Best Things To Do

The 48 Best Things To Do in Seattle This Week: July 29-Aug 4, 2019

Seattle Art Fair, festival:festival, and More Arts & Culture Critics' Picks
July 29, 2019
The Instagram ASMR sensation Bread Face will plant her face in a stack of baked goods at the Seattle Art Fair—and you can, too! (Courtesy of the artist @breadfaceblog)

Our music critics have already chosen the 35 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 the Seattle Art Fair to an evening with Michelle Wolf, and from the multidisciplinary festival:festival to Vif's Summer Soif. See them all below, and find even more events on our complete Things To Do calendar.

Found something you like and don't want to forget about it later? Click "Save Event" on any of the linked events below to add it to your own private list.

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Bon Appétit! The Julia Child Operetta
Strolling through the Smithsonian Museum one afternoon, I stumbled upon a full replica of Julia Child's kitchen. I walked in because I had recently finished watching some classic episodes of The French Chef, including her infamous lobster show. "You have to cut him right here," Child says as she sticks her knife into the lobster's neck, "where all of his brains and hearts and feelings are." Genius. Anyway, in the Smithsonian exhibit, I saw a picture of Child bent over a counter in a small French kitchen. On the placard next to the photo was a quote from the famously tall chef: "When I get my own kitchen, I'm going to build the counters up to my waist. I'm through with this French pygmy bullshit!" If you haven't figured it out yet, Child is one of the greatest and funniest people ever to wield an eight-inch knife. In this light opera, a shade of the chef will crack you up while also making you a giant chocolate cake, which I am told will be made with Theo Chocolate. The slice of cake is included in the ticket price. RICH SMITH


Jonathan Evison: Lawn Boy
Bainbridge Island author Jonathan Evison (All About Lulu, West of Here, and This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!) will read from 2018's Lawn Boy, a hilarious-depressing novel about a Chicano landscape worker named Mike Muñoz who is desperately searching for a way out of his bleak life. Part of his escape involves writing. He wants to write the great American landscape novel, but he's having trouble finding any recent examples to use as a template. Lawn Boy ends up becoming that example as Evison takes the reader on a journey through the American class system. Evison's apparently real and very deep love of topiary serves as a respite from all the rough stuff Muñoz has to go through. RICH SMITH



Capitol Hill Block Party Photo Showcase
Vicariously experience the thrills of Capitol Hill Block Parties past at this exhibition of snaps by local photographers.
Closing Wednesday

Carolyn Hitt: Abstracts and Artifacts
Abstract painter and co-founder of Blue Cone Studios Hitt will be the guest artist at this neighboring shop. For this show, she's "digging deep into her dna" to create some quirky and personal pieces.
Closing Wednesday



Offerte: Photographs by Steven Miller
Steven Miller burned '70s to '90s gay porn magazines in a fire pit and photographed the inferno in a tribute to "love and loss through the AIDS years." The all-consuming fire is meant to represent desire and power, countering the association of flames with Christian hell.
Closing Saturday

Peter Gronquist: Searcher
Portland-based sculptor-painter-taxidermist Peter Gronquist’s latest show “explores light as an added material to his paintings.” Some of these paintings—though that word strains under the weight of what Gronquist is actually doing—fall somewhere between a James Turrell space and a Dan Flavin installation. He’s interested in how light plays off the surface of his work, using Plexiglas (a type of acrylic) as part of each piece, adding LED lights to certain paintings and not to others. Additionally, Gronquist will also show A Visual History of the Invisible, a series that attempts to capture the shapes and constant presence of the wind. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Saturday



Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation
The Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation, presented by Velocity Dance Center, is a diverse weeklong exploration of the art, with intensive classes, drop-in workshops, talks, jams, and performances.



Clarion West Presents Ann Leckie
Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Ann Leckie is best known for Ancillary Justice, a novel set in a futuristic space empire. Leckie imagines a far-flung part of the human race as radically changed, with notions of gender vanished and AIs controlling synchronized human bodies. Seize your chance to hear from one of the most inventive sci-fi minds of the day. 

