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Saturday, March 22, 2014


Seymour (Joshua Carter) and the Audrey II (puppeteer: Eric Esteb, voice: Ekello Harrid Jr.) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Tracy Martin
       Comedy is comedy, but black comedy grins while it sinks its teeth into the mind and hits that ticklish spot where humor and horror pulse in unison, side-by-side. As I sat in the audience watching Little Shop of Horrors consume a willing audience in the intimacy of ACT's Falls Theater, I couldn't quit looking at the colorful and ever growing Audrey II, the carnivorous plant at the center of this story. 
       Seymour (Joshua Carter), is an awkward young flower shop employee with a crush on fellow employee, beautiful Audrey (Jessica Skerritt). He finds his "nice guy" limits tested in this hilariously twisted morality tale. It's all about his relationship with the bloodthirsty plant, who turns out to be a nightmarish version of a genie in a bottle, only this time it's a flower pot. Made of bright, plush fabric and as pretty as a child's stuffed toy, Audrey II fascinated most of us, I suspect. Against that soft and seemingly huggable exterior, its pink "lips" and shark-like teeth, set in a blood red mouth, contrasted obscenely.
Seymour (Joshua Carter) and Orin Scrivello, DDS (David Anthony Lewis) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Mark Kitaoka
       If you thought no version of A Little Shop of Horrors could compare with the 1986 hit movie by the same name—with Steve Martin, John Candy, Bill Murray, and Ellen Greeneyou will be delighted to be wrong. The acting, singing, and physical comedy in this show, the fourth killer collaboration between ACTA Contemporary Theater and The 5th Avenue is as good as it gets. In fact, I much prefer Jessica Skerritt as the female protagonist, Audrey, over Greene. Even while we laughed at her funny lines, Skerritt's excellent acting abilities turned what could be a stereotypical "dumb blonde" into a character who could be any woman ever trapped in an abusive, even dangerous, relationship because of low self-esteem and the need for what passes as "love." Super talented David Anthony Lewis played her bully of a boyfriend, the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, D.D.S. He insults and humiliates her in his exaggerated and comedic way, but the undercurrents aren't funny at all.

Seymour (Joshua Carter) and Audrey (Jessica Skerritt) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Mark Kitaoka

        There is simply no way I can give this show anything but a totally positive review. As I watched it, I shook my head over its perfection. I loved Jeff Steitzer as the grumbling flower shop owner, Mushnik, and Joshua Carter made Seymour very memorable. With Skerritt's singing and acting, you will wonder how the city of Seattle can be lucky enough to hang on to her. To the young belles of Skid Row, Ronnette (Nicole Rashida Prothro), Chiffon (Alexandria Henderson) and Crystal (Naomi Morgan) I offer two thumbs up. They were great. Last but not least, Ekello J. Harrid, Jr, as the voice of Audrey II, and Eric Esteb as the Audrey II puppeteer, deserve plenty of applause. Orchestra, lighting, costumes, makeup, all of it contributed to a huge success.

The trio (l-r) Ronette (Nicole Rashida Prothro), and Crystal (Naomi Morgan), Chiffon (Alexandria Henderson) with Seymour (Joshua Carter) in Little Shop of Horrors, a co-production of ACT and The 5th Avenue Theatre.  
Credit: Tracy Martin
       Brilliantly directed by Bill Berry, this production of A Little Shop of Horrors has a sharp edge on its sense of fun. Like the Grimm's fairy tales that left children of earlier generations wide-eyed under the covers at night, it is spellbinding entertainment that pokes at our deepest fears: loneliness, emotional and physical pain, loss of control, and a gruesome death. We can laugh at the antics of the characters, their outlandish behavior, and how they fall prey to their own weaknesses, but underneath lies the greatest fear of all, the fear that perhaps each of us really does have our price, in spite of our denial. 
       I don't mean to sound too serious. I laughed again and again, and I didn't dwell too long on thoughts of morality. Believe me, when caught up in the fun of one evening's hilarious fantasy, you will at least rent out your soul for a couple of hours if you don't sell it outright. 
       The show runs through June 15, 2014, but you'd better order tickets soon. I hear they are disappearing as quickly as Audrey II's appetizers. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Northwest Artists - Enter to WIN $500 in Proctor Arts Fest Poster Contest

