Insights & Impetus on Artists & Cultural Adventures in Portland

Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

Blitzen Trapper & the Portland Village

Posted by Nicole Lane on 06/01/2009

photo credit Betsy Cross

photo credit Betsy Cross

It was a beautiful night.  Up on a rooftop above the traffic fray, the moon shone and a cool breeze blew as eclectic artist-types gathered around a carpeted oasis, lounging and leaning on couches and tables.  I felt like I was on a movie set on top of the world…or at least Portland.

Really, I was on the roof of a parking garage across the street from the Crystal Ballroom for the very first showing of the upward rocketing Portland band Blitzen Trapper’s new music video “Black River Killer” — that song isn’t up but listen to other great tunes here.

With this music video, there is a story I must tell:  this is a project that took the village of Portland.

Who knows when I first heard about it, but it was months ago – could have been from Luke Norby, who earned producer credit on the video.  But I think the project really got my attention mid-April, when my inbox had three messages from Tony Fuemmeler [email list, Facebook, pdxbackstage] asking for mask-making help to make 60 masks ASAP for video shoot in a week.  Tony, along with fellow mask maker Jen LaMastra, created four mask designs and generated the 60 masks for the shoot with the help of a small army of volunteers (my family included), in the space of that week.

Truly a Portlandesque feat.

Next was Luke’s email call looking for 75 for video extras for an afternoon shoot at Artists Repertory Theatre’s stage – we would be wearing the masks.  Sign me up – and my kiddos too!  Four sweaty, hurry-up-and-wait, masked hours after we all arrived, we’d shot three scenes – probably a total of maybe 30 seconds in the final cut.  But all 75 of us got to witness the painstaking creation of art … and be a part of the process.

Have I mentioned that I’d never heard of Blitzen Trapper before this?

Now I’m a huge fan. It is not only that now I’ve heard of them and really like their sound, but instead it is that I got to be a part of something bigger. Collaboration is powerful marketing. Humans are joiners, remember? This wasn’t that, but proves both that point and why this project was such a community (um, dare I say again, Portlandesque) project.

photo credit Betsy Cross

photo credit Betsy Cross

So I haven’t told you about the video itself yet.  It is magic.  It is dark and creepy (it is about the Black River Killer after all), but also oddly dance-like, grittily textured and undeniably FLUID.  The music floats the visuals in way that makes you hold your breath.  Director Daniel Elkayam’s vision on this video was brilliant, as was the work of Director of Photography Brian McKee. In addition to the 75 peeps off the street, the video was perfectly cast right off local stages with such actors as Jonathan Walters of Hand2Mouth Theatre, Rolin Carlson, plus Stephanie Blair, Jeff Gorham, Tony Green and Tom Mounsey (all part of Re-Theatre’s Much Ado production), and many more.

Producers will now hand in the final video cut to Sub Pop Records, who represent the band. Their PR/Marketing machine will take it from here.  So now, let’s hope this video is a launching pad: for the folks who poured everything they had into the production; for Portland-grown Blitzen Trapper; and for the film and video industry in Portland.

I tell ya what, our Portland is becoming “the” place for film and music videos.  It seems like every time you turn around you hear (often from celeb watch Byron Beck) about a “star” in town or another movie being filmed here. Even I [insert raised eyebrows here] was in two music videos in the space of a week – this one and Storm Large’s “8 Miles Wide” directed by James Westby and produced by Katie O’Grady. It was a fun week!

So maybe that movie set feeling I had atop the roof last night was actually me remembering the future?

This pre-release shindig was hosted by the fabulous portrait photographer Scott James of Captivus Studios.  His industrial chic space is essentially wallpapered with the world’s most beautiful people…sexy eyes, velvet curves and shimmering skin you want to lick. Scott has a knack for creating eye candy with his camera, don’t hesitate to click his links and see for yourself.


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Much Ado about Re-Theatre in Rep

Posted by Nicole Lane on 05/29/2009


Much Ado About Nothing – The Repertory Show
The Classic & The Adaptation
The Re-Theatre Instrument

This is a BIG undertaking. Re-Theatre is doing Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” in repertory — a theatre producer’s nightmare and pure joy, alternately, depending on where they are in the run.  Some of you folks who aren’t rabid theatre goers may not really know what “In Repertory” means – I know I didn’t until about 7 years ago when I got bit by the theatre bug.

In short, repertory is: one play, two versions, same cast, two productions running in approximately the same time frame. Check out this calendar for a visual understanding.

Tonight, I’m off to see Re-Theatre’s The Classic version of Much Ado. It doesn’t sound all that “classic” to me, as it is set on the New Orleans bayou in the 1920s. But that’s sort of how theatre goes. I believe I can expect Shakespeare’s words in this new context. I fervently hope to catch The Adaptation too, where the cast has written what I hear to be hilarious contemporary dialogue to follow Shakespeare’s story arc.

With these Much Ado productions, Re-Theatre is using a classic, but this is not mandatory with pieces done in rep. I’ve observed that there seem to be two basic treatment twists on classic stories like this one, and then further treatment variations. The first approach: words are pristine, but everything else can change; the second: the conceptual and sometimes plot premise is loosely followed, but an original play is created. Insight Out’s For:Give, directed by Tony Fuemmeler, was an example of the latter approach. Just like For:Give, The Adaptation version of Much Ado was written in the rehearsal process by the cast. Read about Re-Theatre’s process, I think this sort of work is invigorating to theatre craft and love it.

If you’ve read my “About Portlandesque” tab, you’ll know that what I choose write about is unsolicited. Such is the case with this entry. However, full disclosure, we are incestuous in the Portland Arts world and proud of it. I gladly helped out my friends at Re-Theatre with PR & Marketing when they were just starting up last year as you’ll note here – and since you clicked that link, take a read through those company bios and be impressed. Just for fun, watch this promo video, too.

I decided to write about this show to introduce the work of Re-Theatre Instrument to my readers and because many of you are not huge theatre buffs and might be up for some learning via these Much Ado shows. But mostly, I wanted to write to credit my friends who worked on this project, who have poured their time and creativity into the show and this theatre company:  Sam Kusnetz, Jason Zimbler, Luke Norby, Jamie Rea, Kyle Lange. I know very well what it takes to start and run a theatre company and the amount of work that goes into each production, let alone two concurrently. I do plan to feature some of these Re-Theatre friends individually in the future, our paths have crossed on many other projects and they all individually make important contributions to the Arts & Culture scene in Portland.

Go forth – try to see both Much Ado versions in the next two weekends and I will too.*

Classic:  May 8 – June 6, 2009
Adaptation:  May 15 – June 6, 2009
Click Here for a helpful calendar.

Buy: Tickets On-Line
Call: 503-922-2453
Visit: 1111 SW Broadway

Tickets – $20
Thursdays – pay what you will

performing at
Portland Center for the Performing Arts – Brunish Hall
1111 SW Broadway – Portland, OR

 * I’ll be honest. I’m not a big fan of plays done in Rep. It is not about dual story concept, which requires a ton of creativity and dedication from the cast, crew and producers, but instead plain frustration with timing. Rarely do I have time to see both versions and sometimes I feel like I should spread the love and see another company’s work. Is it guilt? Is it regret? Is it that there are just so MANY shows to see? Maybe it’s just me.

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Portland Creation Arts & Tony Fuemmeler

Posted by Nicole Lane on 05/21/2009


Defined by Merriam-Webster Online as:
1: the act of creating ; especially : the act of bringing the world into ordered existence.
2: the act of making, inventing, or producing: as a: the act of investing with a new rank or office; b: the first representation of a dramatic role.
3: something that is created: as a: world; b: creatures singly or in aggregate; c: an original work of art.

How perfect that I decided to look up this word as I began to write of both the creative development culture of Portland and multidisciplinary artist Tony Fuemmeler.

Do refer back to the definition as you read along.

One of the aspects of the Portland arts scene I love the most is that the creation of Art is a constant and a focus in our city. I often describe it with my sort of a make-up word as verdant “generativity.” [If you read the “about” tab on this blog, you’ll see that I promised new vocabulary.]

There exist stale versions of art here, sure, but on the whole we live in a city that prides itself on innovation and opens its arms and minds to the new work being done locally. There are many examples of access points in all the disciplines from art galleries and coffee shops to major festivals like the new Fertile Ground: City-wide Festival of New Work, PICA’s Time Based Art Festival, and PDX POP NOW!

On a regular basis, perhaps the best venue in the city to witness that verdant creative generativity of which I write is the Someday Lounge. Read their Viva l’Arte mission statement here.

You want diversity in one place? Go there. They are extremely open and encouraging of all kinds of performance Art – perhaps most importantly they are willing to let artists share their work. A year ago, I worked on an rich, multidisciplinary CD Release party for Barons in Trees there that integrated dance, visual art, clown and live-mixed video projection. That is exactly the type of work you’ll see at the Someday. From a very eclectic cross-section of musical acts, to theatrical performances like Opera Theatre Oregon, to the Shadow Puppetry show “Bugged” that Tony Fuemmeler just performed there…Someday Lounge has it all.

On Tuesdays, once a month, for free, the Someday hosts a generously curated show called the “Someday Incubator.” The evening’s program is to give developing artists and/or their project access to a stage and an audience. I have been to a couple Incubators, talent varies, but the compelling through-line is both the commendable intention behind the idea and the chance to see an artist try out their work.

Tony Fuemmeler.

 Please take a moment right now and follow this link to Tony’s website. He just put it up. Poke around!

I actually don’t remember when I first met Tony, but first got to know his work when he was  as a set and props designer for Insight Out’s The Yellow Boat, around the same time he was the stage manager for Sight Theatre Group (formerly known as CITE), for whom I’m on the Board of Directors. I recall being impressed, equally, with his ingenuity and organizational skills. He has worked with a number of theatre organizations around town as a mask and puppet-maker, puppeteer and designer including Oregon Children’s Theatre, Tears of Joy Theatre and Nomadic Theatre. Tony also teaches children about theatre, performance and mask-making in public school residencies and after-school programs around Portland. At the beginning of 2009, he worked as a stage manager for Holcombe Waller’s “Into the Dark Unknown” tour to NYC, Seattle and San Francisco. Most recently, he collaborated with fellow mask maker Jen LaMastra on making 60 (yep, 6-0) masks, four versions, for Blitzen Trapper’s “Black River Killer” music video. You can view his mask work on his website.
Part of what I find impressive about Tony, is the breadth of his talents. A graduate of the University of Kansas and Dell’Arte (yes, he is another one), he also has done work with artistic Masters in Minneapolis, LA and NYC. Let’s just say he works from a very strong foundation.

 I really got to know Tony as the director and co-creator of Insight Out’s production For:Give – an ensemble created work inspired by The Tempest. In the role of co-Production Manager and PR/Marketing Director, I had the opportunity to really learn how Tony ticks. From the outset on this National Endowment for the Arts and Spirit Mountain funded project, Tony blew my mind with his creative and well-researched vision. This work was ensemble created, which means they started with an idea (The Tempest), wrote a script and staged an original play from there. Tony’s ability to know where he artistically wanted to go, fluidly lead a creation process with a cast, playwright and design team, and take strong steps to get the work to performance was phenomenal to watch.

I’ve mentioned his organizational abilities, which are notable, but what is really at the heart of Tony is how he sees creation. I have observed his process on a number of projects. I see that he creates with a mix of what is part organically inspired, part academically researched, and which is always is extremely intentional.

Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to catch Tony’s current work in development Bugged, at the aforementioned Someday Lounge. This is a shadow puppetry piece he is creating with fellow puppeteer and actor Rollin Carlson.

bugged-img1The show was riveting, intelligent and entertaining. The gregarious audience was silenced and intent as they watched the show unfold. Guffaws and shout-outs were mixed with concentrated efforts to understand the content and the medium.

I have seen a few children’s shadow puppet shows, but this was most certainly adult. Intellect and Art, Technology and the Natural World, Fear, Love and Humor meet in the projected shadows of puppets, sets and people. This was the second of two public workshops to develop this work-in-progress. Tony and Rollin hope to have developed a full-length work within the year, so be sure to get on his mailing list.

Next up, Tony will be sharing his passion for mask making and teaching by offering two mask workshops in June. One, a 2-day mask making workshop, and another about developing a physical character through the mask. Although marketed to performers, these classes are open for all who are interested.

Join the creative development culture in Portland. Support the artists and organizations that make it so. In doing so, we all do our part to help Portland Arts thrive.

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Why start this blog?

Posted by Nicole Lane on 05/13/2009

A solid question…one I’ve been ruminating on for over a year.

Portland is oozing, teaming, erupting with insanely brilliant creatives and somehow I’m lucky enough to keep meeting them. Whether they are performers, musicians, poets, artists, photographers, writers, chefs, film makers, philosophers, community organizers, non-profit administrators with a just cause or just random people with a gleam in their eye, I get sucked in by their magical powers of enthused passion and…well…I want to do what honestly comes naturally…share.

I guess, loosely, that’s what this blog will be:
Stories about people I meet, why they inspire me, what they are up to.

If this is of interest to you, please subsribe to the RSS feed or check back to read about my adventures with Portland…

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