Kevin O'Brien: The Betrayed Wife
Summer means breezing through thrillers, and you can't really go wrong with a new one from Kevin O'Brien, a New York Times best-selling author and a member of the Seattle7Writers collective. O'Brien sets this story in Seattle, home to Sheila O'Rourke and her cheating-ass husband. When Sheila lets a teen claiming to be one of her husband's long-lost children into their home, shit starts to get weird and every character starts to seem suspect. O'Brien is good about providing some substance with his confectionary stuff, so expect to tear through this gossipy, creepy book in a couple of days without feeling too empty inside. RICH SMITH



Mark the opening of a new arts space in Seattle by attending the opening exhibition, yəhaw̓, curated by Tracy Rector (Choctaw/Seminole), Asia Tail (Cherokee Nation), and Satpreet Kahlon and featuring 200 pieces by indigenous artists working in all sorts of mediums.
Closing Saturday



The Every Other
At this trilingual reading and music night run by local novelist Doug Nufer, a master of poetic prose, hear work by Paris-born poet Françoise Canter and fiction writer/oceanographer Paolo Pergola. Both are connected to the francophone writers' collective Oulipo: Canter wrote her doctoral thesis on it, while Pergola is a member of the Italian version of Oulipo, Oplepo. In addition to the readings, Greg Kelley will play trumpet.


COLLECT Tour: 2019 Art Fair Satellite Edition
You shouldn't miss Seattle Art Fair, but you also should know about Seattle's wealth of interesting galleries. This tour will take you to a few of our city's coolest ones, starting with Wa Na Wari to see a new four-person exhibition by Henry Jackson-Spieker, Xenobia Bailey, Marita Dingus, and Nastassja Swift and continuing to Roq la Rue for Rick Araluce's The Night Theatre. The final stop will be Bonfire's Magic Box: Defining Words in a Digital Age, a collaboration between painter, poet, and butoh dancer Shoko Zama and poet David Thornbrugh.



Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott
Australian glass artists Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott show light-filled botanical forms.  
Opening Wednesday

James Coupe: Exercises in Passivity
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.
Opening Wednesday



7th and Jackson
Three friends from different communities in the International District dream of having their own nightclub. Even when Pearl Harbor is bombed and the country gears up for war, they swear loyalty to their visions. Sara Porkalob's musical, scored to jazz classics from the likes of the Andrews Sisters, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald, takes place over three decades in one of the most fascinating parts of Seattle.

Legend of El Dorado
Three women on a summer trip turn into sexy, fishnetted robbers on motorcycles in the cozy cabaret's latest production, featuring all-new choreography and a soundtrack with singing by Brent Amaker.

The Little Mermaid
One of the most charming (old school 2D non-CGI) Disney films is The Little Mermaid—the young dulcet-voiced princess Ariel wants to give up her tail and life under the sea for legs and a new life on the land with the man of her dreams, a prince in his own land. They’re equals, see! If it wasn’t for an octopus witch with nefarious intentions and an overprotective father who is also the king of everything underwater, she might be all good. This theatrical adaptation is based on the Disney Broadway musical. It’s presented by Village Theatre and features children from the theatre’s Kidstage program. This is a family affair. LEILANI POLK

GreenStage: Backyard Bard and Shakespeare in the Park
For even more outdoor Shakespeare (in addition to Wooden O productions), check out plein-air performances by GreenStage: full-length stagings of the history play Henry IV: Part 2 (directed by Chris Shea with gender-flexible casting) and the comedy Taming of the Shrew (directed with a feminist twist by Jennifer Crooks)—plus "Backyard Bard"'s one-hour, four-player versions of Measure for Measure and The Merry Wives of Windsor. 


Magic Box: Defining Words in a Digital Age
Butoh dancer and artist Shoko Zama and poet David Thornbrugh present an interdisciplinary dialogue between collage/painting, evoking dictionary illustrations, and ekphrastic writing (i.e., poetic commentary on the works of art). During the gallery receptions (including Wednesday and Thursday this week), two butoh dancers will perform in the window displays.
Opening Wednesday

Rick Araluce: The Night Theater
Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Araluce specializes in detailed, illusion-filled, faintly sinister tiny dioramas that look incredibly realistic and impart feelings of delicious disorientation. It feels like you're peeking into a parallel universe that isn't quite to scale with ours.
Closing Sunday



Wandering and Wondering
As you wander through the Seattle Japanese Garden, you'll find butoh (Japanese avant-garde dance) performers scattered around the landscape. Joan Laage of Kogut Butoh will direct, while Gyre will provide music. If you can't make it tonight, you can still check out photo exhibitions at the Japanese Garden and at Fresh Flours.


