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Beth Ditto | The Slants | Thara Memory


This week on “State of Wonder,” singer Beth Ditto breaks out from her band Gossip, the Slants gets their big day at the Supreme Court, and we look back on Thara Memory’s complicated legacy.


Members of The Slants pose for a photo. From left to right, guitarist Joe X. Xiang, vocalist Ken Shima, bass and bandleader Simon Tam, and drummer Yuya Matsuda.

Members of The Slants pose for a photo. From left to right, guitarist Joe X. Xiang, vocalist Ken Shima, bass and bandleader Simon Tam, and drummer Yuya Matsuda.

Courtesy of The Slants

After Years of Fighting, The Slants Prevail at the Supreme Court - 1:23

This week the United States Supreme Court cleared the way for the Portland dance rock band the Slants to register a trademark for its name — something the Patent and Trademark Office had previously rejected, claiming it was derogatory. The Slants argued that their name reclaimed a racist slur, but the case also sets a permissive precedent for how the federal government handles trademarks using offensive language. It’s prompted celebration from some groups—such as a well-known Washington football team—that use objectionable terms unironically.


As a winner of Oregon Ballet Theatre's XX Choreography Contest, choreographer Nicole Haskins (left) has four weeks to create and rehearse a new work with OBT's dancers before its world premiere.

As a winner of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s XX Choreography Contest, choreographer Nicole Haskins (left) has four weeks to create and rehearse a new work with OBT’s dancers before its world premiere.

Aaron Scott/OPB

Oregon Ballet Theater Centers Women Choreographers at Choreography XX - 6:33

It’s not at all rare for major ballet companies to go whole seasons without performing a single work created by a woman. Oregon Ballet Theater set out last year to change that with a new competition called Choreography XX. Of nearly 100 applicants, they chose three women from around the continent to create new works, set them on the company, and premiere them at free performances on June 29 and 30 in Washington Park’s Rose Garden Amphitheater. 

We spoke with the youngest of those choreographers, Nicole Haskins.


Portland singer Beth Ditto's full-length solo debut, 'Fake Sugar,' is out now.

Portland singer Beth Ditto’s full-length solo debut, ‘Fake Sugar,’ is out now.

Mary McCartney/Courtesy of the artist

Powerhouse Singer Beth Ditto’s New Solo Record: ‘Fake Sugar’ - 13:37

As the singer of the hit garage-turned-dance-rock band Gossip, Beth Ditto rose to international acclaim with the 2006 breakout “Standing in the Way of Control” and broke the record in Germany for the longest-selling hit single with “Heavy Cross.” While touring with the band, she also became a fashion icon for her unique style and unapologetic approach to her weight, posing naked on the covers of magazines, walking in Paris fashion shows, collaborating on a line of MAC cosmetics and even creating her own clothing lines. She also penned a memoir about growing up poor in the south. Now, Ditto is mining those roots in her first full-length solo record, “Fake Sugar.”


Vin Shambry tells five stories about guns, from learning to shoot to behind held up, in "The Gun Show" at Coho Theater.

Vin Shambry tells five stories about guns, from learning to shoot to behind held up, in “The Gun Show” at Coho Theater.

Owen Carey

Playwright E.M. Lewis Stages a Different Kind of ‘Gun Show’ - 22:14

The Oregon playwright E.M. Lewis grew up surrounded by guns and learned to shoot on a date with her husband-to-be. But then she found herself on the other end of a barrel during a robbery and lost her husband to a gun wound. She knows firsthand the whole range of emotions guns elicit, and she’s loaded them all into a provocative play “The Gun Show.”

“The Gun Show” debuted locally last fall, and it was so successful that Lewis and Vin Shambry, the actor who plays Lewis’s character in the one-man show, are taking it on the road: first to Washington, DC, and then to a month-long run at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But before they go, they’re doing one special performance in Portland as a fundraiser on July 1 at Artists Repertory Theatre, complete with live music, hands-on gun education, and a raffle to win prizes, like a shooting range membership.


Rachel Harry (center) works with Sara Zeman (left) on a final performance art project at Hood River Valley High School.

Rachel Harry (center) works with Sara Zeman (left) on a final performance art project at Hood River Valley High School.

Liza Yeager/OPB

Hood River Teacher Rachel Harry Wins the Tony for Theater Education - 31:39

This week, the theater teacher at Hood River Valley High School is cleaning out the green room, putting away the light rigs and the costumes for the summer. Oh, and there’s that one other piece of equipment Rachel Harry has to find a place for: her Tony Award for Excellence in Theatrical Education. 

Harry welcomed us in during the final week of classes, so we could see what sets her program apart. She’s been teaching in Hood River for 30 years, forging close connections with her students and pushing them toward fairly high-level creative practice.


Celebrated Portland jazz musician and educator Thara Memory died Saturday, June 17, 2017, at age 68. Memory was indicted on 10 counts of sex abuse in February 2017.

Celebrated Portland jazz musician and educator Thara Memory died Saturday, June 17, 2017, at age 68. Memory was indicted on 10 counts of sex abuse in February 2017.

John Rosman/OPB

Remembering Jazz Musician Thara Memory - 36:46

Jazz musician and educator Thara Memory died last Saturday night after an extended illness at 68. He lived hard, impacted hundreds of lives, mentored star musicians like Esperanza Spalding, and spent his final months trying to clear his reputation after former students accused him of inappropriate conduct. We look back on his complicated legacy.


Courtesy Penguin Random House

Omar El Akkad’s “American War” Imagines - 43:40

As a former correspondent for Toronto’s ‘Globe and Mail newspaper, Omar El Akkad covered the Arab Spring in Egypt, military trials at Guantanamo Bay, refugee camps in Afghanistan, and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. You can see many of those worlds in detail in his new book, but there’s a twist: El Akkad’s new book is a novel—a terrifyingly realistic one that’s set in the second half of the 21st century. The book is called “American War,” and it’s the story of the second American Civil War—a war fought over fossil fuel consumption from 2074 to 2095.

Listen to El Akkad’s full ‘Think Out Loud’ conversation here.

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