Comedy: Litmus Test
On the one hand, sophisticated, worldly Seattle audiences will surely welcome Tracy Morgan’s envelope-pushing humor; on the other hand, sophisticated, worldly Seattle audiences will surely reject Tracy Morgan’s cruel, offensive humor. His stand-up shows seem to be his outlet for saying whatever he couldn’t in seven seasons of 30 Rock, with outrage greeting onstage comments he’s made about gays and the differently abled; as recently as April he drove audience members in droves out of a gig in Australia. It’s as if he’s visiting purposely to test us. Which Seattle will win: the one proud of its tolerance, or the one proud of its sensitivity? The Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $35.50. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT
Film: Of All the Gin Joints...
We all know the story of Casablanca: a classic love triangle set against the tensions of war. True to its stage origins, the 1942 perennial sets up neat oppositions between selfishness and sacrifice, patriotism and exile, love and duty. Humphrey Bogart gained iconic status as Rick, who balances his lingering attachment to Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa against his long-suppressed sense of idealism. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Casablanca is about a lot of things, but one strong theme is forgiveness: Two former lovers must somehow reconcile themselves with the past, mutually absolving each other to clear the way for the future. Their relationship has its parallel as Bogie and Claude Rains also forgive and forget, then famously stride forward together to battle. Egyptian, 805 E. Pine St., 781-5755, landmarktheatres.com, $8.25. Midnight. (Repeats Sat.) BRIAN MILLER
Dance: Summer Steps
Cyrus Khambatta has done it again—packing even more action into his Seattle International Dance Festival. There will be two different weekend programs from Seattle and beyond; a midweek series of intensely local work selected by Northwest choreographers; a multistage outdoor event featuring the Massive Monkees and other troupes; and a short-order dance, made in a week on a theme chosen by the audience. From this treasure chest, opening night should be especially dynamic, with appearances by Portland’s Tere Mathern Dance company and Israeli choreographer Idan Cohen, whose Wayfarer is set to Mahler. Next Wednesday’s showcase, curated by Mathern herself, includes excerpts from Umami (including its new Constellation Half Remembered) and Kate Wallich + The YC, with a peek at their upcoming 2014 program. Consult the website to create your own mix-and-match program—there’s plenty of dance to work with. (Through June 23.) Raisbeck Performance Hall, 2015 Boren Ave., 800-838-3006, seattleidf.org. $15–$50. 8 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ
Music: Listening Alone and Together
Most of the free, short-term space of the Seattle Storefronts program has been given to visual artists or community art-making enterprises. Paul Rucker is adding music to the mix with his new studio in Pioneer Square, where he’s also featuring other local musicians. First among them is Rulon Brown, whose Restless debut drew an avid audience during this month’s First Thursday art walk. Dangling from hospital IV stands are 50 red headphones with little mp3 players attached. On cue, Brown and his audience don the headphones, then he solos his alto sax over the track you’re hearing—each one different from your neighbors’, all of them composed by Brown. It’s an oddly communal, intimate experience. Headphones usually isolate the listener, but in Restless they unite the small standing audience. “It’s about community and how we create it and recreate it,” says Brown. “It’s playing with this idea of what we share and what we keep to our selves. Nobody can know what anyone else is hearing. It’s like when you’re sitting on the bus and you think you know what someone’s listening to.”
For Restless—also the name of a larger body of work that includes Brown’s jewelry—audio cues sometimes direct listeners to remove their headphones and lift them overhead. It’s a neat bit of group choreography, with the 50 different compositions suddenly joining together in the high-ceilinged space. The total performance time is about 10 minutes, and Brown will repeat the show nightly at 6 p.m. through Sunday. Today, for a special afternoon concert following Restless, Brown and Rucker will be joined by Jeff Busch for a performance of jazz from Brown’s album Restless, music that had its premiere at the recent Nicaragua International Jazz Festival. “This will be the first time we’ve played it in the U.S.,” says Brown.
