Agenda: The Week’s Recommended Events


Twyla Tharp

The stereotype is that dancers don’t really talk, but Twyla Tharp blows that assumption away the moment she opens her mouth. Alongside making some of the most radical works in the dance canon, she’s written frankly and thoughtfully about her creative practice (see her autobiography Push Comes to Shove). Those two skill sets come together in tonight’s lecture/rehearsal showcasing her newest work for PNB, Waiting at the Station. Tharp is one of the smartest people working in dance today—you’ll come away with your eyes full of astonishing movement and your head full of ideas. (If tickets sell out or you’re out of town, PNB will live-stream her talk via its website.) The full Air Twyla program, also including Brief Fling and the return of Nine Sinatra Songs, begins Friday and runs through October 6. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 441-2424, $25. 6:30 p.m.


Peter Bagge

How did local cartoonist and writer Peter Bagge come to the subject of Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story (Drawn and Quarterly, $21.95)? Only because “she changed the course of human civilization,” he writes in the afterword. Yet he also notes how the once-controversial Sanger (1879–1966), after winning the fight for birth control, became a posthumous casualty of the abortion wars. Since she founded Planned Parenthood, Bagge notes, the pro-life camp has smeared her as a eugenicist and even racist (among her avid audiences for birth-control lectures were the poor, immigrants, blacks, and even once a ladies’-auxiliary arm of the KKK). Born into a large Irish Catholic family, Sanger was radicalized early. In her amazingly eventful life, she worked with Emma Goldman, took lovers including H.G. Wells, was arrested dozens of times, and was among the most famous women on the planet. (It’s worth remembering too that she began her advocacy for women’s rights before women even had the right to vote.) I think Sanger also has a vague kinship with Buddy in Bagge’s Hate comics of the grunge era. She’s a rebel, per the title, and almost always outraged about one thing or another. Though the word didn’t exist during her early life, Sanger was a feminist who ever raged against injustice and orthodoxy. Whatever the cause, she was quick to argue—and that’s a compliment in Bagge’s book. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, $5. 7:30 p.m.

Ride the Night

Who’s the equivalent of Alan Ladd today? Or, in the unlikely event of a biopic, who would play him? Brad Pitt’s too handsome, Matt Damon’s too tall, and few leading men these days are content to simply watch a scene as if he weren’t the star of it. Ladd (1913–1964) has a kind of do-less performance aesthetic; his career was ending just as the emotionalism of the Method swept into Hollywood, so he never really went out of style. In This Gun for Hire (1942), which begins SAM’s annual film noir series, Ladd plays a hired gun blackmailed by his employer. This proves to be a very bad idea, since Ladd’s icy killer will have his implacable vengeance. Veronica Lake memorably co-stars with Ladd in the first of their four elegant pairings. The Thursday-night retrospective series continues through December 5 with titles including Fritz Lang’s M, Kiss Me Deadly, and The Limey. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, $63–$68 series, $8 individual. 7:30 p.m.


Linda Ronstadt

It is tragic that going to see Linda Ronstadt tonight does not come with the hope that you might hear her sing in that powerful alto about being cheated and mistreated on “When Will I Be Loved?” But that is the case, and unfortunately it’s not only because the 67-year-old artist is appearing to promote a book rather than an album. It also happens she can no longer sing, due to the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Ronstadt is still a transformational figure to behold, though, and her new memoir, Simple Dreams (Simon & Schuster, $26), reveals why. She chronicles her career from singing in her Tucson home to joining the late-’60s folk-rock movement at the Troubadour in West Hollywood to leading a band that would become the Eagles. Parkinson’s isn’t part of Ronstadt’s musical story and rise to fame (the diagnosis came after she finished the manuscript); neither is any of that mistreating or cheating. But there is plenty of material from the legend who ruled the ’70s as a crossover queen, sharing stages with the likes of Aaron Neville, Ricky Skaggs, and even Placido Domingo. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, $30–$35. 7 p.m.


Nicholson Baker

Sometimes you feel a writer is saying “This one is for me,” as in Nicholson Baker’s obsessive past explorations of sex (House of Holes), politics (Checkpoint), and even the fate of library card catalogs (Double Fold). But Baker also has his generous side, and Traveling Sprinkler (Blue Rider, $26.95) feels like he has the reader foremost in his mind. It’s not a major new novel; it’s actually an add-on to his 2009 The Anthologist, whose poet/hero, Paul Chowder, is now an even more solitary and eccentric writer—one who worries about hardening into middle-age solitude and eccentricity. (A mid-life crisis results, leading to expensive cigars and laptop-brewed dance music.) Paul is, like his creator, a musician-turned-writer who’s very set in his ways. And his ways, like those of his creator, are keenly attuned to description. Paul is obsessed with Debussy’s “The Sunken Cathedral,” from whose chords “you can see the smoky blue water and the decayed pillars of the ruined church and the long blue fishes steering themselves down the nave and poking their snouts at the lettuce seaweeds.” But he’s also living in the now, pining for his ex-girlfriend Roz, going to the gym, and binging on pop culture. (Of The Office, Paul declares, “Dwight is simply insufferable.”) As in all Baker’s writing, this daily minutia matters, and Paul’s quotidian quirks help him endure loneliness and aging. They also bring him, and us, closer to that rare pleasure in contemporary fiction—a happy ending. (Warren Etheredge will interview Baker on stage.) Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, $5. 6:30 p.m.

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