Best Things To Do

The 32 Best Things To Do in Seattle This Week: March 9-15, 2020

Last Days of the Tsars, the Ballard Chili Cook-Off Competition, and More Arts & Culture Critics' Picks
March 9, 2020
Don't miss Last Days of the Tsars, an immersive theater production about the twilight of the Romanovs. In light of COVID-19, the production company assures guests: "With a maximum of 60 audience members a night, our house size is well below the 250-person cap in Washington State, and our guests are spread across three floors of the Stimson-Green Mansion for the majority of the night as well." (Joe Iano)

Our music critics have already chosen the 37 best music shows this week, but now it's our arts and culture critics' turn to recommend the best events in their areas of expertise. Here are their picks in every genre—from a reading with Sierra Nelson and Kary Wayson to The Moth Seattle GrandSLAM, and from the Capitol Hill Art Walk to the Ballard Chili Cook-Off Competition. See them all below, and find even more events on our complete Things To Do calendar.

Jump to: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday
PSA: As you're making plans to go out in Seattle, remember that it's important to always wash your hands and stay home if you're sick. In light of the coronavirus, King County Public Health is recommending that people at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible. Several events in Seattle have been canceled already, so it's a good idea to double-check event websites for cancellations or postponements before leaving the house.



Jessica Cantlin: Latitude
The eye of fine-art photographer and traveler Jessica Cantlin is exacting, creating compositions that favor grandiosity, scale, and pattern. In her solo show Latitude, Cantlin will be presenting photos from her recent travels to Iceland and Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil. Though the terrains of the countries could not be more different (the craggy, rocky, snow-filled landscapes of Iceland versus the pure white sands and glittering blue stretches of Brazil), through the use of light and color, the series deals with the effect weather has on our experience of different places in the world. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Tuesday



Raja Feather Kelly: UGLY
Raja Feather Kelly is here to celebrate the many nuances of black queer joy in UGLY, which debuted at Brooklyn's Bushwick Starr in 2018. In a nod to a line from an Anne Sexton poem, Kelly waltzes onto a bright-yellow stage wearing only a few articles of bright-yellow clothing. He moves to pulsing electronic music from Emily Auciello "while interpreting the words of an essay he wrote," according to an interview with the New York Times. The show is being brought to town as part of Washington Ensemble Theatre's GUSH series. RICH SMITH



Sierra Nelson and Kary Wayson
Here we have two wizards working with two different but complementary kinds of magic. Sierra Nelson writes bioluminescent lines using various personas and scientific guises to illuminate the dark corners of melancholy and loneliness. You can find her latest in The Lachrymose Report, which is the only poetry book I know of with an index that's also a poem in its own right. Kary Wayson runs a tight ship—terse, musical lyrics that unspool whole logics from a single word or sound. Seattle poet Kary Wayson's second collection, The Slip, comes 11 years after her debut, American Husband, which itself came long after she'd been working the reading circuits as one of the country's most skillful lyric poets. For the sake of conversation, I'll risk what the book doesn't and reduce it to one narrative. The Slip's speaker has reached the end of longing for love in the way you long for it in your wild 20s (and your even wilder 30s). She now reflects on what good any of that longing did her, whether she'll ever long again, whether longing means being alive, and, if so, what that says about what she thinks living means. RICH SMITH


Last Days of the Tsars
At the turn of the 20th century, a massive class struggle in Russia was reaching a boiling point. The old saying, “God is in heaven and the Tsar is in St. Petersburg”—meaning  royal rulers don’t truly touch the lives of Russian citizens—was quickly going out of fashion as the 300-year-old Romanov empire attempted to save itself by violently suppressing revolutions and carrying out horrific pogroms against Jews. Meanwhile, the empire was losing major battles and influence abroad. Any of this sounding
familiar? Witness, a NYC-based producer of immersive theater, has condensed the twilight of the Romanovs into a single performance set in the august environs of the Stimson-Green mansion on First Hill. The choose-your-own-adventure production allows you to observe this nauseatingly relevant story from the vantage of Rasputin, Anastacia, a servant tired of paying a billion rubles for eggs, or any other character you wish. Go with a group of friends, take notes, and come prepared for class the next day with suggestions on how to bring down an empire. RICH SMITH
No Saturday performance


Jacob A. Riis: How the Other Half Lives
Riis was a Danish immigrant who worked as an early "muckraking" newspaper reporter in turn-of-the-century New York City. He got his start as a police reporter in 1873, accompanying law-enforcement officials into slums in the Lower East Side filled with immigrants and poor and working-class people. The traveling exhibition shares its name with Riis's popular 1890 book How the Other Half Lives, an extension of his photojournalistic work. While the charge of the Nordic Museum isn't limited to the display and preservation of art—they also educate on Nordic heritage—the quantity of explanatory wall text overwhelms the photography. And then there are the issues of Riis's work itself. As the show is quick to acknowledge, Riis's methods and attitudes toward immigrants and poor people weren't always ethical or nuanced. But Riis's influence is not to be disputed, and How the Other Half Lives gives us a glimpse into his legacy. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Sunday

Legacy: Social Justice in Contemporary Danish Photojournalism
Alongside Jacob Riis: How the Other Half Lives, this exhibition will highlight current-day Danish photographers who take Riis's mission of documentation of social injustice across the globe: Lasse Bak Mejlvang, who provides visual evidence of "poverty and pollution"; Sofie Amalie Klougart, with a series on an immigrant "welcome center" in Sicily that's more like a prison; Magnus Cederlund, who addresses homelessness in the wealthy city of Copenhagen; and more.
Closing Sunday



Prime Rib Dinner
For one night, feast on ribs cooked low and slow in massive smokers and order up some tasty sides.



The Angel in the House
During the Victorian era, Coventry Patmore wrote a poem describing the ideal wife as an "angel in the house" who lives to please her man, as it were. Nobody liked the poem at the time, but it became popular around the turn of the century, and its ideology was pervasive enough to spur Virginia Woolf to write a whole essay collection critiquing it. "Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer," she wrote. Quadruple-threat Sara Porkalob, who has built her career on a biographical trilogy about her cool family, said her love of Victorian-era literature and her passionate agreement with Woolf's takedown inspired her riff on this cursed character. Like her Dragon Cycle, The Angel in the House will serve as the first installment of a new play cycle based on "magic, the occult, revenge, blood, and sacrifice." Unlike the Dragon Cycle, the show is a thriller that looks like a murder mystery at first but ends up being something else entirely. Major reasons to be excited include local stars Ray Tagavilla and Ayo Tushinde, plus the joy of watching a writer/director exploring completely new territory. RICH SMITH

An ambitious young man in 1920s Paris works his way up in a ritzy nightclub in Can Can's latest kitschy-glam, flesh-baring, plot-driven revue.

She Loves Me
You know the story: two people who hate each other in real life are unwittingly in love with each other in a different realm. It's based on the same 1937 play, Parfumerie, that Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail was based on. In She Loves Me, which is set in the 1930s, the romantic leads are Amalia Balash (Allison Standley) and Georg Nowack (Eric Ankrim). They spar in the perfume shop where they both work and while corresponding anonymously as pen pals connected through a Lonely Hearts Club. No one is as happy as they seem in She Loves Me and everyone seems to be hiding something. Maybe love could fix all this. Through the constant hum of music that serves as the heartbeat to She Loves Me, each character gets a breath of individuality. There are no showstoppers here. Some of the characters shine, and others fade into the background, all while telling us what they yearn for, or what they think they yearn for. Mostly, that's love. NATHALIE GRAHAM



Ballard Chili Cook-Off Competition
The Ballard Fire Department—the unofficial chili experts of Seattle, as it were—will judge this Best in Show chili cook-off featuring meaty, bean-filled soups from local celebs Duart Hillas, Brad Benson (Stoup Brewing), Diarmuid Cullen (Conor Byrne), Ethan Stowell (Stowell Restaurants), and Linnea Scott (Sawyer). Admission gets you a chili flight, with beers available for purchase from Stoup. 

Plant Loving Chef Dinners
As mainstream interest in a plant-based diet increases, both for reasons of health and sustainability, Seattle is slowly but surely getting more vegan options, from more widely available meat substitutes like the Impossible Burger to the trendy dairy-free ice cream at Frankie & Jo's. Vegan chef Makini Howell (who once deployed her culinary skills as a personal chef for Stevie Wonder) has been poised at the forefront of the movement for years with her Plum Bistro restaurant group. With her new "plant-loving" chef dinner series, award-winning local chefs will prepare meatless meals of their own. Tonight's event features a vegan twist on modern Korean cuisine by chef Rachel Yang of Joule and Revel. JULIANNE BELL


Queens of Adventure in: Blood of the Vampire Queen!
Drag artists will embrace their nerdy sides in this live-action role-play adventure rife with "gaudy gothic eleganza, creepy creatures, and sinister spirits seeking succor."


The Moth Seattle GrandSLAM
Listeners of The Moth know the deal: each storyslammer has a short period of time to tell a compelling story, whether poignant, funny, tragic, or edifying. This night's raconteurs are the top slammers from the previous ten months, so they're sure to be unmissable.


Capitol Hill Art Walk
Every second Thursday, rain or shine, the streets of Capitol Hill are filled with tipsy art lovers checking out galleries and special events. Check out our critics' picks for this month here.



On the subject of George Orwell’s literary masterpiece, I stand with Kristen Stewart, who was unfairly maligned for calling the book, “a love story of epic, epic, epic proportion.” Though I, too, take issue with all three deployments of the word “epic” in this context, Stewart is absolutely correct in her analysis. Sure, the book has retained its currency long after its titular date, but, for me, the intensity of its love story and the richness of its description of human sensation has always outshined the prescience of its politics. Radial Theater Project, the local troupe producing Tim Robbins's theatrical adaptation of the story, is well positioned to highlight those qualities with a fantastic cast in the cozy theater at 18th and Union. RICH SMITH