Rucker’s studio will be his workspace for the summer, he explains. “I wanted a multi-use space. I”m known as a musician, but I’m also a visual artist. That’s my glass work in the window.” More free musical events will be scheduled through the summer (and possibly into the fall), during which time Rucker will be preparing for his August show at the nearby Gallery4Culture. That exhibit will deal with America’s gun culture, Rucker explains, with some of the wooden sculptural materials having been shot by Rucker himself at a local gun range. “Anyone can come by at any time to come see what I’m working on and talk about it. It’s not a commercial venture, it’s a creative venture.” Rucker intends to feature more artists, like Brown, who are working in genres or media that are new to them. “It’s great to be in Pioneer Square and see how it’s opening up again,” he says. “It’s booming.” Paul Rucker’s Open Studio Project Gallery, 301 Occidental Ave. S., paulrucker.com, rulonbrown.com/2013/restless. Free. 2 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Books: Flight to Freedom
An Irishman living in New York, Colum McCann hit it big with his National Book Award–winning novel Let the Great World Spin, set during the period of Philippe Petit’s 1974 wire-walk between the World Trade Center towers. His brisk and affecting new TransAtlantic (Random House, $27) is also something of a spanning act, reaching from 1845 Ireland to the U.S. and back by 2011, from Lincoln to Obama. It’s an elliptical, matrilineal tale woven with real historical characters—most notably fugitive slave Frederick Douglass, on an Irish speaking tour to raise funds for his freedom, and former Senator George Mitchell, the emissary trying to broker a peace deal in 1998 Ireland. Intersecting with their missions are four generations of women, the first being an illiterate Irish maid, Lily, who’s inspired by Douglass’ talk of freedom. He’s visiting during the potato famine, and 17-year-old Lily sets her sights on America. Lily’s descendants will successively become a journalist, a photographer, and a pensioner holding onto an airmail letter from the first flight across the Atlantic in 1919. We meet those British pilots, too; and it’s Lily’s daughter the journalist who sent the still-unopened letter in the reverse direction from whence her mother emigrated. McCann is foremost a humanist spinner of yarns, and the satisfaction of TransAtlantic is to follow the threads—not just characters, but qualities of compassion, echoed details, repeated gestures of empathy. McCann compares Lily’s long family history to a bird’s nest held still against the rushing of time, “the twigs taken from everywhere, bits and pieces, leaves and branches, crossing and criss-crossing.” Those twigs are the tales passed between generations. Says the journalist, “Our stories will most certainly outlast us”—a notion that McCann, the son of a newspaperman, most surely believes. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Books: Don’t Call Them Coolies
Plenty has been written about the 2008 disaster on K2, when 11 climbers died on that Karakoram peak. There’s also a new documentary, The Summit, just seen at SIFF and likely to return this year. The virtue of Buried in the Sky (Norton, $15.95, new in paperback) is its focus not on the affluent Western expedition members but their porters—chiefly two Nepalese and one Pakistani. Cousins and co-authors Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan conducted many interviews on the humble lives of these men, and Zuckerman trekked to their home villages for further research. Oxygen efficiency at altitude may be a matter of genetics, but the real motivator of high-mountain work is the poverty back home. Buried in the Sky does an admirable job of laying out the numbers: $2.81 is the average wage for a Pakistani worker. Low-altitude climbing porters earn around $9 per day. Far up the glaciers, the high-altitude Sherpas—a sometimes contested term—and other ethnic groups earn hundreds, plus a $1,000 bonus for each client they escort to the top. That international clients pay five and six figures to their guide companies we know, but Zuckerman and Padoan delve into other financial incentives. Did you know that, after 9/11’s adverse effect on tourism in Pakistan, that country cut its peak fee on K2 by half? It was on sale. In 2008, the fee was $12,000—seven times cheaper than the relatively safer Mount Everest. Tonight, Portland writer Zuckerman will discuss the perverse market forces that clogged the fixed lines with too many climbers and praise the Sherpas who saved some of their lives. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER