Suzi Steffen's blog

Take Flight

Community, kids and paint at Upstart Crow

By Natalie Miller

Across the train tracks and surrounded by auto repair shops, kids are hard at work expressing their passion for the arts, dancing, singing and acting. At Upstart Crow Studios School of the Arts on 1st Ave. between Adams and Monroe, kids are encouraged to grab hold of their creative side and share it with the community. But even when the children are not performing, the public can still enjoy their work — and the work of adult artists who created Upstart Crow’s recently unveiled mural.

This summer, artist
Erin Bucklew
and community muralist Kari Johnson,along with the help of Upstart Crow kids, neighborhood children and a grant from the Lane Arts Council, created a large scale mural on the side of the building. The wall painting is complete with a giant crow and everything imaginable that has to do with lines: music lines, a stream, a jump rope, a cat dressed in stripes and a line from The Wizard of Oz: “If the good Lord wanted to see mermaids swimming through a cow pasture, he would have put them there himself.” Bucklew says that by choosing the theme of lines, she hoped anybody could participate.

Although Bucklew and Johnson started painting the mural in July, Bucklew says she worked on the design for about three to four months before that, studying, photographing and learning how to draw crows. After creating a format, Bucklew began to outline the shape of the crow with a tree pruner and then began to paint, using a paint roller. Bucklew says, “It’s scary letting little kids on a mural.” So when it came time for the kids to join in, Bucklew asked that each child draw his or her idea about five times before committing it to the wall. The oldest child to participate was 8 years old, and each child signed the mural after the painting was finished.

According to Upstart Crow’s Executive Director, Eularee Smith, throughout the project, the mural continued to evolve and grow as new additions were made. But the uncertainty didn’t bother her; quite the contrary. “It really captures the essence of Upstart Crow. And that’s what I love about it,” Smith says. “I think, in general, for the community and for the kids that come here, it personalizes the building and makes it their home.”

The outside painting is not the only mural at Upstart Crow. Inside, you’ll find two more murals, including another mural by Bucklew, the result of her desire to create a mural that connected to the kids’ theater work. With help from her kids, Bucklew came up with a whimsical design focused on teenage themes, such as braces. The other mural is a colorful graffiti painting by Joel Fish, splashed across an entire upstairs wall. As part of the
Restorative Justice Program
, Fish created his own design, and over a weekend created an inspirational mural that follows Upstart Crows’ mission: “The power of creative expression.”

To view any one of these murals, head down to Upstart Crow Studios, located at 855 W 1st Ave, and watch for more about Upstart Crow in this space.

This review will appear in the 12/10 print edition of the Eugene Weekly.

Norman (Michael Watkins) and Sir (David Wright) in The Dresser. Photo by Rich Scheeland

Gone, All Gone
Even the Bard can’t keep betrayal out of the Very Little Theatre’s The Dresser

In wartime England, bombs fall on London, and air raid sirens cut through the evening’s theater work. The capital city, under so much threat, keeps its glory amid tatters of buildings and scraps of courage; meanwhile, out in the provinces, an old man totters around, trying to hold together a ragtag band of misfits performing Shakespeare each night. That's the tale of The Dresser.

At the Very Little Theatre’s Stage Left, where director Reva Kaufman won this year’s counter-holiday-programming slot, the old man (Sir, played by David Wright) himself relies on his tatterdemalion crew and, most importantly, his dresser (Norman, played by popular local actor and director Michael Watkins) to get his tired body and mind onto the stage for King Lear. Watkins and Wright dive into this production and, usually with grace and intelligence, make the characters feel agonizingly, bitingly real.

Read more after the jump!

Image courtesy The Shedd

Not Holidazed
The Shedd’s White Christmas works its pearl-buttoned magic

by Anna Grace

Settling in to watch my second White Christmas production in as many weeks, I prepared for another few hours of Irving Berlin favorites and Magic 94.5-style entertainment. That crazy team of hoofers and crooners would follow a sister act up to Vermont all over again, dropping hit songs and one-liners as they went. I expected to be entertained, but not moved. I was surprised.

The Shedd’s production of White Christmas is among most beautiful musicals I’ve seen in Eugene. The set is lovely, interesting while simple. Costumes are stunning. Music director and conductor Vicki Brahbahm masterfully handles the magical score; director and choreographer Richard Jessup delights with a string of song and dance numbers that made me want to jump up and yell “Again! Do it again!”

Read more after the jump!

Li-Ning at the Portland Art Museum © 2009 Chris Ryan

This review will appear in the 12/3 issue of the Eugene Weekly

A Red Hot Mess
“China Design Now” at the Portland Art Museum mostly fails to charm

Take the streetcar to the Portland Art Museum, and you’ll see the best thing about its “China Design Now” exhibit before you even walk in the door. Two hunded red lanterns hang over the sculpture courtyard, playing whimsically with the air above Deborah Butterfield’s Dance Horse, connecting the museum’s awkwardly distant buildings.

More delightful packaging awaits inside the museum: In neon, simplified Mandarin characters spell out the title of the exhibition, and red-wrapped glass makes everything glow an eerie, vampire-friendly light (one expects legions of Twihards to search for the Sparkly One here, honestly). But step into the exhibit — up the stairs and through a welter of rooms; no one ever called PAM’s exhibit space easy to get to — and the whimsy, delight and enjoyment smash together in a welter of candy-colored sights, noise and confusion.

(Read more after the jump!)

I had a part in a summer production of Mame before I understood why homophobic parents would cut the "I"ll always be Alice Toklas if you'll be Gertrude Stein" line from "Bosom Buddies," and if there's one thing I never forgot, it's "We'll Need a Little Christmas."

Noodling around a tiny bit on YouTube today, I found this sound-challenged but still splendid gem:

It's just awesome.

Here's a photo of Lansbury as Mame.

I have no idea why ANYONE ELSE would portray Mame in the 1958 film, but Rosalind Russell did. Whateves. She didn't get to be the Teapot in Beauty and the Beast.

For the heck of it, then, here's "Be Our Guest":

Ashley Apelzin and Sophie Mitchell as Judy and Betty Haynes singing “Sisters” in White Christmas, courtesy ACE

Let the Season Begin!
White Christmas at Actors Cabaret of Eugene sings in the holiday
by Anna Grace

White Christmas is a string of wonderful songs and big dance numbers held together by a surprisingly satisfying plot. In an unlikely series of events only allowed in big musical extravaganzas of the 1940s and ’50s, audiences watch a retired military hero come to peace with his post-war life, hardened bachelors find love and small town yokels get bitten by the theater bug.

It’s a fun play, but it ain’t easy.

Read more after the jump!


That's about this, in case you somehow missed it:

Today is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, and if there's one thing I regret about having had a plague cough/virus for a week and a half, it's not having had the time/energy to write about this week of events. There were movies, meetings and talks, and damned if I didn't sit on my couch coughing my way through all of them. Hope some of you got out for them!

The culmination comes tonight in the Atrium Building, where I may be (though the plague's not entirely over):

From the City of Eugene's website

Why do we have a Trans Day of Remembrance? Well, it's because there's an awful lot of violence against trans people. There's an awful lot of gender-policing out there that means real, sustained, horrific violence against people who don't meet some culturally imposed and totally fucked idea about gender norms.

One estimate says about 160 people were murdered this year. And that's a lowball, says the report, from Transgender Europe:

Yet, we know, even these high numbers are only a fraction of the real figures. The truth is much worse. These are only the reported cases which could be found through internet research. There is no formal data and it is impossible to estimate the numbers of unreported cases.

And that's not all. Today, a young trans person writes at Feministing about suicide rates among trans folks. This is such a painful reminder that just living in this world is an everyday hell for many people.

Before I moved to Eugene, I used to do a lot more activist work, including running a fair number of groups at the Women's Resource and Action Center at the U of Iowa. The main group I ran was called The Gender Puzzle. We used Kate Bornstein's funny, smart My Gender Workbook to talk and write about everything from the gender police to the difference between gender and biological sex. I met a lot of people who identified as gender-queer, young straight women who simply wanted to investigate what the heck gender was supposed to mean to them, and, of course, trans folks. Some people were barely beginning to explore their transitions from male to female or female to male, and it was such a privilege to know them, to learn that a Mary Kay consultant might be a transwoman's resource while a young transman could get support from his family to be his real self.

At the time, I was a columnist for the UI's Daily Iowan. I remembered how hard the winter holidays were for me with my family as I was coming out as a lesbian, and I knew they'd be harder on some of my trans friends. Some were parents; some had to go home to their parents; some were staying away from home so they didn't have to deal with telling their families who they were. Some had very religious families with people who rejected them out of hand. Some were told how wrong they were. And that filled me with massive fury — come on, they were the bravest people I knew! They survived long years living in bodies that didn't feel like their own. They survived. So I wrote a column — one of those things that just pours out of you, feels like it was almost written for you — that ran in the DI on Dec. 1, 2000. I know this is all braggy, but to my mind, it's the best thing I've ever written. I mean, FUCK THE GENDER POLICE and all, but this wasn't for them — it was for the people I loved.

The DI doesn't keep online archives back that far (for no reason that I can tell), but luckily it was reposted (heh, without my permission, but so what? It benefitted me!) in its entirety a couple of other places, like here.

And now here, after the jump.

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