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TBA:09 in Review – locust crushed

September 8, 2009 Comments off
TAfter the massively disappointing Meg Stuart show, I had a pretty large unfulfilled craving for good modern dance. That craving was more than met with locust, whose energetically explosive performance ‘crushed’ swept me up and left me waiting more.  Locust mixes many styles and mediums to bring together a collection of non-narrative dance segments that connect through patterns of movement and theme.  Accompanied by a beat boxer, music (both live and recorded) and video, locust blends classical and modern moves with explosive energy.
What struck me the most about locus and their piece ‘crushed’ was just how talented all the dancers in the company are. The dancers seamlessly transition between pirouettes and Michael Jackson crotch grab and then back to full balletic spins. This talent is combined with great group chemistry which results in ensemble dance numbers that are in equal balance to the individual ones. Video, when used wrong, can be quite a distraction from a modern dance piece, but locust has a strong sense of its place and the opportunity it can provide.  My favorite use of video came mid way through the piece with a static shot down a long dim hall. The dancers use this video to create an environment on stage and then build on it. Shadowy video dancers mimic the movements on stage, sometimes in time, sometimes out of time, creating a fantastic bending of time and expectations. The piece toys with the concept of live and recorded with so much explosively live energy it stands as an exclamation point on any sentence exalting live performance.
I enjoyed locust’s crushed so much I’d not only recommend it, I’d definitely consider seeing it again.
locust crused at TBA:09

locust crused at TBA:09

After the massively disappointing Meg Stuart show, I had a pretty large unfulfilled craving for good modern dance. That craving was more than met with locust, whose energetically explosive performance ‘crushed’ swept me up and left me wanting more.  Locust mixes many styles and mediums to bring together a collection of non-narrative dance segments that connect through patterns of movement and theme.  Accompanied by a beat boxer, music (both live and recorded) and video, locust blends classical and modern moves with explosive energy.

What struck me the most about locust and their piece ‘crushed’ was just how talented all the dancers in the company are. The dancers seamlessly transition between pirouettes and Michael Jackson crotch grabs, and then back to full balletic spins. This talent is combined with great group chemistry which results in ensemble dance numbers that are in equal balance to the individual ones. Video, when used wrong, can be quite a distraction from a modern dance piece, but locust has a strong sense of its place and the opportunity it can provide.  My favorite use of video came midway through the piece with a static shot down a long dim hall. The dancers use this video to create an environment on stage and then build on it. Shadowy video dancers mimic the movements on stage, sometimes in time, sometimes out of time, creating a fantastic bending of time and expectations. The piece toys with the concept of live and recorded with so much explosively live energy it stands as an exclamation point on any sentence, exalting live performance.

I enjoyed locust’s ‘crushed’ so much I’d not only recommend it, I’d definitely consider seeing it again.

For more info on locust ‘crushed’:

Categories: Events Tags: ,

TBA:09 in Review – Young Jean Lee's Theater Company's The Shipment & Meg Stuart's Maybe Forever

