Volcano, April 6, 2017Video still and drawing in ink on newsprint by Isabelle Gresser, courtesy Kittredge Gallery

All the way from Berlin, Germany, comes multi-dimensional artist Isabelle Gresser with a multi-media installation on the theme of pine trees, humanity, and international cultures. There are multiple videos with found footage and brilliant editing, drawings, photographs, and one wall featuring student work from a project called Nocturn Encounters: Utopian Affirmation, wherein the students came together for a few hours to exchange ideas and make drawings and print poems and other works on paper and attach them to the gallery wall.Gresser’s video work is inspirational and filled with a density of ideas expressed through a variety of video techniques combined with music and literature, including quotes from many famous poets and novelists. Her videos are stunningly beautiful.The drawings, both Gresser’s and those by the students, are mostly sketchy and often crudely executed. The best are from a group of small drawings in glass cases along with photographs, and passages from poems and other literary works.There are five large video works, some projected on large screens and some shown on monitors, all with head phones for listening to accompanying music and poetry. All place modern life, mostly urban, in natural scenes to present complex looks into various cultures and mankind’s relation to both natural and built worlds.“Nietzsche at Nice” is a surrealistic video that pictures a large video screen (a video within a video) set up on what appears to a boardwalk overlooking the beach at the French town of Nice. On the beach are two sunbathers, one male and one female. A Jeep drives by where sand meets ocean, and an airline flies overhead. A huge cruise ship slowly traverses the scene. Two spacemen appear on the beach next to the sunbathing man. It is a moment wherein reality and unreality meet — the essence of surrealism.“Iris 2.0” is a smaller video with a Renaissance-style portrait of a woman whose face continuously deconstructs and morphs into various abstract patterns as it is overlaid with concentric circles, geometric patterns, prisms, and a more modernistic collage-like rendering of the mouth of an archetypical model with a toothy smile superimposed over the Renaissance woman’s mouth. The model’s mouth, which is beautiful by most modern standards, becomes horrifying in this image.“Smart Seoul Poem” is a video of a street scene in Korea. On the street, there is a wall with a mural painted on it. The mural is of trees, and in front of the wall are actual trees which look so much like the painted trees that the only way to tell the difference is to notice how trunks of the painted trees are cut off sharply at the top edge of the wall. Behind the wall is a building under construction. Pedestrians walk past, and some of them fade into shadowy ghost figures. You can see through them. It is a poem in motion.The other videos are equally intriguing, with multiple meanings and many beautiful and startling special effects.Showing in the smaller back gallery is Painting the National Parks: Preserving A.W. Hill's Experience, an exhibition of landscape paintings from the Pacific Northwest in the 1920s and 30s by Abby Williams Hills, a popular artist at the time who lived and worked in Tacoma.
Behind the Pines: Isabelle Gresser, Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through April, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701. 
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

The Funeral of Sir Francis Rottenfoot Sr.

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 10:44am
This looks like a helluva lot of fun.

The Funeral of Sir Francis Rottenfoot Sr. is an experimental spoken-word piece written and performed by Rachel Lionheart. Lionheart is a writer and spoken word artist.

"I have been developing The Funeral of Sir Francis Rottenfoot, Sr. over an 11-year period, through many phases and relationships in my life and after my brother died of psychedelic mushrooms. in 2001," Lionheart says. "I did not have words for his loss, but I did have an extremely heightened imagination and training from NYU in physical-based theater. Each performance of Sir Francis is a dedication and commitment to listening to the distinct, and at certain points of grief, unrecognizable inner-voice that makes sense out of the nonsense of life and death. This current evolution is dedicate to my Aunt Ruth and her daughters and grandchildren."

Rachel LionheartSaturday April 8th at 7 p.m, $10 suggested donation

Tacoma Community Arts Center located at:
1102 MLK Jr. Way
Tacoma, WA 98405

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Documenting Cambodians then and now

