10 things to do in Seattle

‘A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes,’ installed at MoPOP. (Courtesy of MoPOP)

Joe Bar in Seattle
A typical art opening crowd at Joe Bar Cafe on Capitol Hill

Joe Bar 100

Seattle’s wealth of independent coffee shops means more than just caffeine on every corner. It’s also resulted in a rich tradition of coffee house art shows, where a future art star might be just getting started. Joe Bar Cafe, in the historic Loveless building (across the street from the dearly departed Harvard Exit movie theater). has a reputation for some of the strongest of such shows — despite its diminutive size and the chartreuse hue of the walls. Curator Ben Beres (one-third of local art alliance Sutton Beres Culler) is celebrating his 100th show at Joe Bar this month, and showcasing some 50 artists whose work he has featured over the last eight years. The collection of paintings, illustrations, photographs and prints is a who’s who of Seattle up-and-comers (and many who’ve already arrived), including Amanda Manitach, Baso Fibonacci, Jeffry Mitchell, Erin Kendig, Jason Puccinelli and Kelly Bjork. Grab a cuppa and a crepe and find a new favorite. –B.D.

If you go: Joe Bar Cafe, opening event May 9, 5-9 p.m. Exhibit runs through July 6. (Free)


You have one more weekend to catch this Bollywood-esque extravaganza, the story of a fabled Indian action hero — the female bandit queen, Devi. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Bengali novel about an oppressed young woman, who, like Robin Hood, scores loot with her gang and redistributes it to the poor, gets a wildly colorful staging at ACT Theatre in a Pratidhwani production with a cast of 45 — many of them tech workers by day, performers by night. As the lead character is shunned by in-laws and left destitute, she moves on to many triumphant adventures and exciting dance battles alongside her trusty female gang. The dialogue is stilted, and the plot churns, but the grand attraction here is the splendid eye candy of elaborate costumes, sparkling faux trees and glittering chandelier that define the set, and the perfectly synchronized ensemble dance numbers executed by a legion of agile women. It’s another South Asian spectacle from the multitasking director Moumita Bhattacharya, who crafted the script, choreographed the dances and designed those eye-popping duds. –Misha Berson

If you go: ACT Theatre, May 10-11 at 7:30 p.m. ($27-$42)

Paul Constant: Planet of the Nerds

author paul constant
(Photo courtesy of Paul Constant)

Three jerky high school jocks from the 1980s accidentally time travel to 2019, when nerds (like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos) and nerd culture (computers and Comic-Con) rule the world. Such is the promising set up for Planet of the Nerds, the new series from AHOY! Comics, in which Back to the Future meets classic comic book meets John Hughes movie. The series is written and conceived by longtime Seattle lit maven Paul Constant, who has been a bookseller at Elliott Bay Books, a books editor for The Stranger, and who co-founded the Seattle Review of Books in 2015, which he still runs. While Constant has written short comics before, this is his first full comic book series (with art by Alan Robinson). Word has it he is working from his own experience as a bullied nerd, which I’ll ask him about when we discuss Planet of the Nerds during the launch event at Elliott Bay Books. –B.D.

If you go: Elliott Bay Books, May 11 at 7 p.m. (Free)

Bonsai Fest

bonsai tree
(Photo courtesy of BonsaiFest!)

For those out of the tree-sculpting loop, this weekend marks World Bonsai Day, which our own Pacific Bonsai Museum will embrace with all branches. This beautiful, serene, outdoor museum, nestled amid evergreens and rhododendrons in Federal Way, houses incredible specimens lovingly pruned to resemble ancient trees in tiny forests. The second annual Bonsai Fest offers the chance to tour the minitrees (and vote on your favorite in the not-terribly-cutthroat “People’s Choice Award” competition). The weekend also includes bonsai-making demonstrations, and the opening of a special retrospective exhibition: Gnarly, showcasing the work of the Bremerton-based “Picasso of Bonsai” Dan Robinson, who helped the Pac NW Bonsai scene take root with his renegade band of self-proclaimed “Bonsai Bums.” –B.D.

If you go: Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, May 11-12. (Admission by donation.)

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A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes

(Photo by Brangien Davis/Crosscut)

If you wished you could’ve been among the fashion glitterati at the Met Gala in New York City earlier this week, take heart: MoPOP is bringing the highest-heeled echelons of couture straight to us left-coasters. A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes arrives via the New Orleans Museum of Art, which developed the show around six “feminine archetypes” (which perhaps unintentionally establish a sense of “choose your own adventure”): sage, enchantress, explorer, Mother Earth, heroine and thespian. In a more obvious connection to queens, the show highlights rare pieces by designer Alexander McQueen, amplified by some 100 exquisite gowns, headpieces, wigs, shoes and jewelry by the likes of Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Comme des Garcons. Whether you’re in it for the feathers, florals, sequins or sheer silliness, this realm of fashion is undeniably fun. –B.D.

If you go: MoPOP, May 11 - Sept. 2. ($26-$32)

Regina Silveira at OSP
Regina Silveira's 'Octopus Wrap' at the Olympic Sculpture Park.(Courtesy of SAM)

Regina Silveira at Olympic Sculpture Park

Someone should inform the authorities that the Olympic Sculpture Park has been run over. In fact, it appears that multiple dirt bikes and motorcycles have driven all over the walls and windows of the downtown art park’s Paccar Pavilion, where overlapping black tracks have suddenly appeared. The new, site-specific installation was created by Brazilian artist Regina Silveira, and marks the first time the well-established artist has shown work in Seattle. She calls the piece Octopus Wrap, and it’s true, the tracks resemble tentacles wrapped around the edifice. Having grown up under a military dictatorship (from the 1960s to 1980s), Silveira is well-versed in sudden disruption and upheaval, and her past installations have involved plagues of frogs, insects and animal tracks, as well as dizzying optical illusions. The startling change to the familiar park building embodies elements of play, but also reminds us of the luxury of presuming our surroundings will always stay the same. B.D.

If you go: Olympic Sculpture Park, starting May 11. (Free)

Jared Diamond: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Jared Diamond's Upheaval
(Photo courtesy of Town Hall)

The wildly ambitious polymath Jared Diamond, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel offered a theory for why some civilizations survive and conquer (while others remain on the opposite end of that equation), published a new book this week. It, too, has grand ambitions. Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis is concerned with four contemporary existential threats: global inequality, nuclear attacks, climate change and resource depletion. In hopes of extracting lessons that might thwart future global catastrophe, Diamond examines how nations have historically responded to periods of extraordinary upheaval. He surveys seven countries in moments of profound flux, including Japan at the onset of economic modernization in the mid-19th century, Finland during its World War II clash with Stalin’s Soviet Union and Chile after the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende in 1973. Can this approach to history offer a framework for avoiding impending doom? Diamond seems to think so; some critics aren’t so sure. But given Diamond’s predilection for Big Idea books that pose monumental theories, his newest will surely be a talker. –Mason Bryan

If you go: Seattle First Baptist Church (First Hill), May 14 at 7:30 p.m. ($5-$40)

Tayari Jones: An American Marriage

Tayari Jones
(Photo by Nina Subin)

For six years, the Atlanta-based author Tayari Jones plucked away at a pink Smith-Corona typewriter, writing a love story. The novel she produced — An American Marriage — is set against the particularly cruel landscape of mass incarceration, but Jones does not probe those depths. Instead, she sketches a difficult and complex portrait of Roy Hamilton and Celestial Davenport’s dissolving marriage, the relationship’s status only partly a function of the carceral state and its often unjust power to disrupt and mangle lives. A little over a year into their union, a stranger’s false rape allegations against Roy, and his subsequent incarceration, derail the couple’s future plans together, along with his ascension into the upper realms of Black economic life. As Roy’s horizons narrow, Celestial’s stretch ever wider as she gains attention as an artist known for her intricately woven dolls. The difficult terrain of the novel concerns Roy and Celestial’s obligation to one another. Must Celestial’s devotion to Roy remain steadfast, given the injustice — a sentence of 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit — that he is forced to endure? Or can she, with a clean conscience, continue to spread her wings, even if that means flying away from the vows she made to Roy? While not explicitly a polemical novel, it is impossible to understate the force with which politics frame Roy and Celestial’s predicament. As author Stephanie Powell Watts, writing in the New York Times, has pointed out, “The black body in America can’t escape the scrutiny of the political lens, not entirely.” –Mason Bryan

If you go: Seattle Arts and Lectures at Benaroya Hall, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. ($10-$80)

School of Rock

The most recent Broadway offering scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber is about as far as he could stray from his Phantom of the Opera adaptation. In this snappy musical comedy, based on the entertaining film starring Jack Black, an ingratiating rocker-slacker schmo named Dewey is somehow allowed to teach music at a snooty private school. Turns out, his passion for head banger rock ’n’ roll turns on his students, and they follow his pied-piper lead to form a killer band that wins over even the starchiest parent and school official. Sure it’s silly, and the diverting, toe-tapper Lloyd Webber-Glenn Slater tunes pass through your ear canals and right out again. But the fish-out-of-water theme is exploited for many laughs in the book by Julian Fellowes (yes, the Downton Abbey writer, on a lark), and the show is genuinely suitable for the whole family — including the light teacher-principal romance with a few modest smooches. –Misha Berson

If you go: Paramount Theatre, May 14-19. ($35-$115)

Pop-Up Magazine

Pop-Up Magazine has been cranking out consistently entertaining events for the past several years. I’d prove it to you with a link to past footage, but these one-night-only affairs — packed with true-story-telling, live music and video — are deliberately not recorded. You just have to be there. The concept (developed by the people behind California Sunday Magazine) is a magazine brought to life on stage, with a wide variety of topics and voices. This year’s edition features another impressive lineup, including Bainbridge Island-based New York Times Magazine writer Jon Mooallem (you may recall his recent gripping piece about an Alaska camping trip gone awry), who tells me he’ll talk about a dream he had 19 years ago that he just can’t shake. Also expect comic Mohanad Elshieky, documentary filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison and KQED radio reporter and sound-storyteller Sam Harnett. “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry,” goes the cliche, but if past Pop-Ups are any judge, you might well indeed do both. —B.D.

If you go: Pop-Up Magazine at Benaroya Hall, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. ($32-$42)

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