The Weekly Wire: The Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 4/20 Music/TV: Simon Says American Idol's ratings are down somewhat since the departure of creator and panelist Simon Cowell, whose snarky appraisal of talent was the show's main draw. (For example: "If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning.") The sharp-tongued judge has since taken on a bigger project—he's scouting the country for the U.S. version of his UK hit The X Factor, a music competition that will bestow a $5 million recording contract. Today, he and his scouts will be conducting all-day auditions, so the Key is sure to be swarming with thousands of starry-eyed hopefuls. And yes, you can be one (or gawk from the sidewalk). But the throng of wannabes is projected to be so great that wristbands for admission will be issued beginning at 6 a.m. the preceding day! So pack a waterproof jacket, lunch, and a book to keep you occupied until your turn comes to blow Cowell away—or receive his insults. Don't be nervous. Just think of it as a free job consultation on whether you should stick with music or move on to the next phase of life. (Cowell and company will return June 28–29 for a live taping of our regional finalists, at a venue to be announced.) KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., 855-345-5678, Free. 8 a.m. ERIKA HOBART Classical: The First Seattle Sound One of the excitements of composing for prepared piano is the constant sense of discovery: When you attach objects to the strings of a standard piano, there's really no predicting the sonic result. For example, when German pianist Volker Bertelmann, who performs as Hauschka, sets two dozen ping-pong balls to bounce on a concert grand's strings as he plays, you might expect it to sound all plinky and goofy, but instead they add a rather menacing, rattling shimmer to the piano tone—imagine a cast-iron tambourine four feet across. Other items in Hauschka's arsenal include shish-kebab skewers, all manner of clips and clamps, and duct tape, all masking or enhancing the piano's natural ring into startling colors. He often expands his prepared-piano compositions into opulent techno symphonies by layering on electronic tracks and dance beats with the help of a circle of collaborators, as in his just-released album Salon des amateurs. And in his Seattle visit, Hauschka's bringing the technique back to its birthplace: It was right here at Cornish College of the Arts, during John Cage's two-year tenure (1939–41), that the composer hit upon the idea of altering a piano's tone, searching for a wider palette of sounds than Cornish's tiny auditorium—with room only for one piano to accompany a dance recital—could accommodate. Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333, $10–$15. 7:30 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT THURSDAY 4/21 Dance: Very Much an Array Veteran choreographer Donald Byrd delights in tweaking pop-culture icons and tackling charged topics, which has given his Spectrum Dance Theater a remarkable variety of works over the years. Appropriately, for The Variety Show (produced with Seattle Dance Project), the bill promises to be very broad indeed. In this eclectic annual showcase of short works, Byrd's fellow dance-makers include Catherine Cabeen, Timothy Lynch, Eva Stone, and Ezra Dickinson. The omnibus moves to ACT next weekend, then returns to Madrona for its final stand. Best of all, the Friday/Saturday late shows will include The G.O.N.G. Show talent contest, open to all comers. Through-out, popular drag-artist dancers Cherdonna and Lou will be your hosts, so expect some sarcasm, hooting, and a delightful array of inconsistent works. (Through May 7.) Spectrum Dance Theater Studio, 800 Lake Washington Blvd., 325-4161, $15–$25. 7:30 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ Stage: Take an Ill Pill Elizabeth Kenny's one-woman show Sick, about her experiences with psychopharmaceuticals, is punctuated by a bell controlled by an onstage assistant. The ding interrupts each of her monologues at a climactic point, forcing her to move on to the next episode. The bell is brilliant, and I wish every Seattle stage production had one. It urges Sick forward at a fast pace and leaves you wanting more from each vignette. Indeed, there's never a dull moment in Kenny's funny and moving story, directed by John Kazanjian. After she begins taking hormonal medication to combat ovarian cysts, Kenny feels depressed—a side effect that leads her to Paxil, which leads her to more side effects, which lead her to more psychotropic drugs (not to mention her self-treatment with tequila and cocaine). Over nearly two years, she was diagnosed with, among other things, depression with psychotic features, schizophrenia with hallucinations, and bipolar II disorder. While she's quick to acknowledge the complexities of mental-health treatment, Kenny's story is a damning one that should be seen by psychotherapists, the pharmaceutical industry, and you. (Through April 30.) New City Theater, 1404 18th Ave., 800-838-3006, $20–$25. 8 p.m. BRENT ARONOWITZ FRIDAY 4/22 Film/Booze: Quicker With Liquor Seattle has been slow to embrace the movie-plus-booze formula one finds in other cities. But Northwest Film Forum is now joining the trend with a new liquor license (beer and wine only), which goes into effect tonight with the premiere of Olympia director Zach Weintraub's worthwhile indie road movie Bummer Summer. Shot in black and white, the film isn't exactly boring, but a pint might help you relax into its languorous rhythm. (Yes, that's a polite way of saying it's slow; there are no car chases or gunfights to punctuate its 80 minutes.) Two brothers drive off in search of a garden maze, accompanied by the ex-girlfriend of elder brother Ben (Weintraub), who's back from college. Naturally he wants to sleep with her again, but Lila mocks "Mr. On the Road" and his "romantic ideal of a road trip." Meanwhile, 17-year-old Isaac watches from the wings—maybe he's got a chance with her? The love triangle never really catches fire, and there are many conversations with very few words. But Weintraub has a nice feel for low-key naturalism, letting the trio cavort on terraced sand dunes, as the sexual tension dissipates in the coastal fog. (Through Thurs.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, $6–$9. 7 and 9 p.m. BRIAN MILLER Dance: Springing Boards In its long, varied history, it's been a meeting hall, a church, a studio, and a theater. But throughout all those identities, Washington Hall has had a great dance floor—so springy and resilient (if you time your jumps just right), it'll bounce along with you like a trampoline, boosting you back into the air. When tenant On the Boards left for new digs in 1998, dance at Washington Hall took a long hiatus, but now it's back. The All 4 1 "dancepalooza," presented by DASSdance, features choreography from that company's Daniel Wilkins in addition to performances by Evergreen City Ballet, Dance Ensemble Northwest, and several other regional groups. They'll be bouncing on the wooden floor, while burlesque-influenced performers The Aerialistas will be dangling from the ceiling overhead. It just goes to show that there can be new life in 103-year-old timbers. Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave., 860-6020, $10–$15. 8 p.m. (Repeats Sat.) SANDRA KURTZ

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