Archive for the ‘art’ Category

photos : the moore inside out

a few pictures from saturday [flickr].

On Saturday night, people stretched around the block waiting to have a look at the insides of the Moore turned inside-out curated by the Free Sheep Foundation and featuring a wide range of Seattle’s finest. The event felt a bit like wandering through a haunted mansion, with paintings, performers, installations, musicians, and participatory experiences lurking in nooks, corners, balconies, and staircases of the century-old theater.
I’m not entirely sure that FSF is at their finest on a vast canvas not slated for imminent destruction; with security guards preserving our safety and the theater’s integrity, the possibility of the art overwhelming the crumbling walls, the visitors, the lengthy architectural monologue, and the set schedule was less present. This, though, is only a minor observation easily offset by the experience of ascending from stage to balcony to applause, finding artwork interspersed everywhere (I very much hope that they leave the back stairway untouched), seeing everyone toting watermelons throughout the hallways, and hearing the brass band bring our evening to a close. Congratulations to everyone who helped to pull it off.

Urania returns, Moore turns inside out

Urania returns courtesy the Seattle School

Urania returns courtesy the Seattle School

James Moore built the Moore Theater back in 1907, giving the building a simple exterior so he could lavish attention on the ornate interior. The Moore’s lobby was built with mosiac floors, an elaborate ceiling fresco and carved wood, stained glass, marble, onyx and metal. One of the key components of the decorating theme was the carved representation of the Muses designed by architect E.W. Houghton.

If you’ve been to the Moore, you’ve seen the Muses, but did you ever notice that one of them is missing? Greek mythology says their are nine but the Moore only has eight. Urania, the Muse of Astronomy, was omitted from the theater since her area of influence has nothing to do with theater. You’d think they’d have included her for the (admittedly weak) pun of having “stars” appear on stage, but no matter: at long last, the muse is back with her sisters, at least for one night.

Urania Returns is a performance piece by the Seattle School that reunites Urania with her sisters in the Moore lobby. She will work out “elaborate equations using stars, architecture, and portraiture of attending audience members to satisfy calculations that none of us will understand, but all of us will eventually live through.” Per Seattle School, Urania’s a tricky sort of muse so her eight sisters (the muse of comedy and idyllic poetry, the muse of tragedy, the muse of written history, the muse of lyric poetry, the muse of music and dancing, the muse of erotic poetry, the muse of epic poetry and rhetoric, and the muse of sacred hymns and harmony) have been enlisted to help keep her in line.

Urania Returns happens from 6pm to 10pm on Saturday, June 20, and is part of the Free Sheep Foundation and Seattle Theater Group celebration of the Moore, Moore Inside Out. More than thirty artists and groups will be presenting installations and performances throughout the theater to celebrate and reinterpret the theater’s long history.

NW New Works Festival begins June 5

The NW New Works Festival begins this Friday, June 5 and runs through all of this weekend and the next. Tne NW New Works Festival is an annual festival of world premiere works by Northwest-based artists and ensembles.

Performances vary so much that there’s some thing to appeal to just about any taste. Works this year include an operatic solo performance that relates the story of a restaurant delivery man stuck in an elevator, a dance performance in which the two dancers demonstrate the vulnerability of sharing a home, and a video and audio presentation explores the intersections of sexuality, conflict, and attraction.

As an added bonus, showcases are reasonably priced, offering you a better and better value the more of them you attend. It’s still worth it to attend only one, too. For details and tickets, visit the On the Boards website.

Muppets 101

The Original A. Birch Steens

The Original A. Birch Steen Muppets

Back when the Muppets were huge (and they really were huge) everyone had their favorite character: the one they identified with completely and forever. For the average 70’s teenager, Henson offered the psychedelic, totally out-of-it Muppet on shrooms who wore sequins and stared at goldfish tanks all day long. And the grandpa in your family could find commiseration with the the old men in the balcony. 