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 8:30am

Scars and Stripes at the Spaceworks GalleryPublished in the Weekly Volcano, March 30, 2017Installation shot showing one wall of the Scars and Stripes exhibition, photo courtesy Spaceworks Tacoma.
Little is known about the United States’ involvement in Cambodia during the Vietnam War or about the aftermath — the refugees, the deportees, the Americans in exile. The exhibition Scars and Stripes at Spaceworks Gallery examines all of that through photographs, paintings, video and performance art (readers may recall the preview article in the Mach 9 Weekly Volcano). Seldom have I seen so much information presented in so many inventive ways in so little space. This exhibition, curated by Silong Chhun, founder of Red Scarf Revolution, features photos and text from Khmer American: Naga Sheds Its Skin, an exhibition created by the Khmer American community and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, and artworks by Raisa Nosova that explore the impact of war, genocide, resettlement, and deportation of Cambodian Americans then and now. Museum-like, the exhibition is arranged in five timeline sections: Peace, War X Genocide, Refugee Camps, Resettlement, and Deportation.In the “Peace” section we see both written and photographic histories of Cambodia before the war, and a wonderfully delicate papercut picture by Lauren Iida of a shoe vendor. She is on her knees, and shoes are laid out on the ground in front of her. Everything is in tones of white and gray.In the “War X Genocide” area we see two artworks. One is “The Khmer Rouge,” a two-art painting in embroidery, paint, fabric and thread is on canvas by Anida You Ali, which presents delicate images of barbed wire. A companion piece is “Behind the Fence,” an oil painting by Raisa Nosova of a woman behind a barbed wire fence in bold strokes of blue, ochre and pink on a black background. The woman is as see-through as the fence, as if she has become the fence or the fence is now her. The “Refugee Camps” section has photos of overcrowding among Cambodian children and families in Camp Pendleton in San Diego and of refugees in the Philippine refugee camp in Bataan.The “Resettlement” section asks the question, “What would you do if you were plucked down in the middle of a strange land with strange people and no knowledge of the language or customs or how to survive?” Evidence of answers to that question is given in the form of eye-opening photographs and newspaper clippings.The final section, “Deportation,” examines through art and video the plight of Cambodians who escaped to the United States when they were young children and who as teenagers were deported back to Cambodia, a land foreign to them, usually because of misdemeanors. In this section, we see Stuart Isett’s photo series “The Lost Boyz of Cambodia” and the video “Studio Revolt,” a series of three short films, two with Cambodian teens who consider themselves Exiled Americans talking about their lives, and a third a hard-hitting spoken poem. Also in this section are another painting by Nosova and another papercut piece by Iida. This show documents a set of histories many of us may not recognize.  It’s time we did.Scars and Stripes, 1-5 p.m., Monday-Friday and 1-9 p.m. Third Thursday, through April 20, Spaceworks Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave., Tacoma.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Local Author Spotlight: Sam Snoek-Brown and Alec Clayton

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:12pm

This is what we’re going to might do

Sam is going to read something he has written, possibly from his novel, Hagridden and possibly from one of his chapbooks. I heard him read at Creative Colloquy and was impressed. I read Hagridden and one of his short stories and was even more impressed. That’s all I can say about Sam for now.As for me, I’m going to do something different and read from my latest novel. Isn’t that what writers usually do, you might ask. Well yeah, but not me. I usually adapt a scene as if for the stage and get actors to read it. But this time I’m going to read from Tupelomyself, because Tupelo is my most autobiographical novel. It is the story of Kevin Lumpkin, the youngest by six minutes of a set of twins in Tupelo, Mississippi, told in the first person. From birth to about the age of twelve, Kevin is me. It is my story. But after that it is all a lie.
I plan on reading two scenes that take place during the transition period from autobiographical fiction to totally made up story, when the boys and girls in Tupelo are entering puberty and beginning to notice each other.

This book event takes place at the Lacey Library, 500 College St. SE, Lacey, WA, April 20, 5:30-7 p.m. I hope you can attend. We will have books to sign (and sell, of course), and there will be a question-and-answer period after the readings. 
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Susan Christian's Sticks - again

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 9:24am
Once again Susan Christian is showing her painted stick constructions at her own gallery, Salon Refu. The paintings are assemblages of various kinds of sticks, mostly lathe, which she puts together in rectangular shapes and paints as if they were stretched canvases. 

Read my review on

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Syra Beth Puett, a life in theater

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 11:15am
L-R: Boolie (Robert Geller), Daisy (Syra Beth Puett) and Hoke (Malcolm J. West), photo by Jason Ganwich
The Lakewood Playhouse is proud to present the World Premier of Syra Beth Puett’s One Woman Show about her life both inside, and outside, of theatre – “MY HUSBAND LIKED BEVERLY BETTER.”  This Special Premier Presentation is also serving as a Fundraiser for Scholarships at our Lakewood Institute of Theatre.  Tickets for this Special Event, and Fundraiser, are Only $10.00 Each.
This beautiful story will be performed on Friday & Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm.  Performances will be March 17th through March 19th ONLY.   All Tickets are Only $10.00 Each.
Syra Beth Puett in The Lion in Winter, with Kat Christensen. Photo by Dean Lapin.
Syra Beth Puett in On Golden Pond with Clark Maffit. Photo by Dean Lapin.ABOUT THE SHOW: ​
Please Join Us for an evening, or an afternoon, for a special one woman show featuring stories and insights from Syra Beth Puett about her life both inside, and outside, of the theatre.
Although the show chronicles her experiences in Community Theater, it also reveals reasons she became involved in theater. She will introduce people and situations that informed the performer that she became.
Through these insights, you may just discover that she is not the actor, or person, that you thought she was.
This Special Presentation will also feature the return of Director Doug Kerr.  Mr. Kerr has an amazing history with theatre in the South Sound as a Educator, Managing Artistic Director, Mentor and Director for over forty years serving such organizations as Pierce College, Tacoma Actor’s Guild, Tacoma Little Theatre and the Lakewood Playhouse.

ABOUT OUR THEATRE: The Lakewood Playhouse was founded in 1938 and has established itself with theatre that is both intimate and epic.  The theatre is located within the Lakewood Towne Center, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, Washington 98499.  For further information about “Syra Beth Puett’s MY HUSBAND LIKE BEVERLY BETTER” please contact the Box Office at the Lakewood Playhouse (253) 588-0042 or make any e-mail queries to John Munn, Managing Artistic Director, at
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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Sun, 02/26/2017 - 8:03am

Lacey Reuter’s “Harlem Renaissance” paintingsPublished in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 23, 2017Harlem Renaissance,” oil on canvas by Lacey Reuter, courtesy American Art CompanyTacoma artist Lacey Reuter was only 17 years old when she created the “Harlem Renaissance” paintings now on display at American Art Company, says gallery director Tammy Radford. It’s an impressive body of work for anybody, especially a 17-year-old. There are five large paintings, each measuring 5-foot, 5-inches by 5-foot, and one mural-size painting at 6-by-11 feet that dominates one wall of the gallery.On the downside, as representative of the Harlem Renaissance, a major force in America’s cultural history, they are little more than a kind of scrapbook with pictures of a lot of the famous artists and writers and musicians who lived and worked in Harlem at the time, and the faces are not even recognizable but are identified by name, which seems childish to this reviewer. On the upside, these are vibrant, energetic and engaging paintings. Reuter’s drawing style is unhesitating. She combines flat areas and modeled areas and line in ways that provide an intriguing balance of variety and unity. They are colorful and exciting, a visual representation of the jazz music that was the music of the time and place — much like what Mondrian did in a more subdued and abstract manner with his “Broadway Boogie Woogie.”Compositionally they dance right up to the edge of chaos. Faces and objects easily get lost in the clutter. The only unifying elements are the color schemes (a predominance of blues in the smaller works and of tan in the large painting), meandering lines that move throughout in most of the paintings, and in the smaller works a circular arrangement of faces and other images. The Harlem Renaissance was an explosion of music, literature and visual art centered in Harlem, New York City, in the years between the world wars. Each of Reuter’s paintings celebrates one aspect of the Renaissance: art, music, writing, and theater; and the large, mural-sized painting combines them all.The “Harlem Art” depicts artists Sargent Johnson, Palmer Hayden, William H. Johnson and others with their names handwritten by their pictures and quotes from some of them such as from Hayden: “I decided to paint to support my love of art rather than have my art support me.”“Harlem Music” celebrates Fletcher Henderson, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and others; “Harlem Theater” pictures Ethel Waters, Bojangles Robinson and Eubie Blake; “Harlem Writers” memorializes Booker T. Washington, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston. It also pictures book spines with titles and quotes from works by some of the writers.The largest painting and by far the most impressive combines all the elements of the others. Dark brown and black figures flow across the bottom half of the canvas in a circular swoop while lighter, multi-colored concentric circles in the background solidify what would otherwise be chaos. The thin paint application and many transparencies are enjoyable to contemplate because of their subtlety and complexity, as are a series of almost invisible light tan faces that meld into the background. This is a sophisticated painting. Finding all the figures and words can be entertaining, but it is the exuberance of these paintings that make them worth seeing.Harlem Renaissance, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Feb. 28, American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Doubt at Lakewood Playhouse

