Seattle Weekender: Washington's Poet Laureate debuts; Carol Channing shines once more; and art provides hope

Crosscut's guide to a culturally enriching weekend in the city. Or at least some fun.

Stew and Heidi from 'Stew & the Negro Problem'

Stew and Heidi from 'Stew & the Negro Problem' Courtesy of Conqueroo PR

Jennifer Zwick, "Repaired Leaf," From the "Restoration" series, 2003. Cibachrome print 24 x 20 in.

Jennifer Zwick, "Repaired Leaf," From the "Restoration" series, 2003. Cibachrome print 24 x 20 in. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Stew & the Negro Problem 

Stew and Heidi might be better known by the music they created for the Tony-award winning Passing Strange (The "story of a young bohemian who charts a course for 'the real' through sex, drugs and rock and roll, according to the musical's website.), but that doesn't make their own music any less awesome. According to the band's Seattle Theatre Group bio, the Negro Problem rose through L.A.'s indie scene in the late 90s and was dubbed "L.A.'s best band" by L.A. Weekly.

Now, after a hiatus in show biz and a brief break from the music world as a whole, Stew and Heidi are back, and they're coming here to the Neptune Theater this Saturday to blow your mind (in a totally safe and non-fatal way). Stew & the Negro Problem will be playing music from Passing Strange and their new album Making It.

If you go: Neptune Theater, 1303 Northeast 45th St, Mar. 17, Doors at 8 p.m., Show at 9 p.m., $29, more info

Washington Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken 

If you have yet to experience a Washington Poet Laureate — a relatively new position which began in '07 — now might be the time to change your luck. Kathleen Flenniken, who was dubbed Poet Laureate in early February, will have her first Seattle reading under her new moniker at Open Books, the self-dubbed "poetry emporium."

Flenniken is a storyteller at heart, with poems that are heavy in detail and narrative flow (you can read three of her poems here). She will be reading from her new book of poetry, Plume, which is about the Hanford Nuclear Site, where she worked for three years, near her hometown of Richland, WA.

If you go: Open Books, 2414 North 45th St, Mar. 18, 3 p.m., Free, more info

Carol Channing, Larger than Life 

Yes, Carol Channing is still alive. She was born in 1921. She has lived to see the end of WWII, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and, if it ever ends, maybe the "War on Terror." What's more, after living almost a whole century, she's still got a killer smile.

Now, after playing countless roles — including Lorelei Lei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Dolly Gallagher in Hello, Dolly! — receiving three Tonys, and an Oscar nomination, someone has finally done what they should have done a long, long time ago. They've made a documentary about her. This probably won't be one of those dramatic MTV documentaries about the tragic fall of a great person into drugs or obscurity. Instead, Channing's natural, optimistic glow and energy should have you leaving the theater with all sorts of warm, fuzzy-wuzzy feelings.

If you go: SIFF Cinema at the Film Center, 305 Harrison St, through Mar. 20, $5-$10, more info

Samuel Beckett's Happy Days 

Samuel Beckett's play Happy Days may remind you in title of the sitcom with the same name. Those who go to the play with the television version in mind though, might be disappointed — or perhaps delighted — to realize that there is no Henry Winkler nor any sort of "Fonz" pointing two pistol fingers at you and shouting "Eyyyy!" In fact, the reality is far more bizarre and thought provoking. The play stars a lone woman, Winnie (played by Mary Ewald), buried up to her navel in sand, talking, making gestures, and slowly sinking — for the entire play.

That might sound super boring or just plain weird. But you would be wrong. Even when Ewald's head is the only thing showing on stage, she exudes enough talent to keep you captivated. Katherine Luck explains in a Crosscut review: "Her control of every muscle in her face is astonishing. With just a minute twitch of her lips or a swift, unblinking sweep of her eyes, she creates the sort of double-barrel impact that many actors can’t manage with their entire bodies."

If you go: New City Theater, 1703 13th Ave, through Mar. 24, $15-$20, more info


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