Black Imagination book launch
In 2016, artist Natasha Marin created Reparations, a controversial online project wherein people of color could ask for things they needed — money, food, common supplies — and white people could provide those things as a way to heal racial trauma. In 2018, Marin unbottled Black joy with her exhibit Ritual Objects: Black Imagination, which encouraged the Black community to practice healing instead of holding back from it. As part of that ongoing series, Marin collected audio and text centered on Black joy and imagination from more than 100 people around the world. Now she continues to push her art and activism with a new anthology: Black Imagination: Black Voices on Black Futures, which includes essays and poems by 36 contributors, including local poet Quenton Baker and writer Reagan Jackson. The writers responded to three prompts: What is your origin story? How do you heal yourself? and Imagine a world where you are loved, safe and valued. Marin will debut her new book at Hugo House, where she’ll read excerpts and discuss with contributors the powerful work that goes into reveling in Black joy and acknowledging the importance of Black imagination. In her own words, “witnessing is sacred work, too. Seeing ourselves as whole and healthy is an act of pure rebellion in a world so titillated by our constant subjugation.” –A.P.F.
If you go: Black Imagination at Hugo House, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. (Free with RSVP)
Lunar New Year celebration and fair
In Western society the rat is often seen as a dirty dweller, sneaking its way around the city in the shadows of the night. In the Chinese lunar calendar the rat is a respected animal admired for its cleverness. Chinese zodiac legend has it that when the Jade Emperor had all the animals race for their place in the calendar, the rat won first place by hitching a ride with the ox and jumping ahead of it when it reached the finish line. The Wing Luke Museum kicks off the lunar new year (which starts Jan. 25) with a new exhibit that teaches children (and probably some adults) all about the year of the rat, with artifacts from Chinese opera, shadow puppet crafts and a hoa mai wishing tree. The Chinatown-International District will also mark the occasion by closing off King Street for a traditional lion dance performance by cultural youth group LQ Dance. After viewing the glittering lions, adorned with fuzzy eyebrows and elaborate coats, you can visit all 12 of the Wing Luke’s exhibits, take part in a zodiac scavenger hunt or visit the petting zoo of stuffed animals. Between celebrations and exhibit viewing, check out Hing Hay Park’s new public art piece, the Celebrate Happiness Lantern. Local artist George Lee took a community approach, surveying the neighborhood for two years before finalizing the design. The lantern lights up the ground below with the words “Celebrate Happiness” in the many different languages spoken within the neighborhood. –A.P.F.
If you go: Lunar New Year Celebration & Fair at Wing Luke Museum, Jan. 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ($15-$17)
Carmen Maria Machado
The concept of “advance buzz” has been overused in the past few years, particularly in the publishing industry, but if there’s anyone who can lay claim to it, it’s Carmen Maria Machado. Her debut, the horror-imbued short story collection Her Body and Other Parties, was long-listed for the prestigious National Book Awards before it was published. (It had also been nominated for a Kirkus Prize and later won the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award John Leonard Prize). TV channel FX is currently developing a series based on the book. In her newest book, the memoir In the Dreamhouse, Machado more than meets buzzy expectations with the innovative, heart-wrenching way she holds a past abusive relationship — along with the act of writing about it — up to the light. In this Seattle Arts and Lectures appearance, the Guggenheim fellow will talk about her work and writing process. –M.V.S.
If you go: Seattle Arts & Lectures: Carmen Maria Machado, Town Hall Seattle, Jan. 24 at 7:30 pm ($5-$80)
The Rescue: A Live Film-Concerto
Thanks to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, Schindler’s List, most people have heard of Oskar Schindler, the Nazi party member who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factory. But few know about the humanitarian efforts of Salvadoran Col. José Arturo Castellanos, even thoough he also saved Jews during the Holocaust — some 25,000 people — by issuing them Salvadoran citizenship. In 2017, Castellano’s grandsons, Alvaro and Boris Castellanos, sought to change that by releasing The Rescue: A Live Film Concerto, which documents their grandfather’s remarkable efforts during the time he was a diplomat stationed in Switzerland. The Castellanos brothers wrote, directed and filmed the 60-minute documentary. They also perform the soundtrack live alongside a small orchestra, and have presented the “film concerto” all over the world, including in Germany, Argentina, Panama and Canada. This month, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity will premiere the film at Town Hall, where the two brothers and their orchestra will honor their grandfather’s lifesaving work. –A.P.F.
If you go: The Rescue at Town Hall Seattle, Jan. 25 at 6:00 p.m. (Free)
Hip-hop orchestra featuring Thee Phantom and MC Phoenix
Who says hip-hop and classical music can’t get along? Philadelphia-based MC Thee Phantom found inspiration at age 12, after noticing that the beat in the Beastie Boys’ song Paul Revere would fit perfectly with the intro of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor. Using vinyl records, he combined the hip-hop beat with the iconic classical music score to create his first mash-up. Phantom remembers the first reaction he got to his remix: “I was so excited about what it is that I did, I took the tape to my best friend’s house…. He popped the tape out and threw it across the room and he said it would never work.” It turns out it did work. Now Thee Phantom combines hip-hop and classical in concerts with his Illharmonic Orchestra, featuring woodwinds, strings and brass. Thee Phantom will make his Seattle debut with his wife, MC Phoenix, and his beatmaker, DJ Kingspin, alongside 50 musicians from Amazon’s volunteer-run symphony orchestra. The two-hour performance will combine the epic feeling of classical music with the soul and rhythm of hip-hop. Remixes include Macklemore’s Ceiling Can’t Hold Us and a hip-hop rendition of music from Game of Thrones. –A.P.F.
If you go: Hip-Hop Orchestra in Seattle at Benaroya Hall, Jan. 26, 6 p.m. ($29-89)
What makes Kansas author Darren Canady’s world premiere play at LANGSTON something of a surprise — and so stimulating — is embedded in the title. It refers to the controversial issue of whether the U.S. government should grant restitution for the race-based agonies inflicted on people of African heritage for centuries in this country. But rather than simply building a case for financial payback to the descendants of Black slaves and others, Reparations personalizes how a family confronts its bloodied past and make amends. It suggests that something other than (or in addition to) money is needed to halt a destructive cycle of violence and destruction, fueled by bigotry and poverty, through generations.
Sound Theatre’s production of the work is fiercely performed and affecting, despite occasional redundancies in the script that call for some streamlining. As Rory, Aishe Keita conveys with grit and intelligence a woman in her mid-20s who is burdened by a low-wage job and being the sole caretaker for her ailing and irascible, 80-year old grandmother Billie Mae (the terrific Tracy Michelle Hughes). Rory longs to leave Kansas to seek a music career, and signs on for a fledgling state reparations program in hopes of funding a new life in Chicago.
And here, a sci-fi gambit comes in: a flashing gizmo the size of a big lava lamp. Those who enter a drop of their own blood are propelled into their ancestors’ trauma. Once hooked up, Rory is suddenly hurled into the horrific scene of a fiery lynching involving her great-great-grandparents. And she and her cousin (Brandon Jones Mooney, who delivers some down-home humor) later witness a murderous event that has left Billie Mae and other family members deeply scarred, emotionally.
Canady and director Jay O’Leary manage to shift time zones smoothly, and make us quickly accept that rather far-fetched time machine. The backstory keeps unspooling, and the present-day characters, for all their ragged edges, are forceful and evolving. The understanding that Rory and her kin ultimately achieve is hard-won and moving. It empowers them not to escape the past, but not to become prisoners of it. Whatever else is due them for the suffering in their bloodlines, this is what they’ve reaped for themselves. –M.B.
If you go: Reparations at LANGSTON, through Feb. 2 ($5-$25)
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Remember when the #MeToo dam broke? New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey will likely never forget the moment. In October of 2017, the duo says they “watched with astonishment” as reactions to their jointly written article detailing the alleged sexual harassment by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein (and other stories of sexual assault) poured — cascaded — into their inboxes and all over social media. In their book She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, Kantor and Twohey log their watershed and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in what journalist Susan Faludi describes as “a gripping blow-by-blow of how they managed … to corroborate allegations that had been chased and abandoned by multiple journalists before them.” In the process, Kantor and Twohey also expose Weinstein’s “complicity machine,” designed to keep everyone looking the other way. Until, of course, they couldn’t. –M.V.S.
If you go: Seattle Arts & Lectures: Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Benaroya Hall, Jan. 29 ($5-$35)
She Loves Me
In case you hadn’t noticed, good new rom-coms are as rare these days as orchid corsages, on stage or screen. Thankfully, there are classic romantic comedies that still cast a spell. One lasting gem: this delectably witty and charming Broadway musical from the 1960s, based on a beguiling 1940 Jimmy Stewart-Margaret Sullivan film, "The Shop Around the Corner," about co-workers in a perfume shop who unwittingly become “lonely hearts” pen pals (which inspired internet-age movie update, Nora Ephron’s "You’ve Got Mail").
She Loves Me follows the personal frictions and attractions among a colorful group of employees and their boss, as they hawk fancy cigarette cases and bottles of scent. The group includes the fastidious store manager Georg, who takes an immediate disliking to a feisty new saleswoman, Amalia. The animosity is mutual. But what neither knows is that they answered each other’s personal ad, and have been carrying on a fond correspondence, which ultimately leads to a meeting in a café, and a gradual dawning that they really are made for one another.
The show’s book (by Joe Masteroff) captures the breezy humor and heartfelt appeal of the original story. And the songs by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (who also created the score for Fiddler on the Roof) are delightful — particularly the touching “Will He Like Me?” and its jubilant counterpart, “She Loves Me.” There’s a good chance that the excellent cast the Village Theatre has recruited, including such local musical theater luminaries as Eric Ankrim (as Georg) and Allison Standley (as Amalia) under the direction of Karen Lund, will deliver them all with finesse. –M.B.
If you go: She Loves Me at Village Theatre in Issaquah, through Feb. 23, and Everett Performing Arts Center, Feb. 28-Mar. 22. ($35-$80)
Natural Horror and Subspontaneous
Life, as we know, finds a way. Gourds do, too, Seattle-based artist Rob Rhee has found. For his long- term project The Occupations of Uninhabited Space, Rhee hands out welded steel sculptures to local farmers who place them over baby gourds. As the gourds grow, they harden in and bulge out from their cage-like contraptions in wonderfully weird ways. Some of the resulting artworks will be on display in Subspontaneous: Francesca Lohmann and Rob Rhee, one of two new shows at the Frye Art Museum dealing with the interconnection between humans, nature and species. In keeping with the theme, Subspontaneous focuses on the artistic symbiosis between Rhee and Lohmann, also Seattle-based, who captures plaster in snakelike fabric tubes and casts sprouted potatoes in bronze. In a concurrent show, Natural Horror, Vancouver-based artist Rebecca Brewer creates a forest of expressionistic, hanging felted wool scrims, which she compares to fishing nets filled with debris, or the connective tissue of our bodies. –M.V.S.
If you go: Natural Horror and Subspontaneous at Frye Art Museum, Jan. 25 - Apr. 19. (Free)
Movies at MoPOP: Good Planets Are Hard To Find
“Land masses with room to spare/ Jet streams and perfect air/ High forests and low wetlands/ Good planets are in demand.” So sings Steve Forbert in his 1996 song Good Planets Are Hard To Find. With climate change declared “the defining issue of our time” by the United Nations, the song’s title can also be recycled as a currently relevant truism — and the name of MoPOP’s new spring film series, which features speculative films imagining a future of environmental devastation. From the post-apocalyptic Mad Max: Fury Road to Studio Ghibli’s animated fantasy film Princess Mononoke to Parasite director Bong Joon-ho's dystopian film Snowpiercer, watching ecological collapse will likely never be as fun (or as speculative) again. –M.V.S.
If you go: Good Planets Are Hard To Find, MoPOP, Jan. 26 - June 20. ($9-$12)