alternative press serving the lower columbia pacific region

CULTURE

Interview with Susi Brown and Sofie Kline

Susi Brown, Theater Diva.

Susi Brown makes theater happen in this region. Theater goers strongly applauded her one year experiment in launching her own small company Pier Pressure Productions, a few years back, and the venue, (post River Theater closure) on 10th that seated forty happy audience members nightly.

An educator, producer, director, actress, seamstress, the works.  After 2O some years of teaching arts/speech/theater/journalism at Knappa High – she took a two year sabbatical to earn an MFA in Theater Direction. She directed numerous plays at The River Theater, has produced several plays now at KALA, works with the AAUW Reader’s Theater program, directs at the Coaster, and keep things rolling in a time when it not easy to launch productions without supporting programs. Just when you haven’t heard from her, she always shows up with something new.

Q. What brought you to the craft of theatre?
A. My cousin and I would read the Sunday comics, and make plays out of them and our grandparents would very sweetly indulge us.  My dad taught school and also directed school plays. My aunt a country school teacher also wrote little musicals for her students and I would go to see them, and I remember staring down into the reflection of the floor and thinking, ‘when I grow up I want to be just like my aunt Ginny.’

Q. Favorite playwright?
A. Oh so many. I do love Ibsen and the ideas he held forth. I really enjoy Lillian Hellman as well. One of my favorite pieces is about Joan of Arc, called “The Lark.” I love the whole Joan of Arc idea, and the fact  that so many playwrights have attempted, so many filmmakers, and the passion that drove that person, at all costs, she held true to her visions. And the thing about Lillian Hellman, her strong characters, her lead characters are women. That’s hard to find.

Q. What is one of your most successful, memorable productions in the region?
A. That’s an easy one. When the Anne Frank exhibit came to Astoria, (mid 90s) organizer Carol Newman asked me to do the production. We had chosen our season already, and the students were excited about. But I invited them for a BBQ and thespian meeting, and asked them to consider Anne Frank and told them why, and that was the end of discussion.

The students who took that on were amazing. They did everything for it, research; a special viewing of the exhibit, they talked to Holocaust survivors in preparation of their roles. We did a 36 hour non-stop tech because that was the only time we could get into the PAC building. Not once did those kids raise a fuss. By showtime the only thing we had not found and needed was a menorah that was historically accurate. Then one night I felt a presence behind me and it was Phyllis Lobe. She was holding a menorah that her parents had carried from Germany when they escaped the Nazi occupation. She talked the kids about it. Their response was so appropriate, and so humbling. Every piece fell into place.

Q. What are the strengths of community theatre in this region?
A. I see a desire for community members to put on a show of quality.  At the Coaster, I also felt that strongly when I had Pier Pressure, the River set a wonderful precedent for quality. The other thing I see is the mix in community theatre. I’m really fond of working class coming forward and tasting art. Not that that’s an unusual thing, but community theater allows a venue.

Q. And what may be the challenges?
A. In community theatre you always you have talent and skill levels that are so far apart. The challenge is to try to find a nice meeting ground and still put on a strong, high quality piece. The other thing –  people are so diverse in what they do in their lives- is to find a sense of family, because when you are working on a show you develop that, and sometimes that’s a challenge, but it can also be an amazing reward.

Also, the attitude that theater is for  . .. thinkers. But working class people are thinkers and considerers. So when someone who is out there working hard, finds the time and desire to do theater, they bring in their friends, and theatre no longer becomes, for whatever reason,  a threat. I have heard it many times, ‘I’m afraid to go to theater because I don’t think I’ll understand it.

Q. What do you think is the future of theater here on the coast?
A. That’s a little delicate, because we are a little sparse right now. But I forever, ever hope that Liberty Theater is going to entertain more live theater. The Coaster I believe is solid. We’ll see The Coaster from  here to doomsday. That’s because they have very solid tourist traffic, they have strong benefactors. They have a beautiful space and a budget. Astoria is kind of in a whole right now, as far as live theater, but I don’t see it as  “the end all be all” of the situation.

Q.  How did you come to direct “Doll’s House?
A.   I wasn’t considering directing at the time, but I went to a show there, and saw the season line-up – so many good shows. I spoke to Patrick Lathrop during the intermission and said I would be interested in directing this season. He didn’t miss a beat, he said, “I’d like you to direct “ A Doll’s House.” Not one I was thinking about honestly. We met about it and found out we were on the same wave length about how to approach it.

Q. You have done the show before?
A. I was in the college production when Reed Turner was in the drama department at Clatsop, probably 81’.
There was a young woman, Teter Kapan, who played the role of Nora. When Patrick was pulling costumes, we still needed pieces from Jeanine [Fairchild,] he brought out this piece for Sofie Kline (the Coaster’s Nora) and it was originally what Teter wore. It’s had many lives, I think it was worn in Music Man as well, but I couldn’t pick my jaw up off the floor.

There was a time when the college had a very strong drama, music and arts department.  I miss it, as do many people. If you don’t have departments you can’t have a program. When we were talking about the future of theatre, that’s one of the biggest limitations in my mind. Oregon has not neccesarily supported high school theater and music programs – so we don’t have our feeder programs and in turn Clatsop does not have the programs. This situation is obviously prevalent in many places.

Q. What is your take on Ibsen Doll’s House? It’s been called a “feminist”  play?
A. I’m really not working from a feminist point of view – and try to remain true to what Ibsens’ intent was, and he was not trying to push a feminist idea. I’m actually more concerned with some of his themes about false morality and manipulation of reputation, and the discovery of self. That’s huge for me. There is a self-awareness that all the major characters come to in this play. Some of it comes too late.
Which is one of the reasons this play is under the headline of realism. All the big questions are asked in this play to. Poor Ibsen at one point was considered by his nation to be “an enemy of God,”an enemy of society, and an enemy of the bourgeoisie. I love this play because it is jammed packed with ideas. You go on an amazing tour from ignorance to recognition.

And I would like to add that Sofie Kline is doing an amazing job as Nora.  She’s grown the role leaps and bounds since we began reading for the part. It’s a great pleasure to work with such a dedicated actor.

Sofie Kline is Nora in “A Doll’s House”

To demonstrate the power, the value of community theatre, Sofie Kline is a young actress who is taking advantage of what it can offer here in the Lower Columbia Pacific Region.  As a viewer of several of her portrayals, her performances have been more than adequately refreshing. As Jill Tanner, the free-spirited 60’s girl-next-door in the Coaster’s “Butterflies Are Free,” multi-roles in Spoon River Anthology where she proves she’s can whip up a melody too, Kline has that certain je ne sais quoi, in addition the ability to strongly characterize her roles.

Her family moved to Astoria her senior year of high school, where Kline worked with drama teacher Jenny Newton, and prior to that she had been involved in many school productions. She’s been in seven  local community theater productions here and plans to attend Southern Oregon University Theater program in Ashland.

Q. What inspired you to work in the craft of theatre?
A. That’s a really tough question. It’s one of those things for me I’ve felt compelled to do. I don’t really know if there is a reason or particular moment that’s “it.” I have this memory of knowing that that is what I have wanted, and have thought of other things to do with time or life. But that’s always been there. Probably there was something in my childhood that really compelled me and don’t remember that moment but remember the feeling of wanting.

Q. What was your first role?
A. My first production was at a Boys and Girls Club when I was 9 years old (1999). Two guys running the theater department wrote this play, it was called “The Y2K Bug.” I played six different quick change roles. I had to go under the stage and change into a robot, a military person . . . it actually still is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, (she says laughingly).

Q. What was your first role as adult?
A. The first role that I did here in community theater was Land of the Dragon at The Liberty.  At Astoria High School I was in “Daughters,” a series of monologues.

Q. What has been your actor training?
A. Jenny Newton at Astoria High is a wonderful acting teacher, I took an acting class with Karen Bain last year, and just doing productions, from middle school to high school, to community theater.  I’ve also taken some acting-related workshops out of the area.

Q. Who is Nora?
A. Nora is an interesting woman. She definitely knows how to play the game, within her world. She very much understands where she is as far as what she can and can’t do in society as a woman. Her power, she understands where her powers are. Throughout the play she realizes she deserves more power, that her power is not full, that she is not actually engaged in her own life. For me, Nora is a heroine, she is someone who chooses a road that is not easy, but without going there, she would never have a full life, her life would always be absent of that choice.

Q. What is the challenge in playing this role?
A. With this character and with all of Ibsen’s characters, there is so much subtext, what is underneath what seems to be going on. To convey that on the stage is challenging. A good challenge, but definably a challenge. Most of the time Nora is absorbed in fear and unknown as to what’s going to happen to her, but she is very good at putting on a front to the world. She plays it off, like there is nothing wrong, as time goes on, she  breaks down slowly, and she loses it in a way – but having to convey two meanings to everything, two emotions happening at that same time and the challenge to convey it on the stage well.


Hitchin’ Revival – An Original North Coast Musical At the PAC

Hitchin Flats

Creator Ned Heavenrich (left) and the Brownsmead Flats, the band behind the musical.

Hitchin’
February 7-9 and 15-17
Fri/Sat, 7:30 pm, except 2 pm on the 17th
Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center
16th & Franklin, Astoria
$15 – adults
$10 – Student/Senior

Partners for the PAC presents Hitchin’, a musical play written by Ned Heavenrich, with music composed by Heavenrich, Robert Stevens and Dan Sutherland of the Brownsmead Flats, on February 7-9 and 15-17 at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) in Astoria. The play is the second in a series of fundraisers to keep the PAC open, accessible and affordable to the community. The first fundraiser, Bach and Rock Around the Clock, featured local musicians (including the Browsmead Flats) and an all-night film festival, which is slated to be reshown in the spring.

Performed to sellout crowds at the PAC in 1997 and again in 1999, Hitchin’ tells the story of a middle-aged man confronted with his rebellious teenage son and his past in what Heavenrich described as a “partially autobiographical tale about coming of age and letting go, a result of a mid-life crisis brought on by my dad’s death in ‘88.” In 2004, Hitchin’ was revived at the River Theater.

Walter Newman is a clothing store owner and workaholic whose 20-year-old son, Matt, is getting ready to leave the house to “find his own path.” Walter finds his journal from his days on the road, and the journal’s entries come to life on the stage. Walt (as he was known then) meets Lulu, a fellow hitchhiker who knocks his socks off and heads on down the road; Mary and James Erickson, a farm couple whose oldest son was killed in the Vietnam war, and whose other sons are now estranged, with the marriage suffering; Howie, a hippie gypsy and former Peace Corps volunteer who keeps a load of pot in his Deadhead VW van; Jack, a draftee at an air force base in North Dakota who’s not especially eager to go to Vietnam; Edna (named for Edna Packard, who played the original role as Ethel), an older widow who invites Walt to her house in the middle of nowhere to reminisce on her life; Marian, Georgia and Debbie, three lesbians on a camping trip; and Sylvester, a bat-swinging hitcher who’s headed “towards his destination.” The play ends with Matt leaving, Walter still leery and the cast singing Isn’t It Exciting!

“I would say that half the characters in the play I met on the road and half are composite characters from my life and other people’s experiences,” Heavenrich explained.

The orchestra for the musical is the Browsmead Flats, who will be joined by Janet Bowler, a flutist with the North Coast Symphonic Band and other musical groups in the area. Jayne Osborn, who stage managed the River Theater production, is directing. Osborn is a veteran director and stage manager who has worked with the Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC) and the River Theater. Musical direction is by Allison Wilski, a soprano with the North Coast Chorale. Amy Coughlin, another veteran of ASOC, is stage manager. Set design is by Craig Shepherd, manager of the Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach, with set construction managed by John Fenton of the Brownsmead Flats. Josef Gault, former manager of the PAC, is in charge of sound and lighting. And Marco Davis, who played Jack in the original production of Hitchin’, is choreographer. The author is production manager, with able assistance from Heavenrich and Stevens (who played Howie in the 1999 production and was music director in the original production).

All proceeds from Hitchin’ will go to the Support the PAC fund, managed by the Clatsop Community College Foundation and the Partners for the PAC, and used for maintenance and operating costs of the PAC. Partners for the PAC is a coalition of performing arts groups that currently use the PAC for rehearsals and performances which was brought together in 2012 to help raise funds to keep the PAC open and work on ways to maintain and enhance the facility after the college suffered severe budget cuts and was unable to continue their operational support. For more information on the Partners for the PAC and how you can support the PAC, go to the Support the PAC website at supportthepac.org.

CAST: Bob Goldberg, Sandi Hilton, Jordan Okoniewski, Stephen Shannon, Sara Drage, Destiny Lish, Lenny Noller, ChrisLynn Taylor, Eddie Knick, Luke Hanflin, Lori Honl, Stephanie Rowe, Bree Heavenrich, Amy Coughlin, Jonathon Osborn, Daric Moore, Dave Bergquist and Emily Honl.

The Partners’ production of Hitchin’ is made possible by a generous grant from the Clatsop County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust.


MOVIES & MUSINGS

Skyfall (Nov. 9)

The 23rd entry in the longest-running film series ever returns after a longer than usual four year break (twice the normal gap) after MGM’s financial insolvency. After the poorly-received Quantum of Solace, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson took the unusual step of hiring theater-turned-film director Sam Mendes to helm Bond 23. Mendes had spectacular success with his Academy Award-winning first film American Beauty (1999), then nothing of note since. In writing the script Mendes has said he was influence by The Dark Knight, with equal emphasis on character and action. Apparently, the Bond producers made the right choice as buzz is running extremely high on Skyfall – some call it the best Bond movie ever. Skyfall continues the series reboot with several traditional Bond characters reintroduced, including a young Q (Ben Whishaw) a new M and a surprise new/old character. After a hard drive containing the names of NATO undercover agents in terrorist organizations is stolen, Bond pursues the thief to Shanghai, but not before several agents are killed and MI6 attacked. Bond kills the thief and discovers he is working for Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent now seeking revenge against M, herself under pressure from rival Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) to retire. Bond captures Silva, but he escapes and attacks M. To protect M and lay a trap for the pursuing Silva and his men, Bond takes her to his family estate in Scotland, Skyfall.

Lincoln (Nov. 16)

It’s the middle of awards season and Steven Spielberg has produced a likely Best Picture nominee with his portrait of the last months in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Although titled after the president, this is really a political drama about the passing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. While slices of horrific Civil War battles are shown, the real battleground is the floor of Congress where debate rages about the controversial amendment which has splintered the Republican Party with uncompromising abolitionists like Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) for it and others who want to end the war but not slavery against it. Lincoln’s mission though, is threefold: to end the
war, end slavery and bring a divided nation together. To accomplish
this, Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) must use every bit of his powers of
persuasion, compromise and oratory along with the willingness to get
down and dirty if necessary. Against the backdrop of a nation in crisis,
is also the personal portrait of the man and his family – the first
lady Mary (Sally Field) and sons Robert (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) and Tad
(Gulliver McGrath). Holding it all together is Day-Lewis, whose
performance is already being touted as an Oscar winner.

Life of Pi (Nov. 21)

Another
probable Oscar nominee arrives with Ang Lee’s film version of the
impossible to adapt bestseller by Yann Martel. A
fantasy/allegory/adventure for all ages, movie tells the story of Pi
Patel, an Indian boy who spends 227 days adrift on a raft with a live
tiger. As an adult Pi recounts his incredible story to a writer, we’re
introduced to the 5-year-old Piscine who lives in the lush, almost
enchanted-looking Pondicherry, India. Pi’s father and mother run a zoo.
Pi himself is a curious, mischievous child who is also deeply interested
in God. In no time, Piscine shortens his name to Pi and becomes a
Hindu, Christian and Muslim. However, as a teenager, Pi’s idyllic
existence changes when his parents decide to sell their zoo and move to
Canada. Pi and his family board a freighter with the few remaining
animals, but in no time the ship capsizes in a storm. Pi is the lone
human survivor in a lifeboat, but he soon finds he has company – a few
animals have made it onboard, including a 450 lb. Bengal tiger named
Richard Parker. Soon, due to the law of the jungle, there’s only Parker.
Thus begins Pi’s ordeal where he must battle elements and dwindling
food and water supplies while building a raft to separate him from
Parker, who starts out as a savage beast but transforms over months into
a curious interspecies friendship. Tobey Maguire originally played the
writer that adult Pi tells his story to, but his scenes were cut after
Lee decided he had become too famous and was distracting in the part.

Silver Linings Playbook (Nov. 21)

With
a successful venture into blue collar drama with 2010’s The Fighter,
director David O’Russell returns to more familiar territory with his
offbeat depression comedy Silver Linings Playbook, based on the Mathew
Quick bestseller. Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental
hospital where he’s spent 8 months for a violent episode caused by his
bipolar disorder. In the meantime his wife Nikki leaves him. He moves
back in with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki
Weaver) who do their best to help him readjust. But Pat resists, not
taking his meds and working out like to maniac in an effort to woo back
Nikki, while working his way through a batch of literary classics that
Nikki recommended. But he dismisses the stories as depressing. Pat
believes in silver linings, possibilities – “Excelsior!” is his favorite
motto. Pat Sr., a fanatical Eagles fan, tries to woo Pat back to
normality by focusing him on pro football. But Pat’s disorder reasserts
itself in hilarious, inappropriate verbal and physical outbursts. While
running one day, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a self-described
“crazy slut with a dead husband” who is just as depressed as Pat is.
They bond in unusual ways, such as comparing which meds they take.
Tiffany, who has a dance studio in her apartment, starts working with
Pat as a dance partner to rehabilitate him which works too well – their
big performance conflicts with a crucial Eagles game his dad
and brothers insist he attend. Chris Tucker makes a rare non-Rush Hour
performance as Pat’s buddy from the mental hospital. Variety said Pat
was one of Bradley Cooper’s best roles yet, funny and soulful.

Hitchcock (Nov. 23)

Anthony
Hopkins stars as legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock in this peek
inside the making of his classic Psycho and also his unique partnership
with his little-know wife, Alma (Helen Mirren). Movie picks up with
Hitchcock restless and bored. Although coming off a massive success with
North By Northwest, he feels trapped by his success with studios only
interested in Hitchcock-type thrillers. In addition, he’s 60 and
terribly overweight. Then he chances on Robert Block’s book Psycho,
based on the true story of serial killer Ed Gein and filled with
“graphic elements of brutal violence, voyeurism, transvestitism and
incest.”

Hitchcock
is attracted. In it he sees a way of breaking free from thrillers and
truly shocking the film establishment. “What if someone really good made
a horror picture?” he muses. But no studio will touch it and Hitchcock
takes a tremendous personal gamble and mortgages his house. It the movie
flops, the Hitchcocks lose the house. In the meantime, Alma who is
basically his filmmaking partner has gotten restless after decades of
her contributions being unacknowledged and has started a nearromance
with dashing screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), putting Hitch’s
marriage in jeopardy as well. Hitchock is basically a lighter look at
one of the darkest pictures the master of suspense ever made, battling
censors and expectations all the way to completing his classic.


Movies & Musings


Argo (Oct. 12)

Ben Affleck continues his successful directing career with Argo, a ripped-from-the-headlines account of the Iran hostage crisis with a Hollywood twist. In 1979, after Iranian militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and take 52 Americans hostage, six diplomats manage to evade capture and hide in the Canadian Embassy. CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Affleck) gets the call to create an operation to remove the six Americans from Iran. Mendez has the reputation of never leaving anyone behind, but this is his biggest challenge yet – lives are at stake in the midst of a revolutionary hostile country. To this end, Mendez concocts a plan to pose as a film producer scouting locations for a film to be shot in Tehran. The six are to be smuggled out as part of the film crew.