There were, of course, also plenty of fantastical, bizarre puppets in the early days of the Muppets, like the puppets of Planet Koozbane who mated by running towards each other and exploding in a plumb of smoke, and the slinky-like puppets made of plastic tubing who were there to “just dance,” as the song goes. But even these puppets were meant to appeal to a select niche of the audience: the eggheads like you and me who just want to watch things to try to understand the symbolism of everything. Too much wacky, too much egghead, too much satire, and the family wouldn’t be able to watch the whole show together gathered ’round the sole television. 

Jim Henson didn’t initially get in the game of puppeteering to ‘comment on society’. He just wanted to get on the teevee. His advantage as a puppeteer was that he didn’t know the rules, and didn’t know how many of them he was breaking. He cut the fabric for Kermit from an old coat his mom used to wear and it just so happened that Kermit’s head was the ideal shape for exploring hand movements; Henson could fiddle his fingers to make Kermit look perplexed, and he could also scrunch ’em up to make Kermit’s grimace like he was sucking on sour grapes (Kermit often sucked on sour grapes as he was always ‘ever the diplomat’, picking up the mess of those around him). 

The Muppets ‘101’ lecture at EMP/SFM was a lot of fun, and not just because all of this Muppet history has been downloaded into my ‘noggin forever (Craig Shemin, staff writer for the Muppets since 1988, is a charming and memorable speaker with the familiar, guttural voice of a Muppet ). No, no, no: the reason why it was so exceptionally, incredibly fun was because the crowd was in such a Muppet luvy-duvy mood that I found myself watching old clips with a renewed interest, like I was the psychedelic Muppet staring at a goldfish tank and thinking “wow…fish”. I started thinking all these academic thoughts, trying to figure out why it was I was so drawn to Muppets and why puppets allow us to criticize culture while wearing a mask and what does parody mean and what does satire mean and what do all the puppets symbolize??? (I’ve since erased that portion of this essay due to…uhm…space constraints). But seriously: there was/ is something about that show that’s totally beguiling. 

You know what? Let’s just let the pictures do the ‘splainin. 





Angry / Happy

Angry / Happy




The Q/A portion of the show was equally entertaining. Question: “What is the official Henson stance on ‘Avenue Q’?” Answer: “We’re trying to distance ourselves from the character of Trekkie Monster, since we, well, we also produce Sesame Street. Henson doesn’t want to damage its goodwill with parents.” 

(Trekkie Monster, for those of you who despise / ignore / don’t care about musical theatre, sings a song in the Broadway musical Avenue Q about how he spends all night hugging his horn to “porn! porn! porn!” Trekkie Monster was created by the Henson company, along with the rest of the cast of Avenue Q. In fact, the creators of Avenue Q initially intended on creating a Muppet movie called “Kermit: Prince of Denmark.” Then they created Avenue Q instead. Which was probably a good call.)

Question: “How do y’all feel about Elmo hogging the spotlight?” Answer: “We’re happy for him, but we hope other puppets get their time in the spotlight, too.”

Then there were some boring technical questions I didn’t understand. Let’s skip to the last one, the one on everyone’s mind: “What’s next?” Aren’t the Muppets a dying franchise? Yes and no. They’re still getting gigs. For one, there’s an internet-only Muppet Cooking Show coming soon that will star everyone’s favorite Swedish chef and “an English speaking chef.” Also: Henson Alternative (“HA!”) is busy creating puppets for shows like Avenue Q…puppets who show their puppet boobs and talk about puppet porn. If you go to the ‘Henson Alternative’ page on the website, you can find a description of an upcoming show called “Tinseltown” about a gay puppet couple (one’s a pig, the other’s a bull). It looks bizarre and not funny.

