The Weekly Wire: This Week's Notable Events

WEDNESDAY 3/11Stage: Something for EveryoneThe annual Moisture Festival, now in its sixth year, has proven to be a tremendously popular series. This is mainly because it promotes the re-emerging arts of varietè and burlesque with fabulous local and national performers, but the affordable tickets—as low as $7.50 for some shows—sure help too. (Other venues should follow suit during our current recession; I'm looking at you, Paramount.) Bigger than ever, the fest begins tonight at ACT with a gala where roving performers will be mingling with the crowd in the lobby. The following family-friendly Grande Varietè show features magic, acrobatics, juggling, clowns, and lots of bubbles. If you're hoping for something a little saucier and kiddie-free, the Libertease burlesque performances begin Thursday with Evilyn Sin Claire, Indigo Blue, Kevin Joyce of the Seattle Channel's Big Night Out, and others. After the ACT run (through Sunday), the comedy/varietè show moves to Hale's Palladium (March 19–April 5). Also note that selected Moisture Festival performers will appear live before screenings at a companion film series (SIFF Cinema, March 20–25), with titles including Gypsy and The Blue Angel. ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, www moisturefestival.com. $20. 7:30 p.m. SUZIE RUGHVideo Art: Entomological ChoreographyJulia Oldham studies invertebrate mating rituals, which she then translates into dance. In her oddly captivating videos, she wildly flails her limbs, hovers over dim lights, and slams prosthetic claws into the ground. For the soundtrack, she traveled outside Brooklyn and collected field recordings of bugs, later combining them with her vocals and music. "I find it exciting that it's possible for these little creatures to make connections with each other like humans do," she says by phone from New York. Of her insect inspirations, she explains, "They present their bodies to each other in a way that they hope is perceived as sexy, much like we do in our courtship processes." Of course she admits there are some significant differences as well: "In the spider world, the females typically have sex with the guys and eat them. That's not something you see happen in the human world, unless you're talking metaphorically." Five of Oldham's videos are on view in the group show "Dearly, Madly" (through March 28), which also features work by Alika Cooper, Michael Dee, Shaun Kardinal, and Haim Steinbach. Howard House, 604 Second Ave., 256-6399, www.howardhouse.net. Free 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. ERIKA HOBARTTHURSDAY 3/12Dance: The PerfectionistIn a field where there's already a high tolerance for repetition, Jerome Robbins still took it to extremes. Famously painstaking throughout his career on Broadway, in films, and in ballet, he wanted perfection from himself and his dancers. And he often came very, very close. Robbins' first encounter with West Side Story was as part of the team who created the 1957 Broadway show, which altered the direction of musical theater by proving that dance could be a dramatic tool rather than just a pretty sideshow. When it came to the 1961 movie version (see Sunday), his insistence on multiple rehearsals put the project so far behind schedule that he was taken off the job before they filmed the "Dance at the Gym" number, but you can still see his mark throughout the film. His final version of West Side Story came near the end of his life during his tenure with New York City Ballet. By making a suite of the dance numbers, he distilled both the story and his own craft. His work, along with that of George Balanchine, Susan Stroman, and Christopher Wheeldon, will be featured in Pacific Northwest Ballet's Broadway Festival (through March 22). McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., 441-2424, www.pnb.org. $20–$155. 7:30 p.m. SANDRA KURTZVisual Arts: Indians Under GlassAs a sidebar to the gargantuan new "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" show, 21 paintings of American Indians by George de Forest Brush occupy two smaller, lower galleries at SAM (also through May 24). A contemporary of Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis, Brush (1855–1941) came later to the Indian theme, but displays the same romantic—and not always historically accurate—tendencies. His subjects occupy idealized patches of wilderness, hunting free in grasslands and lakes not yet despoiled by the white man. His serene canvases look backward, before the Indian wars and reservations. There is no Trail of Tears, and the influence of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans is strongly felt. A Southerner who trained in Paris then returned to the U.S., Brush renders our continent's original residents (and owners) as noble savages. The images are dangerously close to van murals, but there's a strangeness that pulls them back from kitsch. Brush's nature scenes, often with Audubon-style birds in them, have an under-glass airlessness to them. They're specimens of something extinct, a way of life that disappeared during his own lifetime. Brush drew from life, as these paintings show. I prefer the smaller adjacent gallery of Indian heads and facial sketches—the preliminary portraiture before Brush inserted these figures into a landscape from which, in truth, they had already been removed. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, www.seattleartmuseum.org. $9–$15. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERFRIDAY 3/13Comedy/Film: Back from Outer SpaceCult films have a long history of attracting audiences to jeer at their bizarre scripts, horrible acting, and cheap sets. You can't explain why you enjoy them; you just do. Joel Hodgson and his late-'80s show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, caught a ride on that inexplicable obsession (and the Satellite of Love) with a simple concept: Watch movies and make fun of them. And we (geeks) watched and loved the cult program, launched on basic cable in Minnesota. It was life ridiculing bad art. After Hodgson's departure, the show continued until 1999. Now, he explained recently by phone from Los Angeles, he and several original writer-performers have regrouped to form Cinematic Titanic, a not-too-distant relative of MST3K. Of the new touring comedy troupe, which vends its spoofs via DVD and download from its Web site, Hodgson says "Cinematic Titanic is like a boat on fire right now. Something is going on and I can't say what. But it has something to do with being in front of an audience." Robots Crow and Tom Servo, alas, are gone. But Hodgson is looking forward to his two Seattle shows, tonight and Saturday: "People are really into it." That, sir, is a monstrous understatement. King Cat Theater, 2130 Sixth Ave., 448-2829, www.kingcattheater.com. $42. 8 p.m. NEIL ESTEPSUNDAY 3/15Film/Dance: I Want to Live in AmericaMaria! Maria! Maria! West Side Story is being screened in conjunction with PNB's Broadway Festival (see Thursday). The 1961 take on Romeo and Juliet racked up 10 Oscars and remains a high-water mark for postwar American movie musicals. With a knockout book and score by Arthur Laurents and Leonard Bernstein, the film boasts choreography by Jerome Robbins. (And, yes, you can see some of his same dances performed live next door.) We'll admit that Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer don't make the most dynamic or believable couple (while Rita Moreno is hot), but with the Sharks and Jets dancing madly around them—who cares? (Also note that On Your Toes plays the preceding Friday, March 13, and Carousel on Saturday, March 14.) SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St. (McCaw Hall), 448-2186, www.siff.net. $7–$10. 2 and 6 p.m. BRIAN MILLERTUESDAY 3/17Books: Hidden on the PageWhen even your biographer is forced to admit, in the epilogue to a 772-page book, that nobody reads you any more, 27 years after your death, you're in trouble. John Cheever (1912–1982) published 121 stories in The New Yorker (beginning in the late '30s); a late-in-life collection earned him the Pulitzer Prize; and he once appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek. But today is he taught, is he studied, is he revered or revived or (apart from The Swimmer) adapted to film? These are the challenges facing Blake Bailey in his Cheever: A Life (Knopf, $35). Two of Cheever's kids, writers in their own right, have already disclosed their father's alcoholism and hidden gay life. That dirt has been turned. Now granted full access to Cheever's papers, Bailey proceeds chronologically through the ambitious writer's slow, unsteady rise to fame (he died not long after Falconer, his last novel and only best-seller). His family ruined in the Depression, a high-school dropout, a heavy drinker and smoker from his teen years onward, then a hasty marriage and stab at suburban respectability—Cheever only looked successful on magazine covers. He didn't teach at a university; he didn't have the intellectual breadth of his friendly rival, John Updike; he was only an emblem for the East Coast literary elite (and often dismissed as such). Norman Mailer once directed some nasty words at Cheever at a 1965 Chicago gathering; then the two went for drinks at the Playboy Mansion to reconcile. But it was only after Cheever's death that Mailer actually bothered to read his stuff, which he did with "a great sense of woe." He asked himself, "Why didn't I know that man?" The question still applies. Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., 624-6600, www.elliottbaybook.com. Free. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERVisual Arts: Spring AwakeningsAs part of its annual spring "Introductions" show, SAM Gallery is showcasing an installation by Helen Gamble in its north window. Gamble, who has been making art in Seattle for more than a decade, has crafted a slatted wooden walkway, suspended from frayed, stringy ropes. She likes to use familiar objects, worn with use in prior lives before she adapts them into new sculptural works. Inside the gallery proper, Chris Crites shows his familiar (and often stunning) '40s-era mug shots painted on brown bags, while Diana Falchuk displays organic-looking figure drawings of fantastical creatures on Mylar. Lydia Bassis works in gouache on paper, with delicate, compelling results that seem to float in the picture plane. Troy Gua creates Pop-Art composite portraits in bold acrylic hues—including Ronald McDonald's face superimposed on Ronald Reagan's. Gamble and company, along with a half-dozen other Northwest artists, remain on view through April 11. SAM Gallery, 1220 Third Ave., 343-1101, www.seattleartmuseum.org. Free. 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIANA GRANT

 
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