Best Things To Do

The 45 Best Things To Do in Seattle This Week: August 19-25, 2019

Studio 54 and Beyond, Candidate Survivor, and More Arts & Culture Critics' Picks
August 19, 2019
See iconic Swedish photographer Hasse Persson’s shots of mid-20th century American cultural figures (including Muhammad Ali, pictured) at the Nordic Museum’s Studio 54 and Beyond exhibit, which closes this weekend. (Photo by Hasse Persson, Courtesy of the Nordic Museum)

Our music critics have already chosen the 43 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 Washington Bus and The Stranger's Seattle City Council pageant Candidate Survivor Add to a List to 14/48: The World's Quickest Theater Festival Add to a List , and from Nordic Sól Add to a List to the Washington State International Kite Festival Add to a List . See them all below, and find even more events on our complete Things To Do calendar.

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TĂ©a Obreht: Inland Add to a List
In the mid-1850s, the United States Army tried and failed to import camels to the American Southwest for use in delivering the mail, and also for various military purposes. They dropped the project because people really only knew how to ride horses, but also because the project was beloved by Jefferson Davis, who was a traitor and a slaver. The author of celebrated novel The Tiger's Wife mines this bit of obscure history for one of two intertwined narratives in her lightly and darkly surreal ghost story about the American West. Obreht's gambit picked up the coveted "starred" review in Publishers Weekly, with the critic saying she "knocks it out of the park" with her "mesmerizing" second novel. RICH SMITH



The Neverborn Add to a List
Two murderous orphaned sisters seek out their "probably not dead research scientist mother" while dodging the law, wannabe avengers, and "a haunted baby painting" in Kelleen Conway Blanchard's new play, directed by Catherine Blake Smith.



Washington State International Kite Festival Add to a List
Sometimes the best part of living in the city is leaving it, and there’s no better time to explore the Pacific Northwest than the summer. One excellent excuse to get out of town is the annual International Kite Festival in Long Beach. Called the "the greatest, grandest kite festival on the North American continent" by, you’ll see kites here you’ve never imagined. There are competitions for speed, for beauty, and for the best photos. Over 10,000 kite lovers come from all over the world to commune together, kite, and look toward the skies. KATIE HERZOG



Lucy Tan: What We Were Promised Add to a List
Feeling like a stranger in the place where you were raised is deeply unsettling. Though you feel as if you've left some core part yourself in the walls and bars and grocery stores of your hometown, you come to discover that your hometown very much moved along without you. You're no longer there, really—because of course you're not. You have now become something different, a person from many places, not merely from one. Lucy Tan explores the complexities of that ex-pat feeling and many others in her debut novel (now in paperback!) about a family who immigrated to America from Shanghai and has now immigrated back to China. In doing so, according to a nice review in Kirkus, "Tan brings us a microcosm of the conflicts among China’s larger populations: residents versus expatriates, wealthy versus poor, urban and commercial versus rural and agrarian." RICH SMITH



Casey McGlynn: 117.5 Ideas for Tattoos Add to a List
Casey McGlynn's childlike, perspective-less paintings ever-so-slightly resemble Chagall in their flattened, colorful, endearing depictions of people, animals, vehicles, and houses.
Closing Saturday

Claudia Fitch: Raincoat Add to a List
Seattle artist and sculptor Claudia Fitch’s studio work often focuses on (and is obsessed with) the female form. In particular, the torso—that mushy, rolly, cuddly mesh of flesh and guts that’s often policed and cinched in. In her latest show at Greg Kucera Gallery, Fitch will expand and expound on her sculptural work with the feminine figure, which often remixes delicate, smooth porcelain with other brasher textures. Also featured are mobiles, paintings, and drawings. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Saturday

Familiar Faces & New Voices: Surveying Northwest Art Add to a List
This exhibit promises a survey of Northwest art that will highlight work by both big names and less recognizable figures, and will offer a chronological take on visual expression in the region. See art by a wealth of significant regional painters and sculptors like Dale Chihuly, Roger Shimomura, Patti Warashina, Barbara Earl Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Nancy Mee, and many others you may not have heard of.
Closing Saturday

James Coupe: Exercises in Passivity Add to a List
British-born, Seattle-based, Bergstrom Award-winning artist James Coupe investigates "issues of human instrumentalization, affect, and immaterial labor" with "a worker cage, karaoke, sleep trackers, and virtual assistants." As the description of the show points out, in a reversal of the Turing test, "humans are perpetually asked to convince computers that they are not robots." In this realm of automation, what makes us human? This sounds like a thought-provoking and thoroughly appropriate exhibition for Amazon's hometown.
Closing Saturday