Like a film producer, Mendez has to sell the idea to a roomful of skeptical State Department officials. Devoid of options, Mendez’s “best bad idea” wins out. Mendez goes all the way with the idea, enlisting Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and makeup pro John Chambers (John Goodman) to form a fake production company for a fake scifi film Argo. Tension ratchets once the team lands in Iran and a game of cat and mouse ensues with Iranian intelligence. With the net closing on them, Mendez is given 72 hours by his superiors to get the hostages out.

Seven Psychopaths (Oct. 12)

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made a splash with his debut feature film, the violent dark comedy In Bruge, about a pair of hitmen hiding out in Belgium. He returns with the Quentin Tarantino-esque Seven Psychopaths. Colin Farell stars as Marty, a blocked screenwriter who drinks too much while trying to write a screenplay titled Seven Psychopaths. Marty’s best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) an actor with too much time on his hands comes to the rescue with the inane idea to put out an ad for psychopaths. They get one response – Zachariah (Tom Waits) a serial killer who only kills other serial killers. Soon, Marty is pulled into another of Billy’s schemes which he and his odd friend Hans (Christopher Walken) have dreamed up – dognapping. After kidnapping a dog, they wait for a reward to be posted, then show up with the dog. Things go awry when they steal a Shih Tzu that belongs to dog-loving psychopathic mobster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), who sends his goons out to retrieve his Shih Tzu and inflict serious bodily harm on the culprits. Plot is basically an excuse for McDonagh to spin his delicious, threatening but funny dialogue and violent fantasy sequences that play out in the minds of the not-all-there characters. Gabourey Sideibe and Harry Dean Stanton make appearances.

Sinister (Oct. 12)

Director Scott Derrickson had a surprise hit with 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Now he returns with Sinister, a wellreviewed horror film. Ethan Hawke stars as true crime writer Ellison Oswald, who’s career has nosedived since his first hit book ten years previous. Looking for a hit, Oswald learns of a shocking family murder in a small town. Determined to solve the mystery, Oswald, who’s previously moved his family close to murder sites for his research, goes even further and buys the murdered family’s house and moves his family in without telling them. While his wife and two kids adjust to the new surroundings, Ellison finds a box in the attic containing 8mm films. One night he projects them for himself and discovers the home movies depict gruesome murders of families taken by the killer. As Ellison investigates, he learns that the families were connected in some way and that a white-faced figure can be glimpsed in all the films, leaving a distinctive mark on the scene. After consulting an occult specialist (Vincent D’Onofrio), he learns that the mark is that of the demon Bagul, an “eater of children,” and that his investigation has put his entire family in jeopardy.

Flight (Nov. 2)

In director Robert Zemecki’s first live action film since Cast Away (2000) Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whittaker, veteran airline pilot. Nothing phases Whip in the air. Even as a routine flight from Houston to Tulsa turns deadly when a mechanical failure puts the plane in an uncontrollable position, Whip manages to crash land the plane, losing only eight passengers out of a 102. Whip survives. Recovering in the hospital Whip bonds over cigarettes with Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a drug addict. But while lauded as a hero for saving the plane in an impossible postion, Whip hides a deadly secret: he is a substance abuser and was drunk when flying the plane. When the NTSB crash investigation ensues, the stakes are high as his friend Charlie (Bruce Greenwood), the head of the pilots’ union, informs him. Responsibility for the crash and the 8 deaths will cause the airline and pilots’ union to try to prove manufacturer error — “The plane fell apart at 30,000 feet,” Whip says – while the manufacturer will try to prove pilot error. Enter Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), a slick criminal negligence lawyer retained for Whip who informs him that the toxicology report on him when brought to the hospital indicated he was drunk and stoned on cocaine – federal offenses that could put him behind bars for life. Is Whip a hero for saving the plane or a villain for flying impaired? Whip turns to Nicole to help him fight his substance abuse while under tremendous pressure, which usually drives him to drink. Washington could very well pick up an Oscar nomination for this role.


Out of the Closet With Female Rapper JenRo

Jen Ro’s video CLOSET opens the film weekend Friday, Oct. 5

JenRo is an out, proud female rapper.

If that sounds like that might be unusual and downright tough in the rough and tumble world of the rap music business, it is. But don’t tell her that. JenRo is just doing what comes naturally, making music, something she has done her entire life.

JenRO’s first time rapping on stage was at the age of 10 years old. She’s never stopped.

Today, JenRO has released four independent albums under her own successful indie label RO Records. She has toured numerous cities across the country with a dedicated and growing fan base that follow her every beat. Her music videos have been featured on the lgbt-focused network, LOGO, along with a documentary she is featured in, “Pick up the Mic.”

But The Astoria Queer Film Weekend will be one of the only places to see her new music video, “Closet.” The music video details the struggles JenRo faced after she came out as a lesbian and what many might see as a very young age. HipFish spoke to JenRo about her latest project and here is what she had to say:

JenRo, where did you grow up?
I was born and raised on the West Coast in the Bay Area of California.

When did you come out?
When I was 13, in 7th grade. Pretty damn young, but I was proud and it made me who I am.

When did you get involved with music?
I grew up around music all my life. My dad was a DJ and my older sister is a musician. I started playing drums for jazz band in 6th grade until high school. Got my first beat machine when i was 15 and been writing music at young age. I’ve been involved in music dam near all my life.

Did you ever get bullied as a kid?
I never really got bullied, but I was more like the bully. I had a lot of anger when I was young and just wanted to punk everyone, including the boys. It was fun to me back then, but I look back and found better ways to take out aggression,

Do you find it difficult to be a queer musician?
Not really, because I accept myself for whom I am. That’s where it has to start: within yourself. God gave me this gift to share with the world.

Why did you make “Closet”?
I made it to share with everyone my experience on coming out and to let people out there who haven’t came out, that they are not alone.

How personal is this music video to you?
Closet is very personal; coming out is a big deal when you’re young and finding yourself. So I wrote this with my heart and people have told me that I have changed their life.

What are your hopes for “Closet”?
I want it to influence those who may feel alone in this world. I want them to know that I went through a similar situation growing up.

Would you like to make more films/videos that deal with subject matter such as bullying?
Most definitely. I have done some other bullying PSA with youth and plan to do more,

What is the message that you would like young kids to learn from your video?
Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t be afraid to be different and learn to love yourself no matter what.


In The Garden With The Marble Faun

Filmmakers Jason Hay and Steve Pelizza (left to right) at the Maysles Brother’s Theater in NYC.

The Astoria Queer Film Weekend will be the West Coast premiere of The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens.

There are very few documentary films as worshiped (especially by gay men) and analyzed (specifically by film buffs and critics) as the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens.

This is the true story of two very quirky and reclusive socialites/hoarders (much like Astoria’s own Flavel family) who also just so happened to be relatives of a First Lady named “Jackie.” The lives of the these two “Edies,” as told by acclaimed documentary filmmakers David and Albert Maysles, have gone on to influence film, fashion and pop culture. Everyone from photographer Bruce Weber to director Gus Van Sant have found inspiration in this film. An instant art house classic The Beales; story has been adapted for the stage and as an Emmy-award winning feature for television.

This seminal documentary may focus on the story of a quirky mother and daughter, but within that tall tale, filmmaker Jason Hay was intrigued by another person in that “cast,” a particular character who he believed might be worthy of a documentary film of his own: Jerry Torre, aka “The Marble Faun.”

“I had come to the end of my personal research of Grey Gardens, and it stood out that there was this really missing story about Jerry,” says Hay, who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. “Not much was known about his life before or after. With very few living links to Grey Gardens, I wanted to help fill in more of the story. What we found was that the original documentary wasn’t even the most amazing part of his life, and the film grew and developed from there.”

Torre, a native New Yorker born and raised in Brooklyn, was given the nickname “The Marble Faun” by Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale. He is now a New York-based sculptor and spends his time pursuing his lifelong ambition, carving stone at the Art Students of League of New York.

“Not only does Jerry have a phenomenal story to tell, but he is also an enthralling raconteur,” says Hay. “His story unfolds as a classic American tale. A compromising childhood, then a dash for freedom leading him indirectly to Grey Gardens, a formative event in his life. Later awakening to his sexuality in the 1970′s in New York City, going on to travel in Europe and the Middle East under unique circumstances, and sadly falling into some of the darker passions in life. Eventually pulling himself up and dusting himself off, he decides to heed a lifelong call to carve stone and discovers his love for the craft. Jerry Torre’s sculptures help free him, and he fully develops into the beloved individual he is today.”

So how did Hay initially track down The Marble Faun?

“After researching where to find Jerry, I connected with him through email and he then reached out by phone,” says Hay. “We met up in New York to discuss the project I had in mind. Shortly after, I met up with a long-time friend, Steve Pelizza, and we started working on the film together.”

The real two Edies and Jerry Torre the “Marble Faun.”

Filming of “The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens” first stared in 2009. Both Pelizza and Hay were living in New York City at the time and shooting as much as possible. “It is 100-percent natural with no second takes. The cinema verite style is as much of a tribute to the original documentary by the Maysles, as it is a story about Jerry. Since this was our first film, everyone, including Jerry, was really involved with every aspect.”

This includes filling in the blanks left out in the original documentary.

Says Hay: “The nature of Jerry’s stories at first was Grey Gardens focused. As we went on, he got comfortable that we were telling his whole story and topics got a lot more personal. He was very forthcoming about being a runaway child, his troubles with addictions, and medical concerns. Very little was left out.”

According to Hay, from a cinematic standpoint, Pelizza developed a slow and methodical way of dealing with the camera and Jerry as a subject. This method worked well for both the subject and the filmmakers.

“It lends well to what we encountered; Jerry, the mansion, the stonework. Taking a careful, close look at Jerry’s many facets, the viewer is invited to explore all of these stories, instead of being overwhelmed by the whole picture at once” says Hay. “We shot 30 hours of film over the course of a year. There were a lot of sculptures completed and filmed during the time. We could do a whole documentary about his 300-pound marble sculptures.”

After returning to Oregon from the Maysles Institute, in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, where they first premiered this film, Hay and Aggregate Pictures’ main focus is getting through the final stages of production.

“This story is far from being just about Grey Gardens. Jerry’s story encompasses many personal issues of social relevance, making him very identifiable. It also makes for an engrossing film. To that end, we are getting it seen at festivals, such as the one in Astoria, which will be the West Coast premier,” says Hay. “The final goal being theatre and DVD releases.”

And did Torres get under their skin, much like the Beales did for the Maysles brothers?

“Jerry impacted both Steve’s and my life incredibly,” says Hayes. “We formed a life long friendship, working together for 3 years. During the whole process, we knew that we were making a friend as well as a movie.”


QFOLK/HIPFiSH PROUDLY PRESENTS Q-FILM WEEKEND – Astoria Oct. 5-6 @ KALA

ASTORIA Q-FILM WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Q-FILM HIGHLIGHTS

PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS AT BROWN PAPER TICKETS

In the Garden With The Marble Faun

Out of the Closet With Female Rapper JenRo

Q-Film Dance Celebration and Cocktail Party

QFOLK/HIPFiSHmonthly proudly presents “Astoria Q-Film Weekend,” Friday and Saturday, October 5 – 6 at KALA Performance Space. The first time event features three separate screenings, (Friday night, a Saturday matinee and Saturday night), including two short features and a selection of short films. Event programmer Sid Deluca, in collaboration with the South Texas Underground Film Festival (LGBT programming) has assembled a wide spectrum of works; from documentary to drama, comedy, music video and even science fiction, all from the queer perspective and experience. Low-budget D.I.Y. to big studio quality, the program also includes two west coast premiers.

Deluca, a recent transplant to Astoria, coincidently screened his own short film Poison Oaks last October 2011 at the Big Fat Gay Movie Night at the Columbian Theater.

Poison Oaks is a comic, B&W homage (mockumentary) to the original 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens (directed by filmmakers The Maysle Brothers — Gimme Shelter, Salesman), which chronicled the declining years of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter “Little Edie,” who were the wildly eccentric paternal aunt and first cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. In 2009, HBO aired the film Grey Gardens on the life of the Beale women starring Drew Barymore and Jessica Lange.

Now back to one of QFILM Weekend’s exciting west coast premiers, The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens Filmmakers. Jason Hay and Steve Pelizza are presenting their doucumentary based on the life of Jerry Torre, who at the time of the original Grey Gardens film, was a 17 year old gardener/handyman on the Beale’s East Hampton, condemned and crumbling estate. Torre became an accidental celebrity, who then disappeared from the public eye. Filmmaker Jason Hay took interest in Jerry’s story with the result, his new documentary. (see the accompanying feature for the rest of the story)

It was Jerry Torre that connected Sid Deluca with the Portland-based Jason Hay after seeing and loving Deluca’s Poison Oaks. This past June, “Marble Faun” debuted in NYC at The Maysle Brothers theater – and now makes its west coast premier right here in Astoria.

Equal parts the genesis of Astoria Q-Film Weekend, is Deluca’s association with South Texas Underground Film Festival and its programmer Mariella Sonam-Perez. Deluca’s film won two awards at the South Texas 2011 festival; Spirit of The Underground and Original Soundtrack, and will screen again at the 2012 festival. Deluca turned to Sonan-Perez for her participation in the development of a film screening event in Astoria, after being impressed by the diversity of her programming in the LGBT arena. Sonan-Perez was excited to help plant seeds for a future festival, beginning with the concept of Q-Film Weekend. While films have been selectively chosen to represent a broad spectrum of topic and style, Q-Film Weekend is in the spirit of a film festival — it did not do a submissions call, but worked directly with the South Texas Festival and various film and video makers directly. A multi-venue LGBT film festival, supported by a filmmaker submission call is a future vision.

“I didn’t know just how open and arts-loving this town was until I moved here, and my film was shown at Big Fat Gay Movie Night at the Columbian Theater. It was a pleasant surprise and it made me realize how an event like Q-Film would certainly be a success. We’ve got great films, we’ve got a great venue, we’ve got a great town. I hope that this intimate-style mini-film fest will be an exciting new event that offers film as a socially aware medium as well as entertainment,” says Deluca.

Although the seating for each screening is limited, we look forward to this opportunity to present an LGBTQ film event of this caliber. The schedule of films offers a diverse look at the many issues facing the lives of LGBTQ peoples. We welcome all film lovers with respect and dignity. Get your tickets folks.

Q-FILM HIGHLIGHTS

Amongst the current 12 films slated (also with a TBA list in progress), on the schedule is yet another west coast premier, SALTWATER, the Friday night short feature which explores the issue of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” in the life of a former Navyman, in addition to his personal challenges of coming out. The film also marks the acting debut of openly gay Australian rugby star, Ian Roberts.

  • Poignant short film, EMBRACING BUTTERFLIES from the Czech Republic, reunites two older women on a chance meeting, and rekindles childhood memories of a crush between them, and a possible future love affair.
  • Bollywood love story, YOU CAN’T CURRY LOVE, lushly filmed in Indian and co-starring Indian soap star Rakshak Sahni who finds surprising love on a business trip back to his homeland.
  • And jumping right off the screen, is Oakland, CA rap star Jen Ro, with her music-driven biographical coming out film, called CLOSET. Portland Queer Band Mattachine Social, who played earlier this year at KALA, filmed a music video in Astoria, featuring the pre-boarded Flavel House.

Friday and Saturday nights present Film Shorts and one 80 minute feature oer night. The 4pm Saturday matinee features all Film Shorts. Each screening presents new films. Please see page 13 for ticket buying info. Film goers can purchase all three screenings for a discount. Each screening event is $15. All three screening events is $40.

The Film Viewing Experience at KALA

HIPFiSHmonthly Performance Space, KALA, hosts the event. The refurbished vintage storefront will be fully curtained for optimal viewing, is equipped with professional sound and light, features cabaret table seating, cocktail specials, beer and wine, and complimentary movie snacks.

Seating is limited to 40 seats per screening. Due to the limited seating, tickets must be purchased in advance, online at Brown Paper Tickets. www.brownpapertickets.com If access to online purchase is not available please call HIPFiSHmonthly to arrange for ticket purchase. 503.338.4878.


Q-FILM WEEKEND SCHEDULE

• Friday, October 5, 2012
Film Shorts and Feature Short
West Coast Premier
7:30pm – 9:30pm
doors open 7pm

Closet
Oakland, CA rapper Jen Ro explores her own early coming out in this emotionally charged music video. 4 Minutes.

I Need A Hero
Director – W.H. Bourne (Los Angeles, CA/New Orleans, LA)

Starting with the infamous quote by then Marvel Editor in Chief Jim Shooter, “There are no gays in the Marvel Universe”, I Need a Hero briefly follows the progress of LGBT representation in comics from Northstar coming out in the late 80’s, to Archie comics Kevin Keller, to Bunker in the New Teen Titans. It also takes a look at independent comics written by LGBT creators as well as the characters they create. Finally, the film explores the effects of LGBT characters on fans. 15 Minutes

Femmes Want Revolution
Directors: Simone and Haley Jude, San Francisco, CA.

A glittery, revolutionary romp. 4 Minutes

Polly, Jennifer, and Melissa
Director – Diego Ramirez (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia/Mexico)

An androgyne by the name of Polly recalls an episode of post coital anxiety while Jennifer confesses to a disquieting priest, and Melissa poses flirtatiously for the viewer. Mixing Sci-Fi, Queer and Horror- POLLY, JENNIFER AND MELISSA is a provocative performance-based video challenging gender roles and identity politics. 5 minutes

• 30 Minute BREAK – Complimentary Movie Snacks and No-Host libations

SALTWATER
(West Coast Premier)
Directed by Charlie Vaughn, Los Angeles, CA

This American Indie drama follows several endearing characters as they wade through life seeking happiness, peace and ultimately, love. Will (Ronnie Kerr, Vampire Boys 2, Shut Up and Kiss Me) leaves the Navy after many years, soon reunites old friends and begins to start his new civilian life. His friend Rich (Bruce L Hart) tries to set him up with ruggedly handsome Josh (Ian Roberts-a former Australian professional rugby player, actor and model-Cedar Boys, Superman Returns, Little Fish). While there is immense chemistry between the two, timing and certain ideals never seem to align. When a shocking tragedy happens the two are paired up to pick up the pieces and sort through the after effects. Saltwater is a story about men of all ages, finding love, losing friends, navigating their way through life and knowing it’s the journey rather then the destination that’s important. 81 Minutes

• Saturday October 6, 2012
FILM Shorts Late Matinee
4pm – 6pm
doors open 3:30pm

CLOSE
Mattachine Social- Portland, OR

Music Video shot in Astoria featuring drag star Tammy Whynot. 3 Minutes

AMERICA’S MOST UNWANTED
Director- Shani Heckman, San Francisco, CA

A moving and provocative video project focusing on LGBT foster youth who have emancipated and what their lives look like today. 23 Minutes.

Surprise Short TBA.

YOU CAN’T CURRY LOVE
Directed by REID WATERER, Los Angeles, Ca.

Westernized guy Vikas has been obsessing about his straight boss Thom for years, much to best friend Amrita’s displeasure. But when a business trip sends Vikas to New Delhi and he meets handsome Sunil, the desk clerk at his luxury hotel there, everything changes for him. Amazed by Sunil’s sweetness and India’s beauty, his initial disgust at the transfer turns into a love affair with both. When a return to London and his boss inevitably arrives, Vikas must make the most painful decision of his life. A crowd-pleasing, east-meets-west, boy-meets-boy love story… with a Bollywood twist! 23 Minutes

15 minute break – Complimentary Snacks and No-Host Libations.

POISON OAKS
Directed by Sid Deluca, Astoria, OR

Shot with a $200 budget, this DIY “mockumentary” pays tribute to Grey Gardens with nods to John Waters and Andy Warhol. 27 Minutes followed by a Q&A with Director

• Saturday, October 5, 2012
Film Shorts and Feature Short
West Coast Premier
7:30 pm– 9:30pm
doors open 7pm

Embracing Butterflies
Karen Davidsen, Czech Republic.

Louise has lived her whole life in self-denial. An ordinary-seeming day takes an unexpected turn when she meets Anna, whom she went to school with as a young girl. Going down memory lane and the symbolic appearance of two girls brings up hidden emotions, insight and the thought that it’s never too late to embrace your butterflies. 8 Minutes

Daddy’s Big Girl
Directed – Reid Waterer(Los Angeles, CA)

Overweight and uninspired Millie attempts to finally reconcile with her father, but his half-dressed male companions keep getting in the way. 17 Minutes

Welcome To New York
Directed and written by Steven Tylor O’Connor- Los Angeles, CA

A comedy short film based on story by Sean David. It starring Sherry Vine, Sean Paul Lockhart, Lauren Ordair, Ashleigh Murray, Megan Kane, Matthew Watson with Casper Andreas, Trey Gerrald, Shacottha and Steven Tylor O’Connor. Welcome to New York is based on the stories of young New Yorkers, both gay and straight, and their first time experiences in New York City. 30 Minutes

• 30 minute BREAK – Complimentary Movie Snacks and No-Host Libations

The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens (West Coast Premiere)
Jason Hay (Portland, OR) and Steve Pelizza (New York, NY)

Jerry Torre is a sculptor at the Art Students League in New York City. He is best known for his appearance in the original 1975 Maysles Brothers documentary Grey Gardens. He was referred to by Little Edie Beale as “The Marble Faun.” The unique and colorful life of Jerry Torre. Join Jerry as he recounts tales from his troubled childhood, his escape to Grey Gardens, his travels overseas and learn more about this earnest man’s tumultuous life. Jerry has overcome much adversity in his life and his story is an inspiration to many who have suffered the same trials and tribulations. 80 Minutes Followed by a Q & A with Jason Hay


Q-Film Dance Celebration and Cocktail Party on Saturday, October 6, following the last screening-closing the weekend. Complimentery to ticket holders. $5 for non-ticket holders.

PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS AT BROWN PAPER TICKETS

Astoria Q-Film Tickets must be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets. This is great service based in Seattle, WA that makes selling and reserving tickets in advance easy for small event promotors as well as large events. It is a socially-responsible company that donates a percentage of sales to charitble organizations, and charges a small service charge of .99 cents plus 3.5% of the ticket fee to the buyer.

Just go to www.brownpapertickets.com and search Astoria Q-Film Weekend and purcahse tickets for each date of show or “season pass” if you would like to attend all three screenings at $40.00 Tickets will be on a will-call list, and you also have the option of printing the ticket at home. NOTE: If you do not have access to online purchase please call HIPFiSHmonthly to purchase your ticket. 503.338.4878


In the Mix

KALA CAFÉ to showcase eclectic regional acts.
First up? Performance poet John Kulm and hip-hop funsters, Showladies.

Showladies, Andrea Mazzarella (l) and Teresa Barnes (r).

Some of history’s great performers have found success by combining the unexpected: funk and soul plus African oral traditions begot hip-hop. Opera plus rock ‘n’ roll gave rise to the rock opera.

It’s a concept that also has strong foothold right here in Astoria, thanks to a long tradition of regional creative eclecticism. This month, KALA is gearing up to unveil a new performance medium that offers a vehicle for its continued expression.

The nascent showcase is called KALA CAFÉ, and its inaugural presentation will feature the multiform stylings of two regional acts: performance poet/humorist John Kulm and music funsters Showladies, featuring performers Teresa Barnes and Andrea Mazzarella.

KALA founder and HIPFiSHmonthly Editor and Publisher Dinah Urell is the evening’s emcee, lending a song, ‘here and there’ and in addition some sneak preview of acts to come to the KALA stage.

The KALA CAFÉ concept draws on traditional vintage variety floorshows, with a little camp, cabaret and commentary thrown in, says Urell, who has been reinventing the showcase concept through her years as a performing creative artist.

“My first entertainment inspiration was Ricky Ricardo,” she said. “And my alter ego Lucy, always conspiring to get on stage. I loved watching the Dean Martin Show with my father, I mean who the heck wants to play with dolls when the Gold Diggers are on the screen.”

It’s an ideal format for showcasing regional talent, she says, and she couldn’t be more thrilled with the opening lineup.

Both acts have a demonstrated taste for the eclectic: Showladies rap about a constellation of topics, from wolves and wizarding to club-hopping, while Kulm waxes poetic on Jungian archetypes, midlife crises and bucolic life.

John Kulm Performance Poet

Kulm is well known for his open-mic stints at the now-closed River Theatre, but he’s been working with spoken words in many forms for most of his life.

Kulm carved out a niche at poetry slams in Seattle’s heady grunge days two decades back, billing himself as a “cowboy poet” and was booked on tour, in the early days with the Lollapalooza festival.

“They liked me because it’s so odd to see a cowboy coming into that scene,“ Kulm recalled. “I picked up on a lot of the style they were using, real aggressive, free verse.”

Since, he’s tried out many creative and practical pursuits, including stand-up comedy, book writing, fatherhood, farming and postal work.

The goal is to get closer to who he really is with each incarnation.

During his two sets at KALA CAFÉ, he’ll share poetry, but he’s also got some brand new material brewing.

Lately, Kulm has been playing with archetypes – universal symbols and prototypes. He likens then to “modern fairy tales,” and he’s recently spent time teasing a few into prose.

“Archetypal work is like dreaming while you’re awake,” he said of this new process. “It’s like a storyline starts to unfold and you’re just experiencing it.”

Kulm is eager to share this more personal writing, but he remains committed to entertaining.

“I worked so many years in stand-up that I just won’t allow myself to be boring,” he said. Urell offers, “John Kulm is a unique humor experience. He utilizes the poetic form, as a vehicle to philosophize on the contradictions in life, coming in sideways, and giving us (the audience) an opportunity to laugh at our own absurdities.”

Showladies, too, is audience-centric, Barnes says. The act has gained notoriety for its off-the-wall performances, colorful costumes and colorful lyrics.

Barnes took her first stabs at songwriting a few years back, and Showladies was born when Mazzarella began performing with Barnes at venues such as the Voodoo Room, with Barnes on guitar and lead vocals and Mazzarella on bass and accompanying vocals. (A keyboard stands in as drummer.)

They’d noted a lack of what Barnes calls “rock starry, glammy” musical acts in Astoria.

“We wanted to fill more of a lady Gaga-ish place in town, bringing that element of crazy fun ridiculous danceable performance,” Barnes said.

Moving the audience – literally as well as cerebrally – is key.

Showladies draws inspiration from all over the place: ‘90s R&B and rap, YouTube videos, rhyming dictionaries.

They’ll also be performing two sets at KALA CAFÉ – a high-energy set and an acoustic set.

Heartbreaky guitar chords may seem an unexpected departure from glitzy gonzo rap, but that’s just the idea.

This is another artistic endeavor that is constantly reinventing itself, right down to the genre (hip-pop? Glam rap?) and name, which changes regularly.

The two say they don’t know what’s coming next – only that it’d better be good for a laugh.

“We really hope people have fun, and if they feel like dancing, dance,” Mazzarella said. “Hopefully people have half as good a time as we’re having.”

Urell hopes this mashup performance is the start of an exciting chapter for KALA – and for the creative-spirited community surrounding it.

It’s a concept that’s still developing, thanks to the hard work of a few additional key players, including KALA visual arts curator Agnes Field and sound stage man Les Kanekuni.

“As a presentation space, KALA is focusing on performance, visual art, and whatever delightfully falls under the category,” Urell said. “We’re having fun with diversity in art, and how we can shine the stage lights on the creative forces this coastal region inspires.”

KALA CAFÉ
Fri/Sat – AUG 17 • 18
Show @ 9pm – doors open 8:30
$10
advance tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com
advance tickets suggested

Beer/Wine and Cocktails available.

KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive.
For more info call: 503.338.4878


A Cinematic Event: “Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel.” Author Matt Love in Astoria • July 28

For the past three months, author Matt Love has been making the rounds of bookstores all over Oregon, talking about his new book, “Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel.” Now, Love’s Northwest book tour comes to Astoria, for a screening/signing/storytelling event at KALA@HIPFiSHmonthly, at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria.  Doors open at 6:30pm on Saturday, July 28, the show begins at 7pm. Admission is $5, with a no-host beer and wine bar, plus trivia questions, prizes, a Q & A with the author, perusal of Love’s movie memorabilia, movie trailers, home movies of the filming production and screening of the movie.

In June 1970, the biggest movie star in the world traveled to the Oregon Coast to film an epic novel about a defiant family of loggers written by a home-grown counterculture hero. The star was Paul Newman. The author was Ken Kesey. The story was “Sometimes a Great Notion” and it has a fanatical following in the Pacific Northwest.

What ensued was a wild working vacation between Hollywood and Oregonians involving beer, sex, scotch, loggers, beaches, and perhaps, a spectacularly vandalized pool table. In “Sometimes a Great Movie,” Love documents the legend of that magical summer and presents over a 125 never-before-seen photographs, including many in color. It’s the third installment in his Newport trilogy.

Love is the author/editor of eight books about Oregon, including, the best selling “Far Out Story of Vortex I,” “Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anthology,” and “Gimme Refuge: The Education of a Caretaker.” He writes the “One Man’s Beach” column for Oregon Coast TODAY and the “On Oregon” blog for Powells, is a featured writer in the Coast Weekend, and for 8 years was a contributing columnist to HIPFiSHmonthly. In 2009, Love won the Oregon Literary Arts’ Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature. He lives in South Beach and teaches English and journalism at Newport High School. He’s currently working on a novel about teaching in a public high school.


BOOK EXCERPT

Paul Newman’s Double: The Dean Fillmore Story

Dean Fillmore was a logger hired to play Newman’s body double in the film. In this excerpt from the book, Fillmore recounts his unlikely brush with stardom and his relationship to Newman.

We were logging east of Taft, near Lincoln City, and here came these big stretch vans up the road. There must have been fifteen or twenty people, a bunch of college kids. They were shooting a movie and asked if I would like to be Paul Newman’s double. I said I didn’t know if I could do it, take the time. The production people just shut down part of Jepson Logging, the outfit I was working for, and paid them what they would have made during the summer. They hired the whole logging crew and the equipment.

I was thirty-eight years old and a pretty big fan of Newman. I’d been working in the woods since nineteen fifty-two.

I had to train the guys how to use a chainsaw because they didn’t know squat about chainsaws and falling trees. I got the impression that Paul had handled a saw before. He picked it up pretty good. I told him to keep a good grip on it, because those damn things, a log, can really hit the bar…it’ll kick back at you.

The highest Paul ever got in a tree was six feet.  I remember they cut about an eight-foot chunk off the top of a tree, a pole I guess, and put it on a platform. And Paul sat on top of the tree, and they had it on a dolly where they could make it swing a little bit. It was right on the edge of a canyon so it looked like he’s way up in the air. They used that shot when he was on top of the tree, which was me from far off in the picture.

One time he climbed up the pole and they filmed a bunch of outtakes, funny things, that they would show later at parties and stuff. He would climb up there and act like he fell out of the tree and the grips would catch him.

In the mornings, I’d show up at the Dunes Motel to head out to location. About ninety percent of the crew were staying there and we’d go get a load of them and go out to the set. We’d always be waiting around and there would be these women coming out of the guys’ rooms. The Hollywood guys. They had a lot of women.

They had two filming units and I did all the long shots in the second unit. All the face shots, naturally, that’s Paul, but all the long shots when you don’t see his face, that’s me. I wasn’t part of the beach scenes. I was the logging guy, the tree faller. I remember one time Paul asked me if I could drop a tree to an exact spot or something like that. I tossed my tin hat to the ground not far away and cut a tree that came right down next to it. He was pretty impressed.

Newman was just an ordinary kind of guy. I was surprised he didn’t act like a big star. He just sat there and would talk to you about whatever. I called him Paul and he called me Dean. I took my family out to the sets a couple of time and took some pictures. Nobody said a thing.

Paul asked a lot of questions about logging. He wanted to make it as realistic as he could. He asked me about rigging that tree up, where Henry Fonda got smashed up in his shoulder. He wanted to know if I could make that happen, because some trees, they do what’s called barber-chairing. That’s when the tree slabs up and it looks like a kind of barber chair. What happens is, you don’t cut a big enough piece and it can come back and whack you. It’s killed people. I tried to do it naturally, but it wouldn’t work. The spruce trees were the worst for barber-chair, so I finally took my saw and split that sucker just as high as I could reach, then they got a four-wheeler hooked on it and they pulled it to where it would start slabbing, like in the movie. It looked pretty realistic.

There was lot of partying going on with the actors and the crew, mostly beer. Paul liked Coors. Oregon didn’t have Coors at the time so they brought him a load over from Idaho. I laughed at that.

The wrap party was pretty good. It was at a supper club and bar, in Newport years ago, Jake’s High Tide. Newman was there, the whole cast. They were just partying and getting down. There was kind of a pop band if I remember right. Newman was laughing and joking and having a good time. I was partying too.

I got a regular salary, probably about fifty dollars a day for falling, and every time I climbed a tree, that was another twenty-five. I came out pretty good, but there was a lot of waiting around and I told them ‘Well, I’m getting kind of bored sitting around waiting for you. I’m about to go back to work.’ And they said, ‘How about we give you another four hundred a week?’  I didn’t really expect to get any money but I did.

When the filming was over, they gave me two of the saws, the big one twenty-five and the eighty (horsepower). They gave me five pairs of cork boots and a check for a thousand dollars and said ‘thanks.’


The PAC – Its Wonderful Past and Uncertain Future

The PAC today. Photo by Bob Goldberg.

Trinity Lutheran Church, circa 1925


Mention “historic theater”
in Astoria these days, and perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the Liberty Theater, which opened in 1925, and is in the midst of major renovations today. Or perhaps Shanghaied in Astoria, or the more recent take, The Real Lewis & Clark Story, melodramas performed by the Astor Street Opry Company, which tell Astoria’s history with a tinge of Scandinavian humor. But if you were around these parts in the 1970s, the only historic theater in town was the Clatsop Community College Performance Arts Center (PAC), a converted Lutheran church, which showcased an enormous amount of work of both local playwrights and traditional theater, amongst many other activities.

The PAC Stage

Designed by Astoria architect John Wicks, Trinity Lutheran Church was constructed during the Depression on the site of the original Convent of the Holy Name, at 16th and Franklin. In 1974, Trinity Lutheran merged with the Zion congregation to become Peace Lutheran Church, and the congregation was moved to another Wicks-designed building at 12th & Exchange. The abandoned church was then acquired by Clatsop Community College and reopened in 1977 as a performing arts center. The PAC, as it’s affectionately known, housed the college’s theater, music and dance programs until the mid-1990s. Initially, CCC introduced a series of music elective courses such as music history, music theory, and piano practice rooms in the basement level. Then local pianist/music educators, the late Betty Phillips and jazz composer Chris Parker were at the helm of the small music department.

Juanita Price, 2011 George Award winner for community service, branch librarian of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in Astoria, and active with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), remembers the early years of the PAC well. She told me that the Tuesday noon concerts, originally for students only, became very popular with the community quickly. “The public starting showing up at these concerts and talks, because people didn’t want to go up the hill [to the main college campus],” Price reminisced. She remembers the Brownsmead Flats performing, and an atmosphere similar to many free noon concerts you see in bigger cities. In addition to music, dance and theater, Price said that the PAC has been used for political forums, speeches, lectures and other AAUW events, even in the early years.

Susi Brown, a retired teacher from the Knappa School District and most recently owner of Pier Pressure Productions, told me, “The college’s theater program produced a minimum of three shows a year, including student-directed one acts. For a time during the 1970s, CCC had a strong and very well attended summer theatre curriculum. At one time, there was an outstanding music program which included concert band, orchestra, jazz chorale, and private and class lessons in the curriculum. Also, during the 1970s and 80s, CCC had a full-time dance instructor offering jazz, modern, tap, yoga, choreography, and performance classes.”

A late 70s English comedy was one of the first fully staged theater productions at the PAC. Locals look closely.

According to Brown, some of the notable plays performed at the PAC as part of the theater program were HMS Pinafore, A Doll’s House, Endgame, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, Carousel, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (set on another planet, sometime in the distant future) under Reed Turner; Nude with Violin, Music Man, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, and The Madwoman of Chaillot, under Del Corbett; Steel Magnolias, Nunsense, Rumors, and The Princess and the Pea, under Gay Preston (with Larry Bryant as tech director); Antigone under Karin Temple; and Talking With, Buried Child, and Lysistrata, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bridge To Tarabithia, under Karen Bain.

The PAC also housed community and high school theatre productions by the Clatsop County Aids Coalition, the North Coast Readers Theatre, the Mossy Rock Players, the aforementioned Astor Street Opry Company, Coaster Theatre Readers, Columbia River Repertory Company (later to start the River Theater), Knappa High School, and Clatsop County Community Action (Diary of Anne Frank), according to Brown.

Jennifer Goodenberger, a local artist, pianist and composer, attended CCC in the late 70s and early 80s as a music student, and later returned as an adjunct faculty member in the music department. During her tenure as a student and teacher, she helped put on the many musicals that were performed in the PAC. She wrote a kabuki-style score for Rashomon, a Japanese crime drama based on a story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and the famous 1950 Kurosawa movie. She also wrote the score for the other-worldly version of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The repertory dance show Mood Indigo was one of Goodenberger’s fond memories. Put on by Vicki Durst, CCC’s dance instructor, Goodenberger was music director. She remembers a bustling PAC, with rehearsals, classes, recitals, lessons, listening rooms, concerts, plays, and huge audiences.

Josh Hilbur and Mark Davis in the original Hitchin’, 1997.

Measure 5 decimated the performing arts curriculum at CCC in the early 90s. This left a hole that a showcase of local talent filled with the original play Hitchin’, written by Brownsmead Flats’ member Ned Heavenworth, directed by Mark Loring (who designed many of the sets at the PAC and is the brother of local flutist Shelley Loring,), choreographed by Vicki Durst (who also coordinated the PAC’s Arts on Stage program) and Carol Newman (currently host of KMUN’s Arts Live and Local and dance instructor, among so many other activities), starring, among others, Marko Davis, Mark Erickson, Jason Hussa and Mike Wangen (all big names in local theater to this day), and featuring original music written and performed by the Brownsmead Flats. Performed to sellout crowds at the PAC in 1997 and again in 1999, Hitchin’ tells the story of a middle-aged man confronted with his rebellious teenage son and his past in what Heavenrich described as a “partially autobiographical tale about coming of age and letting go, a result of a mid-life crisis brought on by my dad’s death in ‘88.”

KMUN Troll Radio Revue, born of the River Theater and transferred to the PAC.

From almost the beginning, the PAC has been home to many local musical, choral and dance programs. The North Coast Symphonic Band has rehearsed and played at the PAC since 1979, participating in the college’s Arts & Ideas program for many years. The North Coast Chorale has put on many a memorable concert at the PAC, and some musicals to boot, including HMS Pinafore and Amahl and the Night Visitors. The North Oregon Coast Symphony has been performing at the PAC since their inception. Little Ballet Theatre students have participated in the Arts on Stage spring Young Choreographer’s Showcase at the PAC for many years. And since the closing of the River Theater, Coast Community Radio’s Troll Radio Revue has been staged at the PAC the last Saturday of each month. The Astoria Music Festival has used the PAC as the home of its apprentice program, as well as a venue for some great avant-garde performances (including J-Walt’s Spontaneous Fantasia this season).

