This week on “State of Wonder,” we talk Twitter and Copland with George Takei, hear about the must-see shows at the Time-Based Art Festival, and celebrate James Baldwin with Stew and the Negro Problem.
Author and Firefighter Sean Davis - 2:12
Author, writing teacher, and Iraq War veteran Sean Davis has been fighting wildland fires on and off for 20 years. The past two months have found him back on the firelines at the North Umpqua Complex, the Flounce Fire, the Falls Creek Fire and the Happy Dog Fire. He returned home to McKenzie Bridge in Lane County during the week, only to find his home under an evacuation order with the Rebel Fire nearby. We caught him amid a massive Lego build with his daughter to hear what he’d seen.
George Takei Beams into the Oregon Symphony - 5:43
Actor George Takei was 5 years old when his family was detained alongside thousands of other Japanese-Americans during World War II. Takei grew up, went to Hollywood, and became part of one of the most beloved TV series of the 20th century when he created the role of Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the original cast of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek.” But the next generation of fans first discovered Takei on Twitter, where his impassioned advocacy for gay rights and epic troll takedowns have attracted more than 2 million followers. But we called him up because he’s headed to Portland to narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with the Oregon Symphony on Sept. 16, a composition with spoken text taken from the Gettysburg address and other speeches.
PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival: A Legacy and 4 Shows to See - 16:10
Every year, the closing of summer is tempered by the white hot explosion of contemporary art known as the Time-Based Art Festival. It serves up 11 sleepless days of theater, dance, visual arts, late-night dance parties, new friends and beer-hall conversation, from Sept. 7-17.
But this year is bittersweet, as we prepare to say farewell to Angela Mattox, the first full-time artistic director at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Since her first TBA in 2012, she has left an indelible fingerprint on the organization, greatly expanding the global scope of the festival and the amount of new works it commissions from both local and international artists. She talks about her goal to make the fest a global juggernaut and offers her picks for some of this year’s must see shows.
Stew and the Negro Problem Bring the Real (and James Baldwin) to Portland - 26:57
Stew and Heidi Rodewald are the creative force behind the band the Negro Problem and the Tony-winning 2008 musical “Passing Strange.” It told the story of a Black youth who left middle-class Los Angeles to search for a more “real” life in Europe and mixed rock with jazz and gospel and a story of incredible depth and wit, redefining what a musical could be years before “Hamilton.” Stew has referred to “Passing Strange” as spiritual copyright infringement on the life of James Baldwin, and now the musician has taken his love of Baldwin a step further with “Notes of a Native Song,” a show he’s bringing to TBA Sept. 8-9. But this is no Ken Burns documentary; it’s Baldwin at his most rock’n’roll.
Historic Portland Costume Shop Closes - 33:30
Ellen Marie Wonder, also known as ‘Grandma Wonder,’ began making floats and costumes for the Rose Parade in the 1890s. The business she built, now known as Helen’s Pacific Costumers, was still whipping up homemade costumes and custom-built mascots until last week, when after 127 years, they closed their doors, permanently. We filed this story from their final day of business.
Long-Form Self-Portrait: The Art Of Jeremy Okai Davis - 39:30
Jeremy Okai Davis paints portraits — people of many ages and backgrounds, brought to life in rafts of interweaving brush strokes. His subjects take shape as a mesh of related hues all carefully balanced to play off each other. The end result is vibrance and complexity. Davis has an exhibition, called “An Education,” at Portland’s Gallery 135 through the end of the month representing new work made last winter, and a shift toward more personal work in his portfolio. The turning of the year, and the new administration in Washington left him frustrated and needing speak out.
Hunter Noack Brings Classical Music to Oregon’s Wild Places - 45:50
During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration hired workers to build roads, parks, and iconic sites like Timberline Lodge, but it also employed painters, musicians, and writers for ambitious artistic undertakings. Last year, one young Oregon artist hearkened back to that era with a project called “In A Landscape.” The pianist Hunter Noack invited such musical luminaries as Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes to join him in playing classical music in some of the metro region’s most famous WPA sites. It was such a success that he’s taking the project statewide this year. All September, he’s performing in a range of outdoor settings, from the Astoria Column to Crater Lake to the Alvord Desert.
Noack has a history of bringing music to unlikely places, which is why he agreed to drag a piano out into the West Hills to play a few of the songs for this audio postcard.