State of Wonder State of Wonder features interviews and reporting on the latest in visual arts, theater, music, literature, culture and more.
State of Wonder

State of Wonder

From Oregon Public Broadcasting

State of Wonder features interviews and reporting on the latest in visual arts, theater, music, literature, culture and more.More from State of Wonder »

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Typhoon | Alex Gino's KidLit Trans Hero | Arthur And Katherine Bradford

This week we turn our face toward the void with one of Oregon's great painters, the band Typhoon, a mother and son who share a unique creative language, and a new play that explores a new dimension to urban displacement.

Johnny Cash's Folsom At 50, Paul Simon, Chuck Klosterman, Aaron Scott's Greatest Hits

Do we sound a little verklempt this week? Our show is full of fond farewells, from Paul Simon's goodbye tour to our own producer Aaron Scott's departure for green Field Guide pastures. But it's not all tears. Before Aaron goes, he'll tell what he's learned reporting on arts for the better part of a decade. We also chirp with the writer who followed Paul Simon's life story, and mix it up with one of the top practitioners of pop criticism working today. Reconsidered: Johnny Cash's "At Folsom Prison" Album at 50 - 1:08 In May 1968, Johnny Cash made a record that opened America's eyes to life behind bars. But are those songs still relevant today? A group of Oregon musicians and artists, under the name Luther's Boots, are re-staging the concert at prisons around the state to find out. To help fund their Folsom50 tour, they're putting on a concert for those on the outside at Portland's Polaris Hall May 20. Pop Culture Talk with Chuck Klosterman - 8:33 If the first eighteen years of the century have left you gasping for breath, take heart. The post-Avengers, post-Kapernick, post-#MeToo, post-Beyonce era is not just an amazing time for pop culture; it's also a golden age of pop culture critics. Chuck Klosterman is one of the best. His bracing essays on music and sports in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post," "Esquire," and "Grantland." Klosterman will read from his latest book, "Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century," at Powell's in Portland next week. Paul Simon's Farewell Tour - 19:17 This summer concert season is rife with acts doing farewell tours — Joan Baez, Elton John, Yassiin Bey (Mos Def) — but one of the most significant is legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon. His "Homeward Bound Tour" hits the Moda Center May 19. To send him off, we listen back to our interview with Peter Ames Carlin, author of the biography "Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon," at Wordstock 2016. Aaron Scott's Greatest Hits - 30:32 It's our bittersweet duty to inform you that this is State of Wonder producer Aaron Scott's last week on the show. He is moving on to report and produce stories for "Oregon Field Guide." We're totally excited for him and couldn't resist the chance to pull him in front of the mic one more time to talk about some of his favorite moments, and trends he's observed in the regional arts ecosystem as he's reported on it for the better part of a decade.

Johnny Cash's Folsom At 50, Paul Simon, Chuck Klosterman, Aaron Scott's Greatest Hits

May 5: Mark Rothko, Sera Cahoone, Women in Tech, Chris Coleman

Had enough of the status quo? This week's wonders are shaking it up: the greatest modern artist who ever called Portland home, a director who set the bar higher, two friends turning fan-favorite songs upside down, and ladies calling time's up on tech. Painfully Honest Job Descriptions for Women in Tech — 1:15 Backfence PDX is about to welcome some storytellers from the tech world to the MainStage for an evening of home truths on May 12. #MeToo isn't just limited to Silicon Valley. We heard about this in 2016 when we welcomed one of the Backfence storytellers, Megan Bigelow, to our studio. Along with friends Kasey Jones and Amanda Brooks, they helped us rewrite job descriptions for women in the industry. All three say they're in good places with their current employers, but some of their past experiences at other firms, from start-ups to big players, were truly hair-raising. Rothko in Portland — 10:08 This week, Oregon Art Beat premiers a new documentary about a painter who was, arguably, the greatest modern artist ever to call Oregon home. Mark Rothko flew in the face of convention and ultimately helped create a new American vanguard, but his early years as an immigrant kid in Portland were a hard education. We talk with producer Eric Slade about Rothko's Portland roots, and the experiences that influenced his visual vocabulary. Sera Cahoone Flora String Sessions — 16:43 There's a simple honesty to the music of Seattle singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone. Her songs tell intimate stories about love and loss, where acoustic guitar and Cahoone's voice are complimented by the steady percussion that is a holdover from her days as the drummer for Seattle's Band of Horses and the occasional cello, piano or country-tinged slide guitar. It's hard to imagine that her twist on Americana needs any embellishment, but while she was touring with the multi-instrumentalist Alex Guy, they had an idea: Guy would arrange full strings for a number of Cahoone's songs for a big upcoming concert. What started as a one-off show has grown into the new album "The Flora String Sessions." Chris Coleman Says Goodbye to Portland Center Stage — 26:48 After 19 seasons, the artistic director of Portland Center Stage is leaving for a new job in Denver. Chris Coleman brought the city's largest company to new heights, carving out programming space for original works as well as new interpretations of classics, while midwifing the renovation of the Armory into a new multi-stage venue. He also had a busy side hustle advocating with state and local governments for arts funding. Coleman stopped in to talk to Think Out Loud's Dave Miller about his time in Portland.