Artwork by 2009 poster contest winner Janette Stiles 

Spring flowers are just starting to bloom here in the Northwest, but the Proctor Arts Fest Committee in Tacoma is already busy planning another delightful festival during the warm days of late summer. On August 2, 2014, this popular one-day community festival will take over the Proctor Business District once again. That means another poster with bright and beautiful artwork to catch the eye is needed to promote this event. The committee invites Pacific Northwest artists to submit entries in the annual poster contest. The deadline for entering is April 15, 2014.

Artwork by Andrea Greenfield, 2012 poster contest winner.
Entries must be original works reflecting the spirit of a summer arts festival and submitted on a CD. This year, the winning artist will receive a $500 purchase award, an increase over last year. Art in any medium is permitted, with the exception of computer generated art. You can download a pdf. containing all the official rules and contact information by clicking here

It might be March, and still rainy, but get out those paints, pastels, etc., and create your own summer sunshine. Even if you don't win, it will make you happy. On the other hand, you could win, and that could make you, well, maybe even happier! Good luck! While in the Proctor District, remember to stop by the Proctor Art Gallery on 26th. 

Let these five winning posters from past contests inspire you.

Artwork by Janette Stiles,  2010 winner.
Artwork by 2013 winner,  Maura Desinone

Artwork by 2011 poster contest winner Jeffry Sart

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Monday, March 10, 2014

THE OLY MOUNTAIN BOYS Thank Supportive Fans With Great Gifts -- Campaign Ends Wednesday

Photo courtesy of The Oly Mountain Boys
Bluegrass music found a home in the Pacific Northwest shortly after WWII, but decades later, a band called The Oly Mountain Boys is now giving this genre a uniquely Northwest flavor. They are: Tye Menser-lead vocals and banjo, Josh Grice-fiddle, Dereck McSwain-mandolin and vocals, Chris Rutledge-guitar and vocals, and Phil Post-bass, dobro, and vocals. This bluegrass band is boldly carving new paths through the world of bluegrass and the Northwest music scene. I contacted Josh Grice—who also plays violin with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra—to learn the latest news.

Although The Oly Mountain Boys love, and regularly perform, traditional bluegrass tunes by Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Don Reno, and others, they get raves for their original material as well. Grice pointed out that most bluegrass songs refer to places where it was first heard, like North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia, but by now, this music’s popularity has spread all over. They're creating a Northwest brand.

“We have the bluegrass instrumentation and inspiration, but we’re writing all our songs about a character from the Pacific Northwest,” Grice said. “We’re writing about Pacific Northwest landscapes. We’re writing about Pacific Northwest history. The music is all about that.” In other words, a wide audience can find plenty of ways to relate to the band’s great lyrics and storytelling style, whether or not they already love bluegrass. 

Since I first heard these musicians perform live, at the 2013 Proctor Arts Fest in Tacoma, momentum has continued to build. They gather fans as quickly as Earl Scruggs could pick a banjo. Those fans are rallying to support their current  Kickstarter campaign to finance a new concept album called “White Horse,” an exciting and innovative project that is more than just another CD. 

“We’re making it kind of multi-media,” Grice explained. “We have a bunch of writers who are contributing content that is going to get woven into a little booklet that comes with the CD. We have at least one visual artist that’s working on something. We’re kind of open to wherever it goes from there.” Referring to this concept album, Grice said, “It’s something that, as far as we know, no one’s ever done, and it’s about the place that we’re from.”

With the help of fans, they’ve covered the basic costs, but the campaign ends on Wednesday, March 12 and the hope is that enough will be raised to also cover hiring a promotion company. You still have time to help out. Contributing at even the starting level of $12 will reward you with a digital download of the CD, and contributions at higher levels range from an autographed CD, T-shirts, your name in the credits, house concert invitations, clear up to having the band play a live private concert at your own event. Have a look at the details yourself, right here.