September 5, 2009 1 comment
Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company – The Shipment
You know you’re not colorblind, right? Young Jean Lee continuously reminds you of this fact as her piece “The Shipment” pushes and pulls at racial identity, stereotypes, perception and memes. The Shipment, divided into five parts, is smart, funny, and painfully insightful. It opens with actor/dancers Mikeah Ernest Jennings and Prentice Onayemi who dance and spring around the stage in ecstatic and playful fashion. It’s disarmingly joyful and extremely likable. It’s a perfect prologue and an extremely skillful misdirection that puts the viewer into a space where they won’t know exactly what to expect from piece.
The short opening dance is followed by Douglas Scott Streater, who comes on stage and does a caricature of a stand-up comedian. Think “Night at the Apollo” or Chris Rock and you capture the essence of Streater’s piece.  “You think I want to be here talking about race? I want to be talking about poop!” exclaims Streater. It’s an important moment addressing the core issue of exactly where the issue of race lives. It poses the questions ‘must a black comedian joke about race because he’s black?’ or maybe even the underlining question ‘can someone who isn’t black create a show dealing with seemingly black specific issues?’ Douglas Scott Streater is electrifying in this part of The Shipment, extremely likeable and extremely funny. He makes it easy to completely lose the sense that you’re watching an experimental theater piece and actually believe that you’re at a stand up show.
Streater’s stand up routine is followed by an odd robotic and cartoonish lampoon of racial stereotypes. It’s done with a minimalist set, in a quasi improv style. The price reminded me of seeing a long form improv piece at the Improv Olympics in Chicago or perhaps seeing an segment of South Park written and directed by Young Jean Lee. While this wasn’t my favorite part of the show, it was oddly amusing in its outlandish style and rhythm and the actors are so likeable in ‘The Shipment’ that it’s a joy to follow along whatever they do.
No sooner do you feel like you’ve got a grip on ‘The Shipment’ than Young Jean Lee pries your fingers away and shows you that you don’t. The cartoonish farce is followed by an extremely naked and beautiful song. Three of the actors stand at the edge of the stage, with the house lights raised, piercingly staring at each and every member of the audience as they sing in harmony. During this part of the show Young Jean Lee forces you out of your role of observer of this work, you can’t just comfortably sit in the dark laughing and clapping, saying “they’re not talking about me.”  The song is hauntingly beautiful and having the piercing gaze of an actor meet your eyes is a unique theatrical experience that is wonderful, amazing and terrifying all at once.
The final piece of ‘The Shipment’ is a seemingly conventional one act play that takes place at a cocktail party in an upscale apartment. As with the other pieces of the show, the ensemble cast works extremely well together here. It’s expertly performed and very entertaining. There are a number of twists and turns in the final piece of the evening which are best left unspoiled, but as with the rest of the work, expect to have your perceptions turned on its head.
Young Jean Lee’s ‘The Shipment’ is an example of how successful a piece of experimental theater can be. In many ways it’s extraordinarily confrontational, dealing with deep issue of racism and racial identity, but it’s done so well, with such a charismatic and likeable cast that it doesn’t turn the audience off or push them away. It’s easy to shock an audience and push at their comfort zone, it’s a lot more difficult to make them laugh and carry them along while you push at their comfort zone. Young Jean Lee and her company of actors accomplish this is an amazing way, with a night of theater that should not be missed.
Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods & Philipp Gehmacher/Mumbling Fish
Maybe Forever
I knew I was in trouble when PICA’s guest artistic director Cathy Edwards introduced Meg Stuart’s piece as “wonderfully atmospheric”. To me that’s often code for a piece which has a lot of style and very little substance. Unfortunately, Meg Stuart’s ‘Maybe Forever” lacked in both style and substance. Opening on an extremely dimly lit stage (I could barely make out anything I was seeing), two figures gyrate, roll around and move on the floor. They’re accompanied by looped audio with sounds of a dock or bay. Yes, it’s ‘atmospheric’, but atmospheric of what?  The stage is so dimly lit you can barely see a thing.
Once the lights do finally go up you see the two performers echo some of the movements barely visible before. I wouldn’t call the movement in Maybe Forever dance. The gyrations and frequent arm moves of the piece have little flow, no finesse and very little sense of connection with anything outside the insular world that’s created on stage. These gyrations are occasionally interrupted by singer-songwriter Niko Hafkensch whose songs aren’t bad but they all seem to blend into one never ending waltz. His songs begin as enjoyable but they become almost unbearable as the sounds and themes circle back around and around.
At one point Meg Stuart performs some quasi spoken word accompanied by angular gyrations. It comes off as pretentious and self indulgent an aspect which echoes throughout the entire piece. Sure, I get that Stuart is paying out aspects of her relationships, there are themes of ecstasy, love, hate, death, rape and longing. But the piece seems to have almost no regard for the audience. There’s no connecting points, nothing to really grasp on to and certainly nothing to enjoy.  It’s theater as therapy for the artist and there’s no pleasure in being a voyeur to it.
Maybe Forever goes on for a full hour and a half, repeating movements and themes over and over and over again only to loop back around to them and revisit them again. I have no problem with a piece obsessed with its theme. Last year at TBA Lessar and Company did a phenomenal dance piece on the theme of relationships. It’s was beautiful, moving and challenging. This piece never breaks out of its own insular world, never gives the viewer a connecting point or anything more than the same shard of broken dreams on loop. I was a lone boo, in a trickle of polite applause. There were turned heads, rude comments and shock over this audible communication of displeasure with the puce. To me, polite applause would have been as disingenuous as the piece itself. (Read – Why Not Boo? by Terry Teachout from the Wall Street Journal who puts this issue into perspective better than I ever could.)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123758739465399861.html
Young Jean Lee Theater Company The Shipment at TBA:09

Young Jean Lee Theater Company The Shipment at TBA:09

Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company – The Shipment

You know you’re not colorblind, right? Young Jean Lee continuously reminds you of this fact as her piece “The Shipment” pushes and pulls at racial identity, stereotypes, perception and memes. The Shipment, divided into five parts, is smart, funny, and painfully insightful. It opens with actor/dancers Mikeah Ernest Jennings and Prentice Onayemi who dance and spring around the stage in ecstatic and playful fashion. It’s disarmingly joyful and extremely likable. It’s a perfect prologue and an extremely skillful misdirection that puts the viewer into a space where they won’t know exactly what to expect from piece.