Juventino Aranda: In Dreams I Once Believed There Was a Future Add to a List
Growing up in Walla Walla as the child of Mexican immigrants, Seattle artist Juventino Aranda draws on his family history and childhood for inspiration, exploring how they speak to broader cultural, social, and political themes. Aranda’s art practice encompasses several distinct mediums—conceptual sculpture, textile art, and altered objects. He once cast a MAGA hat in bronze, repainted it red, and only left “GREAT” stenciled in white, calling it THIS IS YOUR LIFE NOW. AMERICA (EL DIA QUE LLEGO LA LLORONA) is a life-size rendition of a plastic candle votive. There’s a sense of humor (and reflection) that pervades his work. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Saturday



Bulrusher Add to a List
Stranger Genius Award and Artist Innovator Award winner Valerie Curtis-Newton will direct Eisa Davis's 2007 Pulitzer-nominated play about a multiracial, clairvoyant orphan girl (Ayo Tushinde) growing up in 1950s California. Young Bulrusher feels out of place in her very white town, where the whimsical dialect of Boontling is spoken, but things change when she meets a newcomer—a black girl from Alabama.


Studio 54 and Beyond: The Photography of Hasse Persson Add to a List
Studio 54 gets top billing at the Nordic Museum's exhibition of Hasse Persson's photography, and while the shots of that über-trendy and exclusive New York nightclub are fascinating, the real highlights may be the "Beyond" material, which the museum has placed in the first part of the exhibit. A Swede working in the United States during one of the country's most turbulent cultural and political eras (roughly 1968 to 1980), Persson insinuated himself into some highly evocative situations. His black-and-white shots of major cultural and political figures include Muhammad Ali, Coretta Scott King, Bob Dylan, Jesse Jackson, and Richard Nixon. (Nixon is captured in a caustically funny triptych.) The Coretta Scott King photo is particularly striking: It features Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow speaking to her daughter... while the latter points a toy gun in her mother's direction and a painting of MLK hangs in the background. Another highlight is the 1973 photo of the World Trade Center in which a bird eerily flies next to the building and over the church that abutted it, inducing a premonitory chill. CHASE BURNS
Closing Sunday



Author Talk: The Food and Drink of Seattle with Judith Dern Add to a List
Local author Judith Dern will chat with Seattle Times food writer Rebekah Denn about the history of food and drink in Seattle and how it's shaped the climate of our culinary scene today.


Candidate Survivor 2019 Add to a List
Since all politics is theater anyway, The Stranger is teaming up with Washington Bus—a group of organizers dedicated to turning out the youth vote, which we need need need to show up in all elections forever—to put on the best goddamn show you've ever seen. Seattle drag legend Cookie Couture will host the fifteen million 14 Seattle City Council candidates who pass through the primary election on August 6. After the candidates pitch their policies, they'll face off in a talent show in an effort to be crowned the next member of Seattle City Council. The talent show will likely get wild. Remember last time, when State Sen. Bob Hasegawa played a vape flute? And when Nikkita Oliver rapped? And when Durkan threw tequila into an all-ages crowd? Expect a lot of that, except maybe not so much that last one. "Think a CNN Town Hall mixed with a vogue battle on Pose," says The Stranger's Chase Burns. RICH SMITH


Jeff Robinson: Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America Add to a List
Our Democratic Republic was built on the backs of slaves and bathed in the blood of the indigenous, and the logic of white supremacy continues to warp the brains of the majority of the population. If somehow you don't know all that yet, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson will point you to the third verse of the national anthem, which glorifies the capture and murder of slaves. In this stirring and illuminating talk—one that really feels more like a winning drama—Robinson, "one of the original members of the John Adams Project who worked on behalf of one of five men held at Guantanamo Bay charged with carrying out the 9/11 attacks," will discuss the legacy of slavery and the impacts of US imperialism. RICH SMITH



The Bar Plays Add to a List
For this double feature, Ryan Guzzo Purcell and his Williams Project will transform Washington Hall into a real live working bar. Audience members will come in, sit down, knock back a beer, maybe throw some dice, and watch a fine production of Tennessee Williams's Small Craft Warnings paired with William Saroyan's comedy, The Time of Your Life. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll leave with a lilt that will annoy your friends all night. As for his choice of non-overtly political material, in a press release Purcell says, "In these plays there are homeless folks, addicts, alcoholics, and folks struggling to make a living. But instead of making these people 'problems' or 'issues,' these plays do the more remarkable thing of allowing them their full humanity as our neighbors, friends, lovers, and family." Not a bad tack in this market, I'd say. RICH SMITH