Apr. 28: Oregon Book Awards: Laini Taylor, Omar El Akkad, Anis Mojgani, Samiya Bashir, Nic...

Today on "State of Wonder," we talk finalists for the Oregon Book Awards in fiction, poetry, graphic literature, and more. "Strange the Dreamer" with Laini Taylor — 1:42 Laini Taylor possesses an epic imagination. In her best-selling "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" series, she dreamed up a world where a girl who has a monster as a foster parent gets caught up in an epic war with not-so-benevolent angels. And now she is starting a new series with "Strange the Dreamer," the story of a day-dreaming librarian who journeys to a fabled land living in the shadow of a war it has yet to recover from. The book received Michael L. Printz Honors for Young Adult lit and is a finalist for the YA Oregon Book Award. "American War" with Omar El Akkad — 11:46 Journalist Omar El Akkad has spent his career covering the Arab Spring in Egypt, military trials at Guantanamo Bay, refugee camps in Afghanistan and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, MO. Now he's poured all of his experiences into his new novel "American War," a story about a second American civil war over fought over fossil fuels and set in a Louisiana that is underwater from rising sea levels. "Field Theories" with Samiya Bashir — 19:36 In her newest book, Samiya Bashir has named her poems after scientific principles like "Plancks Constant" and "Synchronous Rotation." Their verse plumbs the space where theory collides with real life: from the back seat of a taxi cab to jazz clubs, early morning cigarettes, gun violence, and tall tales. Bashir is a creative writing professor at Reed College and a consummate artist who can't be contained by the page. "Field Theories" is a finalist for the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry. "Fetch" With Nicole Georges — 30:45 What do we owe the pets in our lives when they don't make our lives easy? And what can we gain from taking care of these animal companions despite their foibles? These are some of the questions illustrator and comic book artist Nicole Georges asked when writing her graphic memoir "Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home." The book focuses on Georges' symbiotic relationship with a spirited, neurotic and sometimes fearfully aggressive dog named Beija, and it's a contender for the Oregon Book Award for Graphic Literature. "In the Pocket of Small Gods" with Anis Mojgani — 38:34 The poet Anis Mojgani isn't up for one of Literary Arts' Oregon Book Awards — at least not this year — but he is a Literary Arts favorite. He regularly emcees Verselandia, the annual high school poetry slam organized by Literary Arts, and he is himself a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion who tours the country reading and performing. Mojgani's work is known for its optimism and joy, but his newest book,"In the Pockets of Small Gods," is all about vulnerability, particularly as it relates to grief.

Apr. 28: Oregon Book Awards: Laini Taylor, Omar El Akkad, Anis Mojgani, Samiya Bashir, Nic...