The short opening dance is followed by Douglas Scott Streater, who comes on stage and does a caricature of a stand-up comedian. Think “Night at the Apollo” or Chris Rock and you capture the essence of Streater’s piece.  “You think I want to be here talking about race? I want to be talking about poop!” exclaims Streater. It’s an important moment addressing the core issue of exactly where the issue of race lives. It poses the question ‘must a black comedian joke about race because he’s black?’ or maybe even the underlining question ‘can someone who isn’t black create a show dealing with seemingly black specific issues?’ Douglas Scott Streater is electrifying in this part of The Shipment, extremely likable and extremely funny. He makes it easy to completely lose the sense that you’re watching an experimental theater piece and actually believe that you’re at a stand-up show.

Streater’s stand-up routine is followed by an odd robotic and cartoonish lampoon of racial stereotypes. It’s done with a minimalist set, in a quasi improv style. The piece reminded me of seeing long form improv at the Improv Olympics in Chicago or perhaps seeing a segment of South Park written and directed by Young Jean Lee. While this wasn’t my favorite part of the show, it was oddly amusing in its outlandish style and rhythm and the actors are so likable in ‘The Shipment’ that it’s a joy to follow along whatever they do.

No sooner do you feel like you’ve got a grip on ‘The Shipment’ than Young Jean Lee pries your fingers away and shows you that you don’t. The cartoonish farce is followed by an extremely naked and beautiful song (Modest Mouse’s Dark Center of the Univese). Three of the actors stand at the edge of the stage, with the house lights raised, piercingly staring at each and every member of the audience as they sing in harmony. During this part of the show Young Jean Lee forces you out of your role of observer of this work, you can’t just comfortably sit in the dark laughing and clapping, saying “they’re not talking about me.”  The song is hauntingly beautiful and having the piercing gaze of an actor meet your eyes is a unique theatrical experience that is wonderful, amazing and terrifying all at once.

The final piece of ‘The Shipment’ is a seemingly conventional one act play that takes place at a cocktail party in an upscale apartment. As with the other pieces of the show, the ensemble cast works extremely well together here. It’s expertly performed and very entertaining. There are a number of twists and turns in the final piece of the evening which are best left unspoiled, but as with the rest of the work, expect to have your perception turned on its head.

Young Jean Lee’s ‘The Shipment’ is an example of how successful a piece of experimental theater can be. In many ways it’s extraordinarily confrontational, dealing with deep issue of racism and racial identity, but it’s done so well, with such a charismatic and likable cast that it doesn’t turn the audience off or push them away. It’s easy to shock an audience and push at their comfort zone, but it’s a lot more difficult to make them laugh and carry them along while you push at their comfort zone. Young Jean Lee and her company of actors accomplish this is an amazing way, with a night of theater that should not be missed.

For more Information on Young Jean Lee Theater Company:

Meg Stuart - Even The Name of the Piece is Pretentious

Meg Stuart - Theater as Therapy

Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods & Philipp Gehmacher/Mumbling Fish – Maybe Forever

I knew I was in trouble when PICA’s guest artistic director Cathy Edwards introduced Meg Stuart’s piece as “wonderfully atmospheric”. To me that’s often code for a piece which has a lot of style and very little substance. Unfortunately, Meg Stuart’s ‘Maybe Forever” lacked in both style and substance. Opening on an extremely dimly lit stage (I could barely make out anything I was seeing), two figures gyrate, roll around and move on the floor. They’re accompanied by looped audio with sounds of a dock or bay. Yes, it’s ‘atmospheric’, but atmospheric of what?  The stage is so dimly lit you can barely see a thing.

Once the lights do finally go up you see the two performers echo some of the movements barely visible before. I wouldn’t call the movement in Maybe Forever dance. The gyrations and frequent arm moves of the piece have little flow, no finesse and very little sense of connection with anything outside the insular world that’s created on stage. These gyrations are occasionally interrupted by singer-songwriter Niko Hafkensch, whose songs aren’t bad but they all seem to blend into one never-ending waltz. His songs begin as enjoyable but they become almost unbearable as the sounds and themes circle back around and around.

At one point Meg Stuart performs some quasi spoken word accompanied by angular gyrations. It comes off as pretentious and self indulgent, an aspect which echoes throughout the entire piece. Sure, I get that Stuart is playing out aspects of her relationships; there are themes of ecstasy, love, hate, death, rape and longing. But the piece seems to have almost no regard for the audience. There are no connecting points, nothing to really grasp on to and certainly nothing to enjoy.  It’s theater as therapy for the artist and there’s no pleasure in being a voyeur to it.

Maybe Forever goes on for a full hour and a half, repeating movements and themes over and over and over again only to loop back around and revisit them again. I have no problem with a piece obsessed with its theme. Last year at TBA Lessar The Company did a phenomenal dance piece on the theme of relationships. It’s was beautiful, moving and challenging. This piece never breaks out of its own insular world, never gives the viewer a connecting point or anything more than the same shard of broken dreams on loop. I was a lone boo in a trickle of polite applause. There were turned heads, rude comments and shock over this audible communication of displeasure with the piece. To me, polite applause would have been as disingenuous as the piece itself. (Read – Why Not Boo? by Terry Teachout from the Wall Street Journal, who puts this issue into perspective better than I ever could.)

