ArtSEA: Dinosaurs, Kraken and fairies come alive in Seattle

Plus, the monster mash continues at Seattle Symphony with ‘Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.’

ballet dancers on stage in colorful costumes with large fairy wings

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ choreographed by George Balanchine. PNB is presenting the comedic-romantic story ballet April 14 – 23. (Angela Sterling)

Creatures of myth and legend are crowding into Seattle’s civic psyche this week. Take for example a certain theropod (from the Greek for “wild beast”) waiting with bated breath and clawed feet to become Washington state’s first official dinosaur.

Inspired by the 2012 discovery of a fossilized femur fragment at Sucia Island Marine State Park, a motivated group of students at Elmhurst Elementary School in Tacoma lobbied for the official designation. (Fifteen other states have official dinosaurs, usually in places where bones have been unearthed.) 

ArtSEA: Notes on Northwest Culture is Crosscut’s weekly arts & culture newsletter.

As of this week, HB 1020 — which names Suciasaurus rex the Washington state dinosaur — has passed both the House and Senate, and awaits Gov. Inslee’s signature. Never mind that the bone likely floated in and washed up in the San Juan Islands, rather than being a leftover from some ages-old reptilian land battle. It’s a Triassic idea whose time has come. 

Exhibit two: the Kraken, undersea beast and local NHL team that for the first time is headed to the Stanley Cup playoffs (which begin April 17). But before that, the tentacled hockey team is taking to the ice tonight, battling the Golden Knights of Las Vegas in Climate Pledge Arena. 

A puck of a different sort is dropping just across Seattle Center, at McCaw Hall, where Pacific Northwest Ballet is presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 14 - 23). Prepare for a flock of fairies courtesy of Shakespeare’s classic tale, which choreographer George Balanchine adapted for dance in 1962 and enhanced with a fanciful score by Felix Mendelssohn

Skating seamlessly between fantasy and reality, dreaming and wakefulness, the comedy/drama pirouettes around Fairy King Oberon, Fairy Queen Titania and that infamous sprite Puck, who wreaks havoc among a quartet of sleeping humans.

“I Dream Dream,” by Seattle artist Soo Hong, part of her new painting series ‘Meditative Desire.’ (Linda Hodges Gallery)

The dream theme continues at Linda Hodges Gallery, where Seoul-born Northwest painter Soo Hong has a technicolor new show, Meditative Desire (through April 29). Based on the practice of using mandalas for meditation, these symmetrical works can’t quite contain Hong’s penchant for explosive painting. 

You can almost feel her attempt to color within the clean lines of a circle or square, but Hong’s kaleidoscopic visions soon morph into untamed ink-blot tests, escape into squiggles and blorts. 

The geometrical borders succeed in serving a purpose: pulling the viewer’s gaze into the vortex and thereby encouraging a waking dream state. With titles like “Samurai in Rome” and “Playing Cards with Medusa,” this is such stuff as dreams are made on. 

As is “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” the stirring and slightly disturbing fifth movement of French composer Hector Berlioz’s 1830 Symphonie Fantastique. The Seattle Symphony will play the masterwork this weekend (April 13 - 16), with its strange dark strains of the Gregorian chant Dies irae (Day of wrath). (Cinema fans will recognize it from the opening of The Shining.)

This autobiographical tale of unrequited love turns hallucinatory and psychedelic as the protagonist has opium-induced visions of his own execution, as well as witches consorting with assorted sorcerers and monsters. No wonder Berlioz’s big ending was controversial. 

Gird yourself for more mythic monsters coming soon, when ACT Theater presents Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play (May 5 - 21) and Seattle Rep stages local playwright/songwriter Justin HuertasLydia and the Troll (May 5 - June 4).

Seattle writer Arianne True is the new Washington State Poet Laureate, a two-year term. (Michael Wallenfels)

Let’s turn from dreams to dreams come true, with a couple new arts awards and announcements. 

Seattle writer Arianne True, a member of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, has just been named the new Washington State Poet Laureate. A longtime mentor for young poets and Seattle Rep’s first Native Artist in Residence, True said in a press release, “I really believe poetry is for everyone.” Previous laureate Rena Priest will “pass the laurel” in a ceremony at the Washington State History Museum. (May 4, 7 p.m.)

Renton native and international violinist Quinton Morris recently received the prestigious Alumni Achievement Award from Boston's Berklee School of Music. Noted as “only the second living African-American violinist to receive a tenured professorship” (at Seattle University), Morris was also commended as the founder of Key to Change, the local program dedicated to music instruction for underserved youth in South King County. You can hear Morris monthly on the KING-FM classical music program Unmute the Voices

Maybe you’ll appear in our next list of local achievements.

Crosscut is currently seeking submissions for the next season of Crosscut Origins. This five-part docuseries is intended to reflect the makeup of our region as told from an insider’s perspective: stories grounded in ancestry, connection, culture, influence and rootedness. (See the example of our first season, Refuge After War.) 

The key requirement is that the filmmaker needs to be part of the community they are documenting. Filmmakers can apply for $40,000 in funding toward the creation of the project, which also comes with mentoring from the Crosscut video production team. The series will air on KCTS 9 in March 2024.

It’s last call, so get those submissions in by April 17. Dream big!

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