The Best of the Arts This Summer

Our critics pick what to look forward to this season.


By Kelton Sears

Animal Collective If we’re keeping it real, the last two Animal Collective albums sounded like parodies of Animal Collective albums. But Animal Collective live is still absolutely worth it. The band’s neon freak-beat is accompanied by appropriately cartoonish, kaleidoscopic visuals and installations, and they still play that classic 2000s-era gold. The Neptune, June 29.

Melvins For 34 years, Melvins have reigned as metal’s biggest weirdos. King Buzzo’s hair is still voluminous as ever, and so are the band’s sludgy riffs. In addition to classics from Bullhead and Houdini, expect the band to play lots of tunes from their upcoming new record A Walk With Love and Death. The Showbox, July 13.

Kendrick Lamar Cranky older folks like to shake their fist at contemporary music, asking, “Where did all the protest songs go?” They aren’t listening to Kendrick Lamar, whose creative output is as musically rich as it is lyrically incisive. Lamar’s tunes have become anthems for the Black Lives Matter movement and served as one of the biggest inspirations for David Bowie’s Blackstar before his death. Live, Lamar is a force—don’t miss it. Tacoma Dome, Aug. 1.

Lady Gaga A friend who saw Lady Gaga’s live show returned with tales of alien orbs and a giant inflatable vagina—out of which the singer clamored to open “Born This Way.” Joanne, Gaga’s latest album, is more stripped-down than her prior opulent pop outings, but you can probably expect the same surreal, high-production values onstage. Tacoma Dome, Aug. 5.

Willie Nelson Did you know Willie Nelson is now an official weed-industry businessman? Willie’s Reserve™ provides the green cowboys and gals of Colorado with flowers, joints, and even vape paraphernalia. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys—but definitely let them be stoners. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em at this one. Marymoor Park, Aug. 9.


By Gavin Borchert

Seattle Symphony As Richard Strauss’s tone poems got grander and more lavish, they also, of course, got harder to stage, and it’s an event when an orchestra can amass the 125 or so musicians needed for his 1915 An Alpine Symphony, which depicts a climb up and down a mountain. Preceding his biggest orchestral work on this program is likely his most beloved: the rapturous Four Last Songs. Benaroya Hall, June 15 & 17.

2001: A Space Odyssey Aside from whatever I was playing in school orchestra, my first exposure to classical music came from the one such album we owned, which was the soundtrack to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (an eclectic mix: Ligeti, two Strausses, and more). The Seattle Symphony will present a screening of the film, with all the music played live; Pablo Rus Broseta conducts. Benaroya Hall, June 30–July 1.

Fictional Migrations “Some composers respond to nature,” composer Lisa Bielawa said in a 2013 interview. “The place where I can find the most depth in myself is as a reader.” She made a reputation as a composer for outdoor performance, most notably her 2013 Airfield Broadcasts, written to be played by a mass ensemble on the tarmac at a shut-down German airport. The title of her new commission from the Seattle Chamber Music Society, Fictional Migrations, seems to combine these dual interests, literature and space; Bielawa will be here to introduce the premiere. Benaroya Recital Hall, July 10.

Mahler’s Symphony no. 10 Nearly every composer has left behind some half-finished work, but not many are as bemoaned as what would have been Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no. 10. Before he died in 1911, he completed just one movement of a planned five: an Adagio that rises to a crunching climax that seems to jump ahead 50 years or so. It’s this forward-looking promise of what could have been, in addition to the Adagio’s enthralling beauty, that drove several composers to attempt completions based on the sketches Mahler left. Deryck Cooke’s is the most often heard, and it’s his version which the Northwest Mahler Festival will play on its annual public concert. First Free Methodist Church, July 22.

Madame Butterfly Though Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (Japanese woman + American man = heartbreak and suicide) is one of the most popular operas ever written, “popular” in this case does not mean uncontroversial—especially in an age becoming more aware of the pitfalls of cultural appropriation. Seattle Opera is working to head off criticism on this score by presenting alongside it a panel discussion led by writer/producer Frank Abe and a lobby exhibit “allowing audiences to consider the lasting impacts of American imperialism on people of Japanese and Asian ancestry.” McCaw Hall, Aug. 5–19.


By T.S. Flock

Emerge/Evolve 2016 Emerge is an annual juried competition created by Portland’s Bullseye Glass company to highlight artists working in kiln-formed glass. Bellevue Arts Museum presents an expansive collection of works from 2016’s award winners and select finalists alongside works from past winners whose practices have continued to evolve. Bellevue Arts Museum, now through Oct. 1.

Teardrops That Wound One room at Wing Luke Museum features work from six Asian Pacific American artists, a moving meditation on the absurdity of warfare, especially aerial warfare, which erases its victims’ humanity from afar. Given the escalated threat of missile strikes in Asia and beyond, it is unfortunately a very timely show. Wing Luke Museum, now through May 20, 2018.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors Kusama’s original installation Infinity Room (1965) surrounded viewers with mirrors in a chamber filled with spotted phallic forms. SAM brings multiple variations on Kusama’s Infinity Rooms together in one blockbuster show, along with her interaction installation Obliteration Room (2002). Online tickets are sold out. Limited tickets are available each day at SAM. First come, first served. Seattle Art Museum, June 30–Sept. 10.

Doris Totten Chase: Changing Forms With monumental sculptures at Seattle Center and Kerry Park, the work of artist Doris Totten Chase is widely seen, but few residents know her name. That changes with this first retrospective of Chase’s large oeuvre, Changing Forms, featuring drawing, painting, sculpture and even early video art. Henry Art Gallery, July 8–Oct. 1.

Seattle Art Fair 2017 The region’s largest annual art fair returns for its third year (the largest yet). In addition there will be official and unofficial satellite events throughout the city, but especially in Pioneer Square and the International District, including dance and musical performance, gallery shows, and of course parties galore. CenturyLink Event Center, Aug. 3–6.


By Sandra Kurtz

Royal Ballet at the Movies In the old days, you had to get on a plane to see many of the world’s best companies, but now you can just walk to a neighborhood cinema. The Royal Ballet performs a repertory that just doesn’t get seen here very often, and this particular program, a triple bill of works by the famed Frederick Ashton, gives us a very different perspective on the possibilities of the pointe shoe. Guild 45th Theater, June 11.

Camptacular Kitten La Rue and Lou Henry Hoover are heading to summer camp, and bringing the Seattle burlesque community with them for a close encounter with the great outdoors. If you’ve ever wondered what a talent show with real talent might look like, here’s your chance to see what someone can do with a lanyard. The Triple Door, June 30–July 3.

Dance This Most of the year, Seattle Theater Group showcases touring artists from around the world, but in the summer they look closer to home and bring the best of local youth dance to the stage. The program is always a great showcase of wild variety—the finale is guaranteed to bring you to your feet, clapping and weeping. The Moore, July 7–8.

Summer Bridge Project Velocity Dance Center’s program for emerging choreographers is a popular fixture of their winter schedule—so popular that the applicant pool is threatening to flood the building. So if one show is good, another one should be even better. For their inaugural summer session, they’ve chosen three choreographers who are just beginning to make their reputation here—Cameo Lethem, Anna Krupp, and Ethan Rome will bring their fresh point of view these late summer evenings. Velocity Dance Center, Aug. 25–27.

Sculptured Dance Pacific Northwest Ballet wants you to take a walk in the park, so they’re giving you an incentive. This open-air program mixes it up, featuring new choreography by PNB dancers Price Suddarth and Noelani Pantastico along with guests Eva Stone and Dani Tirrell. They’re working with a combination of artists from PNB, Au Collective, and The YC for an evening of fantastic dancing, with the Olympics as a backdrop. Seattle Art Museum, Aug. 31.


By Mark Baumgarten

Lydia As it did with its very well-received production of 9 Circles last year, Strawberry Theatre Workshop is again staging a resonant work with actors who are new to the company, all of them aged 16 to 22. This time the company employs the Pulitzer-nominated work of Octavio Solis to explore borders, both physical and metaphysical. 12th Ave Arts, now through June 24.

Fool for Love In this 1983 work by great American playwright Sam Shepard, there isn’t much in the way of plot development. But there is a hell of a lot of emotion to work through in this dark and powerful familial tale of two star-criss-crossed lovers, offering us all a kind of collective catharsis and a little perspective. ACT, June 29–Aug. 6.

Much Ado About Nothing The Seattle Shakespeare Company again returns to Seattle’s parks to fill the sweet summer air with the Bard’s poetry. Since there will already be so much tragedy in that air (read: the state of the world), it is a relief that Seattle Shakes’ Wooden O company is offering two comedies, this classic twisted love story along with the adventurous Pericles. We’re suggesting this classic of thwarted and realized love mostly for the ingenious wordplay—but you should see Pericles too. It’s free theater, after all. Various parks, July 6–Aug. 6.

Fun Home Nominated for 12 Tony Awards and the winner of five in 2016, this musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name is a groundbreaker: the first Broadway musical with a lesbian character front and center. It is also heartbreaking and joyful, and something that any self-respecting musical fan must see. 5th Avenue Theatre, July 11–30.

Proof Last year, 1-Off Production brought something new and long overdue to Seattle theater, focusing on multilingual productions aimed at underserved Seattle communities. Last summer’s production of Lorca’s Blood Wedding—performed in alternating tongues, in various parks, for free—proved quite powerful. This year they will give the same treatment to Proof, David Auburn’s 2000 play about genius, mental illness, and family. And they’ll be performing it on the porches of private residences throughout the city. TBA