Pioneer Square Art Walk
Once a month, Seattleites flock to the streets in Pioneer Square for a chance to stroll, sip on booze, and attend as many art openings as possible at First Thursday. It's the city's central and oldest art walk, and takes place in a historic neighborhood known for its abundance of galleries. Wine and hobnobbing steal the scene for some, but at its core, it's an impressive communal unveiling of new artwork. Check out our list of suggested art openings here.



Bisco Smith: More Than We Know
Though the work is rather straightforward, New York artist Bisco Smith makes black-and-white exciting. The marks on his canvas resemble writing, like it’s actually trying to communicate something through words to the viewer. That’s—in part—due to his process of creation. Selecting an instrumental song or beat to play as he paints, Smith then freestyles lyrics “that express the consciousness and energy of that moment.” Although these lyrics aren’t exactly legible (at least to my eye), the paintings pulse with life. Drawing on his background as a street artist, Smith often composes his works using materials like household paint, rollers, spray paint, and white paste. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Saturday

Contemporary Northwest Print Invitational 2019
There are bound to be many treasures at this showcase of contemporary fine art prints and works on paper at Davidson and Seattle Print Arts' invitational fair, featuring pieces by 67 artists.
Opening Thursday



Seattle Art Fair
The five-year-old international art fair has quickly become one of the most indispensable cultural events in the Northwest, gathering gallerists from Seattle, across the US and Canada, and cities in Asia and Europe. Among the most-anticipated events is Infinite Color & Sound (with a performance on Aug 2), a collaboration between Pearl Jam's Mike McCready and abstract artist Kate Neckel, who met during last year's Art Fair. Other attractions include an interactive exhibit featuring the Instagram ASMR star Bread Face, a talk by artist and videographer of mega-fires Jeff Frost (Aug 3) and a display of banners by autistic Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock.


Decadent Delights
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.

The Events
A handful of arts patrons and US Bank are funding free tickets for all who want to see Intiman's production of David Greig's The Events, directed by Paul Budraitis. Greig's play is a look at the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting. The show features two actors and a chorus, which, as in all the Greek tragedies, represents the figure of the general populace. (In this case, a rotating cast of local community choirs will play the chorus.) In this production, Claire is a lesbian choir director who witnessed the mass shooting, and "the Boy" plays the shooter and Claire's partner/psychiatrist (plus seven other characters). The shooting in the play, according to a favorable review in the New York Times, was inspired by the racist terrorism of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011. RICH SMITH

FRESHFest: A Local Festival of Drag Talent
Of the semi-regularly occurring Fresh drag night, Chase Burns wrote: "Arson Nicki's new(ish) drag show Fresh is the best place in Seattle to find the latest drag talent riotously flipping off convention." Now, feast your eyes on all the drag they can handle, performed by newcomers to the scene, during this four-day fest.


Uses of History
Guest curated by Melissa E. Feldman, Uses of History explores how artists from the Pacific Northwest and beyond engage with history and the past. Each artist comes from a different part of the arts and crafts world (painting, glass, weaving, film), and revisits “histories that haunt the present, seeking connection—or a reckoning—with the past.” The show includes major artists exhibiting in the PNW for the first time: Abbas Kowsari of Iran, Haris Epaminonda of Cyprus, and Jeremy Deller from the UK. Uses of History also serves as the North American debut of a few films: Deller’s Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984–1992 and Epaminonda’s Chimera (which is currently showing at the Venice Biennale!). JASMYNE KEIMIG
Closing Sunday