Janet Bowler, former language teacher and flutist extraordinaire, remembers Foreign Language Day held at the PAC and the Masonic Temple across the street. “It was wildly popular with students who still remind me about it decades later,” Bowler told me. And Carol Newman remembers the Human Relations Task Force two-day conference in 1982, and many other speaking events about the Holocaust, war, environmental and local issues.

Recent years have seen some memorable shows at the PAC. Folk singers Jim Page, John Gorka and Tracy Grammer have graced the stage. Public radio personalities Jim Hightower, Amy Goodman and David Barsamian spoke to big crowds. Balkan dance group Balkan Cabaret gave workshops and concerts with crowd participation. The Tenor Guitar Gathering, in its 4th year, staged a 3-hour concert this past May that was truly inspiring. Spirit of the River, a fundraiser for Columbia Riverkeeper, has been held at the PAC for the past 5 years.

Marty Balin rocks the PAC

But the event that tops them all has to be the final afternoon of the Concert for Big Red, organized by the recently deceased Gordon “Gordo” Styler as a revival of the rock festivals of the 60s and 70s to benefit the recently half-demolished Big Red Building. When the musicians, stage, equipment, staff and audience at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds were soaked through and through by unusual, unrelenting rains in August 2008, Josef Gault, then the PAC coordinator for the college, found a way to get everything over to the PAC, and an overflow crowd witnessed an amazing show by Marty Balin and most of the original Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe McDonald, and Cold Blood.

With state funding falling every year, the college has recently indicated they cannot continue to fund the PAC at current levels, and has talked about selling the building. A coalition of local arts organizations, the Partners for the PAC, has formed to help maintain the PAC for affordable public arts and educational events.

If you’re interested in getting involved with this effort, please contact Constance Waisanen, 503-458-6853, cwastoria@live.com or SupportThePAC@charter.net.

Juanita Price summed up the sentiments of most of those community members I spoke with. As we finished our phone conversation, she said, “I can’t imagine the town without the PAC.”


Necessary poisons – Performer Mindy Dillard debuts her one-woman show in Astoria

mindyapplegreenhouseIt’s taken some doing, but Mindy Dillard has learned to get comfortable with diving deep.

These days, she often finds herself plumbing the depths of the human psyche as she searches for inspiration for her performance art.
It’s murky down there to be sure, and some strange and unexpected things are apt to bubble up, but for, Dillard, exploring those fathoms can also be a life-saving act.

Dillard’s latest theatrical venture, a one-woman show titled  “How to Survive a Poison Apple,” debuts in Astoria this July.

Part magic realist musical, part neo-feminist performance art and part fractured fairy tale, Poison Apple tells the tale of an abandoned princess struggling with anorexia. As her self image evolves, she cavorts with other princesses and wise dwarves, climbs aboard submarines, and faces down one very forbidden piece of fruit.

It’s a little bit funny, a little bit tragic, and it’s definitely the most personal thing Dillard has ever written or performed.

“I call it a storyscape because I’m telling stories in the form of narration and storytelling and also in the form of the song,” Dillard said. “I switch characters. I feel that I’m a form bender.”

Dillard started writing the songs and stories that would come to comprise “Poison Apple” three years ago. Bits would come to her in odd moments, often late at night, often in dreams.

She felt compelled to tease out the bits, to understand the messages that were bubbling up from her own depths.

Dillard was teaching children’s theater classes at the time, and she’d grown dismayed by her female students’ abiding obsession with pretty princesses. She was also making her way through her own failed fairy tale ending, having recently split with a boyfriend who turned out to be less than princely, and she found herself pondering the subconscious messages society was sending to girls and women.

She thought about Snow White, and the way a bite from an enchanted apple had sent her into a sleep befitting the dead.

She thought back to a time when, in the grips of her own struggle with anorexia, she could eat nothing but apples.

She also thought about alchemy, how seemingly incompatible elements can combine in unexpected ways, and how they can be transformed by that combining, even when the pressure seems too great to bear.

“I feel I’m kind of an alchemist because I try to expose things that are hard,” Dillard said. “They’re hard for me to say and sometimes I think they’re hard for people to hear, but before a diamond gets turned into a diamond, it’s a rock. It has to be compressed.”

Someday, Dillard would love to take “Poison Apple” on the road to high schools and colleges across the country.

In the meantime, her own self-conception is evolving along with her art. She’ll still blanch at insensitive comments people make about her appearance (a man at a recent show looked her up and down and said, “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder now.”) or cringe when she sees a young girl complimented solely for her looks, but she’s learning to speak up about how she’s feeling, to say the things that are difficult to say, to share her story, over and over. (Indeed, a happy ending for her own story looks rather promising: if you catch her show, don’t forget to look for her artistic and life-partner, Eric McEuen, accompanying her musically.)

In the end, it’s a longer journey of growth and discovery Dillard is committed to – and committed to sharing with others.

“Experience is really the only thing that can grow someone,” Dillard said. “Hard things are hard but sometimes they’re necessary for transformation … All the stuff I’ve experienced has been necessary poison … So I’m going to make it into the poison that turns into medicine.”

How To Survive a Poison Apple
an electric one-woman musical storyscape
Saturday, July 7 @ KALA
Doors open 8pm, show at 8:30pm
Tickets are $10 at the door. To retain a seat for the show, advised to arrive when doors open.
Refreshments available
• Audience Suggestion: This show is created for young and old to enjoy and experience. Suggested age 10 years and up please.
• Approx. 1 hour running time.
KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria
View a video clip of “Poison Apple”.

 


Shadowboxing: Printmakers Roxanne Turner and Marcy Baker found and foraged treasures

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Marcy Baker, Box Assemblage, Shimmer

Impermanent. Imperfect. Unburnished.

These might not be terms typically associated with the creation of fine art, but for Pacific Northwest-based artists Roxanne Turner and Marcy Baker, the world’s vast store of fragmented, forgotten and scattered objects is replete with creative possibility.

Both artists will exhibit the fruits of their artistic foraging at KALA this month in a show titled “In the Box.”

The show will feature almost 40 assemblages, each a multi-dimensional amalgamation of found objects and items from the natural world contained within its own repurposed box.

The seed for a two-woman show was planted when Turner and Baker began to take note of the common threads running through their work: botanical imagery and materials, refuse foraged from the modern world. And, of course, the format of the timeworn boxes themselves.

“It occurred to us that, while our assemblages – composed within the structure of reclaimed wooden boxes – share a similar aesthetic, they are developed in individual and complementary ways,” Baker said.

The Portland-based Baker began exploring the concept of art in a box when she found herself in possession of several old cigar boxes some years back. She quickly became intrigued with the artistic challenges and possibilities a box presented.

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Roxanne Turner, Box Assemblage, Midori

At the time, she was living in New Mexico and experimenting with ways to combine the rusty treasures she gathered on her long rambles through the high desert with wax rubbings, block prints, old letters and sheet music.

She began to create collages within the cigar boxes and fell in love with both the process and the larger concept it seemed to reference – finding beauty in the imperfect: a forgotten page of sheet music, an old ceramic insulator cap, and especially the rusted metal scraps lying forgotten in the sand.

“They’re beautiful little treasures,” she said. “I love how they can relate to something brightly colored, like a monotype, that pop of color and how that plays off the worn surface of the metal piece.”

The task of arranging the disparate objects into a coherent whole is by nature imprecise, and requires a bit of spontaneity.

She’ll sit down before an empty, hinged box and consider its shape, its edges, its sides, even its smell. Then, she’ll begin to arrange and rearrange, to bring in and take out pieces, to consider relationships.

“For me, it’s thinking about two sides and how they relate, what they’re saying,” she said. “They could be closed, they could be open, and you can see how they’re talking back and forth, the relationships between those two sides and almost the sense of a book being read, one side to the other and back again.”

The Astoria-based Turner began creating her own boxed art pieces in 2010. She’d spent 14 years focused on capturing tree and plant imagery in two-dimensional formats before she began to explore the box format.

Turner admits to being a “compulsive forager,” especially when it comes to plant materials, and her work incorporates seed pods, branches and blossoms brought home from locations both near and far-flung: Manzanita from California, seed pods from Australia and Japan.

Why the fascination with nature’s castoffs?

“It’s the forms,” Turner said. “They’re very sculptural, they’re as beautiful as animal bones; they’re simple and they’re just gorgeous forms. They’re sort of architectural and there’s so much variety.”

She also makes use of plenty of found and handmade materials: Japanese rice papers, collograph, textured monoprints, silkscreens.

Turner uses these objects in combination to riff on themes of life and its inevitable cycles: growth, ripening and eventual decay.

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Marcy Baker instructs in printmaking at Atelier Meridian studio in Portland.

She also draws inspiration from the Japanese concept of “wabi sabi,” which holds up the imperfect and the impermanent as beautiful within their own right and worthy of admiration.

As it is with nature, these assemblages will no doubt fall prey to the ravages of time, moldering, crumbling, changing irretrievably, and Baker is just fine with that.

“These plant materials will be affected by light and heat and humidity, and so they’re impermanent,” Turner said. “They’re not going to last, they’re going to change gradually over time, they’re probably already changing. So what you see today, the colors may change in a year or two. It’s kind of like performance art.”

IN THE BOX Opens Saturday, June 9, 5-9pm, in conjunction with the Astoria 2nd Saturday Art Walk.

The exhibit runs through July 8. KALA is located at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria. Summer Gallery viewing hours beginning June 10, Sat-Sun noon to 5pm, and by appt. 503.338.4878 or 503.440.3007.


Miss Massive Snowflake: “Like a Book” But not by the book.

miss massive snowflake

At KALA, June 9, Post Art Walk. 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria. w/Dramady. $3. 9pm. No Host Bar.

The music made by Portland’s Miss Massive Snowflake – who will be gracing the Kala stage on Saturday, June 9 – is a lot like the name of the band itself: a juxtaposition of elements that, on close inspection, make little or no logical sense, but it hardly matters because it somehow sounds right. The songs on MMS’ latest album, Like a Book (available from their label’s website, www.northpolerecords.org), bear a passing resemblance to pop songs. Put it on as background music and it might seem unthreatening, even innocuous. You will tap your feet, nod your head, and expect it to leave nothing more behind than an errant swatch of melody or two lingering pleasantly in the memory. But pay close attention and your head may freeze in mid-bob. What kind of pop song ends with a declaration like “Takes a lot of talent/To talk a buncha shit/And not get in trouble for it”? And follow that up a couple minutes later with a reference to Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro having sex? As you struggle to get that image out of your head, you start picking up other aspects buried in the mix – odd time-signatures, abrupt shifts in tempo, a blast of dissonant brass worthy of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” – which subtly disfigure the shiny, happy face pop music exists to put forward. At which point you realize that, underneath its passing complexion, this stuff is downright weird.

All of which suits the man behind the band to an eccentrically-crossed T. “I’ve always been kind of a clean-cut-looking person,” says Shane de Leon, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who serves as Miss Massive Snowflake’s auteur. “I don’t have any tattoos; I’ve always kept my hair pretty short. But I do have some pretty weird ideas, and I like the idea of flying in under the radar, being a freak without feeling like I have to advertise it.” No surprise, then, that de Leon’s music contains trace elements of some of pop’s greatest eccentrics, from the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne to The Artist Formerly Known As Something Other Than Prince. Like them, de Leon distinguishes himself by an inability to stand in one place long enough to be identified; just when you think you’ve figured him out, he’s already morphing into something different.

You can trace that elusiveness as far back as 1997, when de Leon followed some friends from his home state of Montana to Portland, where he joined their band Rollerball as trumpeter, clarinetist and sometime vocalist. Founded as a straightforward power pop band, they were already in the process of escaping their three-chords-and-a-straitjacket origins when he joined. Within a year, they had become something else entirely: a relentlessly experimental combo whose music pushed out in all directions at once while mysteriously remaining centered. Yet it says something about de Leon that he could be an important component of a band of infinite possibilities and still be unsatisfied. By 2004, “I was really getting into songwriting, but realized that it was hard to play trumpet and sing at the same time. I had never really played guitar, but decided to start because it seemed like a good way to accompany myself.” Thus, Miss Massive Snowflake. Conceived as “a calm, acoustic side project,” its first three releases were a series of CD-Rs with handcrafted sleeves designed by his daughter and contributions from other members of his family (including his mother on backing vocals). Far more song-oriented than Rollerball, MMS represented a step towards accessibility – “I’ve been challenging people with experimental music for over ten years now, and I’m ready not to have the audience look at me so quizzically all the time” – and a conduit for another side of his musical personality. “I’ve always liked pop music – Michael Jackson, Madonna, even Miley Cyrus. So I’m trying to make something that’s catchy, but we’ll never be too poppy, because I like to mess around with weird time signatures and strange chord changes.”

True to form, even the conventional is unconventional in his hands. Once a solo project with an ever-changing cast of supporting characters, it is now a bona-fide band: its lineup has solidified into a unit featuring bassist Jeanne Kennedy Crosby and drummer Andy Brown. “I’m trying to write more for the band now – more of a rock sound, with distortion pedals and barre chords. I’d never played feedback before! I’ve only started to use distortion and feedback the last couple of years, and I’m in my forties now – I’m starting out at a place where most people would be when they’re eleven years old! I’m way behind the curve.”

Not that Shane de Leon intends to stop moving, literally or figuratively. He continues to run his label, North Pole Records (one of whose bands, Dramady, will open for MMS on the 9th). As we spoke, he had just completed a 29-date tour of Europe (his fourth); plans are afoot to return there in the fall after playing dates throughout the US. And, of course, he intends to keep coming back to Astoria, as he has done twice a year since his Rollerball days. “I’m from a small town in Montana, and Astoria has that same kind of feeling. Especially the people. I think some of the weirdest people in the world, the people with the most creative thoughts, are in towns like this and not the big cities, and Astoria definitely has that. There’s just this great vibe here that I can’t quite define. It’s a pretty magical little city.”


Coastal Independent Bookstores and the “Gods and Goddesses” Who Own and Run these Gems of Coastal Community Culture

Owner of Godfather’s Books in Astoria, Charlie Holboke has been in the bookstore business in Clatsop County since 1978.

Our local north coast booksellers are a little naïve; at least that’s what most of them told me when interviewing for this story. These bookstore owners all believe independent bookstores are a necessary aspect of any livable community. They believe inviting, local bookstores furnished with comfy chairs, a cat, and stacks of good books sustain a community. They have the notion if they host book events and author visits and customer conversations their store can both indicate and incite a community’s health and cohesion. They hope ereading devices, and big boxstores with their sterile book sections filled with the same twenty not-very-well-written books, and online booksellers won’t impact the book market too much. A little naïve indeed.

But, as the roots of the word mean “native” and its etymological origins link to words like nation, kind, and gentle, the fact that these bookstore owners are a little naïve may be their – and our coastal community’s – saving grace.

All our local booksellers also love books. And reading. And words. Karen Spicer, the beret-wearing, coffee-drinking owner of Rainy Day Books in Tillamook, sits in her comfy worn chair and sweeps her arm along the length of her main room where stacks of books rise inside shelves, on tables, and even in piles on the floor. “Think about it,” she says with a wistful voice, “Twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, and look what’s here. If you can read, you can access every thought ever thought.”

Franz Hasslacher, co-owner of Ekahni Books in Manzanita agrees. He and his wife, Sherry, bought the store in December of 2009 because they “believe in books and information,” particularly the kind of books not noted on the homogenized bestseller lists. However, the Hasslachers came into owning a bookstore right when the state of the publishing industry, with the advent of e-readers and tablets, registered its greatest shifts in how people get that information. In the second quarter of 2010, just after the launch of Apple’s first iPad, the online mogul Amazon.com hit the dubious milestone of selling more ebooks than print books. While Hasslacher acknowledges the advent of ereading devices has taken its toll, he still has hope. “Young people and old people come into the store and say they’ll never buy an ereader because they like the tactile feel of a book. Whether there’s enough of them, who knows?”

All our local independent booksellers have that question “who knows” hanging over their heads. They know the book world has changed. They know the economy has tanked. They know the future of the publishing and distribution industries is murky. Some of them, like Karen Emmerling of Beach Books in Seaside who recently implemented Google ebooks on her website and will be a first timer at the book expo in New York this year, are trying to keep up. Other sellers may give up, though not without a fight.

Spicer has been in the business for twenty-five and a half years. She knew what she wanted when she bought the bookstore and claims she “pretty much achieved that,” which was to make her livelihood by being a proprietor whose store has idyllic days where a dad is reading to his kid in the children’s room, and another person is reading on the couch, and a mom is nursing her baby in the comfy chair, and there’s cool music playing over the speakers. In other words, a place where community happens. But those kind of days at Rainy Day are getting fewer and farther between. “What I’m experiencing [now] is that books aren’t revered like they used to be,” Spicer says. “They’re a penny on Amazon, a dime a dozen. So if people can’t get them for cheap, they don’t want them.”

Jody Swanson of Cloud & Leaf Books in Manzanita can relate to Spicer’s experience. “Occasionally I have people come in here, take a picture with their phone of a book they want, and then go download it.” Swanson has been impacted by the changes in the economy and the book market, and she worries, too. But, she says she still sees a lot of people who have “awareness about supporting indie bookstores.” She also repeats a few times during our interview how thankful she feels to have a good location in Manzanita with a lot of foot and vacation home traffic where people arrive with leisure time to read.

All our local booksellers know the most important aspect of an independent bookstore is the human interaction and quality service they offer. It’s one asset all the technology or money in the world can’t beat or buy. These local sellers get to know their customers and help recommend books off the beaten path to satisfy their unique readers’ tastes. All of them will make special orders for their customers.

“More than ever, customer service is important,” says Emmerling. “Personal connection is what keeps people coming back.”

Patti Breidenbach, the new owner of Lucy’s Books in Astoria, argues customers “want that personal touch you just can’t get at the ‘A’ place, the online store that shall not be mentioned,”she says with a giggle. She also notes how someone once told her a bookstore in a town reflects the education of the people. “A town without a bookstore is a sad town,” she says.

If you’re reading this article and nodding your head in agreement, do more than peruse in the nice chairs these sellers have set out for you. Buy a book. Or two. Or tons. If you’re too financially strapped to buy a book, then ask if the seller might like a donation of your cool used books, so they could turn around and sell them, hopefully at a profit. One smart customer, when hearing how our local libraries are struggling to survive and fighting to pass levies to keep their doors open, walked into Rainy Day Books, bought a $500 gift certificate, and then gave it to the library to use for new purchases – that way, his purchase was doubly philanthropic.

On the side of their sales counter, Cloud & Leaf Book has a poster from IndieBound, a program launched in 2008 to help bring together independent businesses. The poster is the IndieBound Declaration, which reads in part: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for individuals to denounce the corporate bands which threaten to homogenize our cities and our souls, we must celebrate the powers that make us unique and declare the causes which compel us to remain independent. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all stores are not created equal, that some are endowed by their owners, their staff, and their communities with certain incomparable heights, that among these are Personality, Purpose and Passion.” If you truly believe bookstores are a sign of a thriving community, resist the soul-sucking ease of online shopping or buying a book while you’re also buying groceries. Save your soul – and your community – by supporting your local independent bookstore.


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Oz the cat, takes a nap at Beach Books. Photo by Erin J Bernard.

