7 things to do in Seattle

Okwui Okpokwasili's 'Poor People's TV Room' explores Nigerian women's history at On the Boards. (Photo by Ian Douglas)

Okwui Okpokwasili: Poor People’s TV Room

“A fever dream come to life,” according to the Washington Post, this multidisciplinary performance by Igbo-Nigerian-American artist Okwui Okpokwasili takes Nigerian women’s history as inspiration. Referencing both the 1929 Igbo Women’s War against British colonialism and the 2014 Boko Haram kidnappings (and subsequent Bring Back Our Girls Campaign), the piece adds surreal imagery, gestural dance and a dash of Oprah Winfrey. Augmented with clever video stagecraft, Poor People’s TV Room aims to create more powerful vibe than linear narrative, a tangible atmosphere of struggle and resistance as experienced in the female body. —B.D.

If you go: On the Boards, Dec. 6-9 ($12-$30)

Martha Brokenbrough
Seattle author Martha Brockenbrough. (Photo by Emerald England)

Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump

Seattle writer Martha Brockenbrough (Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary) tackles the thorny topic of Donald Trump in this new biography. Known best for her compelling YA books (her novel The Game of Love and Death won the Washington state Book Award), Brockenbrough applies both her fiction writing and journalism chops to this narrative, which chronicles the 45th president’s path from childhood though his rise to the Oval Office. The New York Times Book Review calls it a “thorough, hard-hitting volume,” and while targeted toward younger readers, the book does not shy away from the very adult issues Trump raised even before he was elected. In this University Book Store appearance, she’ll share insights from her painstaking research (which reveals Trump’s connection to Woody Guthrie and the highs and lows of his relationship with Ivana), and trace the troubled path that led to our current political mire.  —B.D.

If you go: University Book Store, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. (Free)

Let There Be Light

The 222-foot-tall façade of Seattle’s Pier 86 Grain Terminal is getting dressed up for the holidays — in projected video art by Pacific Northwest artists, who’ll use the Seattle landmark as a canvas. First up is SIGNALS by Nicolas Sassoon (from Vancouver, B.C.) and Rick Silva (Eugene, Oregon), offering “abstract immersive visual renderings of altered seascapes.” Next comes Hexagon Misfits, by Chris Rojas (Seattle) and Craig Winslow (Portland, Oregon), which explores “the past, present and future of the Seattle waterfront and the Northwest peoples with 3D imaging, projection mapping and historical moments.” Best viewing, according to the organizers, is from Centennial Park, Myrtle Edwards Park, SAM Sculpture Park and ferries and ships in Elliott Bay. —M.U.

If you go: Friends of Pier 86, Pier 86 Grain Terminal, Seattle, Dec. 7-9 and Dec. 14-21, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (Free)

Dina Martina
Dina Martina is back with her special brand of cringe cabaret. (Photo by David Belisle)

Holiday Burlesque Shows

There’s something about Seattle in December that makes certain performers want to take their clothes off. Case in point, our annual eruption of Yuletide-themed burlesque shows. Verlaine & McCann’s Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker pirouettes back into The Triple Door, with an original live score played by a crackerjack nine-piece jazz orchestra. Kitten N’ Lou’s Homo for the Holidays: Jingle All the Gay, with guest star Cherdonna Shinatra and guests from New York, San Francisco and the U.K., wraps its performative gifts up in a sparkly bow and presents them at Capitol Hill’s Oddfellows Building. Can Can Culinary Cabaret’s Wonderland (covered here last week) features some very sexy snowflakes. And, of course, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without The Dina Martina Christmas Show. The boundlessly confident and excruciatingly talentless drag chanteuse with a knack for mangling the English language isn’t exactly a striptease artist, but she does occasionally grace her audiences with expansive glimpses of her hairy back (thanks to the far-from-plus-size evening wear she dons). Her keyboard accompanist for her shows at ACT Theatre is “Adult Prodigy” Chris Jeffries, whose poker face is almost as much fun to watch as Ms. Martina. —M.U.

If you go:

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker, The Triple Door, Dec. 7-30, times vary. ($45-$85)

Homo for the Holidays, Oddfellows Building, West Hall, Dec. 7-30, times vary. ($35-$40)

The Dina Martina Christmas Show, ACT Theatre, Dec. 6-24, times vary. ($27-$47)

Wonderland, Can Can Culinary Cabaret through Jan. 13, times vary. ($40-$95)

Spectrum Dance Theater’s ‘Occurrence’
Dancers in Spectrum’s ‘Occurrence #5.’ (Photo by Marcia Davis)

Spectrum Dance Theater: Occurrence #6

The dance prowess and cathartic intensity of last month’s Occurrence #5 would suggest that this performance is not to be missed. Spectrum’s Occurrences are modeled on Merce Cunningham’s Events (from the 1980s), in which freshly choreographed material and excerpts from existing dances were assembled in a newly sequenced medley and sometimes given a site-specific twist. In Spectrum’s case, the site is the company’s intimate dance studio on Lake Washington, where you can see/hear/feel the dancers up close as they make the whole venue vibrate. Occurrence #5 started out feisty, became sublime, and ended by being pulse-pounding, with dancer Fausto Rivera Contreras becoming the embodiment of stoical, stumbling humanity, falling to the floor repeatedly only to rise up again and again as the light faded on him. If Occurrence #6 is even half as good, it will still be riveting. Also coming up: Iolanta, a contemporary-dance setting of a Tchaikovsky opera that gives Spectrum dancer Nia-Amina Minor a chance to shine as a blind princess exploring “the ideas of sight vs. insight, light vs. enlightenment, and love as both a violation/intrusion and an awakening.” —M.U.

If you go: Spectrum Dance Theater, Occurrence #6, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m and Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.; Iolanta, Dec. 13-16, times vary. (Tickets to both shows are $20)

Holiday Choral Concerts

If you prefer to ring in the season with sublime vocal sounds, the Seattle metropolitan area has you covered. Highlights include Seattle Pro Musica, with two programs: Silent Night: Carols from England, France and Germany, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and a Family Holiday Concert, which blends traditional carols and holiday stories with an audience sing-along. Seattle Men’s Chorus will present Jingle All the Way, a mix of holiday pop tunes and traditional fare. The always innovative contemporary vocal ensemble The Esoterics closes its 25th season with ADŌRŌ: the reimagined prayer: the wish within silence, which explores “secular versions of sacred forms.” Last but not least is classic crowd pleaser Handel’s Messiah, performed by the  Seattle Symphony and Seattle Symphony Chorale with great gusto and glory. —M.U.

If you go:

Seattle Pro Musica, Silent Night: Carols from England, France and Germany, Seattle First Baptist Church, Dec. 8, 9 and 15, times vary. ($5-$38)

Seattle Men’s Chorus, Jingle All the Way, at Benaroya Hall, Dec. 9, 16, 20, 21 and 23, times vary; Rialto Theater, Tacoma, Dec. 8, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; ($35-$55); Everett Civic Auditorium, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. ($15-$88)

The Esoterics, ADŌRŌ, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.; Holy Rosary Catholic Church, West Seattle, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m.; St. John’s Episcopal Church, Olympia, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. ($15-$25)

Seattle Symphony Chorale, Handel’s Messiah, Benaroya Hall, Dec. 14-16, times vary. ($24-$89)

Seattle Celebrates the End of WWI
End of WWI Celebration in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Photograph Collection)

WW1 America

Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) delivers another imaginative immersion in an era long past. WW1 America vividly evokes the social upheaval and popular culture of the First World War (1914-1918), with some specific glances at how the global strife affected Seattle. (Boeing got its first big military contract during the war. Some 35,000 newcomers came to town to work in our city’s shipyards. And labor unrest late in the decade culminated in the 1919 Seattle General Strike.) Related job opportunities in the North triggered the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the brutal Jim Crow-era South. Anti-war sentiments raised First Amendment issues. The fight for women’s suffrage and the devastations of the Spanish flu are also part of the picture. All the big events are here — but it’s the small, unexpected details that make this exhibit fascinating: sheet music for an anti-war hit titled “I Didn’t Raise My Son to Be a Soldier”; one of the first pairs of sunglasses, a novelty introduced when British troops fought in the Middle East; and an all-cotton brassiere to replace steel-ribbed corsets, as the military faced a metal shortage. WW1 America mixes ambient sounds (trains, music, speeches) with oral histories of ordinary soldiers, one of whom may break your heart with his description of warfare as “a thrill you should never want.” —M.U.

If you go: MOHAI, through Feb. 10, 2019. ($15.95-$19.95)

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About the Authors & Contributors

Michael Upchurch

Novelist Michael Upchurch (“Passive Intruder”) has written about books and the Seattle arts scene for the past 30 years.