Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sparkle Recognition 2016-17 Season

As I See It . .
Dennis Sparks

Once again, I have accumulated what I believe are unique, artistic achievements for the Season (September 1st, 2016 to August 31st, 2017) and awarded each of them a Sparkle Recognition mention in the list of about 100+ shows I personally review in a Season.  But, as you will note, unlike other award lists, I do not pick a “winner,” nor is my list confined to necessarily “5 nominees” in each category.  My list contains as many, or as few, as I deem “special” or “unique” in some way(s).

I do not believe you can compare, for instance, one actor’s performance in a play against another actor’s role in a totally different part and play.  Nor do I understand why there has to be only 5 nominees in category.  For example, I pick a person for a uniqueness that they seem to have, both as a creator and in the role/job they are performing.  That is not to say that there weren’t a wealth of fine artistic achievements done.  There were.  But these particular individuals and/or productions moved me in special, unforgettable ways.

Granted, this is my take alone on the shows this season and, I’m sure, you will note, doesn’t agree with most award lists of “nominees/winners.”  Also it doesn’t encompass all the fine theatres that exist in the Northwest.  All the theatres I do include, have invited me to review their shows.  And, being only one person, I can only review so many at a time.

Also, I do not restrict in any way, the people/companies that I review or are included in my Sparkle list.  The list includes schools, professional theatres, semi-professional, community, et. al. in the Greater Portland area and as far South as OSF in Ashland, OR .  In my opinion a good performance/production is simply good, no matter its pedigree.

I unashamedly admit that I am a supporter of the Arts, having over 40 years myself in all aspects of it.  I attend a production expecting it to be good and, if it falls short, in my opinion, I try to be constructive in my criticism.  Also, you will note in my reviews, that I tend not to spend a lot of time describing the plot but, instead, try to give a flavor of the piece.  I, also, try to make comparisons to similar venues or historical, philosophical or personal histories of the times to, hopefully, enlighten the audience, as to what they may be seeing/experiencing.

Some of the most unique productions for this period are:   Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Julius Caesar and The Odyssey, both totally captivating, unique staging   and thoroughly entertaining productions.

Also note-worthy are Imago’s La Belle and Medea, very original interpretations and inventive staging.   Again, OCT’s Young Professionals Company, has proven themselves to be among the best companies in town, with their chilling In the Forest She Grew Fangs and the touching, Orphans. My personal favorites at Artists Rep. were A Civil War Christmas, a unique take on a familiar story and the strange but compelling, Trevor.  Once again Triangle re-created the irreverent musical, Avenue Q. always a favorite of
mine.  Favorites at Portland Center Stage were  Hold These Truths, a history lesson not to easily forgotten and the amusing and inventive, Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  I was impressed with Milagro’s, Swimming while Drowning, a powerful show and their musical, Óye Oyá.  Also impressive was the haunting, The Pillowman, by Life in Arts Production, and the extremely funny, One Man, Two Guvonors at Lakewood.    Also, the newly formed, Portland Musical Theater Company continues to do impressive musical revues.  Some memorable performances were Todd Van Voris in Medea, Hughie and Thom Paine; Gary Strong in The Pillowman; John San Nicholas and Michael Mendelson in Trevor; Maya Caulfield and Emma Goodman-Fish In Orphans; G. Valmont Thomas
in OSF’s, Henry IV, Part I; Amanda Clark in Twilight’s, Boeing Boeing; and Greg Watanabe in Portland Playhouse’s, The Language Archive.

Some personal observations regarding recognizing the Arts:  The Media gives a lot of attention to current events, sports and weather, etc. but almost none that focuses on the Arts.  Likewise, many land/building owners seem to be following that lead in downgrading the Arts and raising prices that, I’m sure they realize, Art groups cannot afford with their extremely limited budgets.

Also parking is a problem in many parts of town where theatre spaces reside and it would behoove a business or religious institution to reach out and offer their parking lots when they are not in operation.  So, please, if you are one of these organizations or know one, go the extra mile and give this precious commodity, the Arts, a chance to survive!


My main objective is to encourage the viewer to attend Artistic events and support the Arts.  My blog now has over 200,000 views, which is not too shabby in the five+ years I have had my blog in existence (unending gratitude to my electronic muse, Jennifer, for creating and maintaining it).  A special “shout-out,” too, to Ronnie Lacroute and the WillaKenzie Estate, who may be the most priceless supporter local theatre has!  And when theatres/artists put links to my reviews on their sites, it only enhances the readership and, hopefully, your audiences.  In case you’d rather scan the list to find your own company, the theatres (right-hand column) are listed alphabetically.

So, without any further exposition, may we have the envelopes please . . .

Sparkle Recognition 2016-17 Season