Beach Books

Karen Emmerling, owner
3700 N. Edgewood
Seaside, OR 97138
www.beachbooks37.com

In 2005, Karen Emmerling, a former advertising executive and t.v. manager, had been working with her husband in Gearhart when she “decided it was time to do something for me.” She took a trip to Wordstock, the bookseller and author extravaganza held every year at the convention center in Portland, and “knew I should have always been in the bookworld.” So, she Googled “how to open a bookstore,” and launched Beach Books in November of that year. Noting the risky move opening a new business in November on the Oregon coast, Emmerling laughs and says, “my timing has never been good.” Despite the riskiness of the endeavor, Emmerling has not only survived but thrived; last year was her best yet and this year is off to a good start.

BeachBooks2Her vision for her store was a “warm, inviting place where people feel comfortable talking about books. I wanted to share my love of books.” Beach Books sells primarily new books, but has some used, and a lot of regional and local author books as well. Beyond the comfortable chairs and welcoming cat, named Oz, Emmerling is serious about the quality of her customer service. She and her staff of four, offer monthly author luncheons, have ties to Pacific University’s Seaside winter residency program, provide a detailed website, create recommendation cards, send out a monthly email newsletter, update their Facebook page, offer discounts to book groups, and even make deliveries to locals during the summer months. Beach Books is an organizer of the first annual Seaside author event, “Written in the Sand,” to be held on June 23rd when more than 20 authors will gather at Downing Park to sign copies and read from their books.


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Jody Swanson (left) and customer at Cloud & Leaf. Photo by Erin J Bernard.

Cloud & Leaf Bookstore

Jody Swanson, owner
148 Laneda Ave.
P.O. Box 866
Manzanita, OR 97130
503.368.2665 (BOOK)
www.cloudandleaf.com

Eight years ago when Jody Swanson moved to Manzanita, she noticed there wasn’t a bookstore in town and she wanted to run a bookstore because she loves books. Her location and reputation as the local bookstore on Manzanita’s main Laneda Avenue has been a key component of her ability to expand her store after only two years and maintain one part-time and a few “on-call” employees. She specializes in new books, both fiction and non-fiction, and “more obscure things, whatever I find that I like,” she says. She’s also proud of her poetry selection. She’s an avid researcher, referencing several book guides before she orders, and she’s selective about what she chooses. Cloud & Leaf also sells cards, writing related gifts, small journals and magazines, and a few used books from Swanson’s own storage unit.

While Swanson acknowledges whatever she thinks is “good is subjective,” locals, tourists, and second home owners seem to trust her tastes and have come to rely on them. “I have a lot of people,” she says, “who are kind and complimentary about the store, and who appreciate our customer service, like the little recommended signs and reviews.”

Cloud & Leaf is a bookseller for the Manzanita Writers’ Series and offers periodic book events; she even once packed a rock band into her small store to help support a local writer.


cannonbeachbookco3Cannon Beach Book Company

Valerie Ryan, Owner
130 North Hemlock, Suite 2
Cannon Beach, Oregon 97110
503.436.1301
www.cannonbeachbooks.com

Cannon Beach Book Company owner, Valerie Ryan, bought the store in 1980 with a partner (John Buckley). They owned it together until late in 1983, when Ryan sold her half, and returned to Seattle. Twelve years later, she came back to the area, and bought the store, running it as the sole owner for the last 17 years. With the help of four employees year around and five in the summer, CBBC hosts frequent book signings,and co-sponsors off-site events with Cannon Beach Public Library, at Coaster Theatre, or “wherever we are asked to participate”. A recent event, “Get Lit at the Beach,” brought four bestselling authors to town for three days. This successful event will continue, to be held again on April 12, 13, and 14, 2013.

cannonbeachbookco2

Valerie Ryan chats with author Phil Margolin

Valerie majored in English in college. “When it became apparent that I was going to have to earn a living I realized that I could do what I loved best: surround myself with books; read them; write about them; talk about them; sell them.” She finds owning a bookstore to be “interesting, challenging, and always fun, a pleasure every day. “ Her daily interaction with colleagues, readers, and boxes of new books makes it “Christmas all the time.” She enjoys reading advance copies of what is coming up, as well as, the camaraderie with other booksellers in the Northwest and throughout the country. “I have learned a great deal about how people’s tastes change and evolve , but one thing is constant: a well-written book is easy to talk about and hand-sell. “ Selling hard-bound books is the obvious “backbone of the business”, but the advent of e-book formats poses an enormous challenge to retail booksellers. Valerie reflects, “It remains to be seen how that will play out. People tell us all the time that they love the feel, and look of a real book, but sometimes have succumbed to the electronic alternative for travel.”

As a small independent bookstore, Cannon Beach Book Company offers new and repeat customers an eclectic inventory from its extensive collection of literary fiction, to its carefully curated collection of sidelines. Customers frequently comment that in the CBBC library of fiction, children’s books, mysteries, and top regional and non-fiction titles, they find things they have never see anywhere else. Valerie and her employees are happy to fill special orders quickly and ship them anywhere. The inventory has recently expanded to include art supplies, along with their unique cards, Bookseats, Tokoloshe candles, lighted readers, book lights, and even a bumper sticker that says “Reading is Sexy.” “It is small and very discreet. We sell a lot of them to grandmothers…,” Ryan jokes, who, as is apparent, thrives to share the joy of reading with all coastal visitors and residents, young and old. -Edited by Lynn Hadley


Godfather3Godfather’s Books

Charlie Holboke, Owner
1108 Commercial St.
Astoria, OR 97103
503-325-8143
charlieholboke@netzero.com
godfathers.mosaicglobe.com

Charlie Holboke has been in the book business since 1978. He started with Turnaround Books in Seaside, which he ran from 1978-1999. Godfather’s Books in Astoria opened its doors in 1993, and is still serving customers from 9-8, Monday-Saturday (Most of the year), and on Sunday, 9-6.

Godfather2

Photo: Dinah Urell

Currently, with four part-time employees, including Michael McCusker, editor and publisher of the paper, Times Eagle, and host of KMUN’s “A Story Told”, Thursdays from 9:30-10:00am, this book store vibrates with life. Godfather’s Books offers up a great metaphysical book selection, incense, beverages, and a comfortable space for getting to know locals, as well as local and worldly books and art. Holboke is inspired by the love of books: the smell; the feel; the contents. “I love to have a book in my hands, and thought it would be a pretty good profession to put books into other people’s hands, and, so far, that has been a pretty good thing.” In the last ten years, internet sellers, e-reading formats, and bigbox discount stores have made it challenging for the small, independent bookseller to stay alive and well. Charlie has addressed this challenge with caffeine! He was the first purveyor of coffee and espresso in Seaside in 1986, and has clung to his mug ever since, serving up espresso and gourmet coffee beans.

Godfather’s Books is not just a bookstore with coffee, it is an Astoria Institution: a social hub; a place for one-of-a-kind gifts; an outstanding used book collection; a spot to listen to the employees play music; a special refuge sheltering real, hands-on books and magic, where Charlie is as excited about bringing his customers new and used books as he was initially in the late seventies. Godfather’s hosts book events. The most recent was with Ken Babbs (One of Ken Kesey’s “Merry Pranksters”), who wrote Who Shot the Water Buffalo. On the schedule for Sunday, June 24th at 2pm, is Kurt Nelson, who has recently published two Pacific Northwest historical books, Fighting for Paradise and Treaties and Treachery. – Lynn Hadley


Ekahni Books

Franz & Sherry Hasslacher, Owners
387 Laneda Avenue
P.O. Box 64
Manzanita, O 97130
503.368.6881
sales@ekahnibooks.com
www.ekahnibooks.com

Franz and Sherry purchased the store from the original owners in 2009 (the store was relocated from Wheeler to Manzanita only a few years prior), and run the store themselves. They bought a bookstore because they “believe in books and information and always wanted to live at the coast.” Franz says owning the store is “about supporting local authors and local businesses and keeping our money in our community, or at least in the state.” Coast Community Radio, KMUN, recently named Sherry Hasslacher their business member of the quarter.

Ekahni Books specializes in local authors and local history, including self-published and print on demand books, and they have a new expanded used-book section. Franz and Sherry particularly liked the used book idea, because “there are no batteries, no clogging up landfills.” Franz notes that personal service in a bookstore is what’s invaluable. “We can figure out what the customers’ reading appetites are and suggest books when they come into the store. They want to read something other than the twenty books on Amazon or what’s on Oprah or the New York Times bestseller lists. Our store is more about finding that hidden treasure.” Ekhani is in partnership with the Manzanita Writer’s Series and is a bookseller for their author events every other month. The Hasslachers bought the store with the belief they’d be able to support themselves, but Sherry has taken another job to aid their income and the store is currently for sale.


Jupiters1

Photo: Erin J Bernard

Jupiter’s Books

Jupiter’s Rare & Used Books
Watt Childress, Owner

244 North Spruce St.
Cannon Beach, OR 97110
503-436-0549
www.jupiterbooks.com
www.upperleftedge.com

Twenty-four years ago, Mary Lou McAuley was living in Washington State when she received a “sudden tip from the cosmos” that she should move to Cannon Beach, and open a bookshop. Since then, Jupiter’s Books has showcased secondhand books and other wares in a recycled garage across from the park in downtown Cannon Beach.

The name “Jupiter’s Rare & Used Books” was adopted in 1990 by John Taylor, a local house painter, who suddenly knew, like a bolt from the blue, he was going to be the next owner. As a boy, John’s mom gave him the nickname “Jupiter” for some unknown reason. Taylor installed the wooden shelving that enables, current owner,Watt Childress, to fit some 15,000 titles in the space of about 500 square feet. While John was still the shop owner, he hired a washboard-playing hippie named Billy Hults. Hults had just moved to the coast from Portland, where he had been working at the Goose Hollow Inn to promote live music, and to help elect Goose Hollow’s owner, Bud Clark, as Portland’s mayor.

In 1992, Billy began publishing “The Upper Left Edge” while working at the book shop. “Our beloved Reverend Billy Lloyd Hults”, as he became known to his readers, enticed his bosom buddy and fellow writer, Michael Burgess, to join him at the coast. Burgess came to Cannon Beach, and served as anchor columnist for the publication. After work on most evenings, the duo would join other local literati at Bill’s Tavern for “vespers.”

In the late 90s, Billy sold “Jupiter’s” to two of his “vesper” brethren, Bob and Suzanne Ragsdale. This couple had made enough dough, after retiring from Microsoft, to keep Billy on to work in the shop, along with several other characters. Watt began visiting the shop circa 1989, and soon fell in love with a Clatsop County girl. He and Jennifer moved to the coast to live full-time in 2001. Childress started working at the bookshop, then, and would scout for additional inventory, on the side. Together, Watt and Jennifer purchased Jupiter’s Books in 2004; recently, reviving “The Upper Left Edge”, as an online journal. Musician, Wes Wahrmund works in the shop at least one day a week, and is known to bring his guitar to play, but you can always catch him Friday and Saturday nights at The Bistro in Cannon Beach.

“When I travel I see fewer shops like Jupiter’s, fewer places to peruse the shelves, and explore a selection of out-of-print stories and offbeat ideas,” Watt comments. “Many secondhand booksellers have shut their doors during the past decade — cutting brick-and-mortar costs, and shifting solely to online marketing. That’s too bad, because you can’t get the same experience at a website. Secondhand bookshops can be seedbeds for enlightenment, in my humble experience. Time and again, I’ve watched how seemingly random bits of information converge in ways we don’t expect. Suddenly, we’re holding a book we’ve never seen before, on a topic we hadn’t considered. Then real magic is unleashed, when some word opens up a conversation.” His aim is to provide the fertile ground for that process to continue. “People call it ‘browsing’, which makes it sound like a safe, sane dalliance, but on good days it feels more like getting struck by lightning.”

Childress finds, “The most challenging thing about owning a bookstore now is competing with large online marketers, and e-book promoters in a ravaged economy. Some folks will come here to browse, find something they like, then leave figuring they can get it cheaper, elsewhere. Often, they’re wrong. I confess that I get a little high when they come back, and I’ve already sold it to someone else.” What does the future hold for Jupiter’s Books/Jupiter’s Rare & Used Books? Mythic fiction has captured Childress’ attention, of late, who recommends “Someplace to be Flying” by Charles de Lint; look for a review online in “The Upper Left Edge”. Where there is mythic fiction, mythic non-fiction is soon to follow, along with more cosmic connections between customers and the interplanetary exploration launched at Jupiter’s Books in Cannon Beach. Edited by Lynn Hadley


LucysBooksLucy’s Books

Patti Breidenbach, owner
348 12th St.
Astoria OR 97103
503.325.4210
patti@lucysbooks.net
www.lucysbooks.net

Patti Breidenbach, a career high school art teacher in Idaho, had visited Astoria and Lucy’s Books several times on while on vacation over the years, and she’d always enjoyed the look and feel of the town and store. Last year, when her “age of retirement” coincided with longtime owner Laura Snyder’s decision to sell, Breidenbach made the leap into owning a bookstore, something “she thought she’d like to do.” Breidenbach and many locals already liked what Lucy’s Books had in stock – a quality collection of new and used fiction, non-fiction, and regional books, so she didn’t make many changes to the inventory because she wanted to treat the local customers right. She did add a few chairs upstairs to encourage more perusing, and is expanding the children’s book section.

Breidenbach is still organizing book events for Lucy’s Books at least every other month, if not every month once she really gets “into the swing of the dynamics of them.” Most of the book events are or NW and local authors. She runs the website and has one part-time employee.


rainyday1Rainy Day Books

Karen Spicer, owner
2015 Second Street
Tillamook, OR 97141
503.842.7766
rdb@gorge.net

As one of the oldest bookstores on the Oregon Coast, Rainy Day Books is a downtown Tillamook icon. In 1987, Karen Spicer starting working at the store as “a friend who followed a friend to help a friend,” when the original owner, the late local poet and social worker, Jean Wollenweber, decided to sell her store (originally named “Cat’s Paws”).

rainyday2Spicer, who “loves books and reading,” bought her share of the store after a few years, and has been the sole proprietor ever since, employing only periodic part-time staff to help clean, organize, inventory, price, and move several rooms and stacks full of new and used books. Rainy Day specializes in rare editions, and whatever Spicer, a rigorous bargain hunter, “could find at garage sales.” Her store is one of the larger ones on the coast and is often the place where a reader can find a book hidden on her shelves he couldn’t find anywhere else. She also has a selection of greeting cards, often by local artists.

Spicer says her bookstore is a “transformative place” and that she found herself there. “Books get in your blood and you won’t love anything more,” she says. Her cat, Webster, is seventeen years old and gets depressed when there’s no customers in the store.


Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula Book Stores

Time Enough Books

157 Howerton Avenue
Harbour Village, Port of Ilwaco, WA
360-642-7667
www.facebook.com/pages/Time-Enough-Books

Overlooking the Ilwaco marina, Time Enough Books sits among the harbor shops offering up both new and used books. Of the many shops and restaurants along the harbor walk, Time Enough Books, which opened its doors in May 2000, has 80/20% new and used books, respectively, and, now, operates seven days a week, year-round. What started as the personal collection of Karla and Peter Nelson, Time Enough Books grew to become a comfortable little book shop with a strong maritime book selection, a regular book group meeting place, and the home of Harper Lee, a golden lab who greets all patrons at the store. With the Ilwaco Saturday market on-going from May through September, this shop is a fun destination spot for all literary shoppers.


Banana Books

114 3rd Street SW
Long Beach, WA
360-642-7005
www.facebook.com/sobebananabook

Located in the old town part of the Long Beach community, Banana Books features used titles. Banana Books’ owner Ed Gray, along with his American Staffordshire, Sobe, serves up a diverse book selection, an espresso bar, and handmade jewelry, fashioned by his wife, Mary Johnson. For over 20 years, he worked as a book scout and wholesaler of rare books, opening the book shop nine years ago. The book store, which provides many an entertaining read to the May through September Long Beach visitors, operates year-round. Ed enjoys winter reading on the peninsula, and finds it very relaxing, though his book selling schedule makes it hard for him to find time to read. Open Friday and Monday 12pm-5pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 11am-6pm.

Catherine O’Toole Bookseller

1310 Bay Avenue
Ocean Park, WA
360-665-0004
www.biblio.com/bookstore/catherine-otoole-bookseller-ocean-park

Catherine O’Toole Bookseller, located in an historic 1880s Ocean Park building that was the former Methodist Church and Moose Lodge, houses an extensive book collection. She specializes in antiquarian, rare, and out-of-print books of over 68,000 titles. New local history and guidebooks are also available at her shop. Originally from Ireland, she has lived in the United States for over forty-five years. Catherine keeps her local book business viable by selling and shipping her wares all over the world. “I can’t resist books,” she says. “It’s very gratifying to be able to say to a customer, ‘Oh yes, I’ve got that.’”

Adelaide’s Books

1401 Bay Avenue
Ocean Park, WA
360-665-6050
www.adelaidesbooks.com

Cyndy Hayward opened Adelaide’s Books bookstore and coffeehouse in 2008. Cyndy, a Seattle attorney, moved to Oysterville, and bought the historic building across from Catherine O’Toole’s shop in Ocean Park. She named her shop after the former business owner and operator, Adelaide Taylor, who ran Taylor Hotel on this site from 1887 to the mid 1930s. She offers a variety of approximately 3,000 titles, ranging from children’s literature to poetry. Helping Hayward, her friendly, full-sized poodle, Miles, greets guests on game nights and for author’s reading events. Open Thursdays through Mondays, 8am-4pm.

(Thanks to Southwest Washington Zest, a wonderful blog site, for the resource of info on Peninsula bookstores. See www.southwestwashingtonzest.com)

 


The Diva Returns: Angela Meade sings for us at AMF 2012

angela_meade
When Coloratura Soprano Angela Meade stepped on the stage of the Liberty Theater at last year’s AMF concert-staged opera, all in attendance were waiting with bated breath to hear what this Centralia, Washington native had to deliver. While safe to say that most in the audience were not so completely familiar with her, the buzz was on due to the festival marketing publicity touting her rising success. But then after all, one might think, if she’s really that good, would she be here?

Before the first aria was completed it was breathtakingly apparent that the artist on stage was undeniably gifted. To hear Ms. Meade was utter joy. A supple voice, yet with incredible power, as if she were drawing up the sweet dark roots of the earth and expelling the energy in fountains of delicious bel canto vocalization curling through the architecture of the Liberty Theater. You could feel the collective gasps throughout the audience and you could feel her music, sensual and liquid.

Since that time, Meade has been very busy debuting prestigious festivals, world class opera houses, and a recent “stupendous debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin” according to AMF Director Keith Clark.

This one of many similar opera critic comments; When the Metropolitan Opera’s 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Angela Meade starred in the company’s recent production of Ernani, she gave “a true star-making Met performance” (WQXR) that “showed what this uncommonly gifted rising artist is capable of” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times).

Meade is also the winner of the 2011 Richard Tucker Award, as is her counterpart in the upcoming AMF production of Bellini’s Norma, Soprana Ruth Ann Swenson. Swenson won it in 1993. In a solo AMF concert last year Swenson too, gave audiences a taste of world class vocal divinity.

Less than four years after her professional debut in 2008, Meade has quickly become recognized as one of the outstanding vocalists of her generation. The New York Times said of Ms. Meade, “Norma counsels peace in “Casta Diva” (the opening aria in this Bellini opera said to be one that makes or breaks a star), and Ms. Meade sang it beautifully, filling the long-spun lines with rich, unforced sound, shaping the phrases with bittersweet poignancy, gracing the melody with tasteful embellishments and lifting her voice to majestic highs.” According to bio info, Angela Meade joined an elite group of history’s singers when she made her professional operatic debut on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera as Verdi’s Elvira in Ernani substituting for an ill colleague in March 2008.