For more information on Meg Stuart/et al.:

Categories: Theater Tags:

TBA 2009 – Tons of Free Options at Portland's Premiere Arts Fest

September 2, 2009 Comments off
TBA 09: Time Based Art Festival

TBA 09: Time Based Art Festival

Going over this year’s TBA:09 (Time Based Art) Festival catalog I was struck by just how many of the events at Portland’s premiere arts festival are free.

In addition to the free events, there are also a number of options that provide pretty hefty bang for the buck.

Top of that list is the Works Pass. For $75 ($50 for PICA members) you get access to all the late night programming at the Works (Washington High School – 531 SE 14th Ave) running from September 3rd – September 10th.  In all 16 shows!

Some of the highlights from The Works (531 SE 14th Ave)  include:

Totally free TBA:09 events:

Top TBA Picks to shell out dough for:

On Portland plans to bring you complete coverage of TBA 09 with up to date recommendations on shows, pictures and reviews.

Categories: Events, Theater Tags:

Miley Cyrus Portland Concert Ticket Giveaway

Miley Cyrus Portland Concert In asking On Portland readers what they’d like to see on the site, one of the big pieces of feedback we get is “Give Stuff Away!”  So we’re excited to launch our first giveaway in conjunction with the Rose Quarter for the highly anticipated Miley Cyrus Portland Concert!

The Rose Garden is the official launch spot for this tour which officially kicks off Monday, September 14th at 7pm (Portland was also the launch for this year’s American Idol 2009 Tour).  The Miley Cyrus Portland concert will also feature a new paperless ticketing system that could possibly revolutionize the concert industry (check out this video on the new ticket system).

On Portland is giving away 5 pairs of tickets (10 tix total!!) in our first ever twitter giveaway.

Here’s how to enter:

1) Follow us on twitter:  @OnPortland

2)  Tweet this to your friends:  Miley Cyrus Concert  Portland Tix giveaway – follow @onportland & retweet to enter: http://sn.im/mileycyrus

CLICK HERE to send the Tweet out to your Twitter friends automatically.

Also… for more great Rose Quarter promos follow @rosequarter

The giveaway ends September 6, 2009 at midnight PST. Five winners will be picked at random (one for each pair of tickets) and notified via Twitter DM. If notified, you will have 24 hours to respond and claim your prize, at which point it will be given to another contestant. You MUST be following @OnPortland and tweet the entry phrase to be eligible to win.

NOTE:  Kids that aren’t old enough to have a government issued ID will need a parent to claim the tickets for them. Parents will need to be physically present with their ID to claim the tickets at the box office.  From there can give the tickets to their kids.

We hope to bring more great giveaways and promotions in the future, so let us know what you’d like to see.

Key On Portland Music coverage:

Categories: Music Tags:

94.7fm KNRK – Give us Feedback? Then "#YouFail"

August 24, 2009 27 comments
94.7 fm KNRK

94.7 fm KNRK

At times I’ve been a vocal critic of the direction 94.7 fm KNRK . Over the past year they’ve changed their format, fired some of their key on air staff (most notably Tara Dublin, their only female dj) and changed the way they participate in the community.

Last September I wrote a piece in response to some of this entitled KNRK – It’s Absolutely Not Different Here. I wrote it as a listener, a life long fan of music and as someone who believed that Portland, Oregon should have a vibrant and significant alternative radio station.

While driving my kids in the car the other day I happened to switch over to Z100 (at the sole request of my kids). I was amazed at just how much new music I was hearing.  I’ll admit that Z100’s fare isn’t my genre of choice, but I couldn’t help but recognize just how much ‘new’ I was hearing and just how much that was lacking on 94.7.  For the record, I don’t think  new music = good music.  But growing up on alternative radio I’ll never forget the experience of hearing something new, exciting, and different.

I remember sitting in my car on an extremly cold December morning (in Ithaca, New York) listening as the radio station played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the very first time. I sat in 15 degree cold, idling my car in the driveaway just listening, realizing just how amazing the new song Iwas hearing was.

I do think that artists like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, XTC and even Bob Marley have their place in the rotation of a modern rock station. But when they make up the vast percentage of music on that station, you leave little room for the genre to move forward, for local bands to find their audience and for anything significant to happen.

But this isn’t just about the music on 94.7fm. It’s what happened when I expressed my frustration to them:

94.7fm Feedback

Now keep in mind 94.7fm is a station which has built its brand on listener feedback. They run daily promos with listener feedback and encourage people to tell them what they think. The thing is, this seems to only apply if what you say is positive.