Lungs Add to a List
Listening to a manic PhD student and a human man-bun argue about whether they should bring a child into this hell world might not sound like a good way to spend part of your evening, but after watching Really Really Theatre Group's production of Duncan Macmillan's 2011 chamber play Lungs, I can comfortably say I recommend it. On a bright, bare set designed by Lex Marcos—tiled with huge pieces of extremely well-sanded plywood, so it almost looks like the white room in The Matrix—the man, played with warmth and a deceptively lulling calmness by Arjun Pande, announces his desire to help produce a child. This statement unleashes a torrent of hopes, joys, fears, and misgivings from within his partner (Erika Vetter, who plays her role with incredible skill and dynamism). What follows is nearly 100 minutes of smart, charming, rapid-fire dialogue about a deal-breaker issue for many: Should we have a baby? Macmillan's language sparks with enough wit and intelligence to hold your interest. RICH SMITH



Be Kind, Rewind: "But I'm a Cheerleader!" Add to a List
Uh Oh and She, two of Seattle's best drag performers, will host a watch party of queer cult classics (interspersed with drag, of course). Also on the bill: Popcorn and drink specials. For the inaugural event, see a baby Natasha Lyonne navigate her newfound lesbianism in the 1999 comedy But I'm a Cheerleader! Cheerleader costumes are encouraged.


Lynda Mapes and David Williams Add to a List
Local author and Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes's Witness Tree, which chronicles the year she spent with hundred-year-old oak trees in the Harvard Forest of Massachusetts, explains how the tree has been impacted by global warming. David Williams's Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology takes readers on a tour of the city streets to discover underlying geology. Join these prominent science writers as they celebrate the publication of the two books in paperback by University of Washington Press.

Seattle Walk Report Add to a List
Seattle Walk Report is exactly what it sounds like: reports of walks in Seattle. Popularized on Instagram (@seattlewalkreport), the project was started in 2017 by an anonymous illustrator who prefers to simply go by Seattle Walk Report. Is she secretly MacKenzie Bezos? Nikkita Oliver? Her identity is so secret that I don't know her name, even though a few of the comics have appeared in The Stranger. Seattle Walk Report's 150-plus pages of twee, guidebook-style comics create an endearing collection of the small details that make Seattle a home. An abbreviated list of its findings: Churros. A scary teapot shaped like a sad dog. The Wedgwood Rock. A parking meter wearing a tie. The oldest building in Seattle (it's by the Capitol Hill Goodwill). A ground-level mailbox in Georgetown (maybe a mailbox for dogs?!). A starfish AND a crab chilling on Alki Beach. The terra-cotta on a West Roy Street apartment building. One confident duck. CHASE BURNS

Writing Motherhood: Amber Flame, Anne Liu Kellor, Mary Pan, Carla Sameth, and Samantha Updegrave Add to a List
Five writers—Amber Flame, Anne Liu Kellor, Mary Pan, Carla Sameth, and Samantha Updegrave—will reflect on their experiences with motherhood and discuss how they broach the subject in their work.



4.48 Psychosis Add to a List
The English playwright Sarah Kane was known for her ferocious, non-naturalistic approach to theater, dispensing with realism in favor of depictions of extremes. 4.48 Psychosis deals with her experience of depression. According to her fellow writer David Greig, the title refers to 4:48 am, when Kane would regularly wake up in the throes of anguish. Copious will stage the play with video projection and sound design; they give a content warning for discussion of suicide and self-harm.



Nordic SĂłl Add to a List
Seattle loves a good opportunity to bliss out over our Nordic culture (Reykjavik is our sister city, in case you haven't heard), and this summer extravaganza billed as a re-imagining of Viking Days is no exception. For four days, take a mental break from the wildfire-stricken Seattle summer air with festivities geared toward Nordic regions with arctic climates and crisp, alpine ventilation. First up is a series of short presentations (Aug 22) that tie climate change into the diversity of Nordic arts and culture. The next day, the Circumpolar Hip-Hop Colab will present visiting Indigenous artists. Over the weekend, sports lovers can try out five Indigenous games based on the hunting and survival skills of the north with Inuit Games. Plus, look forward to an artisan marketplace (Aug 24-25), an aquavit garden and fashion show at Night at the Nordic (Aug 24), an exhibition of Nordic photography by Ragnar Axelsson (Aug 22-Sept 30), and more.

