Things to do in Seattle: Dec. 5 - 11

Ebony G. Patterson's ‘Invisible Presence: Bling Memories,’ part of the new exhibit 'In Plain Sight' at Henry Art Gallery. (Mark Woods)

The Dina Martina Christmas Show

Nothing screams twisted Xmas quite like an exquisitely wacko Yuletide encounter with Dina Martina, the self-proclaimed “second lady of entertainment” and the brainchild of drag artiste extraordinaire Grady West. To call Dina a parody of a failed lounge entertainer is to neglect the demented genius of her mere existence and insidious charisma. She’s a garishly tacky dresser in clownish makeup. She’s a terrible singer (accompanied by the infinitely patient “adult prodigy” Chris Jeffries on keyboard), and her frequent interactions with the audience are demented. She’s a Seattle phenom who, since expanding her turf to New York City, can count Whoopi Goldberg and John Waters among her ardent fans. Dina is not so much a comedy act, as an exercise in surrealist cringe. And though you laugh at Ms. Martina, there’s something noble in her clueless carrying on — despite a failure to meet the bare minimum of show biz standards on every level. What’s not to love? –M.B.

If you go: Dina Martina at ACT Theatre, Dec. 6 - 24. ($27-$47)

two band members in paper masks
Members of Terror/Cactus always perform in mysterious masks. (Jake Hanson)

Terror/Cactus release party

Seattle’s leading producer of electronic cumbia is back with more beat heavy, trippy takes on a Latin American mainstay. Terror/Cactus is the brainchild of local musician Martín Selasco, who brings in various collaborators for different projects. He's known for mixing dark and folkloric melodies with the simple, catchy rhythms heard in cumbia, which originates from his childhood home of Argentina. He released a new EP, Corriente, in late November, and recently performed a live session on KEXP. The four tracks included have titles that sound as mystical as the music itself. Songs such as "Tambor del Monte" and "Luna Oscura" may well have you wanting to dance to the beat of a drum on top of a mountain during a full moon — but in Terror/Cactus tradition, the songs have no lyrics. The official release party takes place this Sunday, when Terror/Cactus will be joined on stage by local bands, including psychedelic soul singer Guayaba, garage rock band The Ghost Ease, and experimental instrumentalist Juracán. –A.P.F.

If you go: Terror/Cactus at Chop Suey, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. ($8)

bright blue painting of a woman
Seattle painter Aramis O. Hamer's ‘Weight of the World.’ (Courtesy CoCA)

Northwest Mystics 2019: Women of the PNW

Surely the Pacific Northwest is populated by people of all genders who would consider themselves mystics, but the art world term “Northwest Mystics” will forever be linked to four men: Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson, the four modernist artists who together became known as the Northwest School. But did you know it was a woman of color, gallery owner Zoë Dusanne, whose behind-the-scenes work helped propel them to fame?

Pioneer Square gallery Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) bookends a year dedicated to showcasing women and femme-identifying artists with a tribute to Dusanne in a group show titled Northwest Mystics 2019. Over 20 local artists — including pop painter of interstellar femininity, Aramis O. Hamer, and glass and metal artist KT Hancock — celebrate the “feminine mystique,” more than mysticism itself, in the hopes of expanding the definition of a Northwest mystic. –M.V.S.

If you go: Northwest Mystics 2019 at CoCA, through Dec. 21. (Free)


a woman in dreadlocks and hat
Seattle Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith reads as part of a tribute to James Baldwin. (Diem Jones)

Writers Under The Influence: Tribute to James Baldwin

“While one can be taught to write well, some people are born to write. That is, to make their mark through words,” says LaNesha DeBardelaben, executive director of Seattle’s Northwest African American Museum. “Baldwin was one of these.” By which DeBardelaben means, of course, the hugely influential novelist, social critic, playwright and poet James Baldwin (1924–1987). DeBardelaben is one of four writers/poets/thinkers (including poet Ebo Barton, Seattle Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith and 2017-2019 Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Renée) who will be reading from Baldwin’s work as well as their own during a literary tribute to Baldwin co-organized with Hugo House. As Anastacia-Renée (who will read the poem “Conversation With Baldwin”) told me: “Even in death he reminds me to question and respond and then question again.” –M.V.S.

If you go: Writers Under The Influence at Northwest African American Museum, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. (Free)

A Christmas Carol

Yes, we know A Christmas Carol rivals The Nutcracker as the chestnuttiest Christmas chestnut of all time. But for those who have never seen it, or have uninitiated young ones, ACT Theatre’s version of the Charles Dickens classic is worth viewing. The story remains the same, and zips along neatly: Wealthy Victorian skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge gets the bejesus scared out of him by the ghost of his dead business partner, and three other spirits take him on a decorous tour of Christmases past, present and future. In the end (spoiler alert), his iron heart softens, he becomes a patron of the Cratchit clan, and he probably avoids the hideous fate of having nobody to mourn him when he croaks. In other words, generous = good, greed = bad, a message that still hasn’t entirely sunk in well over a century after Dickens enshrined it. This year Kelley Kitchens directs the show in-the-round, with Scrooge masters David Pichette and Peter Crook taking turns in the role, and Anne Allgood and R. Hamilton Wright as the merry Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. –M.B.