#youfail from KNRK

I was shocked. Was an Entercom-owned radio station’s official twitter account name calling because I expressed my frustration with the lack of new music?!

Since this exchange was happening on the eve of the station’s big benefit concert “Pet Aid”, with proceeds going to Dove Lewis, I replied.

For Chairty

Again I was met with downright hostility:

No For Dove Lewis

I’ll spare all the back and forth, but the capper to me was:

blahblahblah

I emailed Mark Hamilton, 94.7fm’s program director, who seemed to be as befuddled by the interaction as I was. His response:

Neither our Facebook or Twitter accounts are meant to be a forum for a back and forth with a listener.

And yet, nothing really has been done about it.

I’m writing about this interaction not because I think I’m right. There are many people out there who want a station that plays more classic alternative music than new music.  Also the economics of a radio station have changed dramatically over the years, making it harder for art and creativity to have a place over commerce (look at Indie 103’s demise on the airwaves as an example).

The lesson here is that a company’s twitter and facebook pages ARE its face to its customers/listeners.  DJ Squid (@squidvicious, who is also appearantly the person behind @947fm)  literally lambasted me for my feedback and he did it AS 947fm.

All businesses will have their critics, some of them more harsh than others, but businesses can never go on the attack against them. You can’t on one hand ask for feedback and then another chastize people for their feedback when they say something you don’t like, or in a way you don’t prefer.

With iPhones, iPods, Pandora and so many other ways of consuming music, radio stations – especially local radio stations – can only really survive if they have some sort of relevant relationship with their listeners. Firing DJs, lambasting people on twitter and dropping support for local non-profits isn’t the way to build that relationship, it’s the way to kill it.

So I’ll move on, like so many other people, I’ll flip the radio to AUX and plug in my iPhone. I’ll stream KEXP (or OPBMusic) while I work and wait patiently for KZME to launch.

I’m convinced that someday Portland will have a truly amazing local radio station committed to being the alternative. It’s clear that 947fm isn’t it.

Relevant links:

Categories: Music Tags:

Sunday Parkways in Portland

August 14, 2009 1 comment
Sunday Parkways Aug 16

Sunday Parkways Aug 16

I’ve lived in Portland for seventeen years, and of all the events, activities and festivals I’ve attended in the city, one of my absolute favorite is Sunday Parkways. The event is extraordinarily simple: several miles of urban roads are closed to cars and become the playground for bikes, pedestrians, strollers, roller bladers, unicyclists, anything BUT motorized vehicles.  This year the Portland Office of Transportation in conjunction with ORBike and Metro have set three Sunday Parkways in three different neighborhoods of Portland. I missed the first one on June 21st in North Portland (and am now kicking myself for missing it), but did manage to attend the one on July 19th in North East Portland and it was exceptional.

In addition to over 7 miles of closed streets the Sunday Parkways also features mini park fests along the way with food, entertainment, activities and free bike servicing.  The third and final Sunday Parkways of the year takes place in Southeast Portland on Sunday August 16th from 9am to 4pm.  Unlike other cycling events in Portland (like Providence Bridge Pedal) the Sunday Parkways event is completely free.

The Southeast route is by far the best of the three parkways with a 9 mile closed course which includes a “5 mile relatively flat loop through portions of the Buckman, Kerns, Laurelhurst, Richmond, Sunnyside neighborhoods.” and it connects to a ” second, more challenging, 4-mile Mt Tabor loop will be optional to summit the only volcano in the City limits. The route will also cross the SE Hawthorne, Division and Belmont business areas”

There is not start or finish spot for the event. You can join in at any intersection and loop in either direction.  A detailed map of the Southeast Sunday Parkways can be found here. There’s also a complete breakdown of all the vendors and events at each Sunday Parkways park (the main park stops are: Laurelhurst Park, Mt. Tabor Park, Colonel Summers Park and Sunny Side Park).  The Southeast Sunday Parkway also intersects the Hawthorne Street Fair creating one of the most unbeatable combinations of events I’ve seen in Portland.

Not only is this event free, it features a ton of goods and services which are offered free, including:  Bike Empowered complimentary bike safety checks and repairs, BTA/Safe Route To Schools kids bike fitting and training  (both at Colonel Summers Park), REI free climbing Wall and Portland Wheelman flat tire repair classes (at Laurelhurst Park).

I’m hard pressed to come up with a better example of an event that illustrates why Portland is such an amazing city, it’s absolutely not to be missed. So do yourself a favor and make your way on Sunday to this amazing event.

For more information on Sunday Parkways:

The Last Cargo Cult by Mike Daisey – A Workshop Review

August 2, 2009 Comments off
The Last Cargo Cult

$20 from The Last Cargo Cult

It would be completely unfair to write a review of Mike Daisey’s newest monologue The Last Cargo Cult. Saturday’s performance of the monologue was only the third time anyone had ever seen it performed.