In 2011 Keith Clark was the winner of the prestigious American Prize for Opera Conducting, for the Astoria Music Festival production of Alban Berg’s modern opera Wozzeck. Sometimes you have to blink, and say “Really, in Astoria?” Really.

Angela Meade, Ruth Ann Swenson, Met Baritone and beloved AMF returning artist Richard Zeller, and Cuban-born Met Opera Tenor Raul Melo making his AMF debut; four of America’s finest operatic soloists take the Liberty stage on June 16. An excellent opportunity to test the waters of this ever-live art form.


 

monica hugget

Reknowned Baroque Violinist Monica Huggett

10th Annual Astoria Music Festival Highlights

Expansion.

AMF in its tenth year! Astoria may be on fire this June, yes very hot, music lovers. Newly elected Board of Directors President Diane Tiedeman states, “We are excited to present the biggest and most challenging festival in our short ten-year history. Our Artistic Director Keith Clark has assembled a remarkable roster of international artists and varied repertoire, and we invite music lovers to visit our historic town to experience our motto: Big City Music – Small Town Prices – Victorian Charm.”

This year the festival spans three weekends including mid-week performances; over ninety performers and students will gather in Astoria, Oregon for twenty-two performances of symphonic and chamber music, educational events, and two operas, June 15 – July 1. If you have not received a season brochure, pick one up at the AMF office on Commercial Street in Astoria.

Hold it your hands and visualize the joy of experiencing classical performance artistry and then get your tickets! While there have been some well-tempered price increases – the prices, repeat the motto, are small-town-prices.

AMF cornerstones return. The brilliant chamber pianist CARY LEWIS and Director of Chamber Music leads returning festival favorite, cellist SERGEY ANTONOV and debut AMF artist MARTIN CHALIFOUR, Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in an opening Saturday recital matinee, June 16, performing Czech composer, Smetana’s Trio in G minor. On Friday June 22, Lewis and Festival Chamber Players present a concert of Shubert, Poulenc and Mendelssohn. The following night Keith Clark conducts the AMF Orchestra in full Brahms.

pitcairn

Elizabeth Pitcairn

The elegant, passionate American violinist ELIZABETH PITCAIRN in her fourth AMF appearance, performs Bernstein’s Candide Overture, Beethoven, and Lalo’s Spanish Symphony on Sunday 17. Her only performance.

Don’t miss another opportunity to hear RUTH ANN SWENSON, uber-glorious Met star, in a Sunday Viennese matinee on June 24. Pianist Alexandre Dossin plays Mozart, and the North Coast Chorale joins the Festival Orchestra in music from Die Fledermaus.

Very New: MONICA HUGGETT and the Portland Baroque Orchestra (PBO). Hugget is one of the most significant Baroque artists today, a life-long dedication to the proliferation of Baroque-era music. Hugget and PBO perform J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The Goldberg Variations, originally written for harpsichord, will be performed at 2pm, Saturday June 30 by Portland-born, International artist Andrew Brownell on piano. That evening, the same work, in an arrangement for strings by renowned contemporary conductor-arranger Dmitir Sitkovesky will then be performed for strings by PBO.

This year’s multi-media artist is J Walt. Walt is an Academy Award-winning video artist who creates real-time animated 3-D film to live music. The computer is his palette. J Walt and the Los Angeles Virtuosi perform: SPONTANEOUS FANTASIA. One would say “a very modern version of Disney.” Wednesday June 20 at the PAC.

More enhancing Baroque. Grace Episcopal Church, a beautiful 1886 sanctuary by Candlelight. Lute player Hideki Yamaya, The Astoria Festival Baroque Band and Voices perform 17th century Italian music in an intimate totally candle-lit evening. Tuesday, June 19.

And so much more . . .


 

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Venues
Liberty Theater
PAC: Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center
GEC: Grace Episcopal Church
FPC: First Presbyterian Church
FBC: First Baptist Church

FRIDAY JUNE 15
7:00 pm FESTIVAL PRELUDE: BELLINI, STRAIGHT UP – Private Home Music lovers will sip Bellinis, Italy’s favorite cocktail, as Portland Opera historian Robert Kingston discusses 19th Century Bel Canto style and its greatest masterpiece, Bellini’s Norma. Pianist Cary Lewis and Festival. Artists perform Bel Canto-influenced music of Chopin and Paganini.

SATURDAY JUNE 16
4:00 pm CELEBRITY MATINEE RECITAL – Liberty Theater Los Angeles Philharmonic Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour and cellist Sergey Antonov, both prizewinners in Moscow’s prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, join pianist Cary Lewis for a very special opening matinee.

7:30 pm OPERA IN CONCERT BELLINI’S NORMA – Liberty Theater Angela Meade, Norma; Ruth Ann Swenson, Adalgisa; Raul Melo, Pollione; Richard Zeller, Oroveso; Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Keith Clark Conductor. Sung in Italian with English Super Text

SUNDAY, JUNE 17
Noon CANTATAS, COFFEE AND CROISSANTS #1 – FPC Young Artist Vocal and Instrumental Recital (Free Admission)

4:00 PM FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA with ELIZABETH PITCAIRN – Liberty Theater Elizabeth Pitcairn, Violin Keith Clark, Conductor

PROGRAM: Bernstein Candide Overture; Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21; Beethoven Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op. 67

TUESDAY, JUNE 19
7:30 PM BAROQUE BONANZA by Candlelight GEC Seventeenth Century Italian music for voices and original; instruments in Astoria’s historic Grace Episcopal Church of 1886, featuring Portland’s Baroque lutenist Hideki Yamaya, San Francisco violinist Noah Strick and others.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20
7:30 pm J-WALT’S SPONTANEOUS FANTASIA PAC with THE LOS ANGELES VIRTUOSI – A Fantasia for our time: Live real-time 3-D video to chamber music by Saint-Saens and Satie, including The Four Seasons of Vivaldi and Piazzola. Perfect entertainment for all ages, especially grandparents who can still remember Pink Floyd laser light shows! THE LOS ANGELES VIRTUOSI: Olivia Tsui, Violin (Shanghai); Sebastian Toettcher, Cello (Berlin); Mark Robson, Piano (Los Angeles)

THURSDAY JUNE 21
7:30 pm MUSIC IN THE MAKING: RUTH ANN SWENSON MASTER CLASS PAC An inside look at the making of an opera singer. Soprano Ruth Ann Swenson and opera coach David Burnakus lead a rare public master class with outstanding young Vocal Apprentice Artists. Watch them put finishing touches on Mozart’s The Magic Flute and other operas. One of the world’s finest Mozart singers, Miss Swenson will impart a lifetime of insight to a new generation on the brink of professional careers.

FRIDAY, JUNE 22
7:30 pm ASTORIA MUSIC FESTIVAL ALL-STARS – Liberty Theater Festival Chamber Players, Cary Lewis, Piano and Director.

PROGRAM: Schubert Fantasy in F minor for Piano, Four Hands, D. 490; Poulenc Sextet for Winds and Piano; Mendelssohn Octet in E-flat Major for Strings, Op. 20

SATURDAY, JUNE 23
11:00 am CLASSICS 4 KIDS #1 PAC Concert for Families and Children (Free Admission)

4:00 pm SERGEY’S HAPPY HOUR MATINEE – Liberty Theater Chamber Music and Chat with cellist Sergey Antonov, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra Concertmaster Roy Malan and pianist Cary Lewis.

7:30 pm FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA plays ALL-BRAHMS – Liberty Theater Anthea Kreston, Violin; Jason Duckles, Cello; Keith Clark, Conductor

PROGRAM: Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80; Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, Op. 102; Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

SUNDAY, JUNE 24
Noon CANTATAS, COFFEE AND CROISSANTS #2 FBC Young Artist Vocal and Instrumental Recital (Free Admission)

4:00 PM FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA in a VIENNESE MATINEE – Liberty Theater Ruth Ann Swenson, Soprano; Sergey Antonov, Cello; Alexandre Dossin, Piano; Astoria Music Festival Vocal Apprentice Artists; The North Coast Chorale, Denise Reed Hines, Director; Keith Clark, Conductor

PROGRAM: Strauss Jr. Die Fledermaus Overture; Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Hob. VIIb; Mozart Piano Concerto No 21 in C Major, K. 468; Mozart Concert Aria with Piano Obbligato, “Ch’io mi scordi di te?”; Strauss Jr, Die Fledermaus: Act II Finale

TUESDAY, JUNE 26 – THURSDAY, JUNE 28
YOUNG ARTISTS WEEK: FREE CLASSICAL JAMS ALL AROUND TOWN! Venues Include Fort George Brewery, The Bistro, Clemente’s, and More

FRIDAY JUNE 29
7:30 pm VOCAL APPRENTICE OPERA: MOZART’S DIE ZAUBERFLiTE PAC Young artists from around the country in a fully staged production of W.A. Mozart’s final opera The Magic Flute.. Sung in German with English Dialogue and Super Titles. With The Festival Instrumental Apprentice Chamber Orchestra Maddox Dance Studio Little Ballet Theater

SATURDAY, JUNE 30
11:00 am CLASSICS 4 KIDS #2 PAC Concert for Families and Children (Free Admission) KMUN Troll Radio Review Presents Mozart’s Magic Flute for Children

TWO WAYS OF HEARING BACH
2:00 pm ANDREW BROWNWELL, PIANO – Liberty Theater TWO WAYS OF HEARING BACH’S GOLDBERG VARIATIONS Original Version for Keyboard

7:30 pm PORTLAND BAROQUE ORCHESTRA, MONICA HUGGETT, CONDUCTOR – Liberty Theater TWO WAYS OF HEARING BACH’S GOLDBERG VARIATIONS. Arranged for String Orchestra by Dmitry Sitkovetsky. Presented in cooperation with The Oregon Bach Festival

SUNDAY, JULY 1
4:00 pm VOCAL APPRENTICE OPERA: MOZART’S DIE ZAUBERFLiTE PAC See June 29 for Performance Details


3rd Annual Tenor Guitar Gathering

A weekend to tune into a unique music passion
June 1 – 3

This Year’s Events
All events are open to the public and even if you don’t play a tenor guitar, or any instrument, you are encouraged to come and enjoy this unique, fun, quirky, informative musical experience. “An Evening of Tenor Guitars” is only $15 and the tenor guitar workshops, all four of them are only $60.

The four day tenor guitar weekend starts out THURSDAY, MAY 31 at 7pm at The Sand Trap in Gearhart where THE WANDERERS will perform from 7pm until 9m.

ON FRIDAY, JUNE 1, we will be meeting in front of the Bridgewater Bistro at 10:30 am to get on the 11am Trolley followed by a tenor guitar lunch buffet from 12:30 until 2:30. There is limited seating and a fixed menu so you need to make a reservation by calling 503-325-6777 or 877-357-6777. Not only will you get a great meal for only $20 (beverages not included) but you will hear Lowell “Banana” Levinger of The Youngbloods, play his five string tenor guitar and perform songs from his latest album, “Even Grandpas Get The Blues”.

Tune in to KMUN between 3 and 4, and listen to Carol Newman’s show “Arts Live and Local” to hear tenor guitarists talk about….tenor guitar.

That same day, Friday, there are two more events planned. Doors open at 6:30 pm at The Astor Street Opry Company Playhouse, who have been very gracious about providing their wonderful space for a sing a long – play a long fundraiser to support KMUN. A donation of $5 or more will get you in to play and sing all kinds of fun folk songs, or whatever songs we can figure to play. It’s going to be one big fun hootenanny. Bring your voices, instruments, and maybe some lyrics would help. The event ends at 9pm.

But Hazel’s Tavern has THE RENEGADE STRING BAND performing from 10pm until midnight with tenor guitar players sitting in. So we’re heading over there right after the sing and play along!

Saturday, June 2, at the Performing Art Center starting at 9am and ending at 4pm, will be four tenor guitar workshops for $60. That comes to only $10 an hour. The workshops are open to the public even if you don’t play an instrument, you will learn a lot, get to ask questions, and hear inside information from Lowell “Banana” Levinger, Spider Murphy and Mark Josephs.

Banana

The four day Tenor Guitar weekend culminates on Saturday evening with AN EVENING OF TENOR GUITARS featuring the greatest line up of tenor guitar players in the world. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, for $15, to hear Josh Reynolds and friends, Spider Murphy, Lowell “Banana” Levinger, Myshkin, The Renegade String Band, The Wanderers, Mark Josephs, and special guests for a wonderful evening of tenor guitar music from 7pm until 9:45pm.

Then we are all going over to The Voodoo Room to hear Spider Murphy and his band play from 10pm until midnight!

On Sunday, June 3rd, the fourth and final day, we will meet at The Coffee Girl to jam from 9am until noon. Myshkin, as part of her tenor guitar world tour, will be performing at The Ft George on the last night from 8pm until 11pm.

If you would like to support the Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings in Astoria, Oregon you can visit: http://www.tenorguitargathering.com/ and buy your tickets to AN EVENING OF TENOR GUITARS, TENOR GUITAR WORKSHOPS, and buy this years T-Shirt!!!

A Brief History of The Tenor Guitar
In the 1900’s the most popular stringed rhythm instrument was the four string tenor banjo, tuned like a cello, CGDA. The tenor banjo added a percussive rhythm sound to large orchestras. As the guitar gradually replaced the tenor banjo in popularity, a simple solution was to put a tenor banjo neck on a guitar body to produce a “guitar like” tone. Part tenor banjo, part guitar, this hybrid instrument, the “tenor guitar” was born out of necessity.

Because the tenor guitar had four strings, people would sometimes tune it like a baritone ukulele, or the top four strings of a guitar DGBE. Nick Reynolds, of The Kingston Trio, did this. Nick was the first inductee to the Tenor Guitar Hall of Fame in a ceremony held here in Astoria in 2011. He is the most well known tenor guitar player of all time.

Tiny Grimes, a jazz player, also tuned his tenor like the top four strings of a guitar. He had small hands and liked the feel of a smaller neck. Some people tune it GDAE, an octave below a mandolin. The shapes of the chords are the same, but their names change.

The Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings
The Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings started in 2011, has brought new focus to the instrument. There are many groups and individuals who use the tenor guitar to achieve their musical “voice”. I became aware of Robin Hunte, from Barbados, for example, who started a group in 1962 called The Merrymen. Robin drives the group with his four string tenor guitar. He recently acquired a new Blueridge tenor guitar, made by Saga instruments, one of a small handful of companies that offer new tenor guitars.

I can tell you that more and more people, once they hear and play and learn about a tenor guitar, fall in love with the small size of the instrument and the beautiful sound that comes from it. Accordions, Didgeridoos, Guitars, Harmonicas, Autoharps all have their own festivals. A “Tenor Guitar Gathering” had been long overdue. Astoria and tenor guitars have become a perfect fit.

Tenor Guitar Capital of The World
Astoria, Oregon has become the “unofficially recognized” tenor guitar capital of the world. This year will mark the 3rd Annual Tenor Guitar Gathering and will bring together more tenor guitar players, performers and workshops than ever before. There will be a tenor guitar lunch buffet at the Bridgewater Bistro, a sing a long fundraiser for KMUN at the Astor Street Opry Company Playhouse, workshops and An Evening of Tenor Guitars at The Performing Art Center, tenor guitar music at The Ft George, The Sand Trap, Hazel’s Tavern, The Coffee Girl and The Voodoo Room. We’ll be playing tenor guitars on The Trolley and may be jamming at Gordo’s Astoria Guitar Company.

What People Have To Say

“The 4-string tenor guitar has made a significant contribution to American music and culture. Historically, C. F. Martin & Co. is proud to have defined the tone of tenor guitars for the world and we are excited that there is a resurgence in popularity of these unique and fun instruments.”

Dick Boak
Museum, Archives and Special Projects
C. F. Martin & Co., Nazareth, PA

“My Dad, Nick Reynolds, used to say, “It’s all about the music.” I am proud to help support the Annual Tenor Guitar Gatherings in Astoria. The music of The Kingston Trio continues to touch people all over the world. My Dad was a wonderful performer who gave his very best every time he played his tenor guitar and sang with the Trio. It’s comforting to know that he is recognized for his achievement, albeit inadvertently, for his playing of the relatively unknown four string tenor guitar.”

Josh Reynolds

“When The Brothers Four started out at the University of Washington in Seattle we were totally “powered” by the Martin Tenor Guitar.  It was the sound of our first 2 or 3 albums recorded for Columbia Records., including our first single release, “Greenfields”.  As I think back on it now it seems likely that the trademark sort of open-stringed arpeggio introduction to that recording would have not been possible on anything else but those two Tenor Guitars. A lucky moment!”

Bob Flick
The Brothers Four

“I’ve been playing a 1954 Martin Tenor Guitar since 2006.  A bout with tendonitis in the left elbow caused me to quit playing the six string guitar for about a year.  I bought 1954 Martin to see if the smaller instrument would help with the elbow.  I always loved what Nick Reynolds played on his tenor guitar, so it was an easy decision for me to try one out.  The elbow healed, the 1954 Martin is fine, and singing partner for the past 53 years, Bill Murlin and I have worked the Tenor into our Wanderers act full time.  We look forward to bringing the Martin to Astoria in June!”

Carl Allen, The Wanderers

“I came to tenor guitar through mandolin, after playing guitar for 15 years I picked up a mando and started writing songs on it, then began to do solo shows again and wanted to play those songs, but not so tiny-sounding. My vintage Martin Tenor has a lovely deep tone for such a small instrument, and I swear it is haunted, in a good way, by whatever songs got played on it in it’s youth (the ‘30’s and ‘40’s.) I have written a few songs on it that feel like they were given to me by the instrument, most especially the song Ruby Warbler, that I named my band after. So glad to be coming back to the Gathering, a great chance to get together with other fans of this sweet instrument.”

Myshkin

“The more people are talking about tenors, the more people are playing them. I’m spreading the word everywhere I go. I’m at the Jazz Festival in New Orleans right now, and I can tell you that everyone here loves the tenor.”

Spider Murphy

“The two most common questions I’m asked about the tenor guitar are, “Why a tenor guitar?” and  “What’s the difference between a tenor guitar and a 6 string?”  The answer is an easy one. The tenor guitar has a clear, sweet voice of it’s own.  It works beautifully as a rhythm instrument, as part of a section or as a stand along solo instrument. I play a Martin size 5 or half size tenor from 1929, a new Martin Custom tenor, a National Reso-phonics tenor with a steel body and an archtop electric tenor made by Paul Lestock of Arrow Guitars and Mandolins.  Each guitar has it’s own personality and history.

I went to the Library of Congress and The Smithsonian to research tenor guitars and players when the tenor first grabbed my attention and heart.  About 75% of the players I found were black musicians from the early black string bands from the 1920s through about 1935.  They were centered in the Midwest around Chicago and St. Louis and also in Louisiana and Alabama.    

I’m  thankful for the players and builders who are breathing new life into the instrument today.  The tenor guitar is a voice from our American past that reaches beautifully into the future.  It’s a voice that could have been lost but thanks to the efforts of Mark Josephs, Paul Lestock, Josh Reynolds, Dick Boak and many others in the modern music community the tenor guitar will be with us for a long time to come.”

Marcy Marxer – Two Time Grammy Winner

Words from Mark Joseph
Tenor Guitar Gathering Organizer

I GREW UP IN ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey and started playing guitar in 1960 when I was ten years old. Playing chords came easy and I evolved into a sought after rhythm guitar player. I played rhythm guitar and sang in a four piece rock band called “the Super Jam Blues Band”, and later, “The Whazooz”. We played for High School dances and private “sweet sixteen” parties. When I graduated from High School I graduated to playing in bars. In 1974 I joined a swing trio and we were an opening act for Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Horace Silver, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and numerous others. I met Johnny Shines, Professor Longhair, Walter “Shakey” Horton, Bucky Pizzarelli during that time and learned a little bit from observation. It was a magical time in my life, “pre straight job”, so to speak.