Nikita Ares: CHADA!
Last year, Seattle-based artist Nikita Ares adorned white-walled galleries and blank front doors with her molten, colorful, abstract compositions. And this year, she's back with a new exhibition, CHADA! at Glass Box Gallery, warming up our drenched, shivering Seattle souls with her bright and immersive landscapes that are practically visual permutations of "!!!!!!!!!!!" In an Instagram post, Ares says that the title of her show, "Chada!" is a term uniquely used by Kagayanons, people from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, her hometown. It means "wow/nice." The 25-plus paintings and drawings in the gallery embody that exclamation. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Saturday



Gabriel Rutledge Comedy Night Live
In a recent interview, Central Comedy Show's Henry Stoddard and Isaac Novak singled out Gabriel Rutledge as perhaps the Seattle area's funniest comic—a view reinforced by Rutledge winning the Seattle International Comedy Competition and his frequent major TV appearances. Working in the familiar territory of family life and its countless frustrations and sorrows, Rutledge finds many quirky angles from which to squeeze distinctive humor out of everyday situations. His bit about parents desperately trying to snatch a couple of spare minutes to have sex might ring all too true for many. Happiness Isn't Funny is the title of his book and the guiding principle behind his unerring humor. DAVE SEGAL

Ten Percent Luck
Laugh machine improv hosts Yeah Okay will do their comedic thang with instruction and suggestions by a featured stand-up comic.


Red Light Night
The luxe, leather-clad Valtesse performers will pay homage to the working girls of Seattle at an underground Pioneer Square cabaret venue.



Kate Willett
Horndog bisexual humor reaches a climax in California comic Kate Willett’s sets. Her delivery is super-casual and even-keeled, which enables her punch lines to hit with a deceptive power. Hear Willett break down the differences between West Coast and East Coast people and the romantic entanglements that can occur at Burning Man, and roar with laughter. She’s the type of stand-up comedian who can hold her own with Margaret Cho, with whom she’s toured.  DAVE SEGAL



Minority Retort in Seattle Presents: Keith Johnson
In an interview I conducted with Central Comedy Show co-host Isaac Novak, he observed that most comedy bills in Seattle still consist of about 80-percent white males. One imagines that is also the case in Portland—or perhaps it’s even greater, seeing as the Rose City’s population has a higher Caucasian percentage than the Emerald City’s. With this statistic in mind, Portland-based stand-up comedy event Minority Retort offers a platform to redress this imbalance by championing comics of color. DAVE SEGAL

Shot Prov
Well, this sounds a little dangerous: Improvisers violate secret rules (secret from them, that is) as they play and must take a shot every time they do so. Poor things! After they reach their limit, they're booted off the stage, presumably for their own safety.


The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director
"Prestige horror" isn't new; great directors have worked in the genre since the existence of the motion picture. Esteemed local critic Robert Horton will head this screening series of horror masterpieces, like tonight's screening of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.


Ballard Breweries Present St. Pat's Parade O' Pints
Ride Hale's Ales' double-decker bus around Ballard, with stops at all 11 of the neighborhood's breweries, and try specialty beers. Your $5 "bus fare" will be donated to the Seattle Firefighters Pipes and Drums.


Georgetown Art Attack
Once a month, the art scene of the tiny airport hamlet of Georgetown ATTACKS all passersby. In more literal terms, it's the day of art openings and street wonderment. If the westerly locations are too far, there's a free Art Ride! Check out our critics' picks for this month here.



Elise Peterson, Lavett Ballard, Jamaal Hasef, Lisa Jarrett
The Central District home-turned-arts-center Wa Na Wari continues its mission of exhibiting exciting black artists with video collage work by writer and artist Elise Peterson (a collaborator of the singer Solange), artist and educator Lisa Jarrett (who was awarded a Joan Mitchell Award for Painters and Sculptors grant in 2018 and has produced an exhibition at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center), Pew Grant-funded activist/artist Lavett Ballard (who has pieces in the Smithsonian, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Grant and Tamia Hill collection, and the Nixon Collection), and experimental video artist Jamaal Hasef (a visiting artist at USC and a teaching artist for other programs).
Opening Saturday

LoterĂ­a Art Exhibition
Artists show pieces based on the game of lotería, a Mexican bingo-like game incorporating colorful cards.
Opening Saturday



Capitol Hill Distillers Reserve Release Party
The Heritage Distilling Company will release some limited-stock reserve bottles, including a coffee brown sugar bourbon, a pineapple and mango gin, a ginger and mango bourbon, and a rosemary and peach gin. You can also look forward to live music and goodie bags. 

Grosgrain Wine Dinner at Palace Kitchen
Washington Wine Month brings Walla Walla's Grosgrain Vineyards to Tom Douglas's Palace Kitchen for a multi-course dinner featuring Grosgrain's low-intervention wines. 


My Dad Wrote a Porno
When Jamie Morton's dad "Rocky Flintstone" (not his real name) wrote (rather inept) erotic fiction, Jamie decided to turn it into a comedy podcast. If you love vicarious embarrassment, this is the show for you (and thousands of other listeners).

The Slow Cooker: Diamonds Are Foreveryone
Witness choreographer and performer Alyza DelPan-Monley explore our collective obsession with shiny, expensive things through movement, songs, and storytelling.