Mike Daisey doesn’t rehearse his material, he doesn’t write a script, and he will only perform in front of an audience.  Daisey’s monologues are living, breathing entities which morph, reorganize and change considerably over their lifecycle.

“At this point, the monologue may change up to 40% from workshop to workshop,” comments Jean-Michelle Gregory, Mike Daisey’s director, editor and wife.  She goes on to explain the painstaking process that they go through after each performance as Daisey’s notes get annotated, patched up and reorganized.

I had the opportunity to sneak a peek at Daisey’s notes for the show and they consisted of bullet-pointed words and phrases like “Uh oh” and “Getting back on the plane”.  These mile markers represent the core of the story and enable Daisey to follow tangents and connections that may spontaneously occur from night to night without worrying about how he’ll get back on track. As an audience member, the experience of witnessing Daisey discovering a nugget of gold off a seemingly random tangent is indescribable.

The Last Cargo Cult may not be as polished as a work like Monopoly! , but it does have an amazing energy surrounding it, as if you can almost feel something  actively growing and building.  Seeing a work at this stage of the creative process is extremely rare; most artists shy away from showing anything that isn’t completely done or perfected.  This isn’t to say that The Last Cargo Cult isn’t already an extraordinarily enjoyable, insightful and hilarious monologue – it is.  The imperfections act in many ways like a beauty mark on a stunning model and add to the experience of seeing it live and grow.

As I promised, this isn’t a review of The Last Cargo Cult. I won’t tell you why I was handed $20 by the usher as I entered the theater, what happens on the little island of Tana, what the John Frum Movement worships or what exactly fiat currency means.  These are all part of the amazing journey of Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult, a monologue which is set to have an extraordinary life including three weekends of workshops in Seattle, a premiere at Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, a run at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, and a prime-time spot in December at the Public Theater.

I will tell you that Mike Daisey has become one of the preeminent monologists alive today. If Mike Daisey finds his way into a city you’re in, you should jump on the opportunity to see him. The workshop performance of The Last Cargo Cult sold out in a couple of days and I expect the next time he comes to town it will be even faster.

Here’s the tour current tour schedule for Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult:

Aug. 1 at 8 PM at the Wieden+Kennedy Atrium in Portland, OR
Aug. 7-22 at 8 PM at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA
Sept. 4-13 at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia, PA
Sept. 16-20 at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC
Sept. 24-25 at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK
Sept. 29-30 at the The Whitehorse Centre in Whitehorse, YT Canada
Oct. 2-3 at The Banff Centre in Banff, AB, Canada
Oct. 9-11 at The Gamm Theatre in Providence, RI
Dec. 3-13 at the Public Theater in New York, NY
Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2010 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC
March 4-8 at the WaterTower Theatre in Dallas, TX
March 19-April 11 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA
April 26-May 9 at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, IL

Aug
1 at 8 PM at the Wieden+Kennedy Atrium in Portland, OR
Aug. 7-22 at 8 PM at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA
Sept. 4-13 at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia, PA
Sept. 16-20 at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC
Sept. 24-25 at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK
Sept. 29-30 at the The Whitehorse Centre in Whitehorse, YT Canada
Oct. 2-3 at The Banff Centre in Banff, AB, Canada
Oct. 9-11 at The Gamm Theatre in Providence, RI
Dec. 3-13 at the Public Theater in New York, NY
Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2010 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC
March 4-8 at the WaterTower Theatre in Dallas, TX
March 19-April 11 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA
April 26-May 9 at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, I

For more information on Mike Daisey and The Last Cargo Cult:

Categories: Theater Tags: ,

Mike Daisey Interview – The Last Cargo Cult

July 31, 2009 Comments off
Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey is a breath of fresh air. In an era where there is so much derivative work  appearing on stage (look no further than Shrek The Musical, Legally Blonde or Xanadu),Daisey reminds us why we go to live theater in the first place – to see something happen, in the moment.

Unlike many other notable monologists, Mike Daisey does all his performance extemporaneously. His monologues are never rehearsed and the only guide he uses is a set of notes which he amends at the end of every performance.

I’ve had the opportunity to see Mike Daisey perform on three occasions:  21 Dog Years (doing time at Amazon.com) in 2005,  Monopoly! and If You See Something, Say Something which Daisey performed at the 2009 TBA festival.  It’s been an amazing experience to see Daisey grow as a performer, and so I was extremely excited to discover that PICA was bringing him back to Portland to workshop his latest work The Last Cargo Cult (which he performs on August 1st at 8pm in the Wieden + Kennedy Atrium 224 NW 13th Ave)

Here’s our interview with Mike Daisey where he talks about the process of creating his monologues, The Last Cargo Cult, and why Portland has such a deep connection with his work:

Here’s Part 2 of the Mike Daisey Interview:

For more information on Mike Daisey:

Categories: Interview, Theater Tags: , ,

Welcome to Valhalla – Portland's Newest Food Cart

July 28, 2009 Comments off
This Way to Valhalla

This Way to Valhalla

Portland’s food cart scene is one of the most dynamic and explosive in the country. What’s exciting to see is how the food carts are growing and flourishing beyond the defined cart clusters (or cart villages like SE 12th and Hawthorne, often called “Cartopia”).

