The Weekly Wire: This Week’s Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 7/29Photography: Changing Her PathsRaised in Seattle and educated at the UW, Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976) wasn't just a pioneering female photographer, but a venerable member of the American avant-garde. On view through August 29, 60 images from SAM's permanent collection span six decades (!) of her work. We see her evolution from the studio of Edward S. Curtis to nudes (including the famous 1923 Triangles) to the sharp-focus portraits of fellow artists including Morris Graves (depicted decades apart). From these portraits, too, Cunningham seems to borrow her sitters' techniques: There are traces of Weston, Stieglitz, Cartier-Bresson, and Man Ray in her frames. She's a protean shutterbug who adapts whatever style she pleases. Or maybe, spending so many years behind the viewfinder, she didn't want to be trapped by the dreaded "signature style." For whatever reason, among these familiar images, my favorite is her 1959 portrait of the great Northwest poet Theodore Roethke sitting on the ground like a half-empty bag of potatoes, leaning against an old brick wall painted with a ghostly, faded "R" and ominously pointing finger. Look closely and you'll see a crack in the wall that seems to be emanating from his lumpy, oversized noggin. It's like a bolt of inspiration on his or Cunningham's part. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 644-3100, $9–$15. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERFRIDAY 7/31Theater: Haste to StageThe addition of Bob Wright and Alyson Scadron Branner to this summer's 14/48 acting lineup promises magnified hilarity, as both are cool cucumbers while juggling multiple roles at dizzying speeds. Wright, a slim, sinewy local stage veteran, dons and sheds character skins like a Teflon-coated snake, as witnessed last year in ACT's Intimate Exchanges, in which not only did he play six different roles with distinct accents, but in 16 different versions. Scadron-Branner chomped through every female role (and a couple of male ones) in the turbo-travelogue Around the World in 80 Days earlier this year at Taproot. This weekend and next, themes will be dispensed to all-star teams and shaken vigorously, with their efforts staged within two frantic days. The untamed results should provide a swift rebuttal to any who think theater is too contrived. On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., 217-9888, $18–$35. 8 & 10:30 p.m. MARGARET FRIEDMANHonky-Tonk Opera: Ring of FireDas Barbecü was born, legend has it, when composer Scott Warrender bumped into Seattle Opera's Speight Jenkins while walking their dogs. By the end of their meeting, they'd come up with the idea of Warrender writing a musical-comedy counterpart to SO's upcoming Ring cycle. Book/lyrics writer Jim Luigs transposed the operas' basic plot outline deep in the heart of Texas—the Rhinemaidens become synchronized swimmers, and patriarch Wotan, viewed sideways, is a sort of Jock Ewing. From horned helmets to big hair, come to think of it, is not that big a leap, and feuding families make juicy drama in Valhalla or Dallas. Warrender added lots of tuneful twang, and the bouncingly clever result, premiered in 1991, has since been staged around the world. ACT's reviving the show in conjunction with this summer's Ring; the five-person cast, kept busy playing a few dozen characters, includes Anne Allgood and Billie Wildrick. (Continues Tues.–Sun. through Sept. 6.) ACT, 700 Union St., 292-7676, $10–$15 & $37.50 and up. Opening night: 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTOutdoor Music: No CoverKEXP's free annual Concerts at the Mural series is always a highlight of summer. There are few better ways to spend an evening than sprawling out on the lawn to hear music that's actually good (and which would ordinarily cost well over $10 a head at a venue like Neumos). It's so much more pleasant than a sweltering rock club where you're packed together with a bunch of other sweaty miscreants. Running through Aug. 21, the series' biggest name is Dinosaur Jr. (at the Aug. 8 KEXP BBQ), but all five shows look good—particularly tonight's opener, which features two Northwest acts whose (admittedly dissimilar) music is the aural essence of summer: Portland country band Blitzen Trapper and Seattle pop luminaries Throw Me the Statue. Seattle Center Mural