My Mom bought me a harmonica when I was 18. I learned what I know today from meeting harp players much better than I, who took the time to share invaluable techniques that you can hear in my recordings and live playing. When I was 40, I started playing the ukulele, similar to guitar but very different in the musical approach….and bought my first tenor guitar when I was 50 years old. I just finished an album that’s all about the tenor guitar. It’s called “TENOR ELEVEN”, fifteen songs played on tenor guitar with vocal and harmonica accompaniment.

I never saw myself as a promoter, and still don’t, but I do feel the desire to bring tenor guitar players together at one time and one place, and that place is Astoria. Music continues to be special to me. It has opened doors to new friendships and improves the quality of my life. I have worked in Los Angeles as a clerk at an Outpatient Cancer Center and will bring my uke in and play for patients. It makes them sing and smile and forget where they are for a moment. It is uplifting to them and to me as well.

I spoke to a stranger on the phone recently who’s coming to this year’s gathering. He told me he plays baritone ukulele and is thinking about playing the tenor guitar. When he searched the web for information he came across the gathering. He booked himself into the Hotel Elliot and is very excited about attending. That’s the kind of thing that makes me hustle to make these gatherings happen, and the fact that they’re a lot of fun for me and everyone who attends. I think that everyone in Astoria has worked together to make this quirky event come to life, it’s not unlike a band that rehearses for hours and then gets on stage and puts that wall of emotion out there as if it was all so easy.


In New Light: Four Original Plays by Keyaho Rohlfs

asocticketwindowA May Celebration and Much More than Melodrama at Astor Street Opry Company

Anyone familiar with the Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC) knows this hard-working theater group is responsible for bringing the community, and a great portion of those visiting the area, the fun melodrama, “Shanghaied in Astoria”. This humorous and historical musical provides audiences of all ages a great way to enjoy local theater, learn about the area, and have a great time hurling popcorn at the villains.

“IT’S THE HEART AND SOUL of the company and the community. We’ve become bigger than theater. It’s a tradition and an event that belongs to Astoria,” says ASOC’s Production Manager and Events Coordinator Judith Niland.

judyniland

ASOC Founder Judy Niland says "Bye-bye porta potties, bye-bye!!!"

It is this “backbone” of the ASOC repertoire, running every summer for the last twenty-eight years, that allows ASOC to be a great deal more than just this one production. So, too, is Judith Niland. Her tremendous efforts as manager, publicist, grant writer, event coordinator, facilitator, and artist, make ASOC a far bigger thing than just a community theater. Current ASOC Executive Board President, Chuck Meyers, speaks of her, alone, as having been the ASOC for the last 25 years. She has devoted a large part of her life to keeping the theater arts alive, well, and housed in Astoria. Having lead the capital campaign to acquire the permanent home for ASOC, and having spent the last quarter century developing the management repertoire for the theater, she, now, wishes to teach, share, and pass on the duties and traditions of this outstanding community theater.

“ASOC’s been my life’s work, accidentally, and it was Del Corbett’s life work, too. He’s the one that taught me.”

Recently, after spending time away from the theater to recover from foot surgery, Judith realized she could no longer perform the myriad of tasks, and juggle all the balls required to make the variety of theater at ASOC happen, forever. This wake-up call drew her attention to the need to educate and share the finer points and details of what it takes to run this theater, as a volunteer, with the other ASOC Board and Committee members. She wants to offer the opportunity to other volunteers to become proficient in the many facets of ASOC operations, as well as, allow herself more time for her own artwork. As a trained children’s book and fairy tale illustrator with a college education in Book Arts, her first love is drawing. Arthritis has kept Judith from returning to the book press, but she remains very passionate about pursuing her metaphysical design style and symbolic art.

Her health, while keeping her from some art forms and reducing her relentless participation with ASOC, allowed her the time, while recuperating from surgery, to read more, and, specifically, lead her to more of Seaside playwright, Keyaho Rohlfs’ plays. This inspired the upcoming ASOC Fundraiser, “In New Light”, three one-act plays and one monolgue written by Rohlfs.

“It’s great to remind the community that ASOC has always done other kinds of theater. That’s why we existed, and people forget about that…’Shanghai’s’ always been the vehicle to get there, but never the end result. You have to give those growing beyond the melodrama something else to do. This is a chance to feed some of that. His (Keyaho’s) work comes from a place in his heart and really touches people,” commented Niland of her interest in working with Rohlfs.

“Everyone loves working with him. He’s very centered, intelligent, and strongly spiritual. His stuff works on multiple levels. He doesn’t care if people get it, or not, as long as they walk away thinking.” She continues, “I found his plays to be trips into a real, yet, imaginary world full of odd heartfelt characters, connections, and synchronicities that are similar to how I shape my world. I have studied the metaphysical world ever since I was a teen, and it is something that brings me peace and balance. Life is all about how you feel, and his work helps me remember that, and that is what is real.”

Director of Rohlfs’ one-act play “Centerpiece,” Anne MacGregor, agrees that his work is like poetry that goes in and out of time and emotions, and leaves audience members to ask “What was that?”, “How’d we get there?”, and “That was really interesting, what was it?” She added, “His writing is so superior, he is a channel. Everyone picks up their own thing-it’s amazing. I don’t know what he’s going to do with his work, but I would go on doing it forever. It’s a dream come true for any good director.”

To say that Playwright Keyaho Rohlfs speaks freely about his work and writing process is akin to saying, writing plays is a cakewalk. He draws the comparison of his play writing to pulling stories from an orphanage of abandoned imaginary friends.

“When kids get a certain age they’re told no more imaginary friends. I always wondered what happened to all the imaginary friends- where did they go?”

So, he offers them a place to reside, in exchange for their stories, which he diligently puts to paper in the form of stage productions-one act plays, monologues, and full-length plays.

In New Light cast

A partial cast for In New Light with playwright Keyaho Rohlfs (center).

“The really cool thing about theater is how you can manifest all these imaginary friends, and make it real,” says Rohlf, and explains that he explores the barriers between real and imaginary, looks inside and outside the self to channel the voices he believes are out there, and, if listening closely, can be heard. When asked about the layered, spectral quality of his work, Rohlfs replied, “I think that when we can see the invisible realm, then, we have something to talk about, and when we feel the full force of nature, then we have something to share.”

In his work with Astor Street Opry Company, Rohlfs believes it to be much more than a community theater. “This playhouse is really special; it’s the most community-minded, community theater around. There’s activity here year ‘round, day in and day out for all ages. It has a really big heart.”

And no stranger to the Astor Street Opry Company he is. In the three years of ASOC’s New Works Festival, an original script writing contest that solicits, celebrates, and produces selected one-acts plays and monologues submitted from all over the country, Rohlfs submissions have been selected and performed every year. This festival was initiated in 2010, for which his monologue, “Tallulah” was accepted and produced. The festival performance was directed by ASOC Production Committee Chair, Anne MacGregor, who performs the role in the reprisal of “Tallulah” for the May Celebration fundraiser.

In 2011, his one-act play, “Centerpiece” was a final selection, performed by Patricia Shannon, Bill Dodge, and Ann Bronson. In this year’s festival, his comedic monologue submission, “Captive”, was produced. Performed by Aly Hansen and Kirk House with direction by Del Corbett, this funny, sweet and talent-filled piece is about a teenage girl who appears center stage, singing, dancing, juggling and believing she is being held captive by a crazy bunch of community theater people. Rohlfs participation in the ASOC New Works Festival for the past three years has brought critical acclaim to the ASOC. In the name of creating a new slot for original stage productions, ASOC has chosen Keyaho’s two previously performed stage pieces, along with two new one-act plays to perform in a showcase of his work. His beautiful use of language offers an astonishing depth of emotions, as well as an alluring sense of human nature. This May Celebration of “In New Light” offers a unique opportunity to enjoy poetic and eloquently written theater concerning relevant issues of our time. This is a fundraiser to kick-off the phase three of ASOC’s capital campaign to build indoor restroom facilities and an office.

In New Light: 4 One Acts in a Night
The four performances of “In New Light: An Evening of Original Artwork from Playwright Keyaho Rohlfs” will reprise two pieces previously produced for ASOC’s New Works Festival (Centerpiece and Tallulah) and include two new one-act pieces. Included in the showcase is “Centerpiece” with Tom Brownson performing the lead role, originally performed by Bill Dodge in the 2011 production. This one-act play finds an elderly, homeless couple who have fallen on hard times, brought about by the current economic meltdown. They seek shelter and comfort in the warmth of stage lights, reflecting, reminiscing, and celebrating their lives together. Anne MacGregor directs this repeat performance, again. She also performs the monologue, “Tallulah”, an elderly woman’s poetic monologue about an adventuresome life, well-lived, joined by the playwright’s very own jazz saxophone accompaniment.

Premiering in this showcase production are two new one-act plays, “Signing Out” and “Mahpiya”. “Signing Out” portrays a road weary musician returning to his hometown to visit his father in a nursing home. Here, he gets help from a plucky nurse, and makes some unexpected choices. In “Mahpiya”(A Native American word meaning “Sky”) several stories combine, as a girl surrounded by devastation, manifests her identity in a spiritual journey, spanning generations; this tale includes an interesting amphibian.

Directed by Keyaho Rohlfs and Anne MacGregor, the cast includes: Anne MacGregor, Patricia Shannon, Tom Brownson, Ann Bronson, Markus Brown, Barry Sears, Mark Erickson, Elias Enyart, Avery Hartzel, Tiffany Simmons, Brian Allen, Jane Hill, Julie House, Anabel Knight and William Grammer.

In November 2007, Astor Street Opry Company acquired a permanent home in Astoria. By July 2008, the first production on the new stage of “Shanghaied in Astoria” was up and running. Where the cost to purchase a theater space was covered through a designated capital grant and donated funds, the additional $125,000 needed to make the building a safe and a comfortable public space was not. In Fall 2010, the ASOC Board secured a mortgage with Clatsop Community Bank to help where grant monies were being discontinued due to economic cutbacks. After years as a vagabond theater troupe, being set back with every move, ASOC was finally housed in its own stable and improved theater building. Now able to settle and to grow, the theater added more family programming and an original script writing contest.

“We’re still getting used to using the building-during the daytime, at night, rehearsing at dark. That’s what we (ASOC) have to do now to maintain a theater, and keep it going financially. We have to have something playing all the time, said Niland. Niland, whose efforts and countless hours made the theater purchase a reality, is now squeezing in a new fundraiser into the very full ASOC theatrical calendar. Two weekends in May between “The Real Lewis and Clark Story: or How the Finns Discovered Astoria” and the start of “Junior Shanghaied” offers a time slot for some alternative theater options to raise funds for the third phase of the ASOC Capital Campaign which will make possible the construction of public restrooms and an office.

The Astor Street Opry Company (ASOC) presents a special performance fundraiser, “In New Light”, featuring four original pieces by Seaside playwright Keyaho Rohlfs. Three one act plays and a monologue will be presented on May 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th at 7:30 pm at the ASOC Playhouse located on 129 West Bond Street in Astoria, Oregon; doors open at 7:00 pm. This is a kick-off for ASOC Capital Campaign Phase Three “Pennies for Potties (or Big Buck for Bathrooms) Drive”. This evenings is a celebration of live and local entertainment with a special silent auction of original art and the unveiling of the“Yakko~Eino” Fundraiser Thermometer and the “Toilet Seat Pennies Toss” collection jar. Tickets for this fundraiser are only $8 for singles and $12 per couple and can be purchased by calling 503-325-6104 or online at www.astorstreetoprycompany.com.


Nancy Slavin’s Moorings: An Author’s Journey to Publishing

Nancy SlavinFOURTEEN YEARS ago, author Nancy Slavin brought characters to life in the wilds of post-Exxon Valdez Alaska, a landscape of awesome beauty and magnificent devastation.The lives of millions, human, fish, and fowl, were changed forever by an environmental disaster of unqualified proportion. Slavin’s self-published, e-book, Moorings, looks at these altered lives, and asks the question: How do you do you move forward, if you have not mended the wounds afflicted on your self and your environment? “If you don’t deal with the past, it never really goes away, and if you don’t deal with the sediment that settles at the bottom of the ocean (from an oil spill), it poisons things; that’s the overlying metaphor for the book.” Since the book’s origin for a screenwriting class in 1998, and, later, taking shape as an award-winning Master’s thesis, Moorings’ character names, events, point of view, and how the story is told have all changed, but the essential story has not, and now that story is final, and available for purchase on-line at www.smashwords.com.

“I sent my book to one-hundred agents and editors, and met a lot of people through conferences. Everybody was always really nice. I probably have a stack of the nicest rejections you’ve ever seen… Even though the rejection letters were really nice, it’s a lot more fun to have people (be able to) buy the book, and really like it.” When Nancy finished graduate school in 1999, self-publishing was still considered a “vanity thing”, but over time, after numerous re-writes, countless and exhausting efforts trying to sell her book in the traditional publishing industry, and characters that refused to sit in a drawer and be forgotten, she took it upon herself, in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf , to self-publish. “I just decided my book was good enough to be out there in the world.” With the support and encouragement of family and friends, Moorings was published in March 2012 under the fledgling book press, Feather Mountain Press, formed by Slavin and writer friend, Elia Seely. “If I had to do this self-publishing thing, I’d like to do it with someone. I thought it would be more fun.”

MooringsOpportunities to self-publish have changed greatly. The founder of Smashwords.com, Marc Stoker, utilizes his skills to globally communicate information about books, on-line, “like a www.youtube.com for authors”. Stoker has created a website that really makes it easy to publish for a minimal royalty fee. His system “meat grinds” books to be downloaded to all technological formats from iPads to laptops with a print-on-demand option. Nancy says, since e-publishing, people have already started asking about a hard bound version, too. Writing and publishing are only the start of what it takes to get a book read; book tours, facebook posts, tweeting,and other promotional tools must be continuously engaged to sell a book. Nancy’s thesis advisor at Portland State University, and award winning author, Diana Abu-Jaber has published her own writing through traditional avenues, but still enjoys the use of social media to connect with friends, family, and fans. She commented, “It’s always been very difficult to get published– especially by a mainstream publisher. I do think that there seem to be new avenues opening up to writers that appear to be much more democratic. But, as you mention, if someone decides to self-publish, they will also have to do their own promotion, which is an enormous amount of work. I really enjoy social media like Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t see them as promotional tools– I just use them because I think it’s fun.”

Working fifteen years in various capacities for Tillamook County Women’s Crisis Center, Nancy was exposed to the stories that humans generate to cope with different behaviors, and, ultimately, drew her to the theme of her book. “What the story was about was that people don’t want to deal with how they behave…and make decisions that then have long term effects, sometimes all the way through an entire next generation. To me, that’s the metaphor of the oil spill, you just spew your shit and leave it there, and it affects things; it affects an entire system.” The main character, Anne Holloway, represents the youthful innocence and naivete that one embodies when the world is their’s to explore and to change. It is only after being dwarfed by the Alaskan landscape and its experiences, that Anne realizes she is the only thing she can change.”Self-awareness needs to develop from within and then grow outward…imposing it on people doesn’t work.” Nancy likened this to trying to get published in the traditional publishing industry. “After spending years trying to tell them(publishers) what my book’s about and to pay attention…the best I can do is say, here’s my book see what you think, and hope for the best.”

The vast, natural grandeur of the Alaskan landscape factors heavily into the stories shared in Moorings. “Alaska, as a setting, is its own character.” As a wide-eyed, young woman from the Midwest, not heeding of the words of John Muir (who thought Alaska should be seen last, because nothing else compares), Slavin took on the “Last Frontier”, first. She worked five summers in Alaska as a nature guide, interpreter, and storyteller, and was left in its awe. “Alaska deserves to have it’s own place as a characterization, because it actively does things to you like the characters(in the book) do to each other.” Writing is an emotional and spiritual process; Nancy laments the end of her work the characters she created in Moorings , and wishes them well. She, now, has other stories to tell, different characters to develop, but Alaska’s “big weight on her psyche” will not change. Her next book, focusing on sustainability and community, will also be set in Alaska. More information and extracts of Nancy Slavin’s writing can be found at www.nancyslavin.com, and find Moorings for your e-reader at www.smashwords.com.


Heather Christie at KALA 3/24

heather christie 2011KALA proudly presents an evening with North Coast singer/songwriter Heather Christie, on SATURDAY, MARCH 24. Doors open at 7:30pm. The night includes a pre-show reception featuring Heather’s handcrafted heatherADORN jewelry, a no-host cocktail bar and light appetizers from the Blue Scorcher Bakery and Café. Cover is $10. Show at 8:15pm.

Heather Christie certainly must be called the daughter of the coastal rock music scene. And when, as teenager, she stepped into that scene in the mid to late 90s, she came willingly to represent the fusion of spirit and music for everyone. Guitar in hand, born to a colorful Astoria musical family, a penchant for songwriting and the power and beauty of the vast pacific ocean pushing her — a beautiful young woman with a clear and stirring folk voice, and eyes to match,  gifted stages; whether that stage be the sandy beach itself, a new music venue, KMUN radio — the upper left edge, as penned by the late Billy Hults, was given its folk rock priestess.

A decade and a half later, Christie has tested the waters of country, R&B/pop, recorded three of her own albums and has dedicated much performance and recording time to the wonderful award-winning FrogTown project, driven by her partner in life and creativity Philip Pelletier.  Throwing off the acoustic folk trappings, Christie has been on the road with the multi-media LIVE, kid book musical over the course of 5 years, donning a fancier pop lady and ballad singer of the sultry and soulful song ALONE, which by now must be a favorite emotional dream catcher for many a kid and adult that has shared the experience of Frog Town. For those not informed, Frog Town is a multi-media book about a little frog guy who comes up against barriers in a musical, cultural sea. From classical to country, sax-playing Thad the tadpole can’t seem to find anyone to play with, cause nobody in his big neighborhood likes jazz improvisers (ain’t it the truth). Frog Town hosts numerous Oregon musical artists, including R&B greats, Linda Hornbuckle and Curtis Salgado. But eventually music comes to bridge the gap.

In the earlier 2000s, Christie lead her self-titled band featuring some of the coast’s soulful native musicians; guitarist Joe Patenaude, drummer Tom Peak and violinist Jeffrey Reynolds, recording LOVE Road, an analog studio album of rock originals and special nod to her rock pre-origins, Laura Nero’s Ely’s Comin’. Since the days of her more guitar driven material, you can find tracks available on myspace, like “Lady” and “Runnin,” with a pop/R&B bent, but nonetheless an extension of the early, expressive Heather Christie.

Currently Heather is working on new material in the studio, which she says “is a great way to spend the winter months!” She’ll be playing some of these new songs at KALA, including “5 O’Clock”, which is a reflection on an artist’s life challenges.

She is also collaborating with Philip Pelletier on an ambient music series inspired by the beauty of nature,  something she has been looking forward to exploring more deeply, and of which you can sample an exclusive clip, (The Stream). They are also working on a video production of the LIVE Frog Town show in HD Video, including several songs from the upcoming “Bedtime for Tadpoles” release, featuring ambient music for kids.

In addition to an upcoming gig at Mississippi Pizza in Portland, it has been several years since Heather Christie has performed as Heather Christie on an Astoria stage. Recently, an informal appearance at KALA during the holidays, she gave an inspiring performance, a strong inclination its time to get back to the singer/songwriter/performer aspect of her artistry.

And of that artistry she says, “My personal music involves allowing myself to walk deeply into the darkest parts of myself, to channel emotions that I tend to avoid in my day to day life, and to ride the wave of what I find there. Hopefully within that experience something otherworldly and beautiful is born. Not just for me, but for the listener… Music is my release, my ground and my sanity. I have to make it to stay alive, and if others enjoy it too, then lucky me.”