This month the scene got a huge enforcement when Burgerville decried ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and launched its own mobile food cart called the Burgerville Nomad.

But Matthew “Black Arm” Woodard doesn’t think too highly of the big businesses jumping into the cart scene. “Cart’s are for the little guy, not big businesses to make even more money”. Woodard is the owner of Portland’s newest food cart, Valhalla. Formerly a welder, Woodard decided to beat the economic downturn with a food cart specializing in Vegetarian and Vegan comfort food. “There aren’t a lot of affordable veg sandwiches in this town. Backspace is $8!”

Perfectly Grilled Vegan Sandwhich

Perfectly Grilled Vegan Sandwhich

Launched on the hottest day in Portland in over twenty years, Portland’s newest food cart helps fill the gaps in the dining options on SE Hawthorne.  Located on SE 33rd and Hawthorne, tucked behind the Dollar Scholar, Valhalla serves up a simple and affordable menu that is sure to quickly find a following.

While the menu might be simple, the tastes are anything but. I had the Vegan Garden sandwich, which came panini-grilled on two slices of Grand Central Baking Como bread filled with Tofutti cream cheese, cucumber, sprouts and tomato. The bread was brushed with a rosemary vegan butter and grilled to absolute perfection. All the ingredients in the sandwich were fresh and the tomatoes were bursting with flavor. The sandwich cost only $5 – $3 less than its equivalent across town.

To accompany the sandwich I had a cup of the Vegan Creamy Tomato soup. More subtle in flavor, the soup was not overly creamy and had a nice mix of flavors. It’s not your plain ordinary tomato soup and it’s clear a lot of tought went into the combination of flavors.

Valhalla's Menu

Valhalla's Menu

The rest of my family got the three cheese and tomato sandwich ($4) which featured Boar’s Head Cheese on Grand Central Bread.  Also cooked to perfection, these grilled cheese sandwiches were gobbled up in no time.

Next time I visit Valhalla (and there will be many next times) I’ll try the Vegan Sloppy Joes which were highly recommended by Woodard.  He also indicated that he’d be carrying homemade pickles that are sure to impress.

With fantastic food at good prices, Valhalla should do extremely well and show that great carts can succeed even when they are outside the cart clusters.

Valhalla Sandwich Co. is located at 3279 SE Hawthorne Blvd (right behind Dollar Scholar). Hours haven’t been set yet but they should be 11am to around 10pm daily.

Follow Valhalla on Twitter @valhallacartpdx

Categories: Food, Vegan Tags:

Doing Time at The Oregon Brewers Festival

July 24, 2009 4 comments
Volunteering at The Oregon Brewers Fest

Volunteering at The Oregon Brewers Fest

I’ve lived in Portland now for sixteen years and almost every summer I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Oregon Brewers Festival at Waterfront Park.   After enjoying one of the nation’s premiere beer festivals for so many years I decided this year it was time to give back to it and spend a shift volunteering.

Several months ago I submitted an application through the Brewers Fest web site and indicated I wanted one of the first shifts of the festival.  After a few months of waiting I finally got a little green card in the mail confirming my shift.

When I showed up the morning of the first day of the Brew Festival I was struck by just how many people had turned out to volunteer. I didn’t really realize just how much manpower it takes to fuel the event until I looked out over the sea of volunteers patiently waiting for their shift to start.

After signing in I was asked which tap I wanted to be at. I realized then that I had neglected to look over the complete list the night before. I sat thumbing through the possible assignments and decided to pick Stone Brewing Company. The beer at that tap was an interesting Belgium IPA hybrid so I knew it would be one that would draw true beer enthusiasts (although I didn’t know just how enthusiastic some people would be about Stone Brewing).

Stone Brewing Cali-Belgique IPA

Stone Brewing Cali-Belgique IPA

After a very short orientation talk which included how far to fill each cup, how to tell when someone is intoxicated and when to cut them off, we were lead to our taps.

Given how strict the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) is, I was surprised how short and informal the ‘training’ was, especially considering how rigidly controlled some of the other aspects of the festival were. For example, at the end of my shift I walked outside of the complex to check if the Burgerville food cart was still there (as I hadn’t eaten lunch) and I was told I had to dump my water bottle out as I reentered. Total insanity.