Amphitheater, 684-7200, Free. 6 p.m. SARA BRICKNERFilm: A Boot on Your FaceThe left-wing leader assassinated in Costa-Gavras' 1969 thriller célèbre Z dies not from a sharpshooter's bullet but from a whack to the head, and the difference plays up the essential street-thuggery of the uniformed right-wingers in power. By far the most electric sequence in the film, the drive-by killing happens in a public square, tensely (and, for the times, topically) ringed by protesters and police; the assailants leave behind a Hitchcockian parallel story to be told later. Based on the real-life murder of a Greek MP (played by lefty star Yves Montand), Z is given over to the cagey perseverance of the investigating judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant, who in suits somehow always looked like a runty hitman). After some Petulia-esque noodling over the Grieving Widow, the inquiry weathers incursions from a mosquito-like photographer and cheery fast-talking heavies trying to whomp witnesses. The military junta that ensued in Greece gave the film a sense of urgency approved by Cannes and Oscar alike. (Through Thurs., Aug. 6.) Varsity, 4329 University Way N.E., 781-5755, $10. Call for showtimes. NICOLAS RAPOLDSATURDAY 8/1Outdoor Movies: By Popular DemandThe audience decides, or has, what to watch at this year's Movies at the Mural series (through Aug. 29). Who cares what snooty SIFF programmers or stodgy film critics prefer? 2,000 voters have already cast their ballots. Thus, families will bring their blankets and picnic dinners tonight for Rob Reiner's charming 1987 adaptation of the classic William Goldman children's story The Princess Bride. The PG-rated movie is sweet, funny, and well played down the line for both parents and kids. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn are the handsome, occasionally quarrelsome lovers; Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, and the late André the Giant help get them together after many amusing adventures. (Following in the series are Grease, Iron Man, King Fu, and Mamma Mia!—all personally selected by you, the ordinary, discerning filmgoer.) Movies begin around 9:00, but prime patches of lawn get occupied sooner. Seattle Center Mural Amphitheater, 684-7200, Free. Dusk. BRIAN MILLERMusic: Dim the LightsOn Josephine, the first full-length Magnolia Electric Co. release in three years, Ohio-born songwriter Jason Molina eschews long guitar solos for simple, sparse instrumentals that fade gracefully into the background. While he's known for writing wistful, even lugubrious songs about loneliness and heartache, Josephine's gospel organs seem particularly funereal. Is that because of the recent death, in a house fire, of Magnolia Electric bass player Evan Farrell? No, Molina told, he's just feeling blue since moving to London. His characteristically somber lyrics and earnest, lone-cowboy vocals sound much the same as when he performed under the name of Songs: Ohia—visceral, revealing, and completely sincere. The Donkeys and Thousand Arrows open. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-5611, $10 (21 and over). 8 p.m. SARA BRICKNERSUNDAY 8/2Visual Arts: 60 Watts of ZenArtistic obsessions can run too far (see: Henry Darger, children) or just far enough (Monet, water lilies). The Light Bulb series by Jasper Johns belongs to the second camp. He began sketching them in the late '50s, then created multiple versions in sculpture, crayon, and paint for the next 20 years. As in his famous Target series (one example of which is currently on view at SAM), there's something about the simple, utilitarian shape that invites iteration. The bulb, socket threads, switch, and cord are so unadorned, so neutral in their meaning. The humble glowing orb suggests the genius of Thomas Edison and the cartoons of George Booth. It can signify anything and nothing, this found pop object; Johns called it a "thing the mind already knows." Your kids understand it, and probably your dog, too. It's either on or off but never in between. It's in a state of being, not becoming. So long as there's current, it simply exists. And in opposition, there's just darkness. Five Light Bulb sculptures and a dozen-odd drawings are featured through October 25. Henry Art Gallery, 15th Ave. N.E. & N.E. 41st St., 543-2280, $6–$10. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

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