Things to do in Seattle: Feb. 27 - Mar. 4

Ryan Higgins plays lead character Winston Smith in Radial Theater Project's take on George Orwell's '1984' at 18th & Union. (Marcia Davis)


a stop animation cel
Estonian stop-animation short 'Teofrastus,' which follows a stray cat who finds a family, is part of the 'Cat's Meow' showcase at Children's Film Festival Seattle. (Northwest Film Forum)

Children’s Film Festival Seattle

The first thing you should know about Children’s Film Festival Seattle is that it’s not just for kids. Far from the meticulously audience-tested tundra of Frozen 2, this lineup is packed with indie flicks from 47 countries, covering topics from zany to heavy. Some of the 175 animated movies, documentaries, short films and features apply a youthful lens to issues adults can’t stop talking about: climate crisis, immigration and identity. Others dig deep into cat cuteness (see “The Cat’s Meow” showcase of shorts), nom nom foods and magical encounters — such as a time-traveling glass bottle that connects two kids living a century apart (in the Irish short, All in Good Time). Also in the mix: Salmon People, a locally made short doc about the customs of the Lummi Nation; a Spanish-language showcase (“Valiente y Verdadero”); plus filmmaking workshops for kids — including how to make a rad skateboard video (start by not calling it rad, which is definitely a word only grownups use). –B.D.

If you go: Children’s Film Festival Seattle at Northwest Film Forum, Feb. 27 - Mar. 7. (Prices and passes vary.)

Word Lit Zine presents: Beginning, Middle, and End 

Woman with green lipstick
Jekeva Phillips, the literary firebrand and woman behind Word Lit Zine and the storytelling festival Bibliophilia. (Jekeva Phillips)

In the beginning, there was prose. At least, that’s the case for Word Lit Zine’s more-fun-than-it-sounds-like Beginning, Middle, and End showcase. This is how it works: Jekeva Phillips, editor-in-chief of the quarterly zine, will read from “Cro,” a "serial" prose piece appearing in the next Word Lit Zine issues. Then a team of improvisational actors will take the stage to perform the second part of the evening-length story. Local poet and Gregory Award winner Naa Akua, scribbling in the dark while the two performances play out, will then take the stage to read a poem, written on the spot, to complete the narrative. Or, as Phillips — the literary firebrand and woman behind Word Lit Zine and the storytelling festival Bibliophilia — describes it: “bringing the page to the stage” (and vice versa). For those who can’t make it: This showcase is the hors d'oeuvre for the three-day Bibliophilia festival coming up at Hugo House in April. —M.V.S.

If you go: Beginning, Middle, and End at Hugo House, Feb. 27 at 7 pm. ($5)

books cover reading Yellow Earth next to male author photo
John Sayles, writer/director of 'Lone Star' and 'Passion Fish,' visits Seattle to read from his new novel 'Yellow Earth.' (Elliott Bay Books)

John Sayles: Yellow Earth

Looking at his books, such as Union Dues (1978) — a novel about late-1960s student activism that was nominated for the National Book Award — and the subjects of his films, including the coalfield wars of the 1920s in West Virginia, it’s not hard to gauge where John Sayles’ allegiances lie. In his latest novel, Yellow Earth, the celebrated screenwriter/filmmaker/author (Lone Star, Passion Fish) and “champion of the American working class” paints a cautionary tale of what happens when shale oil is discovered under Yellow Earth, North Dakota and the neighboring Three Nations' Native American reservation, and a fracking gold rush ensues. By splitting his book into four sections, Exploration, Stimulation, Extraction and Absquatulation (a hasty departure), Sayles suggests this story is perhaps as old as capitalism. Hear him read from his heralded new story at Elliott Bay Books. —M.V.S.

If you go: John Sayles at Elliott Bay Books, Feb. 28 at 7 pm. (Free)

Seattle Symphony: [untitled]

Perhaps Ludovic Morlot’s most important programming legacy, from his eight seasons leading the Seattle Symphony, is the series of informal late-night new-music concerts he launched, titled [untitled]. Held in Benaroya Hall’s lobby, the seating plans are flexible and varied from show to show, from cabaret-style tables to the traditional chairs in rows to pillows on the floor. That may sound counterproductive for attention-demanding contemporary music, but [untitled] evenings have proved again and again that comfort and informality enable, rather than hinder, focused listening. It’s heartening to see new music director Thomas Dausgaard continuing this series. On Friday, we’ll hear music by four Latinx composers: U.S. premieres by Eddie Mora Bermúdez and Flo Menezes, and world premieres by Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez and Juan David Osorio. Lee Mills and Lina Gonzales-Granados conduct, and heading the ensemble of five SSO musicians is splendid pianist Cristina Valdez, who keeps very busy as Seattle’s go-to pianist for new music. (This concert is sold out at press time, but keep checking with the Benaroya box office for returned tix.) –G.B.

If you go: [untitled] at Benaroya Hall, Feb. 28 at 10 p.m. ($18)

a young girl at the mic
Local kids test their spelling strength at this year's regional bee. (Town Hall Seattle)

King/Snohomish County Regional Spelling Bee

I never discovered why, but the public-school system in my hometown (Grand Forks, ND) never participated as a feeder into the Scripps National Spelling Bee, an American institution since 1925. Only the Catholic schools did. And I was a good speller. A great speller. A punctilious, perspicacious, and nonpareil speller. All I can do now is live V-I-C-A-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y through the kids who’ll be participating in the regional bee at Town Hall this weekend, with KIRO radio host Feliks Banel moderating. Looking at Scripps’ list of winning words over the years reveals how the bar has been raised over the years, from gimmes like knack, brethren and therapy in the Bee’s early decades to recent mind-benders like guetapens, scherenschnitte and aiguillette. Saturday’s winner will advance to the nationals in Washington, D.C. over Memorial Day weekend. (The most recent national winner from these parts, btw, was Seattle’s Amy Marie Dimak in 1990.) –G.B.

If you go: Spelling Bee at Town Hall Seattle, Feb. 29 at 1 p.m. (Free)

two dancers leaping on stage
The award-winning, NYC-based Camille A. Brown Dancers come to The Moore. (STG Presents)

Camille A. Brown & Dancers

Anyone who saw the Metropolitan Opera’s live-in-HD performance of Porgy and Bess in a local theater earlier this month knows what a thrilling and fascinating choreographer Camille A. Brown is. Connecting to each other the histories of African American social dance and identity — as they were, as they’re being made — she also makes space in her works for the stories of individuals and their sociopolitical experiences and awareness. Dancer Maleek Washington, a member of Brown’s company who will appear at the Moore on Tuesday, observes of her character-based approach to contemporary dance, “They remind me of so many people that I know, that I resemble or that I’m inspired by... they’re like superheroes to me when they walk down the street.... I’m excited to try to invoke those people onstage. How much can I put myself into that place and those memories and pin them onstage, so that when people watch it, they feel.” –G.B.

If you go: Camille A. Brown at The Moore Theatre, Mar. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ($32.50-$62.50)

a lush fireplace room
Spring isn't here just yet! Might as well hunker down in the dark warmth of the Fireside Room. (Hotel Sorrento)

Silent Reading Party

Say your favorite thing to do is curl up with a book, but you also suspect you should get out more. The solution lies in the Silent Ready Party. On the first Wednesday of every month, the Hotel Sorrento opens the cozy confines of the Fireside Room to people who enjoy the company of a good book — along with a little company. There is no welcoming statement, no Q and A. The assembled crowd just settles in and reads quietly, amid contemplative live piano music and the clinking of ice in cocktail glasses. But here’s the thing: Since its beginnings 11 years ago, this event has been extremely popular with local word nerds. So you’d better be there with your best book early, else you have to go home and read alone. –B.D.

If you go: Silent Reading Party at the Hotel Sorrento, Mar. 4 at 6 p.m. (Free)


people in gray surround a man bound to a red chair on stage
The cast of '1984' surrounds Ryan Higgins (as Winston Smith) at 18th & Union. (Marcia Davis/Radial Theater Project)


Seventy years ago in a cottage on a rugged Scottish island, George Orwell was suffering the worsening ravages of tuberculosis. But somehow he summoned the energy to write his final book. It was a chilling vision of a world dominated by a vast totalitarian government, whose “thought police” and distorted media bulletins (“newspeak”) controlled the perceptions and behavior of millions of drone-like citizens under constant surveillance by “Big Brother.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four was the English author’s ninth and final published tome. But given the ongoing popularity of this frequently banned novel (its title alone became synonymous with a chilling authoritarian futurism) this is surely the most potent work in Orwell’s canon — and, by many measures, one of the most influential literary works of the modern era. The book has inspired many other dystopian tales, as well as dozens of film and theatrical adaptations. One of the more recent is a stage version by playwright and San Francisco Mime Troupe director Michael Gene Sullivan, which is receiving a local airing from Radial Theater Project’s strong slate of actors, including Ryan Higgins as lead character Winston Smith. The lively 18th & Union performance space in Capitol Hill is tiny, with room for only a few dozen patrons. (Reservations  recommended.) But that seems fitting for this staging of a story about the kind of oppression that keeps the populace controlled by narrowing their options, and suffocating them with lies. Wrote Orwell, “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” –M.B.

If you go: 1984 at 18th & Union, through March 14. ($15-$22)

two paintings of brightly colored flower-like dashes
Paintings by Tara Flores: At left, 'Willpower to Detox and Nourish' (Apatite), at right, 'Compassionate Universal Love and Kindness' (Rose Quartz). (J. Rinehart Gallery)

Tara Flores: Subtle Matter 

With a name like Tara Flores, it’s hard not to see sunflower hearts in the Gig Harbor-based artist’s abstract paintings, which burst forth with colorful seed-like dashes. The florets appear to have been shaken loose, and are currently traveling toward the edges of the frame, expanding as big as the universe. But for her newest series, Subtle Matter, Flores has found inspiration elsewhere in nature: with crystals, such as quartz and citrine, and what Flores calls their healing powers. “I imagine the microcosm of our bodies, our cells, our psyches and how these inner spaces interface with the rest of existence,” Flores writes in her artist statement. Whatever you think of crystals, “energy fields,” “quantum levels” and “vibrational medicine,” Flores’ paintings possess a centrifugal force even skeptics might get lost in. —M.V.S.

If you go: Tara Flores at J. Rinehart Gallery, through April 4. (Free)

a man and a woman sit at a kitchen table on stage
R. Hamilton Wright and Carmen Roman in 'The Children' at Seattle Rep. (Nate Watters)

The Children

What are you willing to sacrifice to help the previous generation? It takes a while for that loaded question to emerge in British dramatist Lucy Kirkwood’s engrossing, skillfully performed play at Seattle Repertory Theatre. But when it does, we know enough about the three 60-something characters — Rose (Carmen Roman), Hazel (Jeanne Paulsen) and Robin (R. Hamilton Wright) — to comprehend what is at stake for each of them.

This extended one-act is set in a coastal town in England soon after a devastating nuclear reactor accident, akin to the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Hazel and Robin, former employees of the nearby nuclear power plant, are living a materially limited but cozy and eco-conscious existence in a rural cottage (a palpably lived-in space, in William Bloodgood’s design) nearby. They have their daily rituals, frequent contact with their grown children and a scrappy, enduring affection for each other. When their former colleague Rose suddenly appears out of the blue for an uneasy reunion, she’s a refugee from another kind of existence. She’s single, footloose, a smoker who doesn’t bother with the healthy diet and exercise regime that especially Hazel adheres to with near-religious zeal.

For the first two-thirds of The Children we are sorting out the emotional dynamics (past and present) among these three, via witty and self-revealing banter and moments of quiet (and alcohol-enhanced) revelation orchestrated deftly by director Tim Bond. The triangular setup somewhat resembles Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, if a more relaxed, warmer three-cornered affair. But it veers sharply, when the central purpose of Rose’s visit becomes clear, into an existential rumination on the value and price of self-sacrifice.

The moral quandary is disturbing, and not neatly resolved. It is also timely, and embodied with grace and candor in Paulsen’s flinty, poignant portrait of Hazel, Wright’s more cynical and torn Robin, and Roman’s cagey but committed Rose. Kirkwood is in her 30s, but she knows how to write adults a generation older without resorting to clichés — a skill these fine actors take full advantage of. –M.B.

If you go: The Children at Seattle Repertory Theatre, through Mar. 15. ($53-$77)

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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.