Things to do in Seattle

Want comedy? Hari Kondabolu will be at the Rendezvous on July 16.  (Photo courtesy of Hari Konabolu)

Outdoor concerts 

Passenger String Quartet
 Passenger String Quartet. (Photo courtesy of Timber Fest)

Seattle has a relatively short outdoor music season, so best to seize it while it’s in full swing. This weekend is particularly cacophonous: KEXP presents a rockin’ lineup of local acts at the Ballard Seafood Festival (July 12-14), including Pickwick, Moondoggies, Carrie Akre and the Dusty 45s; while over the bridge, the West Seattle Summer Fest (July 12-14) brings the Polyrythmics, Stas THEE Boss, Jenn Champion and Spirit Award. If you're seeking something slightly more mellow, consider the free concert series at the Ballard Locks, this weekend featuring big band music from the Letter Carriers and West Seattle Big Band. Or make a music getaway to Carnation, where the popular Timber Outdoor Music Festival (July 11-13) brings the best in alt-music, including Seattle’s own Mark Lanegan (alt-rock), Passenger String Quartet (alt-chamber), Chong the Nomad (alt-electronica) and Filthy Femcorps (alt-marching-band). Whatever you do, get out there and soak up the tunes while the getting is good. –B.D.

If you go: Ballard Seafood Festival: July 12-14 (free). West Seattle Summer Fest: July 12-14 (free). Concerts at the Ballard Locks: Weekends through Sept. 2 (free). Timber Outdoor Music Festival: July 11-13, times and prices vary. 

Dancing Til Dusk

Ready to boogie? Slip on those dancing shoes and head to Hing Hay Park in the Chinatown-International District for the first event of this year’s free civic series of dances with live music in Seattle parks. The fun begins with an evening of rollicking music by Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, a band straight out of Creole country in Louisiana. Taylor plays a mean accordion, and if you don’t know how to do the Zydeco dance steps, or don’t have a partner to swing with, no worries. Each concert begins with an hourlong dance lesson, and dance partners are not essential. –M.B.

If you go: Dancing Til Dusk, Hing Hay Park, July 11, 6-9:30 p.m. Dance series continues at Hing Hay Park, Westlake Park and Freeway Park through Aug. 22. (Free) 

Free Shakespeare in the parks

Cast members of Greenstage's Twelfth Night. (Photo courtesy of Greenstage Facebook page) 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” wrote Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida, and it’s a pretty good argument for seeing his plays performed in parks. Lucky us, Seattle boasts two established outdoor-Shakespeare companies, offering plenty of (free!) chances to get lit among the trees across Puget Sound. Greenstage tackles Henry IV, Part 2 and gives The Taming of the Shrew a suffragist twist, while Wooden O makes a gender-bending move from the Bard’s own playbook, staging Romeo and Juliet with an all-female and nonbinary cast, and Twelfth Night with an all-male cast. For those who prefer to binge the Bard, don't miss this weekend’s Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival at Volunteer Park, when the lawns come alive with simultaneous Shakespeare stagings and kid-friendly shenanigans. As the Bard once said, “This is very midsummer madness,” not to mention must-see. –B.D.

If you go: Greenstage performances July 12 - Aug. 17, times and venues vary. Wooden O performances July 11 - Aug. 11, times and venues vary. Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival, Volunteer Park, July 13-14, times vary. 

Lumberjacks and Logrollers: Icons of Finnish Film

Ferryboat Romance (Photo courtesy of Northwest Film Forum)

Now here’s a film festival you won’t see many places: Lumberjacks and Logrollers: Icons of Finnish Film. But it makes perfect sense, given that Seattle wouldn’t exist without the logging industry — and come summer in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t throw an ax without hitting a logger festival. In partnership with the University of Washington’s Department of Scandinavian Studies and the National Nordic Museum, Northwest Film Forum is screening four historic films: Ferryboat Romance (1952), about a beautiful young journalist who embeds herself in a logging community (with mixed results); The Song of the Scarlet Flower (1938), featuring incredible rushing river shots and a womanizing antihero; The Lumberjack’s Bride (1923), a silent film that includes a love triangle and a murder plot that hinges on lumberjacks going river rafting; and The Day the Earth Froze (1959), a thematic leap concerning a witch who steals the sun to spite peaceful loggers. Be sure to don your most festive summer flannel. –B.D.

If you go: Northwest Film Forum, July 12-14, times vary. (Individual films $7-$12; series pass $23-$45)

Hari Kondabolu

The stand-up comedy scene is not known for its feminism. (See: the backlash against Lindy West when she took issue with rape jokes; the Louis CK scandal; and maybe watch Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, if you haven't yet). Founded in 2013, The Comedy Nest aims to ameliorate the situation with a weekly, female-friendly stand-up show, in which half the open-mic slots are always reserved for women. Each show ends with a special guest, usually a more established comedian, and this time it’s Hari Kondabolu. The former Seattleite is not a woman, but he does know a lot about discrimination in comedy. His critically acclaimed documentary, The Problem with Apu (2017), explored the racist stereotype of the Indian convenience store owner on The Simpsons, much to the derision of the show’s fans. Fearless and pointed, Kondabolu’s political humor raises questions about race, gender and class designed to provoke both new thinking and genuine laughter. –B.D.

If you go: The Comedy Nest at The Rendezvous, July 16, 8 p.m. ($10)

Bard in the Garden: As You Like It

In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, two young women (one in male drag) flee a terrorizing royal court to take refuge in the bucolic Forest of Arden, where they encounter rapturous love, ribald comedy and a lot of iambic pentameter. So setting the romantic romp in a garden makes perfect sense, and the garden that Bainbridge Island Performing Arts has chosen as the backdrop for its outdoor production is a beaut: Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre spread of greenery carpeted with lush lawns, tall trees, ponds and flowers, and a grand island setting for a summer’s eve picnic and a play. –M.B.

If you go: Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, July 11-28, 6-9 p.m. ($24-$29)

Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen

Cecilia Vicuna
A "precario" by Cecilia Vicuña (Photo by Alex Marks/Henry Art Gallery)

'Tis the season for wandering along beaches, where among the pretty seashells and striped rocks you're likely to find human-made detritus, aka trash. Instead of leaving it there with a tsk tsk, ask yourself, what would Cecilia Vicuña do? When the 71-year-old Chilean artist spoke in Seattle this spring, she recalled her first stirrings of environmentalism, after an oil refinery was built near her home: “When I was 6 years old, I was playing on the beach and my foot became black with oil.” Since the 1960s, Vicuña has collected cast-offs (bits of rope, Styrofoam, rubber) and combined them with natural objects (sticks, seedpods, feathers) to create abstract scenes and imaginary creatures. In her first major U.S. show, About to Happen, she presents these delicate “basuritas” (little garbage) and “precarios” (precarious things), and calls them “witnesses” to our self-destruction — thereby imparting usefulness to the discarded. “Unless we become living waves of love and action for the earth,” she says, “there will be no earth left for the children.” –B.D.

If you go: Henry Art Gallery through Sept. 15. ($10)

Simon Okelo
Simon Okelo

Nights at the Neptune: International African Stage

Martín Sepulveda, special artistic projects manager at Seattle Theatre Group, wants you to know that even amidst rapid growth and displacement, Seattle’s still “got it.” “There’s amazing culture out here, but you have to find it and connect to it,” he says. Nights at the Neptune: A People's Theatre Joint, a free performance and art series at the historic Neptune theatre, is Sepulveda’s invitation to do just that.

The series kicks off Thursday with International African Stage, curated by the Kenya-born Simon Okelo and his nonprofit, One Vibe Africa. Okelo will take care of the musical hors d'œuvre (there is, by the way, actual food, including jollof rice, fried plantains, Moroccan-style quinoa salad and much more) by debuting some of his own songs written in his native language, Luo. Also behind the mic: the evening’s host, comedian Isiah Anderson Jr., the folk singer and mostly self-taught guitarist Naomi Wachira, wordsmiths Yirim Seck and Silas Blak, plus more from Ethiopian-American reggae musician Yaddi Bojia, DJ Topspin aka “Blendiana Jones," renowned for surprising but harmonic mash-ups, and others. –M.V.S

If you go: Nights at the Neptune: International African Stage, The Neptune Theatre, July 11. (Free)

Seattle Dance Collective

Seattle Dance Collective
Members of the new Seattle Dance Collective. (Photo by Kenneth Edwards)

After spending decades with national and international dance companies — and climbing the ranks at Pacific Northwest Ballet — is there anything more a dancer could want? Yes, it turns out: To give your creative forces free rein and scratch long-dreamed-of choreographies off your bucket list. And so, after months of hushed conversations in the back of the PNB studio during stretching and rehearsal, PNB principals Noelani Pantastico and James Yoichi Moore founded their own dance company, the Seattle Dance Collective. SDC’s first-ever program, performed by dancers from PNB and local contemporary dance company Whim W’Him, debuts this weekend at the Vashon Center for the Arts.

Six short pieces from five choreographers made it from the bucket list to the lineup, including Penny Saunders’ Sur le Fil (By a Hairs Breadth), a romantic, at times quirky, piece for four couples; Anamnesis, the very personal solo Pantastico created with her husband, Bruno Roque; and Shogun, a duet about passing down Japanese traditions likely not performed on the West Coast since its choreographer, the Brazilian Japanese Ivonice Satie, died in 2008. –M.V.S

If you go: Seattle Dance Collective: Vashon Center for the Arts, July 12-14. Vashon Shuttle Service available for Friday and Saturday evening performances. ($45-$75)


Rick Araluce
Rick Araluce's Into the Catacombs

Rick Araluce: The Night Theatre

For a quarter century, artist Rick Araluce helped paint and sculpt massive backdrops and sets for the Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, the Washington National Opera and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. One of his tricks? Forced perspective, an optical illusion that fools the eye into thinking objects and people are closer or further away than they are.

Now, nearly two years after the closure of the Seattle Opera’s Renton scene shop, Araluce — a Guggenheim fellow and artist in his own right — returns to the technique in his new solo show at Capitol Hill art gallery Roq La Rue. And, yes, his architectural, eerie dioramas actually fit into the gallery, as much of his own, handcrafted work is shrunk to fit arm-sized or tiny matchboxes. In them, a crumbling brick chimney tilts forward, a wooden floor cracks under the weight of a grandfather clock and desolated rooms and shadowy archways leave you wondering who left. That is Araluce’s master trick: with whole worlds tucked into relatively flat boxes, he leaves us dreaming up stories with depths we can only guess. –M.V.S

If you go: Roq La Rue, July 11 - Aug.8 (artist in attendance at the opening reception July 11, 6-9 p.m.). (Free)

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About the Authors & Contributors

Misha Berson

Misha Berson

Misha Berson was the chief theatre critic for The Seattle Times for 25 years, now working as a freelance writer and teacher.