If you go: A Christmas Carol at ACT Theatre, through Dec. 28. ($27-$59)

three actresses in renaissance costumes
The cast of 'Head Over Heels' blends Go-Go's hits with 16th-century romance. (Photo by John McLellan)

Head Over Heels

“We got the beat, we got the beat, we got the beeeeeeeeat…..” That 1980s earworm gets a workout in this fizzy musical at ArtsWest, a comic fable that jumbles up the songs from the Go-Go’s pop catalogue with The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, a 16th century pastoral romance by Sir Philip Sidney. With a book by Jeff Whitty (of Avenue Q), this Seattle premiere features plenty of sexual fluidity, including the amorous adventures of a lesbian princess, a penniless male suitor successfully masquerading as a va-va-voom young woman and a lusty queen and king. It’s utterly silly, and wears thin by the end. But there’s a strong array of Seattle talent on stage, as well as some Elizabethan-meets-Devo-style dancing. And the camp-glam, transgender oracle (the mah-velous Mila Jam) who presides over the whole shebang would give Cher at the height of her diva-dom a run for the money. –M.B.

If you go: Head Over Heels at ArtsWest, through Dec. 29. ($20-$42)

a painting of women crowding into a corner
Hayv Kahraman's ‘The Audience’ (2018), part of 'In Plain Sight' at Henry Art Gallery. (Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer)

In Plain Sight

Forty-eight child-sized coffins tower over visitors at the Henry Art Gallery, commanding attention and awe. Their decorative allure is inescapable: With brightly patterned fabric, tassels, rhinestones, crochet doilies, fabric flowers and glitter, there is no looking away. The work is “Invisible Presence: Bling Memories,” wherein Jamaica-born mixed-media artist Ebony G. Patterson takes up the practice of “bling funerals,” growing increasingly popular among the country’s working class. Or, as Henry senior curator Shamim M. Momin put it: “You may have overlooked me in life, but you will see me as I go.”

The theme of looking, and overlooking, is at the heart of the Henry’s sprawling new group show In Plain Sight, Momin’s first large-scale curatorial project at the museum since coming aboard in May 2018. The show itself is impossible to overlook as well. It takes over (nearly) the entire museum, with large-scale installations, photos, paintings and videos by contemporary art stars such as Sadie Barnette, william cordova, Andrea Bowers and Oscar Tuazon in every room and even spilling over into the stairwells. In this expressive arrangement, traditionally hidden narratives, hidden communities and hidden histories are brought literally to the forefront. –M.V.S.

If you go: In Plain Sight, Henry Art Gallery, through April 26, 2020. ($10)

a decorative rock with a tiny boat in front of it
An exhibit of “viewing stones” or “scholar’s rocks,” akin to the one featured in ‘Parasite,’ is on view at Pacific Bonsai Museum. (Courtesy Pacific Bonsai Museum)

“Viewing Stones” vis a vis Parasite

In the new movie Parasite, the comedy-thriller by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, a pivotal moment (not a spoiler!) occurs when one character gifts another with a “scholar’s rock.” The large, ornamental stone — which looks like a mountain range in miniature — is supposed to bring luck to whoever possesses it. In ancient Chinese tradition, scholar’s rocks were found in nature and brought home to a studio or garden to be gazed upon as a microcosm of the natural world. (Decorative rocks in the same tradition are called “suiseki” in Japan and “viewing stones” in North America.) Similar to bonsai trees, the mini-landscapes are intended to spark expansive thoughts about our surroundings. So it’s appropriate that the Pacific Bonsai Museum is currently showing Stone Images X, an exhibit of 33 viewing stones collected largely in Washington state. Watch the film (at SIFF Uptown through Dec. 9; starting Dec. 19 at Northwest Film Forum), ponder the stone’s metaphorical meaning, then see examples of the real thing at the bonsai museum. –B.D.

If you go: Stone Images X at Pacific Bonsai Museum, through Jan. 5. (Admission by donation)

Last Chance to See

gallery with blue hallways
‘Lure,’ a new interactive sculpture by artist collaborative Dream the Combine, at Mad Art Studio. (Photo courtesy Mad Art)


Walk by Mad Art Studio these days and it looks like one of so many under-construction buildings in South Lake Union. The Westlake Avenue facade is covered in blue polyester netting. Called “debris netting” in the biz, it’s supposed to protect passersby from errant chunks of drywall or dropped tools, but also sends a message of “don’t look at this.” If you take a second glance, however, something entirely intentional emerges — the wide glass doors of the space are thrown open, and newly installed steel ramps entice visitors to enter into a geometric blue tunnel that angles around blind corners. Called Lure, the new installation is the work of Dream the Combine, an artist/architecture group from Minneapolis that collaborated with Seattle-based artist/engineer Clayton Binkley. At the opening, Combine’s Jennifer Newsom said the intention was to “veil or ghost the outside of the building, and create an image you can actually step into.” The zigzagging hallways of netting also cause participants to appear ghostly, or pixelated, as they move through the corridors. In a neighborhood where blue badges are required to gain entry to many buildings, the open invitation of gaping doors is a bit unsettling. “We’re looking at who is allowed to be in places,” said co-creator Tom Carruthers, “who is allowed to feel like they belong.” They also revealed an unexpected challenge: “There is so much construction going on in Seattle right now,” said Newsom, “it was really hard to find debris netting anywhere.” –B.D.

If you go: Mad Art Studio through Dec. 7. (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. 

Agueda Pacheco Flores

Agueda Pacheco Flores

Agueda Pacheco Flores is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where she focused on arts and culture.