Xenobia Bailey, Henry Jackson-Spieker, Marita Dingus, Nastassja Swift: Installations
The new Central District gallery Wa Na Wari is accomplishing something beautiful: nurturing the legacy of black creativity in the neighborhood, formerly a bastion of Seattle's African American culture, by, among other things, exhibiting the work of excellent artists. This group of installations should be an impressive demonstration of the possibilities of this approach, with four prominent black artists contributing new work. Crochet master Xenobia Bailey, who's had pieces exhibited in many museums, crafts marvelous trippy hats, mandalas, sculptures, and more out of textiles. Guggenheim Fellowship winner Marita Dingus produces mixed-media sculptures using salvaged materials. Accomplished sculptor Henry Jackson-Spieker, known for small- and large-scale sculptures, "explores tension, balance and symmetry" and innovatively interrogates gallery space. Rising Virginian artist Nastassja Swift creates felted fiber dolls as well as paint, print, and performance works. Any one of these artists would be worth seeing; taken together, they make up something unmissable.
Opening Thursday



Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan: In the Round
Two comedians who hardly need an introduction will play to the crowds: Dave Chappelle, best known for the hilariously edgy Dave Chappelle's Show from the 2000s, and noted podcaster, and opinion-haver Joe Rogan. Here's Stranger contributor and cultural writer Daudi Abe on Chappelle in 2017: "The direction and language of his current humor bring the in-group/out-group question into play. Although he goes out of his way to identify himself as an ally of gays, as a straight man, Chappelle represents an out-group member making LGBT jokes and using the word 'fag,' in the same way he is the in-group member when using the term 'nigga.' To make things more troublesome, this type of comedy, which completely disregards the premise of in-group/out-group dynamics, seems to fit right in with the tone and demeanor that won the most recent presidential election."

Just a Phase: a QT/POC Comedy Show
Queer comics and comedians of color—Andy Iwancio (Dave Segal: "Iwancio's life sounds like it could become a sitcom—destined to air in 2023... maybe"), Chocolate the Entertainer, Stephanie Nam, Hassan Sufi, and others—will bring the giggles at this evening hosted by the wry and delightful Lee Nacozy.

Tiffany Jenkins
Tiffany Jenkins is known for her funny, viral Facebook videos, but now she’s taking her show on the road. In this live stage show, Jenkins discusses her life as a wife, a mom, and a recovering addict. After spending nearly a decade secretly addicted to opioids, Jenkins hit bottom after getting busted stealing from her ex-boyfriend and going to jail, where she actually attempted to take her own life. Things are very different now, and Jenkins is healthy, happy, and has managed to turn darkest points in her life into something both inspiring and hilarious. KATIE HERZOG


Oyinkan Braithwaite: My Sister, the Serial Killer
Debut novelist Oyinkan Braithwaite will read from My Sister, The Serial Killer, a surprisingly funny, pulpy noir-style thriller.



Luke Severeid
Dave Segal has described Severeid as a "standout" of the energetic, shouty style of comedy. He's performed at Bumbershoot and the Seattle International Comedy Competition, and a film of his won Best Comedy at HUMP. We like him! 


This multidisciplinary festival offers the chance for photographers, multimedia artists, dancers, and others to create artwork on intersectional identities. Among the participants are some of Seattle's most active and appreciated: singer-songwriter JusMoni, filmmaker/artist/musician Clyde Petersen, slam poet J Mase III, visual artist Ryna Frankel, queer indigenous hip-hop artist Dakota Camacho, choreographer Alice Gosti, and many others.


The Neverborn
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. 



Brandon Wardell
Brandon Wardell is the kind of young comic whose rapid rise makes older comics hella jelly (gonna speak Millennial in this blurb, chill?). At age 22, he cut an album with Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk titled Amateur Hour. He’s also appeared on Comedy Central, MTV, and Viceland programs, and has hung out with Al Franken (who didn’t much like him, btw
). And of course, he co-hosts a podcast, Yeah but Still. In his stand-up, Wardell cracks cleverly about important issues such as period sex, dating women, coke, weed, and rap. He’s a Drake stan, but he makes up for it with this: “Do you think Christianity would be as big as it is if Jesus wasn’t hot?” DAVE SEGAL

