* Denotes events that are $15 or less
In the Heights
Just last month hundreds packed Seattle Rep for a discussion on diversity and inclusion and the arts. Part of the frustration from people of color — and it’s a frustration derived from all kinds of popular media — is the sense that they aren’t adequately represented on stage or screen. So, who’s deserving of a standing ovation right now?
Credit: Mark Kitaoka
That would be Village Theater and its production of “In the Heights,” the Tony-winning musical set in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The story — allegiance to family, the pressure of college, going after one’s dreams — as told through the lens of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans is smart, fresh, funny and poignant. And for this Latina, at least, it hit me right in the gut (the way only “West Side Story” has ever done before).
This is a musical for the hip hop, multi-culti, bilingual generation, who can appreciate a guy in a guayabera, tagging when it’s done right and lyrics that rhyme vida with respira. The Spanish accents aren’t always perfect but the rapping and choreography are tight; the set is dead on; and the music. Oh, man, I mean, hombre: You really should go see this show.
If you go: In the Heights, The Village Theatre in Issaquah, now through Oct. 26; Village Theatre in Everett, Oct. 31 through Nov. 23 ($30 to $67) — F.D.
Cheap Beer and Prose *
Another edition of Cheap Beer and Prose is here, with four local authors reading their work. The crowd is warm and quick to laugh; the alcohol is cheap; and while I often haven’t heard of the authors, the prose always ranges from entertaining at worst to downright enrapturing and inspiring.
If you go: Cheap Beer and Prose, Hugo House, Sept 25. (Free) — N.C. *
Seattle’s first ever Sweet Week starts Thursday, with local confectionaries, bakeries and sweet shops galore all offering special concoctions for only $5. Macrina Bakery (who can do no wrong in my book) will be unveiling its new Peanut Butter Crunch Cake, while Hot Cakes will make a too-good-to-be-true Oh My Honey Sundae. Head to Cupcake Royale for a Tipsy Apple babycake, complete with Finnriver cider buttercream, or stop by Theo Chocolate (Full disclosure: I work there) to try a fall flavor flight: fig fennel ganache, pear balsamic ganache and apple cider caramel. Fall flavors for five bucks, you say? Yes, please.
If you go: Sweet Week, Various locations throughout Seattle, Sept. 25 to Sept. 28. — N.C.
One of the defining traits of electronic music is its preference for instrumental sounds over a prominent lead singer, but many of the most interesting contemporary electronic musicians achieve greatness by going against this trend. Will Wisenfeld (who performs under the stage name Baths) is one of those musical mavericks. His haunting, quavery voice bolsters intriguing beats, which fluctuate between chilled-out electronica, house music and glitch. This style has prompted some critics to place Baths in the “Intelligent Dance Music” category, a term perfectly suited to his sound. His previous two albums as Baths, “Cerulean” and “Obsidian,” both received critical acclaim.
If you go: Baths, Showbox Market, Sept. 25 ($31.50) — J.S.H.
It’s 1963. We’re in Tallahassee, FL. A white security guard has accidentally killed an innocent young black man. That’s the storyline of Jacqueline Goldfinger’s “Slip/Shot,” which is getting its Pacific Northwest premiere in a Seattle Public Theater production. When the play had its world premier, Trayvon Martin had just been shot and killed. When rehearsals started for the Seattle shows, Michael Brown had just been shot and killed. Says SPT’s Kelly Kitchens: “’Slip/Shot’ is a play about fear, violence and our need to move forward. It is imperative that we actively seek the answers to the questions this play raises on how we, as individuals and as a nation, change the path of our future so mothers and fathers don’t have to be afraid when their children walk out of their homes.”
Smithsonian Museum Day *
Museum Days returns with nearly every Seattle institution (MOHAI, SAM, The Museum of Flight, EMP and Wing Luke, among others) opening their doors for free. It’ll be crazy out there, but totally worth it, not to mention a great opportunity to see special exhibits (for an extra fee) like EMP’s “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film” or SAM’s “City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India.” Be sure to get your free ticket ahead of time on the Smithsonian website.
If you go: Smithsonian Museum Day at various museum locations throughout the area, Sept. 27. (Free). — N.C.
Hercules and Love Affair
There’s an old joke that culture (art, fashion, music, etc.) doesn’t truly advance but simply moves in circular cycles. For example, that grungy flannel look popular in the early ‘90s came back into vogue over a decade later — anyone who shopped at Urban Outfitters knows this — and now seems to be on the wane again. Assuming this cyclical theory is accurate, ‘80s New Wave is at the height of its resurgence cycle, as evidenced by bands like Cut Copy, LCD Soundsystem and the ultra-hip Hercules and Love Affair, who are coming to town this week. The group is perhaps most reminiscent of the soulful side of New Wave and best exemplified by the Eurythmics. This show will have fast, pulsing beats, the fanciest possible synth work and singing that somehow manages to be at once sassy and sensitive. My gut says this group has a zealous cult following. Hopefully that enthusiasm will make for a stellar dance party.
If you go: Hercules and Love Affair, Neumos, Sept. 29 ($18) — J.S.H.
Tavis Smiley *
PBS talk show host and political commentator Tavis Smiley’s new book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Final Year, is exactly about what its title suggests. But the book also addresses larger concepts, such as wanting our leaders to be monochromatic, ignored history, and the “inconvenient truths” that MLK took up near the end of his life. These “inconvenient truths” are what make this book, and Smiley’s insight, so valuable, as poverty and militarization against the lower class have never been more relevant than they are today. Jon Stewart’s interview with him on The Daily Show had me nodding, shaking my head and forwarding the interview to loved ones. That’s why this talk is penciled on my calendar.
If you go: Tavis Smiley: MLK's last Days and Lasting Legacy, Town Hall, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m. ($5) — N.C.
In retrospect, the most telling moment in Conor Oberst’s career came in 2005, when the baby-faced, dark-souled singer/songwriter released two albums in two different genres: “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn,” which stayed closer to the emo indie aesthetic that made him invaluable to young adults trying to find themselves, and “I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning,” a perfectly melancholy country/roots rock album that explored a side of his musicality previously unseen. Oberst continued to explore roots music. His new album, “Upside Down Mountain,” delves deeper into this territory. Who would have thought his songwriting could get any more intimate?
If you go: Conor Oberst, Showbox Market, Sept. 30 ($29.50). — J.S.H.