Seattle Design Festival 2019 Add to a List
Now in its ninth year, Design in Public's Seattle Design Festival explores how urbanism, architecture, and design can further justice, ecology, and community by featuring art installations and events in public spaces. The theme this year, "balance," is inspired by the equilibrium of the natural world contrasted with institutional injustices within our society, offering attendees plenty of opportunities to ruminate on changes they'd like to see happen in Seattle. This week brings a screening of The Garden of Secrets Add to a List at the Northwest Film Forum (Sat), a hub of activity at Equinox Studios Add to a List during the Georgetown Design Crawl Add to a List (Thurs), and the Seattle Design Festival Block Party Add to a List at Lake Union Park (Saturday-Sunday).


Decadent Delights Add to a List
Enjoy Teatro ZinZanni's winning combination of tasty dinner and circus antics—this time combined quite literally! A Maestro chef struggles to create the perfect meal with the aid of Madame ZinZanni, despite the shenanigans of a host of acrobats. Co-starring comedian Kevin Kent and singer Maiya Sykes (Postmodern Jukebox, The Voice), along with "comedian and yodeling dominatrix" Manuela Horn, illusionist Voronin, "contortionist-puppet Svetlana," aerial acrobat Ling Rui, performing artist Maxim Voronin, and the two trapeze artists of Die Maiers.

Indy Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Temple of the Doomed Ark Add to a List
The sketch troupe the Habit and Seattle Public Theater will take aim at all three Indiana Jones movies, smashing the second and third into a silly version of the first. The producers say, "Indy Jones dutifully denies that the Crystal Skull ever even happened." It's directed by Mark Siano, who had a big hit with local theater production Bohemia last year.

Pressure Cooker: O Succulent! Add to a List
An entry in Nordo's nontraditional theater series, Butch Alice and Anya Knee's O Succulent treks along with Professor Archie McDinklethorn and Sister Sandwich in a tribute to LARP storytelling. McDinklethorn and Sandwich search for succulents and encounter adventure in the AridSun Desert as they search for succulent plants. As always, enjoy food that complements the themes of the show.



JB Smoove Add to a List
Did you know JB Smoove was in Pootie Tang? That movie is terrible, but Smoove is pretty funny in it. The actor, writer, and comic has been active since his break on Def Comedy Jam in 1995. He’s since appeared in and written for a range of films and TV shows (you likely know him best as Leon Black in Curb Your Enthusiasm), in addition to writing a book (The Book of Leon: Philosophy of a Fool came out last year), and continuing to deliver sets of his well-honed stand-up, a mix of physical comedy and his humorous perspective on how the world works. LEILANI POLK

Stoner Chicks Add to a List
Very funny stoned and sober women comedians Phoebe Richards (often seen at ComedySportz or as a director this season at Jet City), Kayla Teel (often seen at Jet City), and Stephani Thompson (ditto) will act out silly stories about all the best things in life: pizza, hookups, and weed. 


MUGZ Add to a List
An abbreviated list of shit I’ve seen drag queens do at MUGZ: a queen lob small apples into the crowd; a queen crab-walking in 8-inch heels, collecting crumpled up dollar bills that people threw onstage; a queen order a drink during her number while a broccoli-shaped stuffed animal performed in her place; a queen whipping onlookers with her long pink braids. It’s a wild, careening, trashy show full of strange and wonderful drag entertainers. All in the drafty, dumpster-adjacent Timbre Room. It’s Seattle drag at its most unrefined (and fun!). JASMYNE KEIMIG


SAM Remix Add to a List
SAM Remix is a recurring and ever-changing art party that includes performances, tours, and dancing, all inspired by their current special exhibitions, in this case Victorian Radicals Add to a List  and Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap Add to a List .



Claire Webber Add to a List
Claire Webber is the very funny co-host of the kinky comedy show Safeword and has brought her wit to many comedy venues around town. In her own words: "Her comedy is what happens if you pour the vocal fry and cadence of an NPR podcaster into the personality of a chihuahua raised by sensual wolves."

Taylor Clark Add to a List
From Dave Segal's interview with this Everett-based, then New York-based, now Everett-based comic: "Q: You refer to yourself as 'white trash skater boy turned somewhat less white trash skater dad.' Have any people in your audiences taken offense to the term 'white trash'? A: Not unless my family is in the audience. They argue that they are more hippie than white trash. I told them I refuse to switch labels until we have more solar-powered greenhouses than we do broken-down cars and nameless pets." Clark has performed alongside Jim Gaffigan and Hannibal Buress and we're lucky to have him back.


Upper Left Beerfest Add to a List
This two-day beer festival (formerly the Everett Craft Beer Festival) will feature craft beer from over 30 Northwest breweries and cideries, including Diamond Knot, Kulshan, and Lazy Boy, plus music from DJ Action Jackson and plenty of food.