The KALA stage features lighting and a great acoustic/amplified sound mix, an intimate musical setting in a beautiful restored Astoria storefront. Located at 1017 Marine Drive. 503.338.4878.

ABOUT heatherADORN
Inspired by tribal elements in a modern world, heather ADORN adds sleek, delicate touches to bold, colorful designs, creating innovative, handcrafted pieces for your adornment. In these cosmic jewels, you will see gem stones combined with glass, metal, rocks, feathers, and miscellaneous findings from years of collecting. It is not unusual to discover hand gathered shells from the east or west shores, along with a sparkling piece of cut glass, from a vintage chandelier, in your favorite pair of earrings. heather ADORN was born from a desire to honor the center, ritual and sacred space of the creative spirit.  Every purchase supports the arts…


FisherPoets Gather for Poems, Stories and Songs

MORE at: clatsopcc.edu/community/fisherpoets-gathering.  Includes FPG “At A Glance.”

FisherPoets Gathering 2012 the 15th annual Gathering in Astoria OR, is expecting about 80 commercial fishing and maritime industry people from several states and British Columbia to bring their original poems, stories, songs and insights to Astoria.  Along with several local musicians who also have strong fishing-industry ties, they will present their readings and music at the weekend program, February 24 to 26.

The FisherPoets Gathering has been an annual event in Astoria in the last weekend of February since 1998.

“Fisher Poetry” comes from experiences living and working in the industry, and ranges in writing style from fast-moving rhyming couplets to crafted free verse or literary prose, and includes poems, songs, short stories, personal memoirs and essays, and art.  The mood can be funny, emotive, matter-of-fact or any combination.   The weekend also includes films and talks on fishing issues and culture.

Six downtown Astoria venues donate space for the Friday and Saturday evening programs of readings and music, along with a seventh hosting a later-evening open mike, so a good number of fans can comfortably join the lively ambiance of the event as audience, said Florence Sage of Astoria, a long-term FPG producer.   Audience comes from the local area, the northwest region, and points around the country to hear these original writings and oral accounts based on the hard-working vocation of commercial fishing and making a living at sea. Also, KMUN-FM broadcasts locally from Astoria Event Center at 91.9-FM, 6 to 10 p.m. both evenings, and streams live on the web at coastradio.org.

“Every venue will have a really program going on,” Sage said, “so you can move from place to place, or just take your pick and stay for the evening.  “We’re expecting more than 1,000 over the weekend, as usual, but we have lots of room.  People can get a weekend button ($15) from 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Gear Shack and at all doors to enjoy all events and all venues, or a $5 single-entry cover at doors to stay at any one event.

Reading and music venues Friday and Saturday evenings are: the Baked Alaska restaurant (foot of 12th Street), Astoria Event Center (9th & Commercial), Clemente’s (12th and Commercial), the VooDoo Room at the Columbian Theater (11th & Marine Dr.), the Wet Dog Cafe (foot of 11th St.) and the Fort George Brewery & Public House showroom 14th & Duane).

Clemente’s has a special program about Bristol Bay on Saturday evening, and hosts an early-arrivers’ Readers Mike Thursday Feb. 23 from 8 p.m., no button required.  A seventh venue hosts the popular Fishermen’s Open Mike for poems, stories and songs, with priority to commercial fishing people and to related topics.  This special mike is at KALA, the intimate performance room of fishing-friendly HIPFiSHmonthly at 1017 Marine Drive.  The VooDoo Room at Columbian Theater hosts late-night music.

Evening venues all have food and drink service.  Minors are permitted in Baked Alaska and KALA all evening, not in VooDoo Room, and other venues until 9 or 10 p.m., as noted on the FPG website.
Event headquarters is the FPG store, “the Gear Shack,” at the 14th Street Pilot station, foot of 14th St. The Gear Shack stocks FPG buttons, performers’ books, CDs, DVDs, and FPG gear for sale, acts as an information center, and also houses the Silent Auction.  Gear Shack hours are 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday.  Auction viewing is from 1 p.m. Saturday, bidding hours Saturday 4 to 8 p.m.

Documentary films “Coming Home Was Easy” and “Red Gold” run both afternoons at the Columbian Theater, 4 to 5:30 p.m.  Four Saturday morning workshops on commercial fishing issues and history are at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, foot of 17th Street.  Two creative workshops are at Baked Alaska restaurant.  Workshops run 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They include a first-hand report on effects of Japan’s 2011 tidal wave on the Japanese fishing industry, photos and recollections from the sailboat days of the Bristol Bay fishery, a workshop on polishing stage performance, and three others.

The Gathering has been given substantial and sustaining support every year by Clatsop Community College, along with contributions of services, goods and panel members from local and regional organizations and businesses, as noted in the annual program and on the website.  Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce assists with national and regional media contact.  Fisherpoets come to the Gathering as volunteers.

More information is at: clatsopcc.edu/community/fisherpoets-gathering, or by calling Marti Wajc at 503-738-8256.

Please direct inquiries to: Florence Sage, 503-325-4972, fsage@clatsopcc.edu.

Clatsop Community College is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution.


FLASHCUTS PREDICTS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: 2012 Academy Awards Rundown

The 84th Annual Academy Awards return Sunday, February 26.  Here are the Hipfish major award predictions.

BEST PICTURE   Unlike the past couple of years where there was a clear frontrunner, this year’s field is more open, with several contenders for the big prize out of nine nominees.  Top contenders:
The Artist  The French black-and-white silent film is a salute to the early days of Hollywood.  Jean Dujardin stars as the arrogant matinee idol George Valentin, dashing leading man of the silent era, at the peak of his fame.  Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, struggling actress.  After meeting on one of Valentin’s films, the two fall in love, but the rise of sound pictures destroys Valentin’s career while Peppy becomes an overnight sensation.  Now a has-been, reduced to selling off his belongings, Valentin becomes morose, while Peppy tries behind the scenes to save Valentin and somehow revive his career.
The Descendants  After a seven year absence director Alexander Payne (Sideways) returns with his dramedy about a family faced with a life-changing crisis. George Clooney stars as Mathew King, a middle-aged Hawaiian lawyer whose world has suddenly collapsed.  His wife lies in a coma from a boating accident. Suddenly cast into the unfamiliar role of primary parent, King realizes he has two out-of-control daughters and a wife he didn’t really know.
Movies with the most number of nominations have gone on to win 15 out of the last 21 Best Picture Oscars.  Hugo leads this year’s list with 11 followed by The Artist with 10, but the many nominations seem more about the parts of the movie than the whole.  The Help is the highest-grossing nominated pic, and three of the cast have been nominated but the pic itself doesn’t seem as well regarded as the actors.  Safest bet – The Artist, although some have pointed out that no film about Hollywood has won Best Picture.
Pick:  The Artist
Other nominees:   Hugo / Moneyball / Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close / The Help / Midnight in Paris / War Horse / The Tree of Life

BEST DIRECTOR  Film is thought of as a directors’ medium so generally this Oscar goes to the helmer of the Best Picture unless a superstar director is in the field as in 1998 when Shakespeare In Love won Best Picture but Steven Spielberg picked up the directing prize for Saving Private Ryan.  The past two years the Best Picture/Best Director pairing as held up so if The Artist triumphs then expect director Michel Hazanavicius to pick up the directing statuette, likewise Alexander Payne if Best Picture contender The Descendants wins.  Superstar director Martin Scorsese is in the field for Hugo, but he’s already won an Oscar for The Departed and Hugo doesn’t seem to be a contender.
Pick:  Michel Hazanavicius
Other nominees:  Alexander Payne (The Descendants) / Martin Scorsese (Hugo) / Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) / Terence Malick (The Tree of Life)

BEST ACTOR  It’s a two-horse race between George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist).  Clooney as Mathew King dominates every minute of his movie – the story is told from his character’s point of view.  Clooney, who usually plays affable, smooth nice guys with a touch of wiseguy self-awareness displays more vulnerability than he probably ever has in a role as his character struggles to deal with the reality of his wife’s probable death and children that have spun out of control.  Dujardin dominates The Artist with his performance as silent star George Valentin, whose career comes crashing down with the onset of sound film.  Dujardin perfectly captures the brilliant charm of the movie star at his peak and the quiet desperation of the reduced Valentin after his star has faded.
Clooney had the early lead but Dujardin has the momentum after winning Best Actor at the Screen Actors Guild awards.  The simpler, but consistent charm of The Artist might also play better with voters than the mixed drama/comedy of The Descendants.
Pick:  Jean DuJardin
Other nominees:  George Clooney (The Descendants) / Demián Bechir (A Better Life) / Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) / Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

BEST ACTRESS  Veteran actress Viola Davis has been turning great performances for years now in supporting roles but rarely carrying a movie.  In 2008 she earned an Academy Award nomination for a one scene performance in Doubt – arguably upstaging star Meryl Streep.    After earning her Best Actress nomination, her main competition is none other than Meryl Streep for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.  It’s Streep’s 17th Oscar nomination.  Still, it looks to be Davis’s year.  In The Help, Davis plays Aibileen Clark, a black maid in a small Mississippi town in the early ‘60s who raises the children of white families at the expense of her own.  Clark is the emotional center of the film, the family maid that young aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) turns to when she delves into the lives of maids who bring up other people’s children against the backdrop of the pre-Civil Rights deep South.  In a way, Davis’s Oscar nom mirrors her role in The Help – a career/life in the background finally getting its due.
Pick:  Viola Davis
Other nominees:  Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) / Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) / Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) / Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR  Christopher Plummer is 82 years old.  When he made his film debut in 1957 Dwight Eisenhower was President.  For 55 years the Canadian-born stage and screen vet has made dozens of movies but was mostly known for his appearance in a movie that he detested – The Sound of Music.  All that is about to change.  With his peformance as Hal, an elderly man who comes out as gay after his wife dies, Plummer has stamped himself as the Oscar favorite.  In director Mike Mills Beginners Oliver (Ewan McGregor), confused about his mother’s death and Hal’s late-life makeover, starts a relationship with a French woman he meets (Melanie Laurent) who also has parental issues.   Although not the leading character, Plummer’s character dominates the film.  Straight in real life, Plummer believably plays a gay man who had repressed that side of himself for nearly his entire life – without resorting to “working” the part like Sean Penn in Milk.
Pick:  Christopher Plummer
Other nominees:  Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn) / Jonah Hill (Moneyball) / Nick Nolte (Warrior) / Max von Sydow (Incredibly Loud & Unbearably Close)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS  The surprise hit of the summer, The Help was powered by the strength of its cast, with three members nominated.  At the Screen Actors Guild awards the film received a “best cast” award as well as individual awards for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.  While not the favorite for Best Picture, this could benefit the cast awards with Viola Davis leading the Best Actress race and Octavia Spencer, who played Minnie Jackson, the smart-mouthed maid who has a way with pies, expected to join her cast mate by picking up the Best Supporting Actress prize.  A possible contender is Bérénice Bejo, who plays up-and-coming starlet Peppy Miller in The Artist.
Pick:  Octavia Spencer
Other nominees:  Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) / Jessica Chastain (The Help) / Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) / Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY  With writing awards often handed out as second place awards, look for The Descendants writing team of Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel to win the prize.  The Moneyball script was written by heavyweight writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, but Sorkin won last year for The Social Network and Moneyball isn’t a contender – sports movies, even interesting, offbeat ones don’t usually win awards.
Pick:  Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Other nominees:  John Logan (Hugo) / George Clooney & Grant Heslove and Beau Willimon (The Ides of March) / Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball) / Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY  The screenplay awards are often paired with Best Picture as in the past the past two years but leading contender The Artist is a silent movie with no dialogue.  The screenplay clocks in at only 44 pages. (Most screenplays are at least twice that length.)  Midnight in Paris was Woody Allen’s highest-grossing movie ever. With comedies not usually awarded the top prized look for the Academy to award Woody the screenplay award.  But don’t look forward to a funny acceptance speech – Allen never does award shows.  Possibly the first Iranian filmmaker to be nominated for this award is writer/director Asghar Farhadi for his script for his mesmerizing domestic drama A Separation, also up for Best Foreign Language Picture.
Pick:  Woody Allen
Other nominees:  Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) / Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) / J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) / Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)


In The Spirit: Word and Song

KALA proudly presents two independent Northwest women artists on Friday, January 27. Author Tricia Gates Brown and Singer-Songwriter Deb Montgomery.

Both women have recently produced new works, respectively, “Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit and a CD release “The Little Hymn Project.” Both women were raised in traditional fundamentalist Christian families, and both women have experienced and welcomed into their lives, the challenge of coming to grips with a spiritual identity, identity as woman, and personal transcendence through artistic medium, amidst the constricts of all that traditional western patriarchal Christianity has dictated to American women.   Neither artists have met (as of yet) but the North Coast has had the opportunity to know both of these women in recent times. Gates Brown a columnist for the coastal weeklies and  Hipfish, several illustrated children’s’ books, as a landscape gardener and doing recent rounds with her new book. Seattle-based Montgomery, has performed on the coast on several occasion, predominantly at LUSH Wine Bar in Cannon Beach.

It is a pleasure to bring a “woman focus” show together at KALA. (Men welcome, of course.) When I first returned to the region in the mid-nineties, I had the opportunity to host a “Women’s Nite” at the former Café Uniontown. What inspired me to do so was the awareness of such a strong woman presence on the coast; whether married, single, lesbian, bi, trans, straight, native or transplant. The coast of Oregon and Washington beckons fearless, creative women to its shore. The nights included a myriad of women musicians, poets, comedians and a drink menu with such titles as “Feminist Twist,” “Union Town Bitch,” and the like. And lets face it – whether you were/are a feminist, the Feminist Movement of late 60’s laid the groundwork, for what we now as women find in our everyday lives,  the means to face the challenges, the inalienable right to our intelligence, our natural trait to balance, and to choose who we want to be. A task neither easy, nor simple, but the path of self-empowerment lies ever stronger under our feet.  When women testify through art, the stories are strong and inspirational, such as Deb Montgomery and Tricia Gates Brown  . . . and I sing “Hallelujah Sisters!”

“Jesus Loves Women,” is a compelling title. TRICIA GATES BROWN, holds a PHD in Theology and in her 20’s found such a fascination with the bible, that it led her to investigate the nature of the scriptures and to eventually get to the source of “what” religion had bestowed upon her culturally as a woman. In her preface she states, “What I am drawn to . . . is the complex interplay of body and spirit, of the sensual and the spiritual, the sexual and the spiritual . . . . I choose to tell my story not only because I believe it is the truest accounting I can offer of my life, but because I believe it’s important we hear such stories. In my experience, they are hard to come by.”

Gates Brown commits a good portion of her memoir to the tribulations of puberty, to young womanhood, revealing those parts of self, the tender heart, the coming into sexuality, memories we are glad to leave behind but yet are so much a part of our whole. A back cover blurb from Susan Mark Landis, Minister of Peace and Justice says it well; “Like a late night talk with my best friend, Tricia’s book gave me intimate insights into her life, my life . . . by openly sharing secrets we typically hide.”

From the constricts of fundamentalism, to losing her self in a first marriage, an awakening to the grace of nature, a mystical friendship with a Trappist monk, a failed second marriage, a new communion with Mexican culture, and coming to a yearned place of wholeness, Gates Brown beautifully articulates in intimate detail her story; as an accomplished writer, story teller and human theorist. Her ultimate message, that the shame-bound morality on sexuality be set free, for humanity to progress to a more humane state. Whether raised in a Christian milieu or not, this book is for every woman and man, as the basic core of our culture resides within the bounds this morality.

DEB MONTGOMERY refers to herself as a vagabond, in the poetic sense of the word, not settling in any one thing or place comfortably. This she stated in email correspondence when inquiring on the “Little Hymn Project” and any personal religious background.  She then furthered, in very songwriterly response,  to grappling with a fundamental upbringing,  “At the same time, I’ve been captivated by my understanding of Jesus’ message to love one another, to love another as ourselves… the idea that love is costly, that it will perhaps ask you to go places you never imagined, that it will both break you and heal you at the same time.”

The basis for the Little Hymn Project was created in a time when Montgomery was dealing with a period of deep grief. In that process she had turned to several hymns that she had in her repertoire, “The only thing I did for a few weeks besides weep, call a friend or two, was visit some of these hymns, letting their mysteries penetrate and attempting to sing them back to the universe to sooth myself,” says Montgomery. In this space of grieving, a natural progression led to several original tunes, a series of hymns, (Psalm23, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, It is well with my Soul, Amazing Grace . . .) and cover tunes by Bruce Coburn and Coldplay. Originally recorded in her living room in Seattle, she eventually recorded the 11-track collection in Chicago, with Producer John Abbey at Kingsize Studio. But her desire was to keep the intimacy and a sense of presence that were so much a part of the process of coming to make the Little Hymn Project. The final product is Montgomery on piano and guitar, with added bass and drums. Her recording succeeds in a triumphant presence of voice, a powerful, and moving intimacy.

Montgomrey is a Canadian who lived in New York City many years, and now lives in Seattle, where she is completing a graduate degree.  Solo is not her main thing as she has mostly been a bandleader, playing with drummer Andy Stochansky (who was Ani Defranco’s tour drummer for 8 years), and drummer Sim Cain, shared band mate with Henry Rollins (the Rollins Band). Them’s good rock bones. She also played with a New York cellist and fellow Canadian artist Julia Kent for 8 years. As Montgomery’s credits reference comparison to PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley, the core connection she has in her voice resembles to this writer, the spirit of Patti Smith. An era before emo, somewhere between punk rock and Janis! There’s a strong conviction to rock music in Montgomery. While she isn’t well known in these parts, she is certainly a cool find.

Friday, Jan 27, doors open 7pm. $10, includes complimentary wine and snacks. KALA, 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria.


Concert for a Winter’s Night: Music for Chanukkah, Solstice and Christmas – December 22

Shelley and Jennifer

Shelley Loring & Jennifer Goodenberger

Flutist Shelley Loring and pianist Jennifer Goodenberger perform on Thursday, December 22 at 7pm at Grace Episcopal Church.  The concert will include Jewish, Celtic, Carols, holiday music, and original compositions to celebrate the Season. These long-term friends, who have until now been pursing separate musical careers, are thrilled to create music together for this concert.

Loring’s early years were spent performing with her father, a Jewish cantor. She has toured the Western States with the Community Concerts Association in addition to playing with many regional and local music organizations. Most recently she returned to performing her life-time passion – jazz and improvisation.

Goodenberger, was the producer for the legendary “Winter Solstice Concerts” of the late 1990’s. She is currently active as a recording artist and solo pianist, performing her original compositions and arrangements of folk and Celtic music. Her recordings are often used in the healing arts, and as film soundtracks. Go to jennifergoodenberger.com for a complete audio and art listing of her works.

Thursday, December 22, 7pm, at Grace Episcopal Church.  1545 Franklin Avenue, Astoria. There is a $10 suggested donation at the door. For more information, call 503-325-5310.


Holiday Friends – New Year’s Eve at Fort George in Astoria

Holiday FriendsIt only makes sense to spend the last and first holiday of the year with Idaho supplants and indie pop players Holiday Friends. Opened for Blind Pilot: The Free Show (BTY a beautiful experience) and as Astoria is their new home ground and keeping a musical profile, will continue to perform in Astoria.  And how ‘bout that – New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday – there’s something really wrong with that. But, with raw pop guile cum 60s’ . . . Holiday Friends are well – equipped to tele-music-port you to a higher ground.

Saturday, Dec 31, 9pm, Fort George in Astoria, NO Cover.