Then there’s the contract with Disney, and Miss Piggy’s contract with places like “Anne Curry’s lap”, and, oh, yeah, Sesame Street…always and forever.  But here’s hoping the Hensons can find a way to entertain us the way the Muppets once did. Maybe it’ll involve more Muppet boobs, or songs about porn, maybe it won’t. Personally, I could watch old Youtubes of the balcony guys all day long and be perfectly content without Muppet boob. But that’s just me. 

There are 8 more Muppet-themed events at EMP/ SFM (through August 15th) and really, it sounds weird, but you should totally go. It was a lot of fun. Check out for dates and times and all that good stuff. 

I Went to Sasquatch and All I Did Was Cry and Get Heat Poisoning

A friend of mine has a few tickets to Sasquatch lying around and suggests I come. “I don’t have a tent for you, or a press pass… and you probably can’t come into our VIP camping area because they’re dicks about that, and you’re probably going to get burnt because it’s 85 degrees out here but, yeah, you should totally come!” she says to me over the phone.

I get in my car and drive out of Ballard, down I-5 and then out, East towards the mountains. The sky is a perfect blue and yet bugs are apparently attracted to the gray leather interior of my 1997 Toyota Camry. My windshield quickly becomes a graveyard.

After passing through melting Snoqualmie, and the arid brush near Cle Elum, I find myself in a long line of idling cars at the gates of the Gorge Ampitheatre. Fifteen-year-old children are charged with the task of leaning into my car and asking whether or not I want a camping pass.

“Sammy! Where in the hell is that credit card charger thingy?” one girl asks her friend. “I don’t fucking know! Jesus Christ is it hot out here,” her friend says as she gulps her Dasani “How many hours did you work today?” “I don’t know? Seven?” “You’re supposed to write down your hours, stupid!”.

Finally, someone finds the credit card chargy thing and I pay for a camping pass and park and unload my one person sarcophagus-tent. After spending about five minutes trying to insert the snapping poles into their clips, I give up, stuff the whole mess into my backseat, and set out for the ticket booth. It’s too much trouble, and I feel too self-conscious and pathetic pitching a single person’s tent in front of the people next to me, who are happily barbecuing burgers, laughing and drinking beers. 

Also, it’s hot. Really hot. Fratty boys waiting in front of me tug at their slipping cargo shorts and then, since they’re already down there, scratch their butts for good luck. Everywhere smells like melting skin and bargain sunscreen.

First act: King Kahn and the Shrines. Essentially, an East Indian man wearing a headdress, a gold cape and tighty whities belting songs with his band in the style of James Brown. People are dancing the way they do when they hear jazz but have no jazz-dancing partner. It’s more swaying than dancing.

Next: Animal Collective. Sometimes they sound like someone playing pinata with a bag of cats. Other times they sound like a lush jungle. I imagine this is also what it would sound like if I tried to fall asleep while on shrooms. The crowd around me: sunburned, half-comatose and speaking in slurs. A tribe of boys make their way up the hill, looking as desperate and thirsty as the lost boys of Sudan. 

I don’t have a cup for water, I don’t have cash, and I’m dying of thirst. There are no cups that I see, and my friend just lost her water bottle. So, I do what any self-respecting person would do: I go to the First Aid Camp. There, a woman asks for my name and I say, very quietly, “Steven” and try to look as miserable as possible. It’s not that hard.

The folks at the First Aid Camp are a quieter bunch, and much friendlier. A homely girl with bangs and glasses is commiserating with a tan, surfer looking dude who has the tattoo “I am an Ocean. My river; the consciousness,” except (blessedly) without the semi-colon. I look up at the Salene drips above me and feel guilty. But one girl’s affliction appears to be “grass burn,” so I don’t feel that guilty. 

I wander back to the amphitheatre area, where the Decemberists are playing. Lavender Diamond is being, well, Lavender Diamond. And then, all of a sudden, there are people having sex. Behind me. Up above by the fences near the top of the amphitheatre. The girl is going down on the guy, the guy is going down on the girl: they’re doing the whole shebang.

If they were gay or fat, shots would be fired. But instead: cheers. A man next to me shouts “Suck! Suck! Suck!”  like the world’s most annoying porno director. Colin Meloy is watching, too, and shoots the copulating couple a distracted smirk. A security guard approaches them, but instead of stopping them, he stares at their gyrating bodies and gives a big fist pump to the audience. The crowd roars with approval. I want to die. I think to myself “this is why I decided not to go to Arizona State.”

There are still a few acts left. I try to soak up Mos Def’s positive energy, but can’t. I eat some mashed chicken and Yakisoba and feel worse. Then, I wander down to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and finally feel some relief. Karen O is great: raw, powerful, strikingly gorgeous. I jump around a little bit and it feels amazing.

But I can’t find my friends. I can’t find my keys. Everyone’s cell phone is dead. I wander out the gates with the herds of people and down through the fences. I’m apparently in the wrong section of the parking lot. There are 20 different sections. It’s a disaster. I walk up and down the road next to the camp looking for my car.

Sasquatch has become my prison. I must leave these drunkards with their campfires and public sex and “free high fives.” Journalismism, whatever. Not now. I hate people too much. Except I’m trapped: my car is surrounded by campers and I can’t just run over them. So I cut a rope with my car key, get back into my car and turn on the high beams to scare folks away. Then I drive. And drive.

I’m probably too tired to drive, and I know it, but I keep driving. I pee at one of those scary rest stops where people in movies get raped or rape other people. I flinch when a man comes in, thinking “this is it.”

I drive to Ellensberg, where I saw a few hotels on the way to Sasquatch. I try and book a room but most of them have no vacancy. I speak like a half-dead person, with barely any inflection at all. Finally, the man working the graveyard shift at the Best Western tells me there’s room at the Super 8 across the street. In the lobby of the Super 8, there’s a lady stumbling around, drunk off her ass, telling the receptionist she wants to park her Sebring convertible in front of the hotel. The receptionist adjusts the Jesus cross around her neck and explains that it’s “a fire hazard” to park there and that she has to park in the overflow Burger King parking lot. “I ain’t parking in a burger king parking lot!” the lady says to the receptionist. “It’s a Sebring Con-ver-ta-ble!” Finally, I tell the lady that I parked in the Burger King parking lot and that I drive a Toyota Camry. “XLE!”  The lady looks at me for a moment. “Well I guess then that’s okay,” she says.

My room is a smoker’s room and smells like it’s been submerged in cigarette juice. The stench makes me want to throw up. I open the window, but there’s not enough of a breeze to compensate. I end up watching Little Miss Sunshine on Bravo, finding the depressed teenage boy character more relatable than ever. I laugh a little bit to myself and eventually fall asleep. 

The next day, I drive home and sell my tickets for Sunday and Monday on Craigslist. I no longer understand the appeal of Sasquatch. The crowds have changed, and so have I. The next time I want to listen to the ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’, I’ll just put on my headphones.


Morris dancers celebrate at SIFF

Thanks to our friends at SIFF we’ve got some lovely photos by Kathy Ann Bugajsky of Morris dancers at yesterday’s screening of Morris: A Life in Bells.

Dancers perform outside the theater:

Dancers join the less festively dressed audience as they wait for the film to start:

If you missed your chance to check out this funny fake documentary about this funny real folk dance, you can see it tonight at SIFF Cinema at 7:00.

Morris dance on, off screen this weekend

morris-dance-seattleIf you’ve seen the trailer for Morris: A Live with Bells On, the “mockumentary” that opens this weekend at SIFF, you might have assumed that the existence of Morris dancing is itself part of the joke.

You would have assumed wrong, but don’t feel too bad – while there are plenty of Morris dancers all over the world, even here in Seattle (note this photo by Ashley Fisher of some Morris dancers at Gasworks Park for evidence)–this traditional English folk dance isn’t exactly a household name kind of dance.