West Seattle Beer & Music Festival Add to a List
Cool off with microbrews from over 20 local and national breweries while grooving to a mix of funk and soul from acts like Fly Moon Royalty, Marmalade, Crystal & Quiet, Mega Run, and others.


14/48: The World's Quickest Theater Festival Add to a List
True to its name, the 14/48 Festival turns around 14 brand-new, theme-based, 10-minute plays in two days. The high-pressure nature of the event produces an evening of surprising theater for audience members, who arrive in their seats charged with expectation and anxiety for the performers. Though there are always a few experiments that don't quite come together, it's endlessly fascinating to see the way one theme filters through the minds of several very different theater artists. Expect shit to get weird. RICH SMITH

The Future is 0: Summer Series Add to a List
I’m often told of a magical TV show that aired during the even more magical era that was Seattle in the 1980s and ’90s, a time when everyone lived in a punk house and everyone sucked gay cock. That TV show was Almost Live!, and it was basically like Seattle’s SNL, and everyone loved it. While I never watched Almost Live! live, I've spent a good deal of time watching it on (gasp) the internet, and I’d like to posit that The Future Is 0—a live game show—carries on the tradition of Almost Live!’s nerdy, affable, charismatic humor. But, of course, they are not the same thing, and Seattle has sucked since Almost Live! ended and the Kingdome exploded. CHASE BURNS

Scott Shoemaker's :Probed! Add to a List
"A powerhouse and an incredible performer" is how drag star BendelaCreme describes Scott Shoemaker. The local mischief-maker behind Ms. Pak-Man and The War on Christmas will stage "an all-new supernatural comedy cabaret—emphasis on the super!", with as much UFO camp hilarity as you can take. We want to believe!



Bumping Mics with Jeff Ross and Dave Attell Add to a List
Two crusty vet comedians, who both have their own fuck-all attitudes and are worthy of respect in their own right, have teamed up to cohead the Bumping Mics tour. Dave Attell achieved his name recognition with a Comedy Central show, Insomniac with Dave Attell, that started with a clip of a set featuring his wry, observational humor followed by some late-night shenanigans and misadventures around whatever town he was performing in. Jeff Ross earned his standing by becoming the roastmaster general of all those Comedy Central Roasts, the ultimate lampooner whose sharp tongue cut hard and deep. (Remember when Trump was in the hot seat? Those were the days.) Seeing these gents in a single evening will be a rare treat. LEILANI POLK


Belltown Crush 2019 Add to a List
Plymouth Housing, whose mission is to provide safe, affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness, puts on this annual block party-style fundraiser with tons of beer and wine, a grape-stomping competition, live music, and food from local eateries. 

Urban Bake Sale Pop-Up Add to a List
Partake in pie, doughnuts, cookies, and other freshly baked goods at this curbside pop-up. 


Neal Kosaly-Meyer: Finnegans Wake Add to a List
Seattle composer, musician, and substitute teacher Neal Kosaly-Meyer will continue his amazing feat of reciting James Joyce's Finnegans Wake from memory, chapter by chapter—as if reading the modernist monster wasn't hard enough. In praise of Kosaly-Meyer's feat, Charles Mudede wrote, "Maybe this is the only way the novel could be saved. It’s not all that amazing to memorize something that everyone understands; it’s very impressive to memorize something understood by only one person, who has been in the grave for many years."


Amanda Manitach: Mirrors Add to a List
Seattle artist and Stranger Genius Award nominee Amanda Manitach spends hours creating delicate graphite drawings, from which white capital letters call out at you against a smoky, sketched Victorian wallpaper background. “YOU ARE A MOTHERFUCKING STAR,” “XANAX HELPS,” and “CALM THE FUCK DOWN” are a few of the phrases you’ll find in Manitach’s work. For this show, the artist will be debuting new work in the same vein, but on mirrors. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Opening Saturday



Vonnegut Unexpected: Kurt Vonnegut Improvised Add to a List
Every Sunday, the improvisers of Unexpected Productions will take some instinctual liberties (paired with audience suggestions) with Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, and other works by the late writer Kurt Vonnegut.


Bakehouse Summer Nineteen Tour: Brunch x Not Without Salt Shop Add to a List
Dig into a brunch inspired by Joy the Baker's new cookbook Over Easy and Ashley Rodriguez's Let's Stay In after the pair do a mini-demonstration.


Suze Woolf: The quiet existentialism of discrete fruits and vegetables Add to a List
Woolf's watercolors depict the rich undertones in the skins of vegetables and fruits, skilfully suggesting their sculptural yet ephemeral qualities.
Closing Sunday

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