The Weekender: Sarah Vowell, Hip-hop for the Homeless, and The Devil v. C.S. Lewis

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

Crosscut archive image.

Sarah Vowell at a 2009 book signing in San Francisco.

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

Sarah Vowell  Described by Vanity Fair as “queen of the literary hipster nerds,” Sarah Vowell makes a stop in Seattle this weekend, a city full of her loyal subjects. An essayist, journalist, and author, Vowell is perhaps best characterized as a “social observer.” She mixes exploration of American history with chatty personal anecdote and deadpan humor, most recently turning her wry lens on the America’s imperial colonization of Hawaii in her book Unfamiliar Fishes.

While primarily considered a writer, Vowell makes numerous talk show appearances and is perhaps most beloved for her radio work as a contributing editor on This American Life. This may be due in part to her distinctive voice, self-described as being “straight out of second grade. I come across so young and innocent and harmless that I have been carded for buying maple syrup.” The interview portion of the evening will be conducted by Luke Burbank, Seattle radio personality and panelist on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. According to Vowell’s Facebook page, dress code for her events is “NPR-chic,” a style most of our readers should be able to pull off.

If you go: Neptune Theatre, 1303 Northeast 45th St, March 10, doors at 7 pm, show at 8 pm, $32.50, $21 UW students

C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters  C.S. Lewis’ satiric epistolary novel, dedicated to his friend and fellow theologian J.R.R. Tolkien, sides the audience with the devil. The devilishly cunning and smooth-talking Englishman Max McLean (with whom there is a post-show talk-back) plays Screwtape, an undersecretary in Satan’s “lowerarchy.” The show plays out like a series of sermons as Screwtape dictates letters advising his nephew, Wormwood, on how to best tempt a human “patient” to serve their dark lord.

One need not be Christian to appreciate C.S. Lewis’ work any more than one need be Christian to appreciate The Lord of the Rings — human foibles, like demons, are the same regardless of the religion they come cloaked in. Appropriately provocative and witty (he is The Devil, after all) Screwtape reveals our lives’ everyday evils, reminding that “the safest road to hell is the gradual one.” After sold-out runs in New York and Los Angeles, Seattle theatregoers have a one-day shot at seeing the devil get his comeuppance — just make sure the demons don’t follow you out.

If you go: The Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine Street, March 10, doors at 3 pm and 7 pm, curtain at 4 pm and 8 pm, $28-$89

Cascade Orienteering Club Night O’  Orienteering is the closest you may ever come to being on the Amazing Race or lost in the wilds of Mordor with nothing but a compass and a map and your own wits. Originally developed as a land navigation training exercise for military recruits, orienteering is an official sport at the World Games and has developed many variations and somewhat of a cult following. Basically, it’s the most epic sport short of gladiatorial combat. Participants are given a topographical map marked with a series of numbered control points, which they must find in order, recording their visit with an electronic punch stick. The fastest person to complete the course wins.

Cascade Orienteering Club’s spring/summer series kicks off this Saturday with night orienteering at North SeaTac Park. Participants choose between three courses of varying lengths (1km to 4.7km) and may compete as a team or alone. The event is sure to have you ripping through blackberry bushes and churning up muddy underbrush as you learn that the shortest distance is not as the crow flies, but as the orienteer runs. So slip on some spandex and your running shoes. May the best navigator win — just don’t forget your compass or your headlamp.

If you go: North SeaTac Park, S 128th St & 20th Ave S, March 10, registration 6:30 pm-8 pm, course opens at 7 pm, $6-$11

Leonardo Live  Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, which opened at London’s National Gallery in November, was a once-in-a-lifetime art experience you already missed. Almost. This weekend, thanks to SIFF, you can visit the film version: Leonardo Live, directed by documentary filmmaker Phil Grabsky, and presented again in Seattle after several February showings brought it back by popular demand. 

The exhibit, touted by the BBC as “the best art exhibit in history,” brings together the most complete display of da Vinci’s paintings ever consolidated (minus "la Joconde," who was not allowed out of her Parisian palace). Hosted by art historian Tim Marlow and television journalist Mariella Frostrup, the film is a fast-paced marathon tour of the exhibit on opening night, punctuated by historical segments about da Vinci’s life and interviews with the curators, prominent academics, artists, and even actresses. The program focuses on the context and relevance of da Vinci’s major works. A highlight for reviewers of both the exhibition and the film was seeing the two versions of Virgin on the Rocks together in one room.

While the film can in no way replace the experience of viewing the art first hand, for those who didn’t make it to London before the exhibition came down on February 5th (and I’m guessing that’s most of you), this is the next best thing. Plus, it’s the only museum exhibition you’ll ever get to see without a docent asking you to put away your popcorn.

If you go: SIFF Cinema at the Film Center, Seattle Center Northwest rooms on the corner of August Wilson Way and 2nd Ave N. March 10-11, 1 pm,  3:30 pm, $15, $10 SIFF memebers, $14 youths and seniors

Hip-Hop 4 the Homeless  Bring used clothing, blankets, or healthy food down to the Olympia Ballroom Saturday night in exchange for entrance into a top-notch hip-hop show featuring some of the finest from Seattle, Olympia, and Portland. Founded in in Vancouver, B.C. by Olympia DJ and hip-hop activist Luvva J (real name Jose Gutierrez Jr.), the non-profit organization Hip-Hop for the Homeless is now in its tenth year of raising awareness of homelessness through hip-hop.

The festival takes place in two parts: Day one unfolds through live performances from DJs, spoken word artists, and hip-hop groups, for which audiences pay by donating clothes, books, or “anything that could be useful to the homeless.” On day two the festival opens its doors specifically to the homeless community, redistributing the donations from the night before and offering free haircuts, professional massages, and a warm meal. Feel free to attend both days — first as an audience member, second as a volunteer.

This year’s lineup includes Seattle-based hip hoppers Khingz & OTOW Gang and Alex Duncan, lead singer of Seattle’s Jumbalassy reggae group, which won the Northwest Area Music Awards for Best World/Ethnic album and band in 1992. Said founder Guiterrez, quoted in The Weekly Volcano, “The purpose of this event is to not only spread awareness of the issue but to encourage folks to get involved and develop a deeper understanding surrounding poverty in America.” 

If you go: Olympia Ballroom, 116 Legion Way SW, Olympia, March 10, 5 pm, $5 or donation, for information about volunteering on Sunday inquire at the show


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