Impractical Jokers: The Cranjis McBasketball World Comedy Tour
In truTV’s hidden camera show Impractical Jokers, four longtime BFFs from Staten Island (members of comedy improv troupe the Tenderloins) compete to embarrass each other in public via ridiculous dares that range from silly to downright mortifying. The joker who earns the most “thumbs down” during an episode is declared the loser and punished with the ultimate humiliating challenge. The show works because you just can’t help but like these guys—they are genuinely funny and play off each other with ease: Brian "Q" Quinn (your standard aging fratty John Belushi-if-he-made-it-to-his-40s type dude), James "Murr" Murray (short, scrappy, afraid of heights, most likely to turn down a challenge that involves looking bad in front of the ladies, gets the worst punishments when he loses), Joe Gatto (hilariously unhinged, will do almost anything on a dare and mostly succeeds because he’s just that good, and you can tell it all this from his wild eyes), and Sal Vulcano (germaphobe, awkward, adorable, statistically most likely to lose, my fave). The quartet promises plenty of live high jinks and new material during their current live tour. LEILANI POLK

Mo Amer
Not too long ago, Palestinian Kuwaiti American comic Mo Amer appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to talk about his childhood as a refugee, about spending 20 years trying to obtain US citizenship, about being taught to avoid politics in order to keep from getting deported... and while the topics weren't the most cheerful, he was quite funny. (He also recently endured a plane flight next to Eric Trump.) As one-third of the trio Allah Made Me Funny, Amer sought to defuse harmful stereotypes about Muslim Americans, and his solo work has a similar humane, cheeky charm.


Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, Part I, Chapter 1
Seattle composer, musician, and substitute teacher Neal Kosaly-Meyer will continue his amazing feat of reciting 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."

Joseph Mosconi: Ashenfolk
Joseph Mosconi will read from his newly released "10-inch box set of minimalist poetry" alongside Western Washington poets Sarah Galvin (whose poems contain "wild imagery and surprising turns" according to Rich Smith) and Robert Lashley. 


Forward — Part 3
Shaun Kardinal curates the third phase of Forward, an annual series in which artists receive a piece, transform it, exhibit it, and pass it on. See work by Tim Cross, Mari Nagaoka, Markel Uriu, and others.
Opening Saturday

Lusio: A Night to Awaken
This is a free, family-friendly, inviting evening of light, art, and sound, featuring more than 30 light installations spread throughout the park. Expect to see LED sculptures, infinity mirrors, glowing textiles, crystal caves, and more, plus the weird music showcase Monster Planet and the immersive audiovisual show Modular Seattle. 

Northwest Influencers
The Housewright Gallery's inaugural exhibition highlights influential pre- and post-war artists from the Northwest School, including Glen Alps, Peter Camfferman, James Fitzgerald, Richard Gilkey, Paul Horiuchi, and others. 
Opening Saturday



Alicia Lisa Brown: Paintings
Brown interprets the concept of mimicry in the context of post-colonial Caribbean culture and contemporary art, particularly the imitation of the dominant culture and of the upper classes. She works with motifs of collars, hair, pearls, spoons, lace, and canes.
Opening Saturday



Michelle Wolf
After writing for Seth Meyers and the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Michelle Wolf slayed at the 2018 White House Correspondents dinner. The money shots flew fast and furious, filleting politicians, journalists, White House staffers, and the traitor-in-chief with an astronomical hit-to-miss ratio, including this withering diss directed at the Trump Propaganda Network: “Fox News is here, so you know what that means, ladies—cover your drinks.” Wolf has ovaries of steel and caustic wit. Beyond politics, though, she offers hilarious observations about feminism, bathrooms, “nice ladies,” and some of the funniest barbs about testicles I’ve ever had the pleasure of wincing to. DAVE SEGAL


Summer Soif 2019
“Soif” means "thirst" in French, and yours will surely be quenched by the array of wines available at Vif’s outdoor summer tasting extravaganza, which the charming cafe/coffee shop/wine shop claims is the “largest local natural wine tasting in Seattle.” Vif has been at the forefront of Seattle’s growing natural wine scene, which focuses on wines made with minimal intervention (as opposed to more conventional winemaking methods), and you can bet this event will summon a range of exciting indie producers from Washington, Oregon, California, and beyond, many of whom will be present to chat about their process. Bring a sun hat, as Vif recommends, and spend a day basking and imbibing. JULIANNE BELL