Apr. 21: Design Week Portland with Swift Agency, Bora Architecture, project, and more

We went live this week for Design Week Portland at the hottest new event space in Northeast Portland: the Nightwood. And we invited some exciting people in architecture and development to talk about homes and work spaces designed by women. Sit back for a deep-dive at the big-picture issues shaping the built environment. [slideshow: design-week-at-the-nightwood-society,left,5ada733e9245030158d5cd95] Cultivating Creative Space at the Nightwood - 1:55 Michelle Battista is the founder of the Nightwood Society, the collective of women creating a safe space for artists and designers to come together to learn and share their skills. Their unique event space, the Nightwood, is hosting parties of every kind and offering ways to widen your foodie skill set. Some of the events the Nightwood Society have put on include tastings for Oregon-grown olive oil, top-drawer chefs cooking to raise money for Puerto Rico, wine tastings that spill over into secret locations — even classes on how to butcher a hog or chicken. Battista talks to us about founding Nightwood and her ethos. Designing With Women: Anyeleh Hallová and Amy Donohue - 7:57 There's no end to new development in Portland right now. But many of those impressive new buildings can look different, depending on who's doing the looking. The fields of real estate development and architecture are mostly male. We talked to two people about how the design process is different with women involved. Anyeleh Hallová is partner at the Portland firm project. Her latest act involves a high-rise made of wood. Amy Donohue is a principal with Bora Architects. She has a special feel for the places where people learn. They spoke to us about projects they worked on. Tranformative Office Space at Swift - 26:26 Portland is full of successful design agencies, but few shine as brightly as Swift. Started by Alicia McVey and Liz Valentine in 2006, it has grown to 140 people, 65 percent of whom are women. Of course, a fabulous company needs a fabulous office, and two years back, Swift set their eyes on an old awning factory in Northwest industrial Portland. We spoke with McVey and Swift's Chief Talent Officer Maren Elliott about designing the building, and what's different in an office where architecture deconstructs hierarchy. Reconstituted Sugar: Hacienda CDC Creates Las Adelitas - 40:43 A blighted corner of the Cully neighborhood is about to get a big makeover. Hacienda CDC is creating a new multi-generational affordable housing complex on the site of a long-standing strip joint. Rose Ojeda, Director of Housing Development for Hacienda CDC, talks to us about the new project, designed with women and their families in mind.

Apr. 21: Design Week Portland with Swift Agency, Bora Architecture, project, and more

Apr. 14: Soul'd Out Vs. Coachella, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Shayla Lawson & Frank Ocean, and more

This week on "State of Wonder," Soul'd Out sues Cochella, three native playwrights soar at Oregon's biggest theaters, poet Shayla Lawson's love letter to Frank Ocean, and the quiet heartache of Black Belt Eagle Scout. Soul'd Out Festival Sues Coachella A David and Goliath showdown might soon come to a federal courtroom near you. This week, Portland's homegrown Soul'd Out Music Festival filed a suit against one of the west coast's giants: the Coachella Festival in Indio California and its affiliates. Soul'd Out alleged the big guy is violating anti-trust law through anti-competitive practices by barring any bands playing Coachella from playing another concert within 1300 miles for five months — basically ruling out any other West Coast shows — unless it's with one of Coachella's affiliate promoters. Shayla Lawson's Love Poem to Frank Ocean - 4:23 Some artists move us, and some artists move us to make new things of our own. Frank Ocean was already one of the hottest names in music for his effortlessly brilliant lyrics and non-conventional musical collaging, but when he started writing songs about loving other men, as well as women, he blew open some long-standing music industry taboos. Just as Ocean has inverted his musical form, Shayla Lawson's new book of verse, "I Think I'm Ready To See Frank Ocean," pays tribute to the iconoclastic figure in soul by offering up some very different ideas about poetry. Oregon Stages Align for Three Indigenous Playwrights - 18:21 There's been an incredible alignment in Oregon theater this month. Three of our biggest and best professional theaters are staging works by three contemporary indigenous playwrights, who all happen to be women. Mary Katherine Nagle's play, "Manahatta" is onstage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival through Oct. 27. Delanna Studi is performing her autobiographical one-woman about retracing the Trail of Tears with her father, "And So We Walked," at Portland Center Stage through May 13. And Artists' Repertory Theatre is presenting "The Thanksgiving Play", by Larissa Fasthorse. This. Has. Not. Happened before.All three playwrights arranged to be in Portland this week. They did some panel discussions. But we could not resist inviting them in to talk. They've been running in the same circles forever, to the point where it was hard for them to say where they first met. The Sonic Judo of Black Belt Eagle Scout - 42:02 Katherine Paul's musical journey has taken her from pow wows on the Swinomish Reservation in Washington to grunge-drenched rock clubs, but it was on her own that she truly found her voice. Last year, she released her solo debut, "Mother of My Children," as Black Belt Eagle Scout. She plays all the instruments on the record. Of course, Paul, who goes by KP, is no stranger to Portland music lovers. She's been a member of several bands, including Genders and Forest Park.

