The Pick List: This Week's Recommended Events

Wednesday, Sept. 3

Ken Burns
Sure, you could wait until next Sunday the 14th to watch the first installment of Ken Burns’ new seven-part documentary on PBS, or you could hear him talk about it here tonight with local New York Times contributor and author Timothy Egan. Burns will discuss and show clips from The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, an extended chronicle of the famous clan that begins with Theodore Roosevelt (who figures prominently in Egan’s recent Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, his acclaimed biography of Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis). Burns’ project begins with TR’s 1858 birth and spans a century to the 1962 death of Eleanor Roosevelt, who outlived her famous husband by nearly two decades. By treating all three figures in aggregate, Burns gets to traverse American history through four wars, industrialization, the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, the Cold War, and even the nascent Civil Rights movement, Eleanor being an early proponent of racial equality. That’s a lot of material to chew, but Burns has always been a master of engrossing long-form TV. Here again he uses photography, newsreels, expert commentary, and period documents—Meryl Streep reads from Eleanor’s letters and diaries; Edward Herrmann does his patented FDR; and Paul Giamatti voices TR—for this sweeping survey. The whole series runs 14 hours—brief, relative to the period Burns covers so thoroughly. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), $30. 7 p.m.

Mash Up!
Conferences and conventions are usually something we avoid; all those swarms of visitors at the Convention Center with their logoed golf shirts, pleated Dockers, and name-badges-on-lanyards give us the hives. But the Western Arts Alliance is a much different sort of gathering, since it draws the promoters, bookers, and theatrical managers who keep our stages full—chiefly with touring shows—from San Diego to Seattle. So to entertain these jaded backstage types, who’ve seen everything new under the sun, Mash Up! is a two-night cabaret featuring seven acts each evening, and we locals can attend, too. The roster is mostly drawn from Northwest acts, including Jennifer Jasper, who performs colorful monologues based on her feral family upbringing (being one of five girls); Waxie Moon, the indefatigable “boylesque” dancer and choreographer; Doktor Kaboom, who mixes science and stand-up; and something called The Death of Brian: A Zombie Odyssey, about a guy trying to keep the spark alive with his undead wife. Surprise guests are promised on both nights, and the Bullitt Cabaret offers a full bar. All conventions should be this entertaining. ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, $10–$20. 8 p.m. (Repeats Thurs.)

Thursday, Sept. 4

Seahawks vs. Packers
The whole world—or damn close to it—will be watching tonight when the NFL opens the 2014 season in Seattle. That’s the nature of pro football these days: In a culture obsessed with sports, the NFL reigns supreme. Of course, within the NFL, the Super Bowl champion Seahawks reign supreme, which will make our opener against Green Bay—the Hawks’ first real game since trouncing the Broncos in February—the most celebratory pigskin orgy Seattle has ever seen. Expect the “12s” to be louder, drunker, and more crazed than ever before. Also, expect a good game. It’s been 709 days since Aaron Rodgers and co. last came to town, resulting in a Monday-night contest that ended in the hands of replacement refs and the now-infamous “Fail Mary” play. Don’t think the cheeseheads have forgotten; the Packers will be out for revenge. The Seahawks, meanwhile, will be out to remind everyone why—despite last week’s preseason miscue against the Raiders—they’re the best team in football. CenturyLink Field, 800 Occidental Ave. S., $72 and up. 5:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 5

First Thursday on Friday
Yes, you read that correctly. Because of the Seahawks’ home opener (above), and because of the belief that painters and face-painters cannot mix (like matter and anti-matter, stripes and plaids, socks and Tevas), the first downtown art walk of the fall season has been punted—sorry!—to Friday. But are these two clans, aesthetes and superfans, so dissimilar? Both are obsessive, insular cultures that worship their heroes. Both march ritualistically en masse toward their hallowed ground (the Tashiro Kaplan Building and the C’link, respectively). And both imbibe beforehand (box wine versus kegs). Tailgating remains a key distinction, however: Pioneer Square parking lots on Thursday will be filled with blue-and-green banners, barbecues, and the smell of grilling meat. (The alleys will be filled with a different sort of scent.) And the scene after the Packers game will be rowdier, extending to downtown bars until closing time. Tonight, however, the proceedings will be tamer and cheaper, unless you opt to fork over some cash for local art, which we always encourage. Virtually all the downtown galleries will be debuting new shows, from Roq la Rue in SoDo up to Lisa Harris in Pike Place Market; see page 19 for a full overview of First Thursday attractions. Downloadable map and info: Free. 5–8 p.m.

Fall Kick-Off

Performers in Holt's Duet Love. Photo via

Not every doubleheader happens at Safeco Field—Velocity Dance Center is doubling up for the first week of the new dance season. Portland choreographer Tahni Holt has been staging her mesmerizing new Duet Love with a great Seattle/Stumptown cast, including the peripatetic Ezra Dickinson. It runs alongside Velocity’s annual opening salvo, the Fall Kick-Off show. Packed with highlights from the past year and sneak peeks of the upcoming season, this is the boisterous sibling to Holt’s subtler sister. (Through Sun.) Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., 325-8773, velocitydance $17–$50. 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 6

NEPO 5K Don’t Run
For most 5Ks, the reward is at the end—a sense of satisfaction and maybe a free water bottle with a Clif Bar tied to it. The NEPO 5K, however, plops rewards throughout the entire course: 3.1 miles of local art installations and performances that the organizers don’t want you to speed past (hence the deliberate event name). Starting in the ID and ending at NEPO House on Beacon Hill, participants will take the most literal art walk of their lives, winding through site-specific works by photographer Megumi Shauna Arai, video-game landscape artist Cable Griffith, sculptural designer Greg Lundgren, illumination artist Rebecca Cummins, and a million others (well, 50-plus). The procession ends with an evening concert organized by the fine people at local label Help Yourself Records, including Chastity Belt, DJ Sharlese, and a surprise guest. The only thing better than experiencing art indoors is experiencing art outdoors for miles and miles. Start: Hing Hay Park, 423 Maynard Ave. S., $15 (children free). Registration: noon–3 p.m. Art walk: 1–6 p.m. Music and performances: 3–9 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 8

Life Itself

Ebert as a young journalist in the '60s. Art Shay/Magnolia Pictures

For the last 25 years of his life, Roger Ebert was the most famous film critic in America. In his final decade—he died in April 2013—Ebert became famous for something else. He faced death in a public way, with frankness and grit. This new documentary about Ebert focuses perhaps too much on the cancer fight. This is understandable; director Steve James—whose Hoop Dreams Ebert tirelessly championed—had touching access to the critic and his wife Chaz during what turned out to be Ebert’s last weeks. It’s a blunt, stirring portrait of illness. The movie’s no whitewash. The most colorful sections cover Ebert’s young career as a Chicago newspaper writer, which included hard drinking and blowhardiness. Some friends acknowledge that he might not have been all that nice back then, with a nasty streak that peeked out in some of his reviews and in his partnership with TV rival Gene Siskel. Life Itself gives fair time to those who contended that the Siskel and Ebert TV show weakened film criticism. Ebert’s own writing sometimes fills the screen, along with clips of a few of his favorite films, yet this isn’t sufficient to explore Ebert’s movie devotion, which was authentic. Still, this is a fine bio that admirably asks as many questions as it answers. SIFF Film Center (Seattle Center), 324-9996, $6–$11. 7 p.m.

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