As original and innovative as they are, The Oly Mountain Boys’ sound still gives you that down-home feeling, only this time, it’s about a home in the Northwest.  Check the website to see the locations of their many upcoming shows, then come meet the Northwest band making bluegrass music our region's own. 

FRIDAY, MARCH 21st, 9pm, $8/$6 student - Royal Lounge with HILLSTOMP!, Olympia WA.
SATURDAY, MARCH 29th, 10pm, $15/$12 advance - Olympia Acoustic Music Festival, Olympia WA.
SATURDAY, APRIL 12th, 7pm, $5 - Jeremy's Farm to Table, Chehalis WA.
SATURDAY, APRIL 26th, 9pm, $5 - AndyinOly Presents Artswalk with the Oly Mountain Boys & The Blackberry Bushes, Olympia WA. Details to come!

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Monday, March 3, 2014


        The city of Tacoma boasts its own treasure chest of jewels, known as the Museum of Glass. Into the midst of all that color and sparkle will soon come the artistic element of motion. It arrives as a special Art Inspires Art event on Saturday, March 8, sponsored by Dance Theatre Northwest and titled “TRIBUTE: Tradition in Translation." DTN’s Artistic Director Melanie Kirk-Stauffer has interpreted the glass museum’s current exhibitions as dances. Paid admission to the museum includes the opportunity to see seven FREE performances of classical and contemporary ballet and jazz by the DTN dance artists, which will accompany Kirk-Stauffer's slide show and lecture on how the art of glass inspired her own art of choreography. Performances begin at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Prepare to be dazzled by what Kirk-Stauffer calls “dance illuminations.”

       “Years ago as part of a formal study of aesthetics,” Kirk-Stauffer said, “I was given the assignment of researching, then writing, the ‘definition of beauty.’ Eights weeks later, I completed my personal definition with the realization that a universal theme had emerged from first glance to in-depth contemplation, for every work of art. Rhythm, line, color or reflection of light, repetition, perspective and personal awareness come into play in the creation of things delightful, entrancing, captivating, elusive, hypnotic, mysterious, or transitory.”
       My Webster’s dictionary defines beauty as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit” and the word illuminate as “to enlighten spiritually or intellectually.” Both of those words relate to the exhibits and the dances they’ve inspired. Kirk-Stauffer says her “dance illumination” presentations provide the opportunity to share insights into how she translates ideas, creations, sounds, and rhythms into dance.

       The title feature of the “TRIBUTE: Tradition in Translation” show is a ballet in four parts, and its name reflects the name of the exhibit called “Caution! Fragile. Irish Glass: Tradition In Transition.” This exhibit explores the past, present, and future of Irish glass through the work of glass artists Róisín de Buitléar and Fred Curtis. 
        Dale Chilhuly’s Irish Cylinders, and glass artists Dante Marioni, Anna Skibska, Ben Edols, Kathy Elliott, and Kelly Knickerbocker, inspired Kirk-Stauffer to choreograph other dances performed at this event, as did an exhibit of exquisite blue and green Czechoslovakian glass perfume bottles and bedroom accessories from the 1920s and ‘30s called “Bohemian Boudoir.” 

Dance Theatre Northwest's delightful contribution to this Family Day at the museum offers programs at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., which each last about one hour. They will include jazz and ballet pieces already in the Dance Theatre Northwest repertoire as well as those inspired by the exhibits. In addition to the “TRIBUTE” ballet, visitors will see:

Capriccio One (duet)
Capriccio Two (five dancers)
Man on the Street (jazz)
Fire To Rain (Lauren Trodahl- contemporary ballet)
One Voice (Allison Zakharov - contemporary ballet)
We Didn't Start The Fire (jazz)
Nite Lites (jazz) 

Featured performers will be Chhay Mam, Allison Zakharov, Lauren Trodahl, Amelia Arial, Oceana Thunder, Solana Sartain, and Gregory Peloquin. 

For more information: 
Dance Theatre Northwest website is, phone 253-778-6534 
Museum of Glass website is, phone (866) 468-7386 

Location:1801 Dock Street
Tacoma, Washington 98402-3217
All photos by Maks Zakharvo courtesy of Dance Theatre Northwest.