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 9:42am

Kait Mahoney as Sister James and Blake R. York as Father Flynn, photo by Tim Johnson.Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 23, 2017John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, A Parablehas earned the rare honor of taking home the trifecta of awards: the Tony, the Academy Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Chances are you’ve seen the film starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, but if you have not seen it live on stage — or even if you have — you should see Lakewood Playhouse’s stirring production.For starters, Shanley’s script is as tightly written and as full of intelligent insights and surprises as anything you’re likely to see on stage, and Erin Manza Chanfrau’s set design is outstanding. It is comfortable and attractive with three scenes set at an angle to make for easy viewing from any seat in the house, where there is seating on three sides. No set changes are required, so there is no distraction and no waiting between scenes. There is the high alter in a Catholic church, the principal’s office in the school next door to the church, and the garden bench between the two. On the back wall are painted stained glass windows. The height of the altar lends majesty when Father Brendan Flynn (Blake R. York) ascends it to preach, which is how the play opens.With quiet dignity, the priest ascends the altar and preaches a homily about doubt, saying it is all right to not know, that everyone must wrestle with doubt. Thus, he announces the theme that asserts itself throughout the play.The school principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Connie Murray), suspects Father Flynn of inappropriate behavior with a student who is talked about but who never appears in the play. He is the first and only black student in the newly integrated school. She questions Sister James (Kait Mahoney), a young and innocent teacher, about the relationship between the priest and the boy. Sister James believes in Father Flynn. The boy’s mother (Diane Johnson in a single but powerful and surprising scene) comes to school at the invitation of Sister Aloysius, who is now more convinced than ever that Father Flynn is carrying on relations with the boy. Anything more said about the confrontation between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Muller would be a spoiler.Finally, Sister Aloysius confronts Father Flynn, which he, of course, denies.York underplays the role of Father Flynn. He portrays him in a manner that invites the audience to like and trust him — as gentle, kind and self-assured, but with a tightly controlled underlying tension. From the beginning one wants to believe in him.Murray plays Sister Aloysius as cold and calculating, and so convinced she is right about her suspicions that it makes the audience suspect she is out to get Father Flynn, regardless of where or not he is guilty.The doubt stated in the title and in the priest’s opening sermon turns out to be about the moral character of each of the people in the story. Is there is a power struggle going on between the priest and the principal? Is his loving demeanor a mask?  No clear answers are given; the audience is left to puzzle it out for themselves, as the central mystery is not only Father Flynn’s guilt or innocence, but the motives and morality of each character in the play, not just Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius, but to a lesser degree Sister James and Mrs. Muller.Each of the four actors does an outstanding job of realistically portraying the unique personalities of these four divergent characters.Doubt was originally written to be performed not as a one-act but as a full-length play. It is my understanding that it is often broken into two acts, but Lakewood Playhouse’s managing artistic director John Munn said he and director Victoria Webb decided to run it as originally written, for which I applaud them. Breaking up the action for an intermission would have been damaging to the dramatic thrust. I was thoroughly engaged from the moment York walked on stage and ascended the alter, and I think an intermission would have taken the audience out of the action and lessened the dramatic impact. The play runs about an hour and a half. It is intense, emotionally demanding, and intellectually challenging. There is nothing light and playful about Doubt. It is heavy drama of the most intense sort, and beautifully produced.Doubt, 8 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 12, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $15, 253.588.0042,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Me and Pat Conroy

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 5:53pm

I never read anything by Pat Conroy until a reviewer compared one of my books to his. Linda Linguvic, an reviewer from New York City wrote in her review of The Backside of Nowhere:  Frankly, I loved this book and actually found it better than Pat Conroy's latest, South of Broad because the characters seemed more real and not just stereotypes. Alec Clayton hit the mark perfectly, held my interest throughout and even surprised me at the end. Bravo!”
After reading that, I naturally I had to see what Conroy was all about. I’ve since read Prince of Tides, Beach Music and South of Broad, and I see the similarities. Same kind of quirky humor, same love-hate of the South. And we both go into detail about the family histories of our characters. Now I fear readers will think I’m copying him.
Ned Hayes, author of the best-selling The Eagle Tree, wrote in his review of my latest: “Tupelo is a haunting and personal tale, reminiscent of the best of Pat Conroy.”
I hesitate to say anymore because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but as a self-published author with no money for promotion, I have to brag when I can. Here’s the thing I am exceedingly proud of: I think my “Freedom Trilogy” and Tupelo are in many ways better than anything Conroy has written, mainly because he over writes, and because his narrators are always too easily identifiable as Conroy himself and he/his narrators come across as both prideful and humble, but the pride is overarching and off-putting.

I hope you will read his books and mine and compare them for yourself. You might think I’m right, but maybe not.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment