Steve Schneider’s Rock and Roll Photos at The Triple Door

All the greats are there! Guitars flashing in the spotlights, hair flying, even sober moments hunched over their instruments. Most of these large-scale color prints were taken at performances in this region. Kurt Cobain, Dave Mathews, Neil Young, Talking Heads. Lucinda Williams, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, and even Mick Jagger are all there along with many others. If you are interested in the history of Rock and Roll you’ll find it here on the street level floor of this night spot.

The Jeffrey Moose Gallery is presenting the exhibition.

Through Aug. 31 at the Triple Door Musicquarium, 216 Union St., Seattle, after 4:00 p.m. (206 836-4333).
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“Jane Eyre” at Taproot Theatre

In the year 2000 this musical opened on Broadway for a relatively short run, kept alive at the end by more than $100,000 of free tickets offered to senior citizens. Yet it was nominated for a number of Tony awards. Only the actress playing Jane won.

Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 Gothic romance novel, on which this musical is based, was groundbreaking. Here was a pre-feminist heroine, a badly treated, unfortunate girl who turned herself into an independent woman, made it on her own, and eventually found love, and made a family. But getting there was an arduous journey, perhaps a bit too complicated and emotionally wrought for this script by John Caird with music by Paul Gordon and lyrics by Gordon and Caird. Despite the two plus hour running time, it doesn’t capture all the plot complications or the symbolism within the story. We’re given snippets.

Especially weak is the attention given to the mad woman in the attic, who is such an essential plot element. There is, however, in this production some strong acting. Art Anderson as Jane’s love interest is quite good. His voice is powerful and pleasant, and he creates a dignified yet poignant Rochester. Pam Nolte is always good playing English spinsters or upper class snobs, and her portrayal here of Mrs. Fairfax is no exception. She provides much of the humor in this mostly dark tale. Jessica Spencer portrays Jane appropriately with minimal make-up, plain hairdo, and dowdy clothes, but despite her fine singing, the script provides her with little spark. The dynamic character of the book is rather colorless here.

Though Edd Key’s musicians played the score well, I found it to be unremarkable. In fairness you should know that the music was nominated for a Tony. I, however, couldn’t remember or hum a single tune on my way out of the theatre.

Director Karen Lund chose this script because she felt it gave the story “a soaring and heroic lightness.” That may be exactly the reason it didn’t work for me. “Jane Eyre” mixed with “Sound of Music” is a poor fit.

Through August 16 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

Two New Shows at the Frye Museum

Conceptual art, art that is created mostly for political consideration rather than aesthetic gratification, has been a dominant force in contemporary art for some time now, and the Frye as well as the Henry have brought many important conceptual artists to Seattle. The recently opened dual exhibition now at the Frye, “The Unicorn Incorporated: Curtis R. Barnes” and “Your Feast Has Ended; Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin, and Nep Sidhu,” are both highly political. Their purpose is primarily “searing social commentary.”

Curtis Barnes, long time Seattle artist, is represented by work that spans five decades. Included are his drawings, paintings, mixed media pieces, and sculpture. As an African American male, he’s interested in the place he and other non-whites hold in American society. That issue dominates his work.

Of particular interest in this exhibition, is a room dedicated to the “Omowale” mural that decorated an exterior wall at the Medgar Evers Pool in the Central District. Barnes and his collaborator Royal Alley-Barnes conceived of the mural, campaigned for the funds to create it, and designed and painted it. The actual work took four years of warm weather work from 1971 to 1974.

“Omowale” is a Yoruba terms that means “children return home.” The home Barnes envisions is a spiritual place where self determination and self-preservation as defined by one’s own terms are possible. Not everyone understood this, and, in 1995 when the mural needed extensive restoration, it was decided not to spend the needed money. The mural, an important piece of history and art, was destroyed. The photos, news clips, and signage in this show remind us of it’s conceptual breadth and provide testimony to its significance.

In “Your Feast Has Ended” Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin, and Nep Sidhu explore myths and ancient concepts. They, a generation younger than Mr. Barnes, are even more focused on the political content of their work. The concept that draws them together is their distaste for the destructive nature of our species, its parasitic quality.

Of the three Nep Sidhu most successfully combines social commentary with visual satisfaction. His massive textile wall hanging, “An Affirmation, as It Was Told by SHE” is a loving tribute to his mother. Its painted image of a woman is surrounded by intricate designs that include beadwork combined with rope, copper and brass elements. The overall effect is spellbinding.

His three large wall constructions are both architectural and literary. Hard-edged, complicated metal pieces of geometric design surround a large square of non-western narration from storytellers significant to the artist. In these pieces his use of color, space, and the combination of forms is brilliant.

Maikoiyo Alley Barnes addresses social and environmental issues with a broad range of materials and methods. His collection of fiber and hide “animal cartoons” in “Pelts” combine iconic western and native elements that appear archetypical but for the creator represent specific individuals and situations.

Nicholas Galanin celebrates his Tlingit culture and addresses environmental issues of concern with sound, video, pelts, and mixed media. “Inert” combines two visions of a wolf. Half is a trophy or rug, and the other half appears to be a live wolf clawing its way back to its natural life.

For each of these artists, the exhibition offers a far greater range of work than described here. If you are a fan of conceptual art, politically infused art, you’ll find much to savor in this show.

Through September 21, at the Frye Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, free admission and parking, (206 622-9250 or fryemuseum.org).

“The Hunchback of Seville” produced by Washington Ensemble Theatre

It’s a fairy tale, history lesson, political commentary, laugh riot, and it’s sheer magic! Though I must issue a warning. If Fox News is your favorite TV experience, this isn’t for you.

In this, their last production in the small theatre on 19th Ave. East, before their move to a more central Capitol Hill location, WET is offering the world premiere performance of this inventive and sly tale. Playwright Charise Castro Smith would probably have been totally at home with the Monty Python crew. Their work has much in common.

Although some of the humor (for example, a plethora of cats in the beginning) doesn’t quite make it, the flaws are minor. What we are offered here are exaggerated expressions and lunatic actions combined with the slamming doors and physical humor that creates laugh-out-loud farce. Yet the playwright has cleverly inserted within this tomfoolery a powerful assessment of the horrors of colonialism and pertinent reminders of contemporary issues.

Director Jen Wineman sees that the timing is just right and offers numerous stage tricks that reinforce the madcap milieu and more serious messages. Every one of her truly fine actors, led by Sami Detzer as Maxima, the hunchback, are up to the demands of the script. Detzer scurries around the stage, her hunchback wobbling as she goes. She of the brilliant mind and amorous proclivities has to contend with both Queen Isabella (the regal Maria Knox) and Infanta Juana (Libby Barnard).

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Cast of “The Hunchback of Seville”
photo by Cassandra Bell

Infanta Juana is as dumb as Maxima is smart, and, at one point, she has a temper tantrum that is the pièce de resistance of all temper tantrums. You’ve heard the term “tear up the stage.” Well Barnard does that and more. Meanwhile her mother, HRH Queen Isabella, schemes, as she is slowly fading away, and kudos to the production team that masterminded that demise.

Maniacal humor played by an outstanding cast is what you get here, along with a lot more.

Through June 30, Thurs.-Mon., The Little Theatre on Capitol Hill, 608 19th Ave. E., Seattle, (206-325-5105 or washingtonensemble.org).

“Passing Strange” at ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret

If you love or loved rock concerts, if you thrill to the boom of the music and don’t care if you can understand the lyrics or not, then “Passing Strange” is the show for you. The music pounds through the relatively small Bullitt Cabaret, and every audience member is close enough to feel it, if not interpret the words. I would suggest you look the show up on the Internet before you go so that you understand all that is going on. As in opera, having read the libretto or superscript words above the stage greatly enhances understanding, hence appreciation of the performance.

In this picaresque tale, a young African-American man ventures forth to find himself, winding up first in Amsterdam and then in Berlin. Of course he meets all sorts of people who help or hinder him on this journey toward self-enlightenment. Among the issues he grapples with are: religion, sexuality, “passing”, drugs, materialism, love, family relationships, and grief.

Sidecountry Theatre presents this local production under the direction of Tyrone Brown whose cast members are in fine voice. The musicians, led by Jose Gonzales, cause the space to throb with their overpowering sound. The minimal stage set with its ever-moving instrument cases works perfectly well. What’s really interesting is the light and image show projected onto “boxes” affixed to the wall above the musicians. The changing colors and occasional depictions of scenes are subtle but effective, and do make one think of the light shows at rock concerts.

When this show appeared on Broadway in 2008 it won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical as well as three Drama Desk Awards and numerous nominations. Spike Lee made a movie of the staged performance. So if rock concerts with a story appeal to you, you’ll probably like this. But do your homework first or you’ll probably have difficulty understanding all the dialog.

Through June 29 at the Bullitt Cabaret in ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle (206 292-7676 or acttheatre.org).