At the tap we were giving another brief rundown of how the shift would run, some simple do’s and don’t and then we waited, and waited, and waited.  A good fifteen minutes after the official start time we finally got the OK from the the OLCC guys to turn on the taps and start serving the beer… and then the fun started.

After pouring my first pitcher of beer I realized that I hadn’t been given an opportunity to taste the beer I was pouring. After shrugging my shoulders more than a few times when asked what the beer tasted like I started to grill each beer fest goer as to what they thought of the beer.  The wide variety of responses was amazing. Some people thought the Cali-Belgique IPA was very flowery, others really hoppy. One guy said, “‘It starts off tasting like a Belgian and then drops off to an IPA,” while another proclaimed, “Yeah, this is an IPA from the get-go”.  I heard the beer described so many different ways by so many different people that I wondered if I was serving the same beer to all of them.

Happily Pouring Beer at The Brewers Fest

Happily Pouring Beer at The Brewers Fest

After about an hour into my four and a half hour shift I began to see a pattern – a good majority of the people coming to try the beer came because of their affection for the brewery. “I’ll try anything that Stone does”, commented one festival goer while many just proclaimed, “Give me THE STONE”.  I also found that many people extended their affection for the brewery to me as if by proxy serving this beer I was connected to the goodness that is Stone Brewing.

One of my biggest challenges serving beer at the beer fest was that the Cali-Belgiue IPA is an extremely ‘heady’ beer. As I poured the beer from the tap into the pitcher a thick head of foam would form. Several volunteers and even the tapmaster tried to pull a pitcher of the beer without it being so foamy and none of us succeeded.

About two hours into my shift I realized another major mistake I had made. By taking the first shift of the festival I hadn’t had an opportunity to try or have any beers, so after serving twenty or so pitches of the Stone Brewing beer, I wanted a beer more than I had ever wanted a beer in my life.

One Extremely Foamy Beer

One Extremely Foamy Beer

As my third hour ticked by I continued to pour to an almost endless line of people, and I was extremely happy doing it. There’s something about giving people something that they enjoy that’s extremely gratifying. As each person happily sipped away at their beer I felt a sense of joy that I could be a part of that experience.

As the fourth hour ticked by we got slammed. One of the other volunteers keep a second pitcher going as I quickly drained the first. More people came up to get full glasses of beer so we were constantly battling with the foam to keep the beer flowing.

I was finally ‘relived of duty’ by another volunteer after four and a half hours of pouring. On one hand I was excited to be able to go off and enjoy the beer at the Brewers Festival, but another I was sad to to see the shift end. It was a remarkably enjoyable experience.

My very first beer of the Brewers Festival was the Bayern Brewing Dragon Breath Dark Heff. The beer had been recommended to me by one of the Rogue Brewing brewmasters. The beer was a tasty and unique beer that I quiet enjoyed. As I savored the beer I remembered that I had neglected to eat lunch before my shift and that even the small taste of beer was already having an effect. Unfortunately I made yet another mistake and plunged ahead.

Determined to make my way back to taste the beer that I was pouring all day I made a quick stop at Full Sail Brewing to taste their Full Sail TLD 03 , a remarkable light and crisp beer. Then to Scuttlebutt Brewing Company to try their subtle and drinkable Tripel 7 Belgian Style Ale.  Still working my way towards Stone Brewing I stopped at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery for one of the stand-out beers of my tastings, a Festina Peche, a brilliant, sour peach fermented beer. I then decided I couldn’t pass Ninkasi Brewing and try their Radiant Summer Ale. I’m a big fan of Ninkasi but I really didn’t care for their Summer Ale.

Sucess! Stone Brewing's Beer

Sucess! Stone Brewing's Beer

By the time I finally made it back to the Stone Brewing tap I was feeling little to no pain. Working a full shift (and not drinking enough water) and skipping lunch had brought my alcohol tolerance to near zero. But at last I had a chance to taste the beer I had been pouring all day. As I took a sip I savored every morsel of beer and then smiled realizing that I had been pouring one of the better beers of the festival.

Volunteering at the Oregon Brewers Festival far exceeded my expectations. It’s something that I plan to do every year, and I now have some key lessons that I’m going to share:

  • Go over the beer list the night before and pick a beer that interests you to pour
  • Show up early to your shift so you can get a good pick
  • Eat a good sized meal before your shift as there aren’t a lot of chances to take a break
  • Drink lots of water
  • Have A beer after your shift but come back the next day for the full tastings when you’ve had a chance to have some good food, water and rest
  • Volunteer!! The fest runs on the enthusiasm and generosity of local beer fans and you have the ability to contribute to that.

The Oregon Brewers Festival is always the last full weekend in July and this year runs 7/23-7/25 at the Waterfront park.

For more information see:

For the 2010 fest be sure to check out PDXPipeline who is giving away a $50 package to the Oregon Brewers Festival.

Categories: Beer Tags: