Debra Baxter: Ghost Heart
Longtime Seattle artist Debra Baxter moved to Santa Fe several years ago, and it’s our loss. The sculptor possesses a powerful alchemy: turning hard and often spiky materials (rocks, minerals, bronze) into chunky translations of powerful human emotions. Thankfully, she still shows work here now and again. For this show at Roq La Rue, she presents new sculptures inspired by a radical medical experiment that involved washing a heart clean of blood cells until only a protein scaffold remained. The pieces feature ingenious combinations of alabaster, crystals, wood and blown glass to achieve such mysteries as hearts grown from geodes and a ghostly hand caressing a blood-tinged rockscape. Also on view are gemlike geometric paintings by Rebecca Chaperon. –B.D.
If you go: Roq La Rue Gallery, April 11-May 5. (Free)
Valeria Luiselli: Lost Children Archives
Make note of this name. Valeria Luiselli is a young, Mexico City-born writer who already is piling up awards and accolades for both her fiction and nonfiction titles. Her last book, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions, was based on the questions she regularly asked children facing deportation when she was working as a translator for immigrants hoping to attain legal status in the U.S. “Why did you come to the United States?” “Did anything happen on your trip to the U.S. that scared you or hurt you?” It won the American Book Award. Her new novel, Lost Children Archives, shares the immigration theme, but does so by way of following a fictional family on a road trip from New York to Arizona, during which they gain a freshly harrowing perspectives on relationships both familial and political. Luiselli masterfully employs myriad storytelling techniques, from propulsive to poetic. In this appearance for Seattle Arts and Lectures, she’ll be interviewed by Crosscut’s own Florangela Davila. –B.D.
If you go: Seattle Arts & Lectures at Benaroya Hall, April 17 at 7:30 p.m. ($20-$80)
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Merce Cunningham Centennial Celebration
Born and raised in Centralia, Washington, legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham discovered a love of dance in a childhood tap class taught by Mrs. Maude Barrett. He went on to study at Cornish College of the Arts, where he was spotted by none other than Martha Graham, who invited him to join her company. You could say, “The rest is history,” but Cunningham’s legacy lives on in the present, as his works continue to be performed. (He died in 2009.) This week the University of Washington honors the groundbreaking artist with two events: a premiere screening of the brand new documentary, If the Dancer Dances, in which dancers work to restage Cunningham’s iconic “RainForest” (1968); and an informal performance by UW and Cornish dance students exploring the choreographer’s particular form of movement. Happy birthday to a true game changer. –B.D.
Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission
Excitement and events are increasing for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this summer (even a black hole has shown up for the occasion). The Museum of Flight is celebrating with a new exhibit, Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, featuring the actual command module (Columbia) that landed on the moon in July 1969. Seattle marks the touring show’s only West Coast appearance, and the museum has amped up the content with its own artifacts from the Space Race, including a cosmonaut suit, a Sputnik satellite, and items from the Seattle engineers involved in the monumental achievement. Stay tuned for the museum’s big, moon-filled festival in July. –B.D.
If you go: Museum of Flight, April 13 - Sept. 2. ($16-25 general admission, plus $10 special exhibit tickets.)
As one actor, George Sayah, put it: producing Seattle playwright Yussef El Guindi’s Language Rooms at Inscape seems “poetic.” The play explores immigration, Islamophobia and detention, with comedic elements that loosen the tension in this workplace drama that is anything but traditional. The boxy five-story brick Inscape building is a decommissioned U.S. Immigration Station and Assay Office, once home to incarcerated immigrants whose stories are now immortalized in a permanent installation. “I felt like our first day here, as I walked through the halls, it was meaningful, as you think about the thousands and thousands of immigrants that have walked through here,” said Sayah, who plays the role of Ahmed, a terrorist interrogator. Language Rooms will be produced in what used to be the citizenship ceremony room, where the playwright himself became a U.S. citizen. “It’s a play about immigration and it’s happening in a place where immigration happened, where both fears, hopes and dreams lived, which echoes the story that exists in the play,” said actor Hisam Goueli during a recent rehearsal. –Agueda Pacheco Flores
If you go: Slate Theatre at Inscape, April 12 - May 4 ($20)
Gin Hammond: Returning the Bones
Gin Hammond didn’t meet her Aunt Bebe (Carolyn Beatrice Montier) until Hammond, a Bellevue actor and teacher, was in her 20s. But Bebe’s life story was so compelling that years later she created and performed a solo show about her. At Erickson Theatre through April 14, the Book-It Rep staging of Returning the Bones comes through as a warm, charming, thoughtful profile of a plucky child who loves books, gamely assists her father (the only Black physician in their Ohio town, and a civil rights activist), and who, after some ambivalence, chooses to become a doctor herself. Hammond plays her aunt, other relatives, and luminaries Bebe meets, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. The piece gains drama as Bebe’s horizons widen on a study trip to Europe just after World War II. There she encounters less racial prejudice, samples new cuisines and cultures, and visits a Nazi death camp where the stench of burned bodies lingers. Hammond is also writing a book about her aunt, but the 90-minute Returning the Bones is a fine introduction to an admirable woman. -Misha Berson
If you go: Erickson Theatre, Through April 14 ($35)
Pacific Northwest Ballet: A Midsummer Night's Dream
A fairy kingdom. A mischief maker. A love potion that leads to romance with a donkey-headed man. The comedy of Shakespeare meets the beauty of Balanchine in this classic balletic adaptation of one of the Bard’s zanier tales. The PNB production, staged by founding artistic director Francia Russell, features exclusive costumes and sets — a Northwest vibe punctuated with sparkly insect headpieces — by Martin Pakledinaz. It’s also one of the last chances you’ll have to see principal dancer Rachel Foster perform, as she’s just announced her retirement at the end of the season. (See casting for the dates Foster will perform the role of Hermia.) As silly as it is enchanting, Midsummer serves as a marvelous spring bouquet. –B.D.
If you go: Pacific Northwest Ballet, April 12-21, times vary. ($37-$189)
Yet another reason to ensure the Showbox endures threats of high-rise development: For Seattle artists, selling out the venerable venue is not only a mark of honor, but often a very visible step toward national stardom and career longevity. Sol Moravia-Rosenberg is the latest example of Northwest brilliance to take the Showbox stage, and the hypertalented yet ever-humble MC deserves all the love the city can give. He's currently riding the high of his recently released fourth album, Soon Enough, a polished, radio-ready statement on millennial hopes and anxieties delivered via poignant, precise, socially conscious raps. As the musical world grows more cynical, coloring the rest of pop culture, somehow Sol makes giving a damn sound not only cool but absolutely necessary. Special artist, special venue, special night. –J.Z.
On with the African desert-rock revolution! Last month it was Bombino; tonight it's Mdou Moctar, another incendiary young Tuareg guitarist playing ecstatic music around the world and shadowed by the political strife of his homeland. A seasoned live performer who played weddings and other celebrations in his native Niger, Moctar rose to fame in Africa a few years back as fans traded audio files of his original songs, mostly sung solo in autotune and accompanied by his electric guitar, via cellphone memory cards. His latest album, Ilana (The Creator), partners with a three-piece band, and the result churns with in-the-moment energy and collective crescendo-building, as well as wildly distorted, digitally altered abstraction. Though it's the result of very specific circumstances, the music feels timeless and placeless, adding up to some the most exciting and original rock ’n’ roll being made anywhere right now. –J.Z.
If you go: Chop Suey, April 14 at 8 p.m. ($15-$18)