Over a hundred dancers who come from British Columbia to Arizona and all points in between are hoping to do something about that, celebrating both the North American debut of the film and the Northwest Folklife Festival with appearances this weekend at the Seattle Center. Morris dancers will parade the Center grounds and perform outside of SIFF Cinema before the 11 am screening of A Life in Bells on Saturday, May 23.

Morris is a style of dance which includes rhythmic stepping and choreographed routines by ribbon and bell festooned dancers who use accessories including sticks, swords, and, of course, handkerchiefs, to carry out their performances. Be sure to stop by SIFF Cinema or the Northwest Folklife Festival this weekend to see it for yourself.

Two Perspectives on Seattle Children’s Theatre’s "I Was A Rat!"

Photo By Chris Bennion

Photo By Chris Bennion

Last Friday Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT) wrapped up its 2008-09 mainstage season with their 101st world premiere, I Was a Rat!, based on the popular re-worked fairy tale and children’s book by Golden Compass author Philip Pullman.

The story opens with a young pageboy taken in by a childless couple, the aging cobbler Bob and his wife Joan. They give him the name of Roger, as the pageboy says he was formerly a rat and without a name, a tale quirky enough to attract the attention of the Daily Scourge newspaper, a sideshow owner named Professor Tapscrew, and a young ruffian named Billy. The search for Roger’s true home is also accompanied by the story of the newly-married Princess Aurelia, whom Roger claims to have a past with.

My family came along to see the show, with my two children especially excited to watch their first play ever.  Besides, I knew that as much as I hoped to offer people an objective opinion of the performances, what is ultimately important to the success of I Was a Rat! is a show that would be both entertaining and engaging for the little ones.  Although making it a good time for the parents certainly doesn’t hurt their chances either.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to let my children, Evan (6) and Kenzie (5) take the forefront of this review.  Their overall impression of the play was quite obvious as we left the theatre; smiles played across their faces, both extremely happy to have met the cast and get some autographs, especially those of Roger and Aurelia.  I did manage, however, to wrap up the evening by asking them a few pointed questions on the way home. (more…)

Friday Art Show at Schmancy Featuring Cakespy!

Schmancy Cakespy Show

Schmancy Cakespy Show

The combination of toys, cupcakes, and Katherine Hepburn’s voice is one that I just can’t resist! This Friday, Schmancy is hosting Cakespy‘s newest art exhibit from 6pm-9pm at the downtown store. Cakespy is a fantastic source for all things sweet and wonderful in the greater Seattle area, and one of my favorite sites to browse when I have a dessert craving. Check it out!

Trophy Cakespy show

Trophy Cakespy show

Cakespy is also featured at Trophy Cupcake, show starts tonight from 6-8pm and the art will be up until May 31.

Trophy Cakespy show

Trophy Cakespy show

Public art workshops

photo by Faeryboots via Creative Commons

The City of Seattle has a lot of public art. Paintings, murals, fountains, and sculptures blanket the city in locations both obvious (large downtown buildings, public plazas, parks) and not so much: underpasses, residential areas. How does it all get there? Well, it usually starts with the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs sending out a call for artists. Their Artists’ Call Board offers up some fascinating opportunities, both local and national, that range from a Soho (NYC) gallery seeking video pieces about female boxers to the Bainbridge Island Public Art Committee seeking a local artist/artist team to create permanent outdoor art for the Winslow Way Street Improvement Project.

The gallery sort of work is easy enough to figure out–you can take classes in video filmmaking, you can teach yourself to paint with a series of workbooks, and then you can simply read the call to see how they want the works submitted–but creating permanent outdoor work for a local government requires a bit more in the way of preparation. What’s an aspiring public artist without a ton of political connections to do?

The OACA wants to help: they’re offering a series of workshops aimed at teaching artists how to successfully compete for public art projects. The first is Monday, May 18 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at City Hall. The workshop is totally free but advance registration is required; go to their site for sign up details.

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