Apr. 14: Soul'd Out Vs. Coachella, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Shayla Lawson & Frank Ocean, and more

Apr. 7: Mohsin Hamid, Chris Smither, Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Manahatta

Stories often emerge from scribblings in notebooks. But we also find them tumbling out of pantries, rolled amid rumpled shirts in suitcases and spewing forth from text messages with friends. This week we feast on offerings from brilliant writers and one man who's spent 50 years honing his songwriting craft. Mohsin Hamid's Mystical Exits —1:35 We knew author Mohsin Hamid's novel, "Exit West," was going to be a good read. His prior best-sellers create emotionally rich worlds that create pathways between global events and personal revelation. But when we realized "Exit West" has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and chosen as this year's Multnomah County Library Everybody Reads selection, we went running for the bookstore. A graceful love story about two refugees traveling the world through magical portals, it unpacks some crushing realities of the global refugee crisis, without losing sight of the personal losses of his characters. We're listening this week to an excerpt of Think Out Loud's full interview with Hamid, recorded live at Literary Arts. Call Him Lucky: Songwriter Chris Smither's Lessons From the Road —12:52 For 50 years, singer-songwriter Chris Smither has been honing his craft. Smither grew up in New Orleans, then moved between Paris, Mexico and the South, before eventually settling in New England. That wide map seems to give his songs a fluidity, but it's the southern influence that really gives his songs their depth and color. Smother was in Portland for a recent date at the Alberta Rose Theater. opbmusic caught up with him for a pre-show soundcheck and conversation with singer-songwriter Robin Bacior. Smither's new record is "Call Me Lucky." Process, Past, and Presents with Stacey Tran — 20:22 Poet Stacey Tran has a vibrant writing process. In addition to getting verse down on paper, she also collages words, phrases, and fragments in ways that may or may not end when her poems go to publication. For her new poetry collection, "Soap for the Dogs" (Gramma Press), Tran committed to paper prose poems, fake haiku, as well as experimental forms. A student of language, fluent in English and Vietnamese, she delights in how we use words and how we change them. Tran tells us about some of the touchstones for her work. Sitting Around A Tender Table — 33:26 When Stacey Tran is not writing poems, she's making space for others to tell their stories. It's been a year since she first invited friends for a pot-luck style session of storytelling, with an emphasis on family, food and identity. Tender Table has become a hub for women, femmes, and gender non-binary people to find community. This week, Stacey invited two of her favorite storytellers from the series, Mercedes Orozco (former director of UNA Gallery) and Leslie Stevenson for a slightly-condensed (but very tasty) version. World Premiere of "Manahatta" at OSF — 43:11 Oregon Shakespeare Festival is premiering a new play this spring by Mary Katherine Nagle — a playwright, a formidable lawyer, and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. It's the story of a securities trader dealing with her own indigenous history, while her family struggles to hold onto their home during the Great Recession. "Manahatta" draws fascinating parallels between colonial American history and the financial crisis. Liam Moriarty of Jefferson Public Radio takes us behind the scenes in Ashland. Portland Tropical Gardens, A Small Correction — 49:34 A couple of weeks ago on the show, we misidentified some of the artists working on the Portland Tropical Gardens. Xi Jie Ng, Michael Stevenson Jr, Erika Dedini, and Shawn Creeden are graduates of different programs within Portland State University's School of Art and Design. Rachel Hines is a Senior Instructor in Art Practices at PSU. Also, Ralph Pugay is not teaching in the Art and Social Practice program; he is a visiting professor of Art Practice. OPB regrets the error.

Apr. 7: Mohsin Hamid, Chris Smither, Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Manahatta

Leni Zumas's Dystopian Vision | Artist Rep's Big Gift | Remembering Bend's Arts Champion

We've got one hot read for you imagining an alternative future for American women, plus news from Portland and Central Oregon. Shuck off those gardening gloves and sit a spell!

Leni Zumas's Dystopian Vision | Artist Rep's Big Gift | Remembering Bend's Arts Champion

Hamilton In Portland | Laura Veirs | Willy Vlautin | Portland Tropical Garden

Just in time for the last excruciatingly gray days of March, we've found a slew of artists making wonderfully reflective work, directing our energy toward each other. Dive in for restorative thinking from Laura Veirs, a blast of curative chlorophyll in a pop-up installation, and a long-awaited local staging of the hottest ticket on Broadway.

Hamilton In Portland | Laura Veirs | Willy Vlautin | Portland Tropical Garden

Mar. 17: Helio Sequence, Holly Andres, Kelli Schaefer, The Art of Prosthetics

This week on "State of Wonder," we get live music from Helio Sequence and Kelli Schaefer, travel the country with photographer Holly Andres, look at the design of prosthetic limbs, and harness the powers of karaoke to learn a language. Karaoke Has A New Role: Teaching Tool - 1:33 What's the best way to learn a language? Some people might take a class or read a book, but our vote goes towards music, which is exactly what Salish teachers are using to introduce their Native American language to new speakers. Every year, a conference that celebrates Salish, a language spoken by many tribes across the Northwest, culminates in an annual Karaoke Contest in Spokane, WA. Contestants have to translate a song and perform it in front of judges. Our correspondent Emily Schwing was backstage at the contest this year. Museums Are Displaying Native Artifacts To Tell A More Complete Story - 6:01 Language isn't the only facet of Northwest indigenous culture that's getting focused attention right now. The region's museum curators are working to update their exhibits in a way that both modernizes stories of indigenous people and tells them more truthfully. But what does that mean? Emily Schwing visited two Northwest museums to find out. Photographer Holly Andres - 10:24 The photo exhibition "Dreamers of Oregon" features big, dramatic black and white portraits of young men and women whose lives are really, really complicated right now. It went on view this week and is making the rounds in Washington and Multnomah Counties — starting at Pacific University, moving to Portland City Hall and other spots. The photographer of this exhibit, Holly Andres, describes herself as more of a farmer than a hunter: rather than capturing moments of serendipity, like a hunter would, Andres creates them. She builds a set, casts characters, and styles the lighting around her subjects, using as much intention and direction as a filmmaker might. What results is an emotional story richly saturated with color and ornamental backdrops. Her work's been gaining momentum for years. She was shortlisted for a big industry award, the Ellie for Best Feature Photography, for an incredible spread that appeared in "New York" magazine. Opbmusic Turns 10: A Look Back At Sessions With Helio Sequence [21:42] & Kelli Schaefer [29:05] If you're a regular State of Wonder listener, you know we partner up all the time with our friends at opbmusic. For 10 years now, they've been spotlighting the best in local and national bands, often bringing groups in for a studio session just before they break big nationally. Everyone from Big Thief and Jay Som to, most recently, Haley Heynderickxx. To celebrate their 10th birthday, they're organizing a concert at the Crystal Ballroom on March 23 with a couple of their favorites: Helio Sequence, Kelli Schaefer, and Natasha Kmeto. To prep you for the big show, we decided to spend a few minutes listening back to those sessions. Tickets for the show are on sale now. Fixing the Arts Tax - 36:34 Collection rates the city's Arts Education and Access Fund, better known as the Arts Tax, haven't been great since the tax's inception in 2012, in large part because the terms voters agreed to have required the Revenue Bureau to spend no more than 5 percent of gross collections over a five-year period. Now Portland City Council has removed that collection cap, although it will revisit collections costs every year. The revisions also expand some exemptions for the tax. The arts tax is due this year on April 17. The Design Element of Prosthetics - 38:13 When designers talk about designing for humans, most often we think about things that will add a little to your life: a shoe that will make you run faster, a mobile app that will make your website easier to navigate. But some design can truly transform the human experience, and nowhere is that more apparent than at a new exhibit called "Bespoke Bodies: The Design And Craft Of Prosthetics." It's...

Mar. 17: Helio Sequence, Holly Andres, Kelli Schaefer, The Art of Prosthetics

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